Castle Roland

The Art of War

by Ricky

In Progress

Chapter 5

Published: 6 Jul 17

The Art of War

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

Art of War Logo"Ethan, I'm planning a trip to the Disney Cruise ship tomorrow to see if things are going well there and to find out if there are any needs not being addressed. I was wondering if maybe Raj and Peri would like to come. I'm thinking that you guys can infiltrate the children's groups and get a perspective we may not from the adults. Are you up for it?"

"Hmm, a mission!" He looked over at Raj and Peri, "What do you think guys? We might have to mix a bit in the pool, the arcades and the theaters."

Raj got a grin, "This might take more than a day. I mean how well can we cover that much thoroughly in a single day. Building a fa├žade could take some time to be convincing."

Arthur grinned, "Especially when you have your detail with you. That reminds me, Ethan will you help Peri learn about his detail and how to work with them?"

"My detail?" Peri asked.

"Oh yes, you'll have at least two men assigned to you, probably three so that you are covered around the clock. Just like Ethan. You're part of the Royal family now, so you'll have to get used to it."

"But I'm just a ward."

"And that makes you someone that could be used to leverage us into some kind of position, so it puts you at a greater risk. Therefore, you are to be protected. They're great guys and they are the best of the best so listen to them. We'll see that you get introduced shortly."

"And thanks to my brother's disappearing act, we get these very cool new watches to wear. They have GPS tracking on them. They also have a panic button."

"Really? Let me see." Arthur said taking his wrist. "At least they are stylish. Oh and Peri, we'll be leaving right after your physical. So right after breakfast you'll see the Royal physician."

"I'm not sick."

"Yes, it's not about being sick. It's about remaining healthy. He'll check to make sure everything is up to snuff and it will give him a baseline to work from should you get sick or injured down the road."

"Will I have to get shots?"

"Good question, I don't have an answer. I'm sure he'll take some blood but he's very good at it. You'll survive."

"But I was just at the doctor's for the adoption."

"We'll see if those tests are available. But I think he'll want to do his own. He's pretty particular about those things and he's far more exhaustive in the tests he'll be running. He checks everything that can be checked and then makes up a few of his own I think."

Ethan chimed in, "We'll go with you. We get one every year. Really, it's nothing to worry about. Raj can hold your hand."

"Sorry, I don't do blood. I'll wait until you're out." Raj interjected with a grin.

"Raj, don't be a chicken shit. I never knew you were that way about blood."

"You don't recall getting the ball in the face and me having to sit down because I got dizzy?"

"Uhm, no, I was sorta preoccupied with the blood running down my face to notice." Raj sat down at the description and was turning ashen.

"No problem," Peri spoke up, "Raj can just wait outside. I'll just deal with it."

Arthur put his hand on Peri's shoulder, "Good man. We'll always be here for you. You know that right?"

"Don't say that. Don't ever say that. That's what my dads always said. And they're gone. Don't ever say that. You can't know." Peri bolted and ran for the door. They all looked stunned. Arthur just looked at Raj.

"I'll go." Raj said and started for the door.

"Raj, wait." Placing a hand on his shoulder, "Do you know what happened to his dads?"

"No." his eyes met Arthur's.

Arthur pursed his lips and he took a deep breath. "Ashwood's men killed them in front of him. Told him they were saving him from them. Look, console him, but don't stop him from crying. He needs to grieve. He needs to get it out."

Raj's eyes welled with unshed tears as he too bolted for the door. Ethan just looked at Arthur. "Ashwood has to die. You know that right?"

"Yes; and quickly, before he is able to commit any more atrocities than he is already responsible for. You're a lot like Mom, you know that, yes?"

"What do you mean?"

"She reacted the same way you did. Calm and decisive and completely in control of the rage that was boiling inside of her. I've never seen her like that. It was sort of unnerving that my mother could so calmly state that she would like to nuke Washington just to get him. I have never seen her so angry and yet so calm." He looked at Ethan, "You may be better suited for the throne than me. I just want to cry and hold Peri. I want to hold all of them. Then I want to scream and hit something; anything, just hit it a lot until I am too tired to swing anymore. I don't have the calm demeanor under rage that you both have."

"That's nonsense!" Euan's voice cut in.

"When did you get back? I thought you were with your dad for the afternoon."

"The queen needed him. Look, I just saw Peri and Raj. Has something happened?"

"I told Peri that we would always be here for him and that triggered his present condition. Apparently that's what his dads said to him, and then they were killed."

"And you think that because you didn't want to calmly kill Ashwood that you're not suited for the throne? Arthur, what I saw from you all the way through our ordeal was anything but someone in meltdown. You did what needed to be done at the time with deliberate calmness. And while it's true that perhaps you don't have the ability to calmly and instantly turn to someone and say, 'Kill the bastard', you would see it done after careful thought. And that's an important quality to have in a king."

"He's right Arthur. I could easily do just that. But I don't see all the things that it would affect. Although I haven't seen it firsthand, I can see by what you went through, you did it more like Father than I would have. Father had that ability too. He would temper his anger with compassion and an awareness that he dare not act rashly. Then, after careful thought and consulting others, he would act decisively. I have no doubt that you will do the same. Arthur, you are the King. I don't want that responsibility. But know that right or wrong, I will always be at your side. And if you ever need prodding to turn to someone and say, 'Kill that bastard' I'll be on hand to nudge you along the right path."

Arthur said "That was one hell of a speech from a young brother!" and pulled his brother into a hug. Something he never did before. Ethan returned the embrace for a moment before it became awkward. "Hey, let's not get all mushy here." He pulled back, "And look, Mother told me I needed to apologize to you and Max. And she's right. What I said was thoughtless and a perfect example of what I was saying, I don't think, I react. And I'm sorry." He looked Arthur in the eyes, "And I'll be by your side when that finally comes out too. I promise."

Arthur smiled. "Thank you. Because I think I'll really need you there."

"Arthur, Marcus Bateman just called. There is an issue that needs a king's touch. It seems we have almost 350 people that we could send off to Spain but the Spanish government is refusing to issue visas. Seventy of them are Spanish citizens that just have no ID or passport now. They are saying it will take six weeks minimum to get them replacement passports. And they are concerned with it being such a massive number of people that they may get terrorists mixed in with the refugees. They are suggesting that they should be shipped down to Argentina since it's closer anyways. The problem is of course that the Argentineans are fighting on the side of Ashwood."

"I see." Arthur thought for a moment, his head racing through his avenues of support before looking at Euan. Grinning he sheepishly said, "And I haven't the faintest idea what to do about it. Perhaps your father can suggest something?"

"He and the queen are together now. It might be a good time to ask." Euan added.

Raj knocked lightly on Peri's door before opening it and entering. Spotting Peri laying on the bed sobbing he went over and kicked off his shoes and snuggled in behind him and just held him. Peri rolled over and hugged him and sobbed. Raj's tears flowed to, but much more silently. He wanted to take the pain away from his new friend but knew it was his to bear. Soon the tears went dry and the two enjoyed a secure feeling in slumber.

"Your Majesty, Sir Durrell." Arthur said as he interrupted their meeting.

Margaret smiled, "Oh dear, this sounds terribly official."

"It is I'm afraid. The King of Spain is refusing to accommodate nearly 70 of his own citizens and another 280 that have family that are citizens, suggesting it would take six weeks or more to vet them and repaper them or to issue visas. He further suggests that we repatriate them to Argentina."

"Yes, well Spain is in a middle ground right now. Argentina is a possession and they aren't exactly neutral. There are some workarounds if we must. But head on is the fastest but I don't think you will like what I suggest here," Durrell said rising to his feet. "There IS one person who is in our cabinet that doesn't love the U.S. and is close friends with the Spanish Prime Minister. He may be more successful. That of course would be Lord Duncan."

Arthur recoiled for just a moment. "Are there other choices?"

"Not really. We could see if France or Portugal would take them and slowly through their embassies get replacement papers but that would take much more time and a lot more work."

Arthur thought for a moment before Margaret chimed in, "If you prefer, I can place a call to him if you're not comfortable doing so. But there will be many times when you will meet and have to deal with people you dislike or even oppose. If you choose to do this yourself you will need to be very diplomatic. He needs to feel that he is needed and no one else can do what he does."

"Thank you Mother. I'll try and handle this myself." Turning to Max, "Can you get Lord Duncan on the phone for me please?"

The camera shows the Queen Regent seated at a table. Standing behind her is Arthur. The Privy Council is called to order by her.

"Lords and Ladies of the Privy Council, we have called you together to update you on the state of affairs concerning our involvement in matters with the United States of America. I'm sure you have all followed the occurrences through the press. We're here to tell you that it has affected us more directly and that has not made the news.

"Besides Ashwood's forces shooting across our border and killing a Canadian citizen which brought us in to help in the Northeast, it has come to our attention that two citizens visiting were summarily executed in front of their son. The boy was then kidnapped and subsequently rescued by forces loyal to President Bryce. I am sure you have all seen the interview with His Royal Highness and know about the bombing and murder of innocents. We still have no idea if any of our citizens were lost in these unspeakable crimes against humanity. We must also be fearful that he will release something more hazardous into the atmosphere.

"We have thus far offered limited assistance in the way of troops and support. We are here to say that we have offered and will render any and all help requested by the Bryce administration. We have not, as of yet declared war, but we are on a war footing and need to bring all resources to bear on a moment's notice. Study the information being forwarded to you. If a vote is needed it must be done on a moment's notice. Prepare yourselves and be ready.

"Commanders and Chiefs of Staff. We will have a readiness status report from you in 48 hours.

"Thank you."

Arthur knocked lightly on Peri's door before opening it and finding the two snuggled together. He lightly rubbed Peri's shoulder, "Hey sleepy-head, dinner will be ready soon. I thought you might like to get awake and freshen up a little."

Peri rubbed his eyes and Raj released him and sat up. Peri looked at Arthur, "I'm sorry."

Arthur took him in his arms, "You have nothing to be sorry about. You've been through a lot. When we get settled, we'll find a doctor who can help you work through these feelings. There are a lot of things that sort of go haywire in our thinking when something this horrible happens. He'll help you sort through the emotions and help you to deal with them." He pulled back from him to look him in the eyes. "I'm sure I'll need to spend some time with him too. Until then, just know that you are loved and have a family here to hold you. Okay?"

Peri nodded.

"Good, go wash your face and you guys come down. Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes. I don't know about you guys, but I'm starved."

Raj and Peri headed for the en-suite to freshen up and Arthur retired to do the same.

"Raj, thanks."

"For what?"

"For holding me. But why were you crying?"

Raj looked down for a moment. "I was coming to hold you because I knew you were in pain. Arthur stopped me. He told me what happened to you, to your dads. I can't imagine..." and his tears flowed again.

Peri held Raj this time. "Thanks, just knowing that someone can feel some of the sadness makes it easier to bear." They washed up and with Raj's arm over Peri's shoulder the two friends went downstairs.

"Lord Duncan, thank you for taking my call."

"I'm always here for the Crown your Majesty."

"Indeed you are. And I'm afraid my youth has not given me pause to get to know you better. It's no secret that we are at odds on many things. I will endeavor to listen more and perhaps we will find more common ground. Sir Durrell and the Queen Regent have spoken highly of you. And in fact I am... or rather we are, in need of your services if you are willing."

"You appear to be maturing quicker than I would have suspected Your Majesty. Perhaps I too need to listen a little more. When we are older, we tend to get set in our ways and often forget there may be more than one path to a destination. I would very much like to get to know you more and better. Now how may I be of service to you?"

"We have approximately 350 refugees of Spanish descent. Seventy of which are citizens of Spain itself. The king however has refused to take them saying that it would take weeks to re-document them. He is, of course, also afraid that there may be trouble makers mixed in with the lot. He is suggesting that we repatriate them to Argentina which, I am sure you know, is working with Mr. Ashwood's forces so that's out of the question. I'm told that you have a quite good relationship with the Prime Minister and was hoping that you might be able to work on this?"

"Nothing could be easier. It may be more efficacious if I am there closer to the refugees. I'll leave in the morning."

"Thank you Lord Duncan. I will look forward to your arrival. And thank you again, it will give us more of a chance to get to know one another."

"Until then." The call was terminated.

"Well that went well." Max said

"I still don't like him or trust him."

"Trust takes time to establish. Just keep in mind that just because you do not like someone does not mean you can not trust them. He can be loyal to the Crown and still not like you."

"Me? What's not to like?" Arthur chided smiling.

"I'll stand corrected then." Max smiled back.

"Mrs. Giddings, that lamb was just superb. And the mint sauce was unlike any other I have ever tasted. It was exquisite. I shall have to be careful or I'll have to visit the royal corset maker!"

"Thank you your Majesty. Rosemary made the mint sauce, I'll tell her how much you enjoyed it. She has a way with the herbs that just amazes me."

"I think we'll let dinner settle and perhaps have desert in the sitting room in a little while. I'm hoping we can get Peri to sing for us tonight if he's still willing."

All eyes turned to Peri, "Yes, Aunt Margaret, I'd be delighted to sing for you." He looked nervously at Raj, who was beaming. She stood as did everyone else. Raj turned to Peri, "You sing?" Peri's eyes dropped. "Classical. You may not like it. You don't have to stay."

"What are you singing?"

"I expect that they will want me to sing Pie Jesu."

Raj's eyes lit up, "Which version?"

Peri's eye's lit up then. "I usually sing Faure's version."

"If you sing Webber's I'll join you, I'll sing the descant."

"Let's excuse ourselves to the restroom for a quick run through."

"Done!" Raj turned to Ethan, "We're going to run up and use the loo, be right back."

"How did your call with Lord Duncan go Arthur?"

"I think it went well. He has agreed to help us in this matter and will be arriving tomorrow sometime. We even spoke a bit on our differences and have agreed to try and get to know each other a little better."

"Excellent! Your father would be very proud of you." The queen looked over at Max who stood dutifully in the corner, "Max, please come and sit with us. There is no reason for you to stand. It's an informal time with just family. Sit and let us enjoy your company and let us get to know you."

The queen's aide had a seat behind the queen. Max glanced at her for a moment and reached for a chair, "Sit here next to Arthur so I can see you better. I understand you are going to be with us for a very long time so it's time we get to know each other a little better."

"Thank you your Majesty. I hope to serve well."

"I would not ever consider otherwise."

Raj and Peri walked in and up to the Queen Regent and bowed. "Aunt Margaret, this song is a very emotional one for me right now so Raj has agreed to sing it with me."

The Queen Regent smiled, "Raj, you've been hiding a secret from us."

Raj smiled, "It's perhaps not one of Ethan's favorite genre's of music Your Majesty." He said smiling.

They stepped away and took a calming breath and began the Pie Jesu. The hall filled with first Peri's voice and then Raj's. The moving echos complimented each other and yet even with the beauty, silent tears fell softly. They continued until the last note fell. Margaret got up and pulled Peri and Raj into a hug. "That was beautiful, thank you." Tissues were used by most, even Ethan had one tucked away. When Raj spoke, "Your Majesty, Peri," he said placing a hand on his shoulder. "I would like to sing you a special song. Well, it's special to me."

He looked Peri in the eyes, "My mother was killed in an earthquake, she was never recovered. This song helps me when I am feeling down and I miss her." Raj stepped back from them and clasped his hands in front of him as he began in his clear treble voice:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle, gentle autumn rain.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
When you awake in the morning hush.
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft, soft starlight, starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.[1]

As the last note trailed off, Peri left the Queen Regent's embrace and walked up to Raj and took his hands in his. "Thank you for that gift." He leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

The door opened and right on cue a rattling trolley of delights was making its way into the room. "I thought with all the tears we needed to sweeten the mood. We have all the makings for hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, we've some pies and sweet breads. We'll let you serve yourself if that meets with everyone's approval?" And it did.

"Arthur, Lord Duncan will be arriving at approximately eleven this morning. That is going to be right at the beginning of your cruise ship tour."

"Dear me. And I've disappointed Timothy once already."

Euan piped up, "Why don't you go and welcome Lord Duncan and Timothy and I will hang out and see if we can get a game of football, soccer that is, going or something."

"Euan, you wouldn't mind?"

"Not at all. I think it will be a great adventure."


"And Arthur, just an update, Marcus said that they have matched nearly 1700 in the database to others in Canada and other places in the Commonwealth. So we can begin sending many of our refugees to be with family as soon as arrangements are made. Of the incoming refugees we have matched nearly forty children with one or more parents and the Succour will be transporting those here first to expedite their reconciliation."

"Excellent. Let's see if we can get them into hotel rooms. I think it might facilitate reunification better than aboard a crowded ship."

"An excellent idea. I'll see if we can shift a few families over to the cruise ship to open up some places.

"If there are smaller hotels or bed and breakfasts, we might use a few of them for repatriation places. Reuniting should have calm surroundings I think."

"I'll check into that now Arthur."

"Lord Duncan, Welcome to Bermuda. I trust your flight was a pleasant one?"

"Since when is flying in or out of Heathrow pleasant? But knowing the destination, my seat could have been made of granite and it would still have been a good flight." He glanced around and noticed the Queen Regent wasn't with him. "Is the Queen well?"

"She is indeed. She asked me to convey her apologies for not meeting you personally." He paused for a moment and smiled, "She's a little under the weather but instructed me to say she would join you for tea. We have a helicopter here ready to deposit us at Government House." They walked toward the helicopter as Arthur continued, "I have obligations that will necessitate my missing tea I'm afraid, but I thought you might like to settle in today and perhaps we could start in on things in the morning?"

Lord Duncan smiled, "A well thought out plan. May I ask where you're off to then?"

"The Disney Cruise ship we are using to house most of the refugees. I've yet to visit there and wish to make sure everything is being handled properly."

"Ah well that explains the relaxed attire of your security. Does your mother believe things may be amiss there?"

"Not at all. It's my decision. If I'm in charge of this effort, then I want first hand information whenever it is possible. I'm still young and learning. I need to see if I'm missing things and then correct them when they are spotted. My mother and Sir Durrell have availed themselves in the event I need advice. Mother assured me that you are also well versed in these operations, so I hope that you would not think me impertinent should I have need of your advice while you're here? As you can see, I still have much to learn."

"A wise man once told me that knowing is not as important as knowing where to find the answers."

"Sounds like a very wise man indeed."

"He was. And he was a good friend of mine. We were often on opposite sides of an issue. But he was a man I respected and who returned that respect." He stopped for a moment and made eye contact with Arthur, "That man was your father." He turned and climbed into the helicopter.

The ride to Government House was a quiet one. Upon arrival Arthur keyed his microphone. "Keep them turning. As soon as I see to getting Lord Duncan inside I would like dropped on the helipad on the Disney ship. Please alert them to our arrival. I'll be right back." Arthur's security team heard and made the call on their end to the onboard staff.

"Lord Duncan, have you met Mrs. Giddings before?"

"Indeed I have." He said taking her hand and kissing it as if she were the Queen. He knew her buttons well and was pushing all the right ones. "Then with your permission, I'll take my leave of you. In the morning then?"

"Thank you your Highness for coming personally to greet me. I'll not keep you further." He gave a slight bow and walked towards the sitting room, Mrs. Giddings blushing and promising a glass of her elixir as Arthur returned to the helicopter.

The helipad was on the command deck so there was limited access to it but kids fingers pointed at the helicopter as it approached for a landing. Commander Fleming and Captain Ardis were standing by with sideboys and the boson to pipe him aboard. Arthur stepped out after his security team, whom he had dress more casually for the visit. The helicopter then took off, leaving the deck much quieter and the sideboys and boson vanished, returning to their duties.

"Welcome aboard Your Highness." Commander Fleming said extending his hand. "Allow me to introduce Captain Ardis." The captain also extending his hand.

"Welcome aboard your Highness. If you'd like to follow me, we can use the conference room on the bridge."

"Thank you. That will serve us well I think."

Upon entering Captain Ardis asked, "Something to drink?"

"Perhaps hot tea if it's not too much trouble?" The steward disappeared.

"Please, have a seat. How can we help you today?"

"Well I've come to see your ship and to see if there are any needs that are not being met for the refugees."

The look on the men's faces was like he slapped them. The commander spoke up, "Your Highness I assure you we take our commitment to this effort very seriously."

Arthur raised his hand to stop him, "I'm afraid I must beg your pardon. I fear I chose my words poorly. I certainly did not in any way mean to infer that you were lacking in any way. I meant that I wanted to visit the refugees and see from their perspective, if there is anything we can do to help them get through this." He paused for a moment. "When I visited the center on shore for instance I found out that what they lacked most was information. I was able to provide the sheets that we delivered to them and here to fill that void. I also found a young boy that had fallen through the cracks and needed some more specialized help. We were able to facilitate his needs for now. Neither of these things would have been noticed or handled because I did not see that there was a need. As I'm quite young. I'm rather feeling my way through this as I go."

"Your Highness, if I may ask, why has this fallen on your head? Surely there are some with much more experience that could handle this for you."

"And you are correct. But you see, I have been through much of what these people have myself. I have advisors that I may call upon if I need to, but I have a perspective that they do not. So I asked to be allowed this task. It's very important to me."

"Of course. I did see the interview. Let me apologize for my countrymen Your Highness."

"Thank you but there is no need. We found ourselves in that position by our own hands. And everything's for a reason. Had I not, then I would not have the perspective that I do. So tell me, are there any that you or your staff have noticed, that are maybe not responding well or focused more on their misery than getting through it and enjoying the benefits of their location?"

"Honestly we are holed up here in command for the most part so we don't get to interact with the guests too much. Let me get someone who can give you those answers." He walked over to a console and after punching in a few keystrokes on the computer, picked up a microphone. He pushed a button and then spoke, "3925 please come to 1101, 3925 to 1101 please." He hung up the microphone as the steward opened the door and brought in a silver tea set and setting it in front of Arthur, he began to serve the tea. Arthur noticed the tea ball and smiled. Real tea! He added two cubes of sugar and waved off the cream.

"Thank you." He sipped the tea silently until a knock came on the door. The steward opened it and escorted a young woman in.

"You called for me sir?"

"Indeed I did," Captain Ardis said. "Allow me to introduce his Majesty, Arthur of Windsor. Your Highness this is Robin Toth, our Activities Director." He motioned for her to sit. "I'm pleased to meet you, your Majesty. How may I be of assistance?"

"First, I wish this to be an informal setting so please, just call me Arthur. I'm here to see how the refugees are faring. I realize that on a ship such as this it breeds happiness. So it was a real blessing to have you assist us in this effort. But I also know that there have been a lot of painful and frightening moments for the refugees. I was wondering if there were any that have fallen through the cracks so to speak. Not by oversight of you or the staff but perhaps by their own choice. Do you know of any, offhand, that might fall into that category?"

"Well we have counselors onboard now and that is helping. Kids with nightmares especially. But they've just gotten started. More are about to arrive and we are scheduling private sessions for the ones who seem to need it most." She thought for a moment, "There is one young man near your own age that I'm concerned with. He spends almost all his waking hours in the gym. He gets up every morning and visits the refugee computer and then heads down to the gym. He hits the heavy bag until he is exhausted, takes a break then gets up and does it again. He's always polite but... I just don't know. Something's not right."

"Do you have cameras there? Can you locate him now? I'd like to see him."

The captain stood up and walked over to the console. He punched in some information and a diagram came on the screen. He pushed on the camera dots until he found the one of the gym and then found the one of the boy hitting the bag. Arthur stood watching the boy for a few minutes. A knock came at the door. "May I help you?" The steward asked.

"Yes, I am his Majesty's personal assistant." Arthur turned, "Splendid! Please let him in." He smiled at Max, "And right on time as usual. I need you to run a quick errand for me if you would. Could you go to the ship's stores and get me some workout clothes and trainers please?"

"Right away." He turned to the steward, "Could you direct me please?" Robin spoke up. "Actually, if His Highness is through with me I'm headed right past there."

"Excellent and thank you Robin, you've been most helpful." Arthur looked to his personal guard. "I'll be going down to the gym to see if I can connect with this young man. I'm assuming the captain might have someplace that I might change."

"Of course Your Highness. My stateroom is right out that door to your left. Please feel free to change there."

He looked at his guard again, "Any word on Euan and my brothers? Everything going well?"

The guard smiled. "Timothy's team is winning 6-4. Euan is looking grim but determined." He went on, "Ethan seems enamored with a lovely lifeguard and is busy trying to figure out how to fake drowning for a little mouth to mouth. Peri and Raj are laughing too hard for him to get anywhere though." Arthur smiled. "Good, I'm glad they are having a good time." He went back to look at the monitor. The boy was punching it with renewed determination before he hugged the bag for a moment and sat drinking a bottle of water. He was interrupted by Max returning with a gym bag which he handed to Arthur. "Thank you." He said as he took the bag and escaped to the Captain's Stateroom. When he reappeared, he handed the bag back to Max grinning, "Frozen? You got me Frozen gym shorts?"

Max smiled, "You gotta be tough to wear Frozen gym clothes." His personal guard couldn't hide their grins as they escorted him to the service elevator. He waited for the doors to open and stepped inside and pushed the Deck 9 button. The captain called ahead to clear his way. He walked in and set his bag down looking around. He chose a treadmill that allowed him to watch the young man for a few minutes while he warmed up. He took a break after a few and casually walked over to the boy on the bag.

"Looks like the bag has pissed you off a bit? Has he given in yet?"

The guy glanced at Arthur, then at his Frozen gym wear. He couldn't help but bust up laughing. Arthur smiled, "This is what happens when you don't shop for yourself I'm afraid." His smile widened as he stuck out his hand, "Arthur's the name." The guy looked at his hand for a moment, "Jeff. Jeff Willis."

"Mind if I beat on the other side for a few?"

"Have at it. It's chained top and bottom so there's no swing to it. No give either so go easy on your wrists."

Arthur stepped around it and threw a few. He found it was actually a bit relaxing. It felt good to hit something. And before long he was pouring on the coal. He hadn't noticed the boy step back and watch him tear into the bag with a ferocity matching his own when he first started there. His personal guard had taken treadmills around the room and just watched. Jeff watching, waiting for the burst of energy to subside and the exhaustion to takeover. And before long it did. Jeff walked over to the counter and grabbed two bottles of water. Cracking the top of one he handed it to Arthur whose chest was heaving as he hung onto the bag. Arthur took it and turned it up. "Not too much." Jeff admonished while cracking the top on the second, "Here, you need to cool off," and he poured the other on Arthur's head. It took his breath away as he grabbed his towel.

"Thanks. I think I needed that." He sat down on the bench. Jeff followed him.

"Looks like the bag has pissed you off today too."

Arthur smiled, "Not a good day for the bag I'm afraid."

"It helps. I know."

"I hear you spend a lot of time here on the bag." Jeff's defenses went up.

"You hear that do you?"

"I do. I hear that every morning you check something on the computer and then hit the bag until meal time. Then return to the bag. Was hoping I could help you."

"You a shrink?"

"Nope. Just a person who wants to help. What would help you Jeff?"

"Can you get me a ride back to Orlando?"

"I could. What's in Orlando?"

"I need to find somebody."

"Sounds like somebody important."

"He is. And I have to find out what's happened to him."

"Know where to start looking once you get to Orlando? Things are in a bit of a mess there right now."

"I don't know to be honest. But I know I'm not finding any answers here."

"Why not start by telling me your story. Maybe I can help."

Jeff looked at Arthur for a moment. "You've got nothing to lose do you?" Arthur asked.

Jeff thought for a moment and Arthur gave him the time as he drank his water.

"Dale's parents were going to leave and go someplace out west. Things were getting too crazy around Orlando, and they knew how things were for...gays." He paused for a reaction from Arthur. When nothing negative occurred he went on. "I had met him on a stairwell landing on the parking deck. It was out of the way and secluded. Or so we thought. I kissed him and an armed guard stepped around the corner and turned his gun at us. Dale dove for the guy, pushing his gun to the side as he yelled for me to run. I did. I heard the gun go off. I went back later and there was blood. Not a lot of it but there was blood. I was caught later and shipped off to the place in Disney World where they rescued us from. I was hoping to find him after they caught me. I have to know what happened to him."

"And there's nothing in the database right?"

"Nah, I've been checking daily."

"Do you have a picture of him?"

"Ya, it's ALL I have. I managed to smuggle it out of my personal effects by putting it under the insoles of my shoes. They took everything else."

"Take a walk with me would you?"

"Sure, where are we going?"

"To check a few more places."

They returned to the refugee center and Arthur asked to use a terminal. He sat down and typed in google search. It asked for a password and he entered it. Then he typed in Dizzy Kettle Falls and hit enter. A bright face came to the screen, "Your Highness, how can I help you today?"

"Dizzy I'm trying to locate a young man and he's not showing up in the database. His name is Dale..." "Ribana." Jeff added. "I have a picture here. Could you search for him please?"

"There is no Dale Ribana listed in the database." Dizzy replied.

"Yes, we know that. I'm hoping you can find him through facial recognition. I know we have a lot who are not identified as of yet."

"This may take some time Your Highness. Do you wish to wait or should I call you when we have results?"

Arthur looked at his watch, "I think we'll have some lunch. Can you text me when you have something?"

"Certainly. Anything else?"

"No, thank you so much Dizzy."

Arthur returned the terminal to its basic mode and looked at Jeff. "Hungry? I'm starved. If anyone can find Dale, it's Dizzy. So how about you show me to someplace to eat."

Jeff just sorta looked at Arthur for a moment, "Uhm I'm not sure what Highnesses eat these days."

Arthur smiled, "Oh you caught that did you. Well we eat pretty much the same things that you would eat. We just have to stick out our pinkie fingers when we drink. See the rules are pretty easy."

Jeff laughed. "Come on, the Cabana doesn't really care how we are dressed. I'll show you."

"Hang on a moment." He turned to a guy standing off to the side and motioned him near. "We're going to the Cabana for something to eat. We expect to be there for a bit so make sure the guys get fed as well." The guy nodded and spoke into his wrist. Arthur turned to Jeff. "Let's go. I just had to tell the guys where I was going."

Jeff just looked at him. His mind working a mile a minute. "You did that interview, you're Arthur of Windsor."

"Guilty as charged."

"In my defense, I may have recognized you if you weren't in Frozen Gymwear."

Arthur drew out his cell phone and called Max, "Could you join us in the Cabana for some lunch? ...Excellent, we'll see you there."

"I hope you don't mind but I needed my assistant to join us. He's also the one responsible for the Frozen-wear."

"So what's it like being the King?"

"Well I don't really have any point of comparison. I mean obviously my every move has to be planned and watched so privacy is a premium. But honestly, until all this my life was pretty much like any other well to do family. I went to school, came home played video games. But since my adventure it's taken on a whole new life. I'm in charge of the entire refugee effort and I'm becoming involved in the battles that are brewing to get this mad man to give up the office he is no longer entitled to. I have to say that the scale of suffering is somewhat a shock to my senses."

"I can imagine. I mean your life was pretty much sheltered until all this. But thank you for taking the time to help me even if your friend doesn't find anything. I really appreciate this. It means more to me than you can imagine."

"Well I'm glad to be able to help and I have faith in Dizzy. It's amazing. If there's anything to be found I have no doubt Dizzy will find it. AH! And here is Max. Max let me introduce Jeff Willis. We are trying to locate his boyfriend Dale Ribana. I have Dizzy working on it as we speak. Sit, join us for some lunch. It's only fitting that you be stared at too since you bought this lovely ensemble for me to wear."

"Actually I think lavender is a lovely color on you, don't you think so Jeff?"

"How is it you British put it? Oh yes, 'Just fetching'." He said in the worst British accent ever used. They all laughed.

Lunch was ordered and Arthur made short work of his Shrimp Scampi while Jeff had the Bacon Cheeseburger and Max the Chef's Salad. Dessert was offered and ordered when Arthur's phone rang, Arthur excused himself from the table to take the call. He returned with a smile. He turned to Max, "Max, could you arrange transport for three from here to the Succour? Mind you the detail will need to be included. Contact Euan and my brothers and let them know we will meet them back at Government House. Their detail can arrange transport."

"Do you want air or sea transport?"

"Whichever is fastest please." He turned to Jeff. "Up to an adventure?"

"You found him?"

"We did. It seems Dale was indeed shot in your escape but not badly. The bullet grazed his head. But it seems to have affected his memory. He's listed as a John Doe and he's onboard the Succour. We'll have to talk to the doctors onboard as we don't want to shock him too badly or it may worsen his condition. But they are hoping that seeing you might jog something in his memory to restart his system so to speak."

"Are you sure it's him?"

Arthur showed him the picture on his phone. Jeff's smile was confirmation enough. He looked at Arthur, "Mind if I send this to myself?"

"By all means, do it. I'm so very happy for you."

"A helicopter should be here within the hour," said Max.

"Excellent, would you let the detail know?"

Arthur turned to Jeff, "Have anything you need to gather? I suspect you won't be returning here."

Jeff smiled, "Everything I need is over there already."

Arthur looked up and down at Jeff and smiled as he said, "Will you be living in the gym over there?"

"Depends, are you escorting us wearing Frozen?"

Arthur blushed, "Point taken. Tell you what, gather your things and come up to the bridge. I'll alert them to watch for you. It's normally a restricted area. I have my clothes in the captain's stateroom. Say, about thirty minutes?"

"I'll be there." Jeff left with a new spring in his step.

Max looked at Arthur, "You're amazing you know that?"

"I have you fooled too I guess."

"Me, fooled?"

"In truth, I'm not. But I'm finding that I can appear that way when I surround myself with amazing people. I'm only guilty of being amazing by association."

"I happen to think that being smart enough to surround yourself with extremely capable people is an amazing trait. Therefore YOU are indeed amazing."

"That's an amazing compliment. But we all know already that you are the amazing one, so let's both go try and be amazingly time efficient or Jeff will beat us there and then we will no longer be amazing. We'll be late!"

[1] "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" derived from a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye, 1932 YouTube

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