Regent & Duke
It's ticking and it's not a clock
the circumstances, the cheering crowd seemed small as the boat pulled
away from the dock. As the boat receded into the distance, a man at the
rear of the crowd pulled his baseball cap further down over his face to
hide his smile.
As the crowd began to disperse, he moved with it, making his way to the outer edge. Nearing the warehouses, he quickly moved into the closest opening and stopped just inside the doorway to peak around the corner. He had to be sure that the crowd had dissipated. Once he was sure it was safe, he made his way into the deep recess of the warehouse. Entering an unlit office, he quickly moved around the room closing the shades, then lit a small lamp and shut his eyes. As he stood completely still in the center of the room, a mist began to form over his face as his visage started to contort and change. I really must stop this, Anthony von Furstan thought. If I am not careful, I will end up like some of my targets.
Reaching inside his blue coveralls, he produced a cell phone and quickly dialed the number. He paced nervously as he waited for an answer from the other end.
"Father?" he began. "I just called to let you know that all is going as planned. One of the assignments has been completed and the others will soon follow."
"Any complications?" queried the voice on the other end.
"Well. yes, a slight one."
"It would seem that a certain 'Regent'," he said with a smile, "has decided to go along on the boating trip rather than the 'Speaker'."
"That's disappointing, His Highness will not be happy. He gave orders that the 'Regent' is not to be touched, but I guess that is the price he will have to pay. I trust the other arrangement went according to plan?"
"Last night?" he paused. "They never saw it coming. Look father, I might be discovered if I stay on the phone with you for very long. I just wanted to let you know that everything is going according to plan, and I should be home shortly."
"Good, see you then."
Closing the cell phone with a snap of his wrist, Anthony von Furstan once again assumed his borrowed shape. "Yes everything is going according to plan," he whispered to himself. Then he glanced at the body on the floor. The body of the man whose identity he had assumed.
"You know," Nigel was saying, "she doesn't think this is very funny."
"I know," Kelson said with a smile, "I still think it's pretty funny that she got seasick. I always thought Ewan brought his kids up around boats?" Nigel smiled, shook his head with a snort of disgust and leaned back against the railing of the boat as the boat rocked lazily back and forth with the waves. They had stopped at the mouth of the Eirian River at the mid-point between the coasts of Llannedd and Carthmoor just before it spilled into the Atlantic Ocean.
"So this is the proposed spot?" Nigel asked crossing his arms.
"Yes," Kelson answered as he set his hands shoulder width apart on the railing and leaned forward to look out over the waves.
"What time are the Americans supposed to get here?" Nigel asked.
"Not soon enough if you ask me," a female voice answered from behind them. Both men turned at the sound of Alison's voice. She was standing on the very top step, leading to the forward cabin of the small yacht. She did not appear to be feeling very well as she steadied herself with a death-grip on the handrail.
"So this is funny to the both of you," she hissed, seeing the amused looks on their faces. Slowly she half staggered, half walked towards them and unceremoniously plopped down on the bench between the two.
"I thought you were too sick to come up on deck?" Kelson chided.
"Jerk" Alison spat. Balling up her fist, she slammed it solidly into the side of Kelson's leg. "The reason I came up here is because when I got up to wash my face, the light would not come on. As a matter of fact, none of the power works below."
"That's odd." Kelson turned and made his way to the stairway leading to the cubicles below. As he reached the bottom of the steps, Kelson ran his hand along the wall to locate the light switch. As his hand contacted the switch, he could feel the power surging through the light panel, however, when he flicked the switch, nothing happened. That is odd, he thought. Extending his powers into the panel, he could feel the flow of power going to the switch but instead of going to the actual light, he sensed it flowing away.
Following the flow of power along the wall, he was led back up on deck toward the rear of the boat.
"Did you find out what the problem was?" Nigel asked as Kelson re-emerged back onto the deck with a curious look on his face.
"No.," Kelson said distantly. "Do me a favor Matt, check the radio? And Captain would you try to start the engines?" Kelson looked up at Matt and the Captain of the boat standing on the top deck."
"What is going on, Kelson?" Alison asked. She looked more frightened than ill now. Just then, both Matt and the Captain returned to the edge of the railing looking none too pleased.
"Nothing, Your Grace," Matt called down from the upper deck. "No power at all for the radio or the engines."
"Damn," Kelson said to himself. Then he turned, "Nigel, check under the bench for the life preservers and the life raft?" As Nigel, with Alison assisting him, moved to do his bidding, Kelson knelt down placing his hand on the deck. Extending his power outwards, he again could feel that all the power seemed to be flowing to the rear of the boat.
Dammit! Kelson thought.
"What's wrong, Your Grace?" Matt said from the ladder as he and the Captain made their way down to the lower deck. Before Kelson could respond to Matt, Nigel called out, "Kelson? You had better see this." Rising from the deck, and moving towards Nigel, Kelson could see that he was holding up one lone life preserver. "This is the only preserver without a hole in it," Nigel said, "and the inflatable life raft has a big hole cut into it." Gazing down into the storage compartment underneath the bench, Kelson could see that all of the other preservers had holes cut in them as well, with pieces of stuffing protruding from the ragged edges and spread throughout the interior of the compartment. Kelson immediately turned and made his way to the cabinets where the inflatable emergency life vests were stored. The cabinet doors sprang open and the inflatable life vests came tumbling out, all in the same condition as the life raft.
"I thought the boat was inspected, Your Grace." Matt said coming up behind Kelson. "I saw the guy do it myself."
The muscles in Kelsons jaw were visibly working as he tried to maintain control.
"Did you see him do anything, out of the ordinary?" Kelson asked, as he continuing to stare at the life preservers.
"Did you see him inspect all of the life preservers, or just the one on top?" Nigel interjected. "Because this one was on top." Nigel held up the only intact life preserver.
"Well, yes, Your Grace," Matt answered, concern showing in his voice. "It's not his fault." Kelson shot a withering glance at Nigel before he could berate Matt further. "It is something he had no control over." Several seconds of tense silence followed before Kelson again spoke.
"How many of you can swim?"
"I can," Matt answered cautiously.
"I can too, Your Grace," the Captain responded.
"I can as well, Kelson," Nigel said.
All eyes turned towards Alison, who was biting her bottom lip nervously. "I am sorry, I can't," she answered.
"Nigel, give Alison the life preserver," Kelson said looking him straight in the eye. "And the rest of you, get off the boat."
"But why?" Nigel asked.
"I think there may be a bomb on board."
"Are you sure?" Nigel asked, greatly concerned.
"No, but I have a really bad feeling about this."
"But what about you.?" Nigel began.
"Just go!" Kelson interrupted when no one had moved. As Kelson watched the men jump over the side, he noticed Alison wearing the life preserver but she was standing immobilized by the side of the rail. "I can't swim, Kelson," she said pleading.
"Stay right there then, but you must be ready to jump when I say jump. I need to check something." With that, she hesitantly got on top of the bench, ready to jump at his command.
Moving to the stern of the boat, Kelson followed the trail to where all the power seemed to be heading. Reaching the engines, he placed his hand on the compartment and extended outward with his powers. He could sense that indeed the energy from the rest of the boat was flowing toward the engines. As his focus extended deeper into the engine he briefly felt the presence of a small digital clock. It read: 1:00. Locking in on the location, Kelson suddenly realized that the clock had begun to speed up dramatically, heading towards zero. Quickly responding to the danger, he withdrew his powers, turned and started running towards Alison.
"Oh no you don't! " she yelled as Kelson's intent dawned on her. Her screams were silenced as Kelson tackled her in her midsection, carrying them both over the railing into the frigid water below. He could feel the concussion from the explosion above as the waters closed in above their head, and he dove deep.
Leaning against the outside wall opposite the small palace classroom, Laura stared intently through the windows at the only four people in the classroom. All of a sudden one of them caught sight of her and waved. Laura smiled and waved back as Susan leaned over and whispered to the person she was sitting with. A young, blond teenage girl turned in her chair and cheerfully waved at Laura. As Laura waved back to Elspeth Morgan, the young teenage boy sitting opposite her, who,s appearance left no doubt to his Haldane legacy, looked up from the drawing he was working on and stared at her blankly, then returned to his drawing. Noticing that Brion had looked up from his work, Bart cast a glance in the same direction and also caught sight of Laura. He rolled his eyes heavenward, then returned his attention to Brion. Laura caught Susan's attention, indicating that she was leaving, and as she moved away she nodded towards the guard stationed at the classroom door.
Thank God its Saturday, Laura thought as she made her way down the long hallway adjacent to the classroom. Halfway down the hallway she stopped and knocked on the door marked, Col. Duncan Morgan.
"Come in.Ah Laura." Duncan Morgan briefly looked up from the stack of papers he was working on.
"I'm not disturbing you am I, Sir?" she asked.
"Yes and no," he answered with a wave of his hand. I do hate it when Melissa is not here, they seem to drop everything on me. I wish I knew where she was?"
Laura tensed slightly, for she knew full well where Melissa was. and what she was doing. Melissa was in Torenth trying to find information on where Laura's husband Craig had disappeared.
"What can I do for you, Laura?" Duncan asked.
"Well Sir, I just to wanted to thank you for letting Bart and myself drill here this weekend instead of with our assigned units."
"I should be thanking you actually," Duncan said with a smile. "With Duke Nigel's chief of staff gone, doing God knows what, and this thing with Anthony von Furstan.? I am glad that you, Bart and Susan are here to watch Brion and my daughter. By the way, have you seen this?" Duncan reached into the depths of his paperwork and pulling out a newspaper, flopped it down on the edge of his desk so that Laura could see it. Moving forward to the edge of the desk, Laura could clearly see the front page illuminated by the light from Duncan's desk lamp. It was the Mearan Herald. Unlike the Sunday edition, this one was infinitely smaller by comparison but plastered on the front page was the picture of Anthony von Furstan with the caption reading: Assassin sought in attempt on the Crown Princess of Llannedd.
"I didn't get a chance to read the paper before I left this morning to come here, Sir," she said absently reading the article,"
"So you didn't notice," he said with his elbow resting on the desk and his chin on his hand," that there wasn't anybody running about like there usually is, and the extra security at the entrances to the palace?"
Back at the classroom, Susan was looking over Brion's shoulder at his drawing. "Very good, Brion," she said with a smile. Brion just looked up at her blankly and returned to his work. Suddenly she heard a brief commotion coming from the doorway. Just as quickly as she looked up, she saw the guard posted there vanish from sight.
"Bart, I want you to get Brion out of here now," she said bluntly not taking her eyes off the door.
"What's wrong?" Bart asked as he followed her gaze to the door. "No time to explain right now, just take him out through the transfer portal. I will be along shortly." She indicated with her chin to the right of the room where a small, non-descript alcove was located.
"Just go, dammit!" She said forcefully. "I will be right behind you."
"Where am I going?" Bart asked as he assisted Brion to his feet and began to escort him to the portal.
"Go to the council chamber, and wait for me outside the portal there." "Okay?" As he reached the portal, he placed one hand on Brion's shoulder and guided the ducal heir to stand next to him as he himself stepped onto the portal. "See you there."
Susan watched as he closed his eyes, raise his free hand and disappear from sight. Seeing that he was finally gone she moved to the door.
"What's wrong Ms. Susan?" Elspeth Morgan seemed concerned as she watched Susan's movements. "Where did Brion and Bart go?"
"Nothing's wrong sweetheart," Susan said with a smile, trying to alleviate Elspeth's concern. I want you to do me a favor and go stand by that little alcove over where Bart and Brion were. Can you do that for me please? We are going to take a little field trip. They went ahead to make sure that everything is ready."
"Oh goody," Elspeth said cheerily as she got up to go to the alcove. Making sure that Elspeth was in place, Susan turned her attention to the activity that had taken place outside the door. Peering through the window into the hallway, she spied the body of the guard with a small brown box lying beside him. She could detect no signs of life from the guard a she quested forth with her powers. Damn! She thought. Reaching out with her mind, she began to search for Laura.
Laura froze in her place in Duncan's office as she caught Susan's urgent tendril of thought.
"Laura, what's wrong?" Duncan asked as he noticed the change in her behavior. She didn't answer him right away as she struggled to connect with Susan. The details started to immerge as Susan relayed the frightening message.
Finally she spoke. "Someone has killed the guard outside the classroom, and there is a small brown box lying next to him."
"What the hell?!" Duncan followed her out the door at a dead run nearly bowling Laura over as she skidded to a stop just before rounding the corner leading to the classroom. Slowly she peered around the corner and caught sight of the dead guard and the box. As Duncan moved in behind her he saw it as well.
"Get everyone out of the area of the classroom now!" He screamed into the microphone he had on his uniform lapel.
Gingerly Laura moved down the hallway so that she could see inside the classroom windows. She briefly saw Susan at the transfer portal and then both Susan and Elspeth disappeared from sight.
"Where are they?!" Duncan demanded seeing the empty classroom. He apparently had not seen Susan depart via the transfer portal.
"They are safe," Laura, said distantly. "I will explain it all later."
Without further comment, she turned her attention to the body of the guard and the box.
"You will explain it now, Dammit!" he yelled.
Not listening to him, she quested forth with her powers towards the small box, and the contents inside. As the tendrils of her powers touched the inside of the box, she felt a small 'click'. Without pausing to think, she quickly attempted to throw a warding circle around the box and began to push Duncan back around the corner from which they came. She shoved him to the ground, waved her hand in a warding motion as a barely imperceptible green shield surrounded the two. The blast rocked the walls around them and the floor shook.
Susan saw Bart and Brion waiting patiently for them as she and Elspeth appeared in the alcove outside the council chamber.
"What took so long?" Bart asked as he followed Susan to the large doors leading to the council chamber.
"I had to let Laura know what was going on," Susan said as the massive doors began to slide open. "Did you have any problems bringing him through?' "Not really.," Bart started to say as he nearly ran into the back of Susan. Then he saw why Susan had suddenly stopped. Half the candles at the entrance to the chamber were lit.
"Did someone forget to turn the lights off?" he whispered, "or is someone else here?"
"Someone else is here," she said quietly. " Help these two find a seat at this end of the table."
Someone indeed was sitting in the darkness at the senior co-adjutor end of the table. Susan began to walk around the octagonal table, as Bart helped the two children find their seats. Upon seeing who the other person was in the council chamber, she stopped suddenly.
"Adrian?" She asked as she started to raise her hands to light the remaining candles.
"Don't, please." He said putting a restraining hand on her arm.
"What's the matter?" she asked as she moved closer to his face in the darkness. He raised his tear-streaked face to meet hers.
"They are dead."