Christmas on The Orcus, non-poem style

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Christmas, Somewhere in the Galaxy.

The Magnatar class ship held in orbit around the “Super Earth” at forty-thousand meters above the ground.

Well above the traffic lanes for aircraft that flew from hither and yon. The crew of the large ship parked it with great care while the pirate King strode around his command center at the top of the ship.

The Orcus was a powerful ship that logged many hours in trips between planets for negotiations for trade and peaceful coexistence in the United Confederation of Pirates. A label put on the outlying colonies by the Empire. They were all self-governed and traded with each other with no control or supervision by the Momo Empire. No one could be happier than the colonists.

After negotiations, the crew was tired. They had stopped at a half-dozen planets, secured agreements with every one of them.

Delivered gifts of the one time of year that was held onto by the humans to bring out the best of each other.

Still, the bachelor King, Ruu’ta O’Danu. From a long line of scofflaws, scallywags, rogues and leaders stood with his arms crossed in thought.

One crewman, the weapons and flight space officer, his daughter was just born, it was her first Christmas for this family.

Another, her mother died in the last month (Against the Kings mandate that no one dies during this time.) but she stayed at her post. Even when the King performed his duties as Ruu’tan she acted stoic. But, the king noticed the trickle of tear from one eye that traced down Chief Sharan Nayaan’s cheek in quiet moments.

They were too far away for her to go home to bury her mother, weeks out at maximum speed.

Sigh The crew was beyond their limit. Each member of the dozen ship’s crew had needs to go home. Even if it was to make contact over the holidays.

He took a position on the bridge, behind his chair and had a thought.

“Chief, ship-wide communication to my station please.”

The surprise announcement. Everyone had a five-day pass. Two days before, the day of and then two days after the time on earth where everyone sang, and felt a little nicer.

King Ryan O’Danu saw everyone off, transporters operated full-time, three drop pods took the teams down to their hub points.

One lieutenant had a sky-surfer he had modified himself, and, to the laughter of the red-headed master of the ship, flew it off of the landing pad that he ordered deployed from the side of the ship.

From there, the crew all went to their homes.

Last on the ship, a Magnatar class heavy cruiser, was the leader of the planet himself.

King Ryan O’Danu, his line of leaders went back to an age of sail and wooden ships. The first pirate, family legend had it, was a child that was kidnapped by the government. The child became a king of the sea and started a family dynasty.

Today, the king was simply a man alone on board of a flying battleship. He strolled about the empty ship, the quiet undertone of electronics his only company.

Standing on the landing pad, he watched until Lieutenant Antares was no longer visible. When the King turned back to the ship, he noted a blemish on the hull. A meteor impact when they orbited the mining colony that suffered a storm of flying rocks when two ‘roids collided nearby. The teams that mined the raw materials needed their shields repaired and King O’Danu brought the royal ship in as a blocker until the colonists and ship’s engineers got the system up and running again.

It had been a busy time for the run-up to these days of family and reaffirmation of life and love. They had worked hard to renew contracts, deliver gifts and assure that peace would last for at least another month.

Now it was over, other than the pit on the side of his ship, painted to look like a Killer Whale of earth. The ship was a well known force, and it the pride of the master of the ship, never shot any of its weapons in anger.

He tapped on a palm-held display and a ladder built by the Rose Suchuk company rolled out on its own wheels.

An hour later, he finally finished. He’d leave the ladder out to climb again later and inspect the fit and finish of the repairs. (He was picky like that.)

“Computer, Celtic traditional drums.” He said when he made his way to the lounge of the ship. “Collapse ladder, but leave in airlock for further use. Seal Airlocks.”

He sat at the table in the lounge, drinking an eggnog with rum from Lats-Ute mining colony. Finger foods, from Gray Kitchens on his own planet.

He laughed. If the ships chief medical officer saw what he ate now, Lynn McCoy M.D. would issue a health report on him and make him do extra physical training.

His cup was empty, but the view was grand. King O’Danu shook his head, he was not about to give up his view and poured another jigger of rum, shrugged, then just filled the cup with the dark liquid.

An hour passed while he read novels of distant lands and other worlds when his eyes started to droop.

“Computer, nightwatch. Sensors on passive scan. Environmental shields only.” He sighed. “I might want to go out later for a view of the stars.”

The king thought about his telescope, he’d like to do some stargazing later.

It was important that the shields would keep a layer of warm, pressurized air around the ship for him to breathe if he used the pad outside.

Whooo… I’m buzzed. That was potent stuff. He rubbed his eyes, they felt dry. He had been up and going for twenty-hours straight today. In the last few weeks, he slept only three hours out of every twenty-four. They may live on a ship, but the force of his circadian rhythm still forced him to hibernate a few hours per day.

In the captain’s quarters, Ryan peeled off his carbon fiber body armor and crawled into the bed and pulled the dense, heavy blanket up to his head.

He liked a cool room with the a blanket.

His mind drifted, the ship was secure, he set the systems and he was safe. No one would dare approach a Magnatar class, fully armed battleship with evil on their minds.

Then.

The unthinkable!

Alarms sounded.

Ruu’tan and King of Garnet-4, then leader of the council of the Pirate Confederation. Ryan O’Danu lept out of bed like a cat spooked on Halloween.

Proximity alert Proximity alert Negative response on IFF

Lights were at full bright, which dazzled him for a moment. Ryan ran to his desk were basic control systems were active.

“Computer, display sensor contact.” He rubbed his eyes, but not out of fatigue.

On the display, the contact was small. Only enough room for, maybe, four people.

“Overlay readings with Orcus in relative center.”

A hundred-thousand feet lower but climbing rapidly. He thought.

No one is scheduled to come back for four more days.

The display glowed with a 3-D overlay.

“Magnify.”

Then he gasped.

The speed at this target tracked, it approached the ship, cannon and defensive systems came online.

Phased energy weapons locked on.

Crap!” King Ryan knew what the targets was. He had to shut this system off at the command center. The weapons command and control had not been transferred, only navigation. ran down the gangway and hung a hard right, skipping the lift, he climbed the emergency ladder next to it and flopped over onto the floor.

The main display showed with detail not available to him in his bedroom.

“Computer, display HD display on holograph map of 3-D space, overlay Orcus as relative center and give readout on altitude and direction.” He thought a moment. “Speed and mass.”

“Working. Speed is thousand meters per second, mass of two-thousand two hundred kilograms. Reading ten life signs. One biped humanoid, nine quadruped of the Rangifer tarandus.”

“Rangifer. What is common name of Rangifer whatever you said.”

“Rangifer Tarandus, common name reindeer.”

“Reindeer? Rein…” his eyes grew big. “Oh Jeeze!”

“Computer, disable defensive systems.” King O’Danu yelled. “Stand down shields, stow the guns.”

“Power down. Alert, target is tracking to landing pad.”

“Oh good.”

“Danger, there is an obstruction in on the pad.”

“I requested the ladder in the airlock.”

“Manual override engaged on brakes, ladder is stationary.”

Ryan slapped himself in the forehead and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he tripped over the automated janitor and ended up in a pile next to the door.

Outside, clatter and noise of a landing.

“Computer, send warning to contact, danger on…”

A voice sounded through the intercom.

“Ahoy in ..oh balls!” and the sound of a body hitting the deck.

King Ryan ran down the gangway, slipping on golden elf-dust and overshooting the doorway and ended up, for the second time, in a pile on the floor. This time near his quarters.

“Sorry, Nicholas! I was fixing a meteor hit and left it out for inspection later.”

“Yeah, you left a trap for me. I know!” The shaggy white mane shook as he laughed at the joke. “I have some deliveries to here. Special ones.”

“I don’t have anyplace good to put them, over in the lounge on the bar would work well enough.” Ryan said.

“What’s this? You don’t have a tree.”

“Trees on Garnet-4 are all protected, this is one barren rock, you know.”

“This planet is, but Sapphire isn’t, nor is Palindrome Prime.”

“Yeah, but with PP you can’t tell which way your going.”

“Ryan.” The old elf turned around. “I can take these all back and assign you a Cadet Elf. Her name is Moonbottom.”

“Eh… Moonbottom?”

“She sent a gift to the wrong person, supposed to send a puppy to one boy named Brighthill in the Carolinas of the US on earth. Instead, she sent the pet to a Miss Elisabum in London who had coal coming.”

“Coal? From you? She must have been quite bad.”

“No no.” He pulled out another gift from the bag he carried in. “She is very poor. A lump of coal could warm her for the season.”

“Must be some lump.”

“About a ton.”

“OH! Well, in that context, I can see that.”

“Now for your tree.”

“You do not have a tree in that…” He went slack-jawed and silent.

“An Immortal tree. Sequoia Sempervirens. It is rooted on the bottom, too. When you get this craft on the ground, plant this tree. It’ll grow. You also have a warehouse full of these to plant along the coastal areas as of now. You have perfect zones for it.”

“How did you get these trees? They are protected and endangered.” Ryan stroked the green, feathery growth that served as needles for the evergreen tree. “I didn’t think the government would allow them off world.”

“Yes, actually. They are spreading them everywhere. So you have a hundred-thousand seedlings, ready for planting.”

“Thank you, I will have people on it after Christmas. You are a saint.” Ryan paused and thought a moment. “How many gifts are you leaving?”

“You have quite the shopping list. Why do you ask?”

“Ooh, nothing. I am having alerts, the ship is compensating for the weight of your deer and sleigh.”

“Reindeer.” Nicholas corrected. “Oh, my back. I have another billion stops to do tonight.”

“How do you do that? You cannot even go a second per stop, that’d take you longer than thirty-years.”

“Thirty-one years, nine-months, one and a half weeks and one hour. Roughly.” Nicholas groaned again as he stood. “But we have the Einstein Time Exception Device. The rest of the universe slows to a crawl, while me and anyone nearby is sped up. Elf Bernard came up with using the formula eons ago.”

“Oh, one more thing.” He handed Ryan a box. “This is a special request. It keeps all the good wishes for you, nice and safe.”

He turned and the old man nearly fell to a knee again.

Yeah, he gets some medicinal drink. The King of Garnet-4 thought to himself.

“Nick, have a seat. I’ll make you something ot warm the cockles of your heart.”

Nick sat back in a chair with a sigh.

“I’m a little tired of milk and cookies tonight. I’d take a carrot.”

“Carrots are…” Ryan called from galley. “For the reindeer! And I have a whole bag for them.”

“As you wish.”

Ryan brought out a pitcher of hot water, a mix he had created a few days before of maple sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon, hot water and rum.

They talked far into the night, each comparing notes with the other.

“You might have been told you are autistic as a child, King O’Danu, but you have done such good things with other people. You have shown other people who there is no label that you cannot overcome. You should be proud of all the negotiations you have done.” The white beard shook as the eyes crinkled behind the glasses in rum-warmed humor. “That said, I have a lot of stops to do and I am going to have to do something special. I must go.”

King O’Danu picked up the heavy bag, it felt nearly empty, but if he shook it, it made a sound, as if boxes rubbed together.

“Don’t shake that.” Nick smiled. “At the rate you are going, you’ll have my job someday. You are a good man. Ruu’tan Ryan O’Danu, King of this planet.

Ryan walked with the older man out to the landing pad of the ship, where he climbed up into the ancient anachronism. The conveyance was a throwback of nearly five-centuries. But the antlered reindeer were muscular and, quite literally, glowing gold.

Adjusting his had, he slurred his words slightly.

“Good rum. Keep up the good work, Ryan. Merry Christmas.” He pulled at his beard for a moment and then said softly.

“Ho ho ho.” And Santa was gone.

Watching the old man disappear from sight. He felt an old familiar pain.

King O’Danu walked back into the ship and hit a button and the landing pad withdrew into the ship, and he heard an old familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas to all, to all a good night.”

Ryan laughed as the airlocks were sealed.

“Good night to you, too, old man.” Ryan said to the 3-D map as it tracked the small target, accelerating up and away, already at the edge of sensor range at relativistic speeds. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

Ryan O’Danu, descendant of Keegan O’Danu, the first pirate of the family, turned off all the lights. And set the defense systems to alert status and went to bed. The rum had definitely gone to his head.

When he woke up in the morning, he would laugh as he got out of bed. He was so drunk, he dreamed that Santa came and visited. Which everyone knew was a figment of his booze addled imagination.

Which made the existence of a pile of gifts all the more difficult to explain in the morning.

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Married by Mistake Chapter 25. Month’s End

MbM
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Chapter 25. Month’s End

Kaylee walked slowly with Tom as while she pushed him in a wheelchair towards the ‟Garden of Healing”.

Reaching the trees, native redwoods that bounded the half-acre garden full of native coastal plants.

The garden grew rich with beautiful colors of life, a peaceful location in the middle of the huge facility of intense emotions where hearts and souls healed from having their bodies repaired from different trauma and illness.

The couple enjoyed the sunlight until they came to the natural ten-century old Cathedral Tree where Kaylee parked Tom in his wheelchair, talked and held hands like the lovers they had become.

The Cathedral Tree, a half-circle of redwood trees that grew in a large open area on the campus of the medical center. Kaylee smiled at the smells that reminded her of home. She could feel the power of the Earth that lived here. In the middle of the healing professionals, medicine and sterile atmosphere, the Gods of Old, of life and sky sat in watchful gaze over the modern lives that began, ended and healed in the nearby structures of doctors, nurses and patients.

Except for one stubborn area of his arm, Tom’s condition improved faster than predicted, he impressed the team of surgeons, one suggested that part of the healing was the hand holding by the young wife had a positive effect.

“Attitude accounts for much of the recovery.” A journeyman surgeon said during an exam of Tom’s arm while waiting for Doctor Tribbing.

Fortune had it that the wound made by the glass in the tissues was smoother than even they could do with their surgical steel scalpels. Even obsidian or diamond bladed edged instruments could not have performed a cleaner, smooth-edged incision.

The wound, they said after surgery, was perfect for them to repair. Flesh and even the ends of the bone that were cloven so smoothly that the ends matched up precisely.

The only failure was the annoying lack of healing in one deep area in his arm. A drainage kept coming from the tubes they put in to help his wounds to keep fluid from building up.

Tom had stopped eating for fear of gaining weight and lost weight, despite the IV that ran into his arm constantly. Kaylee nagged him to eat, and when he did, he would only eat the most minute of portions.

Once again she could not help but think of more than three weeks ago. The summer was an adventure in ways she had never dreamed.

They sat in the filtered sun of the Cathedral Tree. The perfume from the tree made Kaylee think of camps and a campfire, she took deep breaths and images of fire-roasted cornbread, and foil-wrapped baked potatoes danced in her head. She could feel the power of the earth coming from the ancient species of tree dance with her muse.

Even obnoxious, bored children that made noise and were under the constant shush of nurses and parents, whispered in the natural wood enclave saved by some genius architect. Such was the power of the Cathedral Tree.

Small crosses with names – people who committed to each other here –  tucked in the small areas between the trunks of the trees. Momento’s of weddings and thanks for the peaceful place in the middle of a medical center.

It promised of a time she looked forward to when the hospital released Tom and they would spend an evening on the beach.

In the quiet of the shade, Tom had slipped into a soft sleep, caused by the residual effects of heavy medications. She sat and held his hand, waiting for him to drift awake again when they would talk more. A conversation between the husband and wife, lovers and friends that could continue after a nap as if it never stopped.

In this quiet moment, Kaylee ’s phone chimed an alert to a text message. As she read her phone, it was a class synopsis that her education mentor suggested for the upcoming year.

Scrolling through the pages, the mentor reduced her class schedule. The math showed she had enough extra credit she had done the year before. She could do one less class this year, two less in her senior year if her grades qualified.

*I might do post-grad credits before I graduate! I like extra credits.*

‟Kaylee ?” Tom was awake! ‟Damn, how long have I been sleeping?”

‟Tom! How do you feel?” It was her standard question. The arm would sometimes cause him in agony. Then she smiled and gave him a synopsis. “Oh. Today or total? You woke up for a half-hour this morning, but you have been pretty groggy the last seven days. They don’t want you to move the tendons just yet.”

‟It has been a week?.” Tom had lost time during his stay. It was a regular start to all his conversations of late.

‟Yeah, a lot has happened and everything has been on hold.”

‟Let me get my mind around this. I’m still fuzzy.”

The drugs they shot Tom up with during the last week faded quickly in the sunlight and redwood perfumed air.

*The nurse had said this would happen when they discontinued his medications that kept him from moving much.* She smiled.

Even in his induced sleep, he was incredibly uncomfortable. A stomach sleeper and the doctor wanted him to keep the arm above his heart.

‟We need the annulment papers signed. We can file them tomorrow or the next day. I’ll have Robin, my lawyer, do it. You just need to sign the papers, they are on the Flying Sea Dragon.” Tom said quietly. His voice much improved since the first night when the nurse said it was a side-effect of having a tube pushed past his vocal cords.

‟What about your signature?” She frowned. This moment took a sudden turn to the sad-side.

‟I signed the papers weeks ago, a night you were crying in your sleep.” Tom said quietly, a shot of pain ran across his face. ‟You whispered Glenn’s name in that dream.”

‟Omy god, I’m so sorry.” Kaylee doubted that the pain was from his arm.

‟Don’t be. You said from the beginning, we weren’t supposed to be married. And really, you did not have to come here, either. You are a good person, but I am almost twice your age, I have all I have, but I lack one thing.” Tom moved a bit and groaned in pain and whispered a profanity. ” A future.”

Tom looked up at the big tree and gave a big sigh.

‟Like this young tree, your future is still bright and lays ahead of you with your Glenn. Get the papers and walk them over to the offices at the airport. Send them registered mail so it’s a required signature. That way it is the soonest it will be over, and you won’t have to return from your days back home to here and deal with this mess.”

‟Tom, I…” She couldn’t talk, her throat had tightened up like a knot. It was what she had wanted all month, why was it that it seemed to hurt, now that the time was here.

When this mess started she wept for the loss of her single-ness.

She loved with him.

She had fought with him.

She raced to his side in his time of need.

She spoke with the doctor about him and his arm when they thought that they may have to amputate.

She had fought for him with that witchy-woman who would demand he write while he recovered from having his arm, his future, hung by a thread of flesh.

She still felt like he told her to abandon him.

‟Tom, I…” Damn, there goes that knot in her heart again. ‟I will stay until they send you home, there are days I can catch up.”

‟You have to sign up for the classes, I’ll be discharged to attend Doctor Manga’s installation and make a speech. I can do that with only one arm.”

‟Tom, Honey, maybe you and I can get together after you get back from, Cambridge is where it is?”

‟That would be nice, but when I get back from Cambridge I’ll head to other places for a while.”

‟You think you might move?”

‟I am never in one place for long, you know that.”

‟Well, I thought. I mean, I just assumed that you stayed there.”

‟No, I was in Ocean Bay to meet with Dr. Manga and make a few donations and write. I would have been long-gone if we never met.” Tom groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair. “I just couldn’t fly away.”

‟And how do you plan to fly with that arm.” Kaylee was a little taken aback at her effect on his life. She and Tom worked well as a team and she kind of wanted him to grieve. It stung her that he had planned on moving on already. ‟You should be with someone to help you heal.”

‟I’ll hire a nurse, if need. But I think I am okay with flying on a wide-body jet in first-class. I can even buy tickets for four seats so I can spread out.”

This was all twisted, she was about to get what she wanted and he acted all matter-of-fact about how he would return to the world that he lived in.

*It feels like he woke up only to stab my heart.* Her heart and soul had a hard time with this.

*No. This,* she made a choice, *Is an opportunity. My life can get back on track, I’ve had an adventure. Me and Melanie can share this and still be friends with Tom. I can still go live my life as I meant it to be.*

But why did she feel as if she was about to lose a piece of her heart. If Tom wasn’t so badly hurt, she’d break his arm.

*And I can do it, too.*

*Ugh!* She clenched her teeth.

Even if it was right, this was so wrong.

*So damned wrong.*