Note: This chapter took me longer that usual. New job, family commitments and a lack of free time just delayed this.

Chapter 10 - Martine

The shuttle that left Lobnas carried a tired Admiral and Kilo-Commander to the Heirbyrsh. When they woke up in the morning they gave each other a warm smile. There was a realization that now their relationship has now become deeper. Promises were made and the hope for a family together stood in their future like a beacon to reach.

It did take some time for Lafiel and Jinto to dress and make their way to the shuttle. Noting the broken lamp in the room caused Lafiel to blush and Jinto to ask Tomasof to sent any repair bills to the Heirbyrsh supply officer, Nelson. For now, they sat next to each other in the passenger compartment of the shuttle. Talking about whatever came to mind in the short time they had until they reached the fleet.

"Jinto..?" Lafiel asked.

"Yes Lafiel."

"When we are back on the Heirbyrsh..." sounding a bit hesitant.

Jinto turned to look at her and held her hand. Seeing the red in her cheeks, he knew she was going to ask something personal but she was embarrassed...even considering everything they did the prior night...and early this morning. "You can say anything you want Lafiel." he added in a soft voice.

"um...would you find it acceptable if we share quarters on the Heirbyrsh?" she completed her thought.

A big smile came across his face and he quickly gave her a kiss and responded "I would be happy to share your quarters. I would love for your face to be the first thing I see when I wake precious princess."

"Baka" and she returned the kiss. However, they had to stop the public displays of affection because the shuttle docked with the flagship of the Futune scouting fleet and their roles were now Admiral and Chief-of-Staff.

Teal Clint was sorting through a small pile of papers. All of them from cabinet members and most of them, according to Teal, had idiotic and repetitive questions for Jinto. 'Can you guarantee that the empire will not invade?' 'Will the empire allow Martine to have their own spacecraft?' 'Will you give Martine control of the depot?'

If it wasn't for the fact that this would be a serious meeting, he would be laughing out loud. It would appear that the Finance Minister, Frederick Seller, had valid questions concerning permanently stationing trade ships in the system. Teal was afraid that Jinto would tear them apart. Remembering how Rock Lynn was, Jinto was similar in his belief on how Martine could benefit being part of the empire. What worried Teal was that Jinto is a much more personable and friendlier person than Rock. With his smile and attitude, he could come across as your best friend from school yet he became a tough negotiator. SoSo, he sat in his office waiting the three weeks before Jinto would arrive with the Futune scouting fleet.

That was another issue.

Although he would not say it overtly, behind Jinto was the military power of the empire and a direct line to the empress. He knew that he would not flaunt it or use that connection but the cabinet would never believe that. Fear was never logical.

So he sat in his office and stared out his window. The midday sun, on Martine, was high in the sky. Today was eclipse day. It occurred twice a month. It was not the Martine moon, Signus, that was the focus of the eclipse it was the depot. Ever since the depot was built, people would always notice a dark spot that would travel in front of the sun twice a month. Yet now that the depot had expanded to triple its original size, that spot grew and the citizens of Martine noticed and they called the police and government looking for explanations, when it was first noticed.

Officially it was call "Depot Eclipse Day" but in reality, most people referred to it as "The Hyde Eclipse". A recognition on the importance of the Hyde depot and who was up there looking down. As Teal looked at the depot slowly moving across the face of the sun, there were three monitors turned on in his office. Two of them were set to the state sanctioned broadcast channel but the third, the Martine Independent Channel(MIC) was a recently formed independent channel that annoyed the hardliners.

In order to separate them from the other two channels, they received permission from the depot to permanently station a crew aboard in order to give regular reports. Jinto had approved it just so the planet was kept aware of what was happening and try to promote a better view of the empire. Slowly it did have its affect. When the new additions were added to the depot, MIC spent a week transmitting stories from the depot. It became highly rated and compromised the government's position. Not the least of the problems were that the people of Martine saw friends or family members working and enjoying their time on the depot.

Indirect subversion.

It would take two weeks for the Futune to travel from the Lobnas system to the Hyde system. In that interim, it becomes like most time on ships during wartime. Drills followed by paperwork followed by more drills with long stretches of boredom. Yet two people found a personal way to relieve the boredom and stress that follow the fleet. They shared time with each other.

Within an hour of returning to the Heirbyrsh, Lafiel requested that the supply officer officially relocate the Chief-of-Staff to the quarters of the Admiral. Lafiel used that language however Kilo-Commander Nelson picked up on the meaning and did not ask the embarrassing "then where would the Admiral reside?" It did not take long for the entire fleet to find out what had happened. The ABHs allowed "involved" crew members to share quarters. It was just who these two were that made this notable.

For the duration of the trip, Lafiel and Jinto woke up together. They shared their meals together but usually in the ships mess hall. Being the flagship of the fleet, it had the best equipped mess but having private meals, unless you were in sickbay, was frowned upon by the ABH. TSo the crew of the Heirbyrsh became accustomed to see the Admiral and Chief together and they became somewhat comfortable with their relationship being public. At least it was a good learning experience before they faced the imperial court at Lakfakalle. Jinto was also trying to teach Lafiel how to speak Martinese. There was a method to this madness.

One day they were just waking up. Bodies intertwined. It was the way they were. Smiling at each other as they opened their eyes and then a deep kiss. It was the honeymoon phase without the marriage. Then the obvious question from Lafiel. "Do you believe that this will help the empire?"

Caressing the cheek of his princess "I have no doubt. Just the fact that Martine will learn that a princess of the empire has made the effort to learn their language will at least make them reconsider their resistance. All I am looking for is a crack."

"And you think enough will find out about this?" she questioned.

"No doubt. Since we allowed that broadcast station on the Depot, there have been continuous stories about the depot and the empire sent down to the planet. It may be only the third rated channel but enough people view it to make an impact." responded Jinto. Then he continued "Then I found out their initial broadcast from the depot for one week even surpassed the official channels. We are looking to make a dent. A complete reversal is too much to ask for."

"So" Lafiel responded with a smirk "you are using me to endear yourself with Martine?" She moved her hips a bit noticing a physical response from Jinto.

"Well..I um..." Jinto was having a difficult time concentrating "in a roundabout way, well yes. You do not have to do this."

"My Baka" as she pulled him close "I love doing this. I believe it is time that Martine embrace the empire as I do you. There will be no harm to them and perhaps we can remove the stigma from your father's action."

"That would be great, if possible" responded Jinto. "I only wish..."

"Wish what?" asked Lafiel.

"I wish that I could bring you down and show you my planet. It has been a long time and there are so many things I wanted to see."

"One day my love, one day." and she gave him a long and deep kiss. As the kiss ended "In the meantime we need to dress and report for duty, Chief-of-Staff."

"Yes Admiral, would you like to go first..." his comment was terminated when Lafiel jumped off the bed and started to drag Jinto towards the bathroom.

"I believe" she said with a twinkle in her eye "that we need to conserve water on this ship."

"There is no water problem onboard the...ugh!" and with that the door to the bathroom closed and our two lovers conserved water in the shower.

In the Nova Sicily star system, delegates from the three members of the alliance were gathering in an emergency conference. Hania, which had been a member at the alliance's inception, was no longer participating due to the truths revealed about the start of the ware. However, they did send Ambassador Taroun and his assistant Kuihan to convey details about what happen on Delta Four and the reaction of the ABH empire and Hania's displeasure that this occurred.

The reports had been spreading like wildfire. Not only did Hania sent detail reports to the three members, the United Mankind, Alcont and the Sovereign Union, but also graphic details. When the empire then released Lafiel's uncensored report, it would be natural that it would also reach the various star systems under control of the Alliance. The United Mankind had hoped to limit the damage but that was not the case.

It ended up a shouting match with Alcont and the Sovereign Union against the United Mankind. The threat to the alliance was real.

"Hania" as Ambassador Taroun was concluding his speech "left the alliance because of the way that the United Mankind started this war. We appear to be vindicated by these latest revelations. The details have spread throughout our system and at this point we feel that the ABH would be better allies than the UMK. That not only states volumes about what the ABH are but also what the UMK is not. We have been instructed to tell you that when Mister Kuihan and I leave, not only will our personages be leaving but also Hania. Perhaps one day we may come together again."

With that the ambassadors left the remaining alliance members to sort out their issues.

Teal Clint was sitting in his office reviewing the numerous documents and requests that pass through every day. For the president of the planet, it was not an overly large office. Enough to have one desk with the associated electronic equipment and three guess chairs. The flag of Martine hanged on a staff over his right shoulder. There was a pair of couches and several upholstered chairs surrounding a small table for larger group discussions. Off to his left were a wall of video monitors. Each monitor had one of the major three broadcast stations as well as a couple of the minor entertainment stations. There were four monitors on his secretary's office so that he could see who was waiting to come in and talk to him. Also, in that office, was the obligatory side door so he would leave the complex without having to walk through the main escape route.

Yet now he was concentrating on one monitor, the one locked on the MIC (Martine Independent Channel) station. It had interrupted normal broadcasting to show the arrival of an ABH fleet, the Futune. Teal knew they were coming but to have their arrival broadcast so openly defeated the purpose of trying to have a subdue meeting with Jinto.

As much as this aggravated him, he did manage to send a text message to his wife, Lina.

'Lina, look at MIC now. Jinto is arriving.'

Lina Clint was having a morning get together with some of the spouses of various cabinet ministers and department heads. It was a weekly occurrence with different groups of people. Although the government would argue vocally about planet policies and direction, Lina thought that having civil conversations with the spouses would help mitigate the political hostilities.

Sitting in a café with eight others, it was a pleasant morning. Ellen Trammel. The wife of the interior secretary and her best friend, of all the spouses, was there. Mary Coleman, wife of the Interior Minister, and Frederick Puglia, husband of the Commerce Minister Julia Puglia, was also part of this group. Of course, Mary tended to be a bit less personable than the rest of the spouses but was almost expected being married to the Interior Minister.

Yet now Lina was reading the message from Teal. The excitement on her face was noticeable and gathered a couple of comments from those around her. She ignored the questions and asked the café owner if the monitor could be switched to the MIC station. That was no problem although Mary Coleman did mumble under her breath. That was expected since she was also, like her husband, not a fan of the Depot and she suspected why Lina was so excited.

"This is Luis Morales of MIC at the Hyde Station bringing you the arrival of an ABH fleet live for the first time! "

For Luis Morales this was the story he was waiting for. He spent the past couple of months reporting on various parts of the depot. In fact, he started calling the place the "Hyde Space Station". Which annoyed the planet authorities to no end. Now an ABH fleet was approaching! Not only that but the commander was an ABH princess and the chief of staff was Count Hyde himself. If rumors were correct they were a couple. This was the chance he was waiting for.

'Don't screw this up Luis' he kept telling himself. Repeating it over and over like some sort of mantra.

Suddenly over his headphones came a "Luis what is going on out there?" He was so mesmerized by watching the fleet that he forgot to talk. A major issue for an on-air reporter.

"Sorry about that." He responded "As you can see the Heirbyrsh, flagship of the fleet, is approaching dock number one. We are here on the observation deck over the docks and watching at the ship approaches. This is one of the heavy cruisers in the fleet and they have seen quite a bit of action recently."

The images broadcasted were of the Heirbyrsh slowly maneuvering into the dock. Behind it the rest of the fleet scattering to the various docks, both attached to the station and those on independent nodes. Half of the fleet was reforming to head towards the Vorash system. With the limitations that Martine had on visitors from the empire, it was felt that half of the Futune would have shore leave at Vorash.

Then Luis added "we are at the access gate at this dock and are awaiting the admiral. I have been granted just a few moments to ask questions."

As the image pulled back, you saw station master Samson along with his technical advisor Paveryua and provisional civilian administrator Paul Colbert. Seelnay, as always, was just behind them perpetually jumping waiting for her chance to see the princess again. There was quite a crowd around the dock waiting to see the admiral and the count. After all, it is not every day that you can meet a future empress of the empire or the man for which most of them owe their livelihoods for.

The computer, onboard the Heirbyrsh, announced that the docking tube has been secured and pressurized. The door on the warship then shook and slowly opened. Lafiel and Jinto had a direct view of the dock and all of the people there.

"Jinto" Lafiel said with a bit of hesitation "I would feel better going into battle than this."

He put his hand softly on her shoulder "Lafiel, you have been getting better at these social events. Just take it easy and smile. You are better at this than you realize." He dropped his hand and then held Lafiel's. Giving her a squeeze and a warm smile. "As empress you need to smooze with a lot of different people".

Turing to look at him with a look of annoyance "Say that again and you may need to visit sick bay!"

"Yes, my precious imperial princess."

"Baka!" was her response and a quick kiss on the lips.

From the screen, Lina saw an image of the gate and a long clear tube that connected the dock with the Heirbyrsh. Suddenly she saw blue…blue hair….it had to be the princess. Behind the blue hair was someone with brown hair. Her Jinto!

Lina had tears rolling down her cheeks but no one at the table notice. They, as well as everyone in the café, were glued to the screen. Watching something that had never occurred. The peaceful arrival of an ABH fleet to the Hyde system. As Lafiel and Jinto exited the gate, a broad smile came across Lina. Her boy was almost home. 'I need to get up there' was the one thought going across her mind.

Ellen finally noticed, leaned over to give Lina a handkerchief to wipe the tears and whispered "There is a daily shuttle up to the station. If he can't come down here why don't you…."

Lina turned to her friend smiled and nodded. Ellen continued "and maybe I will tag along too!"

Both laughed while planning their small act of subversion.

After greeting Samson, Paveryua and the rest of the dignitaries there, the reporter from MIC was standing nearby ready to explode waiting for his chance. When the signal came Lafiel and Jinto turned and let his have his moment.

"Admiral…um your highness" Luis started speaking in very broken Baronh. It was then that Lafiel raised her hand to stop him and then she spoke in almost perfect Martinese.

"Sir, I can speak Martinese quite well." Looking to Jinto "I had an excellent teacher. Also, please call me Admiral."

"Yes Admiral" as he returned back to speaking in Martinese and the risk of an intergalactic incident greatly reduced. "How long are you planning to be in the Hyde system?"

"Perhaps two weeks. This fleet needs some rest and my chief of staff has some business with the station and perhaps with the planetary government."

"Will you be spending any time on Martine?"

Jinto was about to answer but Lafiel lightly put her hand on his shoulder stopping him. Continuing to look into his eyes she said "I would like to see the planet. My chief-of-staff has told me so much about it. However, as long as he cannot step foot on Martine, I feel that I cannot and I do not believe that the government would want me." They continued to look and smile at each other.

Jinto blinked and looking at Luis said "We may end up taking the remainder of the fleet to Vorash. Shore leave at the station will be good but I think most of the crews want to feel solid ground. Even the Abh crewmembers tend to like the various planets we visit"

Lina turned to Ellen and said, "If they will not let him down here, then we are going to make a trip later this week."

Ellen just nodded to Lina.

In his office, Teal was staring at the video monitor and laughing. 'Touché' he thought to himself. 'Rock would be so proud of you.'

Turning to the cabinet members sitting in his office "The ball is now in our court. How do we respond without sounding like a bunch of idiots!"

The silence was deafening.

Half of the Futune's ships had departed for the Vorash system. The rest remained in the Hyde system. It took the bulk of the first day to secure all of the remaining ships and arrangements. Temporary sleeping quarters were already set up in the military section. Simple bunks and rooms depending upon the rank and requirements of each crew member. Of course, the crews rotated a watch on each ship daily.

However, for someone like Lafiel and Jinto, their quarters were somewhat more…. expansive. Samson made sure that a large apartment, several rooms to be exact, were dedicated to the family of Count Hyde. Present and future. At the moment that meant only one person, Jinto. Being warned beforehand, he had Lafiel and Jinto's baggage moved to that apartment. He also did not tell Seelnay about those arrangements.

"Pleeeeeeeese princess, may I draw a bath for you?" came the ever-constant question from Seelnay.

Like a mountain being worn away by erosion, Lafiel gave up and agreed. It took Seelnay all of twenty minutes to get the answer she wanted. At the doorway, she stopped and with a confused look on her face said "But this is Count Hyde's apartment. Where is the princess going to stay?"

They walked in with a smirk on their faces while Seelnay just registered confusion. After they walked into the apartment, Jinto put his arm around Lafiel's waist and pulled here close. Not five feet in front of Seelnay, they looked into each other's eyes and then deeply kissed…making some interesting noises. Seelnay was dumbstruck. She stood there with her mouth opening and closing but with no sound being made. She was there at the promotion ceremony and saw…'oh kay' she thought 'this changes things'.

She cleared her throat to get their attention "Count Hyde, the bath is only for the princess! If you want one, I suggest that you talk to Samson! Princess, in five minutes I'll be ready." Seelnay then turned and headed straight towards the bathroom.

Jinto and Lafiel just stood in each other's arms and stared as Seelnay walked away. It was Samson that quietly walked up behind them and said.

"Don't even think it."

For the crew members of the fleet, a space station can offer amenities and diversions that are never available aboard a warship. This station now had the capacity to house ten thousand permanent residents and almost half as many temporary. This meant that there were plenty of shops and cafes from Martine and around the empire that could interest anyone. Jinto and Samson made sure that there were parks and recreational areas throughout the station. It was a city and Jinto wanted to ensure that people wanted to be there.

In one spot, near Jinto's apartment, was a small park called the "Enchanted Woods". It was an attempt to created a small version of the enchanted forests that made up Martine's most famous landmark and one of Jinto's favorite places when he was a child. It also served as a bit of advertising for the landscaping company that wanted to expand from Martine throughout the empire.

Jinto was sitting on a bench in this particular park with Lafiel. Both were reviewing paper and documents as part of their normal life. Lafiel was taking care of requests from the palace and Jinto was dealing with the needs of the station. They sat under the rainbow canopy created by the trees. The trunk of these trees was devoid of branches. Only at the top did the branches spread out horizontally. With a grove of trees, the effect was almost as if you were under a living roof. The light above dappled through the leaves giving the effect of a morning mist. The leaves themselves were multi-colored, a result of the genetic tinkering of Martine's horticulturists. Long strips of moss hung down from these branches. Giving the entire area a mystical aura. It only gave a small impression of how the forests in Martine are.

Lafiel was enjoying the time here. Probably more peaceful than anything at the capital. She made a mental note to tell her father and the empress the need to make such an area at the palace. For now, they sat there enjoying their time together, working and waiting.

Waiting for Samson and the provisional civilian administrator, Paul Colbert, to arrive. Although Samson had hired Paul to handle the civilian administration of the space station, Jinto needed to interview and approve the choice. He was the boss of everyone at the station. So the three of them found some chairs and sat together. Lafiel was off a way still sitting on the bench but could hear the entire conversation. Her hearing was legendary and infamous among the ABH.

"So, Samson had told me that you need to be on the planet this weekend for your sister's wedding?" was the question Jinto asked halfway through this "interview". It was an odd "interview" from Paul's perspective. It tended to be more of an informal conversation than anything resembling a job interview. They talked about their childhood and their lives up to that point. Paul learned more about Jinto in those few minutes than he had previously. Likewise, the same for Jinto had gathered more than what he learned from Samson.

"Yes sir. I am to be one of the groomsmen for my future brother-in-law."

"Please try to call me Jinto. I am not fond of "Sir" or "Count". Will it be a large wedding?"

"She is my only sister sir…….Jinto. She wants, to quote her, a "kick-ass" wedding. So yeah it will be big and my father will lose the rest of his hair."

Small chuckles came from the three knowing what would entail for Paul's father.

Jinto continued "I will probably have to meet with the government this weekend on the floating platform. You can come with me on the station's transport and not have to wait for the daily one. "

"Thank you Jinto. That would be a great help."

"No problem but…" Jinto looked at Lafiel and she gave an inquisitive look back as if asking 'what is it?' "I may ask a favor of you and your sister."

"Sure, just ask." Paul stopped and then asked the question that had been bugging him for a while "So do I have the job?"

Laughing "Of course you do! Samson trusts you and had said good things about how you handled everything at the stations. I wanted to talk to you and feel comfortable. In that regards you passed with flying colors."

"Thank you sir."

Samson finally said "I told you there was nothing to worry about. So let's get going there is some paperwork we need to finish up."

They left and as Lafiel walked up to Jinto she asked "What favor do you have to ask him and his sister?"

Jinto just smiled at her and started "Well…"

"Sir, we have an incoming call from the Hyde Depot. It is Count Hyde wanting to talk with you." It was the call that Teal was expecting and in some regards dreading. Although the ruling government, on the planet, wanted to talk to Jinto concerning various issues, Teal was worried about the repercussions of those talks. People were now viewing the empire in a positive light and it would only get more so. Jinto was as formidable as his father was. Yet since he had such a pleasant and friendly personality, he could deal with people on a much different level than his father. It didn't hurt that behind him stood the power of the imperial throne.

So Teal took a deep breath and turned on his video conference center to talk with Jinto.

"Hello Jinto" Teal said to the image on his screen "you are looking well."

"Thank you, Teal" Jinto said with a broad smile "Life has been treating me well. You look good and how is Lina doing?"

"Lina is sad that she does not get a chance to see you. I convinced her not to travel to find you because of the war zones that you operate in and that is making it worst for her. When you meet with the government, she will be there and you can spend some time together. Maybe she can spend a couple of days at the station."

Jinto had a sad look on his face as Teal talked about Lina but then he looked up and asked "The station? What no depot anymore?"

Teal laughed "Yeah I have to admit you have a fully functioning space station not just a fuel depot. I cannot turn a blind eye to the obvious." Both of them then laughed. "Also, I do miss you as well."

"Well the three of us can spend some time on the platform. By the way, would you be ready for this weekend? The sooner the better."

"I will send you the confirmation later. Is the princess coming as well?"

"Well that is a question I want to ask…well actually it is a request…..maybe a favor." Jinto could see the confused look on Teal's face. Continuing "You see our civil administrator will be coming down to attend his sister's wedding."

"Yes, the Colbert wedding. Lina and I were invited because Lina is a close friend of Claire Colbert but I could not attend. You know my image and the fact that their son works for Count Hyde." He emphasized the ending by making it sound snooty.

"Okay enough of that. I know that I am not allowed on the planet but you never said that an ABH was not allowed. So, I am asking if an ABH from the station would be granted permission to witness a wedding on Martine."

"An ABH? Just any old ABH?" Teal teased.

"Let's say a representative of the imperial government."

Teal questioned "A representative of….."

"Okay damnit!" Jinto interrupted "Lafiel! I am asking if the government will allow Lafiel to attend the Colbert wedding?"

"Awfully sensitive about this. Aren't we? Is it that important to you?"

"Yes, it is. Well she is that important to me."

"I heard rumors about her promotion ceremony and something about her chief of staff. But you want her to see a wedding?"

"Yeah to see how it is done there."

"What do you.." Teal stopped for a while and thought for a while and then "Jinto this is serious."

"Yes, Teal it is." Looking at the man that was more of a father to him than his biological father "Under different circumstances and if this was on Martine, then you and Lina would be meeting a daughter-in-law."

The smile on Teal's face spoke volumes "We have a meeting this afternoon and I will give you back an answer tonight."


Message: To Count Jinto Hyde at Hyde Space Station

Reference: Meeting with President Teal Clint and Cabinet

Body: Meeting will occur on the orbiting platform at 11 AM local time this Saturday. Arrive via corridor 3C by 10 AM. Notify security gate 10 prior to departure. You will be allocated unlimited time to remain at the platform.

Request for guest access to the planet surface has been approved. Security to be arranged by presidential security office. The first lady, Lina Clint, will accompany the guest to the Colbert wedding and reception. No public announcement of this visit will be made.

Office of the President of the Planet Martine.

The transportation shuttle between the planet Martine and the Hyde station departs three times a day. There are two shuttles, one leaves the planet and the other leaves the station at the same time. There is a spare at each location to handle emergencies and VIPs. Today the VIPs are the Princess and the Count. These two, along with Paul Colbert, Seelnay and a small security detail, left the Hyde station at 6AM planetary time. The trip would take three hours to complete. Afterwards Paul Colbert will participate in his sister's wedding and Lafiel has been given permission to attend. Seelnay, well lets say that she wants to protect the princess, being a vassal of Debus, yet more importantly she was the date of Paul Colbert.

The floating platform is somewhat of a misnomer. It uses a combination of mechanical engines and gravitational magnets to maintain a constant distance from the surface of Martine and close to Grandon City. The energy to keep it in position was significant yet it had to be maintain so that the daily shuttles to and from the Hyde Station had a place to land.

It would have been easier to have a space platform like in the Deltoke system but the attitude of the government in Martine prohibited that.

Now a VIP shuttle was approaching the floating platform. Waiting for them was the president of Martine, Teal Clint, the cabinet and several spouses including Lina Clint. Off to the left side of the platform were chairs arranged in a circular formation. Jinto had insisted on this and that no tables were to be part of the setup. Hopefully this will lead to a less formal meeting. On the right side were several vertical craft that took brought people up to the platform from the access point on the planet. Because of the constantly moving nature of the platform, no fixed vertical lift tubes could be constructed.

Lafiel stared out of one of the side windows and saw everyone gathered. It she was to meet with Teal and the cabinet, there would be no problem. It was Jinto's request that she witnesses a wedding ceremony that brought about fear. Such social events were still caused trepidation in her. Although she had gotten better in the past couple of years, with Jinto's help, it did not come naturally for her. Unlike her father that almost relished in social events. Maybe a reason why he did not rise up in the ranks to challenge Dusanyu to become the next emperor.

"Lafiel, are you ready." Asked Jinto.

"Yes, yet I am relying on Seelnay" she looked over her shoulder at one who she has come to trust "and to Lina to assist" as she let out a deep breath. "I am also curious on these lander traditions and to be a tool in my love's scheme."

Jinto gave he a look of surprised and replied "what …who…me? How could you think.."

"Jinto, do not get yourself all worked up. I can read you better than anyone else. " She looked at him and her mouth was upturned somewhere between a smile and a smirk. Placing her hand on his cheek and stroking it every so slightly "I know you really want me to experience this but I also know that you have been trying to get Martine to accept the ABH and having me there could only help."

"But..I …" getting nervous that he was so transparent to her.

"Do not worry" Lafiel continued "I am looking forward to this and to spend some time with Lina."

It was not Jinto's turn to exhale. "I am glad you are fined with that. It you change your mind, just tell me."

"Do not worry Jinto" as the shuttle's door opened and as they were just about to exit "after all if we lived on Martine, she would be meeting her daughter-in-law!" Now Jinto definitely saw a smirk and quickly Lafiel gave a quick kiss on the cheek as they departed the shuttle.

Martine does not get many important visitors requiring a formal reception. In the case of the Count and especially of the princess, protocol demanded it. Even though the government was antagonistic against the empire, these actions were needed. SoSo, with Teal Clint and the Martine cabinet, and their spouses, on the platform, Count Jinto Hyde and Princess Abriel Nei Debrusc Borl Paryun Lafiel walked down the platform to meet the government officials.

Although this was a formal reception, Jinto only agreed to this if they could have an informal meeting. In that regards Jinto was wearing dark trousers over brown boots and an open collar green shirt and his favorite black leather jacket. Lafiel, because of the wedding, was in a long light green dress that reached her ankles with long sleeves. It was a tight-fitting dress so that her figure was on display, not that Jinto minded. She kept her hair in a high ponytail and wore a fancy alpha with a green precious stone in the center. It almost gave the sense of a tiara.

The Martine officials were dress in what would be considered "business casual". All neat and proper, much in the setting of how this meeting was to occur. Lina was a bit more formal wearing a long lilac dress with a high waist. The media made sure to remark on all of this. Oh yeah, the media was invited. Teal had quietly contacted each of the major media groups so that this would be presented to the planet. And they jumped at the chance. Jinto noticed them, in the background, and smile to himself.

'This might go better than I hoped' he thought to himself.

It was after the formal greetings that Lina was able to come up to Jinto. Both stood looking at each other for a couple of minutes but couldn't move. A handshake seemseems so trivial. When it appearsseem that she had enough, looking directly into his eyes, with a forcefulness that most did not see witness, she said "Jinto Lynn! Get over here and give me a hug!"

He put his arms around her and squeezed to make up for the years they had been apart. "I really missed you and Teal, Lina".

"and I missed you….son." she looked into his eyes and he saw the tears that threaten to ruin the makeup she had put on. The citizens of Martine saw the tender moment when the first lady of the planet gave a heartfelt hug to Count Hyde, the sworn enemy and son of the traitor. The broadcasters tried to explain what was happening but, in the end, they just said it was a case of a family that was seeing each other after a long absence. They let the images speak for themselves.

Soon enough, Paul Colbert needed to get to his sister's wedding. So, he, Seelnay, Lina and Lafiel left the platform in one craft towards the surface where several uusias and a security detail were awaiting.

The site was a building on the outskirtsat the edge of Grandon city. It was nestled at the edge of the Martine's enchanted forest. At first, Lafiel sat in the uusia and started at the forest. Even the modest version at the station was paled in comparison with this. A fully mature forest with trees towering into the sky. The various colors were brilliant and the dripping mosses, from the canopy, just enhanced the fairy tale quality of the scene.

She sat there for several minutes before Lina spoke and said "This is the pride of every citizen of Martine. We nurture and protect this forest as a memorial for those before us and to everyone that will come in the future".

"It would be a shame" Lafiel answered "if anything destructive would happen here." She then something unusual for her, she held Lina's hand and looking into eyes said "I know now all the reasons why Jinto loves his home and misses it every day."

"Dare I say, princess, that this love also extends to outside this planet." As they looked at each other for a few seconds, they broke into slight giggles.

"Well if we are done here" said Seelnay "I think we have to get inside so we can find seats and Paul can get with the groom".

"Yeah", Paul added "plus I have to talk to my sister. I told her that I was brining extra guests. Just not whom they were."

"I hope she likes surprises." Lina laughed.

As Paul stepped out of the uusia, he noticed the guests standing around the entrance waiting to get in. It was when Seelnay exited that the cat-calls started. Not to say that it was unexpected considering she was attractive and wearing a little black dress.

"What did you have to pay her to be your date?" said his best friend Fred Paulson.

"Shut up you idiot" he jokingly responded "It's my natural charm and personality that captured her!".

"Careful desk jockey" came from Seelnay "or that natural charm and personality will end up being bruised and in pain" as she came close and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

All conversation ended as Lina exited the uusia. She was recognized immediately and no one expected someone of her stature to attend. What caused an absolute lack of noise was when Lafiel walked out. Since no one there had ever seen an ABH up close, this was a shock to everyone. She looked at the crowd and saw the looks on their faces, mouths open in shock and perhaps some of the younger males leering at her. She held her stature as a proud ABH princess, faced the crowd and simply nodded her head in recognition.

A middle-aged woman approached and Paul introduced her "Princess, this is my mother Claire Colbert." He started..then "Mom, this is princess Abriel Nei Debrusc Borl Paryun Lafiel. She is also Admiral Abriel of the fleet now at the station."

"Um…um….." Claire did not know what to actually say. An ABH, abet a very beautiful ABH was right in front of her and now her son used the term princess and admiral to refer to that one person. Her life on Martine had never prepared her for this.

Lafiel noticed the hesitation and then in perfect Martinese "Although your son did invite me, I will understand if my presence will be a distraction to this ceremony."

Gathering her wits and realizing that Lafiel spoke better than most on Martine "…um…"

"Admiral" said Lafiel.

Claire continued "Admiral." She said with a smile "We would be honored if you would remain and be a part of my daughter's wedding." Taking a deep breath "You also speak our language very well."

Lafiel looked at Lina with a smile and said "I had a very good teacher."

By now, word of an ABH princess had gotten to the bride and she, with her father, peeked out of one of the windows of the side rooms. "Damn Dad" said Kendra Colbert "this wedding will lead off the news tonight! I'll have to thank Paul later."

"Are you sure dear?" Her father questioned.

"YEAH!" she exclaimed "I'll be the first bride on Martine to have an ABH princess as a guest! No one else can ever say that! Let's get this wedding going!"

"What do you want from me?" said an exasperated Jinto at the Martine cabinet. The conversation just went around in circles never accomplishing anything.

"We want true independence."

"It is not going to happen"

"We want our own trading ships."

"It is not going to happen"

"We want the space station to be dismantled."

"It is definitely NOT going to happen."

"We want true independence."


After an hour of this, Jinto had enough. Noticing that Teal was just as frustrated as he was with the questions, questions, he stood up and addressed the group.

"The relationship that Martine has with the empire and myself will remain. We have no intentions of interfering with the government. If any conflicts on the planet spill out into space and interferes with empire, then they will react and it will be forceful. I, on the other hand, will be sad if any conflict happens on Martine. " Looking at Teal "I have fond memories of being raised here. I always wanted to return to see my old home….my old room. To stroll through the enchanted forests and to remember those places that I enjoyed so much."

He then addressed the group again "I decided that separating myself from Martine was the best for the planet. The space port will remain since it does help the people here and it my main source of income. I do need to make a living somehow and a military career will not suffice. Your relationship with me and the empire has become a model that other new systems wish to use. The empress is pleased that we have been able to handle this civilly. Let us keep this going. " Jinto took a deep breath since he is not use to long speeches. "The only thing I ask is to allow members of the empire to visit Martine. You have allowed the princess a chance I would like to have others come and see this planet that I love."

He then sat down, exhausted. The cabinet members were all looking at each other and then Teal realize that they needed to talk. He turned to Jinto "Count Hyde…I mean Jinto" a small chuckle came from Teal "could you lets us talk for a couple of minutes. There is a nice viewing station near the shuttles."

"I would like that. Tell me when you are ready." He then walked over to the viewing station where the monitors could bring up any number of views of Martine and Jinto enjoyed viewing them all.

Lafiel spent more time asking questions than anything else. She would switch between Seelnay and Lina. During the ceremony she was fascinated by the whole "father gives the bride away" concept. Since marriage was an unknown event for ABHs, the entire concept overwhelmed her and her two companions spent the bulk of the time answering questions. Although she did see how professing their vows was similar to what she and Jinto had done on Lobnas. Instead of something private, this was a declaration in public to friends and family. Family, another concept that did not have the importance to ABHS as it that it did for landers. Being with Jinto, she could see the benefits of some of these lander's customs and traditions.

Now she was sitting in a large area, similar to some of the reception halls at the palace and several space stations. A party is a party no matter if it's for ABHs, the Labule or landers. That was one thing everyone had in common. So after the married coupled had their first couple of dances, Lafiel decided to offer her congratulations.

Looking at a nervous Kendra and Clark, and in pretty good Martinese, "I wish you all the best for your future and also thank you for allowing me to witness your wedding." She gave a slight bow and handed them a wrapped box.

"No" said Kendra "I want to thank you for coming to our wedding. Clark and I were both surprised and honored by your presence. You have made this extra special." She was introduced to members of both families. Yet there was one young boy that stood behind everyone else. Lafiel's curiosity got the better of her and she looked at Kendra and shook her towards the boy.

"Oh, come over here John" Kendrashe said. "Princess, this is my baby brother John. He wants to join the ABH space fleet and fight heroic battles."

"KENDRAAAAAAA, I am not a baby. I am almost fifteen years old!" John replied as his face glowed a brilliant red.

"Nothing to be embarrassed about,,,,,John" Lafiel replied "There are many reasons why people join the fleet. Just remember that there is a great deal of boredom between these battles."

"Yes, I know. Are you really an admiral also?".

"Yes, I am."

"Do you think that I can ever become an admiral?"

"Well that would take a great deal of work and success. I will be honest with you." Lafiel paused "To have an admiral not be an ABH is very rare but not impossible. You know that Count Hyde happens to be my chief of staff. He may become an admiral but I do not believe he wishes for that."

Looking a bit deflated John finally looks up and continues "I think I will be an admiral."

A smile came across Lafiel's face. She remembers that this was the age when her and Jinto first met and survived those initial harrowing days of the war. Thinking of something special, she reached into her handbag and took out a medallion. Smiling at John she said "To the future Admiral Colbert" that got his attention "I am presenting you with this imperial medallion. Do not lose it. If you ever come to Lakfakalle, present it to one of the imperial chamberlains and they will know to contact me. If I am in the city, then I will give you a personal tour."

John's eyes lit up. "Thank you admiral. I wish I could give you something in return."

"Well" responded Lafiel "it appears that everyone is afraid of me and no one has asked me to danced….so…."

Taking the not so subtle hint, John immediately asked "Admiral would you care to dance with me?" He held out his hand.

Lafiel gently held his hand "I would love to"

ASo for another surprise at the wedding of Kendra Colbert and Clark Kentley, an ordinary fifteen year old John Colbert danced with a princess of the ABH empire. Looks like someone might be very popular at school soon. The six 'o'clock news will probably only have this wedding as its main story.

Jinto was still standing at the edge of the platform looking at the Martine sun dropping below the western horizon. His thought kept bouncing between wondering how Lafiel was managing and thinking about his past on the planet.

Teal came up beside him and placing his hand on Jinto's shoulder "well I have good news and bad news for you."

"Isn't that always the case? So what is the bad news."

"We do not have a majority that will allow you to step on this planet. It was close but it is still a no-go. I could not vote because of what you are to me and how much Lina would want you to come home. Even if it's one day."

"I appreciate that Teal….so what it the good news then?"

"We unanimously agreed to start talks with the empire. Well we will talk with the Hyde station…you know Samson and then he can pass our conversations along to you."

"That would be a good start but what would these talks deal with?"

"We were thinking that perhaps you could finance and build an orbiting platform like they have at the Deltoke system? You have the financial ability and the station has the technical expertise for this. Martine can partially finance this construction."

"Well that would be good….and….."

"We will negotiate a formal arrangement on visitors to the planet. What requirements are needed, notification and a general set of rules. For everyone including ABHs and the family of the former ruler of the planet." Teal said with a smile. One that was return.

"I definitely would like that." Jinto offered his hand to Teal and they shook.

On the trip from Martine back to the Hyde station, the four passengers sat in two areas. Seelnay and Paul were snuggled up in the front row. Seelnay's right hand managed find its way inside his shirt and slowly massaging his chest. No words were said but It promised of a more intense activity later.

In the back of the shuttle were Lafiel and Jinto, they too were snuggling but their hands intertwined and their conversation low and very personal.

"Yes, it was a very enjoyable event. The people were pleasant and after the initial surprise I felt very comfortable. Lina was a tremendous help. I now know why you have such feelings towards her. How was your meeting with Teal and the cabinet?"

"It was good." Replied Jinto. "There is the promise of settling all of our issues and maybe regular visits between ABH and Martineese."

"I would like that as well. To visit Martine with you." She pressed his hand a bit and he gave a quick kiss to Lafiel's forehead. "I wish this war was over, there is so much I want to do."

"So do I Lafiel, so do I". Jinto stared out of the shuttle window seeing Martine shrink as they travelled towards the Hyde space station. Dreaming and wishing for happier days.

Note: It may take me a couple more months for the next least 6. With summer here and the kids wanting to stay out more, I will try to do my best. Until the next time...thanks for reading.