Beside him waited Mala, his half-sister by blood, full sister by the Luminous One’s proclamation during her Presentation. Unlike the other adults of the Imperial family, she let people see her face. It was a personal preference, and an acknowledgement of reality. If she wore the Imperial headgear, people would accuse her of concealing her alien heritage.
At least half the people in the courtyard were half-breeds or non-Spectran. Members of the True Race (or Species) were rare, and decreasing yearly, a legacy of a multi-millennia eugenics policy that had officially ended fifty years ago, yet still permeated the society top to bottom. Of the remaining pure-bloods, the majority were afflicted by congenital conditions, including genetic diseases. He was of pure blood, and completely healthy, but any child he got on a Spectran woman would likely be deformed, crippled, or sickly. I am of House nâl Afés’trin. I cannot merge my seed with lesser beings.
The Luminous One had not originated the foolish eugenics programs that had diminished the True Race. It had not stopped it, either. Declaring Mala a full member of the Imperial Blood confirmed the rightness of his grandfather’s decision to end the programs.
She had recently made a daring suggestion. They could save the True Race, but only if they refused to insist on 100% genetic purity (never mind the foolish selections of the past). Selective outbreeding with alien males and females chosen for health, intelligence, and drive. Spectra’s geneticists would screen for the genetic conditions that crippled the True Race, and either fix or cull the fetuses. With selective manipulation, they could ensure that the resulting children were healthy and showed few overt signs of their alien heritage. If they did this properly, within a few generations, the True Race would be renewed, with no outward signs of alien genes.
If only they could do the same for their dying world. But that was why they wanted the Federation.
“You’ve probably left a number of bastards, already,” she had told him. “You are insatiable when the mood strikes you. Use that for your world.”
He remembered the first time he’d seen her, when their father had brought her to be Presented to the Luminous One. She was his age, and he had resented her for stealing his special day. He had thought he would be the only one Presented. The real insult had been her alien eyes, the white sclera and round irises and pupils of an alien race. But the Luminous One spoke, and he had to accept it. Now, he loved her like the full-blood sister he never had.
But he could not bring himself to do this. It was one thing to amuse himself, especially with prisoners, but he could not, could not get an heir on an alien (or even a Spectra servant). A fine representative of the longest-ruling dynasty in Spectra’s history, he thought. I cannot bring myself to do what I must for my own people.
Mala would find a way around his revulsion. Perhaps she already had. Her assassins were quite willing to accommodate his more ordinary demands. How many had volunteered to be the mothers of the next generation of the family?
Or would the next Emperor be born to her? She was dedicated to Spectra’s survival.
“What are you thinking, Brother?” she asked.
“How humbling and inspiring your devotion to our world is. You shame me.”
“You serve the Luminous One well. Even the most patriotic citizens have their limits.” She smiled at him. “Or you simply have not found the one you deem worthy of your attentions.”
“I have some possibilities. Some are not even our subjects. Federation people who will have a value beyond the genetic. Propaganda value when we take the Federation for ourselves.”
That would be a short list, and he had a good idea of who was on it. “You always did have excellent taste in your toys.”
He felt the summons in his head. “The Luminous One calls me. Your suggestion is a good one. If the Spirit is in the mood, I will speak of it.” The Luminous Spirit could be testy. Even a good idea could be rejected if the being was in a poor mood to listen.