Callan tells our heroes an invasion fleet is approaching the wormhole to Aashla.
“An invasion fleet?” I asked.
“From the Star Empire of Cromia,” Callan responded. “Their covert attempt to gain control of our wormholes using Thor and Freya failed, so we assume they’re going for overt control.”
“What are you doing to protect yourself, Your Highness?”
“There’s a shuttle waiting for David and me in the courtyard. Another one already has Rupor and Heidi aboard and is heading for orbit.” Callan sighed, “Much as I hate to leave in Aashla’s time of need, our only hope is to convince the Federation to come to our defense. The four of us, along with Martin and Megan, will form a government in exile and negotiate with the Federation. But that doesn’t matter right now, Chris. We’ve got to get you, Jade, and your two friends away from Aashla before the Cromians trap you here.”
Jade caught my gaze, and I easily read the question in her eyes. When I nodded in agreement, she said, “Chris and I aren’t going anywhere. We’re going to stay and fight.”
“What?” Callan exclaimed.
“We’re staying,” Jade said.
“I respect your courage and determination, Jade,” Callan said, “but what can the two of you hope to accomplish against the might of a stellar empire?”
I replied, “What can you hope to accomplish on Earth? The six of you represent Mordan and Tarteg, no one else. The Federation will never send their military to Aashla if only two countries petition for aid.”
“Through the Federation consular offices, we’re asking as many governments as possible to grant us permission to negotiate on their behalf,” Callan replied. “I believe we can accomplish a lot if those governments accept our request.”
I agreed with Callan. She and David could be extremely persuasive. Add in Rupor, Heidi, Martin, and Megan and they probably could convince the Federation to intervene on Aashla’s behalf. If enough other governments acknowledged them as planetary ambassadors—and that was where I suspected the real problem lay.
“How many major governments have agreed to your request, Your Highness?” I asked.
Callan paused for a few seconds before saying, “Four.”
That was even fewer than I imagined would agree. Jade obviously thought the same thing, because she asked, “That’s all?”
“The rest think Mordan, Tarteg, and the Federation are trying to trick them into joining the Federation. Unfortunately, we can’t wait for them to realize just how wrong they are.”
“You can’t,” I agreed. “Jade and I can. Appoint us as your representatives and we’ll get your diplomatic authorizations. Once these rulers realize you weren’t trying to trick them, they’ll fall in line quickly.”
“You’re not thinking this through, Chris,” Callan said. “Those agreements won’t do us any good while we’re on Earth and the agreements are on Aashla.”
“Begging your pardon, Your Highness, but you’re not thinking this through. Jade and I are the only two people on Aashla who can both get those appointments and bring them to you.”
“Wrong,” Pete said. “Joy and I can do that, too.”
The sudden interruption surprised me. I’d almost forgotten Pete and Joy were even with us. “Sorry, Pete, but there’s no way any Aashlan ruler is going to trust a couple of non-Aashlanders.”
“That’s a good point, Chris.” Pete turned and addressed the comm, just as he would have if Callan had been with us. “Princess Callan, will you accept my oath of Mordanian citizenship?”
“And mine!” Joy added.
“Have all four of you lost your minds?” Callan asked. “Captain Wright? Are you still there?”
“I am, Your Highness,” my old Captain replied.
“Good. Would you please talk sense into these four while I give the Federation shuttle your coordinates?”
“I always make it a point of correcting junior officers when they are in the wrong, Your Highness.” Captain Wright considered for a second or two, then added, “In this case, however, I believe Lieutenant Marlow, Cadet Cochran, and their two friends are in the right.”
Callan was silent for several seconds, then said simply, “Explain.”
“Every ruler on the planet knows Chris and Jade. They will readily accept them as your representatives. Pete and Joy are obviously dedicated to their friends and benefited from the same training. Most importantly, after you leave, they will be the only people on Aashla who can pilot a spaceship to Earth.”
“But they’re are so young,” Callan protested.
“Yes, Your Highness, they are.” His lips curled up in a smile. “I believe you were barely older than Lieutenant Marlow when you first met Captain Rice and orchestrated the defeat of the Great One’s army. In truth, I can think of no one better equipped to handle this than these four.”
“You make excellent points, Captain Wright.” Callan was briefly quiet. When she spoke again, she spoke as Her Royal Highness Princess Callan, heir to the throne of Mordan. “Peter Osteen and Joy Meyer, do you swear to uphold the laws of Mordan, obey the rulers of Mordan, and defend Mordan from all threats, so help you, God?”
Eyes wide with a suddenness of it all, Pete and Joy both said, “I do.”
“I accept your oaths and welcome you as new citizens of Mordan,” Callan declared. “I pray to God I have not just condemned you to an early death.”
“It was our choice,” Joy said. Suddenly remembering her new relationship to Callan, Joy added, “Your Highness.”
“Thank you, Your Highness,” Pete added. “We won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t, Pete,” Callan said. “And now—”
“One more thing,” Jade blurted. “Can you marry Chris and me?”
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” Callan replied. “I would be honored to perform your marriage, assuming Chris is willing.”
I met Jade’s hopeful, loving gaze over the comm unit. “There is nothing in the universe I want more.”
“I was so looking forward to attending your wedding, but it appears that is not to be, ” Callan said, a wistful note in her voice. “Take each other’s hands.”
Jade and I joined hands and, with an invasion fleet bearing down on our home world, we were joined in holy matrimony and shared our first kiss as husband and wife.
Neither of us knows what the future holds, but at least we will face that unknown together, singular in spirit and in purpose.
I saluted Captain Wright. “I believe we should take leave of you and the Vanguard, sir. It would be best if Cromian forces did not link us to a Mordanian warship. Sergeant Timms, I’m afraid you and your Marines had best go with the Vanguard.”
“That be a good idea, Lieutenant. Good luck and Godspeed, Sir!” Timms said. “Miss Jade… No, that do be wrong, now. Mrs. Marlow, take care o’ the Lieutenant. He do be a young man o’ right rare ability.”
As I blushed at the Sergeant’s compliment, Jade leaned her head against my shoulder. “I know, Sergeant. Rest assured, I will take good care of him.”
Timms saluted me, adding, “Your wife be a fine woman, Sir. When them invaders be run off, tales betwixt their legs, I ‘spect Mrs. Timms will insist on havin’ ya over ta dinner so’s she can meet your missus. Don’t neither o’ you go disappointin’ her by gettin’ yourselves killed, you hear? The same goes fer Miss Joy and Pete.”
“Aye aye, Sergeant,” I replied, returning his salute.
Minutes later, Jade piloted the Pauline away from the Vanguard. We’d been away from the tribal camp for no more than an hour, but our world and our lives had changed irrevocably in that short time.
As we approached the camp, Jade gave voice to one question that was also running through my mind. “How the hell are we going to explain this to Dr. Agrilla?”
This is the end of part one of Scout’s Training. Part two will come later, probably after the third and fourth Recognition books. Your author is taking the next week off, but will return on July 17 with chapter one of The Recognition Resistance. (Yes, I know I finished that book with that title a few months ago. I’ve renamed that book The Recognition Rejection, which seems a more fitting title.)