“Yes,” Nadalia answered. “What’s so hard to believe about that?”
“Nothing, I just kind of expected something a bit more impressive than a cup of coffee. You did save his life, after all,” said Mari.
“Well, does a trip around the world with him sound a bit more impressive?” Nadalia asked smugly.
Mari stared. “No way!” she exclaimed. “You’ve only known him three days and he’s invited you on his world tour?” Since becoming world leader, Korian had taken a trip around the globe about halfway through each year.
“Yeah, we really clicked,” said Nadalia reminiscently. Shaking her head a little, she continued “Anyway, he gave me these things so you and me can keep in touch while I’m off with him. They’re a bit like two-way radios, I think, except more private and they’ve got a longer range.” She handed Mari a little device with a few buttons on it.
“Really? How do they work then?”
“I think you press this button twice, then this one,” Nadalia demonstrated, “then it sends a signal to mine, which makes a noise… there it goes… and then we can talk to each other. It works the other way round too, so if yours makes a noise just press this one.” She pointed to another button on the device. “They’re called personal communication devices, apparently they’re really new so not many people have got one.”
“Nice. Say thanks for me, won’t you? So when are you leaving, next week?” Mari asked.
“Tomorrow, actually. It’s all been kind of sudden, really,” Nadalia said.
“So I’m going to be left all on my own,“ Mari said with a mock pout. “You’d better be taking me out somewhere nice tonight to make up for it.”
“Thought you were seeing Elvira again tonight?”
“No, she ditched me for some scruffy old tomcat.”
“Aw, that sucks. Yeah, we’ll go out and have a good time,” Nadalia said. “If you like, I’m sure I could find someone to keep you company for the next few months…”
“Don’t you dare,” Mari interrupted. “The last time you set me up with someone she turned out to be a right weirdo. And don’t even think of suggesting a bloke you know from somewhere, if I want a man I’ll pick him out myself,” she said.
“Okay, okay,” Nadalia said, nearly giggling. “Just a thought. I’m sure you’ll be just fine without me. Come on, let’s go get ready, then we can go find somewhere fun to spend the night.”
Saphrax raised his eyebrows. “You’re putting the back up plan into action so soon?” he enquired. “I thought we agreed to wait at least a month before trying again, Melicia.” He stood and walked around his heavy, carved desk to watch her.
“I know, but since this is a far more subtle approach it will take a lot longer to come to fruition. Starting now, if everything is done properly, means you will be in power by this time next year. Besides,” continued the lithe young woman as she leant back in her chair, “if Korian is killed at the same time as your family have their accident, it could attract unwanted attention from certain quarters.”
“You’re right, as usual, my love,” Saphrax answered with a sigh. “The only other problem I can see is Elvira. Are you absolutely certain we can rely on her?”
Melicia winked. “Don’t worry, she has no idea who she’s really working for. And I have someone else lined up to take over if she does let us down, someone whom I can guarantee loyalty from.”
“Good. Then everything is in place,” Saphrax stated as he walked across to the narrow window, threw aside the thick curtains and looked down at the busy street. “Just think, if I hadn’t got that amateur to try it first, I’d be ruling this place now.”
Melicia stood and embraced her lover. “I can assure you, dear, I am no amateur.”
Nadalia and Korian swam ahead of the small boat carrying their belongings, completely ignoring Alaric’s cursing about the large splash he got as they dived off the side. They were about halfway around the globe; on the way to Secundus on the opposite side of the world, and were thoroughly enjoying being together.
“You’ll have to introduce me to Mari sometime, Nads. She sounds interesting, to say the least,” said Korian.
“She is that,” Nadalia replied. “That reminds me, I’ve got to call her in a bit. How far did you say it is to land?”
“Another day’s travel, but if we go through the night we should be there by tomorrow midday. I’ll check with Alaric if we can do that, see if we can’t speed this journey up a little.” He gazed into the sunset for a few seconds before turning back to Nadalia. “You fancy a dive? Bet I can go deeper than you,” as he disappeared beneath the surface.
“You’re on!” cried Nadalia as she followed him down.
Back on the boat a while later, Nadalia called Mari for a chat. “You okay, Mari? You sound a bit out of the ordinary,” she asked.
“What? Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Hey, you’ll never guess what happened the other day. I was hanging out at V Zero, Elvira walks right up to me and starts going on and on about some mad conspiracy theory. I didn’t understand most of it, something about these two guys who keep following her, and a crazy chimp who wants to kill a load of people.”
Nadalia frowned. “That sounds pretty bizarre.”
“It was. Anyway, I just told her to sod off. She ditched me, why should I put up with her rubbish?”
“Good for you, Mari.”
“How are things with you, anyhow? Where in the world are you, and how is your relationship with our illustrious leader?” Mari asked, putting on a pompous voice.
Nadalia laughed. “You sound hilarious when you talk like that, you know. Everything’s going brilliant, we’re nearly on the other side of the world from where you are. If all goes well over here we should be back home in two months,” she said. “Things are going well with Korian, too. He wants to introduce me to his sister when we get back.”
“Sounds serious. When’s the joining ceremony?”
“Mari, we’re not thinking that far ahead yet!”
Chuckles came pouring down the signal. “I’m joking, Nads. I’ll see you in a few months then, talk to you again soon.”
“Yeah, you furry little wind up. Talk soon.”
As the boat pulled alongside the docking platform, a massive crowd of people was waiting both in and beside the water. Unused to the attention, Nadalia was a little nervous to suddenly find herself in the midst of a crowd of live radio reporters, and moved closer to Korian. He placed a flipper across her shoulders and smiled reassuringly as the reporters pressed in, shouting all kinds of questions at them both:
“Korian, when will your official returning speech be?”
“What do you think of the uprising of several small religious groups?”
“Have you heard about the recent appointment of a new governor in Region Three?”
“Is your relationship serious?”
“Nadalia, where do you get your clothes?”
“What were you thinking when you pushed the assassin to the ground five months ago?”
Korian raised a short, finger-like digit for silence. Within a few minutes, the only sounds to be heard were the small splashes of disturbed water, and Alaric’s quiet grumbling at being left to sort out the boat by himself.
“Since you’ve all taken the time to come out here, I think I can answer a few questions for you,” he said with a lopsided smile. “My official returning speech is tomorrow morning, so anything I can’t answer now you can ask again then. Region Three, white district. I have heard about the new governor in three, and I’m certainly looking forward to meeting him or her. As for the upsurge in religious activity, I don’t really see a problem there. It seems to go in and out of popularity like everything else, so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Now, there were a couple of questions for my partner, weren’t there? Nads, do you mind talking to this bunch?”
“I suppose not,” Nadalia replied with a wink. She had noticed Korian’s deliberate avoidance of the question about their relationship, and intended to do the same thing herself. “To answer the question I heard about my clothes, I get the material from a friend and make them myself. As for what I thought when I pushed the assassin over, well, I wasn’t really thinking at all. I’m very glad I did it though,” she said with a quick smile at Korian.
The reporters started to call out more questions, but Alaric came over to help disperse the crowd and get Korian and Nadalia into their private transport to meet the new Region Governor. Once they were on the way to the new governor’s house in the green district of three, Nadalia suggested they could go and see Mari when they were done meeting the governor, since they lived in the same area. Korian agreed, and told Alaric (who was piloting the small solar-powered craft) the address they wanted to visit after they were done.
“That’s the address we’re heading for now, sir. Who did you want to see, if I might ask?” Alaric said enquiringly.
“Nads’friend Mari,” Korian replied. “She wouldn’t have moved while you were gone, would she?” he asked Nadalia.
Before Nadalia could answer, Alaric responded, “Actually, sir, Mari is the new governor’s name. It’s likely to be the same person.”
“That would be a little strange,” Nadalia interjected. “Mari can’t stand politics, I can’t see her accepting the position.”
Korian shrugged. “It wouldn’t be the first time someone got elected who didn’t want to be. Remember Eberwolf and Phyre? Neither of them was interested in politics, but they both got elected world leaders somehow. I think Phyre was still a Region Governor somewhere until recently, too.”
“Fair point,” said Nadalia. “Looks like we’ll find out in a minute, anyway. We’re nearly there.”
They got out of the transport as soon as Alaric pulled up, and the first thing they heard was Mari shouting from the front of the house, “Hey Nads, great to see you back! Did you hear, I’ve been elected Region Governor! Can you believe it? Me, in politics!”
“It’s good to see you again too, Mari. Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it in a thousand years, when did you get into politics?”
“Oh, not long after you left. I started listening to the official broadcasts a bit more than usual, and it turns out politics is a lot more interesting than I thought it was, so I decided to get involved,” Mari replied a little evasively.
“You didn’t say anything on the communicator.”
Mari was definitely not meeting Nadalia’s eyes as she said, “I… just thought I’d surprise you.” With an abrupt change back to her usual manner, she continued, “by the way, your boyfriend Korian is supposed to be coming round anytime now to…” Mari stopped mid-sentence as she finally noticed who exactly was standing next to Nadalia. “Erm, hi,” she said to Korian.
“Hi Mari. It’s nice to meet you, Nads has told me a lot about you.”
“Really?” Mari spun back round to face Nadalia. “You’ve told him about my swimming lesson, haven’t you?”
Stifling a laugh, Nadalia replied, “no, I didn’t mention it, I thought I’d let you tell that story.”
“Swimming lesson?” Korian looked puzzled. “But, she’s a cat.”
Mari shut her eyes and twitched her tail in embarrassment. “If you’d like to come in, I can make drinks and tell you about the time Nads tried to climb a tree as well.”
Nadalia groaned as Korian burst out laughing. “If you want to talk to either of us after tonight, it’ll be a miracle. Come on, I think we’ve got biscuits in there too,” she said as they walked into the house.