Dreadnought Chapter Ten

They continued the conversation over the coffee in a small café inside the Royal Palace. Guards at the various posts saluted the woman as they travelled to the café. Elder knew it wasn’t him they saluted, after all, even though he was an Imperial Navy officer he was only a Graduated Cadet. The café did not charge the woman for the two cups of coffee they each had, although she might have a running tab which she paid at some other time.

After almost an hour of conversation she said, “This has been a very interesting conversation, almost as much fun as what was intended in the first place. However, the time has come for you to go to your appointment. Come along now, you can’t keep important people waiting now, can you Graduated Cadet.”

“No, I guess not. Who is it I am going to meet?” Elder stood up and went to the woman’s chair and pulled it out so she could stand easier.

“Now aren’t you nice. Krasgia has a very nice representative in you, your politeness is worthy of the Imperial Court. The person may tell you if he wishes. Just believe that you are now of interest to some very important people. Let’s not be late.”

With that, she strode off, with Elder struggling to stay with her. Her legs, after all, were much longer than his were. She paid no attention to him now.

She left him outside an unmarked door. “Go right in, you’re expected, I have to leave now, I have work to get done. Work that will not be as much fun as what was scheduled, or as our conversation turned out to be however. Goodbye.” As she walked away Elder could still smell the aphrodisiac perfume she wore. Elder never saw her again, something he was profoundly grateful for until the day he died.

Opening the door and entering the room beyond brought Elder into a small antechamber with a receptionist behind a desk and a single chair next to the wall facing another plain door. The receptionist glanced at Elder, then at a clock above the empty chair. “You’re on time but the Chief is running a bit late. Have a seat and get comfortable.” Then the plain young woman returned her attention to the computer occupying half her desk.

Elder moved to the chair and sat. It was comfortable, but he did not get comfortable. Granted that he was in the Royal Palace of Irvel, there was no guarantee that the people here wanted Basil Jasper King Mitchell to occupy the throne. Elder had no idea who it was that had killed the previous king and so many of his family, it could have been an inside job.

After about twenty minutes, the receptionist said, “Go right in. The Chief will see you now.”

Elder got up and walked through the other door, aware that the receptionist was paying careful attention to him. He doubted it was because he was attractive to her.

The next room was a working office, there was none of the glitter or showiness Elder had seen on the few occasions he had been at the local Count’s Court during public festivals back home. The man seated behind the plain desk was in a dark blue uniform with gold epaulets each bearing five blue stars that matched the uniform color. There was no medals or other decorations or insignia that Elder could see.

“Sit down Graduated Cadet Elder. I am Royal Police General Darnell, Chief of Royal Security.”

Impressed, Elder sat in one of the two simple chairs facing General Darnell across the desk. Then, remembering proper protocol, he snapped to attention and saluted.

Smiling slightly, General Darnell returned the salute. “Sit down Graduated Cadet. Very few Imperial officers would be that courteous. I want to talk with you about our new king. You worked with him and from what I can gather, you were also friendly with him off-duty as well. I never knew him before he entered the Imperial Navy and I need to learn everything I can, especially the unofficial bits of information, so that I can work effectively with him. I cannot work effectively if I do not know him. Even then, it will be hard enough. What do you know of Irvel?”

While he paused to gather his thoughts, Elder realized he was smelling a scent he knew. It was the aphrodisiac perfume of the woman who had collected him. The scent was fading, but it was still present. She had to have been in the room recently.

“Not much General. I learned a small amount from my conversations with Midshipman I mean King Mitchell. But I never studied the planet or the kingdom.”

“Well Graduated Cadet, let me fill you in on just a little bit of the problems I face trying to protect the Royal Family. First, Irvel has not been in the Empire very long. A small percentage remembers when Irvel was independent and resents being forced into the Empire. Another small percentage is out to eliminate any government and a last small percentage is just criminals. That is the homegrown problems. Irvel is next to a lot of empty space and I suspect that there is another Lost Colony nearby that wants to stay a Lost Colony. I suspect that these people are working to eliminate the Imperial presence here so that they will not be found. As long as the Imperial forces are here, Irvel is the center of a growing Imperial presence in this sector. The Second Fleet has started an intensive survey of this and the next sector out in order to find habitable planets. Do you see my problems Graduated Cadet?”

“Yes sir, I see them, but what does that have to do with me?”

“Our new king is an unknown to me. I have to be able to reach him and be able to preset security issues in a way that he can easily understand them. I need to understand how his mind works.”

“But General, aren’t there others who knew him better than I did? Why not ask them?”

“I will Graduated Cadet. You just happened to be the first on the list I could find. As the others become available, I will speak with them.”

Elder thought fast and decided that even if the Police General was not being honest, he had to be. Therefore, he went through his time with the now King, starting with their first meeting in the wardroom, and explained what he knew of the new ruler of Irvel. The Police General asked many questions.

Once he was finished with his session with Police General Darnell, Elder was given a ride back to the base, alone. During the ride back he considered the events just past and decided he did not like them. He tried to ignore his interaction with the woman, but he did realize that while he waited, she had probably reported on what she had learned though their conversation. The fact that the Police General questioned him made him nervous, why didn’t one of the lower ranks in the police administration do the questioning? Surely, there was nothing about him that merited questioning by a Police General, and one that seemed the Head of Security at that.

Once he was back at the base, he headed for the shuttle to the BALKANS instead of going out to see the sights. He did not go directly to the shuttle, he first headed into a men’s room until he thought the limo was gone. Halfway back to the shuttle, he realized that there might have been a watcher not connected with the limo, but it was too late then to do anything about it; besides, why would there be a watcher.

“Back from shore leave so soon Graduated Cadet?” Elder did not know the Marine at the airlock where the shuttle docked and the Sergeant had a tolerant smirk on his broad face that made Elder not want to know him any further, perhaps  he believed that Elder was getting agoraphobia. His Combat Suit with its single silver stripe indicating her rank should have kept Elder from seeing any part of his face but he had faceplate open, for whatever reason.

“No Sergeant, but I need to speak with the Captain on an urgent matter. See if he is available.” When the Sergeant hesitated, Elder growled, “Now.” He was proud of that growl, it had taken long hours of practice to get it just the way he wanted it.

The growl worked, or maybe the Sergeant would have done it anyway, but regardless of why, Elder was quickly on his way to the Captain’s Office.

“Graduated Cadet Elder requests permission to speak with the Captain, sir.” Elder felt more in awe of the Captain now than when he had first reported in; Captain Quinn was a good Captain who earned respect. Captain Quinn was with the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Captain Rochin. The Captain’s desk was covered with various forms and other bureaucratic mishmash.

“Very well Graduated Cadet, and this had better be good. At ease and speak your piece.”

Elder blurted out what had happened to him, carefully editing the incident in the limo on the way to Police General Darnell. Once he was finished with his report, he waited for the Captain to make a comment.

“So, you think the conduct of Police General Darnell is suspicious? Moreover, you reported this to me instead of the Imperial Services Agency. Why me and not them Graduated Cadet?”

“Sir, the limo returned me to the base and I thought of you first. You have been in close contact with the King during our voyage here and could make a friendly visit without arousing suspicions. If I went to the Imperial Services Agency, and I do not know where their office is on this base, then they may or may not have a valid reason to inform the King quietly about my suspicions. Plus, sir, they might dismiss me as a crank trying to make myself seem important.”

Captain Quinn turned his head to the Executive Officer and asked, “Darnell, does that name sound familiar to you? Seems to me I have run into a Naval Police officer with that last name. You too, about five or ten years ago. Can’t remember where right now, maybe you remember the incident I’m trying to remember?”

Lieutenant Captain Rochin laughed, “I remember. We were drunk and a Lieutenant Commander Darnell tried to frame us for robbing a taxi.”

“Oh yeah, now I remember. He ended up being court-martialed and drummed out. Was he from Irvel? No, he couldn’t be, Irvel hasn’t been in the Empire long enough.” Turning back to Elder, “Graduated Cadet, did this Police General have an accent, like the local language wasn’t his native language?”

“Sir, we only spoke Imperial. I don’t know the local language.”

“Very well, Graduated Cadet. You have done well in bringing this to my attention. Leave the matter to me. Executive Officer, make sure a proper commendation gets into Elder’s file. If this Darnell is the same person, or even related, the King may be in danger. Dismissed Graduated Cadet.”

Elder saluted and left, pleased with himself.

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