tagSci-Fi & FantasyPlanetrise and Moonfall Ch. 02-03

Planetrise and Moonfall Ch. 02-03



Chapter 2


Year 20 R (Republic Era), two weeks ago

Following her prophetic revelation, Lil spun around on her toes and stepped through the yawning deck hatch to the main deck above, leaving me alone in my reverie.

Lil's mother, Gillian, formerly my step-mother, and previously my once-beloved Aunt Gill, the sister of my deceased mother, was a posthumous hero of the Glorious Revolution. You can read about her in the history readers, how 'the Noble Duchess of Merciant, the former Archduchess of Burbary, was killed while trying to defend her Republican principles by the cowardly blade of the Imperialist oppressor, her very own step-son, the so-called Honorable Ivan of the Merciant dynasty of Como Prime' 20 years ago.

Shit, I've seen the article for the first time very recently, a semi-gloss pressing was neatly cellulosed to my assigned sleep pod by the time I was ready to retire the very first night aboard this craft.

Lil wasn't there, way back then on that fateful day on my home world; a time that we had known would come sooner rather than later. She was just 18 and away at college. I lost my father and what was left of my distant family and friends that day, as well as my freedom, when the whole planet capitulated within hours of the invasion. We had never stood a chance. We were all victims, Gillian, my father, myself and Lilian, too. But the two of us have survived to this point and both of us were necessary for this present mission, even if the likelihood was that only one of us actually had a future, but we had much in the way of trials to survive before anyone could give consideration to any individual's future.

When I first saw Lil she was only 5 years old and I was 16; we were not particularly fond of each other at first. We looked very different, my mother and father were both white, as was her mother, my mother's sister, but Lilian's father was black. It may seem strange cousins rarely meeting, but the universe that was the Galactic Empire was much more complicated then. Noble families had been jockeying for betterment for hundreds of years, forming alliances, fuelling feuds between them, fielding petty dalliances and plotting intrigues from which only the true Machiavellians among that class derived any pleasure. The nobility were an ancient institution, set in their ways and many were too snobbish to even know what was going on outside their enclosed protectives. The galaxy was changing and the appetite for wholesale change was growing apace, but most nobles were too complacent to realise their time belonged in the past.

Of course, the rebels would have you believe that it was the 'Poor' who were the supposed driving force behind the revolution, that this 70-terranyear-long on-off campaign was for the benefit of the ordinary people of the vast population of mankind spread thin across the Milky Way. What rot! The poor people before the revolution are the same just as poor people under the new regime; the only change is that some of the middle rich are now ridiculously wealthy and the formerly wealthy are either dead or now, like me, forced to survive as part of the criminal underclass.

I did not learn much about politics at the Como Prime High School, although I was a home student at the time and had too many of the things that young men are occupied with at that age. It was my father the Duke who had an eye on the future and keeping the family's future interests alive.

So, I was married on my 18th birthday just before leaving for the Imperial Naval Academy with Pynom, my zulon navigator, who I had been bonding with since I was about 3 terranyears old. I left behind my arranged bride, Velda, who was 15 and who I had only just met.

Arranged marriages were quite normal among our society then, for increasing wealth and bolstering trade or influence or both. We were connected with the Emperor's family at great-grandfather level and Velda's family were connected to the Crown Prince's bride-to-be as second cousins, which strengthened our links with the Crown Prince, hopefully to become in time the next Emperor. I think my father was 33rd in line for enthronement then, now I believe I am fourth; Lil, descended from an archduke, is in primary position for Empress in her own right, should the monarchy ever be restored.


Imperial date 7932 E (Year Minus 9 R), 29 years ago

On our marriage, the ceremony held on my bride Velda's home world, F'gargo Prime, one of seven inhabited and agriculturally productive but culturally and economically rather backward planets, in front of both our close families. My new bride was only 15, which was fine for her family and the law's of their planet, but far too young for the laws on my own world. Once we were sealed together in the marriage bedchamber, and the titters of her silly bridal attendants faded away down the corridor, we faced each other, having barely exchanged a word together in the 48 terranhours we had been acquainted.

'How old are you, Velda?' I had asked gently.

Her eyes were downcast, she looked so young and vulnerable.

'I am fifteen terrans, my Lord. My period set in half a terran ago, so I am ripe enough to mate, if that is of concern to you, my husband.'

She looked up and I saw her bright blue eyes for the first time. I could sense both a little defiance and some pride at being ready to mate. No doubt she was prepared to busy herself raising our heirs who would strengthen the bonds between our families, mine the major house, hers the minor with most to gain from the new alliance. But there was also fear in her eyes, as she chewed her lower lip and fiddled with her hands, not prepared to exceed her authority by daring touching me first.

I smiled at her innocence. She looked such a sweet girl, so tiny that, despite her boasts of sexual maturity, she was still a child.

'Velda, you are a lovely girl, but by the laws on my world, which is our world now, you are still a child.'


'Velda, you are my bride and I am your husband, and you have promised in our wedding vows, the ones that you declare on your birth planet, to obey me as your husband, is that correct?'

'Yes, husband, I will obey you. I am your wife, even though in your eyes I am still a child, yes?'

`Yes, you are still a child but you are my lawful wedded wife.'

I separated both her clenched-together hands and held them gently in mine, before bringing them to my lips and kissed them in turn. Her eyes grew large and even more fearsome of what she felt was to befall her, rejection or consummation, both held the same promises of pain and hurt.

'Once again, are you still a virgin, my sweet wife?'

`Of course, I come to you as pure as winter snow, er, do you have snow there on your home world?'

'Not where our palace stands, not on that latitude. In our hemisphere it is presently our winter and now is as cold as it ever gets there, but rarely cold enough for frost or snow. But we do have mountains, glorious mountains and our polar regions are winter wonderlands for all our people to vacation in and enjoy. But enough of our climate, sweet Velda. I too, am a virgin.'

She gasped, 'But on our world ... you are three terrans older than I?'

'On your world, Velda, you mate soon after puberty, I have read up on your world.'

She nodded. 'That is true, husband. Only on our world only the males read, we girls are not allowed to be as advanced either in manners or technology as the boys and men of our world, and even they must be well behind what you learn on your more advanced world. I wonder why I was chosen as one of your consorts when there are far richer worlds with plenty of noble and more beautiful maidens to spare?'

I smiled at her question. Velda was a young and uneducated girl, a second class citizen on her agricultural world, even though she was one of the many daughters of the low-ranking Lord of her world. Although her potential rise should her relative marry the Crown Prince, there was every chance that upon becoming Emperor, he would seek many alliances to protect his position through marriages with other nobles. In that case, Velda's potential influence would reduce or cease.

'Your system, and the systems around you that your father claims as his own, is close to the centre of the Galaxy. It is an area of interest to my family, and your mother is more closely related to the Emperor through the proposed marriage of his son, than my father, which dynastically is a possible advancement.'

'Well, I hope that you are pleased with your latest wife, that I may bring you the pleasure you seek as well as improve the bloodline of your offspring. I ... I am ready, my Lord, my husband for the rituals of my wedding night.'

'We are not in any hurry to breed, Velda, so you can relax. As I said before, I am not yet blooded in the ways of the marital bed, and I am more ruled by the customs of my world, the world where we are intending to make our home and in this I am in complete agreement. We have not had concubines on my world, Velda, for several generations. On my home world and it's dependencies, all men and women, Lords, Ladies and Common folk are deemed equal and we are paired one male to one female only. My father rules by dint of birthright, but also by a vote every five terranyears of every man and woman citizen in our world and those who have spread out around the galaxy; it is they that decide if our noble house continues to rule or not.'

'Your people, men and women, vote for what exactly?'

"For maintaining the rule of the Lord and his privy chamber of citizen advisers drawn from all walks of life, who themselves have to stand every five years to continue in office. It helps to keep a Lord in check. Alternative forms of government are revised or new constitutions drawn up every five years from suggestions put by citizens and our independent Judiciary examine and hone these into viable options that citizens can consider at the next election. We have done this for a terranmillenium and we remain a benign, happy and stable autocracy, with respect for all our citizens on our side and we strive to continue to earn the respect by our people on the other. Our planet and system has prosperity, security and peace for all, as sedition and malcontent do not have fertile ground to thrive.'

'So all women have this right to vote, too? Will I?'

'Of course, you will, Velda, but not until you are legally a woman on our world, which is eighteen terranyears.'

'So, this extension of freedom to decide, does this extend to marriage and the possible breaking of a marriage?'

She looked up at me, square-shouldered and brave as she asked this question, but her hands involuntarily lifted away from my light grip, as if expecting a blow from me for her temerity.

'Yes, Velda, that is your right, even now before you are of age. At any time that you want to leave me and our marriage, you can, simply by registering a claim for legal separation leading to divorce with the Judiciary. You will not be asked for a reason, only confirmation that you wish a separation. This triggers an offer to provide free counselling to the couple, both individually and jointly, to see if the marriage could be salvaged by one or both marriage partners altering whatever behaviour that most offends the other. If that reaches an unsatisfactorily sufficient agreement to try to work through the problems together, then notice of the divorce is published, pending agreement of the ex-couple over any transitional payments, the visitation rights to children, and division of property, etc.'

'So I could be free at any time?'

'Not quite, Velda. On my world, our marriage vows legally mean nothing, until we are at least eighteen, so our respective parents would still be our legal guardians; in the absence of your parents, my parents would be honour bound to stand in as your guardians charged with protecting you from any unlawful approach I might make. Until then, despite our marriage vows earlier, we can only be betrothed to be married. So in effect, we are engaged to be married, and can go through a short private civic ceremony on or after your eighteenth birthday, if you wish, or you could sue me at the age of eighteen for an annulment.'

'An annulment? What is that?'

'It is the ending of a marriage that never was a marriage, one that was never consummated.'

'Like ours thus far?'

'Like ours thus far. You have the right, as a free citizen of my world, to freedom from suffering the consequences of a marriage contract made while you were a minor. Your husband does not own you, in fact no-one can never own you on my world; those words of you "obeying me" that we agreed to in our wedding ceremony an hour ago are only your world's wedding vows, they carry little or no weight on my world. You do not have to obey me, but I should expect you to support me, advise me, and, if our relationship is to survive a long lifetime, to learn to love me, as I will learn to love you. As we are a couple, it is important that we learn to live with each other, learn our ways and, in time learn to love each other and share that love with our babies, so they may be brought up in a family of mutual respect and love.'

'I want babies, happy babies, my husband, and I am prepared to wait for them. And I want to love you and be loved by you, so I think I will spend every day doing that.'

'I think that we must also make time for your schooling, Velda, otherwise everyone you meet in our circles will have that advantage over you. We are proud of our smart women, and I sense that you are bright and have already demonstrated an independence of spirit and that you are willing to question and learn. I want you to play a full role in the governance of our world and its possessions and outposts. We have access to the greatest exponents of teaching on my world, where every boy and girl learns to read, write, learn art and music and technology. I had toyed with taking you with me to the naval academy, but I think that you would be much better off back in school. I believe that you are smart and intelligent and will soon make up for lost time and missed opportunities.'

'Naval academy? You are leaving and not taking me with you?' She gasped and her tensions returned, she looked close to tears and even more like the little girl that she really was.

'Not for almost a quarter terranyear, my wife. I will get to know you, as will my mother and sister, and you may bring as many members of your household or additional friends with you to converse with while I am gone.'

'My family permits me to take just one, Sylvan, my personal maid.'

'And are you close friends with this Sylvan?'

'No, she is my father's spy. I hate her.'

'Then make a list of any friends you wish to bring with you and I will arrange passage and necessary offworld permits and, when we get to our world, we will keep Sylvan busy away from your personal staff and you will forever be out of the reach of your father, if you so wish.'

Velda was actually more than happy to delay our sexual relations, once we were sealed in the marriage bedchamber and free to discuss privately between us. She readily agreed that we would wait to consummate our marriage until I graduated from the Academy and she had reached this threshold of Como Prime's legal age, and caught up with the education she would need to live in a modern and more equal society.

The following day we set off for our new home. I flew our craft, with Velda sitting in the co-pilot's seat, with Pynom setting up a temporary mind link with her that went smoothly while Velda took charge of piloting the craft for at least half the journey, going in and out of several small wormholes. Her delight in trying something so new, so forbidden on her own world, where females were only considered for breeding new farming and labouring stock, was a joy to behold.

'I would like to learn to fly on my own like you, Ivan, my Lord, so that I might be independent for the first time in my life. Would this be permitted for a wife of a Lord or an Honourable on your, on our world?'

'It is permitted for any woman on our world to learn anything they which, especially if they show an aptitude for whatever that is. The younger you are when you start flying the better it is to learn to build a lifelong relationship with your zulon. However, you will be the first female in our family to express a wish to be a pilot, except for my cousin Lilian, who we hardly ever see.'

'You have a female cousin?' she asked, 'I met your sister Sholana at the wedding.'

'My cousin Lilian is a girl of only 8 terranyears and lives far away at a pre-Cadet school, learning how to meld with her zulon and become a pilot. I also went to a pre-Cadet school, one closer to our arm of the galaxy, so I came home more frequently. I doubt you will see Lil until the the spring on our world when the academic year ends, and soon after that I will depart for my three terranyears at Space Cadet School.'

'I am not looking forward to that, my Ivan. Can I be permitted to come with you to learn to fly?'

'No, my sweet, as is my duty, I have to serve five years in the Imperial Navy. As the wife of the heir to a Lord, you are not even permitted to join the Imperial Navy. In fact, Pynom tells me that, because of your marriage to me, it is best that no-one even knows you will be assigned the zulon, that Pynom will select for you. She is even now talking to her superiors to ask if your zulon can remain secret from other zulons too, at least until you qualify as a pilot. Whoever she selects for you will bond with you for life; it will be a close bond like I have with Pynom, she has been a part of my brain since I was three. Separation would be physically as painful as losing an arm or a leg, but the emotional cost will be like losing all your children in one go.'

'It is a commitment and, as a wife of the ducal heir to a system, I am prepared to dedicate my life to any commitment that is appropriate to my new station in life.'

'Remember you are not just a wife of an heir, but THE ONLY wife of an heir.'

'And that is why I am so happy,' she laughed.

I enjoyed her joy and did my utmost over the next few weeks to be comfortable settling her into my world that was so strange to her. She shared my bed as an affectionate companion, not yet a physical lover, but our friendship grew as a result of being so close whenever we had the chance.

I found myself just a few weeks later, however, light years from the home world I had known all my life, on a new adventure studying to be an officer pilot and making inroads into my five years' short commission in the Imperial Galactic Navy as an officer cadet.


Imperial date 7933 E, 28 years ago.

All my new fellow cadets soon found themselves satisfying sexual diversions close to the Academy. Apparently a whole sex industry thrived in such an environment, filled with influential and energetic young men and very few women, many of whom were ultra wealthy rather than simply rich, and already seeking to start building their harems or strings of concubines.

I was the last of my class to hold out, finally succumbing on the last night of the first year, having discovered that, due to rebel activity in the area, all students were locked down and unable to go home for the holidays.

The F1 hybrids, the clone army, that the rebels must have been growing in secret for a quarter of a century, were launched and they changed the face of space war. Prior to this point there were never any projectile weapons used in space; the risk to the hulls was too great. The convention for thousands of years was to board through airlocks, like leaf or flower buds near the stalk of space vessels, and win control of the ship by hand-to-hand fighting with battleblades and daggers.

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