Xerxes second floor office overlooked his council chambers through Plexiglas windows. He awaited the arrival of Councilman Marcus Trident summoned to a private meeting. Xerxes didn’t look forward to this confrontation. Again, Marcus had been observed by internal security leaving and returning to Atlantis without authorization. Such offense was punishable by dismissal from the council, and, if Xerxes felt it deserved, brief imprisonment. Leaving without permission brought suspicion on him. Upper-world agents had been assigned by Lord Homes, to follow the errant councilman. They had presented an inconclusive assessment of what appeared subversive actions.
Drawing a deep breath, Xerxes sighed and turned back to his desk. Marcus had served in his present position as long as he could remember. Becoming High Lord of Atlantis he retained his father’s councilors out of respect for his father and their years of service to Atlantis. Possibly, in Marcus’ case, that had been a mistake.
However, he was reluctant to remove him from the council, or put a man of Marcus’ years and social status in their community, in prison, without a serious reason and strong evidence. Marcus was close to retirement. If the councilor’s actions were merely being out of the city without clearance, Xerxes preferred to allow the councilor to retire early out of compassion. Nevertheless he wouldn’t let Marcus put Atlantis’ security in jeopardy and now he was under suspicion. With the pyramid’s discovery, it was even more critical to maintain tight control.
Xerxes startled. The finely crafted, double wooden doors to the council chambers burst open, shoved violently from the other side. Shocked, he turned to look down through the windows to see Marcus arrogantly stride toward the stairs to his office. Without allowing Geb the courtesy of announcing his presence, Marcus rudely ignored him and indignantly marched into Xerxes’ office.
“You commanded my presence, Sire?” His voice terse, Marcus stood on the opposite side of Xerxes’ desk and stared insolently at him.
Normally a composed man, he found his temper sorely tested by Marcus’ disrespectful conduct. Younger, larger and stronger than Marcus, nevertheless Xerxes questioned his safety due to Marcus’ agitated behavior. From his view through the door into his outer office, he noted Geb had summoned his personal bodyguards, his aide also concerned at Marcus’ irate behavior. Xerxes leveled a hard stare at Marcus.
“Marcus…it has come to my attention you procured a yacht-sub and spent two days in the upper-world city of West Palm Beach without permission. Could you explain your reasons for these actions?” Xerxes’ voice was level, tight with control.
Marcus, unaware of the bodyguards, but aware of his illegal excursion’s discovery, changed his demeanor. “I… yes, I did.”
“Why, did you do this after I warned you against such an act the first time, several months ago?” Xerxes gaze never left Marcus’ face.
“As you may not yet know, my lord. The upper-world area around Lake Okeechobee is in drought conditions. As Councilor of Antiquities…I, felt it my duty to make sure the old entrance had not become exposed.” Marcus stuttered now repentant and respectful.
“That is most diligent of you, Marcus. What did you find?” He was lying, and Xerxes wondered how far he would carry his story. Why was Marcus actually in West Palm Beach? Had he contacted an upper-world government official?
“It is still covered and should not pose a problem.” Marcus proudly raised his chin a notch, a satisfied smirk on his face.
“Really? You went to the lake and looked?”
“Yes, I, ah, procured a car and drove to the city on the lake. The entrance is still covered, as of yesterday.” Marcus’ manner became confident and smug.
“Very well, Marcus. Make sure this is the last incident. I will not tolerate another. I caution you. I will remove you from council. As close to retirement as you are, that would be a shame. Do not cause such a hardship on your wife.”
Knowing Marcus lied, convinced Xerxes he was a traitor. A direct confrontation would alert Marcus and prove nothing. Instead, he chose to allow Marcus to reveal his disloyalty.
“I have called a full council meeting shortly. Please be sure you are in attendance. You missed one called in your absence. You are dismissed, Marcus.”
LATER THAT DAY & chapter
His council voted in agreement—except Marcus. He always proved a problem. Xerxes affixed Marcus with a firm stare. Their earlier conversation should have intimidated him. The facts presented proved him a liar, but the evidence only seemed to infuriate him.
“Marcus, why do you object to every practical solution this council approves?” Xerxes asked reasonably.
“Because you approve it, isn’t that reason enough?” Marcus snapped.
Shocked silence reigned over the rest of the council. Xerxes, known to be a reasonable, patient leader, was losing his tolerance and the assembly knew it. Compassionately, Xerxes had kept his indiscretion between the two of them and didn’t embarrass him before the entire board.
His gaze remained on Marcus who avoided looking at him. Hatred seethed from every pore of the man’s body, taking on a tangible entity. The rest of the ruling body discounted the councilor’s attitude.
“Xerxes,” the Councilwoman of Internal Development, Lady Carina, questioned, “you would take this woman as your wife without knowing her? What if you cannot abide each other?” Older than Xerxes, Lady Carina had motherly misgivings for her young monarch.
Xerxes’ eyes warmed. “Thank you for your concern, Lady Carina, but I do know Ms. Carter, in a way. She is the young woman whom I saved along with her family several years ago—before my parents’ death.”
“Oh, I see. Yes, I remember that incident now. Still, how will she feel about this—arrangement?” The lady smiled.
“I hope she will come to…” he paused, feeling his face flush, “love it. The lady archaeologist’s silence must be guaranteed and considering the alternative, which to me is unthinkable and unacceptable, I see no other solution. Since this plan is acceptable to you all.” He looked directly at Marcus who looked as if he had swallowed a large lemon. “Or…at least is to the majority of you, I will continue arrangements for its deployment.” Xerxes turned to Marcus. “Given that you disagree with this plan, perhaps you can improve on it?”
Marcus finally looked at Xerxes. His squinted gray eyes returned a venomous stare. “It seems the most efficient method to protect Atlantis’ security would be to terminate the nosy bitch!” His tone of voice and language caused the others to turn and stare.
“Marcus Trident! I will not allow such language in a council meeting. Murder is certainly not a solution, even in extreme situations.” Xerxes level voice reflected contained anger.
“You cannot see the truth through your adolescent lust.” Marcus challenged.
“Marcus, leave—now!” Xerxes ordered.
Marcus rose with arrogant poise and stormed out amid the angry chatter of the other council members.
“Lord Xerxes, I think I speak for those remaining, we share your
AND AFTER MARCUS FOUND THE PRIVACY OF HIS OFFICE
Marcus stormed into his office, past his secretary, saying nothing. Xerxes dared humiliate him before the council. His anger found new heights. Xerxes was too young to be High Lord, but he wasn’t stupid. Xerxes was suspicious of him.
He dismissed being caught out of the city in the upper-world, again. Never considering he might have been observed in his actions there. He assumed the Vortex
Controllers of the security grid he had bribed had bragged they allowed him to leave. He’d deal with them later.
Turning his concentration to the revelation of the exposed ancient Egyptian-built entrance, he felt Xerxes’ weak solution to protect it proved he was an unfit ruler. The artifacts Atlantis could do without. Xerxes should collapse the entrance immediately and do away with the woman. His interests were in the bedroom rather than the security of the city. He’d dare bring that female archaeologist to Atlantis!
“Archaeologist!” He screamed in rage. Xerxes planned to replace him with her! His plan to reveal Atlantis to the upper-world was ruined! How much did Xerxes know of his scheme? Another failure! At least this one hadn’t gotten too far off the ground. It could be covered up. He paced in fast, anxious steps. A low ferocious laugh broke from him.
He was always scheming. Sometimes sleep failed him from plotting. New plans raced through his twisted mind. Ugh! He was stuck in Atlantis and didn’t dare leave again. His agitated state and severely emotional reactions so close together drew his secretary’s attention. Without his knowledge, she peered at him through the door he had carelessly left open.