"Good morning Prince Know-it-all! Rise and shine!" Adrian Koine exclaimed as he popped through the doorway with his usual energy.
Brendan Aldrich looked up from his desk and raised an eyebrow at his friend, who was staring at his empty bed with a perplexed expression. "What are you up to so early?" he asked curiously.
Adrian turned and surveyed Brendan thoughtfully before replying, "I think I could ask you the same thing?"
"I'm planning my wedding," Brendan announced casually.
"Haha, fine, you don't have to tell me… wait, are you being serious? You're serious aren't you?" Adrian asked incredulously.
Brendan nodded. A moment of silence passed and Brendan closed the document he was working on, and asked, "And you? I didn't expect to see you before noon after you left for another one of your flings last night."
"Hey, it was not a fling!" Adrian objected. "It was work! Not that a spoiled prince would know what that word means, why am I even trying to explain myself to you?"
Brendan didn't bother to interrupt Adrian's monologue, because he knew that his friend would get to the point eventually. His sharp eyes took in the details of Adrian's clothing and accessories and he walked over to his closet and pulled out his own coverall and shop interface band.
Adrian continued, "Delivery service men and women have been working all night to make sure that the prince of Eks Corp receives the freshest fruits from all three planets for his luxurious breakfast, annnnnnd… the latest stabilizer module!"
Brendan couldn't help smiling, because he had received the delivery notification earlier, but had decided to wait until Adrian was up and about before starting. Despite his warm smile, his words were cool and sharp as he replied, "What you are calling work, most people call prostitution or human trafficking."
"You are such a jerk," Adrian complained as he threw an apple at his friend's head. "The baby making part happens in a lab, the way civilized people do it, unlike you barbaric Corporate royals."
Brendan held up the apple that he had easily caught, and pointed out, "It's the best way to prevent sabotage." He took a bite before asking, "Still, don't you ever feel guilty about selling your children?"
"Nope," Adrian replied airily. "My kids will all have it pretty good. Why do you think I insist on personally interviewing every future mother?"
Brendan shook his head, but he had to admit that Adrian was probably justified in his confidence. Any family that could afford the ridiculous price that Adrian and his mother had set on his chromosomes would have to be prosperous. But it wasn't the scam that it could have sounded like, because every lasting dynasty still prized the opportunity to add the genes of a brilliant 'original' to their own carefully edited chromosomes.
Adrian popped a handful of bright red berries into his mouth, and Brendan asked suspiciously, "Was there really only fruit today, or did you eat the rest already?"
"You know that you're going to be lucky to find anyone who will put up with a prince who fulfills the cliche 'spoiled rotten' image so well," Adrian commented with mock sadness as he lifted the berry bowl out of the small tray and handed over a skewer that held a string of small round bread balls.
Brendan caught a glimpse of a second skewer before Adrian let the bowl settle back into its niche, and replied calmly, "I know, that's why I'm offering a hundred thousand credits to the girl who takes me."
He bit calmly into the cheesy bread without offering to share, while Adrian gaped at him and then demanded suspiciously, "Micro or macro?"
"Macro, of course," Brendan answered with exasperation.
"My dear friend," Adrian announced soberly as Brendan pulled on his coverall, "I think I know the perfect wife for you."
"You're not qualified," Brendan replied with amusement.
"Hey, gender is merely a matter of choice to those who can afford body sculpting," Adrian protested.
"She has to win the race, be nulliparous, and carry the L chromosome from the memory pair or be an original like you," Brendan explained.
"You can't find a better original," Adrian insisted while patting his chest with his free hand. "What race? And what is nulliparous? Do you mean without cellular modifications?"
"Childless," Brendan clarified. "She can't have any children already. A maiden, in other words."
"You put that clause in just to disqualify me didn't you?" Adrian asked with disgust.
"Like you even need the money," Brendan replied with an exaggerated eye roll.
"I never have enough to do all of the experiments that I want to," Adrian insisted.
On their way to the workshop Brendan told Adrian about the race he was designing. He said with enthusiasm, "There will be three good opportunities to use an old fashioned slingshot course in order to hit all of the checkpoints faster, and two hidden markings set on each ship when it receives its ID beacon, to prevent turtles.
"How are you going to prevent your princess candidates from sneaking a professional pilot onboard though?" Adrian asked thoughtfully. "I mean, some of the top end Autopilots could give even you a run for your money if they had the right ship."
"I'll have contraband teams check each ship during registration, but it's still possible that someone might be able to sneak a substitute pilot aboard somehow. If they get caught it's an automatic loss of course, so that will prevent most people from trying. However, an Autopilot won't win," Brendan predicted confidently. "I'm going to send them through the Norse belt."
"Are you trying to kill off every qualified maiden in the solar system?" Adrian asked with unsettling cheerfulness.
The uniformed person they had just passed turned and watched them with obvious curiosity, but Brendan ignored the extra audience and responded calmly, "Every ship made these days has enough collision avoidance built in to keep them all safe, it'll just slow them all down there, and make using the final slingshot opportunity around Gyrfalcon a necessity."
They stood in the airlock with their mouths and eyes closed and waited for the cleaning process to finish, before the conversation continued. When the door opened Adrian looked at Brendan's pet project and asked, "Do they have to beat you, or just each other?"
"If she can beat me, I'll marry her on the spot," Brendan joked.
"I thought that was the whole point?" Adrian questioned.
"No, I may be recklessly throwing out the gauntlet of an old fashioned challenge, but the winner only gets a one PiYear engagement that either of us can back out of if we don't suit," Brendan explained.
"Boring," Adrian drawled in a miffed tone. "I thought you were serious about planning your wedding! And what's with the prize money then, if she doesn't have to spend it on her wedding?"
"I am serious," Brendan insisted laughingly. "But I have plenty of time to finalize who is going to be my queen, and I bet the prize money won't even cover what some families will spend on the ships that get entered."
"Ugh, somehow I'm afraid that you aren't even joking about the insane amounts of mega credits that are about to change hands," Adrian complained. "You're buying extra stock in luxury ship construction aren't you?"
"Extra? Don't I already own it all?" Brendan asked teasingly. Adrian rolled his eyes, and Brendan patted the unusually small craft that sat in the center of the shop, and then added, "And yeah, I intend to fly the course at the same time, but I'm not going to make that public. I will also arrange a support hauler to follow along behind and pick up anyone who gets themselves into too much trouble."
Adrian looked at the little ship and shook his head. "Do you really think this new stabilizer module is going to give you enough range to prevent you from needing to be hauled back yourself?"
"That depends. If your theory is correct, I think the new engine design is going to be enough all by itself, but if it's flawed, I'm definitely going to need a ride back," Brendan replied seriously.
"I keep telling you that this thing is too small to maintain a stable reaction!" Adrian protested. "You're going to melt something on a long run like that."
"Mass is all that matters in that equation," Brendan argued. "And the new alloy should get me over the threshold."
"You could just make it bigger," Adrian muttered, as he deftly used the control gauntlet to catch the shell section that Brendan had just finished releasing.
I've been waiting for a contest that Cinderella would fit into before posting this here. I've only been successfully writing one chapter a week though, so once it catches up to 30, updates will slow down.