My Best Friend is a Prince from Another World



Pt. I, Ch. 11: “Just to let us know if there is anything of note at the school”


Saturday, early afternoon
The townhouse where we’d be staying

The next little while after Dormer and Joel left was confused; we doubled back to the plaza outside Champion’s expecting to have to go in to find the rest of our families, but the moms, plus April and Sammy were waiting outside.

“Where are Joel and Vince?” asked Joel’s stepmom.

“I’ll explain everything when we get there,” said Morgan, “but right now we need to get back to the boys’ apartment to wait for them.”

As it turned out, none of us had thought to get any local currency from Dormer, nor had any of us thought about exchanging dollars at the gate - I wondered whether they would have done so. Joel’s mom had her group return to the plaza on realizing there was no way to pay for anything.

The apartment would have been in a far walking distance - not too much more than a mile - had the weather been nicer, and if we hadn’t had a six-year-old along. As it stood, we took the streetcar - according to Morgan there was a line which went directly from the terminal to past our school. The apartment building they’d found was just a couple of blocks off Surrat-Efrel Boulevard, of the main avenue it ran along. I recognized the name as one of the early elected Emperors after Marcus the Conqueror; he’d been in some questions on the entrance exam, among other things for having established the precedent of retiring after twenty years.

My student ID wouldn’t start getting me free rides until Tuesday, which was the first day of school. Fortunately, Morgan had been staying here for some time and had local change. The fare was 5 mil, or roughly 50c; a silver coin called a “half wheel.” For something worth that, it was quite a small coin - around the same size as a nickel. April was young enough to ride for half-fare. More people got off the streetcar than got on with us, and the ride was quiet and uncrowded.

The neighborhood where we got off had some shops along Surrat-Efrel but compared to my part of Queens it felt very suburban. I’d wanted to check the shops out, but Morgan was insistent we go straight to the apartment. Our apartment was two short blocks from the main street, going away from the river. It was a brick building, essentially two townhouses next to each other - our apartment was on the left, split across both floors, while the other half was a separate unit on each floor. Morgan had the ground floor to himself, and Dormer the upper. There were covered parking spots along one side, one of them occupied; a brick-and-iron fence separated the small front yard from the street.

Morgan had a set of keys and let us in; the first floor was mostly a combined living room and kitchen, reasonably spacious by New York standards, although it would be crowded if we all stayed in for the afternoon. Stairs led up, and there was a door next to the kitchen leading back - as it turns out, to a very small laundry room and half bath, as well as the back door.

Overall, it was nice enough, although it wasn’t remotely home-y in its current state - the furniture was new and still in plastic or paper wrappings, and Joel’s and my boxes were stacked up next to the stairs, as was my bicycle; I stuck it for now in the laundry room to keep it out of the way.

Joel’s mom took it upon herself to start unwrapping the furniture; my dad decided to task Sammy with helping her. I spent a while hauling boxes upstairs, or for a few of the heavy boxes of my books, unpacking them here and bringing their contents up piecemeal. A couple of Joel’s boxes were too heavy to carry, probably also full of books, and I figured he could deal with those himself.

The two bedrooms had the bathroom between them; the back one was smaller, and as the freeloader here I figured I should take that one -- although it also occurred to me that it would be quieter of street noise and was facing west and thus better for sleeping late, so it wasn’t entirely unselfish of me.

One very pleasant surprise is that the whole place was air conditioned; it wasn’t central air, but the permanently mounted wall units were much quieter than the window ones my folks would grudgingly bring out in the worst of summer, and they had the benefit that each room could have its own temperature.

Hauling boxes proved to be a pretty good distraction, and by the time I was done the living room looked much better. My folks had also started putting together a list of things we’d need; while the place was furnished, it was empty of anything like cups, plates, cleaning supplies, or even toilet paper. Breakfast had been on the late side, but it was a bit past 1 and everyone was starting to get hungry again; with no food in the house, and no cash, my mom was going to walk over to check on Morgan next door, when Joel, his dad, and Dormer arrived.

Dormer gave us the update on what had happened; the Obdresti King was alive and mostly recovered via magical healing; overall casualties were significant but mostly non-fatal. Someone had sent a truck filled with explosives into the parliament building. They suspected the same rebels who had been responsible for a similar incident four years ago, but no one had claimed credit yet. There had been reports of seeing a driver bailing out of the truck shortly before it struck, but if so, they were lost in the ensuing confusion.

Joel seemed relatively calm, which seemed out of place to me; they hadn’t used the word “terrorist” here, but it seemed very much like the sort of thing that qualified. If someone had it in for his great-uncle, or the whole government, surely that meant he was at a great risk himself. I figured I’d better talk to him privately. We had a little over 24 hours to decide whether to stay, and while my own worries were mostly over whether I was better off being lonely and homesick here vs. lonely, grieving and depressed at home, I realized that he had a lot more to worry about.

We were still set to meet up with the diplomats for dinner, and we needed lunch, and if we were staying, we had to figure out how to get other household things. It seemed like the right kind of distraction for a weird day, and in the end, rather than tourist things we returned to near the station to get lunch and shop.

Jordi’s Market, main concourse, Riverside terminal

Elise had the front of the shop to herself for a while; the coworker who had come in for the morning had gone home, and the manager was in the back, doing paperwork. She wasn’t especially fond of having to handle customers on her own, but she’d been working there a while and it was about as good a job as you could get in high school - the hours were flexible, the customers mostly undemanding, and the location was bright, safe, and conveniently on the way between school and home.

The man who came in was hardly worth noticing at first; other than a face that looked a little too young for all the gray in his hair, a thoroughly average adult in a suit. Probably coming back to the station to head home after working the morning - many office workers had to come in on Saturday, and it wasn’t that unusual for them to start filtering out early.

Elise figured she could guess what he would buy - coffee or a bottled tea, as he looked too old for soda or juice, and probably a newspaper or magazine to read on the train. Maybe a pre-packed dinner, or some beer to bring home. She hoped he wouldn’t ask for some of the wine or liquor they had on shelves behind the counter - at her age, Elise was not supposed to sell them, and yet the manager hated being disturbed for small things.

The man did none of those, instead walking straight up to the counter. She hoped it was a question, and not a request for the liquor or for lottery tickets - with a sports betting shop elsewhere in the station, the manager here didn’t bother to stock them.

“Hello, sir, can I help you?” she said.

“I think so,” the man said, smiling slightly. He had a distinct accent but hadn’t said enough for her to place it. “I’ve seen you coming here before, you go to the Queen Sara Academy, yes?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t think I know you,” said Elise; her hand was below the counter just over a pair of buttons, one of which could summon the manager from the back, the other of which was a silent alarm. Being in one of the biggest and busiest stations in the world, police were never very far away, and this location had literally never been successfully robbed.

“I’m sorry, miss, truly! I mean you no harm. I should have introduced myself first. My name is Paul Jekanis, here is my card.” He placed a business card on the counter, facing her. She read it without picking it up - it said he was an investigator for a company called Magnus Trading.

“Thank you, but what business do you have with me?” she asked.

“My employer does a lot of business abroad, especially in Obdrest. Your school is known for having the children of many important families.”

Elise said nothing, and he continued.

“It can often be worth knowing about their coming and going before their parents make the news. We have found commercial advantage in that in the past, but our contacts departed. I’m sure you’ve heard that some of the Obdresti students returned to their country?”

“Yes,” she said, “One of my close friends did.”

“So, when we hear about things like that, we are able to figure out that there may be turmoil in Obdrest, just as we now hear in the news. It lets the principals of my firm make better choices about where to send ships or invest in cargo.”

“Isn’t that insider trading?”

“I’m not a lawyer, Miss, but as I understand it such things are for public markets, not for the private purchase or consignment of cargo.”

The accent, she thought, sounded a bit like Old Imperial, as was his last name. She’d grown up knowing just enough to get by with older members of her family; three of her grandparents had been native speakers, and her father had been functionally bilingual.

“I see,” she said. “What is it that you’re asking me, exactly?”

“Just to let us know if there is anything of note at the school - new transfer students, people leaving to go abroad, any sons or daughters of VIPs making a name for themselves whether good or bad,” he said. “We’ll reward you generously for your time in letting us know whatever you find out.”

“I’ll think about it,” she said.

“Please keep the card and leave a message with the receptionist if you’d like to do business.”


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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