My Best Friend is a Prince from Another World



Pt. I, Ch. 9B: “Explosion at the Obdresti Parliament.”


Sat, August 29
Queen Sara Memorial Academy

When the meeting was over and we went outside, Joel was talking to someone in a school uniform. “Hey Mark,” he said, waving me over. “This is Neil Mayhan, he’s the student council vice president, and going into his second year, like us.”

“Hi,” I said to Neil.

“Hello, it’s good to meet you,” said Neil. “Now that you’re done, the Dean has asked me to conduct a tour for your families.”

Neil seemed nice enough in a bland, preppy sort of way, and he gave a bit more color to what was essentially the same tour the Dean had given us in the spring. The main difference was that the academic buildings were deserted, and the classrooms spotlessly clean since the semester hadn’t started yet. One thing he pointed out that we hadn’t seen on the prior trip was the school’s computer lab - two rooms of what to my eyes looked like antiques, one-piece green screen terminals, separated by a glassed-in operator’s room. “We’re one of the few high schools with a mainframe dedicated to teaching and student use,” said Neil.

“No personal computers?” I asked.

“There’s no need for those toys,” Neil said. “There was a computer club that kept some for students to use, but I don’t think they’ll have enough members to keep it running this year. Besides, government and big business, the kind of leadership we prepare students for, run on mainframes.”

I really wanted to come up with some witty response, but all that came to mind was this place is that far behind? and even I had better sense than to say that. I suspect the “ah, OK,” that I did say may have sounded a bit skeptical.

The clubs at the arts center seemed busier than I remembered, and he made a point of showing us the student council room. It was a far cry from the metal furniture I remembered from the G.O. office at our old school; a lot of wood, looking old and expensive. A painting of a matronly woman overlooked the room - from the textbook photos, it seemed likely to be an older Queen Sara of Penrose. She looked much better in her statue.

“Most of the club rooms are closed or still getting set up for the year, so I thought I’d show you ours. Most are smaller, of course, but there are enough that right now every social or cultural club who wants one has one. Have either of you given thought to what you will be doing for extracurriculars?”

I shrugged, but Joel answered, “When we were first here, the Dean mentioned that there was a soccer club as well as the team, so I thought I’d try out for that.”

“I’m on the team itself, and tryouts are pretty competitive,” said Neil. “Were you playing competitively at your last school?”

“No,” said Joel, “but I played in a weekend league and over the summer.”

“Well, the club is open to anyone, and I suppose we’ll see about the team,” said Neil. “And you - Mark, was it? - no interests outside of class you’d want to pursue?”

I shrugged again. “I just got here; I’ll need to see what there is. That computer club could be interesting if they’re looking for members.”

“You should give some thought to how things like that look on a college application,” said Neil. “Especially if you aren’t well off and will need a scholarship, you’d do better to join something that shows leadership, not some hobby for nerds.”

I wasn’t planning to continue on for senior year here, let alone college, and I suspected my grades would be more of a problem than my extracurriculars screaming “nerd,” as if they didn’t already - my prior forays in trying to start a D&D club, for example, and I had technically been the vice president of Martin’s “Action Movie Appreciation Society” for a couple of years. It didn’t seem worth arguing, though, so I just shrugged.

I decided to drop back, walking closer to my folks after that. Joel seemed to be getting along well with Neil and had a bunch of questions about the soccer team. He also never asked about whether the school had a band, and I thought to myself to ask him about that later.

“How do you find time to do both student council and competitive Soccer?” Joel asked.

“It isn’t easy,” said Neil, “but it’s just a matter of efficiency, and my family has a full-time tutor for my sister and I, so I make the most of the remaining time to study.”

“That sounds handy.”

“Very,” said Neil. “You said you were coming from America, on the other side of the gate. How did you end up coming here?”

Joel gave a very brief discussion of having been contacted by the State Department, leaving out the original reason why, and playing up Hull’s interest in boosting trade across the gate.

“Interesting. What does your father do?” asked Neil.

“He owns an import business,” said Joel.

“Is that why you were selected?” asked Neil.

“Could be,” said Joel. “He’s certainly interested in doing business through the gate if the legalities work out for it.” That was the first I’d heard of that; it made sense, if nothing else, as an excuse to check on Joel. The little I’d heard of the legalities sounded painful, or at least they had been - it was hard to get a conversation in with Hull without hearing how much he wanted that to change.

They went on as we finished with the art center and went through roughly the same walk-through of the sports center. It was quieter than it had been, like the rest of the campus; I asked Neil about it.

“It’s the last weekend before classes start,” he said, “even people who were practicing over the summer are likely to take this weekend time off. It’s only a few of us who are the most dedicated right now.”

He didn’t wait for a response, and other than noticing that only a few lanes in the pool were in use, the sport center was just as boring. I thought briefly about asking Neil about the Dueling Club sign to get his take on the fencing club, but he and Joel were talking soccer practically the whole way through the center.

We ended back at the administration building. On reaching there, Neil said that he was heading back to the student council office, and to Joel that he looked forward to seeing him at soccer tryouts. We went inside and were met by the same assistant and a very bored bus driver. There were also a pair of student handbooks and packets each with our student ID, which would double as a transit pass, and a whole mess of paperwork to go over with our parents tonight. The assistant also let us know that our class assignments had not been made yet, and to come by on Monday or before classes started on Tuesday morning to get our schedules.

Except for Special Agent Morgan, we all went to breakfast at Riva’s, a family restaurant a few blocks down the main road from the school, and according to Dormer, a favorite after-school hangout especially for its ice cream. It was our first exposure to chains in this world; my mom picked up a brochure at the front desk, which turned out to be a very long list of locations.

The breakfast menu was an odd mix of many unfamiliar names and mostly familiar foods; everyone found something they could order, although April asked for ice cream all through the meal. The main topic of discussion was what to do with the day; we were to meet the diplomats again around dinner time and could occupy ourselves until then. My folks not had not been on the tour before and wanted to see the main sights; April wanted to see the dragons again, and I wanted to explore the Natural Science Museum a bit more as well. In the end, both sets of parents decided to head into the city, and possibly split up there.

Wherever Morgan had gone off to while we ate, he reappeared on our way back to get the bus; after some further discussion with Dormer about traffic, we decided to have the bus drop us at the main station - Riverside Terminal - and then take a train into the city. The station building, which looked large from the air, seemed even bigger coming in from the ground. In addition to the train station, it was the largest shopping center in this part of the city and in the late mid-morning on Saturday was already quite busy.

It was never clear to me why we made a stop to shop there; there had been some discussion of clothing shopping on the bus, but we ended up in two groups - Joel’s mom, April, my folks and Sammy heading off to Champion’s, the main department store leaving Joel, his dad, Dormer, and I to wait for them. While waiting, Joel’s dad suggested we track down electronics, and Dormer indicated that we’d do better at a specialty place instead of the department store. He suggested one called New Akiba. “Is that named after the district in Tokyo?” Joel’s dad asked Dormer.

“I have no idea,” replied Dormer.

The shop was in a building to itself, across a pedestrian plaza from the station, and nearly the size of a small department store. On the walk over, we’d talked with Dormer about what the apartment already had, which included a TV but not a VCR, so we decided to get a local one as the old player I’d brought would not work with the local TVs. I had a monitor that it would work with, for my own room, whenever our moving boxes arrived.

Inside the store, it could have been any big electronics store back in the states. The big TVs were a very visible display near the main entrance, and Joel’s dad decided to head that way -- guessing that VCRs would be near them, I suspect. We didn’t get there; as we got to the display TVs, the blood drained out of Dormer’s face. A moment later, I noticed the news on the screen - the news person saying something silently in front of a screen with grainy images of the marble front of a burning building, or what was left of it, with one corner fully collapsed. The sound was off so we could not hear what was being said but the text below it was clear: “Explosion at the Obdresti Parliament.”

Collecting himself after a moment, Dormer turned to the rest of us and said, “I’ve got to find a payphone. Don’t move from here; I’ll be back in a moment.”

As he started to walk off, Morgan, who had been keeping his distance enough that I’d long since lost sight of him, walked up. He nodded his head to Dormer, who kept going, and then stood off just far enough from us that I’m not sure whether someone would have realized he was with us.

Several minutes went by; Joel tried to turn the TV’s volume up and had figured out where the button was hidden to hear “...there’s no word on the King…” when Dormer came back.

“We’ve got to get you someplace safer, until I know more,” he said to Joel. Then, to Morgan, “Find the rest of both families and get them to the apartment; I’ll bring Joel and his father there or send word to meet elsewhere.”

A moment later, he, Joel and Joel’s dad were off. Morgan looked at my dad and me.

“I guess we should find Ruth and Samuel,” said my dad.


About the author


  • California, USA

Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.

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