SORRY IT'S SO LATE
Hopefully this is a nice fun one to get you guys back into the swing of things (and hopefully me, too...)
Pour yourself a drink (soft drink for those of you who cannot legally consume alcohol) and join our heroes in the bar for this chapter of Kingsguard!
Chapter 13 – Bar
January 30th, 2253. 12. Kingsguard Infirmary – Cafeteria.
XO sighed heavily as he took a seat at an empty table. Having been buried under piles of patient reports and specialist training material for his first few weeks on the job, he had finally managed to do his first ward round this morning. Although it was nothing extraordinary, he felt an immense sense of pride having completed his first unsupervised ward round as a qualified doctor. So much so, he treated himself to not one, but two sandwiches for lunch. As he ate, he wrote a message to his parents to let them know how his morning had gone. Once he had written that message, he got a fresh notification from Tsubaki.
Dad’s coming in for a physio appointment in three days. If you’re not too busy we could get a coffee? Would be cute to see you while you’re on shift, Doc.
XO couldn’t help but smile when he opened the message. Even though Tsubaki was only half an hour away by metro, he hadn’t had the chance to go and see her. He’d been swamped with work, and she’d been busy helping her dad run the family diner, training, and with counselling. He wasn’t ashamed to say he missed her. Opening the attachment sent with the message, she saw a picture of Tsubaki and her dad working in the kitchen. God, she was cute. He sat, daydreaming about the next time he’d see her.
“So, who’s the lucky lady?”
Quickly snapping back to reality, XO noticed that he had company at the table. A buxom woman with dark green hair and large, rounded eyeglasses sat opposite him.
“Oh, uh… Dr. Deva.”
Dr. Maruna Deva laughed. “Welcome back, XO.”
XO’s cheeks were bright red. Rarely one to fluster, he was stumbling over words in his mind.
“I just wanted to check and see how your morning round went?” Deva asked.
“Oh, yeah. Nothing too crazy to report. The patients were all very welcoming.” XO answered.
“That’s good.” Deva replied. “Now, we don’t usually let fresh Academy graduates do ward rounds without a consultant, but you’re progressing really well with the training materials, and you’ve had glowing references from your fourth-year placements. Everyone I’ve spoken tothat saw you on your round this morning only had good things to say, too. Looks like I was right to trust you.”
“I’m glad I could meet your expectations.” XO replied, his mind back in “work mode”.
“Are you settling in well? Do you have any other questions?” Deva asked.
“Actually, I do.” XO replied. “I kinda want to go for a beer tonight. Where’s a good place to go?”
- Kingsguard Engineering Department – Grinnington’s Lab.
“I still can’t believe he managed to weasel himself his own private lab.” Eve grumbled. “And with all this fancy equipment too.”
Judge shrugged. “I’m more surprised he wanted to mentor us.”
“Yeah, that is weird. He just emailed us out of the blue after Christmas.”
“It was written like a guy who hadn’t been to sleep in 60 hours and all.” Judge joked. “I wonder what made him decide to take on protegées.”
“Either way, I’m not going to complain. It gives us more space to work on our own projects.” Eve replied.
“Speaking of which, you should get a gun fitted to your mechanical arm.” Judge added nonchalantly.
“I hope you’re joking.” Eve replied bluntly.
“You never know when you might need to defend yourself.”
“Is that a threat?” Eve asked.
Judge laughed. “Never mind, then.”
The pair then quickly got back to work, letting their background music fill the room. After roughly an hour had passed, Judge stood up and headed to Grinnington’s bookshelves, searching for a formula book. Scanning through the numerous textbooks on the shelves, he noticed that one author’s name kept coming up.
“Man. I never would have pegged Grinnington as a Skivar Marks fan.” Judge commented.
“He’s practically a celebrity among engineers. I’m not surprised that he has some of his books.”Eve replied.
Eve walked over to the bookshelves and inspected them.
“This shelf is so messy,” she grumbled, “but at least it’s in alphabetical order.”
“These two shelves are basically all of Marks’ work.” Judge said, pointing to the middle two shelves of a particular bookcase. “He’s even got a few conference presentations printed out and shoved in a file.”
“Oh, look at this one,” Eve said, picking out a particularly worn file. “The Feeling AI – Presented at the Hiraeth Artificial Intelligence Forum, January 2234…”
“How did he manage to get his hands on this? This is nearly twenty years old.” Judge pondered.
“And it’s not like conference presentations are easy to get ahold of.” Eve added.
“Even I’ve never seen these before. Let me take a look,” Judge said, peering at the notes over Eve’s shoulder.
“He’s written all over these so many times.” Eve complained. “And in pink pen, too.”
“The designs in this presentation… they’re way more advanced than anything that’s been produced, even today.” Judge commented.
“Well, android AI research stopped pretty soon after the war started. It’s basically taboo now.” Eve replied. “Companies don’t want to be responsible if one of their creations goes berserk and attacks everyone.”
“It’s a shame what happened to Skivar.” Judge sighed. “He’s the only engineer that would have been brave enough to keep pushing with this line of research.”
“Except for Grinnington, apparently.” Eve replied.
“Speaking of him, where is he? I haven’t seen him at all today.”
“He was leaving just as I came in this morning,” Eve answered. “He’d been up all night working on something, and he said he had plans in the evening, so he was going to go home and rest.”
Judge chuckled. “I didn’t see Grinnington as a “night on the town” type.”
- Rose’s Apartment.
“Wow, I’m stuffed!” Chirch said, a satisfied smile on her face. “That was really good.”
“I’ll clean up later,” Rose replied. “I’m still sore from training.”
“Me too.” Chirch grumbled. “I can’t believe Captain Marko made us spar so much.”
“I could barely manage the walk home.” Rose added.
“My arms still feel like they’re about to drop off.” Chirch complained.
“To be honest, it’s my mind that’s the most tired.” Rose said, lying down on the floor. “Having to think about all the technical advice he’s giving us while we fight, and then all the distractions he kept throwing in…”
“I was hit by the tennis balls almost as much as I was by you.” Chirch said.
“I’m glad he cut the session short.” Rose said. “I was at my limit.”
“I wonder why he cut it short?” Chirch asked.
“He said something about plans.” Rose answered.
“I wonder if he’s going on a date.”
Rose giggled. “That’d be a sight to see.”
“I hope he doesn’t make her do push-ups if she’s late.” Chirch grumbled.
- Kingsguard Facility – Yumiel’s Bar.
Marko stood outside the door, and checked his phone. The training session with Chirch and Rose had gone on a little longer than he had planned, and he’d had to rush getting ready. Most of the group had arrived, but he wasn’t the last one there. Sending a quick text to let them know he’d just arrived, he walked into the bar. As he looked around for the table, he saw Deva waving at him. Heading over, he took up the chair next to her. At the table with her were Commander Arthur Grinnington and Ragnar Rayleigh.
“Yooo, Marko! Long time no see!” Deva said as the captain took the seat next to her.
“Sorry I’m late. Training took longer than I thought.” Marko replied.
“It’s all good. We’re still waiting on Amanda.” Deva answered. “She should be here soon, though.”
“So, Marko. How are your little protegées getting along?” asked Grinnington.
“I’ll have you know my own students are doing excellently!” Grinnington said, clearly not interested in anything his colleague had to say. “They’re learning from me almost as quickly as I would learn from me. And that’s saying something!”
“Man, I’m so jealous of you three…” Rayleigh moaned. “Marko has the first-year prodigy and Commander Em Rose’s daughter, Grinnington has two genius engineers, and Deva has a talented trainee… why am I the only one that didn’t get someone to train? So much for a golden generation…”
“Luck of the draw, I guess.” Deva replied. “I guess there’s no long-range fighters in the new class.”
“Chirch is pretty good with a bow and arrow.” Marko added. “She’d probably make a good sniper if she trained.”
“Telling me that only insults me more.” Rayleigh replied, scorned. “It’s like you stole my mentee, or didn’t trust me enough to mentor her.”
“I didn’t realise you wanted to mentor someone, Ragley.” Marko replied, deadpan.
“I don’t!” Rayleigh replied. “But now the three of you have rookies under your wing, I kinda want one…”
Deva laughed. “Ha ha ha! We’re not doing this as some kind of fad, Ragley. We do it because it’s part of our job.”
“I’m doing it to prove that I’m a better teacher than Marko.” Grinnington affirmed.
“Well, most of us are.” Deva joked.
“If Amanda shows up and starts talking about a new student, I might just cry.” As Rayleigh continued to lament his lack of student, the bar fell silent.
“Speak of the devil…” Marko looked towards the door, as did everyone else in the bar. Posing playfully in the bar’s doorway, Amanda took note of each and every eye looking at her in her little black dress. Revelling in the attention, she decided it was time to put on a show.
“Oh, this old thing?” she purred. “I don’t know. It’s fine, I guess…”
Strutting slowly towards her friends, making sure to walk past as many tables as possible, Amanda knew she had full control of the room. Men, women and everything in between could feel their faces turn bright red as she walked past, their gaze following her every move. Standing behind Marko and Deva’s seats, she asked the approval of her entourage.
“So, how do I look?” she asked, flicking her hair. The table smelt her perfume waft past their noses.
“Like we should ditch this place for somewhere a little quieter.” Rayleigh answered half-jokingly.
“Oh, but Raggy… what would your girlfriends say?” Amanda replied, tilting her head.
“I’m sure he’d leave all of them for you.” Deva teased. “I know I would.”
Her confidence boosted by her friend’s words of affirmation, Amanda looked over to the one man who had barely glanced at her since she had made her dramatic entrance. Shyly, she asked for his opinion.
“What do you think, Arthur?”
Grinnington, who had just finished replying to a text, looked up. “Oh, sorry. What do I think about what?”
“How do I look?” Amanda asked, gentle touches of pink caressing her cheeks.
As Grinnington looked at her, Amanda felt time slowing down. She gripped the back of Marko’s chair tightly. Marko, Deva and Rayleigh all held their breath along with her, as they waited for Grinnington’s assessment.
“There’s a toothpaste stain on your left breast.” Grinnington replied matter-of-factly. In response to this indifference, Marko sighed, Rayleigh and Deva held their heads in their hands, and Amanda took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a moment, before tapping Deva on the shoulder.
“I’m thirsty. Come get a drink with me, Maruna.” Amanda said, immediately heading for the bar. Deva followed quickly behind.
“I’ll go get drinks for the three of us.” Rayleigh said to the boys left at the table, heading off to the bar as well. Now alone with Grinnington opposite him, Marko sighed heavily.
“You really are an idiot, Grinnington.”
“What do you mean by that?” Grinnington replied, confused.
“… never mind.”
- Yumiel’s Bar.
“Really? You chose Yumiel’s?” Pragma Corrinspike asked XO von Belgien, as they approached the bar’s door. “Not exactly a wild choice for your first boy’s night out in Adamine.”
“I just want a beer, to be honest.” XO answered. “I’ve had a long day. Besides, my consultant said they have a really good pale ale selection.”
“In all fairness, they do.” Darion Kaiser added. “Just… we were expecting more shots and dancing than beer and conversation.”
As the trio entered the bar, they were greeted by the sound of blaring soul music, and the sight of three of the Kingsguard’s most respected members dancing on a table.
“Well, I guess we might be able to do both here.” XO joked.
“Uh… Isn’t that Amanda and Dr. Deva on the table?” Pragma asked, watching the two girls dancing together. “And is that Ragnar Rayleigh dancing with them?”
“Maybe Yumiel’s wasn’t such a bad idea after all.” Kai added.
Before the trio could head to the bar, a festively tipsy Dr. Deva spotted XO. Getting down from the table, tequila bottle in hand, she ran over to him.
“XO! Fancy seeing you here tonight!” she said excitedly, pulling him into a hug. As she let go, XO introduced her to his friends.
“Guys, this is Dr. Maruna Deva. She’s my consultant.”
“it’s so cool you’re here. We should…”
Before Deva could finish her sentence, she was interrupted by a much tipsier Amanda.
“Where’d you go, this is my favourite… Oh!”
Noticing Kai standing with the group, she smiled at him. “Hey, Kai. How’s it going?”
Kai nodded back to his fellow machina pilot. “Not too bad, Cap’n.”
“Don’t call me Captain while we’re off the clock,” Amanda said, pouting slightly. “It makes me feel like an old man.”
“And she’s certainly not an old man.” Pragma joked under his breath.
“Maruna, get Marko over here, and let’s do some shots.” Amanda instructed.
Deva looked towards the table, where Marko had been sitting, drink in hand, watching the evening unfold. Signalling that they were about to take a drink, she also pointed to her bottle. Understanding the signal, he headed to the bar to get shot glasses, before heading over to the group.
“How’s he doing?” Deva asked Marko, nodding her head towards the table, where Grinnington lay in a drunken slumber.
“He’s fine.” Marko answered. “He’ll be awake and sober by the time we leave.”
Handing around shot glasses, Deva poured the tequila. Before she could make a toast, Amanda had necked her glass, and held her arm out for another one.
“Is it a good idea to fill her up again?” she whispered to Marko.
“It’ll be worse if you don’t.” Marko answered.
With all five glasses filled, the group took a shot together, ready to dance the night away.
- Yumiel’s Bar.
“So, how’s your first night out as a Kingsguard soldier been?” Deva asked XO.
“Heavy.” XO answered. “I don’t think I’ve had this much to drink since graduation.”
Deva laughed. “Better get used to it. Some of the post-battle parties can get really out of hand.”
“I look forward to it.” XO replied.
“If you’re ever looking for a drinking partner, feel free to text me.” Deva said cheerily. “Me and this guy are the Kingsguard’s biggest drinkers,” she added, patting Marko on the shoulder. Marko shrugged in response.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” XO answered. “It’s nice to meet other people who still want to sit and chat after a few drinks.”
As those words left XO’s mouth, Amanda ran towards the table, grabbing Marko’s arm.
“Maaaaaaaaarkooo….. come dance with me,” she said, slurring her words slightly.
“What about Ragley and Pragley?” Marko asked, referring to Rayleigh and Pragma.
“He’s not drunk. Just bad with names.” Deva whispered to XO, who laughed quietly.
“Ragleyyyyyyyyy’s….taken Pragma under his wing or something.” Amanda replied. “He’s helping him chat up this nurse, but he’s totally eyeing up her friend too. Anyway they’re not being fuuunnn! Come and dance with me Markoooo….”
Marko sighed and pointed at Kai, who was passed out in the chair opposite Grinnington. “Why not wake him up?”
“But he won’t be funnnn….” Amanda replied, hints of frustration entering her voice. “Come onnnn….”
Marko sighed. “Fine.”
Having gotten her way, Amanda cheered up. “Yay… Let’s go!”
Practically pulling Marko out of his seat and towards the dancefloor, Amanda ran off. As they approached the dancefloor, however, she began to feel dizzy. She stopped in her tracks, and she felt her stomach begin to churn.
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
- Yumiel’s Bar – Smoking Area.
Marko patted Amanda’s back as she leant over the railing, vomiting out a night of shots, frustration, more shots and some cheap bar snacks. Smoking a cigarette, leaning on the railing, he looked up at the sky. It was a clear night, and they were far away enough from the bright city lights that some stars were visible. As he gazed at them, Amanda, still dizzy, spoke up.
“I just don’t understand why he won’t look at me,” she said, defeated.
“People are complicated.” Marko replied. Reaching into his pocket, he opened his box of cigarettes and offered them towards Amanda. “Cigarette?”
“No, thanks. My head’s still spinning. I think I just wanna go home.” Amanda replied. “Can you walk me home?”
January 31st, 2253. 11. Amanda’s Apartment.
Marko jolted awake. He had only meant to close his eyes for a few minutes while Amanda was puking her guts out in the toilet, but it seemed he had slept through the night. Sitting up, he rubbed his eyes.
“Good morning, sleepy head.” Amanda said from the kitchen.
“You feeling okay?” Marko asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine now. I took a couple painkillers and had some water.” Amanda answered. “Coffee?”
Marko nodded. “Please.”
“Thanks again for getting me home.” Amanda said, as she poured out two coffees. “I was feeling really-”
Before she could finish her sentence, her phone started vibrating, as did Marko’s. Seconds later, an alarm blared through the building.
“Of all the days for a bot attack.” Amanda groaned. “I hope I’ve got some to-go cups.”
“More importantly, have you got a spare toothbrush?” Marko asked.
- Chirch and Rose’s building.
“Man… I wish we hadn’t stayed up so late re-watching Teen Vampire.” Chirch groaned. “I’m tired.”
“Me too.” Rose said, pushing the button on the elevator. “I guess we have to be more careful.”
The girls waited in silence for a few seconds for the elevator to come. As the doors opened, they saw a young woman leaning her head on the shoulder of a young man. It took them a split second to recognise just who they were.
“O-oh! Captain Marko…” Chirch said, stunned.
“Oh, Chirch. Good morning.” Marko replied.
“We’ll just get the next one.” Chirch said quickly, mashing the “close” button inside the elevator to get the doors to shut. Before Marko could reply, the doors had closed. As the elevator went down, Rose turned to Chirch.
“You don’t think Captain Marko and Amanda are…”
“For some reason, I’m really mad at Captain Marko right now.” Chirch grumbled.
Inside the elevator.
“Huh. That was weird.” Amanda said, as the elevator started going down again. “Why wouldn’t they get in with us?”
After thinking for a moment, a light bulb went off in Amanda’s head. “Ha ha ha! You don’t think they think that we’re….”
Marko sighed. “They’re going to ask so many questions.”
KapteynG as Dr. Maruna Deva: Good doctor, big drinker. Responsible mentor?