Colonel A'rdhura C'akegh, like all Marutans, had flesh-toned skin, ridges that lay flat on his temples and the bridge of his nose, but had no marking, as many other races did.
A'rdhura had medium brown hair that came down just below his shoulders. A gentle bear of a man, he was quite tall, 6'5", extremely muscular, with six-pack abs and a chestful of hair. At 38 years of age, he had a physique that could take your breath away.
He was second-in-command on a starship.
He was divorced with four sons aged 8-20. His ex-wife had cut them all out of her life, signing over her parental rights the night she presented him with divorce papers.
The boys lived with him on the ship. He was estranged from his family, and had been for years, after being kicked out by his father when he was 17.
The boys were miniature Ardhuras.
One evening, the Admiral told him to come to the Ready Room.
After a few minutes of pleasantries, the Admiral got down to the main reason for the meeting.
“Our war with the Vajjerians ended one month ago. We're now allies with them. To bolster this new alliance, our Federation has decided to have several of our single, widowed and divorced warriors marry some of their citizens.
“You're on the list to be matched with a Vajjerian. Your new bride will arrive here in a few days. A brief ceremony will take place then.”, the Admiral explained.
“WHAT?”, A'rdhura asked, shocked. He couldn't believe his ears.
“You heard me. You, along with other brave warriors, will be marrying Vajjerians, sight unseen.“
“Wow! How old is she?”, he asked.
“I'm given to understand that all the ladies are between the ages of 21 and 26. I don't know how old your bride will be.
”These marriages will help strengthen the alliance between the Vajjerians and our Federation.“, the Admiral said.
”Do I have any say-so in this? Does she have any say-so in this? Do any of us?“, A'rdhura asked.
”No...no you don't. Neither does she nor anyone else on the list. We have to do everything we can to make sure this alliance stays strong.
”A'rdhura, for the record, this is not to be a marriage in name only. This is to be a real marriage, just in case you were thinking otherwise.”, the Admiral told him.
“Wonderful.”, A'rdhura replied sourly.
“The last thing I want to do, besides marrying a complete stranger, and on top of that a Vajjerian, is having to be intimate with her and having children by her.
”How do I tell my sons their new stepmom was the enemy just 4 weeks ago?“
“You'll figure it out. The two of you will grow to love each other. Give it time.”, the Admiral said.
They spoke abit longer, then A'rdhura returned to his cabin.
When A'rdhura arrived at his cabin, the boys were playing a video game in the Gathering Room.
“How was your meeting?”, B'huru, his oldest son, asked, pausing the game. B'huru, 18, was a pilot on the ship.
”Oh boys, where to start? Where to start?“, A'rdhura exclaimed, slumping onto the couch.
“Apparently the Federation has decided to play matchmaker for many of us single, widowed and divorced Marutans, and find us all Vajjerian spouses to help the new alliance along.
”It's a load of sharkht if you ask me. Anyway, my blushing bride will be arriving in a few days.
“I'm not looking forward to marrying her, but I've got my orders so...I guess I'm getting married.”, A'rdhura said.
“I don't like it one bit, Dad. I hate her already. Nothing's going to change that.
”They lost! They surrendered! Now they'll be marrying Marutans? No. I'll never accept her. None of us will!”, exclaimed B'huru.
”And to think you'll have to...eww with her! Yuck! I think I'm gonna barf! I hate her!“, said V'akhro, son number two.
”Eww...and kiss her and...eww...have kids with her! Nope! No way will we accept that! We beat them! I hate her too!“, B'axlanh, son number three, exclaimed. The others all agreed.
”Eww!“, K'jahr, his youngest, said.
“Look, we Marutans are better than this. Yes, we beat them resoundingly, but we and the Vajjerians are allies now. Hating her isn't going to help anyone.
”I'm sure she's nervous about being married off to me and having to live with us, knowing that just one month ago our races were at war with each other, knowing how badly we beat them.
“Who knows? Maybe she lost a loved one in the war.
“Despite your comments of 'eww', I'll do what I have to do, just as she'll do what she has to do. I'll never love her, but I will always be kind to her. It's the honorable thing to do.”
“Can't you tell them no? I mean, she's Vajjerian! No way should you have to...eww! She's Vajjerian! Just tell them no, that you don't want to be married to one of her kind! Tell them your kids are against it.”, V'akhro said.
“No, I can't, boys. I've got my orders. I'm sorry, but I have no choice. At least we're not being ordered to go live there!”, Ardhura replied.
“EWWWWWWW!”, the boys exclaimed in unison. A'rdhura smiled broadly at their response.
“Now, I want you boys to promise me something. You don't have to like her, love her, or even call her 'Mom'.
”What you DO have to do is show her the respect she's entitled to as my wife.
“Don't hate her. She's every bit a political pawn as I am. More so, in some ways. I want you to promise me you'll do that. Do I have your word, boys?“, Ardhura asked.
”Dad, I can't. I'm sorry but I can't accept this marriage! If you go through with it I'll refuse to have any part of it!“,
”B'huru you do realize don't you that if you were three years older you'd have been on that list as well? We'd both be getting married to a Vajjerian.
“No way would I do that! They're filth! I hate Vajjerians!”, he replied.
“We're military officers, B'huru. We obey orders whether like them, agree to them or not. I expect you, I expect all of you to put aside your feelings, don't hate her, and give her respect.”
”Alright, Dad. It definitely won't be easy, but I'll try not to hate her; at least not to her face anyway. I'll try to be respectful to her, just like you want me to be. But...this is just so WRONG.“, B'huru replied. The other boys nodded in agreement.
”You have our word, Dad.“, they said. He hugged them all tightly.
”I love you guys! I'm so sorry your mom and I couldn't make it work. I begged her to stay, told her over and over how much I loved her. You know I did, but she refused. She insisted on leaving us for her old boyfriend.
“I'm even more sorry that she wants nothing to do with you boys. It's her loss that she kicked you out of her life!
”Look boys, whether this Vajjerian woman and I ever have kids or not, I'll never kick ANY of you out of my life! I give you my word on that! I love you boys, and will always love you no matter whom I'm married or not married to!“, Ardhura exclaimed, hugging them tightly.
A few days later, she arrived at the ship accompanied by a Marutan diplomatic official.
She was nervous at meeting her new husband.
A'rdhura was nervous as well. He was wearing full military dress. Soon, he heard a knock on the cabin door.
”Come in.“, he called out, taking a very deep breath. The reality of what he was about to do hit him, and hit him HARD! His boys sat on the couch and recliners.
The official and A'rdhura's bride then entered the cabin. A'rdhura walked over to her.
”Hello. It's very nice to meet you. I'm A'rdhura. Welcome home.“, he said tenderly, smiling ever-so-slightly. He thought she was absolutely beautiful! She nodded, smiling ever-so-slightly as well, and blushing. She thought he was quite handsome.
”Hello. I'm Qal'u.“, she replied softly.
She was slender, barely five feet tall, very buxom, with reddish blonde hair that came down halfway to her waist. She looked to be in her mid-twenties.
She had ridges that lay flat on the bridge of her nose, and markings the shape and size of pearls across her face, down her neck, the sides of her abdomen, as well as the outsides of her arms and legs to the tips of her fingers and toes.
The young woman was dressed in a sleeveless royal blue dress that came mid-calf, and trendy blue rhinestone-studded open-toed sandals.
Her hair was intricately braided on the top and sides of her head, with the rest laying down her back.
Her nails, including her toenails, were painted royal blue. She wore large hoop earrings, along with the traditional Vajjerian ear cuff and dainty chain and earring on her right ear cartilage and lobe.
A crewmember followed them in with her belongings. She had brought five large cloth tote bags plus her purse.
”Colonel C'akegh, we need to have a brief ceremony, and then I'm off.
“I need you both to sign your marriage license and marriage certificate here on my small-screen.“, the official said.
”Alright. Ensign, you can put my wife's belongings in our room there. We'll return the cart to Maintenance later this evening.“, A'rdhura said to the crewmember.
He then signed his name. She signed as well.
His sons watched the whole scene play out. B'axlanh, V'akhro, and K'jahr all suddenly realized what exactly their dad was being forced to do by their own government.
Suddenly they also realized what this young woman was being forced to do by her government and theirs. They realized she and their dad, the dad whom they loved so very much, were just being used as political pawns. They stopped hating her that instant.
Even B'huru started reassessing his views on the marriage.
The ceremony started. She was visibly shaking. A'rdhura tenderly took her hands in his.
”Repeat after me. I, A'rdhura take you, Qal'u, as my wife.“, the official said.
”I, A'rdhura take you, Qal'u, as my wife.“, A'rdhura replied.
”Repeat after me. I, Qal'u take you, A'rdhura, as my husband.“
She was hesitant. Tears were in her eyes.
”SAY IT!“, the man shouted, causing her to jump.
”There's no need to yell at her. I'd be hesitant, too, if I were being made to marry a stranger who was attacking and bombing my people just four and a half weeks ago in a war we were resoundingly beaten in.“, said A'rdhura calmly, smiling reassuringly at her.
”I...I, Qal'u take y...you, A...A'rdhura, as my, as my h...husband.“, she finally said softly through tears.
”You're now married according to our Marutan laws as well as your own laws.“, the man replied.
”May I kiss my bride?“, A'rdhura asked.
”If you'd like. It's up to you.“, the man answered.
Taking her chin in his hand, A'rdhura leaned forward to kiss her. She backed away, frightened.
”It's alright, Qal'u. I'm not going to hurt you.“, he said then, taking her fully into his arms, tenderly kissed her. The kiss lasted several seconds. She put her arms around him during the kiss as well.
Soon afterwards, the official left.
”Qal'u, these handsome young men are my sons. I'm very proud of them. This is B'huru, B'axlanh, V'akhro, and my youngest, K'jahr.“, A'rdhura said, introducing them to her.
”Hello. It's nice to meet you.“, Qal'u said.
”Hello.“, they replied politely.
Despite his sudden realization about the marriage and his new stepmother, B'huru was NOT happy about the marriage, but did try to be polite out of respect for his father. He glared at her. He hated her and nothing would ever change that.
His brothers, however, were smiling broadly at her. They thought she was quite pretty, despite being Vajjerian.
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