Raquella threw up her hands and went to the replicators to make something. Enigo didn’t know what. They’d barely touched the enchiladas. He supposed it didn’t matter; she really just wanted a reason to not watch their daughter as she talked about destroying their culture.
Maybe Enigo had been too long off the Hood and in HuFleet. He found himself intrigued. “Go on.”
With an expression of teary relief and joyful earnest, Marisol said, “Domingo teaches our history. You knew that, right? Well, he studies it, really studies it, and Union politics, too. There was a brief time, right we booted the Dread Oog, that the Union thought about offering us membership.”
“I know. We turned it down. We didn’t need any overlords. You know that.”
“Si, but did you know that they’d already decided to withdraw the offer because the infighting had already started? We were too feral. Please, don’t be like mami. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The Union needs some feral. I’ll come back to that.
“Domingo started looking at what happened during and right after the war. Ship operations improved. People picked up skills more in line with their talents rather than their territories. We broke a lot of stuff kicking out the Oog, but then we fixed the ship. Together. And our one fixed ship took on – and took out three Droognauts. Didn’t know that, did you? Because when we started fighting each other again the Vangels had the ship logs and absorbed the command staff. The knowledge – our history, Mama! – got lost. And nobody in the Union believes how badass we can be because we decided to tear each other apart instead.
“But we were badass. We kicked out a technological and political superpower in six months. Then in another three, we smacked their outlying colony. Didn’t know that, either, did you? We could have taken that world, if we hadn’t started fighting. That’s what Domingo thinks, based on the research he’s done.
“And we get it. Abuelo’s generation wasn’t ready to give up the life he’d known. Maybe if the war had lasted years, we could have worked past the differences.
“Look, we used to fight in part as population control and to let the strongest survive. All good, yah? But now, we have options. People are leaving and not just because they are cowards. You know that. You always said the ship was too small for you, but Papi, was it the ship? Or the territory? Or was it the enemy?”
She leaned forward and grasped his arm. “Abuelo Rio wasn’t ready to give up the fight. There was too much bad blood. But is there really hate in your heart for Mami’s brothers? Would you be willing to work with a rival if they were assigned to your ship?”
“The ship is family,” he said, but his mind went back to the fight he’d gotten into with a Union officer who had been a Crip. He hadn’t hated him. They just swung at each other on reflex. They even laughed together as they’d cleaned up the mess. “No, it wouldn’t bother me as long as the benndero did his job.”
“I knew it! You could tell about how you talked about your days on the Hood. That’s how a lot of your generation feel, especially those who left. More of my generation feel the same. We want our ship to be family. We’re tired of destroying ourselves from within. We want to take on some real enemies.”
His head was starting to spin again. “Okay. What’s that got to do with a beauty pageant?”
“The heirs are already talking about Unity – ai, Mami! Stop shrieking! – but the Union sees the Hood as locos not lobos. They plenty of respect for people who leave – people like you, Papa – but the ship is a joke. They don’t think we can stand together against anything but a direct threat. So I’m the voice, the face, of the Unifying Hood.”
Raquella took their Enigo’s uneaten plates and returned them to the replicators. “She thinks she’s our ambassador.”
Enigo tried not to snort. “You’re twenty years old.”
“I know. And we’re not ready for an ambassador, anyway. Which is why I’m doing the pageant circuit. It’s the fastest way to show the Human race – and a bunch of other races in the Union – that the Hood isn’t just a bunch of scrabbling vermin. We have a rich heritage that goes beyond warfare. We can speak eloquently. We can compete without bloodshed.
But it’s not just that. Did you know that more than a quarter of the females that compete go on to have political careers? Gloria Joy grooms diplomats. She’s mentoring me. When our home is ready, I will be, too.”
“Damstrate you will. You’re a LaFuentes.”
Raquel did snort rudely. “Of course, you take her side. Wait until you hear what else she has to tell you. But tardana. Let’s eat before this gets cold again.”
“Tardana” meant something between “later,” and “eventually.” Enigo had the feeling it would have to wait until he and Marisol could speak privately. He made a note to make sure that was truly tomorrow.
After dinner, he walked them to the airlock and sent Marisol ahead. He wrapped his arms around Raquella. It felt good just to lean on her. “You know,” he said, “Manny and I used to play basketball, during the Dread Oog peace. Six years later, he tried to shoot me in the back.”
“And you killed him,” Raquella said. “Then you came to my room. There was so much pain in our passion that night.”
“I would have been very happy to have him fighting at my side today instead.”
She sighed. “Si. Me, too.”
His communicator beeped. “Dour to LaFuentes. Sir, I’d like to ask a favor.”