by AJ Marks
Buck sat in the transport with Dave as they rode to another city to give another interview. He was scheduled for a couple of days, and then after that to return back to Earth. He looked over Dave a bit wondering what he thought of the Draconian Empire, and probably felt it was normal, like many other things.
“So, how’d you get in this line of work Dave?” Buck asked, not really wanting to sit in silence, as the more he say the more it was harder to get out what he had done last night.
“College, and then was recruited by the kings recruiters, they are always in the colleges and universities looking for new talent,” Dave said. “They liked my paper on history, and the way I could naturally organize.”
“How old are you?” Buck asked. “I’m technically thirty-two, but every things mixed up now.”
“Yeah, I can only imagine, but I’m only twenty-eight,” he replied.
“And the princess?” Buck asked, wondering how young she was.
“Twenty-five,” Dave said, his mouth twitched and Buck had the feeling he wanted to say more, but prevented himself from saying it.
“Any other children?” Buck asked, for some reason Ardala didn’t seem a good candidate to take over.
“She the youngest, had three older brothers,” Dave replied. “Mark is the oldest and slated to be the heir to the throne.”
“Ah, yeah, makes sense, Ardala doesn’t seem to take things seriously, youngest child syndrome,” Buck said but noticed Dave didn’t agree or disagree with him and realized the cab was probably bugged as well. Well anyone who listened probably already knew that.
Buck turned to look out the window at the passing terrain below them, traveling at close to two hundred miles an hour made things go by in a blur, but he saw buildings and other things in the distance. Things looked much more like he remembered back on Earth instead of the large buildings which housed everyone.
He looked back over at Dave wondering how he might be able to get him to actually talk about things. The princess seemed to have little inhibition to talking about whatever she wanted, others were more careful in what they said. He figured it had to do with the fact she was a princess and others were only worker bees in the hive.
“So what do you do when not escorting people around?” Buck finally asked.
“I work as part of the staff making sure that the royal family doesn’t overbook a meeting or other such things,” Dave said.
“Public relations, okay, that I can understand,” Buck replied.
“Its much more though,” Dave said.
“Yeah, it’s a term from where I come from, you manage the appointments, getting the people there, accepting or denying the invitations and such,” Buck said. “And that’s just some of what you do.”
“Along with press conferences, scandals, and other things,” Dave said, and Buck had the impression that he dealt with things quite often, probably mostly to do with the princess.
“So, I’ve met the princess, what about her brothers?” Buck asked.
“They are easier to be around,” Dave said. “I mostly work with the middle brother, Harold, he isn’t the heir, but still has a lot of important meeting and people to greet,” Dave replied back as Buck noticed some buildings in the foreground where they were headed and passed another transport heading in the opposite direction.
“You must like it?” Buck said, wondering if they even had a choice in what jobs they had.
“It’s better than some jobs, and what I could find outside of this job, its very nice,” Dave said.
“The king rules as a king, or is there a council?” Buck asked.
“He is the king,” Dave said, and Buck wondered how they had managed to keep control for so long. Dictators like this usually only lasted a short time. Liam either wielded his power absolutely or he was generous. Another thought came to him, the people were content, working and could get what they wanted that would make people more at ease as well.
Buck watched as the landscape started getting crowded with buildings, he even thought he spotted some vehicles much like what he had been used to.
“You have cars?” Buck asked.
“Something like them, electrically powered vehicles for local transportation,” Dave said.
Buck nodded familiar with that and wondered if they would need one of those to get around to wherever he was headed for his next interview. He felt a good having gained some information about the attitude of the empire and compared it to the NAA.
Buck looked on at the banquet set out in front of him tugging on his shirt hoping things would go smoothly. He was meeting the royal family tonight, and he had a feeling everything was being put on for his benefit, trying to show him the best of the empire he was a visitor in.
He had only met the princess and king, the other two he had yet to meet, but everything he had heard was carefully generated probably to prevent any problems. He walked on seeing the table nicely decorated.
“Ah, our honored visitor,” he heard the king say and looked over to see Liam walking towards him with a smile on his face.
“King Liam, um, William,” Buck said forgetting for a second.
“Think nothing of it,” he replied dismissing the slight as if it was nothing. “I don’t think you’ve met either of my sons.”
Buck looked over to see two men who bore a strong resemblance to the king, both with short dark hair, dark eyes, though both were a bit shorter than the king, and one had a goatee while the other was clean shaven.
“No, not yet, met your daughter,” Buck said.
“Yes, I am aware of that,” the king said indicating he knew more than others and Buck wondered if he had been briefed on the fact she had spent the night with him. He did not seem too upset by the fact, and wondered how often it happened. For now he focused on the two in front of him.
“This is my oldest son, Victor,” he said indicating the clean shaven man. “And this is Harold.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Buck said unsure what the protocol was, no one had thought to inform him on how to act, and he doubted how Ardala acted would be in his best interest.
“The man from the past,” Victor said, sticking out his hand which Buck returned shaking his hand, then Harold’s hand. “So, how do things compare between here and the NAA?”
“Um, interesting, but I really have no idea,” Buck replied back. He had not been in either society long enough to really compare the two.
“I always thought the NAA as stuffy,” Harold said, as they relaxed slightly.
“I don’t think so,” another voice said, making them turn to see Ardala making her entrance into the room, wearing a sexy black dress as she walked right up to Buck, almost draping herself on him.
Buck felt her take a breath before moving away. “Fine poppa.”
“Can’t control yourself at all sis,” Herold said.
“I prefer excitement, not being boring and stiff like you two,” Ardala replied not backing down a bit in front of her brothers.
“Come, let us enjoy a feast fitting of a king,” Liam said to them.
Buck was slightly relieved at being able to move away from Ardala, and noticed she sat on the other side as Buck sat next to the king.
They had the normal conversations, nothing about politics at all, mostly about ancient sports events, and it seemed Victor seemed especially interested in what was called American football.
“I’ve been trying to maybe get a league worked up here,” Victor said. “It’s not easy, we don’t have the stadiums or large sporting events, and getting people who actually know how to play, it’s hard.”
“I guess so,” Buck said. “Though I do have fond memories of sitting on the sofa, fireplace on, and watching the games on TV, then of course there was fantasy football.”
“Fantasy football?” Victor said, leaning forward.
“Yeah, as a fan you could pick a team of players, each player earned points for your team based on their performance during the game, and you competed against others,” Buck said. “I played a few times. Some would even bet money on it, another form of gambling.”
“Fascinating,” Victor said. “I think it would be a good thing.”
He noticed a small break and had a feeling that Victor and the king had this discussion before.
“It’s something I need to look up, see if my team ever won,” Buck said.
“Who was your team?”
“Minnesota Vikings,” Buck said. “Grew up watching a running back called Petterson, had some trouble off the field, but on the field, he was a beast.”
“It would have been interesting to see a live game,” Victor said.
“Boring if you ask me,” Ardala replied. “Never understood your interest with sports.”
“Like your interest with sex,” Victor said.
Buck watched as the two stared each other down as Buck went back to his food, which was very good, some sort of steak and vegetables.
“You know,” Liam said after several seconds of silence. “You are welcome to stay in our empire, live like a prince.”
So here it was Buck though, the offer and he gave it some thought on how he was going to reply.
“It’s a tempting offer, but one which I think I’m going to have to decline right now,” Buck said. “To me, Earth is my home and I want to see what’s all changed there.”
He watched as Liam considered his word before replying back. “As I thought, but I had to ask. It would have been rude of me not to present you with the choice.”
“We could make you stay,” Harold suddenly said, giving some voice to a fear Buck had since accepting their offer.
“Then you would make poor hosts, inviting someone then kidnapping them,” Buck replied back to him.
“I told you he would not stay,” Victor said. “Why is there even any doubt?”
“No, I had little doubt,” Liam said looking at the others then went back to eating.
“Probably spying on us, thanks sis,” Harold said at which Buck coughed by swallowing his food wrong.
“Really, a spy, he isn’t even part of the NAA, nor does he have any training,” Victor said.
“And spies are much easier to catch,” Ardala stated making Buck wonder how many spies they had caught.
“Don’t worry, we have no interest in keeping you here against your will,” Liam said making Buck feel slightly more at ease. “After all, it wouldn’t do well with our fragile peace with the NAA and UAC.”
Buck looked on but saw that Liam was no longer even considering this course of conversation.
“So, I take it everyone treated you well?” Liam asked.
“Yes, no problems with anyone, and Dave was great, punctual and knew what to do,” Buck replied thinking he should put in a good word for Dave, the guy had worked hard despite the questions Buck asked.
“Hmm, not familiar with him, but if he did a good job, that should be expected,” Liam replied.
It was an interesting mix, Buck had the feeling that Liam only really cared for the people enough to make sure they didn’t revolt, otherwise, he had a feeling he and his daughter shared some similar feeling in discarding people like a used car when it no longer worked or the joy had worn off.
He took a sip of the wine, noting the smooth taste and warned himself not to overindulge in drinking, he was no longer in with the boys back home. In a way, he wondered what they might say right now?
“So, what was life like back in the twenty-first century?” Harold asked.
“Oh, not really much different than today, people going about their lives trying to eek out a living, most cared little for what was going on half way around the world,” Buck said, wishing he had spent a bit more time listening to the news as well. “We went about our lives, most of us cared more about sports or hobbies than anything else.”
“So, the racial tensions and wars of history,” Liam asked.
“I don’t know, haven’t had a chance to read up on such things,” Buck answered. “It doesn’t surprise me, it seemed like things were headed in that direction no matter what people did. Some had a crazy conspiracy a select group wanted the war to happen.”
“History shows it wasn’t as crazy as you thought,” Harold replied.
“No, usually within a conspiracy there is a spark of truth, whether that truth is actually part of the conspiracy or not, that is another subject,” Liam replied.
Buck wasn’t sure how to respond to that, and had a feeling Liam was talking not only of history, but of current events. He made a mental note to look up any conspiracies when he got back, it might be worth investigating.
He had a lot of history to catch upon, and by the looks Ardala was giving him, he felt sure he would receive another visitor tonight.
End part 8