So we go and see. We go all the way into the royal bedchamber, which doesn’t feel like a place we should really be, but it makes sense after a second or two.
Tania is lying in bed. She’s no longer huge. She looks diminutive compared to the massive bed. She, too, has that happy thousand-yard stare, the cause of which becomes apparent when something next to her starts shrieking like a wild beast.
“You had the baby!” I hiss scream the words, not wanting to upset the aforementioned infant, though to be fair, the infant is already awake and screeching like a tiny, furious warrior.
“We had the baby. Well, I had the baby. He watched,” she says. She’s pedantic and precise as ever even while cradling the baby who settles quickly in her arms.
“It’s a boy,” she says. “We’ve named him Atom.”
“Atom, that’s quite a name.” I don’t want to question a baby’s name, because that’s something that only assholes do, but still, I have a feeling there’s something going on here.
“My father’s name was Tom, and when Atom was born, I said he looked like a Tom, and Tyrant latched onto that.”
“The rest was history, huh?”
“It suits him, I think,” she smiles.
I think it does, too. I think it’s perfect. I think everything about this scene is absolutely fucking adorable and wholesome and lovely, and it makes everything Terrible and I just went through feel so much more worthwhile. We weren’t just doing it for ourselves. We were doing it for little Atom, and the entire tiny remaining empire of Tyrant.
“Come and see,” she says, beckoning us closer. “He doesn’t bite. Or at least, not you. He’s turned my nipples… anyway.”
The baby is… well, it’s freakin’ adorable. It has the cutest little scale markings, and the biggest, most colorful eyes. It’s certainly part human, but it’s also very alien.
“He has his father’s eyes,” I comment.
“And scales," she smiles.
“He’s really beautiful,” I tell her. I’m surprised to find that I actually mean it. He is beautiful, and she and Tyrant look happier than I’ve ever seen them, even if they also both look like they’ve been dragged behind an interstellar freighter across several galaxies.
“Maybe one day you’ll have one like this.” She gives me that secret smile of someone who is fully hopped up on the new baby train. It is a universal constant that anybody who has had a baby must immediately tell someone else to have a baby. Like a pyramid scheme for reproduction.
Maybe one day another living being will come bursting out of me screaming with rage, but for now I’ll content myself with enjoying Terrible and maybe trying to be less of a complete fucking mess at all times. Kid’s cute though.
I glance over my shoulder, where Terrible and Tyrant are talking. They are already speaking about the ship we captured, I can tell. Terrible does not seem overly interested in the baby.
“Terrible. It’s a baby,” I say, pointing at the kid.
“It is,” he agrees. “It looks strong and worthy.”
Just when I thought he might be softening in general, he goes and proves he’s still Terrible. He just loves me, that’s all. And maybe that’s enough. Can’t change everything all the time right away. Can’t expect the warrior who was recently playing soccer with the disembodied head of his enemy and terrifying an entire crew into submission to turn gooey over an infant.
“I am going to inspect our newest acquisition,” Tyrant announces. “Be good.”
I do not know to whom he is addressing that command. Probably all of us.
“Okay, bye then,” I say.
“Bye now,” Tania waves.
“Gah,” Atom interjects.
“Your son is strong, and a credit to you, sire.”
“Thank you,” Tyrant says, immediately changing the conversation. “I admit, I am eager to see the second vessel in our new fleet. From an army of tens of thousands, we’ve been cut to a tiny fraction of our former strength. This is perhaps the greatest victory we’ve experienced in our lifetimes, Terrible, and it follows our greatest defeat.”
“There is ever a sense of balance in the universe,” I admit.
The EnD ship is locked in travel with ours. We have already replaced over half its crew with our own warriors. The other half are down on the planet below, running drills, being evaluated. We have absorbed the fighting powers of many species in the past, and there is no doubt in my mind that we will rebuild as great as before, if not greater. If anybody knows how to break a new crew, we do.
We are standing on the bridge, inspecting the command consoles. It is otherwise empty. The EnD soldiers know better than to stay in our presence too long, least we notice them and single them out for extra breaking.
“The weapons array on this ship is excellent, once it is merged with our own technology, we will be capable of defending ourselves against ever greater enemies.”