The Queen's Best
The Best of the Best
Kenneth E. Ingle
Copyright 2013 by Kenneth E. Ingle, all rights reserved. No portion of this novel may be duplicated, transmitted, or stored in any form without the express written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental.
After a few false starts, a number of people
encouraged me to complete this book. This is for
those who took the time to offer encouragement
I hope all of you like it
Dressed in civilian clothes, Marine Second Lieutenant James Byerley took a shortcut through an area infested with the dregs of the kingdom. Back in the days when it served as a neighborhood botanical reserve, locals knew it as Ginnie's Garden. Those same people now called it hell's hole or more commonly, the hole. Thieves and cutthroats, the Garden's inhabitants with no other place to bed, day or night, would become victims of their own kind and no one cared to mark their passage. Police entered in force and only in daylight—respectful citizenry never did. It didn't bother him to go into the Garden even though a person's life was there for the taking.
After tasting the local offerings, many less than commendable, James decided the hole could not be any worse than some of the gin joints back home. Little more than a kilometer into the maze of trash, castoffs, plastiboard huts and hovels of every description, he heard the scream—something he suspected was common. Constantly on alert, focused on every detail, he strained to see into the darkness. Most twenty-two year old young men had little chance against the kind of humanity that infested this cesspool. But then, he was not like most twenty-two year olds. Knowing the worst the galaxy had to offer holed up in places like this, he nevertheless casually strolled into the cesspool. Every world he'd been on was home to people who by choice or circumstance fell through the cracks of civilized society and he'd face that kind before.
Not far distant, the cry of a female voice galvanized him. He quickened his stride and closed on the sound. James had learned early in life not to look for a fight but had never run from one, particularly when there was a damsel in distress.
Deep in the shadows cast by a copse of trees, he spotted and moved toward the disturbance.
Voice hard, unyielding, James ordered, "Let the woman go."
Not waiting for obedience from her three attackers, he gave them no time to react. Close combat skills, learned as a Royal Marine Piercer came into play. He jerked the woman free then circled, causing the men to bunch getting in each other's way.
The Marine's shoe caught the first man in the groin bending him double and then a knee against his nose jammed it up into his brain. Eyes first showed pain and then bewilderment, finally became fixed, no longer seeing as the man fell hard to the ground.
James spun, jammed his elbow against the second man's windpipe, crushing it utterly and left him gasping for air, moments from death. A misdirected blow hit the Piercer's shoulder as the third assailant stumbled past. With the side of his hand, heavily calloused from hours of training, James hit the base of the man's skull. That ended the lop-sided brawl. A quick scan of the area assured him of no other threats. He grabbed the lass's arm, pulled her away from the prostrate bodies.
Clear of the downed men, he grasped the top of her gown and pulled, in an attempt to cover the exposed round firm breast.
"Let go of me you bastard." She yanked against his grip, and brushed the long flowing hair from her face. Her strength was impressive although no match for his. He shrugged and released her as ordered, stepped back, and watched as she covered herself.
"You could look the other way or is this the first time you've seen a grown woman's breasts other than some whore's?"
He thought her eruption of angry words a bit too casual. From what light the rising moon shed, he doubted she notice his smile, and for the first time James was able to get a clearer view of her. There was no mistake; if clothes made the person, this was a lady. Her long flowing gown, though dirty and torn, was not that of a common woman. She struggled, tugged, and tucked at the dress until satisfied with its fit.
He reached for her arm, to lead her away and ready to accept his earned thanks.
She shook loose.
"My mistake missy. I thought you might want to get out of this hell hole. But if you care to stay for some more of this, fine. I assumed these men were about to rape you. I won't bother asking what you're doing out here but if this is your idea of good sex, so be it. I apologize for interfering."
With that, James strode off toward his original destination, the Marine barracks some five kilometers distant.
"Missy? How dare you. Do you know who I am? Who do you think you are addressing me in such a manner?" She stood erect, stone still, her voice commanding, something he'd heard from a lady Marine officer and but certainly nothing he expected in the middle of this cesspit.
"How dare me? I don't care to know who you are," he said over his shoulder and continued on his way. "As for my manner, I am what I am. I pretend to be no one special, just exceptional." With that said, he expected some sort of smart retort from the woman.
"I command you to stop." She stood erect, chin thrust forward, hands clasped at her waist.
"You command me to stop? Well, who are you to command a Royal Marine to do anything?" James said as he turned letting loose a hearty laugh. He had no doubt a rude response was coming.
"I am Princess Denise-Michelle and you will obey my commands," she said, her head raised in defiance and the ‘will’ sliced like a razor sharp guillotine.
Surprised, to say the least, James paused. He didn’t know if she was lying but could not say otherwise. He'd never seen the realm's princess. In fact, he'd never seen a princess in person.
She walked into a pool of moonlight her poise evident and practiced, deliberate, reinforcing his original thought that this was no commoner. There was something in her manner that piqued his curiosity and attracted him.
He'd left the Marine base to taste Alexandria's seedy side of life and had not brought his comm piece so could not verify her claim.
Less than a month earlier, the regiment had transferred to Alexandria, now their home base, and the throne of the Kingdom of Alexandria. He had just completed officer training on Cestess IV; this was his first time on the realm's home world.
"The palace was attacked," the woman said, her pose regal. She paused, for a moment voice choked, recovered her composure and then said, "I managed to escape in that aircar," she motioned passively, "but these killers caught up with me when, by mistake, I entered this filth-ridden place. I fear all of my security people are dead and that these murderers," she hesitated, took a deep breath, then managed, "assassinated my father, the King. I want to return to the palace. I must." Worry and anger seemed to struggle for dominance as she faced her worst fears, yet he detected an inflexible quality, resolution that seemed absolute.
Still unsure the lady was whom she said James decided to err on the side of possibility. "Okay, Your Majesty but if there's a coup underway," he paused, "an attempted coup, you've no business there. Let's not make it any easier for them." Unsure of what else to say, he did add, "There's little we can do about it. Any idea how many of them are?"
"No. There were shots, many of them, yells—my guards shouted for me to run. I made it to this aircar." She again pointed to a vehicle some ten meters away. "The killers chased and…" she seemed momentarily overwhelmed.
James walked to the car. He strained to see in the dim light, managed a cursory inspection and saw the royal emblem centered on the instrument panel.
"Come Princess." Through practice his command voice took over and she did not hesitate. He helped her into the seat and then climbed into the driver's side.
Her voice, now firm, activated the controls.
James punched the comm icon and established contact with Marine headquarters.
Already alerted to the palace attack, over a thousand Marines responded and had engaged the attackers. He was confident the response would quickly put an end to the fight.
His call to the Marine garrison brought what he took as a look of recognition or acceptance from the royal.
"Maybe we ought to give them time to get matters under control. We've no weapons and no way of knowing the situation. No sense in placing you in further jeopardy."
"Your name, Marine? I take it you are a Marine." Her voice was calm yet insistent.
"Yes, Ma'am. James Byerley, Second Lieutenant, Third Battalion Royal Marines, Piercers, he answered and intentionally softened the response wanting it to at least sound respectful and yet somewhat boastful. Selection to become a Piercer was more than an honor: it recognized exceptional skills.
Despite fearing her father's murder, the princess showed no signs of losing her composure; he suspected she’d been schooled from youth that this moment could come and how she was to act.
"Piercers? I'm not familiar with the name. A special command?" She seemed genuinely interested and surprised that it pleased him.
"Yes Ma'am." By now, his doubts about her royal claim slipped. He was determined not to do or say something that might upset or add to her distress.
"Is that it? Yes Ma'am. I want to know what you do." She never looked at him, her eyes fixed straight ahead.
"We are trained for unusual missions," he said. Determined, he thought.
"Marine, I am not accustomed to half-assed answers. Perhaps you need instruction on how to respond to a simple question. Was your Marine training so poor or are you naturally deficient?"
Although this was his first encounter with a royal, James decided it best not to get into a debate or worse be argumentative. "Piercer is a description not known to the public. We train for insertion and extraction; to go into an area to take specific action or if the situation requires, bring somebody out." He sensed no anger or animosity in her remark. He made no effort to hide a smile.
"Specific action or situation. How polite. If I may interpret your courteous speech." She paused as if to achieve the proper effect. "If there's someone giving us trouble, say on one of our imperial worlds, your Piercers," she put such emphasis on the word that it sounded more like a proclamation, "neutralize the problem. Or if we have a friend or enemy, for that matter, that we want and they're in unfriendly territory, your Piercers go in and bring them out—that is extraction."
"Yes, Ma'am. Or friendly territory," he added.
James admired her resilience. After what had happened, he knew she had unquestionable fortitude. A few minutes earlier, from what little knowledge he had about a royal, he had doubted her claim, convinced she did not have what it took to be a princess and never a queen. He amazed himself that his attitude toward her had changed in these few moments.
"Marine, call me ma'am again and you will walk to the palace." Her wide smile, aristocratic nose, yellow hair set off a not beautiful but handsome face and suggested a sense of humor.
"You came to my rescue James, and for that I am grateful. In private, you may call me Denise something permitted no one else. In public you may address me as princess—I fear soon as queen," she said her manner grave yet unwavering.
Off in the distance, firing rose to a crescendo and then became sporadic. James suspected the attempted overthrow of the monarchy had ended with the Marines in control.
She became somber, pensive. "Lieutenant Byerley, if father is dead I will become queen." She paused as if considering her future. "I want you to take charge of my security."
After two years as a Marine swearing allegiance to the crown, without thinking, he heard himself say, "I pledge my life for yours, Denise-Michelle." In those few moments the lives of princess—soon Queen Denise-Michelle Rothschild and Royal Marine Second Lieutenant James Whitcomb Byerley, soon Colonel of the Queen's Grenadiers, changed forever.
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