Barry came properly back into focus as he was being hauled upright by powerful arms round his ribcage. His ears were full of the din of shouting men, and his eyes were full of blood. With his left arm round a muscular shoulder, he was led off through the jostling crowd.
'Come on, Barry. Not far. I'll get you to the security checkpoint.'
Barry remembered who was supporting him. It was Marky. 'Where are the others?' he asked.
'I don't know. Let's just worry about you first. Can you see alright?'
'Got blood in my eyes.'
'There is a gash in your forehead. It does not look too bad, despite the heavy bleeding.'
Barry fumbled in his pocket for tissues, and found a handful. He wiped his eyes clear and discovered they had emerged from the press at the Chancellery gate. Marky called out to the State police on duty. One came over to help hold up Barry, while the others maintained a protective cordon, machine guns at the ready, to deter the demonstrators from approaching.
Once they were through the police barrier, the noise of the riot was suddenly more distant, although through the railings they could still see the surging crowds in the park beyond. Barry was firmer on his feet, feeling little more than a dull headache. By the time they reached the Chancellery porch, Marky was only steadying him by holding his arm.
Marky led Barry through the house to a downstairs bathroom.
'Where is everyone?' Barry asked.
'My father is in Parliament, and my mother... I am not sure. The servants are in the kitchen, I imagine, or watching the riot from upstairs. Who knows? Let me look at your head.'
Making Barry put his face down over a sink, Marky sponged away the blood. They checked the result in the mirror. Blood continued seeping out of the cut, but not in any great quantity.
'I think it was nothing more than a graze from a sharp stone. Not very serious, just a little messy. I do not think you will need stitches. I have seen much worse in a hockey match. Here, I will put on it this plaster. There! All is well, though you look somewhat pale, my Barry.'
'Did you see what happened?'
'I had a very good view up on the column of our gate. I saw you and our good friends in the march.'
'I spotted you waving at us.'
'A large group of men in black emerged from behind a line of buses, and burst through the police cordon to attack the marchers. It is very bad out there.' Marky became meditative. 'I saw a strange thing in the crowd.'
'You saw it too? He seemed different when the thugs went for him and our friends: taller and quite... frightening. It was not the Lance Atwood I know. Beautiful still, but also terrible. Men seemed to run away from him in fear.'
Barry shook his head. 'It was all chaotic. What shall we do, Marky?'
'Let's go up to my room. We can see what's going on from my windows.'
The boys hurried upstairs through the empty house, dimly aware of the shouts and conflict going on outside its walls. They were on an island in a storm-wracked sea of rioting humanity.
Henry and his crew began pushing their way through the dense crowds on Lindenstrasse. Most people wanted to go the other way, so it was not easy. Henry heard the cameraman swearing behind him. They finally exited the square on to the boulevard itself. It was frustrating. There was noise ahead and turbulence in the crowd, but Henry was too short to see a thing. He shouted at Pavel, his sound engineer, who was well over six foot, 'Can you figure out what's happening?'
'Hardly, Henry. There are mounted police further on, and they're using their batons.'
'Can you find any way to get a better view?'
'The Chancellery's over there, and the railings are quite tall, but the guards are holding off the crowd.'
The tide of the mob began pushing Henry and his crew back towards Parlementplaz. He got on his phone to speak urgently with the newsroom.
Tomas Weissman was organising a helicopter camera to get a panoramic view. He had the latest on developments. 'I've heard the city police have admitted they've lost control. There's fighting on the Wejg too. The chancellor's on the line to the Queen Regent asking for troops to re-establish order. Get some pictures, Henry, I'm fed up of having to stream video shots taken by handijs in the crowd. You're the only crew on the ground... and be careful.'
Henry set his jaw and started pushing back through the crowd. Suddenly he was in an open space, as the pressure slackened around him. One or two bodies lay on the ground, and there was blood on the tarmac. Here the human tide was going the other way, towards the trouble. In front of him, black-clad men were being driven back by a dozen or so boys – and a couple of girls – wielding clubs and sticks. A tall figure was in the lead.
Henry's son turned at the familiar voice. Henry's heart pounded. Lance's face was changed, his large blue eyes darkened to black. He had lost his look of humanity, his aspect now as terrifying and grim as a mountain thunderstorm. Something of the Destroyer of Worlds was still within him, and it had somehow been unleashed.
Behind Henry, Pavel gasped. 'Do you see that! Get it on video!'
Henry ran towards his son. 'Lance! Come back!'
The boy stood suddenly uncertain, before seeming to shrink back into his old self. 'Dad?'
'What's going on?'
Damien was now at his side. 'Them bastards is getting more than they expected, thass what. Lance's been awesome! Juss like the old days. Whatchu doing here, Uncle Henry?'
'My job.' He motioned at his crew, who were now filming the action. 'You kids have to get out of here, and fast. The army's coming.'
But Damien's eyes were burning. 'You gotta be kidding! The fun's just starting.'
Henry snapped, 'Life's not just about fun, Damien Macavoy. Think of Helen and the others.'
'Daimey, he's right,' Lance agreed. 'We've made our difference. Time to go.'
Damien stood momentarily mutinous, then glanced at Helen and Reggie, confused amongst the prone bodies around them. He shifted to Rothenian. 'Okay, lads and lasses! Heads up! Strategic withdrawal time. Let's get to the square. Move it!'
Henry grabbed his son's arm. 'Lance, we need to talk when this is over. What happened just now...'
Lance nodded. 'See you later, dad. You take care too!'
Tommy and Oskar were sitting with Harry around the table in her private office. Ed Cornish was on open com.
'What's the situation, Ed?' the queen asked.
'The State police commander here says it's all he can do to manage the crowds in the Parlementplaz, besides which the park is outside his jurisdiction.'
'What's the news from the park?'
'The city police have lost control entirely. No communication possible with their people. The State police guards at the Chancellery have just told their commandant they've sealed off the house but it's chaos beyond the fences. Armed extremists are attacking the march.'
'What's your recommendation?'
'I have the men here to go in and restore order, though it could get nasty. I've made some contingency plans which should help. But it'll be tear gas before bedtime. Have you heard from Chancellor von Lauern, Harry? I can't move without his formal request.'
'Tommy's on the phone now.'
Tommy raised a thumb as the signal came from the chancellor's office.
'You're on, Ed. We wish you luck.'
'I'll be in touch, ma'am.'
The queen sagged in her chair, burying her hands in her blonde hair.
'Ed Cornish will get it under control, ma'am,' affirmed Oskar. 'He's the best sort of soldier. You can be sure he has more up his sleeve than he's letting on.'
Harry lifted up her head, and gave a quirky look at her chief of staff and her private secretary. 'If Rudi were here now, I'm pretty sure he'd be out there on the streets. That's the Elphberg way.'
Tommy shook his head. 'You're not your husband, ma'am. It wouldn't be appropriate. People expect different behaviour from a queen.'
'How will this affect us, Oskar?'
Her chief of staff shrugged. 'Von Lauern will be seriously weakened. These are his people rioting on the streets, or at least they've turned up at his party's event, and he's the public-order enthusiast. Maybe that was the intention. The CDP is a mixed bunch, and Von Lauern is a moderate by their standards. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the beginning of a coup within the party. The hardliners will turn on the chancellor as a weak man and demand someone stronger to lead them in these troubled times.'
Tommy narrowed his eyes. 'Hadjek?'
'I would not be surprised. Ironic, isn't it, that they're using the Regency to fight out their own party squabbles. Does Count Robert know that, I wonder?'
Henry was talking to camera, with all sorts of mayhem going on behind him and the drone of helicopters above. '... things are out of control here. The police have I think run for cover...' A brick hit the ground next to him, but he stayed focussed. 'Hopes now are pinned on the army. Troops are moving from the Parlementplaz as I speak.'
Henry wiped the sweat out of his eyes. Acrid smoke was drifting along the boulevard. The studio anchor asked him who had started the violence.
'Katrina, it's clear that militant rightwingers planned this, and inept policing by the city authorities gave them just the opportunity they needed. Many of the marchers are injured, and emergency workers can't get through. I myself saw the thugs attacking groups of schoolchildren on the march. There are many people down.'
Suddenly there was purposeful movement around Henry. Helmeted soldiers with plastic shields and batons filtered through the crowd and began forming a line in front of the stone-hurling militants. Army medics promptly moved in to attend to the injured. They were greeted with cheers from the LGBT marchers.
'Get pictures of that!' Henry ordered his crew as he was thinking, Well done, Ed!
Other soldiers opened a way through the crowd to ferry out casualties and allow the marchers to reach the relative safety of the Parlementplaz.
It seemed also that the rioters had made their own preparations. Molotov cocktails arched out of their ranks and burst into flame on the road or against shields. Soldiers with fire extinguishers were ready for this too.
'You okay, little babe?' sounded in his ear, as a large hand took him by the shoulder.
Henry beamed up at his lover. 'You're amazing. Did I ever tell you that?'
Ed, wearing helmet and flak jacket, was accompanied by his staff, who stood at his side issuing instructions on walkie-talkies and passing on information. 'Just took a little thought and planning, once I knew the worst would happen. I was up all last night studying videos of similar riots. The State police guys had lots of good ideas too, even if they didn't have the men to carry them out.'
'What're you gonna do?'
'Round up these bastards. The police commandant and I want to find out who's behind this. It'll help Harry if I can stick this one on the opposition.'
'Hi, Henry!' Major Voynovich had a com to his ear. 'Sir, they're ready.'
'It's a go, Lucascz.'
The major muttered instructions.
'What's about to happen, Ed?'
'See that line of apparently empty coaches behind the rioters? Well, they ain't. The luggage compartments are full of my men. Poor sods have been there since sunrise, which I'll bet hasn't improved their dispositions towards the rioters. Our CDP friends are about to get an elementary lesson in military strategy.'
'Is that what they call it?' Ed shouted around, 'Are the marchers at a safe distance?' When he had an affirmative answer, he called out, 'Gas masks!' Before he put on his own, he confided that Henry might want to get to a safe distance, as the breeze was in the east.
The rioters were still intent on the green line in front of them when canisters sailed in amongst them from behind. Clouds of grey, choking, tear-jerking mist engulfed them. They turned confused to find green uniforms and shields to the rear of them as well as in front. Some still showed fight, but it didn't last long. Soon they were being marched off, coughing and in tears, to a makeshift compound that Ed's men were already setting up.
A line of troops beating shields encouraged the less militant remainder of the CDP demonstration to disperse and leave the park.
Henry was mingling with the crowd, interviewing and filming. He signed off three hours later as the sun was going down. 'So goodbye from me here in Bila Palacz, Katrina. I think we can take great pride in our armed forces tonight. The most dangerous disorder in our capital for decades was broken up with meticulous efficiency and minimal violence. It reflects great credit on the Regency. It's everything Rothenians expect of our Elphbergs.'
Lance and Reggie had headed up into the Sixth District after escaping the riot and seeing everyone else off home. They turned on the set in the main lounge of Lance's Fridricsgasse home. Reggie made them omelettes, since Mrs Willerby had taken the day off, and they flipped between State TV's coverage and that of Eastnet 24.
Reggie, cuddling on Lance's lap, gave a little cheer every time Henry came on screen. It was State TV which ruined his mood. Pictures of Lance and him hand-in-hand on Rodolferplaz flashed up, with the scrolling headline: US AMBASSADOR'S SON IN STRELZEN LGBT MARCH.
'Uh oh!' he sighed.
'You did ask your mum whether you could?'
'Well... no, I knew what she'd have said.'
'And I so wanted to be out and proud with you, Lance. Esther said it would be okay if mom didn't know. She called it "plausible deniability".'
'The opposition are going to try to make something of it.'
'Shit! I'd better get back home.'
'I'll drive you in Henry's car. My own's still in town. Then I need to return to face my own music with my dads.'
'You were awesome!'
'Maybe, but it was awesome in a bad way, Reggie. Too many onlookers noticed. The worst thing is, I don't know how it happened. I hope to God it didn't get caught on video!'
The city was quiet as they made their way around its northern edge. Everybody was probably at home watching the TV coverage of the riots. The sun was going down behind the cathedral towers when they pulled up at the ambassador's residence. The usual security guards were there, but also, to their surprise, a white-capped marine, no less than Lance Corporal Lobowicz.
'Oh, hi Reggie!'
'Hey, jarhead! What're you doing here?'
Lobowicz grinned. He seemed to find Reggie's ribbing an attractive trait. 'I got detailed to come over and watch the place, what with the trouble in town and all. You're in the shit, dude. I have orders to arrest ya on sight.'
'Damn. Mom's on the warpath. Hey! Before I surrender myself to justice, can you do a thing for me and Lance?'
Lobowicz was already staring at the boy-god before him. 'This your boyfriend, Reggie?'
'Yeah. Amazing isn't he? If I manage to escape solitary confinement Friday night, Lance and I want to make an expedition to the Wejg, which you tell me you know very well.'
Lobowicz took off his cap and scratched his shaven head. 'Now I dunno about that, Reggie. If it ever got out, I'd be dead.'
'We wouldn't tell, and we'll keep outa trouble.'
'Ask me tomorrow if you survive the night.'
Lance and Reggie kissed and reluctantly parted.
Tommy and Oskar were brooding together in Oskar's office. It was getting dark outside the windows, and they'd been at their desks most of the day.
Tommy was the more upbeat of the pair. 'Look at it this way, Osku, Harry got a lot of applause over the way she handled the public-order problem. The worst predictions haven't come true, and the State police have lambasted the irresponsibility of the CDP. The media are calling for Von Lauern's resignation... not that they'll get it.'
'Yes, all to the good, Tomasczu. But we don't want Von Lauern to resign, do we. And I think they will get his head on a plate. The first reports about the police interrogations of the arrested rioters all blame Von Lauern's homophobic rhetoric for energising the crowd against the LGBT march. He won't survive that. Even Rothenia's conservatives are gay-blind for the most part. It's the chancellor's weak spot. He's let the Vatican do his thinking for him. His enemies in his own party could easily have set him up for this. The coalition can ditch him and still have a majority. Then they can get on with the libertarian economic reforms they so want to push through.
'Did I tell you Pete's office has had an approach from no less than Hadjek, wanting his financial support for a relaunch of the CDP? Hadjek thinks Peacher interests will be served by a new ministry.'
Tommy became gloomy in his turn. 'The Assembly is still sitting, riot or not. It's received the committee report. As we feared, the Supreme Court's opinion is that the provisions of the 1856 constitution governing the royal succession are still valid, and all that's now needed is the Senate's agreement for a call to the Queen Regent to stand down in favour of King Robert Rudolf.
'The old bastard did a good job in front of the cameras yesterday. Did you know he and his wife are visiting casualties of the riot at the hospital this evening? Nice. Harry couldn't do it, as she had to get the kids to bed, but his office is implying she's a stuck-up billionaire with no time for the common people. We're screwed.'
Oskar nodded in sad agreement. 'It's looking bad, that's for sure. The only consolation is that, as soon as Hadjek puts his head above the parapet, it'll be blown off by revelations about his private life. But even that won't help in the long run. There'll be someone else waiting in the wings just as bad as he is.'
Barry shoved a pillow under Marky's groin. Watching the riot disperse, they had come down from their adrenalin high, only to have their libidos soar. Despite Marky's embargo on sex at home, his father's enforced presence in Parliament and his mother's absence persuaded him to consent to what he so desperately wanted. They had taken advantage of their moments of freedom to strip and rouse each other.
Marky was very rigid. His cock shone with the amount of precum oozing out of it. Barry had been suckling on it as if it were a baby's pacifier, but now his own wanted satisfaction. He stroked Marky's exposed anus with his thumb. His lover was furry between the buttocks and Barry began licking the hairs away from the hole into a dark and inviting whirlpool.
He loved the sweaty, musky smell that assaulted his nose when he pressed it into Marky's butt crack. His tongue enjoyed the momentary salty taste as it ran over the wrinkles of Marky's anus. Then he was licking and probing, while Marky squirmed and moaned. At the same time, Barry gripped his own cock hard beneath him. He kept up the sucking and slurping until Marky opened up to him and he could lick around inside the exposed folds of flesh.
It was still an effort to get into Marky, so Barry knew he had to prepare his lover well. It was therefore quite a while before he responded to the Rothenian boy's urging to mount him. Finally ready, he placed the head of his cock in position, holding it straight with his right hand. It was easier this time to push past the anal muscle, but once inside Marky he found the going harder.
Supporting himself above Marky by his arms, his head back and his mouth sagging, Barry kept up a gentle pressure as Marky relaxed and received him. When his formidable length slid slowly into Marky, it was awesome. Spasms of ecstasy radiated from his glans to his nervous system in response to the friction he was receiving from the hard grip of Marky's rectal wall. 'Oh my God! Oh my fucking God!' he gasped. This was beyond amazing.
Naked and in the passion of sex, the two boys were oblivious to everything about them, even to the opening of the bedroom door. But the sharp intake of breath and shocked wail of 'Marekscu!' brought them both crashing back into a world of sudden horror and utter embarrassment.
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