Now available, The Fugitive Snare, book 3 of the Adventures of Matt & Michelle. Click the title to view it.
Departure day arrives.
Two incredibly busy weeks later, Jade and I rode to our waiting shuttle in an open carriage. My marines from the Pauline, led by Sergeant Timms, marched alongside the carriage as our honor guard. People thronged the route, cheering and waving at us.
We’d asked Callan, David, Rupor, and Heidi to ride with us, but they had declined.
“This is your moment,” Callan told us. “We’ll wait for you at the landing field.”
At my request, our route took us through my old neighborhood. My family was at the landing field, of course, as was Jade’s, but all my neighbors were outside, watching and waving. My old friend, Tony, waved wildly with one arm while keeping the other firmly wrapped around Becca. For her part, Becca blew kisses at me and glared daggers at jade. The rest of our old gang was there, all waving and wishing me well—except for Sam, our old leader.
He was there, of course, but Tony told me that Sam took my ascendance into the public eye rather poorly. On more than one occasion, Sam was heard muttering about people getting all high and mighty and above their stations. Had our situations been reversed, I’d like to think I’d have been supportive of Sam, but who knows?
Sooner than I expected, our carriage passed through the gates of the landing field—which is just a nice name for a big, open field where shuttles and spaceships visiting Mordan land. Today, there was just the shuttle waiting to take us into orbit. Looking at that shuttle, the enormity of what Jade and I were about to do really hit home.
“Oh my God, Jade,” I exclaimed, “we’re going into space!”
“I know, Chris.”
“And then to another planet!”
“I know that, too, Chris.”
“Us! Out there! Among galactics!”
“You’re babbling, Chris.”
Around us, our honor guard chuckled.
She leaned in and kissed me. That certainly shut me up!
When the kiss ended, Sergeant Timms said, “Boys, I think we gotta make Miss Jade an honorary sergeant, on account o’ her knowin’ how ta shut up a lieutenant right proper like!”
The carriage stopped, and Timms hurried to help Jade down. “Watch your step, Sergeant Jade.”
As I hopped down next to her, the marines snapped to attention and saluted. Timms added, “We be right proud o’ you, sir. Right proud, indeed!”
Returning their salute, I replied, “It has been an honor serving with each of you. God willing, I won’t let you down.”
“Oh, we knows you won’t, sir,” Timms laughed. “You gots honorary Sergeant Jade watchin’ yer back, and she be a right fierce ‘un where you be concerned.”
Jade hugged Timms and then we headed to our families, the two royal couples, and, unexpectedly, Dr. Agrilla. There were lots of hugs, requests to write as often as we could, admonitions to study hard, and advice to remember our Aashlan heritage and not get caught up in ‘those galactic ways.’
While she hugged Jade, Mom sniffled and said, “Take care of my baby for me, Jade.”
I’d have been embarrassed except, at the same time, Mr. Cochran gripped my shoulder and implored, “I’m counting on you to watch after my little girl, Chris.”
Our farewell from the two royal couples was similar—four hugs for Jade, two hugs and two hand-shakes for me.
Callan added, “Martin and Megan are touring some of the Federation’s rim systems. I’ve sent word asking them to look in on you if they pass near the Sescaga system.”
David advised, “While I’m not expecting either of you to wash out of the Academy, just know that it’s not a mark of shame. Two-thirds of the first-year cadets will be gone before the year is over.”
“Darling, is that your idea of encouraging them?” Callan asked. Smiling at the two of us, she continued, “What David meant to say is that you are both extraordinary young people. Try not to make the rest of the cadets look too bad in comparison.”
David nodded, “Callan is right, as always. I’ve fought and worked next to both of you and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you can do this.”
Callan patted David’s arm. “That’s much better, darling.”
Last in line was Dr. Agrilla. He smiled and enveloped both of us in a big hug. When he released us, he wore a tentative expression.
Looking at me, he said, “Lad, I know you never had time to shop for a promise ring for the lass, here. If you don’t mind a slightly used ring…”
Blinking rapidly, he put a small box into my hands. Jade and I exchanged astounded expressions.
“Well, don’t just stand there gawking, lad!” Tristan commanded, his effusive personality reasserting itself. “Open the box.”
I did, and Jade gasped when she saw the ring inside. It was a brightly polished gold band with a flawless stone of Aashlan jade mounted on it. For obvious reasons, I wanted a promise ring with a jade stone, but I would never have been able to afford such a perfect one as this.
“It was Pauline’s,” Dr. Agrilla said quietly. “Now, Nist and I want it to be yours, Jade.”
Her eyes wide in wonder, Jade breathed, “I…don’t know what to say, Dr. Agrilla.”
“Say you’ll love this scamp,” Dr. Agrilla pointed at me, “as much as Pauline loved me. I ask nothing more.”
Jade threw her arms around the doctor’s neck, kissed him on the cheek, and whispered, “I will love Chris with all of my heart and for all of eternity. Thank you.”
Echoing her words, I slid the ring onto her finger.
Suddenly, it was time to board the shuttle. We gave one last wave to everyone we held dear and to everything familiar to us, then entered the shuttle. Ten minutes later, we got our first look at Aashla from space.
“Our home is beautiful,” Jade said.
I could only nod in mute agreement. Then, the wormhole opened before us and, in the blink of an eye, everyone and everything we knew vanished from sight.
How will Jade and Chris adjust to the Scout Academy? Find out more in Chapter 14, coming Wednesday.