Rubber, Road

The room was cleared with a simple "The room, please." The various family members assembled might normally have been worried about the mood of the confrontation about to happen, but with the news of the coming apocalypse most wanted nothing more than to return to their suites, where they could process and react to the announcement in private.

The air in the library was fraught with tension. Nikolas waited until the last of the family left the room before gesturing for Rodya and Ivan to close the doors behind them. It did not help the young Prince's growing anger that the two massive sentries glanced at Stefan before complying.

Finally it was just the two men, so alike, standing in the room. They took a seat opposite one another and stared in silence. One was determined not to be the first to break the silence, the other, simply unmoved to do so. After a while, however, the younger man lost the battle to still his body. And despite his best efforts he had not fully managed to harness his angry expression. It seemed all he could do just to silence the angry words fighting to be said. "Why did you spend my lifetime pretending you would some day hand me control of the family," Nikolas bit out through clenched teeth, "when you knew you had no intention of doing so?"

Stefan met his son's anger calmly. "I allowed you control over a great many things," he countered. "It was no lack of confidence in you that had me continue to steer the family's direction. Leading the family is an enormous undertaking for anyone. I had a responsibility to those under your care to allow you time to grow into your authority." Stefan raised a brow. "Come now, Nikolas... Do you believe that even the Windsors," the name was uttered with disdain, "intended to allow their young Prince William to lead the country unguided when his ascendancy began? For generations, royals have followed this same blueprint. It is effective."

Nikolas shook his head in defeat. "I know that my complaint seems petty and inconsequential in the face of what was revealed today. But I deserved to have a say in the decisions you and Faith have made for the family this past year. In spite of your lack of faith in my leadership, the fact remains that I am the Cassadine Prince."


"Let me guess," Nikolas chuckled bitterly, "this is the part where you tell me that you didn't include me in what was happening because you wanted to spare me?"

Stefan sighed at his elder son's persistence. Their conversation had gone on far longer than he would have liked. "It is the part in which I confirm that you were not ready for such inclusion."

Nikolas drew back as though he had been slapped. "Well," he struggled to keep his tone even, "we'll never know that. Will we, Father?" Shoulders squared, Nikolas headed for the door. His face was blank, but Stefan could see the hurt and disappointment that swirled all about him.

Even in the face of such dire circumstances, Stefan could not allow Nikolas to continue to feel the sting of his assessment. "I had hoped," Stefan's voice halted Nikolas at the door, "not to address this subject for several days. I had hoped to give the family time to process the day's pronouncement." Stefan gestured for Nikolas to return to his seat. "Despite what was said today, the situation is not without hope."

"Hope? What do you mean?"

"Shortly after Faith came to me with news of what had been observed in the ionosphere, we quietly contacted the finest minds in the fields of science and astronomy and survivalism. They were tasked with the job of creating a timeline of events to occur. They were also tasked with determining the viability of survival. One month later work was begun beneath Wyndemere to create an environment in which the most visionary minds of this century concede there is a miniscule chance to survive this event."

Nikolas grabbed onto Stefan's words like a lifeline. "People might survive this asteroid?"

"Some." Nikolas turned around and watched as Stefan crossed the room and withdrew a plain manila folder from a drawer in the roll-top desk against the wall. "I will require your selections by tomorrow morning."

"What is this?" Nikolas withdrew a stapled sheaf of fine linen paper. Line after line of Stefan's distinctive handwriting filled each page.

"It is a list of Cassadine servants. Please narrow them down to thirteen."

Nikolas blinked rapidly. Since childhood it was a rare unconscious stalling tactic he employed when completely thrown. "Thirteen?" The young Prince did a quick count in his head. "There are nearly two hundred names here."

Stefan nodded gravely. "Yes. Of the numerous worldwide Cassadine employees, I have winnowed the list down to the two hundred you see. Three of your thirteen choices have already been made: Yuri Petrov, Rodya Jadanov, and Inessa Greshneva."

"I don't understand."

"As I stated earlier," Stefan explained again, "the world's finest minds have conceded there is a chance for survival. For a limited number. Once places had been assigned to family and specialists in their field, it left only a limited number of vacancies for the staff."

Nikolas, who had been reading the list of names, looked up in disbelief. "I don't see Mrs Landsbury's name here."

"Despite my adamance, she chooses to relinquish the place reserved for her in favor of someone younger." Stefan could not hide the fleeting pain that crossed his face. The past year had been an understandably stressful one, and the weight of his responsibilities, which he believed would lessen slightly with the revelation of the coming apocalypse, had in fact only grown. "To that end," he continued, "Mrs. Landsbury has accelerated her training of the young woman acting as her apprentice the last four years. She is one of the three servants already chosen."

"Sixteen names out of over two hundred! All those I don't choose will..."

"Perish? Yes." Stefan made sure to hold Nikolas' gaze. "Such is the weight of responsibility." The room was silent as the weight of his task fell upon Nikolas."Understand that there is no guarantee we will not perish as well. It is why I did not wish to address this subject so soon after the federal government's official announcement. It is imperative that each person with the possibility of attempting this endeavor among us first accept the very likely outcome of death."


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