The recess was longer this time. Handell, Orlacc, and the princess did not speak, not wanting to give useless hope, afraid to say anything depressing. The princess paced the hall, chewing nervously on the ends of her fingers. Peter Orlacc sat on a bench staring at the door, as if watching it would make the decision come faster. Jeremiah tapped his foot impatiently, running his fingers along the grain of the bench. A sigh was heard every now and then above the footsteps and shuffling of the other people down the halls, who were in turn waiting for their chance against the law. There seemed to be no end to the silence and dragging time. Orlacc glanced at Ania, then at Jeremiah, and then he returned his gaze to the doors.
After some time, the door creaked open slowly. A woman looked out at them and beckoned them to come in. Peter touched Jeremiah on his shoulder, and they stood up. Ania took Handell’s arm and they moved silently back into the court room. Jeremiah’s tenseness was felt and obvious through his heavier breath and jerky movements, although Peter Orlacc and the princess acted much the same.
“Take your seats,” the judge said. They sat down. The judge began once more.
“We have heard both sides of this trial. Both sides were well represented, and well organised. It is a fact that the party who was opposing Mr. Handell could not be here, due to his untimely passing, but if he had been, would the facts have changed? Would Jeremiah Handell be accused of attempting murder, or of trying to save him?
“I have concluded that although Mr. Handell had grudges against the senator, and had good reason to want to murder him, he was telling the truth when he said that he tried to save him. They indeed could have killed Mr. Alkis long before, why would they take him on board, knowing that they didn’t have the information that they needed, only to kill him? Therefore, I find Jeremiah Handell innocent of murder. I find Mr. Orlacc innocent of aiding in murder. I find Her Highness, Miss Ania Destanias innocent of aiding in a murder. Miss Destanias, I see to you to do what you see fit for these men. As well, the matter of the Fleea Freedom Fighters.”
Araignea sat up.
“If the princess wishes so, the Freedom Fighters shall be reinstated in power as soon as this trial is over, under the commandment of Admiral Araignea. Do you agree, Your Highness?”
“Yes, Sir, I agree fully. I shall sign the documents.”
“Police rule will be abandoned, and anyone caught trying to place that organisation back in power shall be arrested.
“Mr. Handell, you shall be fully compensated for your injuries due to your mission.
“Your Highness, do you have anything to add?”
The princess stood up. “My estate shall honour these three men, Mr. Araignea, Mr. Orlacc, and Mr. Handell, for their participation and action in bringing down the Police. The ceremony will take place in three days at nineteen hundred hours at the palace. We feel that they risked everything and anything to help the rest of the universe from the siege of the Police. I welcome you all.”
“Thank you, Your Highness. If that is all, then this court will be adjourned. Thank you.”
Everyone stood up, and the princess was the first to give Jeremiah a big hug.
“We did it, Jeremiah, we did it!” She turned and hugged Peter who in turn, shook Jeremiah’s hand and hugged him. Araignea shook hands and they then preceded to the judge, with whom they all shook hands.
“Thank you, thank you,” Jeremiah repeated, cranking the judge’s hand up and down.
“Mr. Handell, I knew of your bravery when I first heard your story. In most parts, you are revered as a hero. I see no different, although I was partly swayed when your opposition began his bit. He did have some good points. But your face is honest. And you have royalty on your side. Congratulations, to all of you.”
“Thank you,” Ania said. They moved through the crowds, arms around each other, having to push through the throngs of people. They were all smiling, laughing. Everywhere were reporters, children, and people who had prayed for the freedom of their new heroes all out to receive them. The people reached out to touch Jeremiah, to tell him that they were there for him, and they loved him for what he did. Jeremiah couldn’t stop smiling. There were so many people, all there because of him. They had waited there for the whole trial, and when the word was given, gave shouts of joy. Jeremiah was just the physical part of their happiness. They could express their happiness to him, but underneath it all, they were happy that there was no more Police rule, no more ordered deaths of friends and loved ones. They could continue on with their information-seeking robots and their lives.
The princess, Peter Orlacc, and Jeremiah Handell climbed in to the vehicle which would carry them home. Orlacc had sent word and forms to have his jewelled house sold. He would stay in residence with his friends. They knew that they could never separate themselves from each other now, although Peter had tried to show that he thought the idea was stupid and thoughtless. Everyone knew he was bluffing, including himself. It was all he’d wanted since the loss of his love, someone to share his life with, and although this wasn’t what he’d hoped for, it was the next best thing, indeed.
Once in the carrier, the three broke out in joyful exclamation, hugging each other and laughing.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Jeremiah said softly.
The princess looked at him with a soft look in her eyes. “It’s all over but the good,” she said. “You and Peter will be awarded, and a grand party shall follow. No more Police.”
“No more Police,” Jeremiah repeated.
“Can we get on with our respective lives, now that this is over?” One of the Fleea Fighters asked Admiral Araignea.
“If you mean with the FXTs and all, yes. But we are also the power now. Therefore, with the respect of the people, we will be able to continue what the Myglords and original Fleea Freedom Fighters did.”
“Congratulations, Admiral,” Drate said, entering the room. We’re all under your permanent order, are we?”
“Me and the High Powers, yes. You know about Handell and Orlacc becoming High Lords of the Remdis System, right?”
“Sure do. Thank all that we won. Imagine Peter Orlacc ruling with the Princess of Xailier. Do you think he’ll be much of an agreeable partner?”
“You’ll never know how much, Drate. I think we’ve found ourselves some heroes.”
“And Jeremiah?” Flec said. “Is it me, or are we out of luck with our princess?”
“I’d say get yourselves a new courting suit and look elsewhere, boys. The princess seems pretty enamoured with Mr. Handell.”
They laughed and went off to get ready for the approaching ceremony.
“An official High Lord of the Remdis System!” Jeremiah said. “What makes you think that I can handle that?”
Jeremiah clutched the arm of the Princess as she led him to her well that she used to bring her secret playmate to. Now she had a real friend to talk to at the morning spot, and was eager to show him it.
“Jeremiah. What makes you think that you can’t? You did, after all, bring us to this conclusion. I desperately need someone to help me with Xailier’s problems--”
“But the whole system? And you seemed to be doing fine to me about keeping the planet’s problems in order. It was you who made me decide to overthrow the Police.”
“Yes, well, yes. Jeremiah, this is the place where I had someone. Someone I loved. Someone who loved me. I want to show you this place. Here.” She placed his hand on the cold, damp stone of the well.
“You had a.... Who was this loved one?”
“She was... a special friend. Her name was Orchid.”
“Where did she go?”
“Since this... expedition, I realise now, she’s gone to where she came from. Back to where she can be used by someone else who needs her. I don’t need her anymore.”
Jeremiah put his hand on her shoulder, his face soft. “You never had a friend before, did you? I mean a real friend.”
Ania looked into the well. “My parents thought it was wrong for a princess to play like any other child.” She started to lower the bucket down into the deep opening. “I used to come out here to play with Orchid in the morning before anyone was awake to find me. And because I didn’t know what a real friend was, I had to make everything up. She had merchant parents, who played with her and told her bedtime stories and bought her ice-cream. She had beautiful red hair and blue eyes. She always kissed me hello and goodbye, and we loved each other.” She looked up at Jeremiah. “Do you think I’m foolish?”
Jeremiah took her face in his hands. “No. Not at all. It was your parents who were that, letting a little girl grow up without knowing how important she was to them, and how important she could be to other little girls of the same age.” And then he kissed her. The time and the place for Orchid was now well over for Ania. The bucket dropped from her hand, back into the well.
“And what,” said Ania, when the kiss was at last broken, “have you got to give me?” A little selfish, she knew, but she needed something to cling to.
“Me. And my love. You won’t be alone anymore. You shall never have to go to this well alone again.”
Ania felt very sad now. She had wanted something from someone, from Jeremiah, and he gave it to her freely. What could she give him that would take the place of his lost eyes, and everything else he had lost in his battles with the Police: his parents, his home, his planet? What could she return to him? “How are you?” She asked him.
“I’m... I’m doing alright. You know, I guess this will take some getting used to, but I think with all you have supplied me with here, I’ll be alright. It’s just a little scary. It makes me feel like there’s no one else with me, even though I can hear their voices.” He paused, leaning up against the well, casually. Ania drew the water from the well one more time. “I guess there’s nothing I can do.”
“You might be mistaken someday, somewhere, you know. Especially with the development of android integration.”
“Someday.” Jeremiah’s mind wandered to the colours and sights he had in the past, at once seeing them in his future as well. Keeping this in mind, he rubbed his fingers on the stone. “But for now, your descriptions and guidance will have to do.”
“I’ll try to keep it coming,” the princess said, putting the bucket into his hand. “Could you do me the honour of carrying a princess’s water to her room?”
“I’d be pleased to, my lady. Lead on.” They returned to the palace arm in arm, closing the wounds of loneliness that had surrounded them until they came to terms with it at the well that morning.
They found him under one of the hydrojets in one of the vehicle buildings.
“Drat!” he cried, sounding quite muffled to the princess and the captain.
“Whatcha doin’ under there, Peter?” called Jeremiah.
“The mechanic is lousy at his job. These things are a mess.” Orlacc said, coming out from under the jet.
“That’s because those have been out of commission for quite some time, Peter.” Ania said.
“Oh. Well in that case, you’re losing money on new ones, because there’s nothing wrong with these that can’t be fixed.” Orlacc rubbed his hands on his overcoat, shaking his head. “You don’t know what you got...,” he mumbled, walking off to put the instruments down.
“I guess we won’t need to look for a job for Peter,” Jeremiah
Orlacc returned, nodding to the princess. “Do you need the expertise of an old man on such matters?” he asked her.
“I could use anyone. But I’d rather have you.” He looked at the floor. “Unless you have other ideas.” She smiled at him and touched his arm. “Come on.”
They went out into the sun. It was the day of the Honours. The weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too dry.
The royal music played in Jeremiah’s ears. Orlacc beside him even began to feel excited and eager for the princess to enter in all her royal robes and jewelry. The crowd stood awaiting her arrival patiently.
At last, she came. There was a sound from the crowd, an exclamation aloud of her beauty. She wore a long, draping gown of white, with a flowing red velvet cape following behind her. Her hair was plaited down her back, and a heavily jeweled crown sat upon her head. In her hand she held a sceptre, one that once belonged to her father.
“Peter?” Jeremiah said.
“She looks beautiful,” was all Orlacc said. That was all Jeremiah needed to hear. Ania had told him in detailed description about what she would wear, earlier that day. He had sat, fingering the dress, and picturing what she would look like in it. Orlacc’s description now, confirmed his beliefs.
Princess Ania moved up the aisle towards them. When she got to the front, the music stopped, and she turned to face everyone. She smiled at Orlacc, and Araignea, and then at Jeremiah.
“My people. We are here to award the honour to Admiral Thomas Araignea of leadership of the Fleea Freedom Fighters. Captains Alexander Flec and Graham Drate are to be awarded second in command to Admiral Araignea in the said government. The titles of Official High Lord Of Xailier and of the Newly Appointed Fleea Freedom Fighters are to be awarded to Captains Jeremiah Handell and Peter Orlacc.”
Ania turned to one of the men behind her, and took from him three pins and three medallions. She nodded to Admiral Araignea and he stepped forward and stood in front of her, Flec and Drate on either side of him one step behind. The princess first put a pin on Captain Flec, and the medallion around his neck, following with Drate, and then with Araignea. They bowed to her, and moved off to the left.
Jeremiah had memorised the steps. He moved alongside of Peter Orlacc with all the gracefulness he could muster. Ania turned and reached for the pins and medallions for her friends, and repeated the placing of the two objects upon Orlacc. She smiled at him while doing so, as if there was a great secret between them. Turning to Jeremiah, she whispered, so that no one else could hear (a princess was not supposed to speak words unrehearsed of her own at these ceremonies), “I do love you, Jeremiah, with all my heart.” Handell smiled and let his fingers run over the two jewelled emblems of the power he now had in the system, before bowing to Princess Ania respectively in tandem with Orlacc, and then they, too, moved to the left.
A job they had now, to clean up the remnants of a government hated by all it had authority over. The people had a newly restored faith in their leaders, and fear was all but driven from their souls.
Once more there was peace amongst the planets. Earth was no longer a planet to fear, and many new families inhabited its rich lands.
One lone ship sailed on, deep into the galaxy, away from its base of destruction.
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