Thursday, July 9, 2015

31: The Commander & the Prince

Entry 031: Where Felix feels shanghaied.

                The docking bay was along the dorsal spine of the central body, between the observation wings. It was there that they landed smoothly and without incident.
                They were shown out of the Windjammer by the pilot, a young woman named Kiza'tae, or Kizaly as the others called her, since Au'relia and Aster had stayed behind to manage Kla's transfer to the Persephone's brig.  Felix couldn't disembark fast enough at the reminder of how little distance he had actually put between him and her.
                "This way. Try not to get underfoot." The dark haired pilot led them briskly through the bustling hanger with a spring in her step, undoubtedly glad to be home. Pilots and maintenance crews in gray jumpsuits worked nonstop in knots around single-pilot craft complete with spherical remote control drones, one perched on either wing next to the bubble-shaped cockpit.
                "More exploration craft," Felix thought as he followed Kizaly and a sluggish Cor down the aisles clearly marked in fluorescent yellow-green paint where they were relatively safe from falling things.
                Felix couldn't help but look around him as he followed their guide. He'd never been in a working hangar before, only the old Earth ones built during the original 'Space Age' that had been turned into museums and the greasy spaceports Torrik could afford to use. The maintenance machinery alone was enough to have him stopping every few feet to stare.
                He spotted a domed-top brick being wheeled to one of the exploration craft. "Cor," Felix hissed in excitement as he watched the techs wheeling it connect both of the remote drones to the larger machine. "Cor! They've got a working hive computer for the drones! Cor, look!"
                He looked around but couldn't find Cor in the hustle. Both he and Kizaly had left him behind without noticing.
                Felix turned in a circle, trying to see them through the moving field of gray jumpsuits. He chanced to look up and nearly stepped into the working part of the hanger when he saw there were more piloted craft hanging over his head.
                A second hanger hovered above the first, halfway between the floor and high ceiling. Metal catwalks laid out in a grid penned in shadowy-colored fighters held up by large landing claws. There were about a dozen of them, sleek as the shuttles but less than a third of the size and far fiercer. They were tended by more Hybridians on the catwalks, most dressed in the same light gray jumpsuits as those on the lower level, but a few wore dull blue instead, reminiscent of the body armor Au'relia had worn down in the canyon.
                Three of them were standing off to the side, leaning on the top of the catwalk and staring down at the busyness below, two men and a woman with bobbed hair.
                "Fighter pilots," Felix thought, feeling a little nervous at the sight of all the gleaming muzzles peering out from beneath the fighters' wings. "I guess this isn't just an exploration ship after all."
                One of the men noticed him and nudged the one next to him with an elbow before tilting his head at Felix. The other two turned to stare at him, their metallic eyes idly curious as they sized him up. Felix felt his hair rise on end, but wasn't sure which way was safe to run.
                "Scary, aren't they?"
                Felix jumped at the close proximity of the voice and jerked away even as he looked to see who it was. One of the Hybridians in gray was standing next to him, staring down at a handheld diagnostic computer as he read through stats concerning one machine or another. He didn't look up as he spoke, so Felix didn't get a good look at his face, only that he was taller than Cor and nowhere near as stocky. A cap that matched his jumpsuit hid his hair and eyes. Felix couldn't pinpoint his field in all the electricity swirling around the large room and leaving a faint tingle at the top of his spine.
                The tech didn't look up but was obviously waiting for an answer of some kind. Maybe he just wanted to know what a human was doing gawking around his hanger.
                "Sorry, what?" Felix asked to buy time for Cor or Kizaly to reappear, but a quick glance around showed him he was still on his own.
                The newcomer jerked his chin at the dangling fighter craft and Felix saw his eyes were the bright color of freshly polished steel. Purely techno-organic. "The prince's personal guard. They follow him everywhere. Not exactly the kind of people you want to catch you staring at them."
                Felix looked up again at the trio leaning on the rail, a little whiter than before. They were still watching him like an eagle watched a snake.
                "I feel more like a mouse," Felix thought, wondering if it would be better or worse for him if they knew he didn't have fangs.
                The Hybridian laughed, none to quietly, and turned his back on the three aviators to hold out his hand to Felix. He had a wide grin on his face, one touched with mischief that made Felix nervous. "You must be the human inventor I heard was coming. I'm Rody, one of the prince's assistants. I'm here to show you and your friend to the meeting room where his majesty and Commander Magnil will see you."
                "Felix," Felix said as he shook Rody's hand and then, realizing it might not be wise to be so informal even with a lowly assistant, quickly added, "Cauldwell. Cor – that is, my friend Cor'althan – is around here somewhere."
                He looked around and finally spotted Cor by the door speaking with another man wearing a pale coat with white-trimmed red medic's crosses stitched on both shoulders. Cor wasn't standing, which was why it had taken Felix so long to find him. Even now all he could see through the movement of the flight techs was the back of his steel-streaked head over the top of the wheelchair the medical team had brought with them.
                Rody followed his line of sight. "He's in good hands. Hatch is the best in the business, despite his bedside manner."
                "What's wrong with it?" Felix turned back and asked with a frown.
                Rody grinned as he pivoted on his heel and started away at a brisk walk. "He doesn't have one. Now come on. Your friend will catch up with us when Hatch takes his claws out of him."
                Caught up in the other's self-assured authority, it never occurred to Felix to do anything but follow. Even when Rody avoided the main exit and pressed the diagnostic computer into the hands of a bewildered tech standing by a smaller, less used, side door, Felix didn't ask any questions.
                As soon as they were out of the populated bay, Rody tore off the gray jumpsuit and cap, revealing a shock of bright red hair and the much finer, less oil-stained, attire of a desk worker underneath.
                "So," he said as he flicked his field at a door so that it slid open just long enough for him to toss cap and jumpsuit into the well lit room. A startled, "Hey!" escaped before the closing door cut it off. He ran a hand through his hair to put some life back into it. Light from the overheads caught it and made orange-tinted highlights flicker throughout. Felix blinked, surprised. Somehow the red looked...unnatural on a Hybridian. "I hear you're some kind of fancy mathematician."
                He watched the vacant hallway in front of them as he spoke and Felix felt a little ridiculous talking to the back of someone's head. But Rody was obviously waiting for an answer.
                "Engineer," he corrected, "but I've done work as a mechanic for a private trader these last couple of years."
                Rody turned sharply at the next cross-corridor and Felix almost lost him in the renewed flow of people. He was only able to find him again by the vivid color of his hair against the white-blue walls of the ship.
                The other man clicked his tongue and popped his field at the same time so that it sounded like he spit static. "And apparently very modest as well. I heard you're much more than any mere mechanic."
                Unease coiled in Felix's stomach as Rody reached into an inner jacket pocket and pulled out what looked like a metal stick with square caps at either end. A clean line cut straight down the middle so Felix wasn't too surprised when he slid the two halves apart, thinner metal rods snapping into place to create an empty rectangle.
                He was a little taken aback when the empty space filled with the glowing light of a holographic field. He blinked and the light became opaque enough for his eyes to make out more foreign characters printed across it like the ones he had seen written on the hull of the Persephone.
                The thumbnail image of his head, on the other hand, was easy enough to translate.
                "Hey!" Felix cried as he tried to grab the sleek reader, Rody twisting sideways to keep it out of his reach. "Where'd you get that? That-" He goggled, finally recognizing where the terrible photo had come from. "That's my university ID picture!"
                "I know," Rody said, reading the assembled profile even as he swung the reader up and away from the still grasping Felix. "And you do not photograph well, my friend, let me tell you. This is the best I could find and you still look like a gawk-eyed kid."
                "That's because I was a gawk-eyed kid when they took that picture," Felix ground out as he finally gave up on getting his hands on the horrifying blast from the past. "I was sixteen." And people thought high school at that age was terrible. Try being a university freshmen.
                Rody screwed up his eyebrows as he scanned the profile for confirmation. Those same brows winged up when he found it. "Ah, yes. That would explain you dropping out a few months later. Although," he turned to Felix with that large smile on his face, "it is refreshing to meet someone that lasted even less than I did. I was tossed out of three fine, upstanding institutions in two years. Family record." He puffed out his chest.
                "They must be so proud," Felix grumbled. Talk of his one attempt at formal higher education always put him in a mood. Combined with this nosy assistant he was about ready to throw himself out the airlock.
                Some of his mood must have splashed onto his guide because tension lines etched briefly into his face. "Wouldn't know. We don't talk. Much-" He pressed on without pausing for breath. "-like you and your family. I mean, I can understand you being all incommunicado with your dad – avoid the Tresla sector by the way; he's been hovering around there the past couple of years – but your Aunt Stella seems nice enough on holo-paper. Do you know she reported you missing when you didn't show up for the wake?"
                "Does all this have a point?" Felix's temper finally boiled over. "I mean, besides the obvious fact that your boss is trying to impress me with how much scrap he can dig up about me. Well I get it. I don't need you pointing out my family's dysfunction because I figured that out when I was five. So can we stop messing around and get to it already? I need help and Cor says you guys can give it, so am I going to talk to this prince guy or just some idiot assistant that can't keep his mouth shut?"
                As soon as he ran out of words, embarrassment swept over him. He'd let the Hybridian get to him – which was undoubtedly the point of the profile in the first place – but admitting that only made him look weak when he couldn't afford to. So Felix stood where he had stopped in the corridor, only remembering to unclench his hands after another minute had passed.
                He looked up once he had, spine stiffening in anticipation of the smug look on the other man's face.
                But Rody only stared at him, holo-tab still held in his hands. Maybe he regretted pushing like he had. Or maybe he'd only done what the prince had instructed him to. Maybe-
                A wide grin slid up one side of his face. The amused look in his eyes was back and Felix felt any sympathy for the lackey vanish.
                "You know," Rody said, flicking an index finger in Felix's direction, "I think I'm starting to like you, Cauldwell."
                Then he turned sharply on his heel and started walking again, avoiding the other Hybridians in the hall. "Come on then," he called back when Felix didn't follow. "You want that face-to-face or what?"
                With nothing else to do – although he still had a gnawing ball of stress in his stomach – Felix followed.
                "And you're right about his highness," Rody tossed the words over his shoulder. "The man is insufferable."
                He wasn't paying attention to where he was going and would have run into all sorts of passerby if they hadn't made room for him so neatly. Lackey or not, obviously being a prince's personal assistant carried weight here. Felix had to be more careful and even then he felt several glares on his back from the near misses.
                He finally caught up with Rody when he stopped outside an ornate double door – the only one Felix had seen so far. All the rest they had passed were singles; the standard kind that slid off to one side. These opened inward on old fashioned hinges. A simple plate next to them read a somewhat anticlimactic, "Conference Room A."
                "He is trying to impress you, or at least scare you a little bit," Rody continued as he swung the doors in after unlocking them with another snap from his static field. Felix didn't see any key pads or scanners in the wall around the doors, so he thought field-flicking was the standard way to control the doors.
                "And perhaps a good part the ship's other systems as well," Felix thought as he followed Rody in to the conference room.
                A wall of stars greeted him, cut short only by the rounded edge of a cloudy yellow gas planet on his left. For a split-second he feared that he'd just stepped into some sort of disguised airlock.
                But then his brain caught up with his by now well-grown sense of paranoia. This wasn't an airlock; it was a conference room just like the plaque outside said. The far wall was completely transparent, hence the view. No screens masquerading as windows here. This was the real deal and the stellar view was every bit as impressive as it was designed to be. Next to the vast expanse and impinging gas giant, Felix felt his sense of importance shrink. He could only assume that was the point.
                "Why would he want to scare me?" Felix asked as he fought back his growing feelings of insignificance and followed Rody to the long table in the middle of the sunken level of the room. Twenty straight backed chairs were set into sliding grooves around the long sides, leaving the short ends empty. In the middle of the far row of chairs was a twenty-first that was taller, broader, and all around more imposing, especially with the starscape at its back. It was made of dark wood, highly polished and with had some kind of insignia carved into its high back; three sparks connected by ragged lines of lightning. The same three-spark design that was stitched onto the breast of Rody's shirt, Felix noticed.
                The other man was already pulling out himself a chair – the large central one, of course.
                Felix felt his anxiety levels rise. "I don't think you're supposed to sit there," he said quickly, half reaching out as if he could stop him.
                "Definitely not," Rody with that same troublesome grin. He sat down anyway and even went so far as to swing his booted feet up onto the table. They landed with a thump and he sighed, content.
                Felix felt his face go flat. "Great," he thought as he pulled out a simpler chair on the other side, glad to keep the table between him and his presumptuous guide. "I've only been here ten minutes and already I've fallen in with the wrong crowd."
                "As for his highness," Rody spoke, aware of Felix's discontent and glad to ignore it. "I think he just wants to keep you off guard."
                Felix frowned. That made even less sense then what Felix could think of. "But...why?" he asked again. "I haven't even met him yet."
                Rody slouched down more comfortably into the imposing chair that did not match his cavalier personality and put his hands behind his head so that his elbows stuck out to either side of him. He gave a somewhat stifled shrug as he closed his eyes. "Because he wants what you have, of course."
                Felix's eyebrows collided in frustrated confusion. "What?"
                Rody nodded sagely. "When he heard the words 'go anywhere, anytime, in the pop of a spark', drool hit the deck my friend." He laughed.
                "That's-” Disgusting. "-good?" Felix tried. It came out as more of a question then he'd originally intended.
                Rody nodded, finally opening his eyes to reveal an intent gaze that made Felix want to crawl under the table and hide. "For you that is very good." He pulled his hands away from his head and swung his feet off the table, rising up and forward in a well practiced motion.
                He put his elbows on the table and leaned forward. Unsure, Felix copied him so that their faces were conspiratorially close.
                "The prince is what you might call a free spirit," Rody told him in low tones. "He wants the kind of freedom your machine offers so bad that you can ask for just about anything and he'll give it to you without question."
                Felix made a doubtful face. "Anything?"
                Rody leaned back again, swinging from conspiracy to cheery once more. "Shoot for the moon my friend. Or, even better, ask for one. No!" Felix jumped in his seat as Rody shouted. He leaned away, not liking the gleam in Rody's eyes. "You could totally ask for a planet. You should! Ask for a planet. Do it."
                He was like a kid daring his friend to do something stupid on the playground. "A planet?" Felix wheezed. "What would I do with a whole planet?"
                Rody shrugged languidly. "Anything you want. It's your planet." He snapped his fingers. "Demand Tenoch. He hates that place anyway. They people there are so-” He made a face and contorted his fingers. "-demanding. Very irritating."
                Felix let the words flow in one ear and out the other, not paying attention. Instead he eyed the Hybridian across the table in suspicion. He suddenly felt like he had walked into another trap. "Why are you telling me all this? What does your boss want?"
                Rody stared at him in slight confusion. "I told you what he wants; a way out."
                Felix leaned back in his seat as he absorbed this. "All right," he said slowly, suspicion still strong. "Then what do you want?"
                Rody grinned. He pointed at Felix again, a secret smile reaching up to his gleaming eyes. "See, I knew I liked you. You ask good questions."
                Felix didn't respond. If this mad trip had taught him anything it was that favors were never free. Either Rody was still saying what this Hybridian prince had told him to or he was in it for himself. Either way, Felix wanted an answer.
                When it became clear he wouldn't say another word until he got one, Rody leaned back in his stolen chair with a sigh. He watched Felix thoughtfully a moment as he rubbed his index finger against his thumb. His internal gears moved in well-oiled silence.
                "I overheard him before you arrived," he finally said, his face solemn for the first time since Felix had met him. "About how it would be best for everyone to stick you in some dinky, out of the way research lab on Trobadero or somewhere like that." He shrugged . "It struck a chord."
                Yeah, that struck a chord in Felix too. A very anxious one.
                The human sat up a little straighter, pulse quickening just slightly. "The prince?" he asked.
                But Rody shook his head. "Commander Magnil. He's a cheapskate that thinks you're a skittish do'far that won't come out of the gate when the time comes." He made a face. "That and he bugs me, so really tipping you off is a win-win for both of us."
                His smile was back, but Felix felt anything but relief. Cor said he trusted these people, but was this was he meant? Trading one locked lab door for another?
                He felt Rody watching him across the table and Felix set aside his questions until he could get Cor alone. He looked up and met the Hybridian's gaze, face set.
                "I am not going to be someone else's lab monkey," he told him, leaving no room for argument. "That's not why we came here and that's not what I'll take."
                Rody nodded slowly, his smile more subdued for the moment. "Bold words," he commented, partly implying that they alone would not get him what he wanted. "Just out of curiosity, where do you want to be while you finish this machine of yours?"
                Felix blinked and felt his scowl fade. He hadn't actually thought that far.
                Well he thought it now, and quickly. He looked for inspiration, taking in the long, dark table, the shadowed corners, the grand starscape spread out before him, it itself only one tiny piece of an ever-expanding universe...
                "Here," he answered abruptly. "On the Persephone."
                He finally managed to surprise his host. "Really?" Rody's eyes narrowed, red eyebrows swinging down low over shrewd eyes. "Why?"
                It was Felix's turn to shrug. "I like it here," he said. "I've been running nonstop for months and this is the first place I've felt relatively safe. That put together with the fact that you're always moving and you either have all the equipment I need or can get your hands on it easily enough-” He shrugged again. "It just makes sense."
                Rody's eyebrows lowered further, looking like fire hovering over smoke. "Even if it means having the Commander hovering over your shoulder all the time?"
                Felix felt his face close down. If the Commander really wanted him elsewhere there wasn't much he could do about it.
                "I realized there would be a cost for this protection, including sharing my information with a military that has no loyalty to me or my ideals, but my partner trusts the Commander's judgment." He paused. "That and if he really is as cheap as you say then he was never going to like me anyway. Discovery is expensive."
                Rody laughed. "So I've heard. Tell you what." He had that sneaky gleam in his eyes that made Felix's hair stand on end. "I have some credits saved up. Maybe I can buy you some more of his goodwill."
                Felix highly doubted Rody could put so much as a dent in his overall expected cost, but didn't say so. "They must pay assistants well around here for you to have that kind of cash flow," he observed instead.
                The corner of Rody's mouth rose higher than the other in a wry smile. "Yeah, about that..."
                "There you are!" a voice boomed out at their backs.
                Felix jumped so high he was sure his head nearly cracked the ceiling. He shot to his feet and spun around. If the chair hadn't been bolted down he would have knocked it over.
                The largest Hybridian he had ever seen stood at the raised edge of the sunken level where the table stood. He was too tall to be stocky, like Cor, but he shared the same muscle mass as the old soldier. His dark brown hair was close cut and gray streaked at the temples to match the deep frown lines that only time could have engraved into his stern face. He was dressed in some kind of uniform Felix had yet to see, but whose stripes of blue, red, and white over a black expanse echoed Rody's, although the only overtly similar aspect between them was the three-spark emblem on the outer shoulder of his sleeves.
                Meeting his eyes – the color of hull plating and just as hard – Felix had no doubt this was the Commander he had heard so little about.
                "I- I-” he stammered, knowing there was no string of words that could possibly save him from the Commander's wrath. His expression was enough to send ice down Felix's spine and shoot out to all his extremities. His head was spinning and he felt nauseous.
                The Commander took the step down to their level and Felix swore he heard an ominous boom as his foot met the carpet. Even with the space separating them he felt his static field slam into him like an ocean breaker, swamping him with its sheer, blunt force. His heart felt like it was caught in some electrical undertow, leaving him breathless and with an arrhythmic stutter to his heart. Tunnel vision started to set in as fear clouded Felix's rational mind. The Commander advanced...
                ...and by passed him to point an incriminating digit at Rody still sitting pretty on the other side of the conference table.
                Hard, irritated words came out his mouth like a fusion reactor threatening to blow. He jabbed his index finger at Rody, his other hand planted on the table's surface. Felix wondered that it didn't crack.
                Rody actually cackled at the Commander's words – whatever they were – and let his wrath roll off him like a pleasant breeze, but there was an iron edge to his crooked smile that Felix planned to avoid at all costs in the future.
                "Manners, Mags," he said in plain English as he gestured at Felix before leaning back and swinging his feet back up on the table. "We have guests."
                The Commander's eyes flicked to Felix, who managed to swallow down most of the rocks obstructing his airway, before returning to Rody.
                "You were supposed to wait for us," he said in a deep timbre that matched his physical appearance. "This is not how we discussed going about this."
                "True," Rody admitted with a tilt of his head, "but your idea to just shut them away on some backwater research lab was not only stupid, but kinda mean Mags, so I changed the plan."
                Felix felt his heart stop on Rody's behalf. He was sure he was about to witness a murder just as he was sure he was starting to turn a very unnatural shade of purple. It was difficult to breathe around all the thunderous electricity rolling off the Commander.
                The Commander scowled even harder. "I do not believe in borrowing trouble, unlike you who brings it upon us in spades," he growled.
                Someone must have noticed Felix's changing skin color. A hand appeared on his shoulder and gently but firmly pushed him down into the chair he'd been sitting in before. He looked up and recognized Au'relia's guarded face. He'd never been so relieved to see her, not even when she'd rescued them from Kla.
                He fell the last few inches to his seat when his knees finally buckled. Au'relia waited until he was out of danger of falling anywhere else before making her way around the table and calmly taking the seat to Rody's left. He saw she had changed into a uniform herself, dark blue with black and red stripes down the seams. She pulled another holo-tab like the one the red-head had out of her uniform jacket and studied it while the two men argued.
                "Hey kid," Cor's familiar cant was a welcome anchor in this new insanity. "I wondered where ya got to."
                Felix looked back to see Cor and the yellow haired medic he'd been speaking with in the hanger slowly making their way down the single step. They'd left the wheelchair elsewhere, but were forced to tread carefully to accommodate the walking cane Cor was using. Even with it he grimaced every time his right foot hit the floor.
                "Stress fractures in three of his metatarsals," the medic helping Cor walk stated as he guided  Cor into the chair next to Felix. "He won't need a cast, but he'll have to stay off it until they're healed. He should be resting in the medical wing, but he insisted on being present."
                Cor fell the rest of the way to his seat much as Felix had. He stretched his leg under the table with a pained grunt while the medic straightened up and turned to Felix. Unlike the others, his eyes were bright organic blue with only flecks of the Hybridian metal underneath. Felix couldn't feel his field, but then it was hard to feel anything with the Commander in the room.
                "Hatch'loram, ship's head physician," he introduced himself as he grabbed Felix's hand and shook it once. His wrist felt boneless in the doctor's firm grip. "And if you're going to be on my ship I'll need to check you out as well when we're done here."
                He waited for Felix to make some kind of answer, and Felix tried to give him one, but he could only squeak shallow breaths past the static pressing down on his chest.
                Hatch scrutinized him briefly and then sighed as he briefly shuttered his eyes. He hung his head and grumbled to himself as he dropped Felix's hand. Then to Felix's never ending astonishment, he turned and actually rapped the Commander on the back of the head with a sharp knuckle.
                "Keep your field to yourself Magnil, before you wind up killing the boy!" he barked out as he passed him and slid into a chair a few feet down where he could watch events unfold without being in the direct line of fire.
                The Commander shot Hatch a sharp look, but reigned in his field regardless, displaying the iron will his reputation was founded on. Immediately Felix could breathe easier now that his own human-sized bioelectric field wasn't being overwhelmed.
                Rody shot something snarky to the Commander, getting his attention again, but even when he returned the favor, the Commander kept his voice in check.
                Cor nodded his head at Rody as he and the Commander tried to outshout each other. Despite Rody's earlier objections, they had devolved into their native tongue some time ago. "See ya've made a friend," Cor muttered as he leaned the head of his cane against the edge of the table. "Handy."
                Felix huffed a laugh that was more sarcasm than humor. He twisted around in his chair as he answered, searching for anyone else that had slipped in unnoticed after the Commander's startling appearance. "Sure, he's been so much help so far. Is this prince of yours going to show anytime soon?" he asked, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
                Four sets of eyes fixed on him, shock obvious in their various shades. Hatch broke his stare first, heaving another sigh and rubbing at his eyes. His small sound of resignation freed the others and Relia shook her head as she returned to her holo-tab, like she should have expected nothing better.
                Magnil growled something that sounded both irritated and disappointed as he covered his eyes with his own large hand. For the first time, Rody took offense and shot back his own unintelligible grumble.
                Magnil cut him off with a sharp retort and a slice of his hand through the air. There was a pause that Felix thought was the end of it before Magnil snapped out in English, "And get your spark-forsaken feet off the table!"
                He gave them a shove to make sure they returned to the floor.
                A tense silence followed, one Felix half expected Rody to break seeing how much he enjoyed needling the older man. But he didn't. He just sulked quietly in the seat of power he had yet to vacate.
                The Commander used the silence to collect himself. Soon the furious, larger-than-life Hybridian receded and in his place stood a stoic, more reasonable, man.
                "My apologies," he said in a tightly controlled voice, turning to Felix and Cor. " out of hand."
                "Happens," Cor muttered, unfazed. Felix thought it best not to say anything.
                The only one of them still standing hesitated, looking like he was trying to find his place in a pre-arranged script. "I am Ori'magnil, first son of the Oritrix family and high commander of his highness's armed forces. You will address me as Commander Oritrix. You," he skewered Felix with a sharp look, "are Felix Cauldwell of Earth, the human requesting our aid."
                It was not a question so Felix didn't speak, afraid to find out what happened when you threw the high commander of his highness's armed forces off his groove.
                Magnil must have approved of his silence because he nodded once before half turning and indicating the red-head across from them. "May I present his highness, Crown Prince H'rodrich of Hybridia's northern continent. Presumably," he shot the younger man a dark look, "you've already met."
                Felix stared. Rody just smiled and waved his fingers at him where he sat, slouching.
                Feeling he needed to saying something in his own defense, Felix mumbled, "He told me he was a personal assistant."
                Au'relia rolled her eyes to the ceiling while Hatch snorted a laugh. Cor, Felix was glad to see, stared at Rody too. Even recognizing him as royalty, he still hadn't quite expected him to have this
                Magnil's cool cracked again as he turned to Rody. "Why?" he demanded, sounding exhausted more than irate.
                Rody settled himself into the crook of the chair, mischief written all over his face. "Sounded like fun."
                Felix really, really, wished the others looked more surprised by his reasoning.
                He sat there, staring at the prince, trying desperately to think of something appropriate to say, but in the end he realized he only had one reaction.
                "Wow," he muttered as he stared at Rody, "you really are insufferable."
                Rody just cackled laughter as the Commander's field fizzled in barely repressed frustration.

< Entry 30                                                                                                                                            Entry 32 >

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