Chapter 2

Administrator Herod Bonetti paused on his way along the road to the parliament building and backtracked a few steps in order to look down a side road. This side road connected to another road running at right-angles to it, and parallel to Parliament road. Bonetti was rather surprised to see General Faust Cooper, on horseback, together with seven or eight of his division, also on horseback. These men should have left over half an hour ago.

Herod made his way along the side road and Faust saw him and groaned. Administrator Bonetti had always annoyed the fifty year old general. He was a pompous twit and was always busy-bodying in every area of Azoria's running whether it was his area of expertise or not. Matters Military were certainly not the Administrator's affair, even if they were just the routine scout divisions.

“Still here General Cooper?” Bonetti rose his eyebrows at the mounted General. Faust was twice this runt's size anyway and resisted the urge to dismount and loom a bit over the government official. He also resisted the urge to tell Bonetti that of course he wasn't still here, and merely a figment of the Administrator's imagination. Bonetti probably had no imagination anyway.

“Slight delay Administrator Bonetti. We won't be long. Are we obstructing you?” Faust asked sarcastically.

“No but you are obstructing the entrance to a .... public building.” Bonetti said awkwardly. The division was gathered in front of one of the larger brothels in Azoria. “Do I want to know why?”

“Obviously, otherwise you wouldn't have asked.” Faust tried not to snap. “Like I said, we won't be long. Quarter One Bridge is just over there isn't it? Where else would you have us wait? The other divisions have already left.”

“I wouldn't have you wait anywhere.” Bonetti twitched his nostrils at Faust. “You were supposed to have left thirty eight minutes ago. Please don't tell me your men assemble in the whorehouse.” He said smugly.

“Of course not!” Faust said hotly. “My men are of the most respectable character and reputa....shit.” Faust covered his face with his huge hand when he saw the dark haired, dark skinned youth they'd all been waiting for, dart out of the brothel door and grab the reigns of his horse from another soldier. “Nice timing, you shit.” He muttered.

“I presume you're waiting to reprimand cadet Astrella?” Bonetti said aloofly.

“You bet I am.” Faust muttered. “We'll be setting off now Admin...”

“He's to be favoured with no preferential treatment because of his parentage Faust, remember that.” Bonetti sniffed and Faust almost erupted.

“And you remember who's division this is.” He growled. “If I wasn't a fair and impartial man, I would never have reached the rank of General. Cadet Astrella is treated in exactly the same way as my other cadets; fairly and without prejudice. Good day Administrator Bonetti.” Faust swung his horse round and headed towards Quarter One Bridge. That pompous ass had sent his already bad mood plummeting towards the depths of the Sapphire Lake. Scout trips indeed! What in hell for? He'd argued against this unnecessary routine many times in parliament and got nowhere. The government was as paranoid as it was in Loram DeGaise's day, a long and weary nine years ago. That wretched disgrace of a War had officially ended four years ago and the government still insisted on regular scout patrols weeding through the same areas of Plaus over and over again in case they'd 'missed any'.

“Sir?” Cadet Louis Marx was almost as irritating as Bonetti but without the social status.

“No.” Faust answered flatly to whatever Louis was going to ask.

“Sir this isn't the first time we've been delayed by Ben Astrella's ..... social hobbies!” The twenty year old cadet pressed. “If he must frequent those places then why can't he ensure he returns to barracks the same night? Anyone else would be expected to. Sir just because he's the son of Lord and Lady Astrella ....”

“Oh pause for bloody breath Marx, for shit's sake!” Faust roared, attracting the attention of the entire division. “Who put you in charge? Bugger off.” He shouted at Marx then glared horribly at him when he opened his mouth to argue. “Astrella! Get your scraggy little arse up here. You're riding with me to make sure you keep your pecker in your pants! Now!” There was a wave of guffaws and smirks as Ben Astrella made his way to the front of the division.

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