Another Assembly has been arranged, to take place in two weeks. I will abdicate, relinquish the position of Commander-in-Chief, and the monarchy can be abolished. If every-one sticks to the point, the whole thing should be over in about ten minutes.
Violet has been acting very strangely. She has really started bothering me about building what she insists on calling “a house for normal people rather than troglodytes”. She goes on about this for hours. It is driving me to drink, which is something she seems increasingly to disapprove of. Violet herself has virtually given up alcohol. She has also started eating like a horse. She has taken over one of the poly-tunnels on the farm, and is growing avocadoes, peppers and tomatoes. Until they are mature enough to harvest, she is in communication with various farmers and merchants on I-3, and is importing them by the crate, at colossal expense. She takes the avocadoes out of the box, one-by-one, and she cries if any of them are bruised. She eats them with raw onions, tomato-bread, olive oil, yoghurt, herbs, and all the fish she can lay her hands on. I have told her not to bother cooking my meals any more, because she has taken to over-cooking meat until it is like leather. I have always preferred mine rare on the inside.
She says she has something she needs to tell me. I am really worried. I think I have been unsettled by the change of identity from Pamela to Violet. I thought I had lost Violet. Let me re-phrase that more accurately: I thought I had allowed myself to make the mistake of leaving Violet behind, and then Pamela turned into Violet, and I suppose I still cannot believe that I have been given another chance, even though I know that Violet is the real Violet.
I will not say that we could not have won the war without Violet, but I will say this: as soon as I heard her speaking to me, seemingly out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, I knew that it meant conflict, but I knew that we would win.
‘Kelvin, there is something I need to tell you.’
‘It is something very important. Are you listening?’
‘Yes. What is it?’
‘Are you here? Are you with me? Where are you?’
‘I’m here, for fuck’s sake. What is it?’
‘Do you mean that you are going to give birth to a baby?’
‘That is what being pregnant usually means, you idiot. Bloody hell, you are hard work, sometimes.’
‘And to whom will the baby be genetically related? Who is the baby’s mother?’
‘And who is the baby’s father?’
‘And so it is our baby.’
‘How is this possible?’
‘It is a long story, but it is happening. Kelvin…’
‘You are going to be a father. Are you up to this?’
‘Being a father?’
‘No, probably not.’
‘I see. And so what are we going to do?’
‘We will just have to do the best we can.’
‘That is not good enough.’
‘Well, what do you think we should do?’
‘I want you to wake up to your responsibilities. I want you to think sensibly and act to prepare yourself for fatherhood. I need your support. I need you to face up to this. Do you know how to do that?’
‘I don’t think you do.’
‘Because you never have in the past.’
‘Yes, I have.’
‘No, you haven’t. You face up to boys’ things, like wars, and bayonet-charges, and running a brewery, and colonising new planets, but you are bloody useless at relationships, and communication, and being honest about your own feelings, and families, and children. You are good at things that are transient and trivial and dangerous, and bad at things that are lasting and important and safe.’ She started poking me and slapping me.
‘Less of the domestic violence, please. Ouch! That bloody hurt.’
‘Poof. Wuss. Cissy.’
‘Violet, do you mind if I ask you a question?’
‘You just have done.’
‘Do you like me?’
‘No, I fucking hate you, you self-absorbed, dysfunctional, cowardly, useless little bastard.’
‘Well why do you stay with me?’
‘For two reasons. First, I like to keep an eye on you. Second, I like to be on hand to exploit any opportunity to watch you suffer.’
‘As a basis for a relationship, that seems to me to lack resilience and warmth.’
‘And what would you know about resilience and warmth?’ There was a long pause.
‘How many weeks are you?’
‘When did we conceive then?’
‘Back on earth.’
‘Do you remember the night I wore that white lingerie?’
‘The first time I saw you cry?’
‘Oh. You noticed that. I did not realise you had made that observation.’
‘Well, I did.’
‘Why didn’t you say something? No – don’t bother to answer that.’
‘Why are you only two weeks pregnant if we conceived years ago?’
‘I froze the embryo.’
‘Where did you keep it?’
‘Do you know if it is a boy or a girl?’
‘Yes, I am certain that it is either a boy or a girl.’
‘No, I mean which is it?’
‘We don’t know yet. I’ll generate some sonograms later on.’
‘How is this possible?’
‘I did some research. I invented an artificial uterus and a vascular system. I have generated a genome for myself.’
‘And so the child will look like you?’
‘Fantastic. Will it be as intelligent as you?’
‘That is much less certain. I can only say that I hope so.’
‘The vascular system – did you menstruate a few times?’
‘That explains the tampons.’
‘I’ve still got them.’
‘What the hell for?’
‘I took them to remind me of you.’
‘Kelvin, I do wonder why you didn’t take me to remind you of me.’
‘What are we going to call it?’
‘I have not made up my mind yet. At the moment, I call him or her Horace.’
‘I like that. Horace.’
After I got back from my last geological survey, on C-2, I went back to I-11 and paid a visit to Kelvin’s estate. He lives in the nuttiest house you have ever seen. There is a little building, big enough for about two rooms, behind a huge gun emplacement. It is on an island in the middle of a river. You have to get across on a boat. I had been fore-warned about this in the village, and rowed across the river on a coracle which I borrowed from the place where I was staying. I walked most of the distance, with the coracle on my back, and then rowed across.
I had butterflies in my stomach for most of the journey. I could not stop thinking about Kelvin. There was so much I wanted to talk to him about. I had been rehearsing conversations for weeks. I had been trying to anticipate every possible thing he could say as a reply. In my imagination, I kept asking him if he loved me.
By the time I got to the jetty on Kelvin’s island, I was shaking all over. I walked up the steps, and peered over the parapet. Kelvin and what I took to be a woman were standing about a hundred metres away. They were looking at the ground and pointing, as if discussing an extension to the house. They seemed too deeply absorbed to notice me. I watched them for a few minutes. When they had finished gesticulating, they moved towards each other, and seemed to be talking more confidentially. And then they kissed. I don’t mean a quick peck on the cheek. I mean a huge snog with tongues and, when you finally come up for air, finding you have got one of the other person’s fillings in your mouth. I felt sick. I could not get a very good view of the other person, and then I realised who it was. It was Violet. Kelvin was kissing an android. He didn’t just kiss her, either. When they had finished licking the back of each other’s throats, they nuzzled and cuddled each other. It was nauseating. It was all I could do not to throw up. I dropped back below the parapet, crept back down the steps, got back into my coracle, and rowed silently off down-stream. When I got back to the village, I just went up to my room, and sat on my bed until it got dark. I didn’t go down for dinner. I just went to sleep.
Oh, god, I hope they don’t ask me to be the Speaker at the Assembly. I don’t think I could stand on a stage with Kelvin now. I don’t know what I am going to do.
If I can stop crying for a few minutes, I am about to start putting together another edition of Royal Flush. This edition will be the last. I had thought it would come to an end when my Earth-manufactured printer broke down, or I ran out of ink, but in fact I am about to run out of things to say. The paper’s newsworthiness comes from the excitement the female readership – bless them all – gets from speculation about the King’s future marriage prospects, and he has just announced that he has got married. Not engaged, you understand, but married. I will never forgive him for this – never. I know that he never considered Royal Flush to be a respectable periodical, but he was at least polite to me when I used to ask him for interviews. He never just cut me off. But this – this is a calculated insult.
There was no pomp and circumstance; no doves; no cathedral; no organ music; no page boys or bridesmaids. No cheering crowds; no hats in the air. There was a dress, I am told. I have seen a picture of it, and it looks like something that would have been worn at the wedding of the Princess of Frumpland to the Prince of Chavaria.
I hope it all goes wrong. I wish him an eternity of rows, thrown crockery, infidelity, and stillborn babies. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.