Would a force of nature such as Sky settle for a normal boyfriend? Of course not. Funny in that she does not begin to grasp what a world she might be pulled into: demi-humans and the imperial family. Could you imagine a family dinner and Roland walks in with the white wildcat on his arm? I’d love to see that! Maybe I will.
A number of interesting emotions flickered across the girl’s face as she looked up at the ceiling to mutter something before returning her wonderful eyes to his.
“Gimme a minute, Bob. Gus? I need two bourbons and two ales…”
Not knowing what was coming next, the two legionaries just sat at the nearest table and waited. After she took the drinks out and returned, the girl walked to their table.
“I’m Skylar Zim,” she said with her hand out to Mitch. He stood, took hers, and introduced himself.
“If you don’t mind, can I borrow Bob from you? I want him to meet someone,” she asked.
“Sounds alright to me…” Mitch allowed. “I’ll look around.”
“Good! C’mon, Bob!” She grabbed his left wrist with her right hand and pulled him toward the stairs.
“If you’re taking a break, Sky…” the bartender began.
“I’m checking on our customer upstairs. My break’s later, old man!”
“Are you always so charming?” Robert asked as they were halfway up the stairs. His attention was immediately taken by a large painting on the wall to his right: St. Michael casting Satan out of Heaven. That’s very well done.
At the top of the stairs was a mirror of the room below but with a brick wall separating second floor into two rooms. There was one larger, round table to his left with two smaller along the wall. At the larger was a seated man facing away, looking at the sea of papers spread before him. His clothes were most definitely not local. In fact…
“Come on, Bob!” Another tug. “I wanna introduce you to my boyfriend!”
She released his hand and threw both arms about the man’s neck, leaning forward to kiss his left cheek.
“Did you miss me, Roland?” she purred.
Robert almost dropped his glass.
“Meet my newest friend!” Sky carried on. “He’s seen me topless and felt me up!”
The young man with hair nearly black but, now knowing what to look for, showed traces of purple when the light caught it, turned slowly around to his right. His silver eyes held Robert’s.
“I was unaware that molesting girls was legionary policy,” he said without a smile. “But then I’ve out of the imperium for some time. Have there been new regs, hastatus?”
Robert’s mind raced. For a human. It was etiquette for any ranker to salute any member of the imperial family. But the girl didn’t seem to know who her boyfriend really was. And, cousin Roland had just taken great care to not expose the Crown Prince, as well. What to do?
“No, fellow subject of Her Majesty, there have not,” Robert said with a polite nod. “My centurion’s team rescued this soaking wet kitten in the rain and sleet some hours ago and brought her home. Any physical contact was, ah, incidental to getting her warmed up from the storm.”
“Oh, come on, Bob!” Sky laughed, never taking her arms from about Roland’s neck. “When you caught me over the seat, sure! But you were pulling me pretty close on the drive! Another few miles would have had your hands down my pants!”
“Sky?” Roland’s voice dropped just a little.
“Yes?” She stood up. Acting completely different.
“Some more tea for me, please, and bring up another ale for the legionary. I’d like to talk with him a bit.”
“Sure!” She skipped past Robert and bounced down the stairs.
They looked at one another. One Hartmann to another.
“Crown Prince Robert,” the other said, standing and giving a small bow.
“Prince Roland,” he said, returning it before coming around to sit opposite on the round table. “That was interesting. Is that girl really your girlfriend?”
“Oh, yes, and I can see in you that you know why,” Roland smiled, his enhanced demi-human nervous system taking in cues from Robert that the young prince knew he could not control. “And she’s not a girl, unless you think of yourself as a boy. She’s two months older than you are.”
“Weren’t you engaged…?” Robert began.
“To Dorothy? Yes.” Roland sighed. “We both knew it wouldn’t work. She wanted some superhero. You know I just want to be a doctor. It’s…”
He looked out the window and downed the last of his tea.
“I’ve been here for five weeks, working with the local hospital and docs to improve techniques. Three days into that, I came here at noon for some quiet to do what I’m doing now: notes and plans. Some fireball fell from the sky.”
“Good Lord,” Robert sat up. “You’re in love with her!”
“Yes.” There was a creak from the stairs and Roland made a faint motion with his hand. No one spoke.
“Hey, hey!” Sky laughed, with a glass in each hand. “What’s this atmosphere! You two gonna fight over me!”
“No…” Robert began as she was setting the drinks down, “but I would like an invitation to y’all’s wedding.”
The two glasses fell the last inch to the table.
“I don’t think someone from the empire would stoop to marry a country hick like me – ” she breathed.
“We will send you one,” Roland said.
“Dammit!” Sky punched her boyfriend’s shoulder and ran back down the stairs.
“To be blunt cousin, I don’t know if my mother will permit that,” Robert noted.
“The Empress considers every member of the family to be pieces on her board,” Roland observed, picking up his new glass and taking a drink. “She might well recall who my mother is and what that implies.”
Henge Hartmann. Once an experimental AI made from her father, Thaad, and the co-creation of Lily Barrett, she moved heaven and earth – and a fusion reactor – to assume a mortal form to marry her lifelong love, Gary, the Empress’s brother. From that union came Aurelia then Roland. Robert knew they desired so many more children but were devastated to find that Henge had almost no eggs. Still, Aurie and Roland were not just demi-human like his mother, brothers, and sisters. They were something else again.