December 1, 1984: 22:00Z
"General Henderson to see you, sir"
"Thanks Keith, send him in," said Straker.
The office doors parted and James Henderson walked in. Ed stood and shook hands with his boss. "It's good to see you in one piece Commander."
"Thank you General. Help yourself to a drink."
"No thank you." Henderson sat down across from Ed. "I just wanted to let you know that I agree with your choice for executive officer."
"I understand the two of you had words."
"You could say that. She is just as stubborn as you are Ed. I don't know how the two of you get along so well."
"We think a lot alike General."
"You look better than you have in years. Quite frankly I was afraid I was going to have to pull you out of here for a while. You must have known why Jackson was running tests on you every three months. If Freeman hadn't gone to Dreamland last year, I would have put you on a six month furlough."
"It helps to have someone to shoulder the burden with you."
"So what are you going to do about Miss Howard?"
"Virginia and I are going to have her stay with us for now. She is going back up to Foyers with Katherine tomorrow to pick up her belongings and settle her parent's affairs and put everything in storage. Katherine is going to put the house on the market and bank the proceeds. I've already called a friend I have in the admissions department at the University of Cambridge. Katherine's acceptance is still valid so Virginia and I are going to arrange for her education."
"That's quite a bit of responsibility, are you sure that is what you want to do? And what do we do about her knowledge of SHADO and the alien threat?"
"Katherine is very mature for her age. She understands the need for security and why the general public must never know. She has agreed to sign and take the SHADO enlistment oath. Dr. Jackson will certify that she is mature enough to understand and be held accountable for her decision. Her acceptance into SHADO will be contingent upon her completing her education. She told Virginia that she was going to have her PhD in four years."
"That's an eight year program," said the General.
"Virginia did it in six, and that was while taking the summers off. If Katherine is able to finish in four years, she will have completed school by her twenty second, birthday. Don't you think SHADO can use another theoretical physicist?"
"Is that what she wants to study?"
"Yes and her entrance exam scores show a very high aptitude for mathematics. She mastered both pre-calculus math and Calculus 1 while she was in high school."
Henderson looked at his watch. "Well Commander, it's late. I will support your decision on the matter of Katherine Howard. Good night Commander."
"Good night General."
As the door opened for Henderson to leave Virginia strolled into the office. "Good night Colonel," he said as he left.
"Good night General."
Virginia walked over to Ed and put her arms around him. "Katherine is still in medical, it looks like she is alright. She should be released in about forty minutes."
"She didn't want you to stay with her?"
"She started talking to Nurse Dana; they seemed to hit it off. Katherine told me I needed to spend some time with you."
"She's smarter than both of us."
Ed reached down and locked the door; he knew that Virginia had not had her release yet and he could feel it coming to the surface. "It's my turn to let you cry on my shoulder," he told her as the tears came. Virginia held him like she never was going to let go.
When she could speak again she looked up at him. "I ordered Sky 5 to shoot down a UFO when I thought you were on it. I ordered your death Ed."
"You did what you had to do, Henderson was impressed."
"He said as much to me earlier this afternoon. I just hope I never have to go through this again."
The intercom buzzer rang. "Yes," said Straker.
Keith Ford appeared on the monitor, "Colonel Foster is on the line for you sir."
"Thanks Keith, put him through."
The image of Paul Foster appeared on the vidlink. "What have you got Paul?" asked Ed.
"We just finished a survey of the dome area under Loch Ness. It was completely destroyed; but the blast must have thrown the alien craft clear. We found it about thirty yards from the dome. It appears to be intact."
"Are you serious Paul?"
"Yes sir, I'm sending the underwater footage now. The visibility is low but you can certainly make out the UFO."
Virginia and Ed watched the footage as it was being sent. "It's incredible," said Virginia.
"It must have been powered down. Finally, we have a UFO, intact and undamaged. Paul, I'm placing you in charge of the recovery effort. I want it brought to our research facility west of London."
"Yes sir, Foster out."
"Well, we appear to have gone from lose, lose to win, win," said Ed.
"While we are on the subject of winning, let's set a date before fate throws us another curve ball," said Virginia as she kissed him.
The next two weeks were busy for Virginia and Ed as they had picked December 15 as the big day and they had much to do. They had bought a new house closer to the studio and only ten minutes from the SHADO airfield. Katherine was settling in nicely and had already planned to start school in January.
At SHADO, Paul Foster had handled the UFO salvage operation flawlessly. Straker wrote him up for a commendation; only the third one he had written this year.
General Henderson was able to persuade the JCS into promoting Ed Straker to Major General, an unprecedented action. Henderson had always thought it was a shame that Ed had been taken off the promotion list.
Alec Freeman flew in on the fourteenth, and Nina came down from Moonbase the same afternoon. It was somewhat of a scheduling nightmare to accommodate everyone who was to attend the wedding and some of the guests would have to leave early.
Virginia sat in the bride's room of the wedding chapel. With her were Gay, Nina, and Katherine. "Are you nervous?" asked Gay Ellis Bradley.
"Yes," said Virginia. More like terrified, she thought.
"Don't worry; once you're up there standing with Ed you'll be fine," said Gay.
"That's if I don't start crying my eyes out first."
"Ginny, you look beautiful."
At the altar, Ed stood with Alec and Paul. All three of them were in dress uniform.
"Those stars look good on you Ed," said Alec.
"Thanks, Alec. So Paul, are you ever going to try this someday?"
"Maybe, someday." That day might be sooner that you think. He looked out into the crowd and gave Jane a wink.
Professor Reinhardt knocked on the door of the bride's room. Nina opened the door. "Is she ready?" he asked.
Virginia gave him a nod and stood up, "I'm ready."
Reinhardt signaled to the organist and she began to play Cannon in D by Pachelbel. Katherine led the procession followed by Nina then Gay. Virginia took Reinhardt's arm and they walked down the aisle in time with the music.
Ed had not seen her since yesterday afternoon and now, seeing her, in her wedding dress radiating beauty, had left him speechless.
Virginia handed her bouquet to Gay and joined hands with Ed. Professor Reinhardt sat down next to Lynn.
When the music finished the minister began to speak.
At the reception they had just finished dinner, and Alec was trying his best to get Ed to drink more champagne. "Later Alec, Ed kept saying. I need to be able to stand for our first dance."
The band leader called for everyone's attention.
"Ladies and gentlemen, for their first dance as husband and wife, Virginia and Ed have chosen the song, Faithfully."
As the piano started to play Virginia and Ed pulled close to each other. They looked in each other's eyes, as the band began to play. "Highway run…"
Ed looked deeply into the eyes of his new wife as he quietly spoke the words of the song from his heart. He thought about all the trials they had already been through and the trials ahead. For the first time in years he knew that he didn't have to face them alone. As spoke the verse about no place to raise a family, he thought about their plans of having children. Ed had always wanted a family. He was speaking the part they changed, "My love, you stand by me," turning the song into a duet. As he looked into Virginia's eyes, he knew she would always stand by him.
Gay watched, as Ginny danced with her new husband. She wondered if Ed was singing to his new wife. How romantic, she thought.
"Circus life…" Virginia now sang as she gazed at her new husband now knowing that this was not a dream, but a dream come true. She too remembered both the good times and the trials that brought them to this point, knowing they were forged at each other's side. As she sang the words, "through space and time," she thought about how appropriate the words were. She quickly kissed Ed between verses not missing a beat. As she sang, "I'm forever yours, faithfully," she meant it as a pledge of her undying love.
As the band finished the song Virginia and Ed drew together in a kiss that promised love, passion, trust, and commitment.
Alec was embarrassed, having tears in his eyes. He looked around the room and saw he wasn't alone. He didn't see a dry eye in the place. Even Paul was wiping his eyes; that had to be a first.
Janice Ealand handed him a tissue; she had been seeing him shortly after the night at the Register. "You know Janice, I never believed in storybook endings until today."