Epilogue

After enduring two months of living in an offworld memory clinic at Fiori’s request, and another two months of readjusting to daily life alongside planning her marriage, Xannissa’s father, a tall Elestan with jet black hair and neutral skin, led his daughter down the aisle. She was dressed in a light blue gown, and her head was covered beneath a veil. Standing at the altar with the minister was Aedan, dressed in a suit that was also a light blue. When asked why she wanted a light blue wedding, Xannissa had mentioned that it wasn’t white, and white was the color she wore daily in the Navy. Instead of her ponytail, her straight, dark blue hair flowed down her back beneath her veil. Her bridesmaids—Atara, Sesh, and her sister Cylenna—flanked the minister on his right. Aedan was on his left, and behind him were Kyle, Rom, and one of Aedan’s old coworkers and friends, Leo.

     Xannissa’s misty-eyed father let her ascend the steps to the altar, and she walked forward, turned to face Aedan, and smiled. He beamed back at her, and couldn’t take his eyes off of the beautiful Elestan before him. The minister looked at them both, and then to the audience he reminded that this was a ceremony to acknowledge the sacred matrimony of two entwined souls. All those gathered there would bear witness to the vows they made to each other and to the Creator. This minister in particular, a firm believer in the power of marriage, proclaimed that the bond formed here was eternal, and could never be broken—should never be broken—from that day forward. Not wealth, nor health, nor other hardships could break their solemn vows. The only way to undo their union was death, and until then, they were each other’s to love and cherish for as long as they should live. The minister presented a ring made of a platinum alloy, a symbol of the vow, and offered it to Aedan. The Terran took it in his hand and slid the ring on Xannissa’s outstretched, cool gray finger, the third from her thumb on her left hand. After this, the minister offered Xannissa a similar ring, and she placed it on Aedan’s finger. The minister then allowed Xannissa to remove her veil, and they shared a kiss on the lips for all to see, followed by applause.

     The evening saw a reception sponsored by none other than the generous Kyle Korrell, there with his Elestan wife Talme and three teenaged Elestan daughters. Cylenna became the center of attention among a group of younger attendees accusing her of being the Spectre of racing fame. Attempting to do her younger sister a favor, Cylenna tried to deny it, but when one of the men of the group revealed a lumigraph of the nude pictures she took on Vandos with the Republic’s Hammer, she quickly closed it—one of the rare moments she actually tried to be modest before a group of fans. In order to appease them, she offered to sign autographs for them after most of the reception guests had disappeared.

     Rom’s wife Deya was well, having fully recovered from the mysterious disease that had gripped her gynoid body. Except for Atara, Xannissa, Aedan, and Rom, none of the other guests were the wiser with regard to Deya’s biology, or lack thereof. Also attending was Lieren who apologized on her father’s and Namara’s behalf for not being present. According to her, time had become a precious luxury that the Military would not let them waste, so they had sent Lieren on a mission to capture as much of the wedding as possible. Xannissa assured the cadet that the lumigrapher Kyle helped them hire would do his job well, and that she would share the lumigraphs with everyone in attendance when she received them.

     As the event was coming to its conclusion, Aedan and Xannissa left the building with their circle of close friends. Hovering just outside was a luxury gravidyne waiting to carry them into Lanan’s orbit. The newlyweds exchanged hugs, kisses, handshakes, and pats on the back before climbing into the light blue vehicle. Once the top was sealed, the aerocar climbed upward into the clear, sunny sky.

     “… the new Cycline Six line of luxury gravidynes. Fly in comfort within the spacious interior…” the wall-spanning lumigraph droned on. Atara was seated in the dining area behind the low wall separating the couch and living area on the other side. Today, like most days, she had the OPELs next to her open to the balcony that overlooked the verdant plaza below. Spread out around where she sat was a combination of Naval intelligence documents, officer evaluations, and a Subnet browser. Next to her sat the remains of her breakfast: two dishes, a couple of utensils, and an empty mug, all two hours old. Her new life was reflected in the markings on her standard uniform bodysuit: the rank insignia of a rear admiral. Despite being on a station orbiting Lanan, her quarters were far larger than they had been on the surface despite the fact that she now lived alone.

     There came a ping from the door, and Atara hid all of her lumigraphs, including the one playing endless commercials between snippets of news. After carrying her dirty dishes to the recycling receptacle, she headed for the door and opened it. Standing there to meet her were Xannissa and Aedan—the former in her usual Navy bodysuit and short jacket and the latter wearing a civilian REMASS outfit.

     Atara hugged them both, and after inviting them to come in, she asked, “How was the honeymoon?”

     “Unforgettable,” Xannissa said as she and Aedan stood in her living room. “Elestus is more beautiful than I remember.”

     “We had an amazing time,” Aedan told Atara while glancing at his wife. “We stayed at a resort on the coast of the warm Southern Ocean. There was a festival going on where we had a chance to partake in some of the ancient culture, which is what I found fascinating.”

     “Lots of sorrelin,” Xannissa noted. “Seemed a fitting end after serving on the Kela Sorrelin.”

     “Please, have a seat,” Atara told them as she moved toward the couch. The rear admiral took her seat on the right, Aedan on the left, and Xannissa in the middle.

     “There were women there showing off the intricate armor they made with the sorrelin scales,” Aedan explained. “I have a lume of Xannissa trying one on.” He produced it and showed it to Atara. When Xannissa saw it, she remembered.

     “Yeah,” Xannissa expressed. “Seems like the ancients only tended to cover their upper bodies.”

     Atara replied, “Just like your sister?”

     “Stop it,” Xannissa said playfully.

     Aedan closed the lume and said, “We took a daytrip to Kaielus.”

     “Beautiful moon,” Xannissa noted. “They have a megaplex there that would put Blue Road to shame.”

     The group talked and viewed lumes for the next two hours. As the conversation ebbed and flowed, Atara found it increasingly bittersweet. Her service partner was married, and though the partnership did not end, Xannissa would be spending the majority of her days with Aedan now. In that moment, Atara forgot that the Q-comm link would remain, and she would be able to speak to her friend from anywhere at any time, but life would never be the same. Before she knew it, she was at the door of her suite with the two newlyweds.

     Xannissa said, “I’ll try to come up here and see you as often as I can.”

     “Don’t make any extra time for me,” Atara said, smiling despite her sadness. “If anyone should be taking the time, it should be me.”

     “We’ll just be right down there,” Aedan told her. “We’re just a lumigraph away.”

     “You two be safe getting back, okay?”

     “We will,” Xannissa assured her. “I love you, Atara.” The Elestan reached out and hugged her lifelong Terran friend. Atara’s eyes watered, but she held back the rest of her emotion.

     “We’ll see you again soon,” Aedan said, reaching out for a hug as well, and Atara embraced him.

     “You take care of Xannissa for me,” Atara told him.

     “She’s precious to me,” Aedan whispered.

     Xannissa stated, “Should have told me to take care of him.” She grinned as she fabricated a handgun and held it up to her face, pointing it toward the ceiling, before quickly recalling it again.

     “I’m in good hands, for sure,” Aedan noted. “We love you, Atara. Bye!”

     “Bye, Atara!” Xannissa made a parting kiss on Atara’s cheek.

     “Goodbye! Be safe!” The couple exited the suite and the door closed behind them. Atara stood there for a moment, alone in her quite room. She moved slowly toward her dining table and resummoned all the lumigraphs she hid previously. It wasn’t twenty minutes into her work when another lumigraph appeared.

     “Captain Korrell?” The voice asked.

     “Who is this?” Atara replied. She looked over and saw an Elestan with black hair buns. “Relex?”

     “Hello Captain! Is it still captain?”

     “Actually, it’s rear admiral.”

     “My apologies.”

     “No problem.”

     “I actually found a reason to come to Lanan, and I’ll be there in five weeks. How about we gather up those senior officers and have a drink?”

     “I can’t promise I can get everyone, but I’ll do my best.”

     “That’s fine. I look forward to meeting you all again.”

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