Five minutes later, Elder’s guess was confirmed. A section of Marines moved through the park, securing it. A Senior Corporal, covered by two Privates, all three in Combat Suits, came to the blasted doorway. Hartz stepped out before the Senior Corporal arrived.
“I am Senior Corporal Flynn, who in in the building?” The Senior Corporal had a bass voice, all that could be determined since the Combat Suit prevented any other identification; except the rank of course.
“I am Midshipman Hartz, assigned to the I.N.S. BALKANS. With me are three other junior officers of the BALKANS, and Ranger First Class Patton of the Duchy. We have three prisoners from the first attack on this building inside. Other than them, there is no one else inside.” Hartz removed his identity bracelet and handed it to the Senior Corporal. Once the Senior Corporal checked it, and the others quickly as well, he saluted Hartz and motioned for the others to follow him. Moments later, the Marines came out carrying the secured prisoners.
From there it was quickly back to the BALKANS and debriefing. Elder was questioned by officers from the BALKANS, from the base, from Naval Intelligence, and from the Imperial Services Agency. He learned quite a bit about the incident from the questioning, it was impossible not to. For instance, the jamming had been done with equipment equal to the best in the Imperial Navy, equipment that should have been impossible to get for anyone outside the Imperial Navy logistics channels. Attacks had taken place in over two dozen locations, with the number of terrorists well over two hundred and perhaps closer to four hundred. In addition, Elder learned that it had all been done with military precision. However, Elder never learned anything else about the incident, he was never questioned again and the incident was swept under the news rug ad interest in it allowed to die out. If the terrorists had been after publicity, they got only news reports for that day and the two days following. Something else was pushed to the forefront of the news and the terrorist activity was never mentioned again. It probably would not even make it to the history books, not even the local ones.
he BALKANS orbited Actia for another two Imperial weeks. Not very many people took shore leave after the terrorist attack. here were no more attacks that they heard of, but few wanted to take the chance. Elder spent his free time playing Drenthar and poker. He actually made some money playing poker, unlike his normal routine losing a small amount. His Drenthar team went to the ship playoffs but lost to the eventual winner of the tournament.
Once the BALKANS began its journey to its next visit, Elder was glad. He had not been able to see the Caverns of Kreshtel but he did take a holographic tour and decided to be satisfied with that.
About halfway to Jump Speed, the BALKANS changed course and thrust. A different Midshipman took over Mitchel’s post and the Captain announced that the BALKANS was taking Basil Jasper King Mitchel to his kingdom. The former Midshipman was now in VIP quarters and in grief for his family, killed in a terrorist attack. Elder tried to speak with his former supervisor but was put off for several days due to the sheer number of details that the new king had to deal with. It was not until after the first Jump that Elder was able to meet with King Mitchel.
“Your Highness, I wish to offer my condolences over the death of your family and my congratulations for your gaining the throne of Irvel even though it was through such unfortunate circumstances.” Elder stood rigidly at attention, he had never knowingly been in the presence of ruling royalty before and even though he had known King Mitchel before he became king, Elder wanted to be strictly correct in his courtesy.
“Thirty-six people, Elder, thirty-six people holding a higher place in the order of succession died in that attack. Counting my parents and others with them, fifty =-three people in total died in that attack. That is a hell of a way to get a promotion. I think the Navy does it better.”
Unsure of King Mitchel’s mental state, Elder could only stand rigid and wait.
“Be at ease Elder. If you stay at attention too long, you’;; pass out.” Elder moved to the Parade Rest position. King Mitchel nodded his approval. “I’m glad you came to offer your condolences, you never knew my family but you are acting as a friend should. We are friends I guess, or at least friendly. Hartz was here earlier to offer his condolences. No more bantering in the wardroom for me. That, I think, is what I am going to miss the most. At least for a while. How is work? Not that I have anything to do with it anymore, but I’d still like to know.”
“Well, Your Highness, work is going as normal. The change in schedule caused no disruption, and from what I understand, there will be four more Jumps before we reach your home and between now and then we will be getting all the ceremonial equipment up to standard. I do not know who will be in charge of that. We did find the problem with that one thruster that had defied solution – it was a loose wire that ran between number two and number seven in the set. It makes no sense but fixing the connection fixed the problem.” Elder went to attention as he spoke, then back to Parade Rest. The King approved. Elder rarely had to be told twice for anything.
“Well Elder, I’m getting dumped into a position I didn’t want and never trained for. You, however, can continue with your naval career and maybe stop the constant terror attacks like that which claimed my family. For the rest of my life I have to run Irvel and hope I do not screw up too badly. Maybe the training I got in the Navy will help, but by the time you get your own ship you will have had years of training and experience that I didn’t get before getting my own kingdom.” Elder said nothing, he thought King Mitchel was just griping. “Remember that time in the wardroom when I explained that all politics was local and that no large government could be either effective or just when ruling people who didn’t have a close connection? Now I have to run an entire kingdom, all eight duchies, and try to be a just and effective ruler over people who have no contact with me. At least when you get your ship you can meet with your crew like a good captain.”
King Mitchel leaned back in his chair and sighed, Elder said nothing and did nothing. He had expected to just spend a minute or so with his old supervisor and now it looked like King Mitchel was going to use him as a crying board. Elder was not comfortable with the idea of royalty using him to relieve their worries and tensions.
:Neither of us is used to the position we are in now. I am not used to being a king and you are not used to a king crying on your shoulder. At least I grew up around a king and other royalty. Elder, if you could see your face, it almost looks like you are expecting someone to come up behind you and slice your head off, or maybe you want someone to do that to end this conversation. Dismissed Elder, go back and tell everyone just how uneasy my head is with this crown on it. Fifty years fro now, you can tell your grandchildren how a king cried on your shoulder. If I’m lucky, fifty years from now I’ll have a State Funeral and everyone will talk about what a good king I was.”
Elder quickly saluted and left before King Mitchel changed his mind. Going past the four Marine guards outside the VIP quarters, Elder wondered if any of them were form Irvel. Captain Quinn might have assigned Marines from Irvel as a mark of respect, or maybe not. If King Mitchel were in danger from rebels, maybe a Marine from Irvel would be a rebel and the last person the Captain would want around the King.
The BALKANS was slow enough that there was enough time between Jumps so that no one got Jump Sickness. That, however, slowed progress to Irvel enough so that everyone on board was edgy from cabin fever even on a ship as large as the BALKANS. It was the daily routine and military discipline that kept the lid on the pot, which was definitely simmering when the BALKANS entered planetary orbit.
Once in orbit Captain Quinn allowed for shore leave at thirty percent at a time instead of the usual twenty percent. Elder was lucky enough to be in the first rotation. Indeed, most of the first rotation were younger crewmembers, perhaps after years in space one got more used to being confined in a ship for long periods. On the other hand, maybe one was better at finding ways to combat the effects of confinement.
Once on the ground, and breathing unrecycled air, Elder began looking for something to do. He had forgotten to investigate the planet in the database so he hurried to a public terminal for the information he wanted. He did not get there.