Castle Roland

The Art of War

by Ricky

In Progress

Chapter 2

Published: 6 Apr 17

The Art of War

Copyright 2016, 2017 by Ricky and the
Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved

Art of War LogoThe two boys sat together on the plane, each lost in his own thoughts. That was one of the things that Arthur so loved about Euan. He was not one of those boys that had to be the center of attention, nor always had to be talking. They often found themselves sitting together for hours at a time, neither one saying a word. Right now, they both had a lot to think about. Arthur was lost in thought about what he had to do, and everything that could go wrong. Euan was thinking about how he could best help his friend cope with what he was undertaking.

When they were traveling to Kettle Falls, they were just 'Monarch'. The joking name that Euan came up to be Arthur's CB handle. Neither boy had a clue that Monarch would blow up to be something that so many people knew. Now though, Monarch was gone, Arthur's true persona would be known, and people would look to him even more than before.

Durrell brought both boys back to the here and now, by sitting down across from them. He nodded and smiled to both of them, before speaking. "Are you guys ready?" They didn't have to ask what he meant, they knew.

"Honestly, I am not sure." Arthur said, and Euan nodded his agreement.

"Good. That's the answer I wanted to hear. If you had said that you were, I would really have to worry." Durrell said with a smile. "Remember, there are a large number of really good people that will be there with only one goal. To help you make the best, and most informed decisions that you can make. It may not always be the best solution, but you will always know that you did the best you could with the information you had at hand." Arthur nodded already feeling slightly better. "And you always have me and Euan to fall back on. And as always, with the two of us, you do not have to worry about how you word things, nor do not have to worry about what you say, nothing that you say or do around us will ever be known to anyone else... including your mother.... within reason."

Arthur smiled and nodded. "Thank you."

"No thanks needed, my boy." Durrell said with great fondness, then sighed. "You know, you remind me so much of your father..." Durrell trailed off as he looked out the plane's small window. The boys were patient as they knew Durrell was deep in thought. Without even looking away from the window, the man began to speak. "Queen Margaret and I decided a long time ago not to get into the specifics of what happened until you were both old enough. However, we both agreed that, with the actions you both took recently, you are both mature enough to know everything."

In a voice that sounded as if it were thousands of miles away, and over ten years in the past, Durrell began to speak of a time that he remembered, almost every time he closed his eyes.

"You both know that Arthur, your father, and Euan, your mother died in the attacks at the World Trade Center. What you don't know is what happened while we were in there." Durrell said in a haunted voice.

"As you both know, we were attending a major charity conference in New York. Euan, your mother was one of the major players in that, since a lot of the framework for these charities was her idea. Arthur, your father was there mainly because he said if it worked out well between the US and Canada, he would look at implementing them throughout the rest of the Empire. We were located on the 32nd floor of the North Tower when the plane hit. We were just getting ready to start, when we heard it. At first I thought it was something wrong with the ventilation system, but it grew louder. We were all looking around wondering what was happening when the entire building shook. Everyone that was standing was thrown from their feet. Almost everyone, that was sitting, was also thrown to the floor.

"Immediately, King Richard's security detail tried to understand what was going on, so they could figure out how to get him to safety. The rest of us were trying to determine if anyone was hurt. To be honest, the first thing I thought of was some type of earthquake had hit the New York area. The shaking was still going on several seconds later. That's when the smoke started to come into the room.

"People were screaming and crying, but I remember hearing clearly one of the security men say into his radio something like 'say that again!' He had screamed it into the mic on his cuff. It was enough for the rest of us to stop and look at him... and I swear I saw his face go pale, as he started to shake a little. He looked up and met the eyes of the King. He tried to talk once or twice before he could finally make words come out. Your Majesty... Agent Cornwall just informed me that he saw... a passenger airliner crash into the tower somewhere above us."

Durrell went silent for several seconds, as tears started to fall down his face. Euan and Arthur both were so entranced by the story that they couldn't take their eyes off Euan's father. Taking a shuddering deep breath, Durrell forced a smile as he looked at Arthur. "I think that was one of the only times I ever heard your father curse, but curse he did, and no, I will not tell you what he said." Arthur couldn't help but smile as the tears started falling from his eyes.

All these years, all he had ever heard was that his father died in the attacks on 9-11, but he was never told the story of what happened inside. Now that he was, he couldn't help but feel the sadness, anger, fear, and everything else that he felt when he had first learned that his father had died. He was only three, but he still remembered it as if it were yesterday.

"Your father's security wanted to get him out of the building as quickly as possible, but he wouldn't leave." Durrell said fondly.

"He always cared about everyone else more than himself." Arthur said, his tears falling over his smile.

"That he did, lad." Durrell said while nodding. "We got out into the hallway, and it was filled with people trying to get out. Most of them still didn't know what was going on, but they knew it was bad. The hall was filled with smoke, and packed with people. We finally made it to a stairway, since the elevators weren't working, and started to move down. It was slow going, the stairs were filled with people all trying to go down. At one point, I looked up, and, to this day, I wish I hadn't. Above us, several hundred feet up, I could see flames... the entire area above us was burning."

Again Durrell's eyes found the window. The horror he was reliving at this moment made it so he could do nothing but gaze out into emptiness. "I don't know how far we made it, but it wasn't more than a few floors when the first body came crashing down from above. Then more followed. It wasn't until afterward that I found out that those people had actually jumped, trying to get away from the fire."

Durrell's voice hitched for a moment, and he had to clear his throat before he could continue. "Even with all the screaming and shouting, we all quieted down when we heard another roar. We all started looking around wondering what was going to happen next. Then the world exploded."

He took a moment to wipe his eyes before speaking again. "I turned around, because I was in front of the King and Euan's mother, just as I saw King Richard look up. I followed his eyes up, and saw a piece of concrete start to fall off the stairs above us. I looked back down, shouting a warning, but the King was already moving. He actually pushed your mother out of the way Euan, so that it wouldn't hit her. She fell into me, and I fell backwards. I remember trying to grab her, to catch her, but... but I couldn't. I hit hard, and felt pain stab through my back and legs, but at that moment I didn't care, I spun onto my stomach, and saw that she had been caught by some of the security agents. I turned back and saw Richard laying on the stairs, behind him... behind him, where the rest of the security was, there was only the concrete that had fallen. I remember calling Richard's name as I crawled toward him. He didn't answer me, so I turned him over, and felt for a pulse. He still had one. I looked back at the security and yelled that he was still alive."

Arthur gasped in shock. All this time he thought his father had died quickly. At least he had hoped he had. Without realizing that he did it, Arthur's hand reached out, and gripped Euan's hard. "'Grab him!' They yelled up at me, so I did. I stood up, took a moment to steady myself, then I reached down, grabbed him, and threw him over my shoulders, just like we were trained in the military. I turned around and saw one of them had done the same thing with Euan's mother. I wanted desperately to ask how she was, but at the same time I didn't. I just started down the stairs. There were only five of the security men left, and two of them moved behind me. I noticed that both of them were injured, but still they were doing their job. We had no one really behind us yet, but we would soon." Queen Margaret appeared next to them, and sat down next to Durrell, gently wrapping an arm around him.

"I honestly don't remember much more other than having to put one foot in front of the other. I felt no pain, no sense of time passing, or anything. I don't remember hearing anything other than my own breathing. The doctors called it severe tunnel vision, but either way, the next thing I really remember is reaching the ground floor. As soon as we got there, we were surrounded by uniformed police, and the rest of the security that was with us. I found out later that they wanted to come up to us, but there was no way they could have fought against the stream of people coming down. I remember one or two people asking if they could take Richard from me. I don't remember exactly how I answered, although I have been told I was not very nice about it."

Durrell laughed a bitter laugh before continuing. "When we got outside, I was pointed to the closest ambulance and told to go. I ran towards it, and handed Richard to the attendants. I didn't know why at the time, but the security guy that was right behind me, shoved me inside then closed the doors. I looked back out the rear windows..." His voice hitched again, only this time it took him almost a full minute before he could speak again.

When he did speak, it was through sobs. "I looked back and saw them loading Katherine, and one of the other security members into the other ambulance. I still don't know why but I looked up, and that's when I saw it. The tower was starting to collapse down on itself. I remember screaming that we had to go, that the tower was collapsing. I remember being pushed back against the window as the driver put the ambulance into gear and accelerated away as quick as he could. The other ambulance didn't react as quickly though. I saw one of the medics jump out of the back, and race around to the front. Just as it was starting to move, the dust and ash cloud enveloped it. I remember screaming until finally I passed out." He looked back towards the boys, and seemed to, for the first time, notice that Queen Margaret was sitting next to him, gently holding onto him. He gave her a smile of thanks as he wiped away the tears on his face.

Durrell forced himself to meet Arthur's tear filled eyes. "When I woke up next, was when the back of the ambulance was pulled open, and a team of doctors and nurses were waiting for us. One of them helped me out, and pulled me off to the side while they unloaded the King. There were no security guards around, so I knew I still had a duty to perform. While I was not a member of the security team, I was still a Colonel in the King's military, and at the moment I was the only one around. I pushed out of the arms of the nurse that held me, and followed him in. When they tried to tell me that I could not go back with him, I made my intentions well known. Instead of delaying care, they let me into the room. They... they worked on him for almost two hours, before... before they finally pronounced him dead. From what I was later told, when he pushed Katherine out of the way, something, something heavy struck him in the head, fracturing his skull in multiple places. Even had he survived, he probably would have had severe brain injuries."

He then switched to Euan, and met his son's eyes. "It took days to find out that the ambulance carrying your mother never made it out. It was found under several tons of debris that fell when the Tower collapsed. I.. I never got to tell her..." Durrell broke down fully at that point. Euan launched himself out of his chair and threw his arms around his father, holding the weeping man as their tears mixed in grief over the loss of the woman they both loved.

Queen Margaret moved over and sat next to Arthur, and opened her arms. He only hesitated a moment before throwing his arms around her, and letting his tears fall unashamedly. When everyone had calmed down some, Euan moved to sit next to Durrell, never fully releasing the man from his embrace. Arthur wiped his eyes, then moved to stand in front of Durrell, before he dropped to his knees and hugged the man. "Thank you..." He said, he wanted to say more, but he had no idea what to say. "Thank you..." He said once again.

Durrell couldn't speak, he just nodded into Arthur's shoulder. "What he didn't mention," Queen Margaret spoke up, causing both Arthur and Euan to look at her. "Is that what he did was not only heroic, but also something he should not have been able to do. At some point through all of that, probably when he fell, he cracked two of his vertebrae. It's amazing that he was able to walk, let alone carry a grown man down forty flights of stairs, and out the front of the Tower. He also would not let the doctors treat him, or even look at him, until British Security got there. He stood just inside the room, almost at attention, his suit torn and soot covered, watching everything that went on in the room. After they pronounced Richard dead, he simply collapsed, and it was then that the doctors could treat him."

"I was only doing my duty." Durrell said in a soft voice.

"You tried to tell me that at the same time that you offered your resignation for not protecting the King's life. I told you that I would not accept it, and that you still had a duty to do for the crown. To help my son become the same type of man that my husband was. Now it is time for you to fulfill your duty."

The queen once again dropped her regal disposition and picked up the one of mother looking at Arthur, "So you see Arthur, when I heard you were missing I was afraid I was going to lose yet another son. Your older brothers in that terrible earthquake in India at their school; and then your father in the Towers; and when I heard about bombs dropping all over in the United States . . . I was just so afraid for you." Arthur hugged his mother tightly, "I'm so sorry Mother. I wish I could make it up to you. I erred Mother, terribly, I know. Until this moment I never realized just how much it must have worried you." Arthur paused for a moment before asking, "Where is Ethan?"

The queen looked away for a moment then back with a slight grin. "When you went missing he was taken very unceremoniously from the middle of the pitch at a football match and whisked away to a safe house. I'm afraid he is a bit cross at both of us for that. It seems that it was an important match." Arthur looked away in distant thought for a moment before saying, "Well I shall certainly have to make amends, won't I."

"You'll have your chance soon, he will be arriving in Bermuda the day after we do. I wanted both of my sons near me. I don't know for how long it will be though, because I fear that duties of State will draw us in different directions. We already have dispatched some Australian Special Forces to help out in Maine. I think we will have to move quickly and decisively if we are to help President Bryce to regain control. The longer this escalates the more innocents will pay for Ashwood's ambitions. I have never cared for that man but I figured he would be replaced as ineffective after his first term." Durrell spoke up, "He is ruthless and cold hearted. I don't think he will step down as long as he draws breath."

For the rest of the plane ride to Bermuda, not much was said. The four of them were lost in their own thoughts. Euan was the only one that noticed, and watched the fighter jets as they formed up, and led them to the cleared airport in Bermuda. It actually took all of them several minutes after they landed before they were able to pull themselves out of their own thoughts, and prepare themselves for what was to come.

"Are you ready for this?" Euan stepped up beside Arthur.

"Of course I am, I'm attired kingly am I not?" He said with a grin.

"Well except for that spot of gravy right there." He pointed to a spot about the first button of his shirt and Arthur looked down just to have Euan flip the end of his nose. "You haven't fallen for that one for years," he almost giggled back.

Their fun was halted by the clearing of a throat and they turned to see the royal entourage forming into their respective places to disembark. It felt like they had been waiting hours. Arthur bent over and slid the window shade up an inch or two to look out.

The tarmac appeared empty save that of the reception party. The security team deplaned first and spread out being as vigilant as always. The Queen Regent glanced at her son and smiled, "You look very much like him you know." Arthur looked back at his mother and grinned. Arthur stepped forward through the door of the plane and offered his hand to his mother to step onto the platform at the top of the stairs. Taking his hand she stepped out and they surveyed the view before them. A regiment of the Bermuda Guard came to attention. Their red coats and sabers gleaming in the sunlight forming a path from the stairs to the waiting helicopters. At the bottom of the stairs waited a man she knew well, Julian Hadaway, the Governor of Bermuda and to his side smiling, was Micah Lacey, the Premier. The Queen Regent glanced at Arthur, his cue to start down the steps. Reaching the bottom Julian and Micah both bowed respectfully, then straightened as Margaret smiled and extended her gloved hand, bowing to kiss her hand, once again the governor smiled.

"Welcome your Majesty." Turning to Arthur he bowed again, "Your Highness, welcome. We have helicopters waiting to take us directly to Government House." The Queen Regent nodded her assent. Arthur thought to himself how the pomp is going to slow things down considerably. Like the queen might have said, 'No, I think we should first ride a Merry-Go-Round or something'. He was determined to eliminate as much as he could without getting a lecture on propriety from the queen. It was going to have to be a careful balancing act.

He led the way to the helicopters as the entourage followed. Arthur glanced back to see Euan and his father only steps behind them. Arthur's glance was enough to tell Euan that he was already tired of the formality, but he knew his place and helped his mother into the helicopter before climbing in himself, followed by the governor and the premier before the crew chief closed the door and radioed the pilot to start the spin up. Euan and Durrell boarded the second helicopter.

"It's so good to see you again Margaret."

"I've missed you so Julian, it's been a long time hasn't it?"

"Indeed! I think young Arthur was just breeched when I saw him last." He smiled and looked toward Arthur, "His Highness has grown into a fine looking young man of course. The papers are saying that you've had a bit of an adventure. We'll do our best to control the press during your stay."

"Thank you. We plan to be rather open about it to the press. There was an interview done just before we left. It was why we delayed an extra day and should be aired this evening. We thought it best to address it before I came here to deal with this humanitarian effort so that the work here would not be overshadowed by the events that led us here."

The governor looked at him expecting more but ready to acquiesce if he saw that it was a sensitive subject.

His mother noticed that he had changed and was now using the Royal We. She watched to see how he would handle this.

Arthur continued, "We will make mistakes. But what is important is that we learn from them and work to correct our errors. Because of our actions, we became part of the refugees in Chicago and we had to work to get to the safe haven with many other refugees. It taught us to listen to those with experience. They see things from a different perspective. In doing so, you gain the knowledge of that perspective as one's own and then are able to apply it to future decisions where it may apply and save more lives than just our own. It was a harrowing experience that I will put behind me but will never forget."

The governor looked at him stunned. "You were in Chicago when all this happened?"

"Yes. In the process, I was mugged and we made our way to a mission where a kindly priest took us in, and through events helped escort us west in a caravan of almost 500 vehicles. We had to navigate through the city and a road block to get out of Chicago and later we had to crash through vehicles blocking bridges trying to stop our escape. It was a monumental effort that I am glad to have lived through." The queen listened intently, she had not heard it in this detail before. Sure, she read the reports but they were incomplete.

The governor was breathing heavily as his mind played the pictures in his head. "You were assaulted! They laid hands on you?" He was beside himself that such a thing could happen to their future sovereign.

"We were, but I think the most frightening part was when the missiles flew overhead. At that time we didn't know where they were heading. We were trying to escape the lorry petrol stop that we thought was the target. But it felt like we were personally what it was seeking. I think every person in the convoy must have felt the same way. We knew these missiles were delivering death to their destinations." His look was distant as he remembered. He felt his mother take his hand and it was all he could do to stem the tears that begged to flow.

The governor gasped at the description of the missiles flying overhead and noticed Margaret's discomfort. "I can't imagine it." He said thoughtfully. He sensed the need for a change of topic. "Your Majesties, if it pleases you, when we arrive I had planned to have refreshments in the sitting room while the attendants tend to your affairs in your suites. As soon as they are unpacked, we will show you to them. We are serving tea at two, if that also meets with your approval. Following that we will retire once again to the sitting room where we can brief you on the current situation with the refugees."

Margaret nodded.

"I'll alert the staff to our pending arrival and they can alert the press. We have kept them at bay except for the council's pressman who took stills of your arrival at the airport. He will release those when approved, later today." She nodded again and he pulled out his phone and pressed the speed dial. "We are about ten minutes out, would you alert the press and the staff please? Thank you." He pocketed his phone and smiled at Arthur. "I can see a lot of your father in you, Your Majesty."

"Thank you. I hope it will show in more than just my appearance when all is said and done here." He looked between the two men, "Governor Hadaway, Premier Lacey, We will be working closely together to help our allies get through this crisis. While I am mindful of the propriety of our respective positions, if you would not think me presumptuous, that while speaking privately about matters could we dispense with the titles? Could you just call me Arthur?"

The men looked stunned, the governor stammered only momentarily before responding for both of them as was his place; being the higher ranking of the two. "We are most flattered by the honor you do us." The governor regained his composure and smiled, "And please Your Highness call me Julian." The king raised an eyebrow and grinned. Flustered, the governor looked sheepish, "I'll, um work on it your," he winced, "Arthur."

The king glanced over to the premier and grinned, "Will you need to practice as well Premier Lacey?"

"No, Arthur. And please, just Micah."

"Excellent. And, of course, when in public we will show each other the respect of our offices lest the public think being familiar is an acceptable thing without invite." He smiled knowing he got the message across.

"Very well then, should we be about it then?"

"I'd like that Julian." He took a moment to take stock of the man. He was in his mid-fifties but still quite fit. His face was kind and his features sharp. His skin was of a man who had lived through a lot and wasn't pampered. He looked down at the man's hands. His father had said you can tell a lot about a man by his hands. This man was familiar with hard work. He wondered what a governor could be doing daily to get hands that were that calloused. They were well manicured hands but hands that enjoyed labor as well. It was a curiosity item for Arthur. His attention was brought back to the moment when his mother smiled and lightly tapped the hand she had taken when he spoke of the missiles. He noted her approval of how he handled the explanation. She could see it would not be long before he was ready to take his place on the throne. Yes, he was young; but the experiences he had just undertaken had matured him.

They stepped from the helicopter and were escorted toward the house. Standing to greet them, besides the press that were busy filling their camera's memory cards, was the household staff.

As they approached the house the staff bowed, the photographers were burning through their batteries if the shutter noise on their digital cameras was any indicator.

The Queen Regent spoke, "Please, everyone, rise. And thank you for welcoming us so warmly."

Julian turned to the queen, "With your Majesty's permission?" She nodded. "This is Mr. Giddings, the Senior Household Caretaker."

Mr. Giddings smiled and bowed deeply uttering, "Your Majesty" and again to Arthur, "Your Highness."

The governor continued, "And this is Mrs. Giddings, although she prefers to be called Alma. She is in charge of pleasing our palates and she is VERY good at her job." Blushing, Mrs. Gidding curtsied. The governor noticed beads of sweat forming on Arthur's brow. "If you'll forgive me, the heat is rapidly becoming stifling and I think we can save the rest of the introductions for later. Please come in and we'll give you some refreshments, then Mr. Giddings will see to having you all shown to your rooms."

As they took seats in the sitting room Mrs. Giddings came in, "Would your Majesties like something cool to drink? I have strawberry lemonade or iced tea if you prefer. We also have fizzies if you desire."

"Strawberry Lemonade sounds delightful," Margaret said smiling. Mrs. Giddings turned to Arthur, "Thank you, I will have the same." After getting Euan and Durrell's drink choices she exited and returned with a skirted trolley which held two large carafes and glasses. She stopped inside the door and poured two glasses and handing them to a servant who served them on coasters to the right. Two more were poured and served to Euan and Durrell, then repeated for Julian and Micah.

The queen took a sip before her eyes lit up, "This is delightful!" Mrs. Giddings beamed and curtsied again,

"Your Majesty is too kind."

Julian spoke up, "Yes it's something she is known for and she guards the secrets to the recipe like a national treasure!" He said in mock disgust.

Mrs. Giddings smiled and spoke in innocence, "Your Lordship, we have to make sure you come back here to visit don't we?"

He smiled, "Indeed you do and this is just the enticement!"

Arthur noticed the skirt on the cart move a little before seeing a small hand reach up and take the partial carafe unsteadily from the tray. He stood, setting his drink down and stepped over to the trolley and took the carafe from the unsteady hands trying to pour the contents into a glass hidden behind the trolley, "Why not let me help you with that, if we make a mess there will be a fuss." He whispered to the cute little boy who looked up with wide eyes, "Crap!" he whispered. Arthur smiled as he poured half a glass for the little tyke.

Mrs. Giddings rushed over, "I'm so sorry Your Majesty!" she rounded on the boy, "You little scamp! You wait until Nana gets you in the kitchen!"

Arthur spoke, "Please, Mrs. Giddings, don't be too hard on the boy. I can see how this elixir of yours can be addicting. I'm sure he couldn't help himself. In fact, I find myself wanting to top off my glass. Why not chalk this one up to that uncontrollable urge. And let young . . ." "Timothy, Your Majesty," Alma interjected. "Yes... let young Timothy sit with us and enjoy your nectar from the gods this once."

Mrs. Giddings smiled and curtsied, "Of course Your Highness."

Arthur led Timothy over to his chair by the hand, he held his drink in the other hand and saw a hand slide a coaster under the glass as he went to set it on the table next to his own. Arthur sat down and smilingly lifted Timothy into his lap. Margaret noticed Julian speaking behind his hand to his aide who swiftly left the room returning with the Royal Pressman who snapped pictures and then took station behind the governor.

Arthur looked down at Timothy and smiled. "Your Nana makes a really good strawberry lemonade doesn't she." It wasn't a question.

Timothy stopped drinking long enough to say, "Ya, itza best." He looked around before leaning up and whispered, "Thanx, you saved me butt." Arthur couldn't help but smile widely as he looked at Euan who was grinning too, for although Timothy may have thought he was whispering there wasn't a soul in the room who didn't hear it. Click, click click the shutter went.

Another trolley was making its way in with finger sandwiches on it. Mrs. Giddings offered Margaret a plate, "It's still over an hour until tea and I thought you might like a snack to hold you over?" She phrased it as a question. Margaret took the plate smiling and thanked her. "We have chicken salad and roast beef if you prefer," she said laying a serviette across the Queen's lap.

Margaret smiled and took two chicken quarters and placed them on her own plate before giving her a nod to tell her she was finished. Arthur made note of her lax sense of propriety. Indeed! he smirked to himself, 'the queen serving herself!' He'd save that one knowing it would come in handy later.

Alma turned to Arthur and saw Timothy almost cower at her gaze. Arthur leaned over and whispered loudly to Timothy, "You know Nana's cooking, which shall we have?" Euan smiled, he just got the kid lunch too.

Timothy smiled and was thrilled to be considered an authority on the subject. He looked up, "They're both really good but the chikens iz easier to chew." His eyes locked onto the little triangles of sandwich in anticipation. It was plain to see that those green eyes and short neatly combed hair framed the sweet face of this heart stealer and that nobody was immune to his innocent sweetness. He was a pure joy.

Arthur accepted the plate from Alma as she neatly laid the serviette across what was left of the King's lap. She tucked the corner of another in the collar of Timothy's shirt so deftly that it almost appeared as if enchanted. Arthur looked at the waiter and smiled, "I think I'll have one of each and my young taste tester here will have a couple of chickens cuz theyze easier to chew." And he delivered it with a straight face. The servant smiled and placed the requested on their respective plates. As Arthur handed one to Timothy he asked, "How old are you Master Timothy?"

Timothy stopped chewing his quick bite and swallowed, "I'm not no master, I'm just Timothy and I'm six."

"Surely not, why you look at LEAST eight! Are you sure?" Arthur asked with amazement in his features.

"Nope just six." He blushed. His gaze turned to the queen who had just nibbled another bite of her sandwich, "Is that yer mom? She's pretty."

Arthur looked down and smiled, "Yep, I think so too. She's the Queen Regent of ALL of the British Commonwealth!" Timothy's eyes got big as he chewed another bite. "Crap," he whispered. "I really messed up didn't I." It wasn't a question.

"No, she's really nice. And she knows just how good Nana's strawberry lemonade is. I think she understands that it's just so good you couldn't help yourself." Click, click, click Arthur heard again. He wondered why, since they were all digital, they still made the shutter sounds when a picture was taken.

Timothy looked up, "So if she's the Queen Regent and you are her son, then who are you?"

Arthur looked at him and smiled, "I'm just the King." He took another sip of his drink as he heard Timothy whisper loudly, "Crap, I REALLY screwed the pooch on this one."

The room burst into laughter and the photographer started clicking shots of the room and its occupants. Euan had just taken a drink and found he had strawberry lemonade coming out of his nose at the boy's utterance and was frantically trying to mop up and regain his composure with his serviette. These shots may never get released to the public but it was a family moment.

Alma stepped forward not being able to take it anymore. "I think it's time for young Master Timothy to retire for his nap!" Euan now covered in strawberry lemonade took the moment to excuse himself as well. Arthur gave him a smirk and a glare as if to say, 'You're just trying to sneak out early'. Euan smiled and bowed politely and exited.

Resigned to his fate Timothy stood as she held out her hand. But Timothy had snatched the other triangle in one hand and the rest of his drink with the other. She relieved him of the drink. She leaned over and whispered, "Bow to your King." Timothy's eyes went large realizing JUST how bad he messed up. He turned around and put his hand at his waist, sandwich and all and bowed then looking up at his nana. She turned and said, "Bow to the Queen Regent and thank her for allowing you to sit with them."

Timothy turned and bowed again before saying, "Thank you for allowing me to sit with you and, uhm, I'm sorry."

Margaret reached out and placed her hand under his chin lifting his eyes to meet hers. "You are very welcome Timothy." Then her eyes met Alma's, "He was refreshing and did nothing wrong. He is just a boy being a boy. Please do not be upset with him." Alma's eyes smiled, she gave a slight bow as she looked down at him and led him off towards the kitchen. "You're lucky young man, you got a Royal Pardon on this one, and I think I need to have a talk with Geoffrey about the language he uses around you . . ." it trailed off as they exited the room.

Julian stood, "When you are ready, these gentlemen will show you to your rooms. If you'll excuse me, I think I could use a bit of freshening up myself. And I need to make a few calls to make sure some of the people we need to hear from are here for the meeting after tea. We'll chime tea at two." He bowed and left the room.

The royal suites continued the Italian villa look with scads of artwork from many masters as well as local artists. It had a sitting room and dining room for entertaining as well as two private suites with their own sitting rooms. The terrace had beautiful views of the beaches and from one end a view of the city. It was a breathtaking accommodation.

Euan and his father were in a private suite down the hall from the royal suites and the opposite end of the hall from the governor's private rooms. The queen smiled in appreciation as her chamber maid and dressers showed her into the room with the beautiful four poster decked in sheer white chiffon drapes. More practical for the tropics than the traditional heavy velvet of Europe. They were more decorative than functional but they made the look complete. She looked around and said, "I think I shall shower before I dress for tea." Everyone scurried to make her wishes happen.

Arthur took the opportunity to step into his room as well. There he saw a young man neatly arranging the clothes he would be wearing to tea on the valet stand and brushing them. Arthur studied him momentarily stunned by his features.

The man noticed him and bowed most deeply before rising. "Your Highness. I am Mackleford. I will be your chamber servant, assistant and personal valet while you are with us if that's agreeable?"

Arthur realized he was anticipating an answer. "Oh yes, quite. Thank you."

"Excellent then. May I draw you a cool bath your Highness? I've taken the opportunity to set out some cooler clothes for you. The humidity can get quite high here in the afternoons."

"Yes, thank you. Even with the air conditioning it feels quite thick, a cool bath would not come amiss."

"Excellent, here is a dressing gown. I'll run your bath." He moved to the ensuite and started preparing the bath. "Would you like cool or tepid your Majesty?"

"Tepid I think, perhaps even on the warmer side. That way when I get out the air will feel cooler."

"Very well and thank you Your Highness. Master Euan explained your request to have me serve as your valet to Mr. Giddings. I am very honored, thank you. I've been training for nearly two years now and there just isn't a place for me on the island yet. I do fill in when someone wants a holiday or has guests; the opportunity to serve the King of the Commonwealth will help my resume greatly."

At first he didn't understand, then it clicked, Euan! Arthur didn't know whether to kill him or kiss him. "Oh, uhm, yes, it was my pleasure. You looked like someone I could easily get along with."

"Indeed Your Highness?" he queried.

"Uhm, yes, you are much closer to my age and that makes me more comfortable." he lied.

Mackleford gave a solemn bow, "I shall endeavor to succeed in every way I can then."

"Good! Then let's begin by dropping the titles when we are in private. Except for when Euan is here, you can call me Arthur in front of him. He knows how I am."

"Begging your pardon Your Highness. But that would be improper for me in monumental proportions."

"Mackleford how old are you?"

"Nearly seventeen, your Highness."

"Well I'm nearly fifteen. If you are going to do all these jobs, communication will at times need to be swift and to the point if we're to get anything done. And the pressure of all the pomp and ceremony can be stifling and I won't have it in my bedchamber do you understand?" He paused for effect. "This is my refuge from the day, I'll need friends without the trappings in here. Does that make sense?" He didn't wait for an answer. "So it would please me if you would call me Arthur when we are in private. We don't need to tell anyone else. Well except Euan." He paused. "Can you do that for me?"

Mackleford smiled. He understood. "Yes Arthur. And please, call me Max. I prefer it over Maxwell if it pleases you."

Arthur's eyes locked momentarily on Max before he looked away. "It does. Now, is the bath overflowing yet?"

Max smiled and walked over to Arthur. "No, I shut it off and it is cooling, I left room to adjust it to your preferences. I haven't learned exactly how you like it. As I learn about you I will make note so it is done just the way you desire the next time. So if you will be patient with me I shall endeavor to learn as much about you as I can to shorten the learning curve."

He gathered Arthur's garments as Arthur made his way to the bath; hanging his robe he stepped into the extra deep tub and enjoyed the perfect water temperature and allowed it to calm him. Arthur washed himself and leaned back to soak a little longer when he heard Max come back bringing fresh towels.

Max smiled, "How was the temperature?"

"It was perfect thank you." Arthur noticed that his problem was growing again, just thinking about being in front of Max and the water still being clear enough to see plainly. Arthur shifted slightly and started to lean forward to nonchalantly remove his erection from view. Max took that incorrectly to indicate that he was done with his bath. He reached over and pushed a button to start the drain and turned the water on and adjusted the temperature then handed him the wand to rinse himself. Arthur knew there was nothing for it and took it and rinsed himself off. Max turned and retrieved the dressing gown and held it open for him trying not to notice his condition. Arthur walked up the steps out of the tub and stepped into the dressing gown. Tying the belt he looked down to see the silk did nothing to constrain his embarrassment. Turning to Max he could see that he was in the same state. He looked up into Max's eyes, "You too?" He asked.

"Arthur we are teens. I think we're more this way than not some days. Don't ever worry about it around me and certainly don't ever be embarrassed." Arthur smiled, "Thank you."

Two o'clock came and the dinner service was the very best. The fare was light, and had that Giddings' touch that seems to make everything just a little better than it otherwise would. And the lemon sorbet that was served was just the right touch.

Mr. Giddings came in and whispered something to Julian. He nodded and looked at Margaret. "Our guests are here to help brief us on the state of the refugees. If you'd like to retire to our conference room we'll get started." Margaret looked to Arthur to answer him. Thus letting Julian know that Arthur was in charge and that she was deferring to him.

Arthur smiled, "Excellent! Mother may I escort you?"

Margaret stood and of course everyone else stood as well, "The flight has tired me. I think I'll return to my quarters." She was giving him his head. It was sink or swim time. He looked unsteady for a moment and she placed her hand on his cheek and smiled as she gave him a kiss on the cheek as she whispered, "You can do this. Remember that Durrell is there if you get stuck, look to him." Then she turned and smiled as she left the room.

Arthur looked at Durrell and Julian. He noticed that Euan stood with them. That made him feel a little more relaxed. "Shall we, gentlemen?" They made their way out of the dining room where Max was waiting and fell in behind him with a tablet and briefcase in his hands Arthur noticed and smiled. "You'll take good notes I hope."

Max smiled, "I will." He said simply.

Arthur walked in and everyone rose, "Please, everyone be seated." Max took the seat to Arthur's right and pulled a stand for his notepad out and set it up with the notepad on it. He reached into the briefcase and pulled out a roll up keyboard and pushed a button and the keyboard synced to the notepad. He placed his hands over the home positions and started to type, noting the date and place and as each attendee was introduced he typed their name next to a number. That number Arthur found out later represented the person speaking in the notes.

The governor spoke first giving introductions before turning to the gentleman who would speak first and most. "Dr. Harlow, perhaps you can start by giving us an overview of the situation as it stands."

"Certainly. Your Highness, if I may." Arthur nodded, "At present we have 2,896 refugees on land and 4,500 on the Disney ship moored in port. The second Disney ship was off loaded and was called into service by the Naval forces. Hence the reasons the remaining ship has such a high number of refugees. This makes a total of 7,396 and are told to expect perhaps as many as two thousand more before all is said and done. Thanks to the military we have those on land in a tent city near the military base. There is a large park there. We have thirty-four in the infirmary for various injuries."

Arthur stopped him. "You have 2,896 people in tents in this heat?" The governor raised his hand to tell Dr. Harlow that he would respond.

"Your Highness, we have to vet these people first. None of them have any ID as it was taken from them by their captors. And as much as I'd like to give them the run of the island I also have to keep safety in mind. Just a short time ago we had a saboteur on the island that killed one and almost cost the life of several, including Admiral Norris. So although it is not the best circumstance we must wait until we can verify who these people are.

"We have shifted the families without kids to the tent city and have tried to fit as many families with young kids on the Disney ship as it was provisioned and still had the crew. We thought it would help the kids to deal with their trauma a bit better. Unfortunately we could not fit them all."

"Did you receive the software from Kettle Falls?"

"We did and we installed it. It's just an empty database. Our people were not familiar with the program so we are using our own." Arthur turned to Euan who stood up.

Arthur turned to the governor, "Who is in charge of this phase; the database?"

A young man raised his hand timidly, "Your Highness, my name is Marcus Bateman. I'm in charge of the database."

"Excellent, please let Euan help you with the software sent to you. I assure you it will be much faster and it will also allow you to check backgrounds instantly. And we will need this on about a dozen machines if the number we suspect are to arrive." Marcus nodded and he went with Euan. Arthur turned his attention back to the governor. "After they are vetted where do you intend to house them?"

"We were going to set up temporary housing but it will be a few weeks until the necessary materials and equipment can get here. So where they are I suppose would be the best answer don't you think?" Arthur thought for a moment seeking an answer when he glanced over at the note tablet and saw the words, 'HOTELS No business because of war.' Arthur smiled as he turned to the governor. "What about the hotels?"

"Refugees? Put up in a hotel? But who would pay for it?" The governor was flabbergasted with the youthful king.

"The Crown of course, it's our operation. Get the managers of the largest three hotels here as quickly as possible please." The governor looked at his aide and nodded. He got up and left the room. The governor leaned in to whisper to Arthur, "Your Highness, perhaps you would like some time to confer with the Queen Regent? This is going to be VERY costly." Arthur glared for a moment before taking a breath to calm himself. "Thank you Governor, but my mother has entrusted this task to me and has told me to use my own discretion." He could see the frustration in the governor's eyes. He decided he didn't need this man to be an adversary. He leaned closer and whispered, "Julian, I will keep mother apprised but before I speak to her I need to have more facts. Right now these hoteliers are looking at empty rooms. I think we can make it work for both sides. Please trust me here." Julian smiled and relaxed a little. That was enough to appease him.

Arthur turned back to Dr. Harlow, "Doctor, do you have everything you need to treat the sick and injured?"

"Mostly, your Highness. There is another issue however and that is that many of these people have been without medications for their conditions for some time. Some know what they were taking but not the dosage. Some are clueless about what they were taking."

"Don't they have books with pictures of the individual pills and such? Can't we get a pharmacist to sit with them? If they know they were being treated for a heart condition and knew what the pill looked like they should be able to narrow it down. I'll check to see if the computer system can add to that information." He looked at Max, "Please note for me to call Carson in Kettle Falls if the software isn't able to produce a list of medications for the people on the list."

Arthur looked up again, "Gentlemen, let me cut to the chase quickly, is there anything vital that needs to be addressed regarding the immediate needs of the refugees? Anything lacking? Water, food, clothing?"

The governor responded, "We have calls into the Imperial Privy Council and they are addressing the needs for clothing and food. The hospital ship HMHS Succour has the most common medicines prescribed in the U.S. coming in to resupply them. The desalination plant that the Crown so graciously provided us is working at optimum efficiency and provides sufficient amounts for the island inhabitants as well as our refugees."

"Excellent. I think that we should consider having the HMHS Succour receive our new refugees, have them vetted onboard and given a physical checkup. They can issue medicines and clothing right from there so the good Dr. Harlow only has to deal with what occurs after they get here. Gentleman, we realize this island cannot hold them all, we are working on opening doors so that if these people have relatives in areas of safety we can release them in areas or those countries where they have family to help. Rest assured we are working on it." He looked back to the Doctor, "Dr. Harlow have you any psychologists within the refugees?"

"We have Dr. Gaines, a psychologist and two other medical doctors. We also have a nurse. Beyond that, I do not know Your Majesty."

"This software will tell us what each person does as well. If we can utilize some of their talents we can make their situations better. It also helps them mentally to stay busy." He turned to Max, "Please note that we need to get with the Imperial Privy Council and see if they can locate a few psychologists with particular expertise in refugee needs and the trauma associated with being held as captives." Max only nodded in acknowledgement.

"Governor, have you received word on supplies like clothing and relief aid from the Privy Council yet?"

"Yes Your Majesty. We have actually received some emergency shipments just yesterday and are expecting goods to be received continuously over the next few weeks."

"If I may, Your Majesty," it was a man in military uniform but he had come in after the introductions. Arthur could see had the rank of Major. Arthur nodded, "I am Major Carmichael with the Royal Bermuda Regiment. My apologies for arriving late, I was in the air flying CAP when I heard about the meeting. Let me first say, welcome to the island. I know you are as concerned about the heat as were we. So I took the liberty to open our mothballed bunker from when the Americans had a base here. They had a complete MUST hospital which they developed and found unsuitable for combat areas because of a design flaw that could not be remedied. So when they left, they just left it. And . . . well we sorted out how to set it up and did just that. They are basically inflatable Quonset huts that are raised with U-PACK generators. We managed to acquire a couple of those," and here his eyes lifted to the ceiling hoping no one would question where they came from. "In short, we did not set up the equipment inside as we were clueless as to how that part all worked but what it did do was to give us five huts all attached together and five CONEX hard rooms and the entire complex is air conditioned. So the refugees only need deal with the heat after the sun goes down. During the day, they spend the time in the huts. So it's not as brutal as it may appear. We have also set up showers. They may not have hot water but with the heat no one minds it much. We ARE doing our best to keep them as comfortable as we can." He sat back down. The governor smiled. He was unaware of this and was pleased the major took the initiative.

He looked at him for a moment, "I believe those U-PACK generators are still in service as they provide many functions, we are lucky that they left us a couple." The major smiled, "Well sir, we have a couple men that are . . . let's say very resourceful when it comes to the needs of the unit."

Julian smiled, he had suspected as much, "Thank you for your resourceful response, I am pleased that you saw an opportunity and acted on it, I'm sure the refugees are grateful as well."

"Thank you sir." The major responded relieved that they were not going to delve further into his actions.

Arthur smiled, "Thank you. I feel much better knowing they are not sweltering."

Arthur went on, "The software Euan is helping to set up ties in with a central computer system in the U.S. and it will populate the database with a lot of useful information about our guests. Things like relatives so it will allow the displaced to be reunited with their families if they are registered in the database whether here, in Canada or Kettle Falls or wherever one of these databases is opened once it is tied into the system. It is an incredible system that seems to not find governmental firewalls a problem as it retrieves a vast amount of information almost instantly. I will be very surprised if it is unable to address the medical conditions and medications. So far I have not seen anything requested that it has not been able to acquire in that regard."

The meeting continued for nearly two hours before Julian's assistant entered the room and whispered to Julian who then turned to Arthur, "Your Highness, the three gentlemen who manage the largest of our hotels are here."

"Good, please show them in." He looked up to the rest of the men in the room, "If the rest of you would like a break this would be an excellent time. I'll try not to tie you up much longer, I know you all have a lot to do. Please feel welcome to remain if you wish as well. However, I would ask that these three chairs directly across from us be surrendered for a few minutes to the gentlemen being shown in. Would you mind?" The three men, of course, did not object. The question was taken as a royal order. There was much shuffling around as the three men were led into the conference room and shown to the now vacant chairs.

"Gentlemen, thank you so very much for your prompt attendance. Let me make this short and to the point. I am sure you are all aware that we have several thousands of refugees here on the island. I would like to house them in your hotels if that meets with your agreement."

The three men looked at each other and one, smiled and spoke, "Your Highness, I am flattered that you have chosen our hotel. But of course you can see that it costs a great deal to maintain this many guests. Who would be compensating us for the costs associated with such a venture? I mean we are compassionate men but we are also businessmen with shareholders to consider."

"Indeed and I understand. Tell me, what would you consider fair compensation for the rooms? A mean average, I mean. I understand that some rooms are better than others. But what would you consider a fair per room price?"

"Well, uhm, your Majesty, On average our rooms run around $500 US or 250 pounds sterling." He said smiling and unflinching. Arthur glanced at the notepad Max was working on and saw Trivago open and for this man's hotel it showed $629 marked down to $169. He smiled.

"Yes, I am sure that in a time of peace that is what you would expect. But I am also sure you've noticed that the U.S. is currently in a civil war. It may not have been announced but it should be plain to anyone watching the news. That would mean you will not see any revenue even from booked rooms as they have effectively shut their borders down in or out. So, I have researched Trivago and a few others. We will pay you $150 per room per night. Food and beverages will of course be separate and we will cover that in full. Is that agreed? Gentlemen, I can appreciate that you are not making the profits you normally would, however you ARE making something and you are going to have 100% occupancy during the rest of this crisis."

They still looked ready to make a counter offer but Arthur moved first. "Of course, the Crown would be well within their rights to just decide to barracks all our military in your fine establishments and move the refugees into their base housing but then you would make nothing, would you?"

The three men looked at each other then back to the king and agreed. "Wonderful, we'll just call the $145 compassionate pricing!" Arthur exclaimed and extended his hand to the men. The men looked like they just tasted an egg fart, they had just lost another $5 per room. Arthur noticed that one of the men, a tall good looking middle-aged man glared at Max when the mention of Trivago came up. He made a mental note to ask Max about it later.

"You shall have your first arrivals tomorrow at midday I think. But perhaps sooner. Now, gentlemen, these people have been through a great deal. Please be compassionate. Know that many will not have ID and NO One will be turned away for lack of identification and no one will be asked for a credit card, do you understand?"

They all nodded and Arthur spoke again, "Thank you for coming. If there are any difficulties please call here and ask for me personally. I may ask Euan or my assistant Max here to address the issue but either of them will be acting under my authority do you understand?"

All three responded, "Yes, Your Majesty."

"Good, thank you for coming so promptly. We will be contacting you each separately to establish exactly how many rooms you have that are serviceable. Thank you."

The men left, not smiling but not upset either. Each was hoping to be at the Royal trough, so to speak. But this young king drove a hard bargain. Each hoped they could gain a little on food and beverages though.The tall man stopped, as did the other two when they saw him pause, there was a twinkle in his eye. He looked at the two men smiling before he spoke. "He did say they would pay for food and beverages did he not?"

The other two nodded. "Then I think we should be going, I don't know what you two are planning but I'm going to plan one hell of a party. It's the American's Thanksgiving Day later this week, I think the young king is going to have one hell of a bar bill." He placed his arms across the shoulders of the two shorter now smiling men.

"There you go. Now, did they give you a login Marcus?"

"Oh, not that I'm aware of. Honestly I did not even see any documentation. They just gave me a download link."

"I see." Euan thought for a moment. "May I?" He asked sliding the computer in front of himself. He brought up Google and typed in, 'Dizzy Kettle Falls this is Euan MacDougall' and he hit enter.

Marcus just looked at him, "Who is Dizzy? And do you really . . ." but the screen came to life. "Hello Euan how are you?"

"I am well Dizzy. I'm trying to set up the database here in Bermuda and we don't have a login."

"Yes, we've been wondering why it was downloaded and never activated. Let me help you." It gave them the user name to use and a password and as they logged in the database became active. "Thanks Dizzy, I hope all is well with everyone there, I miss many of the friends we made."

"If there is anyone you'd like to speak with I can connect you."

"Thank you. I think I will take you up on that at a later date. Tell me Dizzy, can we use this same login for additional computers?"

"Certainly Euan, any computer using this log in will be tied to the same Bermuda database. If there is a connection to someone in one of the other areas a banner flag will come up telling you there is a connection and it will link you to that person's information page. You can message them there and we will arrange for them to face chat."

"That's great Dizzy, I'll keep that in mind and let Arthur know as well."

"Euan, are you going to be the person administrating the database in Bermuda?"

"No Dizzy, let me introduce you to Marcus Bateman, he will be in charge here. I've just been helping them to get connected. Seems they didn't understand how to make it work properly so they were using their own database."

"We included a readme text in the compressed file folder they downloaded. Was it worded improperly?"

Marcus blushed and turned the computer to face himself, "No, I'm sorry Dizzy. I didn't even think to look at it as it is usually like FAQ's on a website. They are seldom able to answer any real world questions so I didn't even think to look, my apologies."

"That's no problem at all Marcus. I'll make a note to instruct the next setup to get their login information from the file."

"Dizzy, I would love to sit and chat but I have an incredible amount of work to redo."

"Would you like me to import the information you have entered in the other database?"

"Yes please? Let me get the filename for you."

"No need Marcus, I've found it. You should be seeing your database being populated at this moment. Your internet speed is very slow. I'll reallocate bandwidth on the satellite you are using. Just a moment." Marcus watched and noticed the database stop loading names for a moment and his computer wireless card popped up a banner saying it was resetting. A moment later and the database started scrolling too fast to read. Moments later it was populated and banners were coming up, stars were appearing next to names with contacts. "This is AMAZING!" Marcus exclaimed.

"Thank you Marcus. Is there anything else that I can help you with?"

"No Dizzy, thank you. How do I contact you if I have any questions?"

"In the top left corner of your database window is a chat button. You can also do as Euan did and google me in Kettle Falls and I'll connect with you."

"Dizzy you rock, we'll talk later."

"Bye Marcus, call anytime." Dizzy disconnected. Marcus just looked at Euan.

"Dizzy is an amazing bit of programing."

Euan smiled, "You have no idea."

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