16 March 1992, 10:23 a.m. CST (1823 GMT)
Fort Albert Sidney Johnston, Texas
The review of troops passed before the stand where
sat Lieutenant General Sir Robert McGill beside his relief
Lieutenant General Lord Franklin Poliwozki. McGill had spent the
last four years as Commanding General of III Corps of the U.S.
Royal Army. Like King Robert I, he had come up from the Royal
Military Academy at West Point, New York, as an army engineer. He
still wore a tab marking him as a "Sapper" above his unit badge
on his left shoulder, directly under the one that displayed the
legend "Special Forces". McGill wore the green beret he'd been
awarded when he graduated from the Royal Army's Institute for
McGill watched as his men marched past, smartly
formed up in ranks, neat salutes delivered and returned by the
two general officers on the stand. The First Cavalry Division had
come first, followed by the elements of the Fourth Infantry
Division. Other units were set to parade before their retiring
commander and his replacement.
Well, the retiring commander, his replacement, and
the gentleman who sat between them, anyway.
Between them, resplendent in his official royal
uniform, sat His Royal Highness Prince James.
The Prince smiled indulgently at the various units as
they marched by. He raised his right hand in a salutary wave.
Office of the Commanding General of III Corps
16 March 1992, 11:12 a.m. CST (1912 GMT)
Fort Albert Sidney Johnston, Texas
The walls and desk were bare, save for the black
beret that the new CO of III Corps had placed in the middle of
it. That officer sat behind the desk, a tumbler of vodka in front
The Prince sat across from him, a tumbler of tequila
near at hand. Captain Lord Commander James Webster, Prince of
America, studied the new CO carefully. Webster was a graduate of
the Royal Naval Academy who had spent the first of his several
years of service in submarines. A sturdily-built, compact man, he
was a supremely competent engineer who had graduated near the top
of his class from the Academy with a degree in physics and at the
top of his class from the Naval Nuclear Power School. He had been
the Executive Officer of the R.M.S. La Jolla before being
assigned to duty at the Royal Navy Yard in Washington City as
part of the staff of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for
Information, Plans, and Strategy.
His facial features were a wider version of the
handsome features that had won his brother fame in politics
before his death. He grinned now. "Congratulations again,
Poliwozki nodded. "And thank you, Your Royal
Webster's smile was steady as he sipped at his spicy
liquid. "And one day," his eyes sparkled, "Your Majesty."
A small smile was on Poliwozki's lips. "But of
It was an interesting friendship that had developed
between the two men since they had met while Poliwozki was on a
visit to Washington City during Webster's assignment there.
Poliwozki was in charge of Royal Security Force Bravo and Webster
was the son of the Chairman of James II's Royal Council at the
time. Their friendship had deepened when Webster's father had
become the head of the new Royal House when James II had died the
year before and taken the name of King Samuel. Admiral Thad
Simmons, the Chief of Naval Operations, had appointed Webster as
Special Assistant to His Majesty. Everyone expected that Prince
James would be named Crown Prince at some point in the near
future and would be King Samuel's heir-designate. His rather
special position allowed him to travel as he saw fit and when he
discovered that his friend was being installed as Commanding
General of III Corps and as overall commander of Fort Albert
Sidney Johnston in his native Texas, he had flown down specially
just to be a part of the event.
Fort Albert Sidney Johnston was named after a hero of
the Republican Revolt from Texas who was recognized by King
Robert I as the best field commander in the Union Army. Before
that, he had been aide-de-camp to General Samuel Houston, a
former President and future Chairman of the Royal Council at the
time, during the Texas Revolution and returned to service in the
Union Army as a Brigadier General against Mexico in 1836. In
1861, Johnston's Army of Texas rescued the Army of Mississippi by
supporting an evacuation after the Army of Mississippi had been
driven out of Alabama. He would be appointed Military Governor of
South Carolina after the successful conclusion of the war before
retiring to Texas. The fort named after him was often described
as the largest military installation in the world and was located
mostly in Bell County in central Texas.
The primary unit based at Fort Johnston was III
Corps, the key testing and training formation of the Royal Army.
And Prince James' good friend, Frank Poliwozki was now in command
James Webster chuckled as he and his friend shared a
joke as they finished their drinks.
Training and Parade Ground, Royal Residence Lincoln
16 March 1992, 10:00 a.m. PST (2000 GMT)
Lincoln City, Jefferson
Rank did not matter here. All that mattered was
Staff Sergeant Freddie Tenejedor was the Training NCO
for the Lincoln Rifles and, by default, the Training NCO for the
entire RSC Bravo. This meant that he often got to serve as
referee for hand-to-hand combat training.
Captain McKenzie had been eliminated in the last
round and it was down to the last two. He shook his head as he
watched the last two competitors prepare for the championship
match. Commander (and Doctor) Seth Terrell stood next to the
Captain, shaking his head as well. "This should be interesting."
McKenzie just chuckled and nodded.
Special Operations Chief Leonard Rhymes was a
muscular fellow whose t-shirt bulged threateningly in all of the
right places. He wore Royal Marine utility pants and reached up
to wipe a smudge of blood from a split lip that McKenzie had
given him in the previous round. His current assignment was to
provide muscle for the protection of Prince Arthur. Dark and
forbidding, Rhymes was a former SEAL in the Royal Navy, in the
eyes of many the best in the world at "wet work", the worldwide
euphemism for missions that often required killing.
Of course, no Marine could believe that the SEALs
were any better than the Royal Marines' Force Recon units.
McKenzie realized, as many probably did not, that Rhyme's
opponent, who happened to be Drew Thompson, had volunteered early
in his career for Force Recon and been assigned to the 1st Recon
Battalion. The records for most of those six years of his career
were highly classified, but he had come out of them one of the
most decorated Recon Marines in history. Compared to Rhymes, he
was leaner and taller with a longer reach. A few scars decorated
the visible skin of his forearms. The skin next to his right eye
was turning purple with a bruise.
Rhymes danced a bit, flexing his muscles and rolling
his head around his shoulders. He was not used to losing fights
at any level.
Tenejedor dropped his hand and the fight was on.
Thompson came forward, his eyes looking for an opening. He didn't
dance, but he was definitely quick to move on nimble feet. Rhymes
tested with a left jab that was swatted away by the Brigadier,
who followed with a spinning back fist strike that was similarly
blocked. When Rhymes took a strong step forward, Thompson moved
backward so quickly that it was difficult to see his feet moving.
The two circled, getting closer. This time, Thompson
made the quick move inside. He stepped inside the SEAL's guard
and drove a quick strike with his right into Rhymes' ribs. When
Rhymes fired back, he hit nothing but air as Thompson feinted
back before stepping in to deliver another, similar blow.
Thompson's drop-back move was real that time and he used the
moment to study the effects of his blows.
Rhymes grinned slowly as he rubbed the sore spots on
his side. McKenzie had trained against the Brigadier many times
and knew that, while most of the men around figured Rhymes would
win this fight, Thompson was actually the superior fighter. He
could only lose the match if he fell into a hold by the larger,
stronger man. That would require the Brigadier making a mistake
and Thompson didn't do that very often.
When Rhymes came forward, cutting off the ring,
Thompson drove a kick at his left knee, which drew a gasp from
the crowd. Contact to the knee in this training simulation was
illegal. Thompson, however, knew that, too. When Rhymes dropped
to protect, he showed that the kick was a feint and hammered the
younger man in the side of the head with the edge of his right
hand. Rhymes pulled back, shocked at the maneuver, but it was too
late. Thompson was back inside his guard and took the bigger man
by the shoulders to drive first one knee, then the other into his
solar plexus. He made another quick move to position himself
behind Rhymes and swept his legs out from under him.
The Brigadier locked Rhymes into an anaconda choke
and applied a minimal amount of pressure. The point was not to
injure, just to show enough dominance to make your opponent tap
out. Rhymes refused for a long second, delivering a couple of
quick shots to Thompson's ribs with his free hand which did
nothing to loosen the grip, before tapping the ground.
Thompson released the hold and popped to his feet. He
extended his hand to his fallen opponent as the troops around the
ring applauded wildly. The two grinned at each other and briefly
embraced. "Next time," whispered Rhymes into Thompson's ear.
When the two broke, Thompson nodded. "Absolutely," he said.
Quarters of the Commanding Officer, Royal Residence Lincoln
16 March 1992, 10:30 a.m. PST (2030 GMT)
Lincoln City, Jefferson
Thompson looked up as the door opened.
Seth Terrell sat at his side, holding a compress
against the split skin along a rib on his right side. His right
arm was lifted to allow the doctor to work.
Thompson's eyes caught sight of the Princess Anna.
Neither man, despite their military training, rose to attention,
as both were quite busy, Terrell treating, Thompson being
treated. A sparkle appeared in Thompson's eye as Anna took in his
He was wearing only a pair of khaki boxer shorts. He
looked sexy as hell, she thought, still needing a shower and some
tender loving care. Thompson read that look in her eyes. He
allowed a corner of his mouth to come up before it was erased by
the compress pulling at his skin when Terrell pulled it away.
"How bad is it, Doctor?" There was definite worry in
Terrell stifled a snort. "This was just a scratch."
He looked up at her. "In fact, the blood flow has stopped." He
stood, dropping the compress into a trash can behind him. "Alas,
Your Highness, your protector will more than survive." He bowed
deeply and Thompson stifled a snort of his own at the pomposity
of the doctor.
Anna gave the doctor a wry look. "I never had a doubt
of that, Doctor." She sank her barb. "And that was despite your
medical abilities, not because of them."
Terrell clutched at his chest, a look of faux-horror
on his face. "Well, if that's the way you're going to be ..." He
turned a critical eye on the Brigadier. "Anything else, Drew?"
Thompson shook his head. "No. I'm fine, Seth.
"Of course." He cast a critical eye toward the
Princess before snapping his heels together. "By your leave,
Thompson rolled his eyes as Anna cracked a smile.
"Aye, aye, sir." He stepped out of the room and
closed the door behind him.
Anna was quickly to the chair the doctor had vacated.
Her own critical eye studied the cut on his side before looking
at the bruise beside his eye. "It's really nothing?"
Thompson was not used to personal concern from anyone
but his mother. He found himself touched. His right hand reached
out and took hers. He lifted it to his lips. She stroked his
cheek. "It's just cuts and bruises, beloved."
He saw her smile at the endearment and was amazed how
simply they could make each other feel good. In the two weeks
since the Leap Year Ball, they had continued a discreet
relationship, even spending most nights together. They were
blissfully unaware that their staffs had picked up on the signs
immediately. Nobody said anything because they all judged that it
was a positive thing for them to be together. Besides, most of
them thought it was kind of cute, the Brigadier and the Princess,
the Knight-Errant and his Lady, Lancelot and Guinevere.
She leaned forward and kissed him under the bruise.
Her nose caught a whiff of the smell of sweat. Under it was the
musky scent of man. She was at once aroused and repulsed by the
two disparate odors. "You need a bath, lover," she whispered.
The skin of his face was suddenly hot and he shifted
at the stiffness in his groin. It had been a couple of days,
after all. He cut his eyes to hers and found them smiling and
bright. He nodded.
She sat up and reached up to start unbuttoning her
blouse. "Why don't I go draw you a bath?"
His eyes caught the sight of her milky-white flesh
under her top and he swallowed hard before nodding again. "That
would be nice."
The Princess stood and removed her shirt, laughing at
him, before turning away to head for the bath.