Elaine walked into her husband's study and dropped a tablet on the desk. Hans looked up from his work in surprise, shocked at his normally gentle wife's behavior.
"What's wrong Elaine?" he asked, worried at the rage boiling in her sharp, green eyes.
"That son of a bitch got promoted. I've been alone with him. Our daughters have been escorted to balls by that evil fucker!" She was so angry she couldn't stop shaking, tears of rage running down her cheeks.
"Wait, what are you talking about?" Hans snatched up the tablet that she had dropped on his desk and started to read. His wife jumped when the tablet suddenly cracked in half.
Elaine walked around the desk and wrapped her arms around her husband, his evident rage allowing her to focus on something other than her own anger. "We can't openly discredit him or assault him. We have no proof of what he said."
Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he looked up at his wife. "Could Mykal be mistaken in..." he cut off at the sudden storm in his wife's eyes. "No, there is no way that young man could have gotten it wrong."
He sat and thought about it for a moment. "Though, perhaps the young Captain could assist us in rectifying this."
Waking at his normal time of 05:00, Mykal made his way to the exercise facilities in the junior officer section of the ship where his cabin was located. Rumors seemed to be flying around that the jump ship would be arriving at its destination any day now, maybe even later today.
He was the only 'Mech pilot in the workout facility, which told of how crushing the losses on Orphus III had been. As he ran on a treadmill he went over data that he had downloaded into his implant about the various points of combat on Orphus III. He saw Freddie walk in and wave to him. Mykal gave him half a smile and pointed to the treadmill next to him.
After stretching for a few minutes, Freddie climbed onto the treadmill and started his workout. "You would make me keep up with my physical training."
"We may only be a unit of two, but that's no reason to slack off." Mykal told his friend as he continued to run.
"How long have you been here?" Freddie asked, noticing how damp Mykal's shirt already was.
Mykal glanced at his timepiece, stopped, and forced himself to check with the implant. "I got here about 0515, so a little over an hour. I'm going to have to take off here after a bit of a cool down. Have some things to take care of."
As he finished up his workout, Mykal pulled off his shirt and wiped himself off with a towel. "I expect you to be here at least an hour Freddie. "
"Sir, yes sir!" Freddie saluted as he continued to run. Chuckling on his way out the door, Mykal shook his head at his friend's irreverence. "God's help him when he gets put in a regular Unit." he said to himself as walked down the corridor to his cabin. Mykal knew deep down that Freddie would be moved away from him at some point, if only because he was still able to be promoted. Mykal shook off the black mood that threatened to descend on him as the events of last night came back to him.
The queen had promised him that she would make it right, but he knew that there was no real way to fix the issue. There were no witnesses that could or would confirm what that bastard had said, so it was his word against Mykal's. Mykal being the aggressor immediately made it a moot point. "That's what family connections are for, I suppose," he said as he walked up to his door. Keying in his access code, the door slid open.
Mykal tossed his shirt into the dirty clothes receptacle, and walked into the restroom to take a shower. Just as he was getting ready to turn on the controls, his door chime rang. Grumbling to himself, he walked out of the restroom, pulling on a pair of shorts. "Enter."
As the doors opened they revealed a sight both welcome and cursed as Brigit walked into the room, her two guards taking up positions outside the door on either side.
Mykal bowed to her as she entered. "Princess, to what do I owe the honor?"
The tiny redhead's face drew down in a scowl. "Damn it Mykal, I have told you for the last three weeks to stop that, especially when we are alone."
"What do you mean Princess? I cannot violate regulation and Empirical law." Mykal fought to keep a smile from his lips as the petite beauty before him got even more irritated, pursing her plump red lips. "I wonder what her kisses taste like when she's angry." The thought came unbidden and startled him in its boldness. He had thought simple things like how pretty she looked with a certain shirt or skirt, or how cute a certain facial expression looks. He hadn't had such an expressly physical thought about her before.
Her face turned red, setting off her ruby locks quite nicely. "Stop it!" she said and stomped her foot.
Seeing this, there was nothing that Mykal could do to stop from laughing. "Did you just stomp your foot at me, Brigit?"
As soon as the words left his mouth, he stopped laughing. He stared wide eyed at the princess and watched as her face went from red, angry and cute, to glowing, smiling and breath-taking.
"Say it again." she whispered, as smile blossoming across her face. She walked up to Mykal, who was frozen in place like a deer in the headlights. "Say my name again."
"Brigit." he whispered.
She launched forward, wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tight. "I have been waiting for you to say my name for over a month." she took a deep breath through her nose, taking in his musky, fresh from a workout scent.
She looked up into his eyes. "Thank you for saving my family Mykal. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate it. How much I appreciate you. No matter what happens, never ever forget that. Understood?"
Looking down into the eyes so much like her mother's enchanting green, it was like déjà vu. This petite little woman wanted his promise. After this morning, there was nothing that he would not promise her. "I won't. I promise."
She gave him one last squeeze and took a few steps back, and in doing so, turned back into the princess. "Thank you for seeing me Captain. You have no idea what it means to me." There was a laughing twinkle in her eyes that knocked down another wall he had built. "I will see you later today."
"Thank you for stopping by Princess. I hope you have a good day." he said, only letting the smile show in his eyes.
She smiled once, turned and walked out the door.
Like a zombie, Mykal walked to the restroom, started up the shower and stepped in. Standing under the pressurized steam, he laid his head against the cooler walls of the shower. "You had to do it didn't you Myk." he said to himself. "You just had to fall for her you Idiot."
As he got out of the shower, he saw that he had a message on his com console. When he opened it, he was shocked and immediately worried when he saw that it from the king himself, not one of his assistants.
The message was fairly straight forward and stated that the king wanted Mykal to accompany him and his wife, the queen, to a meeting being held in the afternoon. There were some things he wanted to go over beforehand, so he asked for Mykal to arrive at the royal suite at about 1230 so they could have a light lunch before the meeting at 1400.
Under the King's salutation, was a small one line post script reading: "Wear your full dress uniform." it was signed EVD.
Mykal sent a message to Freddie, letting him know he wouldn't be at the hangar that afternoon, and that he would talk to him sometime after his meeting. Once done with that task, Mykal pulled out the brand new dress uniform he had gotten from Supply on the ship. After going over the uniform with a fine tooth comb, to make sure everything was in regulation, he dressed and made his way to the Royal Suite.
As he approached the guards to the royal quarters, they came to attention and saluted him. "You are to be shown directly to the King's office, Captain."
Mykal nodded, returning the salute and moved to remove the sword belt that held his officers saber.
Holding up a hand, the guard shook his head. "No sir, we were given express orders that you were to keep you saber, as it is part of your complete uniform." Mykal raised an eyebrow at this, but nodded none the less and stepped through the heavy sliding door.
As the door closed behind him, a young ensign in dress uniform stepped up. "Sir, if you could follow me; I will show you to his Highness' study, he is waiting for your arrival." Surprised by the comment, Mykal only nodded to the Ensign to carry on. Mentally checking his new piece of hardware and noting that he was still 5 minutes early to his lunch meeting.
As the ensign walked ahead of him, Mykal looked over the younger officer. "Two months ago, I would have not hesitated to ask her out for drinks or dinner." Mentally shaking his head to clear his train of thought, he started to unobtrusively study the corridor they were walking down, making note of the paintings and other wall hangings that they occasionally walked by. His eyes widening at one he knew to be absolutely priceless, he marveled at the fact it was decorating a corridor wall in a drop-ship, not a museum. As if reading his mind, the ensign spoke up with a bright and clear voice. "These are some of the pieces we saved from the palace on Orphus III, during the evacuation. The Queen didn't want them falling into the hands of the Carthanians." Under her breath she muttered, "Not that they would know what to do with them."
Mykal smiled slightly and nodded his agreement. "I am glad that some things were able to be saved. Not everyone would remember things like irreplaceable art, in an emergency like that."
After a few more meters, they came to an ornately decorated door and the ensign pressed the door chime. The baritone voice of the king could be heard through the door, "Come!"
As the door slid open, the ensign led Mykal into the room and stopped in front of the huge desk, at the far end of the room. "Captain McDaniel, as you commanded, Majesty." she said with a bow.
Following the ensign, Mykal quietly marveled to himself at how amazing the room looked. "Thousands of books. Real books. Where did they all come from?" Stepping up next to the ensign, Mykal bowed deeply when he was announced.
"Thank you Jessica. That will be all." the king nodded to the ensign, dismissing her. With a smile, she raised, took two steps backwards, turned and walked out. As she turned, Mykal saw her wink, and then she was gone.
"Thank you for joining me, Captain." The king gestured to one of the chairs that were in front of his desk. "Please, have a seat."
Mykal nodded once and sat in the chair, sitting straight up, making sure that he only touched his saber when adjusting it for sitting. Thoughts about why he was here raced through his mind, unsure of what was in store for him.
Hans Davidov watched the young officer sit and smiled slightly. "Captain, I assure you, there is nothing you have done wrong. You can relax a bit." he said with a smile that barely touched his eyes. Mykal saw it was evident his king had much on his mind, and smiles did not accompany most of them.
Mykal relaxed very slightly, allowing his back to actually touch the chair. "If I may ask, your Highness, why am I here? I understand that you want me to join you in a meeting later, but I am not sure how I could be of any help to you. I'm just a pilot, sir."
The king nodded slightly. "That is true; you at this moment in time are a pilot. Actually, you are a bit more than that." he said without revealing any emotion. "You are also a leader. One that from what I understand, has the ability to inspire those in his command to heights in performance that is unheard of. You are a subject of this kingdom of mine that is loyal beyond any I have personally seen," smiling tightly he added, "and you are just a pilot. You are a pilot that happens to be of consummate skill and prowess."
Mykal was speechless hearing these things said to him by his King. Growing up in the government sponsored orphanage and then military academy; he had no family to commend him on his jobs well done, or help him up from his mistakes. This man, that he had idolized since he was old enough to know what a king was or what he meant to Mykal's own life, had just paid him the greatest compliment of his life.
"Thank you, your Majesty" was all he was able to croak out, just above a whisper. The king smiled again, this time lighting his ice blues eyes just a bit more than before, and was about to speak when a door to the left of the desk opened and the Queen whisked in, followed by a serving man with a large covered tray in his hands.
Mykal instantly stood, as did the king, surprising the young officer. "Ah my love, just in time with lunch. Perfect timing as always." the king said as he looked at his queen with obvious adoration. The Queen smiled lovingly at her husband and executed the smallest of curtsies without missing a step.
"Sit, both of you. I told you Hans that we were not going to make this one of those uncomfortable formal affairs." she said with an obvious wink at Mykal, sending him into mental spasms that had him completely at a loss, not knowing what he was doing.
Chuckling at the young man's complete confusion, the king spoke up. "I've learned its best do what she says, Captain. She will get her way eventually anyhow."
"Oh hush you. Please, sit down Mykal. We didn't ask you here for a formal meeting. Well, at least lunch is not formal. The meeting later will probably be fairly formal." she said, sitting in the chair next to the one that Mykal had just stood up from.
Slowly sitting back down, Mykal nodded slightly, still off guard by how informal the two royals were acting in front of him. It was not something he had ever imagined, let alone expected to see.
Elaine lifted the cover of the tray that the serving man had deposited on the king's desk before he had disappeared back through the door like a ghost. Revealing a selection of finger sandwiches, cut meats, cheeses, breads and fruits, she picked up a grape and popped it in her mouth. "Eat up Mykal, I'm sure you'll be able to catch up when you have a full stomach." she said with a smile.
"Elaine, stop teasing the boy. Obviously he is having a hard time with the fact that the royal family really is just human." the king said lightly as he stacked some food on a small plate, which was included with the platter on the tray. Turning and looking at Mykal, he continued. "We are just normal people Mykal. Just with jobs that are more important than most. We can succeed and fail just like everyone else."
"My husband is getting ahead of himself." Elaine cut in. "What he means is that we have seen how some people have nearly worshiped our family and we want you, one of our most loyal subjects, to see who we really are." she said, laying a hand on top of Mykal's; which had not left his knees. "You have done too much for this family to be anything but a friend."
Sitting speechless for a moment, Mykal's mind reeled and tried to catch up with what had happened in the last two days in regards to the royal family. "I don't know what to say, Majesties. I'm just a commoner, an orphan that got lucky and was admitted to the academy. I'm a bit overwhelmed here."
The queen let out a tsk. "First off, no more of that 'Majesties' stuff when we are in private. Second, just be yourself. That is what has made you what you are." She winked at him, "Besides, I know you were able to call my daughter by her name."
Both men's faces immediately turned bright red. Mykal's from embarrassment, Hans' from something less innocent. Mykal began to stutter an apology before he was cut off by the queen. "Oh, don't be silly. From what she tells me, you put up quite a resistance." She added looking towards her husband, "You know how she is. You can't be surprised."
Hans let out a sigh and visibly calmed. "I suppose." Looking at how red Mykal's face still was, he chuckled. "You are going to learn firsthand what it means to be out played by someone used to navigating the royal court."
Finally finding his tongue, Mykal spoke up. "What do you mean?" he asked, looking between the two.
"Oh, this will be fun to watch." the queen said quietly with a chuckle.
Realizing that he was not going to get a straight answer, Mykal opted to try and shift the conversation. "If I may ask, your Majesty, why was it you wanted me to accompany you to your meeting this afternoon?"
"My name is Hans, Mykal, and the meeting is going to be with some of the military command staff that we have here on the ship. I don't want to go into details, but there is much more to what happened on Orphus III than is apparent."
"It was an inside job, wasn't it?" Mykal said before he could stop himself. Hans tensed slightly and Elaine smiled smugly at her husband.
"I told you."
Hans rolled his eyes at his wife and looked back to Mykal. "Yes, yes it was. So far inside that it could shake the kingdom to its core." a dark look passed over his face momentarily, before he continued. "The traitor was trying to eliminate all the family that was on Orphus III."
Mykal's mind whirled at what his king was telling him. All the family...he can't mean that. Looking into Hans' eyes though, he knew. "Why?" was all he could ask.
"Other than the most obvious, we don't know. They could have other reasons, but we don't know for sure...yet." the king said as he lifted a drink and took a sip. "That is part of why I want you to join us. You seem to have an uncanny ability to see information that would take an entire analysis team to find. We think that there may be more than just one and that they are high up."
"I appreciate your faith in me Majes...Hans," he corrected himself at a raised eyebrow, "but I'm just a scout lance commander, even if I do hear something; it is my word against theirs. That isn't going to hold a drop in a bucket versus someone from the command staff or the peerage." he sighed. "I saw that first hand." he said in a whisper, more to himself than anyone else.
Hans nodded slightly. "I suppose that means you will need a bit of a promotion then won't it?" Hans opened a drawer in his desk, pulled out a small black velvet box and slid it cross to Mykal. "It's not a military rank, so you are still a captain for the time being, but it will help put some clout behind your words."
Mykal lifted the lid of the small box and saw two epaulet insignias. Golden suns backing a platinum saber glinted at him in the light of the study. The four stars inlaid with onyx, surrounded the sun and gleamed slightly. "You are making me Commander of the Royal Lance? This must be a mistake." he asked looking between the two.
Elaine just smiled a kind, motherly type smile, like she was proud of his accomplishment, and Hans just nodded slightly before speaking. "The Royal Lance suffered almost as many losses as your old command did Mykal. You are by far the most qualified pilot for this post." Shaking his head slightly, he looked Mykal in the eyes. "Hell son, if not for that bogus mark in your file and that B.S. from the shrinks about being 'too loyal' you would have probably been in the unit already, as a squad leader or executive officer at least."
Mykal's head spun a bit as he thought about what was being handed to him. Most lances contained only ten 'Mechs, with a captain and executive officer, or X.O. as a second in command. The Royal Lance was a bit of a different beast however. Its standing compliment was fifty 'Mechs and a complete support staff. It was a post held by at least a Colonel if not a Brigadier General. "I'm honored, your Majesty." was all he was able to get out.
"You deserve it. I'll let that 'Majesty' slide since you were talking in an official manner." Hans looked at his wife and nodded to the box.