Ch. 10 – The Launch

Cinderella stood before the mirror as her new handmaidens smoothed out the last wrinkles from her white gown, and adjusted her long white veil in front of her face. It was lucky it obscured her face, because Cinderella's expression was not of joy on her wedding day, as everyone assumed it would be, but rather confusion and injury. The Prince was kind in his way, and brave – he had stood up to the pirates with that blaster gun, after all. But it was not him who had defended her against the hatred of her stepmother. It was not him who had chased Cinderella down the staircase, shouting her name. It was not him who had tracked her down to fit the slipper on her foot.

It had been Jim, always Jim. Yet he had given her away to the Prince without a word, with the simple slipping on of a shoe. She did not understand why now, of all times, why he had simply let her go, and it hurt her deeply.

The wedding bells began ringing from the palace chapel. Her handmaidens handed her bouquet to her. Then the bridesmaids led Cinderella toward to the front entrance of the chapel. They walked out before her in their beautiful gowns, tossing flowers, and then one of them cued her to follow them out onto the aisle. All the nobility of the kingdom were assembled in the chapel, even her stepmother and stepsisters, sitting in the front row with the ugliest of sneers on their faces. The sight made Cinderella raise her chin up in the air and do her best to look delightfully happy.

Prince Chartreuse was waiting at the altar, standing tall and proud, beaming at her. The elderly priest stood beside him, waiting to join their hands in marriage. Cinderella walked as slow and deliberately as she possibly could down the aisle, buying herself extra seconds, though she could not think of what for.

At last she stepped up to the altar, taking her place beside the Prince.

"Dearly beloved," the priest announced, "we are gathered here today to witness the joining of His Majesty the Prince, and the young lady who saved our kingdom, in holy matrimony. If there is any reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now, or forever hold your peace."

The priest waited respectfully a moment, the crowd staring at him blankly, and the Prince gave a subtle head nod as a signal to hurry along with the ceremony.

A strange rumbling noise like thunder became noticeable, and grew louder. Suddenly the ground gave an enormous lurch beneath them, causing the entire room to sway, and there was an enormous crash outside, causing all the stained glass windows in the chapel to shatter inwards at once.

The rainbow glass pieces scattered across the floor like a star exploding. Through the now open windows, a large ship could be seen, landed directly next to the chapel. "Wait!" a voice shouted loudly. "I object!" Cinderella's heart skipped a beat as she looked up from the scattered glass on the floor to the open windows. A familiar figure leaped through the window, landing on his feet among the rainbow glass supernova. He was wearing old worn-out sailor clothes and boots, and his mess of brown hair in a roguish haircut that fell around his face, with a small braid in back. In short, he was the most unrespectable-looking figure that could have intruded on a royal wedding. "I object!" he shouted loudly, and he ran to the aisle and stopped himself short, skidding forward on the red carpet, and sliding to a halt a few feet before the altar.

Cinderella looked down at him from the altar, gripping her bouquet with white knuckles, her blue eyes sparkling with starlight.

"What is your objection, young man?" the priest asked at last, adjusting his glasses and peering down at the boy. The entire assembly was staring open-mouthed at Jim, and some had risen to their feet to get a better look.

"I cannot let this girl marry the Prince," Jim said, not breaking his intense gaze from Cinderella's eyes, "because I love her myself."

The crowd gasped, and those not already standing rose quickly to their feet.

"Get him out of here," the Prince said to the guards, lined along the wall behind him.

"No!" Cinderella said, and the guards froze. She looked back into Jim's intense deep blue eyes. "I can't let you touch him," she said, "because I love him too."

The crowd gasped again. In the front row, Lady Tremaine's eyes widened in surprise; as much as she did not want Cinderella to marry the Prince, she had never imagined that the girl would willingly give up the Prince for this scalawag boy. Her two daughters were watching the scene delightedly, as if at a play. The King kicked the floor in frustration, and the Duke fainted in his seat.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness," Cinderella said to the Prince, stepping down from the altar. "I have to follow my heart, even if it means I must break royal command." She stepped up to Jim and stood beside him. "If that makes me an outlaw, so be it: I have a pirate to escape with, and a pirate ship to fly away on." She looked at Jim with a grin, who grinned back.

The Prince sighed warily and leaned against the altar. "Oh, fine," he said. "Be gone, then." He looked at the assembly before him. "I'm sorry, everyone. I guess we've all come here for nothing. Unless any other young ladies fancy getting married today?"

Anastasia and Drisella leapt up and down, waving their arms. "Ooh me, me!" they screamed.

"You can't stand for this, Chartreuse!" the King yelled at his son. "That young miscreant has made a fool out of you! Defend yourself!"

"It's alright, Father. They're in love."

"If you won't do something about it, I will," the King said haughtily. "Guards, seize those two outlaws!" He pointed at Jim and Cinderella. Jim stepped in front of Cinderella, shielding her with his arms, as the guards ran toward them. He took her hand firmly in his and pulled her to the window. They leapt out together, then ran across the lawn to where the ship was parked. The crowd gathered to the windows to watch as the guards filed out the windows in pursuit.

"Hurry, hurry!" Delbert shouted from the ship, throwing a rope down to them.

"Prepare to launch!" Captain Amelia screamed at the helm. The ship lifted from the ground, with Jim and Cinderella dangling from the rope. Jim held on tightly to the rope with one arm, and held Cinderella with the other.

"Jim!" Cinderella shouted to him above the roar of the ship's rockets. "You were right: you did crash-land into my life. But you were wrong when you said it was never supposed to happen." Jim looked at her in confusion, trying not to let the rope slip from his hand, or Cinderella from the other hand. "Don't you remember," she shouted above the roaring ship, "I told you, you were meant to come here, and to find me! You were my dream, my wish that my heart made. And it came true, with you."

She was smiling assuredly at him, and he could only stare into her eyes, gripping the rope as they ascended higher off the ground. One of the guards took a running leap at Jim and Cinderella's feet, now dangling at head level. He only succeeded in knocking off one of Cinderella's white slippers, which went flying and knocked another guard in the head.

Then they were dangling out of reach, and flying away over the treetops. Amelia and Delbert hoisted up the rope, and Jim and Cinderella toppled over the railing and onto the deck. Morph flew around their heads, squealing in triumph, and Jaq and Gus appeared from their hiding hole and ran to Cinderella.

"You're here!" she cried delightedly. "You're coming with us?" The two mice jumped up and down excitedly to show their assent. "Oh, my friends," she said, overcome with joy. Jim took her hand and helped her up to her feet, and they stood facing each other, gazing for a moment into each other's eyes.

"Mr. Hawkins," Captain Amelia said flatly from the upper deck.

Jim flinched and looked up at her. "Aye, Captain?"

"The sails need to be secured," she said sternly. Then her face relaxed. "But you can have a moment of leisure beforehand, if you wish," she said with a smile. "And to you, Miss…?" she addressed Cinderella, trailing off.

"Cinderella, Captain," she answered.

"Miss Cinderella, welcome aboard. We've plenty of room for a cabin girl. And I always said space could use another woman or two."

"Thank you, Captain." Cinderella beamed at her.

Captain Amelia turned and marched away with a smug smile. Delbert walked up and clapped both Jim and Cinderella on the backs. "Uh, I'll take the helm," he said, walking off quickly. Jaq and Gus stood on the ship railing with Morph hovering over them. Jim and Cinderella followed their gaze to the castle, shimmering white in the distance, growing smaller and smaller until it was only a bright star.

"You could have been a princess," Jim said to her.

"And you could have been a pirate," Cinderella retorted playfully.

"Who's to say I'm not?" Jim replied. "I'm all up for a treasure hunt."

"And who's to say I'm not a princess?" Cinderella quipped with a grin.

"You are," Jim said. He leaned into her starlit eyes. He put his hand on her face, pulled her gently closer, leaned farther and farther in until-

"Mr. Hawkins!" the Captain's voice screeched from somewhere onboard. "Those sails will not secure themselves!"

"I'll be right back," Jim said abruptly. He leaped up into the rigging and secured the solar sails tightly. The ship was ascending through the upper atmosphere, leaving a comet trail in its wake. They would be a huge shooting star to anyone watching from below. Finally they broke free from the atmosphere into the Etherium of space. Cinderella gazed in awe at the vast slowly spinning globe beneath her, a green and blue orb with swirling white clouds. The stars were now hanging around them in all directions, glinting and sparkling.

"Head straight for that wormhole, Doctor," Captain Amelia commanded to Delbert at the helm.

"I don't see anything; everything is just black!"

"Precisely, Doctor. Yes, space is black. But the wormhole will be the section of space without stars, and with visible distortion around the edges."

The Doctor steered the ship toward the spinning black whirlpool in space, and Jim leaped down from the rigging and held Cinderella tightly as the ship dived straight into its center. There was a moment of rushing total blackness, and then the ship burst into the starlight once more.

"We're through!" Delbert yelped, leaping up in triumph. Jaq and Gus followed his example, and leaped joyfully up and down on the deck. Morph squawked and flew in happy circles around Amelia and Delbert at the helm.

"We came out exactly where we went in!" Captain Amelia said.

"And look at the chronometer!" Delbert said excitedly. "The time has gone backward! It's exactly where it was when we went in! It's as if no time at all has passed since we went through!"

"Like nothing ever happened," Amelia said with a smug smile.

"I find that hard to believe," Jim quipped, looking at Cinderella. She nodded in agreement.

"Do you see that?" Jim asked Cinderella, pointing over the railing toward a blue comet trail streaked through the Etherium ahead of them.

"A shooting star's trail?"

"It's the trail of my old friend, Long John Silver," Jim said. "He was in a lifeboat. It looks like he came out just ahead of us."

"I'd like to meet him."

"I think you will yet," Jim said musingly. "I think we'll see him real soon."

"I wish I could introduce you to my fairy godmother," Cinderella said wistfully.

Jim's brow furrowed in thought, remembering the mysterious vision of the old woman who had stopped the ship from plunging to the ground. "Does she wear a blue cloak, and wave a little stick around?"

Cinderella looked at him in surprise. "Why, yes! How did you know?"

"You know, I think I have met her," Jim said with a smile, leaning back on the railing.

They looked up as Captain Amelia's face peered down at them from the upper deck. "What do you say, Mr. Hawkins?" she called down to him. "Shall we resume our search for Treasure Planet? Or would you rather return to Montressor?"

"What do you want to do?" Jim asked Cinderella.

"Well," Cinderella said, looking thoughtful, "it just so happens I have this map." She reached into the folds of her white gown and pulled out the orb in her hand, grinning at Jim. "And from what I hear, there's a lot of treasure where it leads, and I know someone with a mother who would just love to be surprised with it."

Jim broke into a huge grin, and turned to Captain Amelia. "To Treasure Planet, Captain!" he said. "We have the map!" He looked back at Cinderella. "I can't wait for you to meet my mother," he said. "She'll love you, whether you have a boatload of treasure with you or not."

"But the treasure would help," she joked.

"Well, her son is a pirate, after all," Jim said, stepping closer to her.

"And he's going to bring her home a boatload of treasure," she said with a playful smile, "and the ship's cabin girl, named Ella."

"No," Jim said. "He's going to bring her home a boatload of treasure, and a princess, named Cinderella." He leaned in and kissed her, long and sweet, as the ship sailed through the glittering Etherium of space toward Treasure Planet.