The Prince’s Year End Goals! Destiny Beyond The Throne
This story is inspired by the Reedsy.com prompt "Write about someone scrambling to finish a goal in the last few hours of the year."
Lenny Overature stood before his father on Christmas Day, bowing before the throne. His dad was the king of their home country Prosperity. Lenny was next in line to be king, set to be crowned at year's end. He was 25 years young, handsome, bright, and well respected in the country. He had all the ingredients to be a fine king. The only issue? It wasn't the life he wanted.
Lenny loved heroes. He especially was interested in a hero that came to their world from another planet in a quest to cleanse it of evil. The hero went by the name Hugh, and he wore a dark helmet that covered his body with armor that increased his strength and gave him access to futuristic weapons like a laser gun and a laser sword that appeared by thought. When Hugh was 16 he captured a dangerous criminal named Gull (this original adventure of Hugh can be read here: https://theprose.com/post/389825/the-pit ). Gull was serving a lifetime prison sentence, and Hugh spent the past 14 years building a worldwide network of heroes powered by the same helmet technology as himself. Hugh had even created an alternate world called the Reflection Dimension, a safe place to keep the most dangerous criminals. The inhabitants of the Reflection Dimension would have all food, shelter, and digital entertainment needs supplied, and their only means of escape would be to pass a test to show that they had truly given up their evil ways (The first tale of the Reflection Dimension can be read here: https://theprose.com/post/382631/redemption-in-another-dimension ). Hugh had accomplished things, and Lenny wanted to join in and make a difference with him too. However, his father was not having any of this.
"Dad, I am not saying being the king of Prosperity isn't heroic!" Lenny protested. "I just want to travel the world and be a hero all over, not just here at home!"
"Son, you are the next in line, and your destiny is to be the next king." King Overature responded gently, but firmly.
"But what if it isn't my destiny to just be here?" Lenny asked. "How about I just submit the application to join Hugh's organization? If it doesn't work out, then I won't question my kingly calling again."
King Overature paused for a moment, deep in thought. He then smiled at his son. "Very well, you may apply. But if you don't get in before this year ends, then you go forward with your coronation."
"Yes, thank you so much!" Lenny exclaimed excitedly. He regained his composure and bowed to his father in respect, then eagerly dashed out of the room. Once Lenny was out of sight, King Overature retrieved a pen and paper with his royal insignia on it. He wrote a letter to Hugh, advising that his son would be applying to join his forces, but by his order he wanted Lenny's application secretly declined so his son would follow through with his royal duties instead. He scanned the letter so it could be delivered electronically, and soon enough his royal request was on it's way to Hugh.
December 26, 2020:
Lenny had submitted his application to become the newest hero to work for Hugh, and he already felt impatient. While he awaited a response, he figured he could do some training. Today he would focus on stealth skills. He explored the castle grounds, hiding from his father's guards. He had drawn several pictures of bombs, and he was hiding them throughout the castle in places that would likely cause a lot of damage if they were real. He had managed to hide 30 different papers, not once getting caught. He questioned why Hugh had not contacted him yet, as he thought about how perfect he would be for the job.
December 27, 2020:
"Your majesty, we have found 20 pictures of bombs hung up throughout the castle." Bill told the king nervously. Bill was the king's most trusted advisor. "Do you know who might do such a thing?"
"I suspect my son was involved with this." King Overature replied. "I gave him permission to apply to join Hugh's worldwide network of heroes. He must be training in the hope of being selected."
"With all due respect, the young prince is acting quite reckless." Bill complained. "His duties are with this kingdom, not foolish aspirations like traveling the world pursuing heroism. And sir, I can not believe you went forward with this!"
"It is not a concern Bill, I have already been in touch with Hugh." King Overature responded. "I told Hugh that I wanted Lenny's application secretly declined. Hugh has already agreed to our request based on Lenny's obligation to being the next king. Lenny can humor himself with his training all he wants. Once he does not get recruited, he will abandon his childish dreams and accept his responsibility to Prosperity."
"Very well your majesty, I will humor him as well." Bill said. "I feel you are being reckless with this plan, but I will trust your judgement for now. I will keep an eye on the prince and keep you updated in the meantime."
December 28, 2020:
Lenny was on his way to the castle gym, where he would continue training himself for his heroic work to come. Before he got there, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and found none other than Hugh himself looking at him, beaming. Hugh was from another planet, but he looked quite human. He was 30 years old, but did not look a day over 25.
"You must be Prince Lenny Overature!" Hugh said enthusiastically. "My name is Hugh, and I understand that you want to join my worldwide team. We would love to have you, but are you sure you want to give up the throne for this?"
"More than anything!" Lenny responded excitedly. "I can't believe you're here, and that I am talking to you in person! How do I get started?"
"Well first, there are some tests you need to complete first." Hugh responded. "Once you show me you can handle those, then we can fit you with one of our helmets that will grant you the abilities our heroes use. We will train you on how to properly use the gear the helmets will grant you, and once you have that, you will be ready to be our newest hero!"
"Awesome!" Lenny responded gleefully. "Can we start right now?"
"Get some rest and a good night's sleep first." Hugh answered. "Then meet me in the castle courtyard tomorrow morning at 6 AM. Then your first test will begin. And don't tell anyone, I don't want an audience for this."
"Understood Hugh, and thank you so much!" Lenny exclaimed. "I will keep this on the down low, and I will be there tomorrow morning with bells on."
December 29, 2020:
Lenny didn't sleep at all, he was too excited about his "interview" with the legend he now knew as Hugh. Once 5:45 AM rolled around, Lenny slipped out of bed and put on his normal gym clothes. He then proceeded to the quiet, still somewhat dark, spacious courtyard. Lenny was afraid that Hugh wouldn't be there, that all of this was a dream. But once he arrived, he found that he was very much awake, with Hugh waiting there for him with a smile.
"Good morning Prince Overature!" Hugh said enthusiastically. "I hope you got some rest last night - we have a lot to cover today."
"Yeah, I got plenty of rest." Lenny lied, too excited to be tired. "And by the way, you don't have to call me prince, Lenny is fine. I don't want to be royalty, I want to be a hero like you."
"Very well Lenny." Hugh said, smiling. "My first test is to see how fast you are. Let's race 3 laps around this courtyard. After all, speed is an essential skill you will need in the field."
A quick countdown and Lenny and Hugh began their race. Lenny had a good lead initially, but ultimately tired out after the first lap, and was easily bested by Hugh.
"It's ok." Hugh told a panting, doubled over Lenny. "Let's try another test."
Hugh then directed Lenny to step back six feet before producing a small leather bag.
"In this bag I have six stones." Hugh advised. "In our line of work you will need to be able to perform evasive maneuvers, especially against things that are more dangerous than stones. Show me your dodging skills!"
Lenny nodded then positioned himself, ready for another chance to prove himself. Hugh threw the first two stones, and Lenny dodged them with ease. The last four stones were a different story, pelting Lenny's left foot, right arm, chest, and ultimately his forehead before knocking him onto the ground.
Hugh approached his fallen disciple and extended a hand, bringing Lenny to his feet.
"I won't give up on you." Hugh said reassuredly. "I will give you one more chance to qualify. Train some more tomorrow, and meet me out here in two days at 10:00 PM. If you have improved, I will fit you for a helmet and we will see how that enhances your abilities. It will be close, but should you do well, you will succeed in joining us before the year ends."
"Thank you sir." Lenny said, feeling dejected, but thankful for another try. "I won't let you down again."
December 30, 2020:
"The prince is acting strange, your majesty." Bill advised the king in his throne room. "I spotted him at the batting cages, but he did not have a bat in his hand. Instead, he was jumping around avoiding the baseballs. And yesterday, I saw him training under the hero Hugh, whom you said had already agreed to not recruit him to the cause."
King Overature frowned at this news. "This is very troubling indeed. Thank you Bill, I will contact Hugh right away and find out why he has betrayed our trust."
Bill walked outside of the castle and spotted Lenny running laps around the courtyard. He grimaced, not thinking the prince had what it took to be a professional hero, even if the king actually approved. Still, he admired the prince's tenacity. Not that it would matter. Bill thought about how all this nonsense would be over after the king spoke to Hugh, and he walked off to handle his other obligations.
Last day of 2020:
Lenny stood before Hugh in the courtyard at 10 PM. He had only a couple of hours left before he lost his chance to become a hero, but he was feeling more confident in his abiliities after a full day of training. Hugh smiled approvingly at Lenny, noticing the change in the prince's confidence and overall demeanor.
"I was going to test you again, but I can tell your skills are better already." Hugh said happily. "If you can handle the same tests with our official gear, I will officially extend an invitation into our ranks. Now I am going to fit you for a helmet. Please stand still while I scan you for this purpose."
Hugh wore a silver armored vest, and a small hole opened up in the center of the vest. A laser shot of the hole and hit Lenny. Lenny was in no pain, but could not move.
"It is a strange process registering these helmets, but it is completely harmless." Hugh reassured Lenny. "Thank you for your patience."
A vacuum sound came from the hole, and Lenny felt a strange sensation. When all was over Lenny felt like he was looking in a mirror, as Hugh now looked exactly like the prince. Lenny looked at his arms and down at his body, and then checked the selfie mode on his phone. He was horrified to find that his body was now featureless - all that was left of himself was a dark silhouette.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?" Lenny screamed at Hugh, if that was even who this was. "AND WHO ARE YOU REALLY?"
"Sure, I will explain, former prince." Lenny's tormentor replied, even speaking in Lenny's voice back to him. The body armor briefly flashed, and Bill now stood before what was left of Lenny. "I am your father's most trusted advisor. I used to respect the king, but he has lost his backbone by humoring you in pursuing your pathetic supehero aspirations instead of putting his foot down and demanding that you simply focus on becoming king. You should also know, that after your father gave you permission to try and become a hero, he contacted Hugh and told him not to recruit you. You never had a chance to join at all."
"NO, MY FATHER WOULDN'T!" Lenny screamed, now doubled over on the ground.
"Oh, but he did." Bill said mockingly. "You apparently don't know him at all. Then again, neither you nor he know me very well either."
"Did you do this to Hugh too?" Lenny asked, now wondering how many other silhouette figures were wandering around because of Bill.
"No, I took Hugh's appearance by absorbing his features from a picture of him I printed out." Bill answered. "You aren't the only one that can use paper for personal agendas, paper bomb boy. The downside is I could only keep up Hugh's form for a couple of hours from paper copy absorptions. But with your real features absorbed in my armor, I can keep your appearance forever, and I will happily take your place as the next king. Be happy Lenny, you didn't want the crown anyway!"
Just then a figure with a black helmet and body armor whose name was Mirk appeared on the scene. He stood between Lenny and Bill, ready to assist.
"The king contacted Hugh thinking that he had been coming here to recruit the prince, which was confirmed to be false." Mirk said to Bill. "You are an imposter, and I am here to stop you. I survived a trap master recently, so you have no chance (the adventure Mirk is referencing can be read here: https://theprose.com/post/383782/hallway-of-peril )."
"This is great!" Bill said delightedly. "I will capture your features too, and besides being the king of Prosperity, I will be able to infiltrate Hugh's ranks as well! This is why I told the king about "Hugh" being here, I knew the real Hugh would put it all together and send one of you after me. Now you're mine!"
Bill began activating the laser on his armor to blast Mirk, but Mirk quickly summoned a laser gun in his hand and blasted Bill. Bill disintegrated from sight upon impact.
"What did you do to him?" Lenny asked nervously, still in the form of a dark silhouette despite the apparent defeat of Bill.
"Don't worry, he's fine." Mirk responded gently. "This gun transported him to the Reflection Dimension. It is an alternative to prison. Residents there are given a chance to take a test to see if they have changed, and if they have they will be sent back here. He has probably changed his ways and should be reappearing right now to restore you."
Minutes passed, with no sign of Bill.
"I guess he isn't returning after all." Mirk said, feeling uncomfortable over his failed prediction. "I saw this happening differently, but we can still help you. Hugh has some of the best scientists in his employ, and we can find a way to fix you...."
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" Lenny snarled at Mirk. "THANKS TO YOUR FAILURE TODAY, I CAN NOT BE A KING OR A HERO! LEAVE MY SIGHT, YOU HAVE RUINED ME!"
Mirk tried to interject, but Lenny wasn't having it. Mirk sadly took off, vowing to report his failure to Hugh, and he also silently promised to do his part to make things right for the prince.
Jan 1, 2021:
Lenny didn't return home that night, but hid in the shadows instead, pondering what to do next. Now in the early hours of the new morning, he resigned himself to returning home and grabbing some essentials before making a run for it. Suddenly he stood before a man with a mohawk, purple eyes behind party glasses, mismatched clothes, and a toothy smile that was hanging around outside of the castle grounds. The strange looking man had a laptop in his hand, and he eyed Lenny's featureless silhouette curiously.
"My name is Custom Character Creator, but you can call me CCC!" The man exclaimed. "I travel around the world freelance customizing the looks of others, and I have never seen anyone like you! You are a clear canvas, and I must offer my services to you. What do you say?"
If Lenny had a visible mouth, it would be grinning. "You may be able to help me sir." Lenny replied. "I was once Prince Lenny Overature. Thanks to the failure of a hero in Hugh's employ, I have now lost my identity. Would you be able to restore my features with your custom powers?"
"Yes, I can restore you for an hour at a time!" CCC answered gleefully. "And if we time it right, we can get you crowned as king!"
"That would be good, I will need the resources of the kingdom for my new purpose." Lenny replied. "An hour at a time won't be much, so I will need you to join my cause for this to work. Hugh's organization has failed to protect lives and make the world a better place - just look at what has happened to me. However, we can start a new organization that will dismantle Hugh's, and we will protect others correctly, including protection for your own eccentric lifestyle. What do you say? Will you be my first recruit?"
"Sounds like a good time!" CCC replied eagerly. "I will join you future king!"
"Call me Leftover." The former Lenny Overature responded. "After Hugh's associate failed, this is all that is left of me. But when I am done with them, there will be nothing left at all."