Encelaedus, Year 813 of Avia, Day 279
"Protect the princess!” Captain Lee shouted.
Nine guards escorted Princess Sydney out of the wedding hall, shoving any guests in the way. They took her to an armored vehicle and swiftly drove to a private airship surrounded by watchtowers, drones, and patrolling soldiers. As a sign of goodwill, the Encelaedeans had permitted the Sydurnians to build a military base in their territory in case of any emergencies. But nobody expected to use it so soon.
Sydurnian military officers lined up and saluted as Princess Sydney made her way inside the ship. Captain Lee remained by her side to ensure that she didn’t trip on her wedding dress.
The airship was much different from the one Sydney had taken to Encelaedus. Instead of intricate red carpets and illuminating lamps, there was bulletproof glass and a meter thick wall. Rooms contained minimal space and carried the familiar smell of Sydurnian machinery.
“General Richard is waiting for you. He’s in the control room,” Captain Lee noted. He opened the door, and Sydney walked in.
“Sydney!” Princess Cindy jumped out of her seat and hugged her sister tightly. “Is everything okay? What happened? Is Mother and Father with you?”
Sydney caressed her sister’s head and kissed her on the forehead.
“Thank god you’re okay, Cindy. I was so scared when I didn’t see you at the wedding.”
“I had a stomach ache, and apparently I fainted in the dressing room. Some attendant found me and brought me to General Richard.”
“Is she with you?”
“Yes, but what hap-”
A young girl with tan skin sat in the corner of the room, brewing coffee. She stood up and bowed slightly with a warm smile on her face. “It’s an honor to meet you, Princess. My name is Pakimodo. I’ve been handling drinks and snacks for the royal court.”
Sydney eyed Pakimodo carefully and returned the smile. “Good work. Thank you for taking care of my sister.”
“Sydney! What happened?”
A low-ranking lieutenant stood behind Cindy and shook his head. “Don’t worry, Princess Sydney. I’ll brief her and grab her something to eat.” He placed a hand on her back and walked Cindy to the cafeteria.
Once Cindy left, the general turned around to face Sydney. He wore a green, camouflage hat on the side of his head, exposing his silver, silky hair. His face was solemn and full of wrinkles. Despite his old age, a stern and intimidating aura surrounded him.
“I’m sure the Enceladeans poisoned your family. We must take ac-”
The general was interrupted by a loud creak as the room’s door slammed open. Three men in suits, covered in sweat, panted as they reached the control room table. The one in front had sleek, brown hair and a single diamond earring. He wore a gold watch on his left hand.
“Prime Minister Garrett, this airship is reserved for the royal family and military officials. You and the rest of the Democratic Faction don’t have the jurisd-”
“Until the coronation, I am the leader of this country. Brief me, General.”
General Richard gritted his teeth. “Very well. The Enceladeans are behind this. We must counterattack immediately.”
“Let’s not be too hasty,” Prime Minister Garrett responded. “We need time to collect evidence and plan our move.”
General Richard raised his voice. “What more evidence do you need? It’s too much of a coincidence that only those who drank from the blue jug died. The Enceladeans prepared the water themselves, so we never had the chance to check what was in it.”
“Calm down. There’s no motive. Why would they jeopardize billions of dollars of investment?”
“I’m not going to calm down until the Prime Minister of this country stops representing money and starts representing the people who elected him.”
Prime Minister Garrett slammed his fist on the table. “You will not insult my faction. I refuse to let a knuckleheaded military general handle diplomatic affairs.”
“Excuse me, but-”
“Princess Sydney, please do not interrupt.”
“An eighteen-year-old illegitimate child with no political experience has no right to speak about matters of national security. Just sit back and let us men handle this.”
“When will my coronation be?”
General Richard and Prime Minister Garret were surprised at the sudden question from the soft-spoken princess.
“Tonight at nine,” General Richard answered. “Preparations are already underway.”
“Sydney, listen carefully,” the prime minister said in a serious tone. “I have been building a close relationship with the Enceladeans over three decades. We cannot let something like this endanger our alliance, understand?”
“When you are crowned Queen, do not say anything remotely incriminating about the Enceladeans. Simply act like the airheaded princess you are, and I will personally ensure that you live a life of comfort and ease.”
The Prime Minister backed away and walked towards the door. “I wish I had the time to attend your coronation, but I have work to do.” He glanced at his watch. “I need an empty room. I must brief the Democratic faction immediately.”
“There’s a guest room a few doors down,” General Richard responded spitefully.
With a mocking half-salute, the Prime Minister and his two men left the control room.
“General, why do you dislike the Prime Minister so much?” Sydney asked.
“Politicians are all sleazy bastards. They talk big about helping the country, but they’re more concerned about helping themselves. Someone like the Prime Minister should not be above me in the chain of command.”
“If there was no Prime Minister, what would you do?”
“I’d start a war immediately. We have cause and justification. They murdered your family, for god’s sake.” The General placed a hand on his neck and laughed. “But what can an old man and an eighteen-year-old girl do, huh?”
Princess Sydney looked up at the General and smiled. “You’d be surprised. We can do quite a lot.”