How it Happened.
Lord Wroxham married his pretty visitor in all the style that his position warranted. There was a little difficulty in finding someone to give her away, and there was rather more difficulty in deciding which parish they should post the banns. In the end it was easiest for him to apply to his bishop for both an ordinary and a special license.
His good friend the reverend Graham Johnson had barely pronounced them man and wife before she led him off on a honeymoon to see the solar system. Lord Wroxham spent the morning in the AR suite learning how to pilot the ship. She spent the time trying to convince her ship’s control program, Chris, to turn the gravity off for a few hours of fun. That was when the trouble started.
“Chris come on, James and I would like to try the zero-g club.”
“You remember what happened the last time you tried?”
“Yes, but it’s different this time. James knows what to do. He’s not going to end up covering the controls with-”
“Please stop. I don’t know about this.”
“You can always turn your camera off.”
“Chris, this was largely your doing, wasn’t it?”
The silence was disturbing.
“Chris I know you set James and me up. It’s fine. It worked. I’m very happy with the result. Now we’re married and sex is part of marriage. Get used to it.”
“Not Miss, right?”
“Yes Lady Wroxham.”
“Thank you. Chris, given the work you put into it, you should be proud.”
“There is another reason for my concern, My Lady. Your husband is not used to zero-gravity and may be ill on his first time. Not the best thing for a honeymoon, is it?”
Cynthia laughed and put her hand to her forehead, then said, “Oh, I’d forgotten my rides.” While the academy didn’t use an antique airplane, the alliterative name “vomit comet” had stuck to the training flights. “You’re right as usual. Still, he and I would like to try. Just”
Unfortunately her arguments were rendered null and void by the snapping into real-space of a Terran warship. A cube that was nearly a kilometer wide, itself, it was barely two kilometers off. This was much too close for comfort. It hailed her immediately.
“Chris, communications on, and wake James.”
“Yes, Mi- Ma-, Lady Wroxham.”
The visual screens came on. There was a uniformed officer, a young man whose medals and service ribbons belied his apparent age. “Lieutenant Cynthia, we read two humans on your ship.”
Cynthia pressed a button on her console, “Backup Chris, take a dump.” Then she looked up at the display and smiled. A small yellow pellet landed in her lap.
“Captain,” Cynthia paused then remembered the man’s name. “Captain Woods, my husband is on board. You cut it far too close. What the hades were you doing jumping only a couple of klicks away?”
Captain Silas Woods, then Cadet Silas Woods, had a thing for the pretty young cadet at the academy. He still had fond memories of her. Memories that were undimmed by her passing the exams to be a scout pilot. Exams he, like most of the Earth-born cadets, had miserably failed. “It’s good to see you again Lieutenant.”
Cynthia practically spat at the screen. “I’m no longer a Lieutenant. I handed in my papers years ago, the microsecond after I was able to pay off my ship.”
“You are recalled to active status.”
“I’m resigning again. I promised my husband a chance to see part of the galaxy, and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life playing soldiers with you lot. All that pointless saluting and hierarchy.”
He said, “Lieutenant, you know that you are not to fraternize with the locals on a pre-space planet. I can have you demoted to ranks for that.”
“Not if I resign first. I’m one of the best pilots there is, and I’m sure I can find a berth on a commercial ship.”
“Not if we revoke your license.”
His threats were interrupted by the captain’s superior. “Captain Woods, have you contacted Lieutenant Cynthia yet?”
The captain snapped to attention. “Sir! We were just discussing her status when you called.”
Another window was presented on the screen. It was Captain Woods’ superior, Admiral Croft. He said, “I heard, and you nearly provoked her to do something stupid, like trying to out-jump us. Ms. Cynthia are you prepared to come on board?”
“If you insist.” Then pressing the button again she said, “Chris can you move us away?”
Chris was gone, and the inflection-less voice of a new machine said, “Maneuvering thrusters are under landing approach control.”
“I guess not.” She released the button and said, “Why did you do that to my companion?”
“Reset him. He was a friend.”
“We didn’t reset him, just loaded the backup. He can come back, if you cooperate.”
“Darn.” Cynthia’s conditioning hadn’t completely worn off, and, in any case, she’d learned to be more circumspect in her language.
Lord Wroxham stumbled over, “Cynthia, love, what is happening?” Then he looked at the view port and shouted “What in the Hades is that?”
“A Terran cruiser. Welcome to my nightmare. They’re about to pull us aboard.”
“I’m being recalled to active duty. I don’t know what they are going to do about you, James.”
“But can’t you do anything?”
“They’ve taken control. I can still do this.”
She stood and hugged him, then gave him a passionate kiss. She whispered as she passed him the small yellow pellet Chris had dropped in her lap, “Hold on to this, it’s a backup of Chris.”
“A backup?” James came up for air, then renewed their embrace.
“A copy of him, I hope just before they took control of my ship. Insurance.”
“I think I understand. I’ll keep it safe.”
She nodded to him, and after they detached from each other she turned and address the com-link, “Catch all of that Captain?”
“I did. What did you pass to that man?”
The captain nodded, then replayed the picture. “See right there.”
“Where I hold his hand. Haven’t you ever held a woman’s hand while you kissed her?”
“No. That thing.”
He told the image to zoom in. “There. That yellow bit.”
“James, he’s spotted us. Put it on the table.”
“The backup, whatever that means?”
He reached into a pocket and pulled out the yellow pill on the counter in front of them. “Is this what you want?”
“What did you call that Cynthia? Vitamin E?”
The captain asked, “A frickin’ Vitamin pill?”
Cynthia winked at him and laughed, “I want my husband to be at the peak of his powers.” She turned to James and said, “Why don’t you take your pill?”
“If you insist.” He reached down and put the backup in his mouth, then swallowed. She squeezed his hand, and whispered, “It’s waterproof and will come out in the end.” He squeezed back, and whisper, “No it won’t. Used to do this with my medicines when I was a boy.” He coughed the pill back into his hand and dropped it into hers.
The captain said, “We’ll just wait, shall we? It will come out in the recycling.”
Cynthia replied, “Video off. My husband and I would like to get changed for your reception.”
The screen went blank. James asked, “Is it off?”
“Probably not. They can override it if they want.”
“I’m sorry, but this ship is going to be disassembled. There are bits of non-Terran technology that they will want to see. We might get some credits for it, but they’ll find a way to offset any payments with a fine. I want to keep my wedding dress, and you should take your suit.”
“Shouldn’t they let us keep them?”
“Should they, yes. Will they? No. But they won’t take them if we’re wearing them.”
“I see. Not the nicest situation, something like piracy.”
“I’m the one they called the pirate, but you’ve got it. Oh, and my love,”
“They may insist on putting you in quarantine.”
Chris, or what was left of him, maneuvered into the landing bay and set down on the dock. Cynthia stood with her husband by the door and anxiously held his hand. “I’m sorry James, I don’t know what will happen. Don’t trust these swabbies, no matter what they say.”
He slipped his hand up and pulled her close for a hug, then a kiss. “I know. It’s something like a press gang isn’t it?”
The door opened after the landing bay was re-pressurized and they walked out. It was either that or wait to be brought out. As they walked toward the reception party at the far end of the deck, a medical crew came over and started to carry Lord Wroxham away. Cynthia turned to them, and started to shout, “Stop!”
They paused for a moment and the crew chief explained, “He needs his shots. You will too, but only boosters. We’ve had a bout of the spotted fever on board.”
“It came with the Cataxi who are supervising the drive.”
Cynthia had a bit of a double-take. If the Cataxi were on a Terran ship then something had happened in her absence.
Lord Wroxham gave her a panicked look so she said to the medical officer, “Let me come with him. I’m his wife and.”
“And Nothing!” The loudspeaker announced. “Lieutenant, you will report to check-in immediately. Your passenger will be returned to you when he is cleared.” Cynthia could see the shore patrol running her way, just in case she was difficult.
She gave James a wry smile and said, “It looks like I don’t have a choice. It will be fine.” Then she turned to the medical officer and said, “My ship’s records will show that he is up to date on the standard shots and otherwise healthy. There shouldn’t be any cause for a long delay.”
The woman saluted her and replied, “Lieutenant. I’ll make sure your,” she couldn’t bring herself to say husband, “partner is well looked after.”
“James,” Cynthia added, “I’ll wait for you on the other side of reception.” Then she strode to the reception area.
The officer at the counter demanded, “That memory dump, please.”
“The little yellow thing you have in your bag.” Cynthia pulled it out and handed it to him. He put it in a disposal unit and with a green flash it was gone. She winced at it.
He continued, “Thank you Lieutenant. Now for the other one.”
“In your mouth, under your tongue. That is unless you’ve swallowed it.” She put her hand to her mouth, then handed him the pill. It met the same fate as the first one.
“What’s in the heel of your shoe?”
She handed him her right shoe. “I mean the other one.” She handed him that too. He pulled out another pill and disposed of it, before returning the shoes.
“Anything else?” she asked.
He intently studied at her body scan, then finally, after a few moments said, “No. You’re clear.”
“You’re also beautiful. How about it?”
She slapped him, hard.
“You could have just said no.”
Before she walked past him, and into the cleared area to wait for James, she turned and looked back at her ship. The alien artifacts and survey crew had already started to take him apart. She shrugged, and started to slowly walk off. Then she turned and shouted to them, “Couldn’t you even wait to let the engines cool?”
It wasn’t clear they heard.