Light In The Mirror

Fandom: Jupiter Ascending

Rating: R

Summary: If the choice is fly or fall, you spread your wings.   

Disclaimer: The characters and situations in this story belong to the Wachowskis, Dune Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit.  Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.  The opinions expressed by characters in this story may or may not be those of the author.  

Okay, so I wasn't expecting the muse to fall in love with another fandom, and certainly not this hard.  But she did, and so I've spent the last two weeks writing almost at NaNo speed.  Which isn't to say it's not fun, just kind of hard on the sleep schedule. 

This story begins right after the refinery collapse, before the end of the film.  Cincoflex is my never-failing mainstay and beta, and I'm especially grateful for her patience this round since this isn't a fandom she really shares.  She also made the gorgeous banner! 

Production notes on some chapters can be found on my LiveJournal.         


Rise 1 banner

She was exhausted

Jupiter ached all over after the last week, or however long it had been--she wasn’t even sure, what with all the unconsciousness and the space portals and who knew what else.  She’d nearly had her arms pulled from their sockets and her hair from its roots; she’d fallen further than she could run, on more than one occasion; she’d been slapped, beaten, and half-strangled.  And she was desperately worried about her--whatever the hell Caine even was, who’d had most of the same happen to him before someone tried to chew his arm off, and he’d been almost explosively decompressed.  Twice

But she had to admit, the view was great. 

Space spread out in front of her like--well, like space, and it would probably give her vertigo except for Earth front and center, all white and blue and green and beautiful.  The planet (her planet, really??) actually glowed, which was not something that showed up in all those NASA photos. 

“Jupiter, how lovely.”  The sweet voice made her want to snarl a little, but Jupiter kept a firm hold on her temper, which was Russian, no matter what weird little guys with white hair said.  “You’ve had quite the time.” 

Jupiter turned.  The view on the inside was ornately impressive too; Kalique had agreed to meet with her, but on her own ship, with the air of someone to whom “no” was a word for other people.  And Jupiter was too tired, and too worried, to argue about it. 

Besides, Kalique’s ship was overshadowed--no mean trick--by an even larger Aegis battleship.  It seemed the Aegis was more than a little pissed about the Abrasax family trying to kill off its Recurrence, and had determined that there would be no more mistakes.  There were Aegis officers posted in the big room, too, standing by the walls with impassive faces (snouts, some of them--that was going to take some getting used to), but Kalique ignored them as if they were part of the furniture. 

Maybe they were, to her. 

Jupiter managed a polite smile.  “Thanks for agreeing to meet me.” 

“Of course!”  Kalique gestured idly, and two chaise-longue-thingies rose from what had been a blank floor, both of them riding on blue antigravity beams like Titus’ furniture.  Kalique seated herself Roman-style on one, the drapery of her gown apparently having enough of a mind of its own to arrange itself decoratively.  Jupiter, feeling both tough and kind of awkwardly butch, just sat straight on the other one, planting her feet in their Aegis boots firmly on the floor. 

“But where’s that handsome Splice of yours?” Kalique said, still with the little smile that seemed to be her default expression. 

“He has, um, other duties.”  Which was what Stinger had coached her to say.  Jupiter certainly wasn’t going to admit “in sickbay, under loud protest.” 

“What a pity.”  Another gesture, and an owlish man--obviously a Splice--and two of those uncanny-valley android-women came in the door.  The women held trays; the owl-man merely bowed with a murmur of “Your Majesty,” and stationed himself near the head of Kalique’s couch. 

“Something to drink?” Jupiter’s hostess continued, as a tray was presented to each of them.  Kalique took the single glass from her own and raised it in a delicate toast; her eyes were actually twinkling, and Jupiter was torn between annoyance at the condescension and a sneaking admiration at the chutzpah.  “I assure you, it’s not poisoned.” 

You don’t have to actually drink it, Jupiter reminded herself, and took the glass with a stiff nod, equally divided between the android-lady and Kalique herself.  The two servitors slipped out of the room without a word, and as the doors parted for them, another person stepped inside, and Jupiter let out a covert breath of relief.  Captain Tsing, sharp in what Jupiter guessed was dress uniform, came to stand opposite the owl-man and bowed her head to each woman in turn.  “Your Majesty; Lady Kalique.” 

Kalique’s smile deepened.  “You have a gift for winning champions, that’s clear, my dear.  A convicted Splice, a disgraced Legionnaire, the Aegis--I hardly dare guess who’s next.” 

Jupiter glanced at the Captain, whose expression was as politely blank as the owl-man’s, and decided not to touch that.  It wasn’t what she was here for, anyway.  She took another breath, and wished that Caine was there.  “Kalique, I--why the hell is everyone calling me a queen?  Shouldn’t you have inherited that?” 

Wait--  That wasn’t what she’d meant to say, and she felt her face heating, but Kalique didn’t seem insulted (though who could tell with these people?).  She merely cocked her head.  “It’s a complicated legal designation, really.  Mother was head of House Abrasax, the last of her generation.  We, her heirs--“  Her free hand circled vaguely.  “--take lesser titles until only one of us remains.  Or unless Mother is...reborn.”  Her gesture widened to include Jupiter. 

Jupiter pinched her eyes shut briefly, and told her looming headache that she just didn’t have time for it right now.  “Okay.  I see.”  I think.  “Do you mind?” 

Kalique laughed her bright little chuckle, and Jupiter wondered idly if she was capable of frowning.   Maybe she orders people’s heads removed with the same smile.  “Oh, no.  I wasn’t expecting to inherit that title for several millennia yet.  Besides...things have changed lately.” 

“Um, yeah.”  Jupiter felt an abrupt chill.  “I’m...sorry about your brother.” 

The smile finally vanished.  Kalique held out her glass, and the owl-man was there to take it from her.  “Why?  Did you kill him?” 

Fire and noise beyond belief and acrid gas and a madman screaming at her feet--  “Um.  No, actually.” 

Kalique shrugged delicately.  “What a pity,” she said again.  Jupiter blinked, and Kalique met her eyes.  “I loved my brother, Jupiter, but he was as dangerous as a feral Splice.  And quite insane.” 

“And with him gone,” Jupiter said with sudden insight, “you and Titus gain control of his--stuff.” 

Kalique leaned back a little, chuckling once more.  “You learn quickly!  Yes, Balem had no heirs; he expected to live forever, you know.  But count yourself among that number; his estate will pass to all the closest relatives.”  Her smile was conspiratorial.  “And if Titus is convicted--well.  Forfeiture of assets is often a penalty for erring Entitled.” 

And I thought my family was screwed up.  “So it all goes back to the state?” 

It was Kalique’s turn to look puzzled, though Jupiter suspected it was an act.  “The...state?  Oh.  Oh, no, my dear.  His assets would be divided amongst his nearest relations, which are and I.”  She stroked her complicated necklace absently.  “I really should thank you.  Within a few days you’ve completely upset our dynasty, and mostly in my favor.” 

“Yeah, well, they shouldn’t have messed with me.”  The words were mostly bravado, but she had to start somewhere.  “That’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about.”  Jupiter glanced over at Captain Tsing, who was listening with calm attention; her glance back was reassuring. 

“Oh?  How intriguing.”  Kalique sat up a little, and Jupiter thought that maybe she really was interested. 

“I’m gonna assume that bureaucracy is pretty much the same everywhere,” Jupiter began carefully, repressing a shudder at the memory of Orus’ endless maze of frustration.  The only thing missing was the smell of stale coffee.  “Which means that settling all these estates is going to take time.” 

“Yes, indeed.”  Kalique shook her head.  “Why, Titus himself won’t come to trial for months.  But when one lives as long as we do...”  Her gesture seemed to brush off such small considerations as “months”. 

Jupiter bit her tongue on what she thought of all that.  She was here for diplomacy, not puking on Kalique’s delicate little shoes in revulsion.  “Yeah.  Here’s the thing.  It’s going to take me months to get a handle on all this.”  Months, years, whatever.   “And I need to go home for a while.  See my family.  You know.” 

“Oh, certainly.”  Kalique tapped her bracelet absently, and the door swished open for a servitor with another glass.  “Do go on.” 

Jupiter chose her words as carefully as she could, feeling hopelessly outmatched against this ancient...relation?  Who watched her with such cool, amused curiosity.  “I’ll be honest with you.”  Mostly.  “I don’t really trust any of you, but you’re the only Abrasax who hasn’t tried to kill me.” 

So far, anyway.   

“And you wish to form an alliance?”  Kalique actually sat up, taking the glass without even looking.  “Jupiter, we’re family.  Abrasax scions may feud with one another, but we stand together against all others." 

“So I can trust you to, um, guard my interests for a little while?” 

Kalique’s smile got wider.  “Well.  For a consideration, perhaps.”  At Jupiter’s look of alarm, she chuckled again.  “Monetary only, my dear.  Or perhaps a small favor in the future.” 

Jupiter still wasn’t sure about that, but it wasn’t like she had a lot of options just at the moment.  Kalique swung her feet gracefully to the floor and took another swallow; Jupiter tried not to clutch her own glass too tightly.  The drink smelled like apricots, mostly, and there was no way in hell she was going to taste it. 

“Jupiter.”  Kalique’s expression turned grave.  “I feel I should be honest with you as well.  You are--how old are you?” 

“Uh, twenty-two,” Jupiter managed, startled. 

“Twenty-two?  I don’t even remember much before my five-hundreds,” Kalique mused; Jupiter felt a chill move up her spine. 

What would it be like to live so long that parts of your life started to disappear?  How could it even be worth it? 

“Well.  You’re young, you’ve just inherited more power and wealth than your imagination can conceive.  You’ve cut a swath through your enemies, leaving them defeated or dead in your wake.  You have beauty, determination, and a certain crude charm.  And Recurrences are very rare.  Entitled society will be positively riveted.”  She smiled again, wide and amused.  “Of course I’ll help you.” 

Jupiter blinked again, trying not to be annoyed at the crude part.  “I, uh--you will?” 

“Oh, yes.”  Kalique laughed out loud.  “Darling girl, I can’t wait to watch the fun!” 

Somehow, Jupiter didn’t think that was a compliment. 

Kalique rose.  “I’ll leave you in Mr. Malidictes’ capable hands, then.”  Jupiter pushed to her feet as Kalique came over; she half-expected one of those stupid air-kisses that Katharine’s friends used, but Kalique only reached out to touch a strand of Jupiter’s hair. 

So young,” she said wonderingly.  “So very young and innocent.”  Her eyes crinkled.  “Oh, this will be fun.” 

And with that she wafted out, trailing skirts and a languid wave in Jupiter’s direction.  Malidictes bowed to her retreating back, but Captain Tsing merely shifted her gaze directly to Jupiter.  “How are you holding up, your Majesty?” she murmured. 

Jupiter opened her mouth, then hesitated.  If I tell the truth, I’m going to start bawling.  “I can do this all day,” she lied instead. 

Tsing was almost as good at subtle expressions as Caine; the lift of her brow combined amusement and sympathy quite well.  “Shouldn’t be too much longer.” 

“Your Majesty.”  Malidictes bowed to Jupiter in turn.  “My lady anticipated your request and had me bring a tally of your holdings.  Shall we begin?” 

Jupiter thought about standing through it, decided her knees were going to walk out without her if she did, and sat--a little abruptly to judge by the flicker of surprise on the majordomo’s face.  But he covered it smoothly, and simply stood by her side, passing her sheave after sheave of information regarding bank accounts, starships, employees, factories, stocks, holdings, and real estate--including enough planets to populate a season of Star Trek, Jupiter thought.  The array would have been dizzying if she’d been fed up and slept in; as it was, it quickly blurred into a stream of weird names and meaningless facts. 

But however it had landed in Jupiter’s lap, it was hers, for better or for worse.  At the back of it all was the thought of all those other worlds, with populations ripening towards their peak; much as she wanted to dump the whole mess and go home (except for Caine, her mind whispered), she couldn’t turn her back on them. 

It’s not just Earth.  It was never just Earth, not really. 

When Malidictes finally finished, he fell silent, waiting attentively for her word.  Jupiter rubbed her forehead--the headache had gone from theoretical to thumping--and struggled to keep it simple. 

“I want a holding pattern,” she decreed at last.  “Pay everyone like usual; everything can just keep going as it is, maintenance and supply and all that.  For now.”  Malidictes nodded.  “But no Harvests.” 

The majordomo didn’t exactly frown, his face wasn’t built for it, but he radiated disapproval.  “Your Majesty?” 

She gave him a steely look.  “I don’t care when they’re coming up.  No Harvests--“  She swallowed bile.  “--until I give the okay.” 

“Yes, your Majesty.”  He cocked his head, a very birdlike move, and glanced at Jupiter’s sloppy pile of sheaves.  “I don’t believe there are any scheduled this decade, but I will make certain that your orders are followed most precisely.” 

“You do that.”  She swallowed again, wishing suddenly for plain water but not wanting to ask for it, not here on this ship that seemed so alien even though her species had designed it.  "Oh--about the money--" 

"My apologies, your Majesty, I should have begun with that."  Malidictes produced one last sheave.  "If you will seal this, we will begin procedures to set up accounts for you on Earth.  You can order refinements as you require them." 

"Great."  Jupiter squinted at it, realized that she really had no idea what it said, and couldn't muster the energy to care.  If they want to steal stuff, there're easier ways.  She pressed her wrist to the corresponding mark, some part of her still slightly enchanted by the whole painless-tattoo-as-e-sig thing, and the sheave chimed complacently.  "How long will it take?" 

"Approximately thirty of Earth's minutes," Malidictes said with equal complacence.  "Everything should be in readiness by the time you touch down." 

Jupiter blinked.  So what happened to that endless bureaucracy? 

The majordomo seemed to guess her thought as he took the sheave back.  "We are very efficient when dealing with primitive systems, your Majesty," he said, with apparently no fear that she might be insulted. 

She was too tired to take offense anyway.  "Right," Jupiter sighed, and pushed to her feet.  Before she could bend to gather the sheaves, one of the Aegis was there to do it for her, stacking them neatly and carrying them away. 

She ought to thank Malidictes, Jupiter thought, but she just didn't have the energy.  Fortunately he didn’t seem to expect it, merely waiting politely until Captain Tsing spoke up. 

“That will be all, I think,” she said.  “We’ll escort her Majesty home, and you can wait for further instructions.” 

“Of course,” the majordomo said, and turned to lead them out.  He murmured quiet compliments the entire way, and Jupiter nodded absently, so exhausted she could barely walk a straight line.  The Aegis troops followed in a sort of honor guard, with Captain Tsing pacing Jupiter, and she tried to keep her head up and look royal--whatever the hell that looked like, anyway.  Almost done... 

“Your Majesty.”  Captain Tsing put a hand under her elbow as Malidictes bowed and one of the Aegis opened the airlock.  “Allow me.” 

“Sure,” Jupiter muttered, and let herself be guided over the threshold and into the Aegis cruiser. 

As soon as the airlock shut, Tsing raised her voice.  “The Queen is secure!  Decouple and let’s go.”  She supported Jupiter towards the nearest seat as the cruiser hummed to life.  “Are you all right?” 

Jupiter didn’t get a chance to reply; a blur of movement resolved into Caine, looming over her anxiously.  He was clean of blood and in fresh clothes, but he looked almost as strung out as she felt.  “Jupiter.” 

"Uhh," she said, and kind of fell over into him. 

She barely noticed Captain Tsing withdrawing towards the bridge.  Jupiter tried to put her arms around Caine, but before she could stop him he had swept her up in a carry that was by now wonderfully familiar. 

“Your shoulder--“ she protested, but he made one of those low growly sounds. 

“It’s fine.  Healed.”  He moved swiftly down the corridor, and Jupiter decided not to argue.  Besides, he felt really damn good. 

She was only just awake enough to sense being laid down on something soft.  When the gentle hands withdrew, she mumbled protest, but they returned to pull a blanket up over her. 

She was asleep before the edges were tucked in. 

He watched her sleep. 

It was hardly the first time.  Twelve hours he’d stayed by her, back on her Earth, waiting for her system to recover from all the shocks she’d received so far.  He’d smelled the havoc the artificial hormones were playing with her endocrine system, the sour tang of residual panic, the dry ache of near-suffocation, but as the hours had crept past they had smoothed out from faint to honest sleep.  It was always different, going from the trace of a genetic pattern to the full and complex scent of a living being, but there was something different about this one.  Her smell seemed to lock into his nerves, bit by bit, matching somehow in a process he couldn’t explain.   

Now he guarded not a simple, unknown tercie quarry, but an acknowledged Recurrence and a Queen.  An Entitled, who was as far above him as the stars themselves, and whose future could be a near-eternity of pleasure and power, if she so chose. 

A woman who’d challenged him, trusted him, and kissed his brains nearly to mush; who had clung to him when he’d tried to lay her down in the bunk, too exhausted to open her eyes but still wanting him close. 

The contradiction was dizzying.  All good sense told him to back away as quickly as possible; to an Entitled, a Splice was basically nothing more than an intelligent animal.  Jupiter didn’t realize now what an aberration their connection was--and when she did--

But he couldn’t make himself let go of her hand. 


Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3     Chapter 4     Chapter 5     Chapter 6     Chapter 7     Chapter 8     Chapter 9     Chapter 10

Chapter 11     Chapter 12  

Jupiter Ascending