“We three queens of orient are,” Kendall said, sing-songy. They were alone in Kendall’s cabin.

“I’ve traversed afar, grant you that,” Ricard said, “but even in my best drag, I can’t be queen, because she’ll always be the pretty one.” He pointed to his twin. They sat around a table, waiting for the delivery of an early lunch. A tea setting had been laid on a few minutes ago.

“Does any of us want to be the queen?” Arona asked. “I don’t. Even if Ric and I partnered it, which would be weird and maybe not even possible, it would be like prison, no let up, endlessly expanding responsibility, always on the edge of catastrophe.”

“So you have talked about it,” Kendall said. “I figured you had. Also the co-ruler thing. Well, not me either, even with Momma’s pitchfork constantly poking my butt. I wish she wanted it for herself, so I could just step out of the way. But she is not, wait for it, ‘Wallner-born.’ Of course, she’s also 77.”

“Has she ever worked?” Arona asked. She sipped some China tea from a Burleigh-made porcelain cup, with saucer. The ship used British tea terms: India and China, instead of black and green.

“Before she married my dad she did, in her twenties, as a legal secretary. She made okay money. Nothing ever engineering-related, which for a Wallner Machine Tool CEO would be a deficit.”

“Your momma did the company-wife thing hard, though,” Arona said. “Jewell was always there for picnics, holidays, birthday parties. I remember wishing she was our mother, just because she was around so much. Our mom kept her head down doing payroll, earning her own check and issuing everybody else’s, from before we were born until she retired ten years ago as CFO. She never came out for any of the fun stuff.”

“How are you for strategic vision, Ken? Roo and I decided that was our main disqualifier, a pretty completely lack of having any. We know what the company’s done for a hundred years and what we’re doing now. Some of the new stuff is exciting as hell, and some of the old stuff is going to fade away, but please don’t lay all that on me. Are we talking about 3-D printing all our tools? Or turning all our tools into 3-D printers?”

“Exactly!” Kendall said. “And if we choose artificial intelligence as the WMT future, does that mean we all get to retire, except for oiling the parts it tells us to — like the poor guys six decks below us — and wiping up the mess?”

“I think that’s for the robots,” Arona said, “we’ll end up in a habitat somewhere, some grass and trees, a couple of water features, where the bots can come to watch us breed.”

Tags: , , , ,