Subject 15: Ch 14

The guns were laid out on the side table, along with about half his stash of knives. Ajay had insisted that he respect his employer enough not to come to the lunch table completely clothed in metal. He had half met the request, reiterating that he was a trainer and temporary bodyguard, not a companion. If he was to protect the Prince, then it would have to be that way. Shelly was relieved when the guns were down on the table near the door. The cold aura flowing off Fane dissipated when they were no longer a part of his outfit.

Fane glared at his food. What is this? He chewed the inside of his lip nervously. Should I? The plate was portioned into several spots of small samplers. He couldn’t recognise any of it. He looked up to see what everyone else was doing with their meal. The Prince, Ajay, Shelly, and himself were seated around a small conference table that was part of the Prince’s office chamber. It was shoved off in a corner that backed up against a meeting point of windows overlooking the gardens and a set of bookshelves.

They hadn’t even given him the decent option of a potted plant to make the food disappear into. He sure as hell wasn’t going to admit to being terrified of the food or having a repeat of yesterday. He didn’t want any more special treatment than he had already received.

“How has your first couple of days gone?” the Prince asked cordially. Shelly was interpreting for Ajay at that point.

“Um…good?” Fane answered, finally spearing what he hoped was a piece of potato off the fine china plate.

“Will the armoury be to your liking? Are we missing any essentials you would like for us to stock for training?” the Prince bit into what looked like a piece of orange curry. Fane’s mouth ran dry, confident that if he ate that, he’d be laid out for a week.

He was hungry as hell, but this was some kind of torture that he wasn’t sure how to escape from. He reached into a basket in the centre of the table and took a piece of what he knew related to bread. That much looked safe.

“The Zastavas and M24s were in poor condition and are at least two hundred years out of date at this point. Nice antiques, though. Even antiques are usable. The last set to use them didn’t dismantle and clean them properly. They’ve pitted. I’d say with the amount of decay I saw, it’d be safer to decommission the ones in the armoury and replace them. I can’t believe you have operable Mosin-Nagants. Those things are ancient. Should probably be put into a museum. They are fully serviceable, so there’s nothing against them, just old tech.

“I want to see what your men can handle before letting those RPGs out of the cabinet. Grant it, I really want to play with one, but I don’t want to see a wall going down here if I can help it. Your colt 9mm and m16s should seriously be put out of use. They aren’t gonna do jack against someone in a vest nowadays. That reminds me, your vests are all last-century old-school. Get a new set for everyone that you plan on equipping. Good brands are capable of holding up against some of last-gen armour piercings. There were enough Glocks in there for a modest patrol, though I want to make sure every person under my command can actually clean them. Poor things, they are tools and should be cared for, especially out here with the aggressive dust.

“You’ll need a new stock in ammo if you’re gonna replace some of those pieces. I’d like to know what the range is that I’ll be working on. That’ll help me plan for shipments, which I can get numbers put together for you on,” Fane offered. He looked up from peeling his bread apart. Orlov stared at him, not exactly mortified. Fane studied his face, registering the emotion as confusion.

“Will that be out of budget? I can cut down the number of replacements in the armoury and make what’s in there work. If that’s what you need?” Fane offered, shifting uncomfortably in the awkward silence. Had he overstepped his boundaries already?

“I don’t know half of what you said, so it goes without saying that I didn’t even know we had any of those things down there.” The Prince recovered his composure, pushing his platinum hair over his shoulder.

Fane fixated for a second, the shine distracting him. “That’s why you hired me,” he offered with a lopsided grin, smothering his sudden interest.

“I hired you to guard me and train my men. I didn’t realise I had failed at equipping you with what you would need before getting here. Forgive me.” The Prince ducked his head in a short bow. Ajay stifled a cough at the courtesy Orlov extended Fane.

“Nothing to worry about, Mr Orlov. Really, it’s all right. You asked for me to report to you my findings. When it comes to an armoury, that is the life and death of a compound like this. An ill stocked armoury will not benefit a castle in an uprising. A properly cared for one will. I want to make sure you are safe. If I am not honest with you, then I fail at my job and at my pride as an ammo tech,” Fane placated.

“Make a list, and I will have Ajay put you in contact with suppliers.” The Prince bit into another morsel of food Fane could only wish was edible to him at that moment. He nodded to the Prince. He’d need to compile quite a list. Many pieces needed to be replaced, though most required basic maintenance. There were a couple antiques that would catch a reasonable price in a museum auction if properly curated.

Fane sucked in his breath, a bit nervous at the request he was about to make. The Prince eyed him, waiting patiently while Ajay and Shelly continued eating without notice.

Fane swallowed. “Is there a room near the armoury that I can use?” he finally asked.

The Prince looked at him, confused. “Well, the armoury is the armoury; I don’t see a need to expand into another room.”

“No, I mean, it’s in a second-level basement, and I currently am stationed on the third floor. The lift doesn’t enter the second level. That’s a five-floor dash in an emergency if they go out. I figured, if there was an unused room on the armoury floor, I could sleep there,” Fane elaborated.

“Ah, I see. Well, it is quite a trip, isn’t it? My problem with that is your proximity from me. You are my guard here after all, after Ajay,” the Prince mentioned. “How about this? There’s a room open in the centre of my wing. Ajay, you know the one,” the Prince asked, switching so that Shelly had to translate for Fane.

“The room we used to use for conferences?” Ajay asked.

“That one,” the Prince nodded.

“It hasn’t been in use since you were a kid. I’ll talk to His Majesties and see if they have a plan for it soon.” Ajay excused himself from the table.

“Much appreciated.” Orlov waved him out of the room.

“Conference room?” Fane asked.

“Well, it’s large enough we can convert it to a micro armoury, and you could still have a room on the third floor,” the Prince mused, finishing the last of his food. He glanced at Fane’s plate, noticing that barely any of it had been touched. “Not to your liking?”

“Oh, um…well, it smells good?” Fane shifted, his voice rising in a question of hope that he hadn’t offended the Prince.

“Oh, I forgot about yesterday. You should have said something; I could have had something else prepared for you,” the Prince lightly reprimanded him.

Fane ducked his head. “You don’t need to do that for me, honest. It’ll take a bit for my gut to get used to the food. The bread is good, though,” Fane smiled weakly.

The Prince sighed, eyeing him. “Well, anyways, the old conference room was about twenty meters by eighteen if I remember the dimensions. It’s three doors down from my apartments. It doesn’t have a restroom attached to it. We might be able to have its retrofit for that. For now, you can still use the restroom in the room you’re occupying; it’ll be a bit of a walk,” the Prince continued, almost forgetting the room. He continued on, drawing out his ideas on preparing the chamber to accommodate a living quarter and armoury.

Fane couldn’t believe the possibility that a person would actually go to such lengths for him. Then, while thinking through a set of storage shelve, the Prince paused. He glanced at Fane, becoming aware of the man again. “You still have to see to the troops after lunch and meet Mr Sachdeva for scheduling language lessons, and then you have to meet my family. I shouldn’t hold you up here any longer,” the Prince clapped his hands, and a set of maids appeared almost out of thin air. Shelly flinched, though she noticed that Fane didn’t even blink at the women’s sudden appearance. He knew they were standing, ready to take the plates away. Ajay slipped back into the room at the same time as the maids.

“Thank you for the time to discuss the armoury, sir.” Fane bowed at the hip. He had picked up the motion from the staff, figuring it was appropriate differential treatment when thanking someone.

“I’ll see you this evening. I’ll talk to the chef so that there will be something you can eat without letting my parents in on the problem, ‘k?” the Prince smiled. Relief washed over Fane at the kindness the man was showing him. It was weird, though, the Prince being so accommodating to him. A wary twinge sat at the base of his neck. Even Zephyr, in taking care of him, had never been in a position to be this nice to him.

Shelly led Fane out of the room. Ajay hung back to speak with the Prince about his findings on the conference room. “I’ve never seen the Prince that nice to anyone. What did you do to him, save him from getting crushed by a bus or something?” Shelly asked as they walked down the stairs. Fane fought the urge to show any reaction. Placing the fear of god in the man in a locker room with his own knife was probably not the reply Ms Shelly was expecting.

“Something like that,” Fane mumbled.

“Cool.” Shelly threw her hand across her face as they emerged into the burning sunlight. Fane shielded his eyes, waiting for them to adjust. The gardens leading to the compound were immaculate, as were the ones to the drive, the garage, and those outside the office windows. He’d have to meet the gardeners sometime. They were on point with their meticulous care. People who exhibited that kind of workmanship could easily be taught how to carry and protect and usually could be trusted to properly care for their tools.

“Mr Anson? Mr Anson?” Shelly drew Fane’s attention. He looked away from his musings of the garden to discover they had crossed into the barracks. The grounds sparkled in midafternoon sunlight. The only discernable difference between the royal compound and the housing for military personnel was the lack of decorative architecture on the buildings.

“Think we should have waited for Ajay?” Fane asked Shelly.

“Maybe?” she answered, not sure of herself.

Several men in various states of military dress sat outside one of the buildings in plastic lawn chairs. They all stared openly at Fane and Shelly. A dog trotted by and down an alley. Fane glanced around at the other doorways and windows, noting that they were under observation on all sides.

Ajay reappeared shortly to lead them through the barracks. The armoury at the barracks was not as extensive as the palace, but the weapons showed a better maintenance job. They could do with some work still. 

He toured the mess hall, the practice gym, the range. Ajay led him out to acreage that had been prepped as a survival course. Fane mapped out every inch in his head, familiarising himself with Ajay’s names to describe each place. 

He tried his best to use the words the man used, though he stuttered and stumbled on some of the syllables, looking to Shelly for help in correcting his pronunciation. Initially, Ajay was impatient with him for the frequent, lousy pronunciation, but he eased up after the better part of an hour listening to their conversation. Fane was trying to adapt to the language quickly. Ajay slowed down, utilising simple to translate speech. Fane followed the cadence of the language quickly after that little accommodation.

At the end of going through the entire compound, Ajay summoned the men and ran through quick introductions. Fane listened carefully to each name, but he had trouble wrapping his mouth around some of the sounds. For the sake of it, he decided he would remain quiet and watch the roll call rather than try to greet each man with his name.

In the end, Ajay dismissed them to run the men through drills while Shelly deposited Fane with his instructor in the palace’s formal receiving library.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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