The Cloud, 11 am, EST, Monday, November 24th, 2132, Michael, Sven, Slavica and Lisa at Ferdinand's office

"I thought it was best if you guys were fully visualized," said Michael, who had set up the meeting after Sven and girlfriend Lisa said they were very happy to marry each other, and Slavica said she wanted to meet Lisa.

So, except for Michael, who had said he was in favour of whatever the three of them decided, and would leave the meeting immediately after it started, they were all dressed up, coiffed and, in the case of the girls, made up.

"Goodness, Slava," said Sven admiringly, "I had no idea you could look like that."

Slavica was wearing a figure-hugging green couture two-piece, an emerald necklace, and showing lots of leg. Already very tall, she added three-inch heels and a bouffant hair-style to become altogether intimidating. Sven was used to her in jeans and sneakers.

"When you're dead," she snapped, "it's allowed." But she smiled disarmingly at Lisa, only marginally less tall, blonde and seven months pregnant, who was loosely attired in a flowing grecian gown, girdled with a gold belt just below her breasts, and sporting equally exotic gold shoes.

The two of them looked more than a match for each other, and for any man they might come across.

"You both frighten me," admitted Sven. "As long as you don't frighten each other! Lisa, you probably know a lot more about Slava than she does about you. Is it reasonable to ask you to explain a bit where you're coming from?"

"That's patronising," said Slavica, "and unnecessary. I may be dead, but I'm not completely stupid. I've been learning about Lisa. Elizabetta Augusta von Waldburg zu Wolfegg und Waldsee, a Silesian Countess whose family lost their estates during the Russian occupation of Eastern Germany after the Second World War. Your great-grandfather married an English banker's daughter and they lived in Bavaria; your grandfather, also a banker, married into the Springer publishing empire and became the German Assembly member in 2060. Your father was born in 2070 and had an academic career in brain sciences. By the way, he was an intern in my great-grandfather's research institute in 2095 in the Netherlands. He married one of his students, Elizabeth Maxwell, in 2105. Her father was a Scottish lawyer. Lisa, you have studied brain sciences in the same year group as I and my colleagues, but in another stream. And you got a red-line diploma, like us. So. Here we are!"

"Phew," said Sven, open-mouthed. "Lisa, do you want to add anything to that?"

"I didn't know about the internship," admitted Lisa. "I've done some digging too, and that must have been Frans Wallendorf's Foundation. That fits with why my Dad was so keen on RCRs, and pushed me into brain sciences. I wanted to study music, but he was probably right. I play the piano for myself, but Iwould never have been good enough to be professional. Slavica, Sven has told me a bit about your RCC work, but he's holding back. I suppose it's confidential. But I hope we can talk about it. We did some 'alignments' in our group, by the way, and one or two of them got published. That's how I met Sven, I suppose, because he gave a party for some of the alignment authors, and I got asked. So I also met Maria and Jocelyn, and they told me a bit about you."

"Of course you can know about the RCCs," said Slavica. "It's not really secret any more. But could we talk about Peter for a bit? How do you feel about it? I mean, he's not your child, it's a peculiar situation. I wouldn't blame you for not liking it. Or him!"

Lisa smiled. "He's a lovely child, you don't have to worry about that. I can't wait to take him over, if you'll let me. It'll be like having twins, they can have one tit each! I just think it ought to be soon, before he gets too attached to the wet nurse. She's a nice person, I've met her obviously, but if it's not going to be permanent, we ought to stop it asap."

Slavica looked at Sven: "What about it, Sven, I just worry that you're being dragooned into this. I know how insistent your Dad can be, believe me."

"Actually he's been trying to stop me. He feels so guilty about the whole thing, I suppose, he's bending over backwards not to create any more mess. No, it's fine, I'm 100% OK with it; the one I worry about is Lisa, because it's going to be so hard for her in five years' time when you're going to come along as a teenager and take Peter away."

"I don't see it like that," said Slavica. "I'm not really the motherly type, I'm very happy to be involved, but I can't see myself wanting to 'take Peter away'. Of course I would want to tell Peter the truth, when he can handle it, at least the truth about me, but not about Michael I guess. He can have two mothers. But then how did Peter happen?"

Lisa laughed. "Don't tell me you screwed Sven, you wanton, you! I could get jealous. Do you fancy her, Sven?"

They all laughed, and Sven blushed prettily.

"We can just face it when the time comes," concluded Slavica.


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