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Our heroes relax in the aftermath of the victory over the raiders.
The surviving raiders surrendered shortly after Dr. Agrilla took his team to the Princess. Of course, the medical team and the Tartegian command crew was kept busy for quite a while after that. The Lord Captain did send a messenger after the fight, asking my permission to visit the Pauline when his duties permitted.
Once the messenger returned to his ship, Jade bristled, “Why is he asking you for permission to come aboard Dr. Agrilla’s airship?”
Taken aback by her tone, I replied, “It’s a military formality, Jade, ensuring there are no misunderstandings between our two forces. I’m sure we’ll find the Lord Captain asked Dr. Argilla before sending the messenger.”
“Oh,” she said, simply. “That’s all right, then.”
I cocked my head to one side. “Is this another one of those merchant-mentality versus military-mentality things, darling?”
“Yes, dearest, it is.” Then she giggled uncontrollably. “Do real couples actually call each other ‘darling’ or ‘dearest’ or ‘honey’ or any of those other names they use in the nickel novels? I can’t help laughing whenever we use them.”
“I’ve noticed.” My tone was dry, since I’ve spent nearly a year looking for an endearment I could use without making the love of my life roll her eyes. “Perhaps, we just haven’t found the right ones for us? I mean, Callan calls David ‘darling’ all the time, and she doesn’t sound silly.”
Jade gave a wistful sigh, “No, she doesn’t.”
“And, now that my neighborhood friends Tony and Becca are together, she lets him call her ‘babe’ all the time,” I added.
“If you even think about calling me ‘babe,’ I’ll—”
I raised my hands and shook them back and forth in negation. “I know better than to try that, Jade! I was just suggesting maybe we haven’t found words that work for us.”
Jade grinned, “I’m just yanking your chain, dearest honey bunch lovey.”
I raised a single eyebrow in response, drawing more laughter from Jade.
About an hour later, I called my Marines to attention as the Draconian Princess’s commanding officer stepped aboard. Snapping off my own salute, I said, “Please allow me to welcome you to the Pauline, Lord Captain! Lieutenant Christopher Marlow, at your service.”
An extremely well-dressed man in his late thirties returned my salute. “Thank you, Lieutenant Marlow. I am Lord Captain Antony Dewhurst. Please, let your men be at their ease.”
“At ease, men!” I barked. “You are free to go about your duties.”
“May I address your men before they disperse, Lieutenant?” the Lord Captain asked. At my nod, he smiled at the gathered Marines. “Please accept my deepest thanks for your courageous actions against the raiders, today. There is no doubt the raiders would have escaped, had you not damaged their envelope so thoroughly.”
Sergeant Timms said, “Sir, the men and me be equally thankful you and the Draconian Princess was close to hand, else they’d a had us.”
“You are most welcome, Sergeant.” The Lord Captain inclined his head graciously. Almost as an afterthought, he added, “Oh, I’ve told my purser that all aboard the Pauline shall be included when prize shares are calculated for that raider cruiser.”
Understandably delighted smiles broke out among the men, since a single share of the prize money for such a valuable catch would surpass a year’s wages. As a chorus of thank yous rose from the men, my own mind whirled at the possibilities such a reward would enable.
I would finally have the money to purchase a betrothal ring for Jade. And, there would be enough left over to establish a small household. As the pilot, Jade’s prize share would rival mine. She could afford a proper wedding gown and also have money left over to add to our home fund. Why, Jade and I could be married before the end of summer!
I broke off imagining our nearer-than-expected wedded bliss when the Lord Captain turned his attention back to me. “While the timing of our arrival was fortuitous, it was not chance that put us in this area, Lieutenant. I had orders to seek the Pauline.”
Alarm must have crossed my face, as Lord Captain Dewhurst quickly added, “Nothing is amiss at home, Lieutenant. Nor with your family, Miss Cochran. All I know is that Rupor and Callan have a proposal for you. I am to escort the Pauline back to Mordan for a meeting with both of them.”
“Begging your pardon, sir,” I said, “but could you hazard a guess as to the nature of this proposal?”
“A guess?” Lord Captain Dewhurst’s eyes lost focus for a few seconds. “Much though I wish I could say otherwise, Lieutenant, I’m afraid not. I can say, with absolute confidence, that my cousin and Callan are excited about their proposal.”
“What did Dr. Agrilla say?” Jade asked.
“He accomplished his goals among the tribes and is equally curious concerning this proposal. The good doctor agreed we should leave for Morda forthwith.”
My initial excitement at the mysterious proposal faded suddenly. “I’m afraid we cannot leave quite yet, sir. I must deal with an affair of honor.”
“So I was told.” Lord Captain Dewhurst paused for a second, then asked, “Would honor be satisfied if the offending party found himself under the direct control of a stern medical taskmaster for the duration of our three-day journey to your capital?”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“As I have a medical hold overflowing with injured airmen and raiders, Dr. Agrilla has offered the services of six of his students. They will perform limited medical care, to be sure, but will primarily be tasked with helping the wounded perform certain…necessary functions…the wounded are currently unable to perform without aid.”
“What did Lord Moron—” Jade began.
“Lord Morren,” I corrected, cutting my eyes toward the Lord Captain.
“If I’d meant Morren, I’d have said Morren,” Jade replied. “Anyway, what did he have to say about this idea?”
“Dr. Agrilla told me the man accepted with alacrity, as did his five… What was the word the good doctor used?”
“Minions?” Jade offered, a mischievous smile lighting her face.
Lord Captain Dewhurst’s laugh boomed across the deck. “Lord Moron and his Minions! Yes, Miss Cochran, that term will do quite well.”
Jade turned a suddenly serious expression my way. “Is that good enough, Chris? Can you let the matter of honor drop?”
I felt my excitement at the mysterious proposal return full force. “Yes. Lord Captain Dewhurst, we will depart when you are ready.”
Forty minutes later, the little Pauline, flanked by Draconian Princess and the hastily rechristened Jade—Jade blushed furiously when Sergeant Timms suggested it—set course for home.
What is the mysterious proposal? Learn more in Chapter 10, coming Monday.