“The spirit cats are the familiars of the necromancers. It’s said that they follow their master's bloodline until it perishes.”
I return to my office and find out that Emil Fotenu is already waiting for me. The Mirai envoy is sitting in the visitor's chair and watches with raised eyebrows as I climb the stairway to my office. The guards must have let him in to wait inside my office. My secret entrance isn't so secret anymore. I should have told them that everyone has to wait outside unless I call for them. Then again, I haven’t even told them that I am not ready to receive visitors. I totally forgot because of Willow’s arrival. A mistake on my part.
Well, it can’t be changed, unless I end Emil once and for all. At least my documents can't be rummaged through. Upon getting my new office, the first thing I did was to set up an automatic barrier which restricts movement within my office.
No matter, it's not like his knowledge of the stairway changes much. He simply knows that I have a few secrets, just like everyone else who wields a lot of power. “I heard that you want to tell me something?” I walk around the table and sit down in my beloved office chair. The carpenter did a good job with the black leather. I place my hand on the armrests and wait.
Emil smiles. “The Mirai Sovereign requests to meet with you.”
“Aaah... yeah...” Why are the Mirai interested in me? Is it about my ethnicity? Why am I suddenly so interesting? Aren't the Mirai busy with laying waste to the Empire's northern coast? And most importantly, how am I supposed to meet with this Sovereign? I certainly won't fly all the way to their state. There are still a few things to do in the Sociocrathy, and then I have to go to the World Assembly. “No thanks.”
The envoy straightens in his chair. “May I inquire why not?”
“I simply don't have the time to fly all the way to her estate. There are a lot of things on my list of things to do.” I gesture at the huge piles of documents on my table, then I try to look busy by sorting one of them.
Emil relaxes. “Oh, that's no problem. Janice will come to you. She just needs a little of your time.” The envoy grins at me like an idiot, not realizing that his withered gums turns his grin into a grotesque imitation of the real thing. Seems like the spell which turned him wasn’t absolutely perfect.
I stop the act and study Emil very carefully. “The Sovereign will visit me? In the middle of a country which is at war with your people?”
He nods, still grinning.
“Explain,” I demand. “What's going on?” And how do they know where to find Illum? Ah, stupid question! Emil told them.
Emil raises his hands, palms out. “Oh, I am sorry. The Sovereign forbade me to say unnecessary things. She wants to discuss this with you in private, so that there are no misunderstandings.”
“That still doesn't explain how she intends to get here.” I stab the office table with my index finger.
“Oh, that. She will arrive with her fleet. Our warships are always a few generations ahead of everything the other nations have. The fleet is our best defense. The ships will fly at a height of approximately ten kilometres. No other fleet of warships is able to operate at this height and it's very unlikely that they will be spotted. Even if they notice us, which isn’t likely, it will take the Sociocrathy days to respond to our arrival at their southern border.”
I close my eyes and massage the bridge of my nose. “So you are saying that your people can go anywhere they want and nobody is able to stop them? Then why are you striking the Empire just at its northern coast? You could go to their damned capital and wipe it out!”
He repositions himself in his chair. “This capability is supposed to be a secret, not to be revealed until we are ready to deal a decisive blow to our enemies, of which there are many. Besides, the Imperial Capital is well protected. They have a large part of their fleet permanently stationed there.”
I cross my arms in front of my chest and glare at him. “Your story sounds mighty suspicious. Something which I have must be very important to your Sovereign. Why else would you risk to reveal your capabilities to others?”
Emil shrugs. “I am just an envoy. It's not my place to make such decisions. It's not a problem to reveal this to you, since you would have found out anyway. The reason why I am here is to petition you to meet the Sovereign's fleet at the highest altitude that's possible to Illum. You surely understand that we don't want to reveal our cards if it isn’t absolutely necessary.”
Drumming my fingers against my elbow, I squint my eyes at him. After a few moments of silence, he realizes that I expect more of him.
“Of course, it's okay if Illum isn't able to deal with high altitudes. It would simply mean that the Sovereign descends the fleet down to Laos. That would surely cause an uproar, and I am not entirely sure if you want to be associated with us. Not to mention what the Sociocrathy might think of you. They are strangely quiet about your violation of their borders. At the same time, the Alliance's lack of a reaction is also surprising. You blew two of their airships out of the sky.”
So he watched that. I click my tongue. Well, I knew that allowing someone like him onto Illum is equal to inviting a spy. Still, I think that his presence is beneficial to me in the long run. “You are trying to force me,” I say. “Bad things happen to people who try to force me into things.”
Emil shakes his head. “Please, don't be offended. The Sovereign really just wants to meet with you. There are some important things which have to be confirmed.”
“This sounds like a convenient opportunity to attack Illum,” I mumble.
“Please be assured that we Mirai don't wage war on those who didn't attack us. This will be a simple official meeting, nothing more.”
I raise my hands. “Fine! Illum will meet your fleet. When will you arrive?”
I watch the clouds passing by beneath us. The large window front in my cabin allows me a grand view of everything in front of the Zenith. Just two more days and I'll get to meet this 'Joyce'.
Minx meows and rolls onto her back, presenting me her belly. The ghost cat is totally comfortable with lying on my lap. She even starts purring, so I pet her.
At the same time, I try to come up with an explanation for Joyce. I don't like riddles and this mystery is one of the biggest I had to deal with since a long time.
There are many possible explanations for Nova being alive. For her being alive and in control of her mental faculties? Not so many. For her having created something like Illum and being recognized as an independent power by the Alliance? Very few.
And all of them are very unlikely.
The cat looks at me with her blue eyes.
“You will tell me if that woman is legit. Isn’t that right, Minx?”