ALTERNATE TALES OF THE STAR FORCE

STAR BLAZERS: Save the Last Dance for Me

Act Two: Noontime in the Sanctuary


I. DEARLY BELOVED...

December 26, 2201

Denver Megalopolis-Boulder District

Our Lady of the Rockies Church

Baseline Drive

1125 Hours: Mountain Standard Time

The interior of Our Lady of the Rockies Church looked like a fairy wonderland in the bright morning. The high-ceilinged sanctuary was beautifully decorated in a mixture of white flowers and Christmas poinsettias that were left over from the previous day's holiday services. The one hundred and twenty-five guests inside the church were also accented in the soft multicolored light that welled in from the multi-colored stained-glass windows that surrounded the rounded inside of the church.

The front pew on the left side of the church was reserved for Derek Wildstar's extended "family" of crewmen, friends, and military dignitaries. Commanding General Charles Singleton sat there, accompanied by General Stone and General Weller. Admiral Jeremy Falworth, the new commander of the Combined Fleet, was also present, feeling more than a little conspicuous in the new medium blue and gold peacoat he had been issued to go with his new rank. Another dignitary sat at Falworth's right. The rest of the pew was reserved for Sandor and the rest of the honor guard, who would sit during the ceremony while Venture and Natalie Fisher stood behind the bride and groom during the ceremony. Some of the other members of the Star Force who wouldn't be serving with the honor guard also sat there, such as Dr. Sane, Buzz, Eager, Dash, Orion, and Bryan and Angie Hartcliffe.

 

Right now, as the young Anglian pilot sat in his seat, he was trying to sneak a look at every female who happened to sit down on either his side of the church or on the other side. Buzz noticed his behavior, and whispered, "Now, what do you think you're doing, Mister?"

"Scopin' females, sir," whispered Hartcliffe. "Y'know, like, takin' names and noombers?"

"EXCUSE me?," said Angie firmly.

"Hey. Just lookin'," said Hartcliffe.

"You're not acting like an officer and a gentleman, mister...especially because your wife's right next to you."

"So?," said Hartcliffe with a grin towards both of them.

"Would you like to find out, Bryan, how my heel feels right in your INSTEP?," whispered Angie merrily.

"You would?"

Before Angie could answer, Buzz said, "Hey! Wouldja at least mind using some finesse if you're gonna look around?"

"I don't know the meanin' of it, sir."

"You wouldn't," hissed Buzz.

At that, Angie began to dig her stiletto heel into his boot. "Are you beginning to LEARN, Bryan?," she whispered gently.

"Uhh...ah think so."

"Good boy," said Angie sweetly, resting her foot back on the kneeler, which was down.

"Okay. Hey, Buzz, " said Hartcliffe, turning his head to look up in the choir loft. "Does that bleedin' band back there by that altar task requests? I wanna hear "Roadhouse Blues" when the bride marches up. Tell 'em to play loud, man."

"You jerk," whispered Buzz. "That's a modified chamber orchestra of brass, woodwinds, strings, and electric piano. They're not about to play the golden oldies. Read the program. According to that, they'll be playing the Little Fugue in G Minor  when Nova comes up that aisle. That's REALLY a golden oldie, written by a man known as Johann Sebastian Bach."

"Shoulda known it when I didn't see a lead or rhythm guitarist, sir."

Dash and Buzz just shrugged. Angie giggled and said, "All he knows about is rock and roll. Okay?" while old Patrick Orion grimaced a little. He whispered, "Laddie, are ye like this all the time...?"

"Or do ya just do this at weddings?," chimed in Buzz.

"Actually, guys...y' should see me at bachelor parties," said Hartcliffe. "I always try to eat the cake the stripper came in...while she's still in it.."

At that, Angie punched him in the arm.

"HEY!", muttered Bryan.

"Remember, you're married," sang Angie. "Past tense, past tense."

As the appointed moment approached, a silence fell for a time as more civilian guests began to come up the aisle and began to sit down.

The bride's family sat in a the pew on the other side of the church. The first space was empty for the moment, since Nova's mother Teri, who would arrive shortly before Nova, had not yet arrived. The next space would be taken up by Nova's father Karl, and the next two spaces were taken up by Orin and Margarita Fisher, the parents of Natalie. The Fishers were long-time business partners of the Forresters, and, as a result, Nova and Natalie had been friends since childhood.

Other family members sat there in happy moods. One fellow looked rather depressed, though. He happened to be Captain Hiram Josiah, who was, of course, Samuel's father and Teri's brother-in-law. He had married Yvona, Teri's sister, many years ago while serving in the United Nations Space Defense Force in the Gamilon War.

Yvona, as per her evil promise, wasn't there that day, and, it didn't seem as if she would be there, either. Part of Hiram didn't particularly mind, since Yvona seemed to have a penchant for spoiling any family gathering she was at due to her religious fanaticism.

However, Hiram had been a long-suffering husband, so part of him felt a pang of hurt at Yvona's absence. This, like many hurts, he was sure, was one he'd forgive, but not necessarily forget.

Then, a hush fell over the group as Stephen Sandor escorted Teri Forrester to her place. As per the etiquette of the day, everyone knew that at the moment the bride's mother was seated, no other guests could enter up the center aisle (although late-comers could come up the side aisles along the round walls, under the stained- glass windows.)

A moment later, a low, soft voice intoned, "Welcome, this day, to the wedding of Captain Derek Wildstar to Miss Nova Forrester. As we assemble in the presence of the Almighty to commemorate this union, please keep in mind this epigram by William Phelps: "Two people who love each other are in a place more holy than a temple or church." Please rise for the entrance of the celebrant: Pastor Martin Likanski."

To the tune of  A Sabbath Prayer, by Bock and Harnick, the congregation stood as a pair of Marines in dress uniform opened the main doors to the sanctuary, admitting the pastor and military commander, who came down the aisle together.

Likanski took his place behind the altar. Then, the candles were lit and, Likanski began by saying, "Greetings. May the Lord be with you all! Now, we begin the proceedings that we are gathered here today to witness. Please remain standing for the entrance of the groom and his party, followed by the bridal party and the bride. Ladies and gentlemen, on that note, I present you with the principals and their chosen witnesses."

On that note, the small orchestra struck up Bach's Little Fugue in G Minor, the chosen processional, as done by the string group, with very subdued brass and a subdued organ. The doors at the back of the church opened again, and the heroic young figure of Derek Wildstar made his entrance, followed by his best man. Wildstar looked positively dashing in his peacoat, ascot, Star Force whites, and spit-shined boots. However, even his finery couldn't hide the traces of nervousness and anticipation that were all too evident on his face.

When he and Mark stood before the altar, there was a quiet pause. Then, a moment later, Sandor and Hardy came up the aisle to the altar steps slowly beside each other on the right side of the church, followed by Samuel Josiah and Royster, with Rosstowski coming up the aisle alone as the last of the honor guard contingent, being sure to leave a gap between himself and Venture; the gap would be filled by the ringbearer in a few moments.

Behind them came the bridesmaids. First, there were Becky Falworth and Veronica Davis, followed by Mio Hoshiyama and Jane Forrester, with Laurel Hartmann bringing up the rear before Natalie, the maid of honor. Just as the honor guard had taken their places they too assumed their places on the altar steps on the left side of the church, with Laurel and Natalie leaving space between them for the flower girl.

Then came IQ-9, who, as ring bearer, solemnly rolled up the aisle carrying a white-covered dish with the rings. He wore a bow tie around his middle, just under his upper dome. A few chuckled and smiled at the sight of the small robot, and even more were relieved when he took his place between Rosstowski and Venture without incident.

A moment later, to the smiles of many more, there came Nova's little cousin Kristin as the flower girl; she walked slowly down the aisle flinging white rose petals and looking cute in her blue little-girl version of the bridesmaids' gowns, a near-perfect copy down to her little flat sandals. When she was done, (to a few whispers of "how cute!" from some of the congregation), she stopped, and carefully took her place between Natalie and Laurel as she had been taught during the rehearsal by her cousin Nova, who had been forced to break out of her place and help Kristin remember her cues. Venture smiled at that memory.

Finally, there was one more pause, and even the music stopped for a moment.

Outside, two Marine guards stationed on the church steps near the walk looked nervously up the road, and then glanced at their watches.

"Twelve hundred on the nose," muttered one of the guards. "Where's that limo, Mackie?"

"She didn't get cold feet, did she?," asked the other guard.

"Hope not..."

Under the music, everyone inside the church waited in anticipation for the doors to open again.

"Shame, isn't it?," muttered Mackie. "Keepin' all of us...

"SIR!," barked the other guard as a lone white air-limo, festooned with ribbons and flowers, appeared at the driveway.

"On time," said Mackie. They waited as the car stopped, and as the door began to open, they came to attention, snapping and holding honor salutes at their brows with ceremonial stiffness. Behind them, four other Marine guards snapped to, presenting arms to the car's occupants as they came up the steps, facing two more guards, stationed at the doors. One guard nodded, and the other spoke softly into his helmet communicator mike to his comrades stationed inside the church. Then, on cue, he and his comrade flung open the outer doors of the church.

Finally, after a wait that made Derek swear to himself that he would simply burst with nervous energy, the inner doors were opened again by the Marines. The music started again, returning to Bach’s Little Fugue in G Minor  but now, it was just played solo on the church organ, played very fast, very magnficent, sounding as if it was being played in a cathedral in Germany in the 1600’s.

Up at the altar, Venture nodded, and he and the other honor guard members brought their hands up to their brows in salute.

Two figures appeared in the lobby and began to make their way down the aisle. To the right side of the church walked Karl Forrester, who looked both resplendent and solemn in a his black tux jacket and striped slacks. He was obviously biting his lower lip below his heavy mustache to keep his tears from flowing as he slowly walked down the aisle with his daughter on his arm.

Finally, there was the bride herself.

Nova wore a beautiful, pure white silk veil and satin wedding gown that made her look simply stunning. Her veil was trimmed with snowy white orange blossoms and small pearls that beautifully complimented her honey-blonde hair, which appeared very light under the bright sunlight as it filtered through the stained glass windows. Her face was flushed with excitement as she walked, and her dark brown eyes brimmed with tears under their long, luxurious lashes.

The gown itself was in white satin, and it also left her shoulders mostly bare like the bridesmaids' gowns. However, it was trimmed with a huge white ruffle that flowed around her neckline, shoulders and back. The gown had short puffed sleeves that left her long, fine arms bare from just above the elbows down to just below the elbows, where she wore a pair of long white satin gloves. In her gloved hands, Nova clutched a beautiful bouquet that she had made herself with flowers taken from her little garden in the Argo's hydroponics room on Christmas Eve right before they had left the Megalopolis. The rest of the gown clung tightly to her slender build down to her narrow waist, where it flowed out and down in many folds to the deck, where just a little of it trailed behind her on the runner as a train. Finally, the gown's ruffled hem rustled with each step to briefly show her feet. Derek at first thought she was wearing open-toed sandals (which he thought was very cute) because her bare toes showed with each step at the dress’s hem…until one of her long bare legs showed clearly through a slit in the full skirt and he then saw that Nova was coming up the aisle barefoot with one ankle decorated with a blue ribbon and a pink flower that matched the bouquet. Derek smiled at Nova, thinking that her graceful barefoot walk up the aisle looked simply adorable. Derek would see her that way a great deal, since, as it turned out, Nova would spend the rest of her wedding day, right up until the wedding night, in her bare feet.

"MARK," whispered Derek to Venture as they stood waiting by the lectern, facing out towards Nova and her father. "Mark...she's beautiful. I hope I don't mess this up...not now."

No one noticed, because, like many long-time military personnel, Derek and Mark had mastered the art of whispering in low voices in ranks without letting their lips or heads move. Mark glanced slyly at Derek and said, "If you screw up now, Derek, I'll kill you. On the other hand, if you screw up tonight...when you two get alone...she'll kill you."

Mercifully, Nova was ignorant of all of this. As she walked up the aisle, her gaze was fixed firmly on Derek's face. Wildstar's nervousness began to fade as Nova came closer, with eyes meant only for him. Her gentle eyes calmed his nerves but they also made his heart beat faster as she came up to him.

By now, Karl Forrester was softly sobbing as he escorted his only child into her final moments of life as a single woman. Nova herself almost began to cry, but she held herself in check, thinking, I've always cried at weddings! If I cry at my own, I'll embarrass Derek and the others, and they won't be able to stop me....Besides... thought Nova as she gazed at the joyful expression on Derek's face that hid his churning stomach ...if I screw up now, he'll kill me!

Finally, the moment came as Nova and her father arrived at the altar.

Karl noticed Nova exchanging a longing glance at her intended, and he also noticed Wildstar returning that glance with a tenderness that broke his heart. Teri and I couldn't have chosen better , he thought. As a matter of fact, I'm very pleased. But, still...oh...what I'm about to do...our only daughter...our only child...

The honor guard and bridesmaids stood expectantly as Likanski began the ceremony with the classic words, "Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today to join this man, Captain Derek Wildstar, to this woman, Miss Nova Forrester in the sacred state of matrimony; an honorable state that is to by no means be entered into lightly. If there be any man or woman who objects to these two being joined in matrimony, let him or her give just cause now or forever hold his peace."

The church remained silent. Then, Likanski said, "Who gives this woman to be married?"

"I do," said Karl with a lump in his throat. Then, Karl Forrester stood stiffly as he slowly placed Nova's hands in Derek's as they faced each other across the aisle and turned to face Pastor Likanski. As Karl turned away from Nova and looked out at the congregation before beginning to walk back to his place beside Nova's mother, he noticed that Teri was sitting in the pew weeping like a faucet.

Karl almost felt like weeping himself as he walked back to his place to comfort Teri.

After Karl was seated, Father Likanski continued with, "Today, we stand here together to join this couple, who come here from two different backgrounds. The groom comes from the Great Island of Japan, while the bride comes from this town," said Likanski after a pause, "walking again, for the last time as the daughter of her parents, the streets of her childhood, standing before you in the same rebuilt church in which we taught her as a member of this community of faith. As such, it is an honor to me, seeing how much this young woman has accomplished within just twenty-three years of life, to stand here, joining her to the man she loves. This couple came together in Earth's most desperate hour, as shipmates, as friends, as lovers, and, today, as life mates."

Derek and Nova stood exchanging glances at each other as Likanski continued with: "It is one of life's richest surprises when the accidental meeting of two lives leads them to decide to proceed together as husband and wife. Thus, in the presence of God and your presence, we come today to join Miss Nova Forrester and Captain Derek Wildstar in marriage. This is to be a ceremony which is both civilian and military, and Western and Eastern. Thus, it shall unite both of you in a bond that is to be lifelong; a bond that will outlast Time itself."

Likanski paused again. "At this time," said Likanski, "Nova and Derek shall stand together, and shall give some readings they have selected in order to reflect their feelings for each other."

At that, Wildstar and Nova faced each other, nodded softly, and then walked hand in hand up to the lectern to the right of the altar. Nova began to read her Scriptural selection. as she did so, back in the pew, Teri bit her lip and stifled a sob as Nova's voice continued to roll softly over the congregation. "Karl...doesn't she sound wonderful up there? This is the first time I've heard her read in church since her confirmation...but doesn't she sound so happy?"

"She does...and she should," sniffed Karl.

Nearby, a tear was running down Captain Josiah's cheek. More than ever... he thought, ... I'm glad Yvona's not here. She'd raise some kind of stink about the bridal couple doing their own Scripture readings in Church. Funny, she fulminates about our church being the Whore of Babylon, yet she'd turn green if anyone else other than the priest or minister read from the Bible in this church. Yvona's a weird one.

Derek stood beside Nova, smiling softly as Nova finished the reading with the traditional words, "...This is the word of the Lord."

A few seconds later, Nova glanced at Derek, and he said, "As my response, I would like to read the following to Nova and you in reply. This was taken from an old book of traditional Japanese Zen poetry, and these are three short readings." He then read three short examples of poetry that he had selected. He then followed this reading with a Scriptural reading of his own.

As the ceremony continued, Dr. Sane, in the front pew, sat whispering to his cat, Mimi. "See? The Captain's still giving his reading. During a Buddhist wedding, you sometimes have people reading from the old scrolls...and this isn't that much different. Besides, some of what Nova said came from haiku I'm familiar with..." As Wildstar went on, Dr. Sane's pew mates gave him a dirty look, before turning back to hear Wildstar recite, "Love suffers long, and love is kind; love envies not; love does not vaunt itself, and is not puffed up...."

"That must be why he chose that," whispered Dr. Sane. "All this is about love, see?"

A few seats down, Hartcliffe muttered, "What's takin' so long? Kiss the bird and get it over with, eh?"

"Were you this impatient at your own wedding?," muttered Buzz.

"Yeah. And you know why, right?"

"Right," purred Angie like a cat as she stroked Bryan's arm and softly whispered a lewd suggestion in his ear.

"I think the Captain can wait a little longer than you can," said Buzz.

"He hurried through that reading' fast-like. He must be desperate," muttered Bryan.

"REAL desperate," leered Angie. "Maybe Nova's putting her heel in HIS boot behind the lectern, huh?"

"Yeah, luv, maybe that's IT," said Hartcliffe.

"Oh, shut UP, you two," grumbled Buzz, albeit with a grin.

The focus switched back to Nova, who said, "I would like to respond to Derek's reading with the following poems, which, like his, were also written by a Zen writer in Japan. In these poems, let our love be honored in the tradition of Derek's ancestors."

Nova glanced lovingly at Derek before continuing with,

"Like the tides' flood
in Izumo Bay.
Ever deeper and deeper
grows my love
each time I think of you.

We are, you and me,
like two pine needles
Which will dry and fall
But never separate.

I don't care
What anybody says.
I will never stop
loving you...."

When Nova finished, her eyes were glittering, both with love, and with tears. She gently took Derek by the hand as they left the podium and walked together to the altar.

There, they stood together for a long moment as Likanski took their places behind the altar. Finally, the priest looked at them and said, "Derek and Nova, have you come here today freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?"

Looking the priest in the eye, they said, "We have."

He then asked, "Will you honor each other as husband and wife for the rest of your lives?"

With a definite hitch in their voices, they said, "We will."

Pastor Likanski then said, "Nova, Derek, since it is your intention to enter into the honorable estate of marriage, join your right hands and declare your consent now before God and this congregation."

Wildstar looked at Nova and said with tears gathering in the corners of his eyes as he gazed at his soon-to-be wife's face, "I, Derek, take you, Nova, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, and in war and in peace. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life, until Death do us part."

Nova smiled shakily, and then said to Derek, with a definite hitch in her voice, "I, Nova, take you, Derek, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in heath, and in war and in peace. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life, until Death do us part."

"Bearer, the rings, if you please," said Father Likanski formally and quietly.

Inside his metal body, the circuits that passed for IQ-9's electronic heart were breaking as he slowly came forward, faithfully holding the little white linen-covered metal tray that held Derek and Nova's wedding rings and a Buddhist rosary. While Derek gently removed Nova's white gloves and laid them on the altar, IQ-9 came up between them for a moment, with his dome turning towards Wildstar as the young Deputy Captain stood back for a moment, permitting the robot to come up all the way up to the altar. On cue, the small robot silently set the tray down on the altar, and then swung his dome around to face Nova for a moment.

He was silent, but, inside his circuits he thought, Goodbye, Nova. I hope you understand...I've always loved you... and part of me always will.

Nova silently glanced down at him, giving him a little smile before glancing back up at Derek.

Wildstar looked down at IQ and nodded once, his glance conveying, at once, a sense of understanding of the robot's electronic feelings, and, at the same time, a quiet, yet firm sense of "Please leave, now. She's to be mine."

The robot himself bowed a little in a half-nod before slowly stepping back and away.

From his place, Mark Venture caught IQ-9's solemnity, and looked over at Nova as Father Likanski repeated a prayer. Venture's eyes were also wet with tears as he stood beside Wildstar, watching him reaching towards the ring.

I'm glad you two finally made it here, he thought, but with a great lump in his throat. Derek, you're so lucky. I don't know if you realize it. Nova's beautiful...I'm happy for you...for both of you...but you don't realize you're breaking a whole shipload of hearts today by deciding to belong forever to each other. Glad...you listened to my advice...but...I wish... thought Venture as he looked up at the stained glass windows for a moment, looking at the designs, and the pictures of saints and holy men and women, I wish some things could've been different.  

Venture opened his eyes again, looking through his tears at Derek and Nova as Father Likanski intoned, "As you, Derek, place this ring on Nova's finger, say unto her these words. Nova, with this ring, be thou consecrated unto me as my wife, in everlasting love."

Trelaina, thought Venture with deep sadness. Why couldn't things have been different? Why couldn't you have remained? Why...couldn't it have been...you and I up here, on some other day, saying our vows...before Derek on the ship?"

As, in silence, IQ-9 turned his dome away from the couple, not being able to look on as Wildstar put the ring on Nova's finger, Derek placed the ring on the tip of Nova's finger and said, "Nova, with this ring, be thou consecrated unto me as my wife, in everlasting love."

With tenderness, Derek Wildstar slid the ring gently down Nova Forrester's third finger, stopping when the ring reached its proper place. Then, Derek gently caressed Nova's hand for a moment, and through her tears, Nova smiled, rocking back on her heels inconspicuously. As Derek lovingly put her hand down on the altar, Nova was glad she was barefoot and that her sandals had broken right before the ceremony, because, in her shaky excitement, her toes freely curled upwards for a moment before she changed her stance, and she then felt the tip of one of them brushing against both the carpet laid before the altar...and the side of Derek's boot. Her hands were trembling as she reached for Derek's ring, while Likanski said, "And you, Nova, place this ring upon Derek's finger as a token of wedlock and say unto him these words: Derek, with this ring, be thou consecrated unto me as my husband, in everlasting love."

Venture's throat hitched, and, out in the congregation, he heard Teri Forrester sobbing before Nova began.

Why couldn't it have been different?, thought Venture again. Trelaina...why couldn't it have been you...or....?

Then, Venture's heart went colder than ever as another thought came unbidden to him. or...why couldn't it...have been ME up there....with Nova...rather than you, Wildstar? Why..?

NO, thought Venture with a sudden set to his jaw as he looked up towards the ceiling...expecting to see Trelaina appearing to him, angry, and in a blaze of light, ready to punish him for...thinking what he had just thought. NO! , he thought. "Please...Trelaina...please..."

Venture looked again, looking with tears in his eyes as Nova shoved the little golden flame further onto Wildstar's finger, as she said, in a beautiful, half-sobbing voice, "...Derek, with this ring, be thou consecrated unto me as my husband, in everlasting love...forever!," she added, in a sudden burst of emotion, squeezing his hand.

Derek started a little, but not in a bad way. He felt his heart leaping, and he understood. He squeezed Nova's hand back and said, "Forever," in both reply and approval of her sudden outburst of emotion.

In his place in line, Paul Rosstowski looked down for a moment at his own hand, now ringless, due to the fact that Clarissa had taken the ring back at their divorce, and then looked on quietly and sadly at Nova and Derek as Likanski said, "In keeping with the declaration you have made, you have given and received these rings. They are a token of your union, a symbol of enduring love, as is," he said as he picked up the third item off the ring bearer’s platter, "this Buddhist rosary from your homeland, Captain Wildstar. As you have bound each other with your vows and rings, let this bond, in the tradition of your ancestors, remind you both that your lives are to be likewise bound together by devotion and faithfulness."

At that, Likanski, wondering in passing for a moment why the most weddings he was familiar with didn't contain such an amusing yet touching symbol as this, gently bound Derek and Nova's hands together for a moment with the Buddhist rosary as the young couple took this moment as a convenient excuse to gaze at their newly beringed hands...and into each other's eyes...as the rite was completed.

Sandor, standing beside Venture, noticed his friend's perplexity, and whispered, "Mark...what's wrong?"

"Nothing. It's just...well...a lot of things..."

"Trelaina?," he asked softly.

Venture nodded once, silently, with tears running down one cheek. He was almost about to say, "...and other things..." when, on cue, the church bells pealed once, twice, and then a third time. At that, taking it almost as a signal from Heaven that he had better not say anything else about his feelings at the moment, Venture kept his peace while the orchestra began to play Schubert as an interlude to the ceremony. After the pause, Likanski said more prayers for the young couple. Then, behind Nova, as had been rehearsed, Natalie, as Maid of Honor, recited a brief prayer for the young couple as she glanced over at Venture to see how he was doing.

Natalie sensed a deep, abiding sense of sadness about Mark Venture. She, like everyone else, knew of his recent loss. She had almost asked not to be "escorted" by him, in consideration of his loss, but Nova's mother wouldn't hear of something she considered such a breach of etiquette, as she insisted (but very gently) that the bridesmaids, as per tradition, should properly be escorted by the members of the Honor Guard at the reception, simply as a matter of honor. At that, she had left it.

After the response, Venture wiped away his tears, cleared his throat, and said, "For the faith, the hope, and the love we see exemplified today in the union of Nova and Derek, so that those virtues may be shared by those gathered and carried with us all our days, we recite this prayer." As more prayers were said, with a solemnity that was becoming a little too deep for some (especially a few of the pilots) as Nova added, "If anyone in the congregation would like to share their thoughts with us and God, please do so."

Then, Dr. Sane looked down questioningly at Mimi, who chose that moment to chime in with a loud "MEOWWW!"

Nova bit her tongue to stifle a burst of giggles as an audible "Awwwwww!" went through the church. Up at the altar, Likanski whispered, "Captain, who brought that animal into the sanctuary?"

"Welll...ah..," whispered Derek....

Nova overheard the exchange and whispered, "She's with a friend of ours. God help the person who tries to part them today."

"But...Captain...," stammered Likanski.

Wildstar looked back at Doctor Sane and the rest of his shipmates with a smile and whispered, "Father...we wouldn't have it any other way today. Even that cat has been through battles with us..."

"And she'll bring us good luck," added Nova.

"Right," said Likanski mildly, as he thought, Okayyy... Likanski then said, "Derek, Nova, please hold hands again for the final pronouncement of the ceremony."

They did so, waiting as Likanski came forward, placing his hands over theirs.

There was a long moment of silence. No one dared to speak. Finally, Nova's childhood pastor said, "By the power vested in me by the United Earth Federation, the Earth Defense Forces, and this church, I pronounce you both husband and wife. Captain Wildstar, you may now kiss your bride."

Derek and Nova turned to each other and gazed at each other with glistening eyes. The moment had finally come. Finally, Nova gave up all of her reserve and fell straight into her new husband's arms with a soft, happy sob. Both of them then began to weep with sheer joy as they held each other close and exchanged a tender, incredibly passionate kiss.

At that, the keyboardist began to play a Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as a recessional on the organ. She was joined by the rest of the orchestra as the guests stood up to congratulate the young couple with a burst of applause as they turned to face the congregation over the peals of the bells.

Inside the church, Venture barked, "Orders, HUH!," as the members of the honor guard snapped into line. Venture then barked, "Forward, HARCH!," as they went down the aisle. Nova and Derek followed them for a bit, stopping near the front pew as the bridesmaids came up behind them and the honor guard proceeded down the aisle to the outside.

After a moment, Venture took his place outside on the walk leading off from the church steps as the rest of the honor guard assumed their places, in files of three men each. Venture noticed the bridal air-limo pulling up from the place it had parked during the ceremony, and then, with some dismay, he noticed a few photographers and video cameramen coming up behind the limo, stopped at a respectful distance by four Marine guards who were there for security purposes.

How did they EVER find out? thought Venture as he added, to himself, Well, at least it's not as bad as it would be if this were New York or the Federal Megalopolis. There, it'd be a circus. Here, it's just a few newsmen coming up from downtown Denver to observe the fun...

Then, Mark noticed the church doors opening. He tightened his grasp on the hilt of his ceremonial sword as he said, "All hands, at the ready...!"

"I hope I can do it without dropping it," said Royster in a tremulous voice.

"Don't worry," whispered Sandor. "You'll be fine."

The doors came open in a burst, as the strains of the EDF march filtered out into the outside.

Venture waited a heartbeat until the doors were open. Derek and Nova emerged. "Orders, HUH!," he barked as he withdrew his sword. At that, six glistening sabers came up in the traditional military arch of honor over Wildstar and Nova as they came down the steps to a burst of applause and camera flashes from the press, followed by Natalie and the rest of their bridesmaids, who came under the arch and took their places in front of the honor guard as Derek and Nova paused at the last step, standing with surprised smiles as the photographers snapped pictures. They squealed with laughter as, on cue, the bridesmaids flung a few showers of birdseed over them before they ran happily into their white bridal limousine, which was a large white air-limo festooned with white ribbons and roses.

At the window of the car, Derek and Nova waved one last time to the press as they cuddled against each other in the car in a picture that would appear worldwide in the media that night before the limo took off on its way to the reception, leading the bridal procession behind an escort of the local police on hover bikes.

Inside the car, as the window hummed up while the bridal procession took off with the traditional honking of horns, Nova snuggled against Derek, stretching out her legs for a bit.

Wildstar smiled as he rested his booted foot against her bare foot in the white carpet inside the private compartment in the limo.

"I've never been in a car quite this nice; have you?" whispered Nova in awe.

"No," said Wildstar as he caressed both the soft plush seat material...and Nova's gloved hand for a moment. "I've never seen you in a dress quite this beautiful, either. Oh, KAMISAMA, you look like royalty today...you're so beautiful."

"Thank you, my Consort," said Nova softly. "And you, sir, make a very handsome Skipper."

At that, without reserve, she kissed him in the privacy of the limo. The kiss was magical, and utterly beautiful. When they broke it and opened their eyes, Wildstar looked Nova over again. "You're beautiful from the top of your veil to the tips of your toes. Speaking of that…where’s your shoes? Not that I mind….you look adorable as a barefoot bride."

"Thanks," smiled Nova. "I’m not wearing any shoes because I had silk sandals on; but the straps broke right as I arrived at the church. How do I look out of my service boots and in my bare feet?"

"Great," said Wildstar. "You look just as good as you did that time, on the way to Iscandar, when I caught you sunbathing in the sunroom in that little white one-piece..."

"Which, Captain, I made quite sure I packed for you."

"No need to mention it. I think this is only the second or third time I've ever seen you barefoot, you know. I think this is only the second or third time or fourth time in all our time together I've seen your toes, dear…either in bare feet or in sandals. I wasn't sure if you had them."

"Silly!," giggled Nova as she slapped his hand playfully. "What was the first time?"

"Well...The first time was when I saw you in the sunroom that time, then, much later...you were in that blue nightgown...," said Wildstar with a faraway look in his eyes, "and you were almost dead..."

"Shh...don't mention that," said Nova softly as she recalled the bittersweet memory of their arrival home from Iscandar. "You know I'm well now... and you're going to be seeing MUCH more tonight on that island," whispered Nova in his ear as she blushed with excitement.

At that, they kissed again as the procession sped on. They had never been happier in all of their lives.


To Be Continued...

Additional Notes: (Added by Freddo: 3/6/2011)

Thanks to clips from YouTube, I have added a few links that the reader can go to to find out what the music sounds like:

1.  The Little Fugue In G Minor (J.S. Bach)  (As Done by A String Group-First Part of the Processional)  To listen CLICK HERE

2.  The Little Fugue In G Minor (J.B. Bach) (Reprise-on the Organ-End of the Processional)   To listen CLICK HERE

3.  Beethoven’s Ode To Joy (Part of the Ninth Symphony)  To listen CLICK HERE