"Xaero, I wanted to call and say what fun it was to see you again, at the party. It's been much too long since we've buddied around, and I was wondering if we could do lunch?"
Xaero held the comm at arms length. Looked all right. She brought it to her ear. "Pasticha?" She could hear the disbelief in her own voice.
"Who else? Look why don't you bring Trev and his brother, and we'll make it a foursome."
Xaero held her breath until she was sure she wouldn't burst out laughing. "Hmm, I'm traveling at the moment, can't make it." Oh, what to do, what to do? Oh, sand. Pasticha hadn't been that rude to Trev. "Tell you what, though. Let me call Trev and see where his brother is staying and maybe we can get together later this week. In fact I'll see if I can get Teri's number for you, in case I'm still out of town."
A short silence, possibly a faint gulp. Then a casual, "Sure, whatever. Call me as soon as you find out, will you?"
"Sure." Xaero punched off and walked down the hall to Trev's office, grinning. "Can I give Teri's number to Pasticha, or is that against some security rule?"
Trev grinned. "They danced five times. My mother cornered me and grilled me about her; extra well done because I didn't know a thing." He grabbed his comm and punched in numbers.
"How eager was she?" he asked.
"Oh, she was pretending to be completely casual, and off hand about it. D'you know, I don't think she realizes who he is."
"Hey Vesi, Trev here. Is Fenni available? Oh, she's a cousin of Xaero's. Oh, sure." With a grin he handed the com to Xaero. "General S'ank wants to speak to you."
"Good morning, General."
"Miss L'svages, we're assembling a profile on your cousin Pasticha L'svages. Can you assist us?"
"Delighted to. Like the rest of the family, Pasticha is a lawyer, she specializes in wills and trusts, mainly. Used to be Family Law, we were beginning to think that had soured her on males forever." Xaero organized her thoughts. "Her mother Danca is the daughter of Imperial Councilor M'hev, her father Apru is one of the senior partners and was implicated in some of the possible insider trading . . . yeah, him." S'ank was obviously quite familiar with the REM situation. The connection clicked oddly for a moment, almost as if it was being knocked around.
The next voice she heard was a very irritated Fensteri. "Xaero, for sands sake."
"It's warm, Fenni," she told him. "Pasticha isn't responsible for her parents, but your security needs to know about this stuff. She just called and wormed all around trying to not actually ask for your comm number. Shall I give it to her? And does she know who you are?"
"What's her number?" Fenni pounced. "I didn't get a chance to see her, after we got formally escorted out." Poor lizard must have been stuck in the official beginning-of-the-ending escort-the-Empress-home parade out the door. "I, well, I certainly didn't tell her. I, um, guess I should . . ." he sounded quite doubtful.
Xaero gave him the info and spoke briefly to a slightly subdued S'ank before she clicked off. She could picture Fenni standing and glaring at him and sympathized—a little. After all these years they ought to be delighted he'd developed a romantic interest. It seemed, however, as if he'd caught them flat footed.
"This has some serious potential for Real Life Comedy." She cocked her head at Trev. "Bet you dinner it takes at least a week for Fenni to tell her he's the Crown Prince."
"No way she could remain ignorant that long. Someone will say something within your week." his grin faded. "I hope she doesn't get so offended she dumps him."
"She wears musical earplugs and turns them on when Danca starts nattering, but even so I can't believe she hasn't learned who you are." Xaero shook her head. "Too sandy for words. I've got to go check the greenhouses, see you tonight?"
The pressurized, brightly lit greenhouses were separated, quarantined, in fact, from the rest of the Sun Town complex. The big Blue plants and animals they'd brought back were thriving. She slipped into the isolation suit and walked through the lush foliage. Not a single one tried to eat her. The caged animals, on the other hand . . . Well, most of the ones she'd brought back were small and innocuous. Several mini-giants, however, were willing to try Martian for dinner. Fortunately they were also willing to munch cheeper and pike when offered. That was quite a relief. It would have been singularly irritating to raise blue animals simply to feed to blue animals.
Although that was, to a degree, happening. Some of the smallest critters ate only insixts, but the insixts were so prolific they had already started discussing how reduce their reproduction. Feeding them to the larger critters was somehow, umm, offensive even though natural and necessary.
She watered anything that looked dry, and opened the bottom drains in two that seemed to be not doing well with damp soil. She spot checked for salts. Big Blue was very low in soil salts, especially sodium chloride, and the plants had proven very sensitive to it. Preparing new "blue-type" soil was keeping a lot of people busy separating salts from clays and sands, and growing bacterial cultures. They probably had enough now to plant every seed she'd brought back in its individual pot; they were talking about reproducing an entire Blue biome. Dry trees through brush lands, the open lands of the blade plants and low herbs all the way to the swamps.
Xaero thought them insane. There was no way she'd brought back a complete suite of animals, or even a complete-enough-for-practical-purposes one. For starters they were missing all the big animals.
She cycled back through to the isolation chamber, and backed out of the suit thoughtfully.
Speaking of complete suites of plants and animals, these blue plants might be very useful for the changes they were going to force on the new Zwehra planets. She'd have to ask about salt concentrations, although most likely they'd have to wait until they'd landed on a cooled surface to test that. In the mean time, perhaps she should see how well Martian and Blue biota co-habitated. Cheepers could eat the Blue foliage, and Blue giants could eat cheepers . . .