He stands outside the headquarters, pausing before entering to check his image in the plate glass windows facing the street. Taller than average, but not too tall to be singled out, he bends slightly to check his dress uniform. It is proper looking yet different. The tie is correct in color and form, but made of fine silk. It lies on a spun cotton shirt with a far higher thread count than regulation issue. The dress jacket is form and color correct, but yet again made of materials far richer than issue. The buttons are coated with precious metals, and the fit tailored to accentuate his youthful build. Even the shoes look more fitting for a dance floor than the street, and the wear on them agrees with that assessment in their use. His teeth are perfect and polished white, and the cologne light and masculine with traces that a magical pathologist might find have certain seductive properties to the fairer gender.
Affixing his hat so as not to disturb the expensive cut of his rich, black hair, he enters the building and strides with practiced confidence towards the Commander’s office, stopping by to greet the Commander’s middle-aged but still attractive aide. She looks up and sees the young man approaching, a smile quickly forming on her lips.
“Gwydion!” she exclaims, rising as he approaches. “Oh my, Corporal, don’t you look handsome?”
“My dear!” he responds in a deep, almost baritone voice. Taking both her hands in his, he smoothly kisses her on the cheek. “Please, do call me Dion, as all my friends do.” Stepping back, he appraises the aide. “And how wonderful that the Commander has called me here today so that my eyes can again partake of your beauty.”
The aide, now blushing, waves off the corporal. “Please! You are too kind to an older lady.”
“Nonsense!” he adds, now turning on the full charm. “Wine would wish that a few more years would improve it as much as they have you.”
“Oh, you are so sweet! But the Commander is waiting, so you should probably go in.”
Kissing the back of her right hand, he releases it, flashing the perfect teeth in the handsome grin, and turns to enter the Commander’s office. Turning the knob he steps in the office, again flashing his winning smile.
“Commander! To what do I owe this honor of being called in today?”
“Sit down, Corporal,” the Commander says. Dion registers the distinct lack of a return smile. “You’re late.”
“My apologies, sir,” he says, still holding to his charm, expecting to soften the Commander’s mood. “Duty caused me to get a later start than I had originally planned.”
“Hmph. I’ll bet,” grumps the Commander as he reaches into a desk drawer retrieving a thin, black, leather-bound folder. Laying it between them but not releasing it, he stares into the corporal’s hazel eyes. “You recognize this?”
The sight of the folder in the Commander’s hand causes Dion’s heart to skip a half-beat. But it never shows on his much practiced facade. “Well, possibly sir, I own a similar-looking one. May I?” he asks, reaching to reclaim it, but the Commander pulls it back, opening it for study.
“A number of names here,” he notes. “All appear to be daughters of families of the First or Second Ring.” He continues reviewing. “A lot of names…with differing marks by each name. I don’t even want to know what the marks mean.”
“Well sir, they…”
“I said, I don’t want to know!”
Laying the folder back down on his desk, the Commander continues. “Corporal, I really don’t care what you do with your leisure time, and being part of an Archon’s family, you have more time than many. But here’s my problem. The young lady who is entry eight on page four became aware of entry two, page six.”
“Oh. Well, sir. I’m sure I could straighten this out with them.”
The Commander, stone faced, then reveals, “The young lady then told Miss Entry Two, and they both ran to their fathers.”
Dion, as a reflex, sits back in his chair, the smile gone from his lips. Inhaling deeply, he responds, “Well, that’s…inconvenient.”
“You’re damn right it is!” the Commander shouts. “Worse yet, the word spread, and Miss Entry Eight now knows about almost everybody on page seven!” Continuing to read, he asks, “And what’s a yellow star?”
“”That’s actually a funny story, sir. It’s not so much a ‘What’ as it is a ‘How’ and a ‘Where.’”
The Commander waves off the answer and continues to read. “Oh, Hell! Entry Nine is barely legal! I recently attended her coming-out party!”
“Oh, she came all right,” Dion says softly to himself.
“What was that Corporal?”
“Nothing sir. I was just recalling that the young lady has a lot of daddy issues.”
“Her father is an Archon, just like your uncle!” the Commander snarls, slamming the folder back on the desk. “Do you have any idea of what will happen when word gets to him?”
“Well, I wasn’t really aware of her family until after…”
“Forget it! The fact is, this is going to blow up into a major scandal, and your uncle is going to be hard pressed to keep a real crime from occurring once those fathers get together. So I talked this over with your uncle, and this is what we’re going to do.”
Now, Dion shows the first sign of fear, his eyes widening as he looks up at the Commander. “Uncle knows?”
“Oh, yes. Once I came in possession of this, I had to call him immediately.” The Commander exhales slowly and then starts. “Gwydion, your uncle put you with us a few years back for you to learn responsibility and dedicate yourself to the Guardia and your studies.”
“I assure you sir, that I’m very diligent in my magical studies, sir.”
“I’m talking about studies outside of love enchantments, Corporal. And studies do not include a ‘mixer’ of your wizard buddies with the Professional Ladies of the Night Guild.”
Dion grins. “Well, some of the ladies owed me a favor, and it really opened up some avenues of information for me with the Department of Magic.”
“We couldn’t get any information out of the ladies for a week!”
“They may have been a little tired.”
“Regardless. It appears that the tack we’ve taken hasn’t quite met your uncle’s desire for your maturation. And we need a place to hide you until this blows over. So we’re going to move you elsewhere.”
“Where else in First or Second Ring would I not be known?”
“Three Rats, Corporal.”
“Sir? Where’s that?”
“Fourth Ring, Corporal.”
“Fourth?! There’s mostly humans and some other rabble out there! Why Fourth?”
“Because, Gwydion, your uncle is going to need to appease the families that you’ve enraged. And by sending you there, he can show that you are being punished. There’s a new Guardia station being set up. You’ll be reporting to the new Inspector, Tuma-Sukai.”
“How long will I have to reside there?”
“Until this blows over, and until you grow up, son.” The Commander sighs and walks around his desk. “Stand up, Corporal.”
As Dion rises, the Commander reaches for and removes his corporal bars, pinning instead sergeant stripes. “As much as it pains me to do this, your uncle insisted that your rank should reflect your high social standing when you go out there.” Saluting, he says, “Sergeant Gwydion, Master of Enchantment, Wielder of Magic, I order you in the names of the Ministry of Justice and the Guardia to take station at the Guardia Station of Three Rats. Report to your new Commanding Officer there, as soon as possible. And given the situation as described, as soon as possible here means as soon as you leave my office, you go there. Your uncle is arranging to have your things forwarded.”
Dion, stunned by both the assignment and promotion, returns the salute. “Thank you, sir.”
As Dion turns to leave, the Commander picks up the black folder and slaps it to Dion’s chest. “Here! This is your property. I have no reason to retain it. Stupidity and immaturity are not crimes. But I would suggest that you destroy it when you get to your new station.” He pauses, as if remembering something. “And, Dion. This is your last chance. Time to grow up.”
“Yes, sir,” Dion responds and heads out of the office holding the folder.
As he passes the door, Dion collects himself and smiles as he again approaches the aide. She notices his exit of the office wearing new sergeant bars. Quickly stepping up to him, she puts her hands on the new bars and excitedly says, “Oh, Dion! Congratulations! I knew something good was going to happen when the Commander sent for you! Oh, some young lady is going to be so lucky to finally land an up-and-comer like you.”
As he looks at the aide, Dion thinks, Well, who knows what wretched refuse will be waiting for me. Maybe a farewell thrill for this older lady before I leave. Then, looking down at the folder and back to the Commander’s door, he rethinks, No, maybe not.
Taking her right hand again, he kisses it. “My dear, none could be luckier than I to see you again before I take my leave.” Then he steps out the door and away from his life of socialites and their naive daughters.