28 May 3006
Frederick Steiner stared restlessly through the window at the rain. A man of 38, he felt a bit childish at the caged feeling mere falling water out of a heavily overcast sky still gave him. As if he’d be running around outside playing if it weren’t raining.
“Your expected guest is here, sir.”
Frederick thanked the man — he didn’t recall the name. The fellow worked for Aldo Lestrade, at whose estate he was staying while visiting Summer. He supposed he didn’t see a need to remember the names of minor underlings of minor noblemen. He’d be archon soon enough and Aldo? The fellow might think he would be an easily manipulated puppet, but Frederick knew who had the upper hand in that relationship.
His guest was from outside this situation. He’d never met the man, which had made it an act of some boldness or desperation to approach one of the realm’s highest nobility unsolicited even if he were a Steiner (of a lesser branch, but a Steiner nonetheless) himself. He understood the man to be an ally of his cousin, Katrina Steiner, which made his request for an audience even more interesting. What could his cousin want? Had she decided to come out of hiding?
The doors to the auxillary audience room swung open and his guest — David Steiner — entered. He wore the uniform of an LCAF Hauptmann, which along with his name gave him just enough social standing to have requested this audience. He saluted, a gesture which Frederick automatically returned.
“Are we secure here, sir?”
“As secure as Lestrade’s people and mine can make us, which I imagine should be secure enough.”
“Then may I speak freely, sir?”
He had expected that. His cousin had something to tell him that she wouldn’t want their uncle to know. Perhaps she meant to propose an alliance, or trick him in some way to gain an advantage. Or both. Katrina was tricky, he’d have to ultimately go over any proposal with Aldo.
“Permission granted, Hauptmann.”
“Sir, your cousin is missing.”
Katrina had vanished months ago, rumors had it even the Archon’s agents couldn’t find her. Certainly Aldo’s people had no idea where she was. But everyone knew about that.
“That’s not exactly news to me.” despite his best efforts Frederick Steiner couldn’t quite keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
“General Steiner missed her last check-in, sir. She was supposed to be back in the Commonwealth by now. Sir, we have no idea where she is, and we think the Archon’s people — we think Loki may have been involved.”
“Heimdall, sir. They sent me here to protect you.”