When Doves Cry by Prince was playing over the radio as the cops drove down Hollywood Boulevard toward the station. The night was alive around them as neon signs advertised the latest and greatest consumer products, where to eat, or what the next blockbuster hit was going to be. Gus focused on the hit song, ignored the muscular men holding machines guns on every billboard, and replayed the sexual encounter with Rose over and over in his mind. It had been hurried, frenzied, and definitely enhanced by the cocaine. Whatever her babble about dopamine and stimulants meant had been right on the money.
“You think you can come here and do whatever you want,” the cop driving the car was griping. Gus knew better than to talk without someone from his consulate present, but that didn’t stop the cop from badgering him. “You think you can fly into my town and assault my people and walk away scot-free. You broke a man’s arm, kid. Shattered it in three places. I’ve seen people get hit by cars with less damage than that. What did you do, hit him with a chair.”
The cop hadn’t mirandized Gus when he was arrested, so anything he said wasn’t inadmissible in court. His kingdom’s legal system didn’t operate the same as every other countries’, so his father made sure he understood how things worked in the world’s great foreign powers. Personally, Gus thought it was stupid for the state to not allow the admission of information a criminal freely stated if the cop didn’t read him four quick sentences before talking to him. But this was the USA and the yanks championed their freedoms.
“Crown prince? That means your daddy’s the king. King Daddy is going to bail you out of this while the other guy can’t work for months. Can’t feed his family. Can’t even jerk himself off.” Gus couldn’t help but snort at the last example. “You think that’s funny, tough guy!” the cop turned to slam his palm against the mesh, metal barrier dividing the front and back seats.
“Yeah I do,” Gus kept the thought to himself, while the other cop told his partner to settle down.
With late night traffic – no matter what time it was in LA there always seemed to be traffic – it took nearly twenty minutes to reach the station, and by then the vultures had already gathered.
“Shit,” Gus tried to hide his face as paparazzi crowded around the patrol car, which just happened to drive in through the public entrance. They snapped picture after picture of him.
They were all compromising. His shirt and jacket were off, which was going to sell on the gossip rags faster than the cocaine he’d just snorted. “Shit,” he hoped none of the white powder remained on his face. He was so hurried to get it on with Rose he’d never even checked. Snorting some off a woman’s ass wasn’t exactly in his sexual repertoire.
“Yeah, that’s right,” the cop snickered. “Wave to your adoring fans. You and daddy can’t hide this now.” The cop even smiled and waved at the cameras until they made it through the main gate where other uniformed officers held back the journalistic scavengers.
“Let’s go.” They pulled Gus from the back of the car and slowly perp walked him through the front doors. At this point, all Gus could do was stand straight and tall. He ignored the flashes to his left, but couldn’t quite keep the look of irritation off his face. They were barley through the front door when a squad of armed men surrounded them.
They all wore dark, fashionable suits with Kevlar vests underneath. More importantly to Gus, none of them were cops. They all wore the coat of arms of House Drake on their collars. Each and every one of his House’s personnel armsmen looked like they could eat the two LA patrolmen for breakfast with room for seconds, and both cops realized that as their faces morphed from pleased to terrified in a nanosecond. There was a tense few moments where everyone just stood there, before the circle of armsmen parted to allow two people through. One looked to be the station captain while the other was the second to last person Gus wanted to see.
“Please release our delegate,” the tall woman in a spotless white dress with a mane of golden hair commanded the two officers. They started moving even before their captain gave them the go-ahead nod. That was the kind of confidence and authority projected by the Kingdom of Atlantis’ lead ambassador to the USA.
“This entire charade is entirely unacceptable,” once she was sure Gus was out of cuffs, she rounded on the captain. Her eyes bore into the old man whose face was dominated by a bushy salt and pepper mustache. “You will be hearing from our Diplomatic Office, and a formal denouncement of your actions here tonight is being lodged with your State Department.”
The captain might be cowering, but the arresting officer seemed to finally find some back bone. “Wait just a minute! Your guy assaulted an American citizen!”
The ambassador wheeled on him, and he shrank back down like a baby turtle facing an apex predator. “If you bothered to wait to review the evidence of the alleged crime before calling out your media puppets, which we know all about Officer O’Malley, you would know that we have the entire incident on video. Not only does it show the man you interviewed surrounding our delegate with some of his friends. The audio also clearly shows them lobbing racist insults at him before first assaulting him. Our delegate merely acted in self-defense, and now you’re turned this into an international incident because you wanted your fifteen minutes of fame and were too stupid to think before you thought out the consequences for your career.”
At the mention of consequences, the cop looked at his captain. “You’re going to want to call your union rep, Tom,” the captain didn’t look happy about admitting that.
Honestly, Gus was impressed by how his father’s handpicked woman to one of the world’s great powers had spun the whole story in his favor. Technically, they had surrounded him and insulted him. At no point had Gus felt threatened by the soft pretty-boys, or really insulted by their mischaracterization of his race and ethnicity. He conceded that they had assaulted him first by laying hands on him, but he’d definitely escalated things by breaking the man’s arm.
“He still deserved it,” he thought. A young man’s hair was a symbol of his growth into manhood, and grabbing it was like having your dick grabbed…and not in a good way. The man whose arm he’d broken didn’t understand the egregiousness of his insult, and Gus didn’t care.
“Your Royal Highness,” the Ambassador was now addressing him directly, “we’ve cleared out the break room. Afu will take you there so you can clean up and changed.” She directed him to a room off to the side.
Afu left him alone inside the room to do just that. He scrubbed his face with water from the sink to get rid of any narcotics residue. There wasn’t much he could do to get the smell of sex off him, but he undressed and tried his best to wipe the sweat and various bodily fluids off himself before slipping into a fresh suit. Lastly, he looked himself over in the partially-reflective glass of the vending machine. He still looked better than most people hoped to in their entire lives, but at the moment, the trouble he was in was starting to hit him hard. Rose was fading into the back of his brain as he contemplated the coming shit storm.
When any other royal in the world went off and did something stupid it made the front page just like this would. Being media fodder was part and parcel of their birthright. The difference between Gus and someone like Prince Charles was that Atlantis wasn’t like the UK. The Windsor family was largely toothless. The House of Drake, who’d sat on the Emerald Throne for half a millennia, still had real power.
The Kingdom of Atlantis was technically a constitutional monarchy with three branches of government set up under the Clan Unification Constitution. A bicameral parliament divided between the House of Commons and the House of Clans made up the legislature. They elected a Prime Minister from their ranks and held large powers over domestic issues and passed laws and taxes on those issues.
The Judicial Branch handled issues brought before them in a hierarchy of importance starting with the Trial Court, Review Court, and lastly the High Court where the King’s Bench took up cases. The King’s Bench was three separate judicial bodies of nine members each. Issues were randomly brought before one of the three Benches for deliberation. In issues of the utmost national importance, or cases of high treason, the entire twenty seven members of the High Court would gather to hear the case. They were intended to be a check on the power of the legislature and King to ensure they didn’t depart from the Constitution.
Lastly was the Crown branch of government headed by the King and his Court. The King was supposed to grant continuity of government policy on defense and diplomacy while his appointed Court advised him. The King was Supreme Commander of Atlantis’ Armed Forces and Chief Diplomat of the Kingdom. Unlike most monarchies, the King did have a term limit. The term limit was still fifty years, just enough time to keep that desired continuity, while periodically bringing in new blood to move the kingdom forward as the rest of society and the world changed. Gus’ father, King Maximillian the Second was twenty-four years into his reign, and as Crown Prince and Heir Apparent to the Emerald Throne, Gus would take over for his father in 2010. It was literally in another millennia for Gus, but the implications were still clear. The next king of Atlantis, who would rule over an estimated seventy million royal subjects, had just been arrested in LA and paraded into a police station, shirtless, and possibly with cocaine on his face.
The king’s word was law when it came to the military and international policy, and Gus knew he was going to feel the hammer of those words sooner rather than later.
“Sir,” Afu appeared at the door holding out a thin, black rectangle fifty centimeters across.
Gus’s breath caught in his throat. He knew the hammer was coming, but already? His hand trembled slightly as he reached out to take the tablet. The USA was just getting around to cellular phones the size of a man’s forearm, but Atlantis had long known, and kept secret, their technological advantage over the larger and more populous nation.
The tablet linked to a satellite in orbit and provided a secure signal for someone to talk to Gus from anywhere in the world. The tablet read his fingerprint and scanned his iris the moment he accepted it, and the coat of arms for House Drake began to spin on its high definition screen. The familiar dragon’s head seemed to glare at him in judgement as it waited for the connection to open. Likely, the armsmen were ensuring that all electronic surveillance of the breakroom was being shut down under the guise of confidential diplomatic communications, which was technically true since Gus was traveling on a diplomatic passport.
When everything was deemed secure, the dragon’s head emblem vanish to be replaced by a beautiful face. “Mom,” Gus couldn’t help but drop his eyes in shame at the sight of the Queen.
“My little hot head,” her words were hard, but when he looked up his saw a mischievous glint in her eyes. The same pure, sky blue as his own. He was sure he’d had the same glint more than once during his seventeen years. “Your father is…” she was cut off as someone jerked the tablet away.
Gus found himself face to face with his father, the King. Stubble covered the bottom of his face. It was nearing midnight in LA, but Atlantis was three hours behind them. They’d probably just finished some kind of state dinner when they received news of their only child’s arrest.
“What the hell is wrong with you Augustus!” he looked like he was about to breath fire as smoke curled seeped from his nostrils. “Do you have any idea what an embarrassment you are to me, to your mother, to your entire nation?” the king’s voice grew louder until he was roaring. Gus was surprised the tablet didn’t shatter in his hands. His father was a powerful man.
“Max, please,” his mother pleaded off camera, but a glare from the kingdom’s ruler shut her up.
“I am recalling you immediately. There is already a plane on the runway at LAX. You will be in on it within the hour, or I will let the LAPD do with you as they wish. The rest of your tour is cancelled. If you’re insist on acting like a youngling then I will treat you like one. You report to Boot tomorrow morning.” He didn’t give Gus the chance to reply. He cut the line without a goodbye.
Gus’s jaw had dropped in surprise, even though he knew he shouldn’t be. All citizens of Atlantis went through Boot Camp once they turned eighteen. Universal military service was enshrined in the Constitution. It didn’t require service past boot, other than a once-a-year refresher training until you turned twenty-five unless. If you chose to, you could sign up for extended tours of active duty service. Anyone could make that decision, but everyone had to complete boot. Gus’s previous report date was in two months, which was plenty of time for him to see the world and tour the kingdom’s diplomatic outposts in the world’s great powers. Being trained since an early age, and fluent in English, German, Russian, and Mandarin, he’d looked forward to getting to know the other cultures, including their women. Now, less than a few hours after breaching the age limit of participation, he would be secluded in the tropical jungles of his homeland to learn how to defend his kingdom, and more importantly, work together with other influential clans and families that would be crucial to his reign when he became king.
The crown prince going to boot was a big deal, and clans had been vying to get their offspring into the same recruiting class as him to help develop those bonds. The king had just fucked up everyone’s carefully laid plans, and it was likely complete chaos in Atland tonight. Friends Gus had been looking forward to seeing again might not even be in his class now, and as crown prince, he was expected to serve in some capacity after boot. He was supposed to be worthy of the title: Supreme Commander. The length of service was still up to Gus, but the expectation was years.
“Why did I have to break that guy’s arm,” he wondered as he sagged into a chair and put his head in his hands. Thankfully, the room was relatively quiet and the privacy allowed him to brood without further embarrassing the kingdom.
“I swear, you should have seen the way she looked at me,” a muffled voice broke through the calm Gus was trying to achieve. He recognized it as his favorite LAPD officer. “She stood there all holier than thou and I swear she put a curse on me. That’s why the union rep is on his way. I’m pretty sure she put one on Cap too.” Laughter covered up whatever else might have been said, but Gus stopped listening and rolled his eyes.
This type of thing happened every time he dealt with people who really didn’t understand his country. A long long time ago, before records were kept in earnest, Atlantis had been the world’s sole superpower. They were more advanced than other people, and from their island kingdom in the Pacific they touched all corners of the globe. It helped when you’d already mastered steam power when everyone else was struggle to harness the wind.
At the behest of the then-Atlantean rulers, the Greek philosopher Plato had been invited to the Kingdom. Even across the globe, Atlantis had heard of the man’s brilliance. Much of what the world knew about Atlantis, until its rediscovery in the mid-nineteenth century, was due to Plato. He had mentioned the Kingdom in his Timaeus and Critias dialogues, and certainly embellished in some ways to pander to his audience. There was no God Poseidon who made his son Atlas king and namesake of the Kingdom. Although, royal records did identify a member of House Drake named Atlas had received Plato and been his guide during his time on the island. The Kingdom also didn’t sink into the ocean in a night and a day, nor were its people a mixture of God and man, but Gus could see how the philosopher made the mistake.
Traveling as fast as the ancient Atlanteans did across the sea, it might have appeared to the old man that the Kingdom simply vanished. He also might have written it for dramatic effect, or out of vengeance because he wasn’t invited back. Gus didn’t know why the ancient Greek did what he did, he just hated the misguided legacy the man left behind which constantly misinterpreted his people. They were not god-men, but they were touched by the Creator.
It was written in the ancient religious texts of his people that the Creator created the air, land, and sea before sculpting the first people, the Atlanteans. He made some from the fires of the mountain of creation, others from the land itself, some from the dense jungles, and a few from the sea itself. Atlanteans were special. Gus didn’t know why, but they just were. In typical human fashion, when the other people of the world learned these rumors they tried to quantify, categorize, and assign meaning to something Gus believed couldn’t be chronicles by scientist norms.
The everyday American called it magic or witchcraft. Some of the more extreme called it devil worship or occultism because it didn’t conform to other monotheistic religions norms. The casual layman scholar referred to is as perplexing supernatural mystery. It didn’t help that the Kingdom’s isolationism and strict immigration and communication laws didn’t address the issue. It only fueled conspiracies across the globe. The closest people had gotten to identifying it were the Germans and their legends of Were’s, but even that wasn’t right. To Gus, his people were just what they were and had always been…different but special.
The crack about the Ambassador putting a curse on the cop was total bullshit and what he’d come to expect from morons without any culture insight or desire to even look for the truth. Spell casting and hocus pocus was Hollywood’s creation. The whole thing was also something he’s been trained to ignore and ordered not to feed the rumor mill, so he took a few deep breaths to rid himself of his mounting frustration. He also took the opportunity to swipe his hand through the air and wave away the growing haze of smoke he’d produced. The last thing he needed was the fire alarm going off.
Thirty seconds of deep breathing and putting on his game face preceded him opening the door back to the main hallway. His armsmen were blocking the entrance and the Ambassador was already addressing the legitimate press gathered outside. Gus handed the tablet to Afu and headed for the door as the bodyguards surrounded him.
“We’re confident…” the Ambassador was brought up short as he threw open the doors and the press started screaming questions at him.
He smiled at them and tried not to look cocky or overconfident. “Today, we’ve witnessed what can occur when two cultures misjudge each other.” He made sure he was addressing the reporters as well as the cameras. “I was minding my own business when I was accosted by a number of gentleman. Things likely would have ended with nothing but words if an egregious culture insult was not committed. I was forced to defend myself, and while I take full responsibility for my appropriate action, I do lament the pain I’ve caused the intoxicated gentleman. This is a learning moment for all Atlanteans and Americans. As a diplomat, it is a conversation I look forward to continuing. I believe we all have a lot we can learn from each other. Thank you.” He turned toward the waiting car with the twin flags of Atlantis flying above the front lights, and ignored the flurry of follow-on questions.
The Ambassador followed him to the car, and didn’t speak until it was closed. “Well done,” she smiled. “Hopefully it will alleviate the building pressure.”
She wasn’t only talking about the assault. The USA and Atlantis were at odds at the moment. The Philippines Islands, who’d been an American possession since the Spanish-American War in 1898 – with a slight break after being conquered by Japan in 1941 – had been lobbying for independence. As a fellow Pacific Island nation, Atlantis was backing the Philippines. Not only out of solidarity, but also to check the USA’s influence and naval power in the Pacific. The USA obviously wasn’t pleased with the kingdom’s stance, and protests had cropped up at its consulates across the country. As the armored limo made its way between the police station and LAX, protestors had started to gather. Most signs just said STAY OUT OF IT, but others were more derogatory and called Gus’s people animals and deviants. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING! was on more than one piece of colorful cardboard paper attached to a two-by-four.
It didn’t look like his diplomatic comments were going to alleviate anything with the everyday American, but that wasn’t his intention. He wanted to placate his father, and maybe buy more than a few hours to prepare for the hardest experience of his young life. Arguably, he was more prepared than anyone else could possibly be going into boot, but he knew he couldn’t have prepared for everything.
No call came in to him or the Ambassador as they entered the private area of LAX where a jet was waiting for him. He stepped out of the limo like a man condemned and marched up the steps. He took one last look around the empty tarmac, spared one fleeting thought for the nearly forgotten Rose, and stepped inside.
“Home, here we come.” He reclined in his seat and closed his eyes, determined to catch an hour or two of sleep before he had to face the music.