Sydney, June 1, 2044
Kate, dressed in her navy whites for the last time in her professional career, walked into the auditorium of the Royal Australian Navy headquarters. She was escorted towards a row of chairs by the new Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Murray. Her family was already sitting there and looking anxiously for her arrival.
It was the day she was going to retire and her friends, colleagues and family had organised this day especially for her. Only yesterday she had handed over her duties of Chief of Navy to Murray, a man she had known for a long time. Just like herself he had risen through the ranks at a faster pace than anyone else. She knew she could safely put the running of the navy into his hands and still she felt a sense of loss already.
While she walked the distance from the door to her assigned chair a loud applause erupted. Kate was a bit embarrassed by all the attention she got. In the past couple of years she had given a lot of speeches to large groups of people and she had always entered the room during loud applause, but this was different. These were her mates, people she knew and people who knew her personally.
From the corner of her eyes she saw Pete Tomaszweski, Dylan Mulholland and Andy Thorpe. Three men she had known for almost forty years. They smiled when she looked their way and Kate knew right away they had something planned.
In another row were sitting friends she had met in more recent years; Annette Trittenheim and Alexander Young, both looking around proudly as if they hadn't expected to be invited to this exclusive party.
Finally Kate reached her chair and sat down next to her husband, giving him a quick kiss before taking his hand into her lap. He probably had a lot to do with all of this; she could tell by the mischievous smile on his face. Her children had the same kind of smile but they didn't let her know what they knew. She just had to sit down and wait.
Vice Admiral Murray climbed up the stage and waited for the sounds to die before he looked at the grey haired man sitting next to Kate. "Good afternoon everyone and, of course, Admiral McGregor," Murray said, making eye-contact with Kate. "Today we're gathered here to say farewell to one of the navy's finest officers. She has inspired many people, including myself, and helped us to become better sailors."
Murray chuckled. "I could tell you many inspirational stories about this woman, the first ever female Chief of Navy, but I'll refrain from that and let others tell you how one woman has become such an inspiration."
He spoke with determination. "The first one to tell you a bit is her husband of twenty-six years. This was his idea and he'll lead us through a life full of great moments. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Mr McGregor," he joked.
Kate squeezed her husband's hand and whispered in his ear: "I knew it. I knew you were up to something."
He simply smiled and patted her hand before standing up and walking up the stage. He thanked Murray and then tapped the microphone a few times.
"This sight is wonderful. All these white uniforms, all these people belonging to an institution which my wife led for years. It makes me proud I once belonged to this 'gang'," he said, making quotation marks with his hands.
By now Murray had found his chair and was seated. He could officially start.
"Contrary to what Vice Admiral Murray said my name isn't McGregor, although you probably picked up on his joke. For everyone who doesn't know me my name is Robert Prizeman and I've known Kate McGregor for oh," he pretended to think for a second, "about thirty years, of which she's been my wife for twenty-six," he continued.
Quickly he looked at Kate and gave her a loving smile.
"Don't you give away all our secrets," she suddenly said out loud, which caused a ripple of laughter from the people around her.
Robert laughed and shook his head.
"I won't dear," he teased her before he addressed the rest of the people again. "My wife is scared I'm going to tell you all kinds of embarrassing secrets but I wouldn't dare," he mused.
"The first time I met her was on a frigate. I was working there as a doctor and she was my patient. She was dehydrated, underfed and exhausted, but there was a determination in her that wouldn't give up. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't recognise that will power back then, but luckily for me I met her again a few years after that. With her determination she won me," he joked. He could see Kate rolling her eyes. "I promise you I won't tell them how you did it," he promised.
"You better not," she threatened teasingly. "Because if you do I'll send a few frigates…" she started but Robert didn't let her finish. "May I remind you you're not the boss anymore," he laughed.
People in the audience laughed and Robert waited until the laughter had died.
"To be serious again. It's that determination that helped her to pursue her dream of becoming Chief of Navy and brought her here today. I recognised it early on in our marriage and left the navy myself so she could rise through the ranks. Seeing her here, seeing all of you here, I know I made the right decision back then," he stated.
Robert saw people nod. It hadn't been a hard decision but every once in a while he felt sorry he didn't belong to the navy himself anymore. Everyone here, with a few exceptions, were navy.
Before he would turn sad he shook his head and looked at a blonde man. "Commander Mulholland, can I invite you to come and tell my favourite story. The story of how I met my wife," he said with a trace of a smile filtering through.
Dylan Mulholland walked up the stage and took over the stand. He adjusted the microphone before he started. "Kate, I know you are a private person who doesn't like all her secrets being told. I'm going to tell this story anyway because it taught me a few things. Like Robert said there was the determination, but you also taught me that having a family doesn't stop you or anyone from giving one hundred per cent effort to the job. Even if it means you get yourself into a pickle," he added, looking only at her as if they were having a private conversation.
But then he looked up to all the others and continued: "I'm going to tell you a story from my time as a Lieutenant when Kate was my CO on the HMAS Hammersley. It was February nineteenth 2015, a day I'll never forget."