Author's Notes! Hi everyone! I'm very sorry for the long wait in-between chapters. I've had a bit of writer's block. Thank you very much for the reviews and favorites! I hope you enjoy this chapter!
CHAPTER 6: Are You Sitting Comfortably
"Uh… I think we should have gotten a bigger carriage… or a second one…" Lord Schultz said ponderingly.
"You think?" the nearly-squashed Oreldo retorted.
Randel's size hadn't been put into consideration when the Schultzes had chosen a carriage for the evening. Somehow, they'd managed to cram him in along with the Schultz siblings and the two sub-lieutenants but in no way, shape, or form was it comfortable. Lord Schultz, Martis, and Oreldo all were crammed onto one side while Randel and Lucille took the other. The young noblewoman was practically attached to the corporal's arm.
"Oh, Corporal! You're simply an incredible man! You must tell me more about yourself!" Lucille gushed, tightly hugging Randel's arm
"Uh… I like… cats?" the very flustered Randel replied.
Lucille squealed. "Awww! That is so adorable! I happen to have a cat myself! She's a purebred white Persian with the softest fur you could ever imagine! She's quite lovely. Her name is Miss Radiance Chantilly Beatrice Felicity…"
Oreldo sighed in frustration. "Are we there yet?" Much to his chagrin, Martis was practically sitting in his lap. It didn't help the matter that the black-haired sub-lieutenant made one hell of a convincing woman, nor did the fact that his dress was quite puffy. There was hardly any room to breathe.
"Almost!" Lord Schultz replied cheerily. Somehow, the duke wasn't at all upset by being sandwiched between Oreldo and the side of the carriage. "Oh, I'm so excited for tonight! I can't believe I'll be helping the military with such an important mission!"
"Me neither! Who would've thought we'd be involved with such an adventure?" Lucille exclaimed. "And not to mention, working with such handsome military men like the corporal!" The young noblewoman tightened her grip on Randel's arm. "Oh, lovely, lovely, lovely!"
Oreldo smirked at Randel. "Looks like Alice's got some competition now, eh, big guy?"
"Oreldo!" Martis scolded, shaking his head.
The giant corporal turned a deep shade of red. He looked utterly scared.
The carriage suddenly came to a halt, sending Martis flying out of his seat (or lack thereof).
Oreldo's reflexes kicked in. Without thinking, he quickly reached out and wrapped his arms around Martis' waist to catch him before he could fall.
"Gotcha!" the blonde sub-lieutenant declared. Then his face fell when he realized he was holding the other sub-lieutenant in what could only be described as an embrace. An awkward one, but still an embrace. "Oh, wait…"
"Um… thanks," Martis managed to stammer. He'd completely flushed.
Oreldo nodded frantically and released his hold. "Uh, yeah, you're welcome."
The door to the carriage was opened by the stagecoach driver. Randel looked at his superior officers for any last instruction. Instead, they were refusing to make eye contact with one another.
"Well, uh, this looks like where I get off. Good luck with your mission," the corporal said, glancing from sub-lieutenant to sub-lieutenant. He gently removed Lucille from his arm and exited the carriage.
"Goodbye, Corporal darling! Stay safe!" Lucille called after Randel. "Oh, I can't wait to see him again! He's so lovely," the noblewoman said with a dreamy look in her eyes. She then turned to Oreldo and Martis and her expression changed to the frightening one from earlier. Martis managed to flush even more upon seeing Lucille's face. There was something so unsettling about that look…
Without Randel, the carriage seemed twice as big. Lord Schultz moved to the opposite side to sit next to his sister, leaving the sub-lieutenants sitting next to each other. They tried to sit as far away from each other as possible, staring pointedly out the windows.
"Don't worry, it's not at all far now. We'll be there in no time!" Schultz said happily. "But you do know that you two are going to have to look at each other to make your disguises at all believable," he added upon noticing Oreldo and Martis still refusing to make eye contact or to acknowledge each other's existence.
Martis came to his senses first. He smoothed his ruffled dress with a sigh. "He's right, Oreldo. We can't blow this mission just because we're embarrassed by the circumstances."
Oreldo reluctantly turned to his friend. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I'll put up with this for one night, just one," he said, stressing the last word. "We're never gonna accept another mission from the captain 'til we know every last detail!" The blond sub-lieutenant crossed his arms with a sour look on his face. "I'm so holdin' a grudge against him and the LT."
"Now, now, this is no time to get upset with your superiors. Perhaps we should practice your introductions for the ball?" Lord Schultz suggested.
"Yes, that's a splendid idea!" Lucille chimed in. "Mr. Oreldo, how about you start? Pretend I'm a noble you've never met." The noblewoman's voice dropped to a comical imitation of a man. "Hello, I believe we haven't yet met."
Oreldo looked questioningly at Martis. "What do I say?" he whispered.
The other sub-lieutenant huffed. "Introduce yourself!"
"Oh, right! I'm Orel—er, Percy. Percy Lovett."
Martis covered his face in dispair. "This mission's doomed," he muttered.
"And this is my uh…. wife, Marsha," Oreldo continued. "Yeah. Wife. We're uh, married…" he trailed off, looking troubled.
"Well, that's a start. With a little more confidence, you'll be just fine!" Lucille said encouragingly. "Now Mister—or should I say miss?" She paused to giggle. "Martis, why don't you try?"
"I'm afraid there isn't time," Lord Schultz cut in. "We're just about there! I can see the manor!" He joyfully gestured at the elegant building that could now be seen through the window.
"Hooray!" Lucille cheered gleefully.
"Oh shit," Oreldo breathed.
Martis felt more terrified than the day Section III went to Lieutenant Webner's garage to see how her unit was doing with figuring out the auto-loader mechanism in Viscount Wolkins' tank. Section I's vehicle had been hijacked and he saw firsthand the horrific effect of Randel's lantern. Seeing the corporal with the empty look in his eyes, firing the Door Knocker at point-blank range at the unfortunate operators of the tank with the smell of smoke and blood burning his nostrils would be a walk in the park compared to this!
He took a deep breath and prepared himself for what would be the longest—and most embarrassing—night of his life.