CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE – The Reward

The rest of the day was quieter than usual between me and Caroline. We were intimate several times but found conversation wasn’t flowing. I did however enjoy getting ready with Caroline for the event. She looked amazing in the dress we picked out together and I felt amazing in the suit. I tried to compose myself as I felt my nerves settling in. I did not know how everyone will take me receiving a medal.

We travelled by foot and pod to the main event. When we arrived, it astounded me how large it was. The field was full of Tuhingan and the stage was large. There were carts everywhere giving out food, drink and anything else you could want. If it was on Earth, I would have thought this was a spare no expense event. But I was on The Liberty, where they can make material out of thin air. I knew they organised this a day before. It was so impressive.

Me and Caroline headed for back stage, meeting the Captain.

“James, I’d like to introduce to you my good friend and Prime Minister of The Liberty Domina Pelagus. She has been wanting to meet you for a long time now.”

“Nice to meet you!” I said, trying to be as polite as I can.

“Nice to meet you too, James. It’s a shame we had to meet on this day when we can’t have a friendly chat. I should rush out and meet those journalists before they complain that I don’t take my job seriously. They get aggravated if they have to wait, never can tell from meeting them though!”

I smiled and she looked at me with a confused look as she went out from the backstage to talk to the people out front. The rest of the run up to the main event was like that. People having barely any time to chat. But it was nice to have time to catch up with the Captain in a more comfortable setting. 

It bothered her that we were still living out of a motorhome. Genuine about making sure I get the place made that I truly want. Music started on the stage and that lasted for another hour. In that time we went through all the lovely food and drinks available back stage. It was all quite tasty.

We didn’t see Ave for a long time. The Captain was worried and attempted to contact her a few times with no response. We were thinking she wouldn’t come.

The Prime Minister had stayed hidden from us for the rest of the time we were backstage. We heard she was sitting in a VIP box with some other ministers and journalists. They had some politics to talk about while the rest of the show went on. Then it was soon time for us to go out. Ave came just in time with her mother, just when we were being announced.

“Just to let you know Mum, I’m not doing this for you!” she said as we were about to go on.

“So glad you could make it!” The Captain said as we were preparing to go out. “Are we all ready?”

“I think so!” I said, looking and feeling terrified. I never like crowds, especially crowds of people who hated me not so long ago. 

“Lets get this over with!” Ave said as she went for the curtain. 

The Captain overtook her and stopped her just before she went on stage. “Wait for the cue!” she said just as the Prime Minister’s voice spoke. 

“I am so proud to be a part of an integrated city ship! We have so many species in one place and sometimes we worry about who we bring on board. James has been one who, after making a fatal mistake, causing the annihilation of his good friend, came out on top. Someone who has proved he will go the extra distance to save one of us, another Tuhingan.” The Prime Minister paused for a moment observing the crowd. 

“In the spirit of good friends and integration, we also consider the actions of his brave Companion Caroline. Who not only could figure out they had been hacked and deleted. But also saved James life and helped him rescue Ave, one of our children, from the dark forest. Can you bring them out, Captain Sagax?”

The Captain gestured to us and we followed. The Tuhingans in the crowd were cheering and clapping their fingers against their thumbs. Everyone in the crowd holding their hands out like a crab moving across the water and banging their fingers together. All making a clacking sound, like knives being banged together.

The Prime Minister gestured me and Caroline to the front of the stage and we stood there waiting. Ave and her mother were standing beside us and a little behind us on our right. The Captain was behind us to the left and the Prime Minister was to the front left of us. She pinned one medal on me and then one on Caroline.

She then turned back to the crowd. “I award the medal for bravery to both Caroline and James for their astounding work….” 

They cut the Prime Minister talk short when someone from the crowd fired an energy weapon towards me. Many Tuhingan began running from the shooter. His shot was caught in some type of invisible material that stood between us and the crowd. It took a chunk out of the material, causing the material to scatter light in different directions. It looked like dented glass, but it was so perfectly made that no one could tell it was there before the attack. 

There were guards going into the crowd, going after the shooter as they began running away.

“Should we go somewhere?” Ave’s Mum asked.

“No, we are more protected here. They will get the shooter!” The Prime Minister said.

“Did you know this was going to happen?” Caroline asked.

“We had a thought it may!” The Prime Minister responded. She looked down to see a drone with a camera watching her. “Our brave security on The Liberty has dealt with the situation swiftly. I think we are all safe! As I was saying… I award these medals for the bravery and…” 

It was more nonsense about how great we were. I am going to be honest and say that I wasn’t listening after that. I was more concentrated on what was happening in the crowd. Before I knew it, it was time to evacuate the crowd. 

“I think we will go straight home!” Caroline said afterwards.

“You are safe!” The Prime Minister said.

“Yes, but still hunted.”

“I think we should get going as well. It all seems a little dangerous to be here!” Ave’s Mum said.

“Oh, Mum!” Ave responded.

“Let’s go, Ave!” 

“I think I would much rather stay with my friends!” Ave said while gesturing towards me and Caroline.

“They’re not your friends! They’re not even Tuhingan! Now come on and stop being silly!”

“I’m going with James and Caroline Mum!” 

“Ave….” her Mum said nervously. “Now come on darling, we should go!” 

“We will take care of her!” Caroline said.

“No offence, but this is between my daughter and I!” The mother said.

“That’s a joke! You totally mean’t offence didn’t you mother!” 

“I didn’t. She seems like a nice girl, but you need to come with me!”

“No, I don’t. I’d much rather go to the dark forest and live the rest of the days in there!” 

“Don’t be silly! You don’t mean that! That forest is full of dangers!”

Captain Sagax then placed a hand onto Ave’s mother’s arm. “If I may?” she began.

“You may not! What is wrong with you all! She is my daughter and she should stay with me!”

“Mum, I’m old enough to make my own decisions and I am staying with James and Caroline!” she announced.

Her mother looked at all our faces with a shocked and worried expression. I felt awkward and sheepish, I didn’t want to say anything. I could see the Captain was looking directly at Aves mother sympathetically. 

“Fine, I will go.” She said looking upset. “You two had better look after my daughter or I swear…”

“We understand!” Caroline said, cutting her off. With that, Aves mother walked away.

We all said our goodbyes to the Captain and Prime Minister and then headed back towards home. 

“You know Ave, we don’t have a house yet. We are still living in a motorhome. We should get you one as well when we arrive at the pod station.”

“You don’t? Why? It’s so easy to make a house!”

“Well, yes, but James has in his head what he wants. He needs Earth materials and it has complicated to get.”

“Isn’t it in the database?”

“No, it’s with Periclums family!” I said.

“Wait, the same Periclum you Annihilated?”

“Yes, that was an accident!”

“I believe you, but I’m guessing his family doesn’t?”

“No, they really don’t!” Caroline continued.

“I’ll talk to them! It’s the least I can do.”

“You will, what will you say?”

“Let’s just say it will be Tuhingan to Tuhingan and maybe I need that data because I am a journalist writing a piece on the life of Periclum? A memorial! If that mother is anything like mine, she will jump at the occasion!”

“That just might work!” Caroline said. “However, you would be lying!”

“It’s not illegal and it’s for the greater good!” 

“True and legally Periclums family haven’t laid claim to the information as their own. They were perhaps too lazy to do so. So you would be free to gift it to James.”

“You two go ahead, I’ll catch up to you at the pod station!” Ave said to us as she went into a secluded place to make the call. Me and Caroline continued on. Once at the pod station, we found a seat and sat to wait for Ave. It wasn’t long before she caught up with us.

“It was easy!”

“You got it?” I asked, jumping on the spot like a child excited.

“Yeah! She wanted to make sure I captured Periclum in the best light possible and I promised he will become even more legendary.”

“Thankyou!” I said to Ave. At that point I received a message saying that Ave had sent me the data. I accepted the attachment and it downloaded. 

We got into the pods as Caroline and Ave continued to talk about everyday things. It was almost like I was listening to two sisters talking. They may not have had much in common. But they both had the feeling of being outsiders on this strange ship. They seem to draw comfort from each other’s experiences of facing adversity. Caroline with all the stories of all the Companions and Ave with her own. 

It was interesting to listen to everything. More insightful into the Tuhingan culture. As we arrived to the pod station, we materialised a motorhome for Ave just in case. We had access to a lot of energy credits and Caroline wasn’t shy about using them for Ave.

Once we had arrived, it was late. The download had completed, but everyone agreed we should wait until tomorrow to build the house. Ave seemed excited to be settling down into the comfortable bed that came with her motorhome.

We all drove around to my land in her motorhome. We had parked and then all had something to eat with food we brought from our EMC. After Me and Caroline left, then went to bed ourselves. Getting through our evening routine, reflecting on the day, getting cosy under the sheets and sleeping.

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