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 Military Assistance.
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 of him.
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, General.”
Poliwozki nodded. “And thank you, Your Royal Highness.”
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 course, sire.”
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 of it.
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 success.
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
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
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 appearance.
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 Anna’s voice.
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. Thanks.”
“Of course.” He cast a critical eye toward the Princess before snapping his heels together. “By your leave, Brigadier.”
Thompson rolled his eyes as Anna cracked a smile. “Dismissed, Commander.”
“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
The Princess stood and removed her shirt, laughing at him, before turning away to head for the bath.
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