My Best Friend is a Prince from Another Worldby
Pt. II, Ch. 1A: A new bed, in a new house, a new city, in a new world.
Tues, Sept 1, 1992 (Terran common era) 2472 (Old Imperial year)
Feldaren, Union of the Etciv
Eastern suburb of South Riverside
A townhouse, my bedroom, 6:30 AM
My alarm went off at an uncomfortably early hour, and I woke to light already coming in through insufficiently dark curtains. I still wasn’t used to a new bed, in a new house, a new city, in a new world. With a roommate, rather than my family -- who were two train rides and a universe hop away.
My things were still in boxes, but I’d set out the school uniform the night before, and my laptop and textbooks sat out on the otherwise bare desk. A bellow came from the hall. “Yo, Mark! Are you up?”
“Yeah, I’m up.”
“Then shut off your alarm, already.” I did and pulled a bathrobe over my pajamas. I stuck my head out -- Joel was already dressed except for the tie and jacket and was heading downstairs. A short shower later, and I was doing the same, except with my tie on.
There was breakfast on the table. Dormer must have sent his housekeeper in to cook. The eggs and pancakes could have been from home; the meat they called bacon here seemed more like a pale, under-cured slice of ham to me, but it was tasty enough. “When do we have to leave to be on time?” I asked Joel; we’d both been down there over the weekend, but I was nervous that even with more frequent streetcars, the heavier traffic would delay us.
“The opening assembly is 8AM, things will usually be 8:15. Probably should give it 45 minutes, to be on the safe side, so… soon?”
I looked at the clock on the wall, having never gotten in the habit of wearing a watch. 5 minutes to 7. I ate a little more but didn't have much of an appetite. As I was getting up to stick my dishes in the sink, Dormer came in through the front door. I’d gotten used to him in an American style suit on his visits back to NY over the summer, and it was strange to see him in his local uniform, gold braid and all. As Joel’s guardian in this world, he had been around a lot in helping us settle in, and in guiding us in what to do here.
He was still a little put out that Joel didn’t want a “household” -- if he’d had his way, they’d have been living in a mansion, with a valet, butlers, maids, a full-time cook, drivers, and guards. As a middle-class kid from Queens, the semi-regular cleaning and meals from Dormer’s housekeeper seemed like the height of luxury to me. Having a two-bedroom apartment between just Joel and I seemed like a lot of privacy for a pair of teenagers, even with Dormer and Agent Morgan each having apartments in the other half of the building.
Dormer and Morgan had divided up the duties of shadowing Joel from a safe distance; for our first day of school, unless I missed my guess, it would be both. Without talking to Morgan, it would be hard to be sure -- he could be very inconspicuous, while Dormer clearly wasn’t trying to be today.
Dormer gave Joel a brief once over, and then helped him straighten his necktie. “I remember my first time in that uniform. It’s a pity you’ll only get two years there.”
He went on. “I know why we’re not being public about your title yet but do remember that you carry the honor of our nation with you. You did very well on the entrance exam -- keep that up with your classes and you’ll do fine.”
To me he said, “And thank you, Mark, for coming along to keep an eye on him.”
“No problem,” I shrugged. “Joel’s been watching my back for years.”
Then he asked Joel one last time, “You really won’t let me drive you?”
Joel shook his head. “Even if it’s not a limo, it’s still going to stand out. We’ll take the streetcar.”
I was eager to try bicycling the route; it was farther than home had been from our school in Manhattan, but much flatter without a bridge to go over and with lighter traffic. Today, though, I’d be joining Joel on the streetcar. Dormer saw us to the end of the block, and if he followed us in his car after that, he kept a discreet distance.
Coming from New York, the streetcars were a pleasant novelty, but they felt much slower than the subway; the crowding was nothing new. The light traffic turned out to be just in the relatively well-off neighborhood we lived in. Our trip to shop downtown over the weekend showed us that traffic jams were just as much a thing here as at home.
Normally, I’d have had a book in hand the whole way, whether some sci-fi novel or something about computers -- or lately, history. For all that their world had been peaceful for longer than ours had, the prior century here could easily have rivaled ours for bloodshed and they had a fascinating richness of political and military history that I’d only scratched the surface of while preparing for the entrance exam.
Today, though, I just listened to Joel’s excited chatter, which wasn’t like him. My own nerves must have been at least as bad as his, but I wasn’t excited, just relieved to be getting a fresh start. For Joel, this was a grand adventure. He was probably right -- if things went well, he’d be making the jump from kid from Queens to a head of a state, and fabulously wealthy besides. Potential downsides were lost on him, mostly lost on both of us, and my more mundane worries were around what to write up for Hull and Delgado for my stipend and getting good enough grades not to have to make up any classes in my senior year back at home.
The biggest thing on Joel’s mind seemed to be girls. Neither of us had ever had much luck, or even been on a proper date. Not for lack of trying a few years back, but I’d given up. Very few of the girls in my old class would even talk to me, and while Anne had stuck by me as a friend, she’d shown every sign of seeing me as something of a troubled sibling -- whatever her mom had thought.
“So -- uniforms. Not all bad, eh Mark?” I’d tuned him out, but an elbow brought my attention back. He nodded his head towards the front entrance. A pair of girls had come onto the streetcar, wearing the formal-days uniform of our new school. Both blonde, both a little on the short side, but not much of a resemblance beyond that. Joel was right, though -- the uniforms looked nice compared to the near-uniform of jeans and t-shirts at home or even worse the plaid flannel that was coming in.
“You think they’re our year?” I asked.
“Maybe. More likely first years.”
The car was crowded enough that even if we’d been inclined to say hi, it might have been difficult. As we approached the school, people going to work and shopping thinned out, and a lot more students came on. Not surprising; this was the nearest north-south line to the school. A few stops before we got there, a crush of students came on, changing from the line leading from the outer eastern suburbs.
Then we were there. While not the end of the line, it might as well have been for the number of us students shuffling off the emptying car. The streetcar stop was directly outside the school, just to one side of the gates. I asked Joel if he thought there would be time to drop by the upper school Dean’s office to get our final schedules before the assembly; he looked down at his watch and shook his head, so straight to the main hall we went.
- California, USA
Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.