Chapter 23






“Aaron’s going to kill us, or at least ground us for the next twenty years until my body turns twenty,” Pete sighed as he once again looked around the room.



“Aaron…” hissed Edward, “just wait until Thomas catches up with us, let alone what the rest of the guys will do to us when they find out what happened.”



“But we’re doing the right thing,” Pete protested pleading with his eyes for Edward to agree.



“Yes but not if we do this without backup, it is no longer the right thing if we do this ourselves,” Edward told him sternly.



Nodding in agreement, as he looked out of the room to see the crowd of reporters waiting for them, “I’ll path Tim and Karl, they can bring your brothers and the other guards past all that before we go out in front of that circus,” Pete closed his eyes to path Karl and Tim.



“Don’t bother, everyone else made it outside of the reach of the feeding frenzy out there thanks to you two, but we might as well get this over with so we can get out of here,” Karl strode into the room looking sour.



“Quite…” Thomas offered, as he walked in behind the hunky Karl, “The Queen offers her thanks for creating the diversion necessary…your grandmother, on the other hand…”



Placing a hand on Edwards shoulder so his finger could make contact with the skin of his neck he pathed, “Let’s do this,” dropping his hand back to his side once they walked out of the room.



Once out in the room full of press, Pete gave himself a quick glance to makes sure that his clothes were neat and his medallion was visible hanging in the center of his chest over his dress shirt with the Clan crest on it, stopping once he reached the hastily set up podium; Pete scanned the crowd waiting for the shouting questions to die down so he could speak.



Finally he glanced over at Edward, and talking loud enough for the microphones to pick up his words, “Is this a common occurrence here?  Look at them, every one yelling over the other, shouting questions so fast at us we have no idea what is being asked,” Pete pointed out on the crowd, “they’re worse than the Americans.”



Holding his hand up in such a way that it seemed as if he was talking into his shirt sleeve Karl hid his chuckle as Pete’s words had the desired effect, the reporters had gone quiet and glared at Pete for being referred to as worse than the Yanks, before turning sheepish as they realized they never did give them a chance to say anything, pathing Pete something he picked up on, “This is going out live, careful, Young Sir.”



Laughing and lightly punching Pete in the shoulder now that the room was quiet, “Well, you have to understand, we are an enthusiastic lot, especially round those we consider heroes, and since Aaron is not here, you get his portion,” Edward laughed as he noticed the smiles creeping onto the reporters faces as they relaxed after their rightfully deserved dressing down. Seeing one of the more respectful reporters in the front row, he pointed at her with a smile.



“Thank you Prince Edward, I’m sure some of my other questions will be answered in later answers but for the simple one, can you introduce your companion to us please,” the lady reporter asked, holding her tape recorder out.



Nodding, Pete stepped a little closer to the podium and looked at her directly, “I am Peter Eckley of Clan Stranton of the Kingdom of Altare. I, along with Tim, have been given permission by our Clan Prime,  to accompany the three prince's back to England and spend the night because we became friends with them while Richard was healed. We will leave tomorrow morning after seeing what life is like here in your country, I believe Edward mentioned something about shopping on Oxford, whatever that is, and then going to a pub for lunch.”



“What is a Clan Prime, and are they any relation to Aaron Stranton the ruler of Altare?”



“Aaron Stranton is our King, but he is no ruler, he is our leader. There is a big difference, even your language associate’s leader as a verb, a word of action and ruler as a noun. Aaron would be very upset if he is referred to as a ruler which he considers lazy; he is our leader, he leads by doing,” Pete said with conviction, “and a Clan Prime is one who has the ability and leadership skills to lead their Clan.”



“That sounds so confusing really; the two words mean the same thing.”



“Then it is a good thing we didn’t go to the same school, as the two words and their meaning are completely different, and it is not confusing to us back on Altare…what is confusing is all this,” Pete waved his arm around the crowd, “We do not have reporters or media, back home like you do.”



“Where is back home?”



“I live in the Clan Hall back on Altare, the capital city,” Pete smiled at the memory of the first time he saw the city, looking down from the balcony at the vast and beautiful city below him.



The same voice called out again, “Where is Altare in relation to the rest of the world?”



Shrugging, “It's in the south pacific, near the equator, well off the normal routes of travel,” Pete looked around, not seeing a window, “I would have to ask the pilot; he would know exactly where our Kingdom is, after all, he needs to fly us back in the morning.” Holding up his hand to stop the further comment by the reporter, “ I know where my country is in general terms, just as you know where your country is in general terms. You know that England lies due west of France across the channel, but you probably could not give an exact coordinate for England, after all, common sense told you as you were growing up your country was too big to be missed.”



“But even our children are taught in school that England lies on the prime meridian and at fifty one degrees north.”



“True, and if needed, I could go to the navigation computer and type in our coordinates to get us near home, well close enough that from there, I could see where we needed to go. But we do not use the latitude and longitude system you do, so it would not make any sense for you to plug in Z minus five hundred mark three six one relative nine five,” Pete explained to the reporter's glassy eyed expression, as he tried to figure out what the coordinates could refer to.



“I see you point, is there any way I can get the information on your system so I can try to convert your coordinates to ours?” he sounded hopeful.



“No…that is something I’m not allowed to give you. Until 1941 the rest of the world did not know we existed, and until several days ago, the world did not know we visited other countries from time to time. Until the hospital on Altair Minor opens up full time, and Aaron releases the coordinates, I am not allowed to give away anything that might hint on how to find us, sorry,” Pete did not really sound all that sorry though.



Cupping a hand around his mouth Edward leaned in with a grin and whispered to low for the microphone to pick up, “Masterfully done.”



Grinning back to Edward, he slightly froze and placed a confused look on his face when some shrill woman called out, “So are you two a couple…does this mean Prince Edward is finally out of the closet and a poofter to boot.”



Slowly scanning the crowd to find the woman who was so insulting, he heard Edward say loud enough for the microphones to pick up, “That was Rita of the nightly star, not the most respectable tabloid.”



“I’m still trying to understand your language, Edward, we came out of that room over there and it is much larger than a closet, not only that, it had several other doors leading in and out, at best it could be called an entry and there were no clothes or racks around the walls. I mean it’s smaller than Aaron’s closet, but that is because he turned his into a private library,” Pete turned away from the reporters and winked at Edward's shocked face, “next time you come visit, I’ll have to show you the library, the books he has in there are unbelievable.”



“That’s not what I meant you fag…” the voice dripped with venom.



Turning around, and gaze piercing through the crowd that was moving away from the woman, Pete saw who was talking and his gaze got cold, “Now that is a word I recognize, so it seems that you would besmirch the honor of your Prince, heir to the throne for a story. A story that will be nowhere near the facts, not to mention besmirch my name in the process, thus creating friction between our two people. Friction that would possibly stop Aaron from building the state of the art hospital and medical center he plans to, one that duplicates the one on Altair Minor, here on land he would build an embassy on.”



He grabbed both sides of the podium and glared daggers at the reporter, Pete’s next words went out live and angered a lot of people, but not at him. "Aaron has gotten to know Edward's family, at least four of them, and that made him consider bringing not only our technology, medical and other to your country, which would put millions of pounds if not hundreds of millions into your economy. He has found that the British Royals he has met are both honorably and truly seeking the betterment of their people. Tim and I were here to get a feel for the British as a people,” pointing his finger at her to single her out, “if you are typical of the British, then there is not much sense in us staying and going out and about London now is there. If I wanted to deal with hateful bigots, I would go back to America, at least over there, they are honest about being a hateful bigot. Only they have the tendency of attacking physically, those different from them, like Tim…you see, he took too long picking out a computer game, and the clerk did not think he should have a debit card, so she hit him repeatedly and locked him in a cage until the police could come, while she robbed him besides…all for the crime of being young.”



Taking a deep breath, Pete slammed his hands down on the podium, “I had thought this country would be different. Seems I was wrong, if you are the type of person I will meet, then I am all for leaving the country now, and you all can go to hell.” Pete angrily stormed off the stage with Karl glaring at the woman as he kept behind his charge.



Frantic, Edward called out, “Wait Pete. Please…I can prove she is a very small minority; at least let me make our case.”



Pete stopped at the door, and without looking back, nodded his head once before disappearing from sight.



Edward on the other hand, turned and glared at Rita, “I am ashamed of you, I am ashamed that I thought so highly of our people, not even believing that someone would so publicly and quickly try to undermine the good my Grandmother and my brother and cousin are trying to bring here to our country.”



“The hospital alone would be enough to welcome them to our country, for what they can do to help our children. Let alone all the exports in food and the possibility of becoming THE hub for Europe for all the technology they are releasing into the market to support the hospital so costs are kept down to a very affordable level.” Edward started his rant, while out of sight, Pete grinned as the plan they had hatched when they saw the woman out there was working.



“Pete, the one you just insulted, told us during the planning stages of bringing the hospital here, that it did not really solve more problems than it would create, from that comment, I, along with my brother, have spent most of every day going over what would solve more problems that our country is facing than just building a hospital…like creating an export business for milk and cheese and other value added foods, thus creating jobs…like bringing in the headquarters of several of the Alteran companies now residing in America and creating even more jobs.” Sighing dramatically, Edward looked at the woman, saddened, “I know there is a lot of hate out in the world, and I know there is a lot of hate here in this country, born from fear, or from jealousy or just because no matter how hard one tries, they can never get on their feet it seems.”



“At last count if what Andrew and I worked so hard for actually went through, it would have brought almost a million jobs to our country by year’s end,” looking sad as he looked down, eyes gazing at the milling reporters, “A million new jobs would have done a lot to help our country, would have done a lot to feed our hungry children,” Edward let a couple of tears trail down his face, “It would have meant that I and my brother were right, that as a country, we stand out like a beacon to the rest of the world, because we, over all others, were chosen.”



Stepping back from the podium, he let the tears show to the cameras, “And you would ruin everything we have strived to do for our people, so you could sell more papers, so you could make more money. You never met him before today, never laid eyes on him, but in your haste to hurt me and my family, you struck out, not caring what you damaged in the process,” Edward looked at the shamed reporters before walking to the door where Pete exited. “Pete has an intensely brilliant mind, and while I am in the middle of my sixth form, by the time I graduate he will have gained his first doctorate, every single Alteran I have met has that same drive to better themselves as Pete does. Hopefully, he has that same drive to forgive one person’s hatred and not lump all of us in with you, Rita.”



Edward and Thomas met up with Pete and his guard, near the door leading outside, seeing the news camera’s pointed their way along with a large crowd, he kept his game face on as he stood there next to Pete watching the crowd. Pete, placing his hand briefly on Edward's shoulder, so his extended finger would allow him to path a message, “That went better than I had hoped and we planned; now let’s get to the safety of the car and deal with the repercussions from your grandmother, at least I have some time until tomorrow, unless Aaron finds out and really gets mad.”



Dropping his hand as to the outward world, it looked like an act of comfort from one teen to another Pete opened the door and walked out into the silence of the crowd staring at them as they walked towards the car. As they were almost to the car, a middle aged man broke through the crowd and fell to one knee in front of Pete.



“Please my Lord, I beg you, don’t judge all of us by that bitter harpy in there. It doesn’t matter who a person sleeps with, all that matters are if they are a good and caring person,” the man was openly crying, “Please, I beg you, give us a second chance. I don’t care who Prince Edward sleeps with all that truly matters to me is that he and his Grandmother gave me my grandson back. He will be a fine king one day…please.”



Reaching out and placing a hand on the crying man's shoulder, Pete sighed, and knelt down so that they were face to face, “For you, I will give the British people a second chance…but only this once.” Pete touched his forehead briefly to the man’s, before standing up and smiling down towards the man as the news cameras sent this live out to the nation.



“Thank you my Lord, thank you,” the man hugged himself as his son helped him to his feet.



Shaking his head, Pete smiled, “No, you should thank Edward; he is your true Lord and a true Leader,” letting his eyes travel to rest on Edward, he smiled widely, “and I agree he will make a fine King one day.”



Karl, nervous around so many people not behaving as expected, moved close, “Young Sir, the car is waiting…may I suggest we join the others.”



“Right as always, Karl,” Pete said, as he waved back at the grateful man when he waved to him. Nearing the car, Pete’s question carried to the camera on the other side of the car, “Tell me Edward, I have heard of this bubble and squeak from several people the past few days, what is it?”



Edward's answer was cut off as they both entered the car and their security ran to the vehicle behind it. The reporter standing there watching events unfold, cleared her throat, “I think that we, as a nation, need to truly thank Prince Edward, for showing us the true leader he is, and on his way to becoming a great King,” dropping the normal impersonal facade, she reported the news with, “I also think it is high time we, as a people, live up to the high expectations that Prince Edward has shown that he has in us and not screw up this second chance a distraught grandfather secured for us.”



Now in the limo with the door closed, Pete grinned at Edward, ignoring the stares from the others waiting for them, “Well, that went well, she played right into our hands.”



“Are you saying you two planned that,” Queen Victoria asked sternly, eyes staring at the two of them in almost disbelief, her heart had skipped more than a few beats as she watched the live news feed, and here it was all an act.



Pete looked at the queen, “Not all of it was an act, I should warn you, Aaron does have a temper, and if we were treated badly, bullied and abused the whole trip, no words of well meaning would satisfy him. Edward saw that woman in the audience so we prepared for what could happen if she went off on one of her tangents.”



“It was also the start of bringing our family back into the public’s eye in a positive way. I think you can agree that not only was the reporter ostracized, but the public will now equate every new job and economic boost to our doing,” Andrew pointed out, as he looked at his brother as if seeing him for the first time.



Conversation stopped when the limo's TV flicked to life once more as the aide in the front passenger seat got word of the online debate.



Watching the TV, Edward and his grandmother smiled as the normally very neutral host got flustered.



“Really, come on Michael, you would have us believe the word of a kid would be taken over that of adults, I mean who does this kid think he is, judging us, no one in their right mind would send a kid to do a man’s job.”



“Really, I would think that if I wanted an unbiased view of what a country was really like, I would look to the children, after all, if you truly watch them, you can learn a lot about a parent or even a country by watching them interact. And to tell the truth, he had every right to be upset over his treatment.”



“Well, that’s what happens when you send a kid to do a man’s job Michael; after all, if he can’t take the criticism, he has no business coming here…”



“That will be quite enough out of your mouth, Sir,” the host who had a look of someone losing their patience finally broke in, as he slammed his clipboard down on the table. “Rita was in the wrong, she attacked the honor of a foreign diplomat, and I have to agree with Michael, if I wanted to truly know if the country I was about to do business with was worth it, I certainly would not send an adult to talk to children, they would not get a straight answer for one thing, and for the other, people like you would throw them in the constabulary as trying to entice a child. No sir, you are clearly in the wrong, now be man enough to admit it.”



“How dare you…I’ll have you know…” the host of the show cut him off once more, “and I’ll have you know that you are banned from this program now and in the future, of all of the incompetent twits I’ve had on the show, you sir, go to the top…now get the bloody hell off my stage.”



Turning the volume down once more as the show went to commercial, the Queen looked thoughtful before turning to her grandson, “The two of you just may have started something that will shake up our country in way that is needed.”



The partition separating the driver’s compartment from the back rolled down and a nicely dressed woman interrupted, “Madam, I have the prime minister on the line, he needs to talk to you.”



“Put him on the speaker, please,” Victoria asked as she made shushing motions with her hand.



“Your Majesty, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, I’ll get right to the point,” the Prime Minister began, “I need to set up an appointment so we can meet face to face as soon as possible if we are going to be able to take advantage of the opening being offered to us today.”



Seeing her grandsons stiffen in outrage, Victoria smiled at them and patted Edward on the leg, between the two of them, he was the quickest to temper, “I will check once I get back to the office, but I really don’t see that happening before Friday afternoon at the earliest.”



Stuttering from the Prime Minister could be heard over the speaker, “By then, the representatives with the boys will be long gone and we will miss the chance to start working out schedule’s and figures.”



Vision briefly flashing red in rage Victoria sighed, “Really now, both Andrew and Edward have done an outstanding job, even Richard, after he was released, helped, there’s not much left to do really. Plus, I think that you overlooked something important, those boys, as you so erroneously called them, are the representatives.”



“That complicates things…I of course will need to meet up with Edward and Andrew then, so I can instruct them on what needs to be done and said, we can fabricate an errand after you reach the palace so that I can give them their orders,” the Prime Minister was thinking out loud, not knowing he was damming himself in the process.



“That won’t be possible; my grandson’s, all three of them are taking their friends to lunch, and then shopping, to compare the American mall experience with a proper British shopping experience,” Victoria had steel in her voice, “then, my family will be having a nice quiet dinner with Pete and Tim, after all, the only reason they are here in the first place is to get to see our culture and people.”



“Fine…fine, have it your way, I’ll just have to meet them while shopping, after all, lunch will slow them down so my people can get into position…now that I think about it, that might work out better; I can have your grandsons fitted with transmitters; that way we can feed the information I need them to hear the whole time.” The Prime Minister sounded gleeful, that would work he thought, there was a way to rescue his government after all, and garner the fame.



Silence was the only thing the Prime Minister heard for several too uncomfortable moments, “Hello…hello are you still there, I need to know where your grandsons plan on taking them shopping, if I am to intercept them.”



“I repeat, Mr. Prime Minister, this is not a matter of state, this is a family matter, my grandsons intend to show their friends around, not deal in political maneuverings, as such, I would highly look unfavorably toward any government interference with my family's personal lives.” Victoria was livid, was the man totally deaf as well as stupid?



“I disagree with you your majesty, so I will do this on my own; it became a matter of state as soon as your grandson opened his mouth to the media instead of letting us handle things properly.” The Prime Minister disconnected.



Andrew, seeing both his brother and grandmother livid sighed, “He feels threatened, he knows if he can’t claim we were acting under his orders, his career is over, a cornered animal is a dangerous animal, and right now he feels cornered.”



“You're right Andrew, and the limo is probably bugged with a tracking device, security and all so we need to split up,” Tim smiled evilly at Pete.



“What are you thinking oh evil one,” Pete grinned as he pathed Karl, “Karl, is our hummer here yet, or do we have access to a clean vehicle?”



We have two clean vehicles. The one I’m in is one and the other can be here quickly, why?” Karl wondered back.



The Prime Minister wants to butt in, and take over, turning this into something else rather than a quick look around town and shopping. And I think it is safe to say the limo has a GPS tracker, and the phones the queens agents carry probably do too.” Pete pathed, as Tim pointed out a pub with a daily special sign outside.



Leaning forward, Tim pointed the pub out to the driver, “Pull up over there, I’m famished and I don’t think I can wait for food,” smiling back at the grin on the driver's face, he turned around, “We’ll eat here and while eating, the guards can stay with us while you go driving around, leading them away, we’ll have our guards and some of yours and one of our cars can take us elsewhere after eating, his men will follow you.” Tim sat back, beaming.



As they pulled over to the curb, Victoria thought about the proposed plan for a moment and agreed, “This is not the best part of town, but with your skills, you should be safe, just promise me if trouble starts, you’ll run first chance.”



Andrew and Edward nodded agreement while Richard said simply, “Yes ma’am.”



The teens jumped out of the limo while the vehicle with the guards pulled up and one of the British guards ran forward and dumped a bag with all the cell phones or other items that could be used to track them in the limo.



The barman, glancing at the door when the tinkle of the bells indicated it was being opened, started to look back at the Telly, but stopped when he saw who was coming in, “Blimey if these tired old eyes aren’t deceiving me lads, look to see what’s strolling in the door yonder.”



 All heads turned at the barman’s cry and watched in shocked awe, as the very ones who they were discussing came walking through the door. Rushing around the counter, the barkeep rushed over to escort the group to a table in the corner, “Bless me tired old bones, laddies, you’re a sight for me old eyes that’s for sure. I’ll just be bringing you out some bubble and squeak young lord, while you glance at this here menu.”



Pete and Tim gazed around the room, seeing all the curious stares directed their way while the three Brits tried their best to not show how uncomfortable they were, under all the attention.  Doing his part to help Edward learn to lead, by being able to relax in public, “You know…” Tim said, as he sniffed the smell coming from the kitchen, “maybe that prick of a prime minister did us a favor, something smells good.”



Pete, picking up on the quiet from Tim’s comment, smiled back at him and continued their plan to bolster the crown, “Well, he was not interested in making sure we found something good to eat, after all, he was only interested in taking credit for someone else’s hard work.” Looking up at the large bowl of something placed before them with a pile of plates and forks he leaned in and sniffed, “smells good…” before turning to Edward, “You never did tell me what bubble and squeak is, I see potatoes and something else, but what’s in there, though it does smell good.” Taking a small taste, he grinned, “taste’s good too, I can taste the cabbage.”



Smiling, the barkeep drew himself up straight, “Thank you right kindly, lads, now what can I be getting you to eat.”



Pete glanced back at the menu and smiled, “Fish and chips for me.”



“Me too, thank you,” Richard told him, as he handed over his menu, while Edward took it from him and added he would take that also.



“That’ll be three fish and chips and for you me lord?” the barkeep asked as he grinned at Andrew.



“I’ll have the corned beef, and chips sound good too,” Andrew handed his menu over and relaxed.



“Right o and for you young lord?” the barkeep smiled as he watched Tim taste the bubble and squeak and get a surprised expression on his face.



“I’ll have fish and this,” Tim swatted the hand away from the bowl and pulled it close while guarding it with his fork, “if they want any more of this, they’ll have to get their own this is mine.” He playfully growled as he brandished his fork like a weapon, causing the pub to dissolve into laughter and the conversation to start up again.



“But…but, I only had a taste,” Pete did his best to look like a kicked puppy, before giggling at the barkeep's expression of delight.



“I’ll just be stepping into the back and having the cook fix these right up for you, won’t but be a blink or two,” the barkeep grinned before rushing away.



Edward was looking at Tim and Pete, trying to figure out why they acted like they did, his brother leaned over and whispered, “look around, the pub is all noisy again, people are no longer staring at us like they are afraid they would do something wrong.”



Pete grew serious for a moment before leaning in, “You need to remember, the people have to look at you as one of them, it makes you more human in their eyes...someone approachable.”



“I learned long ago that if you act out of character, people would take notice,” Tim said, as he took another bite of the tasty dish, thinking back on how he survived on the street by learning to blend in.



A few minutes later, the barkeep was back placing very full plates in front of them, smiling he looked around the table, “Blimey, I’d as soon forget me own head if it wasn’t attached, Lads what ye be drinking.”



Tim perked up, “Milk, can I get some real milk, it’s been so long since I’ve had any.”



“Aye, I can get you some out of the kitchen, pardon me for asking, but why would you be missing milk of all things.” The barkeep asked, eager to have something to gossip about later after they left.



“We're an island nation, so we really don’t have much of a dairy, and I would rather the young ones get the milk, as I’m no better than anyone else,” Tim smiled at the thought of getting some milk, and doing his part to create a history for the island.



“You and your milk cravings,” Pete laughed, “now, if you add some chocolate in it, then it’s okay,” looking wistful for a moment, then hopeful as he turned to the barkeep, “You wouldn’t by chance be able to make some cocoa, would you?”



Smiling, the barkeep nodded, “I be making it myself for you, how about the rest of you lads?”



Edward smiled at Pete and winked, finally catching on, “Cocoa sounds grand, and it will go down nice with the fish, me too please?”



Smiling at the lads, the barkeep thought they were no different really than anyone else, “Four cocoas and one milk; be right back.”



Edward should have been surprised but he just smiled as they ate and talked over things, loud enough for the pub patrons to hear, it was near the end of the meal when Tim sighed after emptying his milk, “You know, I don’t think we really discussed milk, I know we talked about importing cheese and stuff, but milk, with milk we can maybe try making that stuff we tried in America, ice cream I think it was called, plus then I can have a glass whenever I want. And think, if we can get a steady supply of milk, it can be offered at the hospital, I bet some of the kids that will come there will have missed the taste of milk.”



“I suppose we could add that to the list, we could pick it up at the airport every other day, if the whole embassy deal does not fall through because of the Prime Minister. We could take daily shipments out at the embassy hospital and transship from there once the hospital is built,” Pete said as he noticed the room once again was silent, most in the pub right then, worked at the milk plant across the street and he knew Tim had noticed the sign when they came in, “the problem is where are we going to find a company willing to meet our requirements, not to mention the farmers bringing their production to our standards.”



“Pardon me for butting in lad, but what requirements are you talking about?”



Pete grinned at Edward before toning it down into a small smile, “Well, Aaron once chewed the milk plant out and canceled their contract, for sending a shipment of milk in plastic containers, when the contract clearly stated that all half gallon containers would be in the heavy unmarked cardboard type, non bleached, I think it read, the rest was to be shipped in the stainless steel vessels we provided.”



“I think they tried to talk us into buying their large plastic vats for shipment at one point,” Tim spoke up before pulling out his P.A.D.D. and placing it on the table so he could look at his notes.



Another man, this one not dressed in overalls spoke up, “Why the cardboard instead of plastic?”



“We recycle everything, so the containers are composted down and added to the gardens, hard to do if they're plastic, we even paid extra for the cardboard containers,” Tim read from the report on the P.A.D.D. “they also owe us seven of our tanks that they say they can’t find.”



“Budge over lads, and someone get me a pad,” the man dressed in slacks said, as he made his way to the table closest to them. “What else is on the list that the plants have to do and what were you paying wholesale.”



Tim flipped his P.A.D.D. around and pushed it over to Edward who scooted over and whispered to Andrew to move over so they could bring another table up. Glancing down as he moved, so the table could be placed next to theirs, he read the screen, “Tim, tell me this is not right, tell me this figure was the retail not wholesale price.”



Tim shrugged, “that's what we were paying for half a gallon of milk, they said it cost more for them to run ours separate and all the extra work involved in meeting our requirements.”



“Tim, I could go buy three times the amount of milk at the grocers…a pound and three quarters as wholesale, you were being robbed blind.” Edward read through the section for a moment before shaking his head, “I’m no expert except in drinking it of course, but any plant here in the UK should already have this standard of quality control.” Tapping the side of the P.A.D.D. he handed it over, before sitting back down in thought, “what would I have to do to convince you to let one of our local companies fill this contract?”



There were muffled Core’s and Blimey’s as the pub once more got very quiet, most of the lunch crowd, being either farmers or working at the plant across the way, were suddenly very interested.



“We really should have you speaking to Mark, as he’s the one in charge of the land based animal farms. But roughly, the farmer would have to agree to raise the dairy cattle in what the Americans like to call 'the organic way', meaning no added hormone injections or feeding of hay or grain tainted by anything other than what nature provided, the Americans like to add urea and a whole slew of other things to their cows to get more milk out of them.” Pete shook his head, “the Americans also pay almost twice the price for having the farmer not add all that garbage in, but the farmer never sees a penny of the extra money. Not after the government banned on farm sales.”



Looking at Edward as he thought about things, “Edward, it’s real simple, if you want to steal the account from the Americans, I’ll even give you a copy of all the requirements that would have to be met, all you have to do is find a company willing to package to our requirements, farmers to raise the cattle to our requirements and of course allow quarterly surprise inspections, nothing really hard I guess, on our part, on yours you have to be able to find people that can meet them.” Pete shrugged while inwardly smiling as Edward and Andrew were talking over the points with the Diary manager and farmers.



Content to hold a pathed conversation with Tim, while Andrew and surprisingly Richard, helped Edward negotiate with the farmers and dairy men, Pete briefly pathed for an update from the guards escorting Patrick and Douglas to their former homes to retrieve their belongings, both of them looked at each other and frowned when they heard the report. Scotland yard had been sent along just in case, and they had to get involved, in fact Kevin had ported in to handle Clan comfort duties as the guards had reasoned that they were too busy keeping the parents away, so they called for Kevin to come over. In fact, after getting their belongings they intended to return to the plane and port home from there.



Seeing frowns on both Tim and Pet’s faces, Richard stopped talking, “What’s wrong, did something happen?”



Nodding slowly and covering by acting like he was turning off the communicator Tim sighed, “Doug and Pat made it to their parents' homes and Scotland yard had to be called in, now they are on their way back to the plane, Kevin is with them, trying to comfort them.”



Pete sounded disgusted, “Their parents think since they were caught in the explosion, well outside the building mind you, that it would be better for them to find other living arrangements, so they are not tainted by the hint of someone thinking their ten year old sons are gay.”



The plant manager froze, hoping that several of his men he knew liked to talk down, did not blow this opportunity before it was signed; he started to shake in fear when he heard one of them open his mouth and let out his breath when what he heard was not bad mouthing gays.



“Like most blokes, I don’t understand gays, but ten is a little young for me to believe they were doing something, not only that. I was raised to believe you love your family no matter what. I might talk crude and joke around about poofters and all…just as my brother jokes around about me and my normal ways. What was done to those lads is just wrong.”



Edward smiled at Pete and Tim as he heard murmurs of agreement from everyone in the pub.



“Psst…Prince Edward, when are the young prince's returning home,” the dairy manager whispered, catching Edward’s attention.



“Tomorrow after breakfast, sometime around nine, I expect,” Edward answered, curious to know what the man was thinking.



“Good, I was thinking of sending some samples of what we can do, home with them, along with a proposal of what we can supply and at what cost, I think we can do so much better on price and still pass along a milk increase to the farmers that will make them happy.” Looking around for his great uncle, the dairy manager yelled, “Oi, you ugly Scotsman, time to get your arse home and set about milking them cows.”



The farmer in question raised his fist and shook it as he stood laughing, “I be telling me niece not to let her daughter marry no Limey. And a Limey wearing a suit to boot, instead of respectable boots and all.”



Making his way through the laughing crowd, he stopped by his niece's daughter's husband and placed his hand on his shoulder with a nod, “You be wanting me to separate the milks before picking it up I expect. There'll be another three or four lads we be convincing to change back to the old ways if you pull this off, once we be convincing ’em to change and the others seeing the bigger checks more will jump fence I be betting.”



Pete opened his wallet and rummaged through, looking for pound notes and not finding any pulled out a bunch of American twenties, counting off five of them he handed them to the barkeep as he came back to the table, “This should be enough, I think, if not, let me know; I haven’t had time to go to the bank to get these changed yet.”



“There be more than plenty here, I’ll just be going and changing them for you and bringing back your change,” The barkeep smiled, if the plant got more business, he would get more business and he was happy.



“Keep the change,” Pete zipped his wallet closed and handed Tim back his PA.D.D. that Edward passed over.



“Young Lord, this be way too much for the simple meals I be fixing you,” the barkeep started to protest but was shocked at Pete’s words.



“Keep it, save the rest, then and when you see some kid on the street cold and hungry, feed him a warm meal, use that to pay for it, if it runs out, let me know and I’ll give you more,” Pete stood up and motioned for Karl and the other guards that they were ready before looking into his pouch for a tip, not finding nay change he threw down a cubit on the table, maybe the barkeep would like to frame it or something.



Richard bringing up the rear passed the stuttering barkeep and stopped, “They don’t think like we do, money to them is just something to use to make sure no one goes hungry or goes cold. Don’t get me wrong, they get up at five every morning to do their share of chores in the gardens or farms, so that everyone has something to eat and they go to bed late around ten or so every night, after putting in a day I know I could not keep up with. To them, that bit of paper is worthless compared to what really matters.” Richard walked out, leaving some very confused looks passing between the barkeep and his patrons.



Safely out of the pub and behind the tinted windows of the hastily brought over cars, they pulled out into the street as the people in the pub started streaming out through the doors and in the distance behind them they could see a long line of official looking cars, cruising the street, as if looking for someone. Pete, laughing at catching a stray thought from one of the cars, “They missed us, seems they caught up with your grandmother a little bit ago, and noticed we were not with her, so they're backtracking, trying to find us.”



Tim frowned, if the prime minister ever caught them, he was going to give him a piece of his mind, so much so he would not sit down for a week from the ass chewing he was working on, “Well, since shopping is out, what else can we do with the four hours we have left before heading back to the palace?”



“Why don’t we go to Harrods?  At least there, no one will be looking for us, thinking we went to Oxford or Piccadilly,” Richard looked around, “take about thirty five minutes or so if traffic is moving smoothly, longer though if it’s not, or how about taking the underground there, there’s a station not that far from the palace and if we park there we can take the train back out and when were finished a short trip to the palace from the station and were back.”



“Thomas?” Edward questioned, as he slapped his brother for wiggling in his lap.



“That sounds more than reasonable, as Harrods has excellent security and are used to dealing with high profile visitors, even if the Prime Minister found us there, even he would not be able to get close,” Thomas agreed with Richard as he changed direction for the underground station.



Twenty five minutes later, the group entered Harrods through a side entrance. Stopping so Tim and Pete could gaze around the massive first floor, one of the floor managers noticed the group of security guards walk in scanning the area before a group of young teens entered the store. Trained to recognize all the important people and their families, he readily identified all three prince's who were talking and laughing with two he did not recognize, but body language suggested that over half the guards were there for those two lads. Picking up the phone, he dialed the upper office and told them about their visitors and asked them to heighten security and discreetly inform all the other floors before placing the phone in the cradle and approaching the group.



“Prince Edward…Prince Andrew and a delight to see you too Prince Richard, as we don’t often see you in Harrods was there something special you were looking for today?” the floor manager asked formally, with a bow of his head.



“Not today…today we are showing our friends around and had gotten into a discussion of American shops versus of course our British shops, and we decided to start the tour where the Prime Minister would not harass us,” Edward warned him, at the same time, telling him they were just browsing.



“Very good, Prince Edward, might I suggest you start at the top and work your way down then. Once you are on your way, I shall take care of the matter of overseeing the Prime Minister personally if he does happen to grace us with his presence today,” the floor manager bowed them towards the service elevator.



“I hope you don’t mind, but this way your entire party can proceed together without being recognized in the crowd,” the floor manager apologized.



“Thank you for your impeccable help,” Thomas smiled, as he entered the elevator, keeping his charges behind him.



Getting out on the top floor, Pete looked around, it seems they had entered the men’s and young men’s department, moving over next to Tim who was looking through the men’s section with a lost look on his face, “Having problems deciding on something?”



“What do you get the person who has everything already, I thought I might buy Aaron something nice, but nothing so far, looks like he would wear it.” Tim sighed, after he groused.



A cute young clerk who had been hovering between the two groups decided to try to help out, “If you tell me a little bit about him, maybe I can give you some ideas.”



“Well he is an incredible doctor,” Richard walked up.



Edward joined him from the other side of the rack, “Any five star restaurant would give their first born to get a single one of his recipes,” he was thinking of dinner the other night.



Andrew sauntered over grinning, “He has every toy imaginable and some that are not, right Pete?”



Laughing, Pete smirked, “That’s okay as I have enough imagination for both of us.”



The clerk joining in the laughter tried to think of who they were talking about, it had to be some high profile and important person or the three prince's would not be involved with the other two, and now that he really looked at them they seemed to have the same strange crest on their shirts, a very intricate crest by the looks of it.



“Well, I don’t suppose I can buy a horse here for him, doesn’t seem like the thing you would go to the store and buy,” Tim pondered, as the clerk's eyes bulged in shock, “he has an incredible craving for chocolate, maybe I need to look at buying him a few pounds for a snack.”



Giggling at the look on clerk’s face, Tim remembered a show they watched the other day, “Hey aren’t you supposed to ask me 'are you being served'.”



Laughing, the clerk shook his head, “That was only on the Telly, Harrods certainly is not Grace Brothers,” leaning forward he laughed, “though, I do think we have our share of Mr. Humphries running around.”



The general manager stood near the floor manager watching the high profile guests laugh at something one of their clerks said, when the floor manager started to move forward to have a word with his clerk, the general manager stopped him, “Leave him be, he is making all of them feel comfortable, and after the morning those two had, anything to make us look less bigoted and stuffy, all the better.”



Karl and Thomas had slowly moved behind the two managers so they could listen in; Karl, seeing his charges relaxed and having a good time agreed with the general manager, “Yes, do leave the young sirs alone.” Seeing the two jump, he chuckled, “relax, nothing is being said or done on this floor without us knowing about it, and your young clerk is actually making helpful suggestions amidst the banter. After all, Tim is right, what do you get your Clan Leader, the King of your country as a gift. After all, if he wants something he goes and buys it himself.”



“HMMMM…” Karl muttered as he turned and looked off to the right garnering the attention of the group.



“What? is there something I should know about on behalf of my detail?” Thomas watched the young girl carefully, as she started towards the group, only to be intercepted by one of Karl’s crew.



“My boys will take care of it, seems not only was that one a bit crude, but she needs to learn to keep her mouth shut. She had plans on going over and trying to worm her way into Edward's date book, and if that failed, she planned to concoct a new way to get to be queen; she plans to use a friend from school to get her pregnant and claim it is Edward's so he will have to marry her. No matter, my man will take care of it, she will not get within ten feet of our charges.” Karl said, as they watched the girl get all red faced and angry before deflating, as her mother grabbed hold of her.



Watching her being dragged to the elevator, Karl commented, “The real question is, is the mother upset that her daughter planned to act so underhanded, or is she upset that she was careless enough to be caught.” Scanning the mom’s mind and smirking, he touched his ear communicator, “Well, it’s a good thing I don’t gamble…seems mom’s more upset the plan failed.”



“Riley will of course give you a video recording of the conversation to keep on fil…” Karl trailed off as he stiffened, at the same time, both Tim and Pete did also, a moment later, all the Alteran guards were stiff and looking around with hard cold glares.



Pete walked over to Karl stiffly at first, before glancing his way, “Karl your with me, it’s your turn to be tested.” once in the elevator, Pete waited until the doors closed before porting both of them to the alley by the loading docks behind Harrods, the source of the fear and pain.



Thomas, not knowing what was going on, rushed over to Tim and his three charges, causing all the rest of the security to go on full alert, stopping as Tim closed his eyes, he waited, knowing that it might not be wise to interrupt him right now, luckily, he only took a few moments before his eyes opened again.



AARON…” Tim screamed in his mind, searching for the one who needed to know what was going on.



Wincing, Aaron dropped the chip he was about to put in the terminal, “Tim, what’s wrong?” he pathed back, fingers unlocking the gestalt controls of his chair.



Pete felt pain and fear from the alley, he said it is someone hurt real bad, and the person who did this to them did it because they are gay.” Tim’s mind rushed the message across, worried for Pete.



I’ll be right there Tim, as soon as I contact Pete, I should be able to see through his eyes where he is, and port in, meet me in the ally with the rest of the guards,” Aaron pathed instructions before breaking contact and pathing Pete.



Pete, seeing the man backing the bleeding boy up into the corner yelled, “Stop, and drop the knife, this is your only warning.” Karl sighed as he pulled out the weapon they had been issued before they left this morning.



“Tim, where did Pete and Karl take off to, and is there a danger to Edward and the Royal family?” Thomas asked, as Tim opened his eyes looking lost for a moment before starting for the elevator.



Seeing the crowd, Tim tipped his head and tapped his communicator, “He's rescuing a young boy who's father is hunting him down, he’s already cut his balls off and is trying to finish the job.” Every male winced and walked with their legs a little closer together as they listened to Tim.



“Why do you look so worried?” Richard placed a hand on Tim’s shoulder in comfort and squeezed gently.



Focusing on Richard, who he was trying to look through, Tim, tried to soften his expression, “I’m not sure when it comes time for me to stand in judgment of another that I will be able to go through with it.”



“Aaron wouldn’t force you to do it, would he? Not from what I’ve seen of him he would not do that to you Tim.” Andrew was convinced he was right in his assessment.



Shaking his head, “No, he wouldn’t force me; he would make sure I had a way out up until the very last second…Aaron, after he gets here, will give Pete the choice to back away and let him handle it, just like he did For Kevin.” Tim returned to staring at the elevator, waiting for it to arrive.



Thomas paled, “His Majesty is on his way here…NOW…” paling further, when Tim looked at him and nodded, he grabbed the general manager, “We need to get to the loading docks now.”



Shaken, the general manager nodded his head and took off towards the back freight elevator, “This way, we can use the freight elevator; it will let us out on the dock.”



As they all followed the general manager who all but ran through the store, there was a shock wave and a horrible screeching sound as they entered the elevator, only the Alteran’s were still on their feet and Tim looked up smiling, Aaron was here. Pushing past the guards just getting to their feet he pushed the ground floor button while one of his guards pulled the gate closed.



“What the bloody hell was that?” Edward swore, as he stumbled and tried to stand when the elevator started down, looking to Tim and the other guards for an answer.



Wishing the elevator would go faster, Tim relaxed and smiled at Edward with just a hint of mischief, “That was a squadron of Screaming Eagles landing. Aaron is in one of them, which means that the kid must be in pretty bad shape, or he’s pissed.”



“Wait a minute, he’s on the other side of the world, how the hell did he get here so fast, it took us four hours to get here?” Thomas thought better of the question, after he asked it as he saw Tim grin.



“Pete could tell you everything you want to know about those fighters, but they can go supra orbital and drop anywhere in the world in minutes, the noise and shock wave as they land at mach four or better, is designed to terrify the enemy.” Tim closed his eyes and placed a finger on the ear bud, “The kid is in bad shape, he’s lost a lot of blood and Aaron brought Carl with him.”



The elevator stopped and the guards wrenched the gate up.  Tim took off running for the back doors where a small crowd of workers had gathered by the open doors. Pushing his way through the crowd, Tim paused at the edge before jumping down to the ground below, out in the alley and parking area were six of the red and silver Screaming Eagles hovering just a hands breath above the ground.



“Well, this doesn’t look good,” Thomas pointed at Pete, standing in front of a restrained man with Kyle holding some strange weapon at the man’s head.



“It’s worse than you think, Pete’s using a neural imager,” Tim trailed off as Pete started speaking loud enough for the crowd to hear.



“You are the worst kind of humanity, instead of loving your son, when you found out he was gay, you decided to use your own perverse form of aversion therapy, raping him brutally every day, and when that did not work, you decided to castrate him, hoping that would fix the problem, but when he escaped and went looking for help, you decided to kill him and hide the body.” Pete spat the words out at the glaring man, “I find you guilty of crimes against humanity,” Looking towards Aaron who was standing to one side, Pete took comfort before returning his glare to the prisoner.



“I sentence you to death…I sentence you to death of DNA, your DNA will be removed from the gene pool,” Pete’s voice was colder than Tim had ever heard before, so much hate in it he shuddered to think what he had seen in the man’s mind.



Thomas started, as Edward and Andrew drew in deep shocked breaths, “What…what is so special about the...” he trailed off as he caught Karl raise his weapon and fire point blank, but instead of the echo of a gunshot he expected, there was the sound of an electrical discharge and the man seized before falling over sideways, “Oh, the locals aren’t going to like this much.”



“Death of DNA is their highest form of punishment,” Andrew whispered in anger directed towards the man, as he watched both Aaron and Friedrich go to their respective people and place hands on Pete’s and Karl’s  heads.



“Something really bad must have gone wrong in that family, for Pete to order that. Every living family member will be brought in for mind examination and if they are found wanting, they will never wake up again,”  Edward was shaken when Tim told everyone how that family had gone so wrong.



“The boy’s uncles and cousins took part in the rapes. For the past three weeks, he has been raped constantly,” Tim scowled as he looked at the dead abuser on the ground, “I was wrong; when my time comes to stand in judgment, I won’t be afraid of doing my duty.”



Now that Aaron and Pete had broken apart, Tim rushed over so he could get hugs from them both, followed a few steps behind all the way, by the three princes. Once Aaron was sure Pete was going to be okay, he pulled Tim into a hug and did his best to reassure him that he would always be part of his family and his lover, no matter if he could never give the word to have someone be killed, after all, killing should not be easy. Once Tim was alright, Aaron started by Grabbing Richard and hugging him tight, making sure he was not upset before moving up the age ladder for the other two.



Pete, seeing Karl climbing into one of the fighters looked to Aaron, “where’s Karl going?  He’s not in trouble is he?”



Smiling, Aaron chuckled and pulled Pete in for another hug, “Friedrich will be taking over for the rest of the day, Karl will be going back home so we can make sure he is alright after what he had to do, just like Friedrich was taken back after he had to do what he did for Kevin. He did good, as did you, Peter Stranton, now I need to make sure he will be alright, and the best way to do that is for him to relax, off duty after seeing the mind healers.”



That made sense, Pete thought, moving back to hug Tim from behind, he asked, “Are we still good to spend the night or do we have to go home now?”



Reaching round Tim to pull Pete close, Aaron kissed him on the forehead, “If you wish to stay until morning, that is fine with me,” kissing Tim’s forehead he whispered, “just remember I’m only a thought away if needed.”



Messing the other three’s hair up, Aaron walked past the dead man and climbed into the closest fighter, waving at them one last time before the cockpit sealed and the fighter started to rise soundlessly.



“You are so lucky that you have someone that cares that much about you, he flew half way around the world to be here for you,” Richard whispered already missing the strong arms around him.



If you only knew, Richard, Tim thought as he looked back to the rapidly disappearing dot in the sky, the way Aaron hates to fly and is adamant about not getting on those damn things, he smiled, still feeling the love from the hug and knowing Aaron got here as quickly as he did even hating to fly, he probably ported them all out of the hanger bay after climbing in, so it would seem they flew here.



“I think that shopping is done for the day, let’s go up and buy the chocolate and go back to the palace; we can hide in one of the secret passageways if we need to keep away from the Prime Minister.” Tim suggested to Pete’s nod and laughter.




Editors section:





RadioRanchers Musings: Well that was exciting.  It looks to me as if there has been some progress made. I certainly hope that little boy will be alright. I also hope that the Prime Minister well get his head handed to him on a platter, so to speak. Did he say that reporter was Rita skeeter?  I hope you don't take Umbridge with me for that. Sorry, but I just couldn't help it.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher



A/N- Well Darryl, when I tried to think of the nastiest reporter I knew she did pop into my head

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