The Daily Dome was one of the Luna Dome’s two large newspapers. It was established about twenty years ago as an alternative to the Lunar Herald, and quickly became very popular. So popular, that its small staff became unable to provide all news its audience wanted, and turned to creating false stories. Animal sightings outside the Dome sphere, for example. Alien life on the far side of the Moon. Everything except that the Moon was made of cheese, thank goodness. Its reputation quickly became the paper that banged out stories for a buck, no matter if they were true or not. The younger crowd still read it anyway, purely for its entertainment value.
Whoever this reporter was, this Mac Jaclow, Skyla vowed she would make him suffer.
“My life is irrelevant,” she said, trying to keep her voice even.
But it wasn’t, not really. And Mac Jaclow knew this. Skyla could see it in his tiny victory smile. She was a public figure and she knew when she was elected that every piece of private information would be hunted down and torn apart for everyone to scrutinize. She intertwined her fingers slowly in front of her, as if the slowness and simplicity of the motion would show how little the question had bothered her, as if this piece of her life was over, even though the hurt was as fresh as the day Sebastian was diagnosed.
But Mac Jaclow had started an avalanche of questions that threatened to bury the queen where she stood: How does it feel to know that Lady Harmony might have the Moon Flash? Are you still grieving over your fiancé’s death? How could a mineral get in Lady Harmony’s system, wouldn’t it be in all our systems if it was an air filtration problem? Is this part of an elaborate government cover-up? Aren’t you shaming your fiancé’s memory by lying?
And, somewhere deep in the crowd, she heard Mac Jaclow’s high pitched, screaming voice: There are rumours that Lady Harmony was possessed by aliens.
So someone did see the strange seizure.
Both Darian and Ambassador Conrod were calling for order, but it was only when Skyla spoke did the questions die down.
“We can only speculate at this point, until Doctor Leeland finishes his tests. We can speculate nonsense and create conspiracies, but I will not contribute to them.” She paused as the thought of Sebastian passed through her mind and flowed to the tip of her tongue. Her voice must not break. She could do this. “The chances of Lady Harmony having the Moon Flash are one in a billion. I refuse to entertain those odds. Unless there are any more intelligent questions, this press conference is over.”
She flicked her eyes up at the screen to Ambassador Conrod. He opened his mouth to say something, but Skyla would have none of it. Despite his title, the ambassador hadn’t stepped foot on the Dome in almost ten years. She glanced sideways at Darian. “End the transmission.”
Once again, the court and the media erupted into a flurry of questions. Skyla ignored them. She turned and stepped off the platform, but the crowd surrounded her like a swarm of bees around honey. Some of the Ladies—including Lady Dominique—tried to use the crowding to her advantage by flashing a smile and shouting her thoughts about the situation—hardly audible above the scrum.
Skyla tried to maintain her composure but between the microphones and the cameras that poked and prodded at her and the growing number of bodies surrounding and suffocating her, she could barely breathe. Darian fought through them to get closer, and the look on his face—more than worried—almost as if she were drowning, and he was struggling to save her. He reached for her above the crowd. Always reaching, never touching. That moment froze for Skyla as she stared at his waiting fingers, waiting for her to respond, to take his hand, for him to guide her out of the darkness. The voices faded. All she had to do was take his hand, and he would lead her away.
She closed her eyes and remembered back on Earth, just after she’d heard the news about Sebastian. She was having coffee with another Lady in a local café. They had been talking about the results of their last exam, when her cell phone had rang. It was Sebastian’s number, but that was impossible, she thought, as he was laying, comatose, in the hospital. She answered immediately, and it was a woman’s voice, frantic. Sebastian’s nurse. He’s awake, she said. And you’d better get down here, his heart, his lungs, they’re all shutting down.
Skyla was a few blocks away. She could’ve made it, she knew. Everything was a blur. She remembered leaping out of her chair, and going for the door, pushing it open and suddenly being on the streets of Toronto. People everywhere. But she had to get to the hospital. She had to see him before he…he…
Then, a streetcar. How she had gotten in the middle of the street, she didn’t know. As it roared towards her, she saw his hand. That’s right, he was supposed to meet her at the café. Had he gotten the call too? He grabbed her and spun her around, as if they were dancers performing in the middle of the street, and he carried her to the sidewalk, ignoring the honking horns and cars that almost hit him.
Darian had brought her out of her daze then, and now, years later, she grabbed his hand once again, and allowed him to lead her out of the crowd. She did not thank him; he didn’t expect it. It was his job to save her. Several other guards surrounded her and escorted them to the door, the media following slowly behind and shouting their questions, blocked by the entourage.