Well, here it is. The big day. I have never been so nervous in my life. To be clear, the single most important event in my life. And not just because it is my wedding day, but because of what it means for our Alexandria and Thorvus-Maxia. We will finally be one people again.
Man, I sound just like my dad. I guess it has finally absorbed in. I guess it is gonna have to, now. To be clear, this is no longer something far off, it is today. And tomorrow it will be part of my past. Something I will have to live with for the rest of my life. All of it. The whole thing. This day forward I permanently am going to have someone around closer than a sister or a mother. Someone I am gonna rule Alexandria with. Someone I am going to grow old with. Someone I am … gonna have kids, with … ugh, kids! I do not know if I can take twenty to forty years of heartburn and stress. I hope she does not want kids. At least for the first ninety or so years.
Thinking again, if my family is gonna get another king after me, I will have to. Commoners have no idea how good they have it.
But as if my life was not fun enough, my dad, the king, has informed me we will be meeting with members of the Pact, who are representing a bunch of planets that can barely defend themselves from anybody. Yes, my best friend is from a Pact world, but he is probably the smartest human there is. And they did not offer employment to him. So, I have reservations regarding their judgment of how serious a matter can be, when they cannot observe the obvious intellect and talent in Joseph Pike. Of course, they probably want us to assist them with something they cannot do against somebody who is not much of a threat to anyone except them. Oh well, I guess the universe does not circumnavigate myself after all.
This is the soon-to-be-married captain, signing off.
Richard sits quietly on the edge of his bed, taking what will be his last look at his bedroom from the standpoint of a bachelor. He studies the arching double doors made of a solid wood he could never pronounce the name of, doors far older than him or even his father. He takes note of the various scores in the grain, some he made, some there before him, reminding of events in his childhood. He looks at the stone framing the doorway, a brilliant ivory-colored marble, matching the marble framing the windows and the closet door.
While the gray concrete walls provide a rather dreary look to the entire room, the many tarps and paintings his family have in place in his room make it far more inviting. He glances over to a desk with two or three books on it, books of history, one of which is presently open. It reminds him that his interest in his people’s history remains unfulfilled since he obviously has yet to finish the book. He sighs, lying back on his bed.
He hears the door to his room opening. “It is time, son,” the king informs. Richard sits up, as his father sits down beside him. His father looks up at the ceiling. “I must admit, I had my reservations about how this day would go.” He looks down at Richard. “But I am proud of the maturity you have displayed in this matter.” Richard sighs. “As difficult a beginning as this will be, I know both you and Rebecca will try your best to make this relationship work.” He stands, stepping toward the door. “And I know you will not disappoint your mother.”
Richard stands. “My mother?”
His father nods, starting to turn toward Richard. “Yes. She will be expecting … an heir to the throne.” He stops before making eye contact. “Your mother will want to help you groom your heir to the throne.”
Richard folds his arms, smiling. “I will try not to disappoint Mother,” he assures, walking up to his father.
His father nods, opening the door. “Good. While there is time, you need to gather your friends and arrive at the banquet before the appointed time.” He looks back at his son. “I have some other duties I must attend to before the ceremonies. I will see you then.”
Richard nods as his father darts down the hall. “An heir…” he mutters to himself, starting down the hall himself.
Richard attempts to straighten his bow tie again as he knocks on the door to guest quarters 42. Joe, wearing a black tuxedo with a gold cummerbund and bow tie, answers the door. “Oh, hey Richard! Ready to get married?”
Richard nervously adjusts his bow tie again. “I guess. How about my best man?”
Joe takes one last look at himself in the mirror, giving himself two thumbs up. “About as ready as ever.” He checks his bow tie for alignment. “I heard all the women in the wedding party are veiled, as part of the wedding tradition.” He looks at Richard. “You know which one is supposed to be her?”
Richard wrinkles his brow. “What do you mean?”
Joe turns back to Richard. “You can’t see their faces, and the bride and the bridesmaids don’t come in any particular order since they are all offered for your inspection.” He pauses. “How are you supposed to pick her?”
Richard thinks a moment on the matter, trying to conjure an intelligent reason for this silly predicament. “Uh, I dunno. I hope she is wearing a name tag or something…” Richard snaps. “Oh, wait! I remember! She will be wearing a white dress trimmed in silver. The bridesmaids will have on pink dresses.”
Joe nods, frowning, taking his friend to the full-length mirror. “Then that explains your clothes. For a minute, I was beginning to question your taste in fashion.”
“Oh, please! Like I would want a pink-and-white tuxedo!” Richard looks over his attire in a full-length mirror. “I dunno. I may not find her, but I do not think she will have any trouble finding me!”
Joe laughs. “Richard, I wouldn’t have trouble spotting you from orbit.” Richard laughs sarcastically.
There is a knock at the door. Joe opens it, seeing Maice, who is bearing a number of different bow ties on each of his arms. The bow ties range from mildly tolerable to outrageously horrific. Their colors suggest a complete absence of color management, with no regard for texture, pattern, or iridescence. Maice looks over his arms and then turns toward his friends. “I don’t know which one of these things I should wear.”
“Quite frankly,” notes Richard, “I think they should all be burned and their maker executed.”
Maice groans. “What am I supposed to wear then? I don’t have time to find more of these things!” Joe and Richard step closer to the array of bow ties.
“Hmm, I don’t know. This is the single largest collection of ugly things I’ve seen recently,” states Joe as he looks over all the bow ties.
Richard surveys them as well, nodding with Joe’s words. “Yeah, they are pretty bad. Though, this one”—he points to a crimson bow tie with a ghastly pattern etched in gold— “other than the pattern, is not too bad. Wear that one.” Maice immediately drops all but this red one, clinging to it like a great treasure.
He then walks over to the mirror, opposite the door. Richard inquires, “Do you know how to tie a bow tie? It is not an easy task!”
Maice wraps the piece of fabric around his neck. “How hard could it be?” He then wraps the ends in a wide variety of loops, twists, and knots.
After failing several times, and several moments of frustration, he rips the bow tie from his neck. “Would you like some help?” asks Ana, who is walking by, seeing Maice is staring at a red strip of fabric on the floor in frustration.
She walks over to him, picking up the tie from the ground, and ties the little bow tie around Maice’s neck. Upon completion, Maice turns to the mirror. “How’s that?” she asks.
He tugs a little at the tie, then nodding. “I guess that will do.”
Tess steps into the room. “Well, what do you think?” she says, quickly modeling her dress.
Joe looks upon her, a little surprised at what he sees. “You look different from when you were in school,” he comments incoherently.
Richard looks at his cousin. “Yeah, you do look different. But really good in this dress, though!”
Tess blushes. “Well, I’ve lost a little weight since school. This is the first chance I’ve had to wear a dress like this!”
Ana steps over to Tess. “Yes, it is a very nice dress! I almost bought it before you!” They walk out of the room, commenting on each other’s accessories.
Richard glances at his watch. “Well, we have ten minutes to get downstairs and say hi to a few of my relatives before the wedding begins. Let us be on our way!”
As they descend the grand marble staircase, the group is in awe of the lovely decor. On each side of the staircase, the white marble banisters each are wrapped with a long, silver-embroidered silk streamer. At the base of the stairs, the banisters have two large bouquets of red and pink roses, fanned out, with large bows of the same embroidered silk. The expansive main corridor is not left out; flower arraignments are near each entrance or staircase, following the same pattern as the flowers near their staircase.
Ana finds this overwhelming. “Wow! You used real silk for the streamers?” She touches one of the delicate streamers. “Embroidered on top of that!”
“Yeah,” Richard agrees. “I am sure it is hand embroidered, the flowers probably from the private garden of my mother.”
Ana continues to look about the hall. “Your parents spared no expense on getting this together!”
As they walk through the main hall to the coronation hall, they notice the flower arraignments also are on the high, vaulted ceiling, silk streamers wrapping around each of the columns along the way. Two security officers who are flanking the doors to the main assembly hall, dressed in white suits trimmed in silver, with a pink rose in their lapels, open the doors for Richard and his friends.
The coronation hall shares the same theme as the corridor, now behind them. The color scheme carries to the attire of the security guards as well as other participants in the wedding. Richard looks about the now crowded room, seeing several family heads from all about Alexandria. While Richard can recognize many of them, most are completely new faces. He knew, however, his father would make it a point of meeting every single one of them. Richard sighs since he knows there are at least two hundred fifty family heads on Alexandria alone and nearly as many on Thorvus-Maxia.
The wedding participants begin to move to their places near the platform, opposite the entrance. Richard and his friends come through the doors in anticipation of the wedding beginning. Richard scans the room.
Joe looks over the room as well. “Do you see her?”
Richard tries to locate any of the bridesmaids, to see if one is actually the bride. “Not yet, but I probably will not again until the wedding starts.” Richard starts to move down the aisle. On either side of the much wider main aisle to the stage are secondary aisles, each marked with thick braided ropes, with guards posted facing the rows of nicely upholstered chairs. The ropes, hanging between silver poles, share the silver, pink, and red color scheme, a strand being in each color. Reaching the midpoint, Richard stops. He turns back to the group. “The rest of the seating from this point is for the family.”
Ana frowns. “Oh, well,” she sighs. “I guess I’ll have to try to get a picture from the aisle, seeing how I’ll need binoculars to see the stage!” Seeing two seats, deep within the rows, Ana prepares to squeeze her way to them.
Seeing Ana wants to sit on his row, the gentleman at the end of the row stands, gesturing for Ana to stop. He then motions for the others to move down to fill in the opening. As they shuffle down, Ana looks back to Richard. “What are they doing?” she asks.
Richard smiles. “They are giving you a place to sit.” He looks up seeing everyone in the row is now settled. “The aisles from here to the back of the hall are too narrow to walk down. This is easier.”
Ana smiles. “Wow! An end chair! Now I can get a really good picture of the bride!” She quickly shoves Maice into the row, plopping herself down on the end seat. Maice is barely settled before she tosses him her purse, having extracted a camera. Maice looks at the purse, then at Ana, taking a deep breath. She turns back, now smiling coyly. “Thank you for holding it for me.” Maice looks at Richard, shooing him away from his embarrassment.
Richard continues down the aisle. He stops as Tess taps him on his shoulder. “I see my mom, and she has a seat for me.” Richard nods as she starts for her mother’s seat.
Joe puts his hands behind himself. “So where do I sit?” Richard grins, pointing to the stage. Joe stares at Richard for a moment. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I kid you not, my friend. But do not worry. You only have to sit there and look nice,” Richard heaves a sigh. “I am the one everyone will be staring at.”
As they reach the stage, Richard’s father moves to Richard. “Good, you are just in time!” He comments. “The master of ceremonies is ready to begin.”
At that moment, the older man in the Maxian party approaches the two. “If I may clarify,” he begins, “it is my understanding the reception will be held aboard the Tyberian flagship?”
The king looks over to the older man, nodding. “Yes, this is the concession I asked, which was necessary in order to accommodate the schedule of my son.”
“Had you been forthright with your concessions, I would have resolutely rejected them.” He frowns, stepping closer to the king. “I hope this is not a sign of how our unification shall proceed.”
The king steps back, bowing. “I realize the challenge this poses, and will accept any disciplinary action on behalf of the house of Tyberius personally.” He stands. “My son will be departing for an assignment shortly after the wedding.” Richard notes the mild scowl on the older man’s face. “This does not pose a challenge, does it?”
The older man purses his bottom lip. “It cannot be helped, I can only conclude,” he recants. “But I wish for you to be aware the princess concedes to this under protest!” He moves back to his seat.
Richard frowns, looking up at his father. “I was afraid this would become an issue,” the king admits, deeply exhaling in relief. He looks at his son. “I may have put you in a precarious position.”
Richard stands. “What do you mean, Father?” he asks.
His father folds his arms. “The trauma the princess experienced, I had informed you about?” Richard nods. His father continues. “It is directly linked with space travel. She has a profound fear of it.” Richard looks down. “It has taken her this long to build up the courage to finally make this trip, I was told.”
Richard stares up again at his father. “Then why did we not venture to their planet? There is no reason why we could not have the wedding ceremony there?” Richard folds his arms. “And, now that I consider the matter, it is normally customary for this to be the case.”
The king nods. “It is customary,” the king admits, “but that is what makes the matter baffling.”
Richard frowns. “It was not your idea to have it here?”
He shakes his head. “I had her interests in mind on this matter from the time of the accident. My intention was for us to make a series of trips to their world, in order for you to get acquainted.” He pauses, looking around briefly. “That is why I wanted you to write her about your trip to Earth, to invite her, as a way for you to get aquatinted on a neutral planet and even receive your education there together.” The king lowers his arms, now looking over to the master of ceremonies. “But the Maxians would not allow this.” He pauses. “As a final gesture, I proposed the wedding and reception be both on their world, since this would minimize her need to travel and allow our families to spend time together to care for the wedding preparations, and they still objected.”
Richard shakes his head in disbelief. “If they refuse to have it there, why object to this?” He sits down.
“Unfortunately, this discussion will have to wait until the wedding is over,” his father states, seeing the master of ceremonies is ready to begin. “Be astute to this matter when you are at her side during the reception. I am certain this fear may be a source of distress she will want help managing.”
Richard nods as his father takes his place, allowing the wedding to begin.
The reception, held aboard the flagship of the Tyberian Empire, carries the same color scheme as the rest of the wedding, though the copper-toned metal interior of the vessel is still visible with the pinks, reds, and silver used. Joe takes note of this as he steps off the imperial shuttle he arrives in. “I guess they didn’t have the yellow metal in mind when they came up with the colors,” he muses.
Ana, following behind him, nods. “Yes. It certainly doesn’t serve to complement the colors at all. What a shame.”
Tess steps off next. “Well, Richard told me they set this up kinda last minute, so I’m sure they would’ve addressed it better if they had time.”
Ana nods. “As well planned as everything else is, that would’ve been my guess anyway.”
Maice steps off the ship and then starts to bellow. “I managed to match perfectly with this ship!”
Ana looks back in surprise. “What do you mean?” Maice points at his crimson tie with the ghastly pattern. Ana shakes her head, smiling. “Maice, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you got a sense of humor!”
He steps off the gantry. “But I was being serious,” he comments as Ana takes his arm.
The gantry has a carpeted path with silk windscreens on either side, marking the way to the main reception area. When the group arrives, they see Richard and Rebecca standing at the entrance to greet the guests arriving. Since they are the last to arrive, Richard waves at the group as they move his way. Rebecca, though, displays less enthusiasm, perking up as they near to be attentive to their presence.
Joe runs up and grabs Richard’s hand, shaking it vigorously. “Congratulations!” he blurts. “How does it feel to be married?”
Richard grins, looking briefly at his wife, who is starting to blush. “Give me a couple of days, and maybe then I can give you an answer.” Ana and Tess also walk up to Richard and Rebecca. Richard steps over to them. “I do not believe I have introduced you to the rest of my friends yet,” he says to Rebecca. “This is my cousin, Tess Coronado, and this is Ana Santiago, who is from Earth.” He gestures toward them. “And this is Maice Bendix, a friend from my senior high school.”
Rebecca nods. “It is nice to meet you,” she says innocuously. She then takes hold of Richard’s hand, looking away toward the reception party. “Perhaps,” she starts, looking back at Richard, “perhaps we should begin with the formalities.” She starts to move toward the reception party.
Richard frowns. “There is no need to rush into this matter,” he replies, though faintly, as he is dragged along.
Maice folds his arms. “Man, she didn’t waste any time putting the shackles on him!” Ana hits his shoulder. He looks down at her. “What?”
As they follow the bride and groom into the reception area, they take in the view this part of the flagship affords them of the planet. Ana looks up in amazement. “This is incredible,” she remarks. “How could a capitol ship afford to have such a view?”
Tess steps forward. “We’re actually still in the hanger. The main bay doors, where the battleships come in, are open.” She spreads her arms wide as she steps toward the view. “This is the first naval constellation we built for the future guardian of the crown.”
Maice steps forward. “This ship is large enough to have a battleship dock within it?”
Tess nods. “And six corvettes!” She walks slowly toward the center of the room. “Not counting the fighter squadrons.”
Maice shakes his head. “This isn’t merely a capitol ship. This is some kind of mobile battle platform.” He looks at Tess. “Who are you people at war with?”
Tess frowns. “Nobody. Why?”
“Why would your people need something like this if you are at peace?” Maice insists.
Tess folds her arms. “There are worlds on the other side of the unified territories that actively dispute our boundaries. While we would prefer a more peaceful alternative,” she sighs, “the K’Nough won’t have it any other way.”
Maice nods in agreement. “That is true.”
It is then clapping is heard, and they bring their attention to the front of the room before the majestic view of Alexandria. There, the master of ceremonies, standing next to the bride and groom, is trying to get the attention of the vast group. “Peoples, peoples!” He claps again, not sure he has their attention yet. “Ladies, gentlemen, royalty and nobles, lend me your eyes and ears!” He pauses for a moment.
Once he feels reasonably sure he had the group’s attention, he continues. “Today, we are here to celebrate the union, not only of Prince Richard Tyberius and Princess Rebecca Maxia, but also, the union of these two worlds!” The group applauds.
He gives them a moment before he gestures to allow him to continue. “Here now, at the request of her majesty, the princess would like to have the first dance of the evening before the spectacular view of Alexandria.” Richard’s expression takes on one of bewilderment.
Joe grins. “And he thought those waltz and ballroom classes we took were a waste in school,” he snickers. “Well, they’re about to save his hide!”
Ana smiles. “This should be interesting.” She looks over to Maice. “Take notes, big boy, because you’re next!” Maice grasps his bow tie, noticing it tighten on him.
Joe shakes his head. “Too bad Jen isn’t here. She’d definitely make me dance too.”
Tess leans onto Joe’s shoulder. “I’m not her, but I could certainly use a dance partner.” She bares a toothy grin. “Especially one as gifted as you.”
Joe tries to move away. “Did I mention I failed that particular class?”
Richard reluctantly leads Rebecca to the dance area. He looks over to her, starting to smile nervously. “This is to be a slow waltz, right?” he whispers. She nods, moving closer to him. As he brings his arm around to her back, he notices her grasp of his hand is tensing up. He looks down briefly to make sure he knows where her feet are, to avoid stepping on them.
But when he looks up at her again, he sees she has given her attention to their view of Alexandria. Her grip tightens. “Rebecca,” he says softly. She snaps back to him, “If you do not wish to dance here, we do not have to.”
She shakes her head. “No, this is the best…” She pauses. “I … I am not really comfortable anywhere on this ship.” She starts to smile at him but quickly looks away, her smile disappearing.
As the music starts, they begin to dance about the floor, Richard deftly leading her across the expansive dance floor. Richard finds it surprising how easily she follows, he thinks, his clumsy, lumbering lead. Her movements are telepathic, even at a time when he missteps and she knows to move her foot. He sees she rarely glances to their feet, only looking straight forward to his chin.
As the dance progresses, however, Rebecca’s attention moves away from their dance to the looming view of Alexandria. With every passing moment, she grasps Richard’s hand more and more tightly. Richard notes her expression changes from an apparent apprehension to profound fear.
Once the music stops and the audience applauds the couple’s moment, she curtsies and quickly runs off. Richard stands dumbfounded in the middle of the floor before deciding to pursue.
Ana, noticing how quickly Rebecca darts away from the floor, decides to follow her as well. Ana meets with Richard in front of a restroom entrance Rebecca enters. Richard looks at Ana. She folds her arms. “Is something wrong?” she asks.
He looks down at the floor for insight. “I need to ask a favor of you,” he starts, looking up. “Rebecca has a profound fear of space travel!”
“Well, doesn’t it seem like a dumb idea to have the reception here then?” she snaps, wildly gesturing to the dance floor. She starts to say something in her native tongue, then stops, pursing her lips.
Richard raises his hands. “I do not have time to explain the matter!” he responds. “I need you to help me calm her down. I know she is scared, but I do not know how I can help.” He looks to the dance floor, seeing everyone else is continuing to enjoy themselves. “I think your expertise could prove to be invaluable.”
Ana sighs. “I’ll see what I can do.” She folds her arms. “But I don’t know how much she’ll let me help her since I’m a complete stranger.” Richard nods as she enters the bathroom.
Ana looks around, seeing she is not standing out in the open. As she glances over the various stalls, she notes each is wide open.
It is then she sees Rebecca sitting in a corner, her knees pulled up to her face. As Ana gets closer, she sees Rebecca is crying. Ana bends down to her. “Hi,” she remarks, trying to get her attention.
Rebecca looks up, wiping away some of her tears. “I am sorry, but I wish to be alone.”
Ana sits down next to her. “Your husband is concerned about you, and since he was too embarrassed to walk into the bathroom himself”—she pushes her hair off her shoulder— “he sent me in here.”
Rebecca looks intently upon Ana until it starts to unnerve her. “I am afraid to travel in space,” she admits. “It is something I have tried to avoid for as long as I can remember.”
Ana thinks for a moment. “Why have your reception in space if this fear is so strong?”
Rebecca sighs. “I was told I was making too much of my fear of space. That it was merely a fear of the unknown.” She embraces her legs. “They told me once I was here I would be fine, and it would go away.” Tears start to stream down her face again. “But it did not go away. It is worse. Every moment I am out here, all I can think about is … that day.” She stops, staring off into space.
Ana leans closer. “What day is it you’re talking about?” She touches Rebecca’s arm, pausing as she does.
Rebecca looks up at her. “That day,” she repeats. Ana experiences a passing sensation, visualizing what Rebecca is referring to as she touches her. She hears what sounds like rushing water, slowing building in volume, the sound like it surrounds them.
Ana quickly pulls away, overcome by a sudden rush of emotions. “I … I see,” she responds reluctantly, quickly standing. “I may be able to help you work through this, but it will be something you have to face head-on.” She pauses, looking away. “As much as it scares you.”
Rebecca looks at the floor before her feet. “I want to, but I cannot face it alone.”
Ana looks down at her feet, lowering herself to Rebecca again, then smiles. “You don’t have to. I will help.” She looks up at the door that is starting to open. “And Richard is sure to help you.”
Richard finally steps into the room. “I was just checking to be certain you two are well,” he says, trying to excuse his presence.
Rebecca jumps up and runs over to Richard, tightly hugging him. Richard looks at Ana and then back at Rebecca.
“She’s just a little nervous about being in space again,” Ana explains. “I think if you just spend a little time here alone with her, it’ll help.” Richard nods, holding Rebecca.
Ana nods, deciding to give them some privacy. “Good,” she says stepping up to the door. She stops, moving closer to Rebecca and whispers to her. “Don’t you worry about what’s going on out there. Take as much time as you need.”
Rebecca nods. “Thank you for your concern,” she replies as Ana leaves. She sighs restfully. “I can already feel better.”