Jesse left for a few days after that. Faisal said he was on some sort of shopping expedition out of town – he wasn’t too clear on the details, and Enioreh thought probably it was because Faisal had been having a hard time paying attention to anyone since he’d gotten so wrapped up in his world of science and technology. She hoped he’d find his balance soon, because he was starting to look a little worn around the edges. All he ever wanted to talk about was work. Luckily, Hedoniet was just as obsessed with it and he usually made a very good audience.
Enioreh knew she ought to want to learn about the science, too, but she honestly just didn’t care. After Faisal showed her the university’s book museum, she spent her days browsing through all the impossible lot of other things there was to learn, and wondering whether she could live here.
She was glad the day Jesse came back from his trip; he was the closest thing to a friend she had. Faisal wanted to have a romantic night out, but Enioreh talked him into having a nice welcome-back dinner with the four of them instead. Actually, she didn’t talk him into it so much as say, “I can make spaghetti!” over and over until he agreed with her. This was after she’d read about making spaghetti.
Jesse had a look when he showed up – half excitement, half anxiety – that made Enioreh think he’d had a pretty intense shopping expedition. He waited for halfway through the spaghetti to say anything about it, though, nodding patiently through all of Faisal’s exuberant work updates. When Faisal stopped talking long enough to take a few bites, Jesse took the opportunity to explain where he’d really been.
“I’m looking for my parents,” he said.
Faisal almost choked. “Oh…wow! That’s…random!” He said. Then he caught himself and said, more supportively, “How are you feeling about it? When did you start?”
“Three days ago,” said Jesse.
Faisal opened his mouth. “So you weren’t shopping?” He asked. “You’ve been looking for your parents these past few days? Wow. Why did you lie?”
“I didn’t lie,” Jesse laughed. “I never told you I was going shopping. I said I was going to look into the background of my heirloom ring. I went to see a few different jewelers.”
Faisal looked like he felt sorry. “I guess I really have had tunnel vision lately….”
“It’s ok,” said Jesse. “I’ve been on my own mission for the past few days.”
“You inquired into the legacy of your ring?” The Prince was looking interested.
“It’s all I have left of my past, and for most of my life that’s all it was to me – a reminder of things that had gone. But you got me to thinking about the stone, and how really rare it might be. I thought maybe if I could figure out who sold it, I might learn the name of the person who had given it to me.”
“I don’t know why I never thought of that before,” said Faisal, shaking his head. “I really wish I’d thought of it.”
“Me too,” said Jesse. “I’m thinking…for someone to give me something like this – they had to have cared about me, right?”
“Duh!” Said Enioreh. “So what happened? Is it a real jewel?”
“Oh, it’s real,” said Jesse. “A fucking black diamond. It’s worth more money than I could have ever dreamed. Black diamonds are among the rarest stones in the world. So rare, the jeweler told me, there are only a handful of this size known to exist. And the cut and weight of this stone matches one remembered in fancy circles with the name Sun’s Eclipse – last known to belong to Cynthia Ortiz, wife of Carlos Edwin Ortiz – ”
“The Lioloac exec!?” Faisal interrupted. “You’ve got to be shittin’ me!”
“That’s what I said,” Jesse breathed. “The jeweler said the stone Ortiz bought was in a different setting, and that he hadn’t heard the gem had changed hands since Ortiz bought it for his wife close to fifteen years ago. He looked so shell-shocked, I half-thought he was going to call the cops. I left right away, didn’t give him my name. I figure…I don’t remember much of my childhood, my parents, anything. I don’t know if they were good people or not. They could have stolen it. But if they had, I would have expected it to have been reported stolen. The other option is that it was given to one of them – or to me, directly, as a gift.”
“And that may not have been publicized if the relationship was something of embarrassment to either Ortiz,” supplied Faisal. “Jess – what if you’re Carlos Ortiz’s son? What if your mother was his lover – or visa versa, if Mrs. Ortiz had a love-baby and gave it up for adoption?”
“She’d have had to fuck up pretty badly if she intended to have me live with another family. I wound up on the street. If I’m an Ortiz, my mother, whoever she is, must not be very functional. Whatever the case – I have a lead, now. I might actually find out the truth.”
Everyone at the table sat in a stunned silence until Jesse started laughing. “Faisal honey, would you still love me if my dad turns out to be an evil fossil-fuels baron?”
Faisal laughed too. “Oh, you know I’ll love you. But that sure would be ironic, wouldn’t it? For your husband to put your father out of business. ”
They kept laughing until Hedoniet cut them off. “You do realize, don’t you, that Liolaoc and you are on the same team? I have a different perspective, don’t forget. Hindsight is 20/20.”
“Not this again,” Enioreh rolled her eyes.
Hedoniet made a small sound of contempt. “I realize it is not seemly for a Prince to point out his advantages over his non-royal counterparts,” said the Prince. “However, dire circumstances sometimes require strong words. You may have forgotten, the courtly circles make a thing of educating their children properly. And you all should know that, historically speaking, Faisal Adlai laid the groundwork for psytron technology. And you sold the ownership of that research to Liolaoc.”
Jesse opened his mouth and laughed impolitely. “Faisal? Sell out? You’re crazy!”
Faisal smiled at Jesse. “I find it difficult to imagine any such situation occurring,” he agreed.
“I am no fonder of hypotheticals than you, good sirs,” said the Prince stiffly. “The historical truth of the matter is that Faisal Adlai discovered psytrons and sold this knowledge to Liolaoc. Jesse Newman then fought Liolaoc’s claims to the work after Faisal collapsed on the side of a country road and passed away. Jesse insisted, then as now, that Faisal would never have sold out, and that he had been planning to present his findings at the U.N. as a solution to the energy crisis. He had no legal defense, of course, and Liolaoc won. Contrary to Jesse’s fears, however, Liolaoc continued developing the technology as an alternative source of energy, just as Faisal wished, and the scientist was given all due tribute when governments around the world commended Liolaoc for its initiative.”
Jesse said nothing. He was looking at the Prince with obvious dislike.
Faisal gave a low chuckle. “Well, that’s an interesting take, but I have no intention of dying mysteriously on the side of a country road, let alone handing off my project to some big evil corporation – no worries there. I’m of the philosophy that we make our own destinies.”
“I’m sorry,” said Hedoniet, looking down at his plate after a pause. “I did not realize it would be so repugnant to everyone, to consider a partnership with Lioloac. You see – Ortiz happens to be a family name. According to history as I know it, the company does become very powerful. But I like to think of my ancestors as doing good in the world. I believe in free will, also. And when Jesse said he may be kin to Mr. Ortiz, I thought…” He let his voice trail off.
Faisal was looking more surprised than before, and Jesse was managing to look a little sorry and a little suspicious at the same time.
“Of course,” said Faisal quickly. “I shouldn’t have just dismissed Liolaoc as evil, when I’m sure the people it’s made of are wonderful, caring human beings like anyone. I just don’t think it’s sustainable, to base a company around the consumption of non-renewable resources that pollute the earth. But I don’t have anything against your ancestors.”
“I don’t, either,” said Jesse hesitantly. “Especially…since they might be my ancestors, too!” Suddenly Jesse smiled, his eyes a-glow. “What do you think? Is it possible I’m an Ortiz? Do you have any future-knowledge to help me out here?”
The Prince paused thoughtfully. “By my recollection, Mr. Ortiz had two sons. I don’t remember what their names were, sadly – all the royalty trace our ancestry to his daughter, who is to succeed him.”
“I think the Ortiz’s have one son and one daughter right now – the son’s in middle school; I remember reading about his son winning a regional science fair a year or two ago. Maybe he will have another son in the future,” said Faisal. Then grinned at Jesse. “…Or maybe not.”
“Wow, this is so cool!” Enioreh piped up. “Didn’t I tell you before, Jess? First I said your ring looks like something royalty would wear. Then I said maybe you and Hedo are related. You could be, like, his great-great-grandfather, or something! Or uncle, whatever. Wouldn’t that be great?”
“I suppose it would,” said Jesse cautiously.
“Now you’ve got to go find out!” Said Enioreh excitedly. “You both go march up to this Mr. Ortiz and be like, ‘I’m your son from the future!’ and ‘I’m your son from the past!’ at the exact same time, and then once everyone starts crying and hugging and being full of happy rainbows Princey here can get a job and stop being so anal about wanting to leave.”
“You people watch too much TV.” Faisal snorted. “Ortiz is a billionaire. The only ones who can just walk up to him and start talking are other rich guys.”
Jesse jiggled his ring finger so the black diamond shone in the light, and Faisal stopped making his point. Jesse and the Prince shared a grin across the table, with both faces so charming and smug everyone had to wonder why they’d never seen a resemblance before.