The King is Dead. Long Live The King.

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He let the little booklet turn over and over and over again in his fingers. The man across from him in the round-backed, tastefully expensive, comfortably yet completely understated chair said absolutely nothing while he did so. To him the sound of his skin against the dark navy blue cover of said booklet carried louder than anything. The fact that he picked it up and turned it over in his hands itself, a tell that he wouldn't show anyone else.

He was considering it, you see.

Markus watched the gold leaf pressed on the passports cover shaped into an eagle with wings wide, circle of stars above its head and symbols grasped in claws. Every time Julian turned it over on the beast of his desk in his office, the United States of America caught the light and winked. Almost mockingly. Finally, Julian set it flat on the desktop and put both of his hands on either side of it.

"And you are sure they have done everything as I have asked?" Julian asked for what Markus thinks is the fiftieth time. Had Markus still been a younger man, this might have annoyed him. But he wasn't and, he'd had many years to adjust to Julian’s oddities.

"Absolutely sure, sir. Your belongings are so well guarded the guards don't know what they're guarding, other than they're to guard it. If you'll open the passport, you'll also note that things have been arranged there, as well.

"All your paperwork is in order, all the way back to the sparkle you were in your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grand daddy's eye. After a few months of careful snooping—"

Julian made a sound in his throat. He greatly disliked that word, snooping.

"— data gathering and observation," Markus continued dryly. A small depression that might lead to a dimple appeared in Julian's right cheek. "We've discovered that no one there's ever even heard of you. In fact, you'll pretty much be the only one there who knows who you were."

Julian's almost smile died into the often too serious mien Markus was more familiar with. Smiles were rare with Julian. His mind was forever scattered toward his people, his business, and the intricate schemes of the business world Markus believed his employer was deep within. So his client wanted to up and move everything to a place he'd never heard of. So long as he kept paying him and continued to be the good person Markus was sure he was, all was well.

Julian worked his jaw momentarily. He could see the muscle jump, creating a shadow along the side of his face that flickered in and out as Julian clenched his teeth. Markus waited patiently for his boss to fill the silence again at his own pace.

"I am sorry, Markus," he said softly.

"What— ?" Startled, Markus sat up straight in his chair and directed a hard look toward Julian, whose two-toned eyes flashed like dark cloaks turning darker corners.



***



Markus shut the oaken door to Julian's study quietly after apologizing profusely for his misstep. Had no idea what made him do that? Charge in Julian's office and tell him he had something important to say, and not remember a god damned word? Jesus. He was getting old. He reached up to scratch at a mop full of silvering hair, nodding to one of Julian's bodyguards. One of the twins that followed the man everywhere they went.

They watched the old man, puzzlement clearly written on his face; shake his head to himself all the way toward the end of the hallway.



***



Julian couldn't bring himself to do anymore than that. After long moments of further wrestling with himself over what he had allowed himself to do— he looked down at the passport finally and flipped it open.

The image of him stared coolly back. But the name was half-new. Julian Marx the passport said.

"So be it," quietly said into the nothing of his office. Soon to be left behind, too, like Markus. Like everything. Like it always was.

"I will be Julian Marx," with as much of an air of finality as there was to his closing of the passport, tucking it into his suit and standing from the chair.

Today, San Francisco. Tomorrow, Rhy'din.
 

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He slept for the duration of travel needed to get him from point a to point b. It was perhaps the first time he lay down with little worry for his own safety. That did not mean he rested without any worry what-so-ever, far from it. His mind remained with Markus. With the empty manse and empty minds of those he had to leave behind. It was entirely against his nature, really, to be so callous as to leave those who depended on him, on his carefully constructed empire, behind. But this was also the way of things. This was how it had to be for as long as he could remember. So he quietly resigned himself to tradition and had settled down to the blackness of sweet nothing. When he awoke he found himself within the confines of a limousine, its tinted bullet proof windows kept most of the details of what passed obscured. There was no in between for him. He was once sleeping, and was at once awake. Pushing his feet into plush carpet at his feet to straighten his spine against leather chair, he settled his finger over the switch to lower the privacy glass--but it was already lowering.

Addison's grim features and dark blond hair were revealed much to Julian's relief. It wasn't that he did not trust his men to do their job. He didn't trust his enemies not to be thorough.

"We've arrived without incident, sir," Addison said, responding to the question Julian hadn't yet asked but would have. And that, of course, was just one of the many reasons why Julian kept him by his side. He nodded to indicate that Addison should continue as he reached down to straight and smooth out any rumples of his suit his rest had created.

"We are looking into some suitable arrangements for you until a home can be purchased," Addison offered a plain folder Julians way. Julian took it and settled it in a palm of a hand while he opened it to peer at its contents.

"Everything we've been told and all the information we have gathered says that it will be far easier to move freely here than we would at home."

Julian paused in mid flip of paper. An advertisement brochure for the Kesey Apartments had been briefly glanced at and most assuredly put aside on the seat. He wasn't terribly sure how that had even gotten into the folder itself, and no offense to that particular building. He was sure it was...pleasant, but it certainly wasn't to his taste. The advertisement and subsequent write up for Lüks Condos had been given more consideration and remained in the folder, along with information on the Zen Gardens.

"And why is that?" Julian asked, brow quirked. Addison cleared his throat.
"Well, sir, to be perfectly frank...No one gives a shit."
He shot Addison one of his trademarked looks, and the man rolled his shoulders. Julian might not like or approve of the language, but it was an accurate description as to the particular nuances of this place.
"They don't. Some days there are wars in the streets, the body count is near implausible and murders run rampant. They've a government, but no one seems to care about who they are or what they do until they try and change something.

"Then everyone gets all up in arms and people seem to care. As soon as whatever political upheaval has taken place ends, everyone's back to serving themselves."

Julian's mouth flattened into a line. It's an expression the man held often and one Addison wasn't surprised at all to see.

"As enlightening as that is, Addison, I do not believe I shall be changing anything in my personal conduct." Julian narrowed his eyes slightly. "Nor will anyone within my service."

The blond man shrugged again and then nodded.

"There's a pretty swanky hotel a few miles down the road, it rests right on the border of this fucked up town, one side is all big city lights and the other is horse shit and carriages. I figured that you'd like the carriages part without the sh-t, so we booked you into a little place about as exclusive as it gets. Should be right up your alley."

Julian felt his mouth, and his mood struggle between disapproval and a thin-lipped, amused smile. People had often wondered why such an upright, upstanding, prim sort of man would keep such a foul mouthed, brash man such as Addison in his employ. He was the direct opposite of Julian. In truth, it was the exact reason why Julian had hired him and ultimately, ended up trusting him the most.

"Thank you, Addison. I am sure your lodging choice will be adequate. When we arrive, will you please double check to see that a suitable meal is waiting as well?"

Addison nodded. "Sure thing, sir. There are a few messages waiting for you--" He let Julian get as far as opening his mouth before he grinned wolfishly. "And you can get to them after you eat. You've done enough this past month. You'll run yourself ragged, Boss, if you aren't careful."

Julian snorted quietly. "Thank you, again, Addison, that will be all." He let his finger drop on the switch that would push the privacy pane back up. Addison’s devil-may-care chortling could be heard easily enough through the glass.

He closed the folder in his hand and leaned aside to watch the distant and dark shapes of Rhy'din's buildings pass him by. Despite his brooding nature and the many things which plagued his mind recently? It was a good sound. He had missed it. For some reason, it made him look forward to what the future here might bring him instead of dread what the past might drag him back into.
 

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Dinner, as always, had been superb. Julian dabbed a napkin at the corner of his mouth and let it fall limply stained to his empty plate before him. The remnants of his meal was already being taken away as soon as napkin touched porcelain and he could thus tend to other matters he needs must see to. Addison, as always, waited by the door with hands clasped behind his back and a suitable blank expression. His eyes danced rather merrily however. He knew what was coming.


Placing the palm of his hand on several rather plain looking folders, Julian drew them across the mahogany of long table with a long sibilant hiss to fill the waiting silence. The room was opulent but again, tastefully so. The hotel did its best to present a Victorian theme but he found their ideals of authentic...lacking. The flat screen television against the wall jarred with the elaborate red cushioned chairs, plush carpeting and complicated, glossy wallpaper in old patterns, the claw-footed bathing tub with hot and cold—he supposed however there were some modern conveniences even he could not live without.


The television babbled nearly mute in the background, but he could follow it well. He kept an ear on it out of mild curiosity and turned mismatched eyes on Addison who nodded.


"Alright, what do you know?" Julian asked.
"Plenty so far. There's a lot you can muster if you just ask. A lot of earth imports, especially alcohol, food and some tech. Earth's idea of it is outdated though compared to what's coming through, as there's a spaceport—"
"A spaceport?" Evenly repeated. Julian's brow found itself climbing.
"Spaceport." Addison nodded. "There are goods coming and going from planet to planet. Also, apparently there's some sort of war currently going down. Half the populace seems affected and aware, the other half not-so-much."


Addison began to pace lightly. "As far as we can tell, the planet—or realm as some of them call it—is sort of split down the middle. Some of it is somewhere in the dark ages to Medieval and Victorian, while the rest can be seen as modern, spacers and downright aliens.


We haven't had time to categorize nearly half the information on species we've been getting just from trolling newspapers," Addison nodded to the television. "T.V. shows, reports, advertisements. We'll have more in a day or two for you to go over."


Julian tapped a nail on the folder. All of that information and more would be crammed inside of it. But he preferred to listen to it first. "Who is of interest?"
"Personally? I'd put my money on this DeMuer house . They're worse than you were—" Addison didn't even pause for the flat look Julian gave him. "—got their fingers in just about every profitable pie there is out there.


"He's one of the constants. Half the business' that start up here without his backing or influence don't make it. There are smaller shops owned by individuals that are doing rather well you might offer to back. But most people who have a business doing well don't seem hard up for cash.


"The way I see it, you're either going to end up competing with him or siding with him, and frankly, given our situation currently, practically unknown—"
"It would possibly be far more profitable to side with him than against him, business wise."
Addison's mouth bunched together and his head nodded as brows rose. "Ayup, Boss, that's what I think."


Julian made a small, thoughtful sound in the back of his throat and let the matter stew a bit in his head. It should have bothered him more to have to start all over from the bottom, as an unknown player in a game of money, business and finance. It truly should. But there was something rather exciting wasn't there, in having to start the game all over, fresh and new. Perhaps a little bit of excitement in the complete unknown.


The rules here weren't the same. It was even more unpredictable. He couldn't deny that fact stirred him somewhat.


"And...The other matter?" Julian asked of his man, though this question was —not hesitantly—but asked as carefully as the man did many things.


"There are rumors..." The blond man began.
"Rumors are difficult to work with, Addison," Julian coldly pointed out.
"Yes, sir, I know. This is a little more difficult. Ah—what we know so far is confusing. There are several unknown types. Apparently Earth wasn't the only place to have—" Addison paused, "—ah, people like that. Most of them appear to be working on their own. We can't find any traces of what we would know to look for back on Earth."


"That doesn't mean they aren't here," he pointed out bluntly.
"I know, Boss, I know. But if they are, they might be so scattered and driven into ground even I don't know where they are. Besides that, you know there are some of 'em walking around in the open?"


Julian's very slow and perhaps only blink of the evening was an answer in of its own. "No. I did not know that. Do you mean—?"
"Yeah. They ain't hiding. Anything, if you get my meaning. And some of them are moving about in the day, freely, with as far as what we can tell, little to no consequence. People aren't even batting an eye.."
"How—"
"Workin' on it. When we figure it out you'll be the first to know."
As much as he did not like being interrupted, the fact that Addison could still predict the next question that came into his mind was just another reminder as to why he kept the man under wing.


"Thank you, Addison. You've given me quite a bit to think on. I should like it if you'd find me any copies of newspapers, newsletters and the like. And I trust you will remain my eyes and ears elsewhere" Julian, as much as he should, could not yet bring himself to want to use a laptop. His men however, had no issue with it and that he counted on. Perhaps too much for now...But it was how it was. Addison gave a quick half-bow more with his head and shoulders and then let himself out. For a brief moment, Julian watched him salute the two brutes at his door,then it shut.


DeMuer, hmm? The name was quietly placed into a corner of his mind. He had no wish to move too quickly one way or another yet. For now, he would watch. That was the best he could do: watch and send out his men to see how things were.


He needed to know if they were here in some form of another. It would be prudent for him not to start building a roost in the middle of someone’s nest. So for now, he would wait.
 
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