Okay, so my first audiobook is out. Yea! And I’m recording the second book starting tomorrow. Yea! Until then, it is not as if I can stop writing…
After an odd dream which will be in the book, the young prince is off to meet his aunt. And, at long last, I have a working title for this new book. I wonder what the final shall be?
“I know most people hate late afternoon meetings, but Princess Ryland is not most people. Let’s be off to their academy, please.”
MacDougal restarted the car and the van fell in behind them as they set off to the northeast. They crossed the causeway onto Pelican Island and even Edward was surprised at the new construction. Originally a branch of Texas A&M University, his aunt, her husband, and great uncle Arpad had convinced the politicians in Austin a generation ago that unless they wanted Texas to become a dependency of Mexico, they would need a green- then blue-water navy with officers and NCOs to lead it. The Texan Naval Academy was the result of that lobbying. Mostly for said officers, but it also had a two year “finishing school” for those NCOs on their way to be Chiefs.
“Damn sight better than what I seen in Mobile,” his driver noted in a low tone.
“And the Empress has yet to decide if Mobile, Savannah, or Norfolk should be where our Academy is,” Edward agreed, looking about at the sea of young men in uniform moving smartly around the base before them. Verified at the main gate, a guard informed them that while Captain Rupert’s office was in a certain building, right now, she could be found further along the island.
Leaving the van and those three at the mess hall, they drove on to the eastern tip of the island to Seawolf Park, where an old WWII submarine and destroyer were on display. Further out were several anglers, trying their luck in Galveston Bay. Mentioning who they sought at the park’s entrance had them waved in with no fee. Edward was out of the car as MacDougal was still parking, trotting south, from the parking lot to the beached sub, USS 244. High atop the sail was a single figure, looking opposite his direction. He made for the boat’s opening at the fore.
There was a family of Texan tourists – four kids, he noted – sightseeing their way through the sub. He excused himself around them and once in the control room, looked at the unpadlocked hatches leading up. He climbed. The topmost was still swung open and the afternoon’s light washed down. Slowing to quiet his ascent, he, too, stepped out onto the sail’s top deck.
It was obvious she was aware of someone behind her. Edward guessed she assumed a tourist going where they should not have, given that she had. Still, she continued to stare northeast, at the Houston ship channel, busy with freighters.
Not wanting to be hit again, he stepped to her right, but some feet away.
“Princess Ryland,” he said softly. “On behalf of the Empress and myself, I am very pleased to see you again.”
“Little Edward,” she replied without turning. “Business or pleasure?”
“I am here to formally extend the superintendent-ship of the Imperial Naval Academy to you,” he said formally. “But it is also my pleasure to see you again, Princess.”
She sighed but never took her eyes from the water.
“I have had to put up being called that since I first met your mother and became the darling of her fourth legion. I earned my rank as a captain and would prefer be addressed as such, rather than an accident of birth.”
“As one of those accidents,” Edward smiled, “sometimes, they happen. You are fortunate to be far enough away from my mother to have made your own way. I’ve had no such freedom.”
She finally turned to him, obviously surprised that the “little Edward” in her mind from five years ago wasn’t, any longer.
“I apologize, nephew.” She finally smiled and for just a moment, the prince was sixteen again. He retained the memory but forced the feelings out of his mind.
“Not at all, Captain,” he said with a nod. “Would you care to hold our conversation up here…?”
“No. This is not a place of business. We can go back to my office,” Ryland said, stepping to the hatch.
“Yes,” her nephew agreed softly. “This is a place of hope and faith for you.”
Neither spoke as they descended, she relocked the hatches, and they moved aft to exit, then out onto the ground. Then she replied.
“Our navy, you demis, the machines,” Ryland said, walking next to Edward, “they all searched. No data; no debris. My husband is missing. He is not dead. And he will come back to me.”
With nothing to say to that which would not make it worse, he just held open the rear passenger door for her before going around to the other side. MacDougal moved them out, back toward the academy.