Yannic had built his wife a gazebo in a flower garden. After he’d explained to her why he wanted to give her a present, and some further negotiation, Rensa had agreed both that it would be desirable for her to have a private space to invite guests to that wasn’t part of their shared quarters, and that she liked the gardens. There were various other advantages to the scheme as well, but Yannic had gotten his reward when Rensa had been so happy that her pregnancy support group friends had come to visit that she’d burbled quietly for days. He took that to mean that either she’d been worried that her friends wouldn’t visit her home, or that she asked and they’d made excuses.
Yannic wasn’t quite sure why Kollec had been involved in that first visit, but now he seemed to gravitate into the general area whenever Rensa’s baby friends visited. Being Kollec, he was always carrying a clipboard or a data pad, but there was a betting pool running on his intentions. Yannic was splitting his money between complete obliviousness on his friend’s part, and a certain redhead.
The gazebo was both sheltered and in the open air, so Rensa spent a lot of time there with her baby even when she didn’t have outside visitors. She and Mirren would sit in the pleasantly mottled shade and watch their babies lying on their rugs and playing. Gathoc was a chubby little blond boy who mouthed everything, especially his favourite orange and grey splotched lizard huggy, while Tyreba was a mottle-haired, dapple-skinned wriggle-pot who’d already discovered that rolling over could get her to new and interesting things. Rensa was sure that Tyreba watched Gathoc to find out what she was supposed to do next. Yannic was personally convinced that his tiny daughter was beginning to try to talk to him, even if everyone else said she was far too young. Rensa simply smiled and said that he should encourage her, because how else was she going to learn to have a conversation?
All in all, things were going well. Rensa’s nightmares had retreated with therapy, friends, and no-one trying to take her baby away from her. Yannic saw no reason to mention to his wife either the several petitions he had received from groups who had thought that they were better placed to raise the tiny princess than her parents, or the steps he had taken to tell those groups to mind their own business. One particularly vocal woman had found herself transferred to a new administration hub in the subarctic/polar transition zone, and the Emperor’s Office had received no more suggestions that she should take over the care of the Imperial daughter.
Yannic almost wasn’t there when the head of the program trying to find other descendants of the, well, gods wasn’t the right word despite the temples, who’d been part of the colony’s founding population called upon his wife. The colonial support and development specialists had been loaded up with beneficial genetic variations to help make the colony successful. Entire sets of genetic advantages that some of Yannic and Rensa’s particularly short-sighted and self-entitled ancestors had done their best to wipe out. Having committed his own errors by helping kill off the former Imperial family before finding out that this was a bad idea, Yannic was sponsoring a program to find any other descendants of the colony’s first leaders because, frankly, the colony could do with all the advantages they could get. He was present at the meeting because he’d wandered out to the gazebo, an anxious secretary in tow, to get away from his desk for a while. Besides, time with his daughter was always a good thing.
Thus he, Mirren, Rensa, the babies, and the anxious Ballen were present when Director Pollgroc, who answered to Head of the Health Secretariat, arrived with his little entourage and a small escort from palace security. The security people waited at the garden gate while the Director and his companions, a younger man and woman, walked up the path to the gazebo. The younger man was carrying a baby. When they reached the top of the steps Rensa, who’d risen to meet them, said, “Please, won’t you all come in and sit down? It’s Director Pollgroc, isn’t it?”
Pollgroc appeared distressed. “I apologise for this intrusion, Your Majesties, but an ethical matter has arisen that had to be brought to Her Majesty’s attention.”
“Oh?” Rensa looked at him blankly.
“Your Majesty donated a sample for genetic comparison,” began Pollgroc.
“But I stole some and used your mitochondria for our pregnancy,” interrupted the younger man sheepishly. “My wife has a mitochondrial disease and we didn’t want our child to inherit it too.” Rensa continued to look at him blankly and he added even more sheepishly, “It was a breach of trust, and I have to apologise, and if you are offended and don’t forgive me it could be really messy….” He trailed off into silence.
“You only had to ask,” answered Rensa kindly. “I mean, everyone from your program has been telling me how wonderful my mitochondria are – every time I meet any of you that’s the first thing they say to me. Yes, you have my permission in retrospect to trial my mitochondria and see if they’re up to the task. Did the treatment work?” She looked at each of the adults and then expectantly at the baby bundle.
“Oh, yes,” confirmed the baby’s father.
“Then you want permission to do it again so you can have more healthy children?” Rensa looked at the two parents and added, “Please all of you sit down. Especially you,” she added to the baby’s mother. “I shouldn’t keep you standing around like this if you’re not well and looking after a new baby.”
All three sat down, the younger man still holding the baby in his arms and the woman leaning gratefully against the chair back.
After a glance from the Director the younger man took a deep breath and replied, “Thank you, Cerron and I would like very much to have more children, Your Majesty. The other thing we really came to see you about is that when our daughter, Glennen here, was born we discovered that your colouration distribution must be tied to your mitochondria somehow.”
“How? Oh!” Rensa sat up straighter, and asked eagerly, “Can I see her?”
Glennen’s father stood and walked over to the Empress to carefully put the baby in her arms. Rensa unwrapped the sleeping infant just enough to see the serious sleeping expression and her arms. The tiny, creamy skinned face had fine alternating gold and olive horizontal lines marching down the nose, more fine olive lines around each eye, and a flash of gold along each cheekbone.
“She’s very beautiful,” said Rensa quietly. “I assume you’re not asking me to be co-mother, so that would make her my demi-niece, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, yes, it would,” agreed Director Pollgroc with relief.
“Excellent,” said Rensa as she carefully handed the baby back to her nervous father. “It will be good for Tyreba and her future siblings to have cousins from both sides of their family. Just as it will be good for Glennen and her siblings to know that other people look like them.” She looked around brightly and added, “We should set up visits, shouldn’t we? Do you have a mothers’ group you go to, Cerron?”