“Today we mourn the passing of Arthur Gravius, who is survived by his wife and his two sons, Gabriel and Troy,” Reported the ever professional news commentator for the Republic Broadcasting Corporation The RBC newsreader sat at his desk, the background a single black expanse of stars as he continued on. “Arthur Gravius was one of the Terran Republic’s most celebrated men, being the first man to receive two celebratory parades following actions in the Cartagineses sector which quelled threats of secession. The consuls have sent their condolences…” the reporter continued to speak, but his voice only got softer and softer until finally it was mute.
“I think that’s enough News for today,” Caroline Gravius said to herself. She stood in the study of her now buried husband, alone. Her black hair cropped short with her brown eyes glazed over with tears. The study gave a brilliant view of the countryside. The rolling expanse of the hills were filled with rows of vines, ready for the Spring that was on the cusp of arrival. The sun had set behind the modern villa’s walls, making the room more macarbe than what it should be. Caroline had hidden herself from the large gathering on the other side of the doors to this dark tomb. Here she was safely allowed to cry and truly grieve for her husband. A couple with no scandal. Just two mighty houses of power and clout united under love. They were a rarity to the Republic. Now that was gone.
“Mother, are you in here?” A young male voice called. Caroline hadn’t heard the door open. She looked at the tall slender frame of her seventeen year old son. He looked so much like his father, with short brown hair combed back and matching eyes with his angular face, that for a split second she thought it were him. Her son closed the doors, before turning the lights on to a low dim.
“I’m sorry Gabriel,” Caroline replied. “I should be stronger for your brother and yourself. You don’t need this embarrassment in front of our guests.”
“Oh Mother,” Gabriel moved towards her and grabbed her into a tight embrace. “Don’t think we don’t know how much pain you are in. Father loved you dearly.”
“I know my child, but it feels so empty knowing that he is gone. Damn that illness. It had come so swiftly and yet despite everything he lost the one battle that mattered most.”
“I do not blame him,” Gabriel let his mother sit down, before getting on one knee. “I promise to uphold his name.”
“And so will I,” a much younger voice said. The two turned to the door to see a younger image of Gabriel, staring into the room through the ajar door he held. Another boy of about the same age as Gabriel was above him, darker with black curly hair with piercing grey eyes. The taller one wore a similar uniform to Gabriel whilst the shorter one was wearing a simple black suit. The two entered the room quietly, closing the door.
“Troy, I have no doubt you will,” Gabriel said. He looked at his younger brother, barely thirteen. “But we must work on keeping your temper under control. You are a practical one.”
“You sound just like your father,” Caroline moaned. She motioned for the two newcomers to join them. “Come over here you two. I don’t feel like shouting.”
“Ms. Gravius,” Charis, the taller one, began. “I am so sorry for your loss. Your husband was just as much a father to me as my own flesh and blood. When Gabriel and I found out at the military academy we were both inconsolable.”
“Thank you Charis,” Caroline kissed him gently on the forehead, before doing the same to her sons. “If nothing else, you will be able to document my two son’s successes across this Republic of ours.”
“You have my word,” Charis bowed. “So long as the stars of the Republic continue to grow in number, I will strive to keep the light of your children burning brighter.”
“Always with the dramatics,” Gabriel teased. Charis cast him a dirty look, before losing it and bursting out laughing. Everyone joined in, feeling good for the first time in a long time. They could have sworn they had heard Arthur laugh with them, knowing full well that he was with them in spirit.
“I better get back to the rest of the guests,” Caroline said after the long silence. “They’ll be wondering where we all are. Perhaps they’ll fear we’ve poisoned the wine.”
“Now there’s a thought…” Troy joked.
“Troy, watch yourself,” Gabriel warned. “The Republic is in enough trouble. Rumours are circulating that the Illyria Sector is struggling to secure the Deliminimum. The Higher Council is struggling to secure it and the Lower Representatives are struggling to pass reforms to help it.”
“The Higher Council,” Charis sighed. “If only they would stop being what they are. Vile, corrupt, Machiavellian at times. Your father was able to get some reforms through though, so there is a good side.”
“But it isn’t enough for the people,” Gabriel returned. “Despite his best efforts, the Higher Council just does not recognise what it is the people need.”
“And it isn’t helped when the biggest issues have them shifting nervously,” Troy added. “They hold all the wealth and expect the lower citizens to take what little they can get.”
“If we were to establish some form of reform into the Republic, then perhaps we could save it,” Charis suggested. “The beauty of democracy is that it is easy to reform. But if reform doesn’t happen every so often it stagnates into something else.”
“Look at us, discussing politics in father’s study,” Gabriel half-heartedly interrupted. “He would be proud of us, continuing the effort of what he did.”
“Dad always knew what to do,” Troy admitted. “His time in this galaxy was short, but what he did for all those who are not of the higher class…”
“Makes him a hero to many,” Gabriel finished. After a moment’s pause, he went towards the door. “Come, we must not let Mother be the only Gravius visible, lest they think us weak.”
The party went on long past the setting of the Sun and into the late night. Soon though only the Gravius brothers and Charis were left awake, Caroline having long since gone to bed. Gabriel had sent the few servants the family had to bed, and the three solemnly sat in the courtyard of the villa, staring at the stars above.
“Mankind’s destiny was to explore and expand,” Charis said, slightly drunk from the loss of adrenaline and his third glass of wine. The two brothers looked at each other and rolled their eyes, waiting for Charis to continue. Instead he got up and disappeared into the dining room.
“I hope he remembers that’s not the way to the bathroom,” Troy joked. “Mum would not appreciate him having used a pot for a toilet.”
“Knowing Charis, he deliberately went in there,” Gabriel commented. “That man has a plan, and I am vaguely worried about it. I’m more worried about you. How much did you drink tonight brother?”
“I haven’t had anything to drink!” Troy shouted loudly. Panicking, he looked around to see if he’d disturbed anyone. The moment’s quiet assured him, and he leaned back down onto the pool wall, the water still like the sky above.
“I saw you with a glass on your lips Troy, and I am sure that was not your first.”
“Maybe I had two or three,” Troy confessed.
“Will one final glass hurt before we retire?” Charis asked, having returned from the Dining Room. The two brothers looked at him, holding a tray with three tumblers in one hand and a bottle of their father’s favourite brandy. With deft skill Charis filled each of the tumblers and held them out. The two brothers deftly took their own glass. Charis put the bottle and tray down, took his own glass, and raised it up. The two brothers joined.
“To Arthur Gravius,” Gabriel began, the eldest always being allowed to begin. “A loving husband and devoted father, gone to join the stars beyond our borders.”
“To the Terran Republic,” Charis offered. “May the light of humanity shine for us all under it’s mighty banner, and may the future of the Republic be one of security and stability.”
“To the friendship of these three men here,” Troy finished. “May they one day be known as heroes as their fathers, the history books kind to them and the grandchildren bored of our stories.” The three men smiled and clinked the tumblers, before downing the warm contents. Without hesitation they then proceeded to throw the tumblers into the water of the pool, causing small waves which distorted the reflection as they rippled.