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The Plans of Mice and Men

Posted on Fri Nov 10th, 2017 @ 11:48pm by Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake
Edited on on Sat Dec 15th, 2018 @ 1:32pm

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: Earth
Timeline: 2388

The two-hour ride from Johannesburg to Laphalale took the couple through the Pretoria megaplex which glistened in glass and steel, though in a way wholly unlike the San Francisco that they both knew for four years. The greens and browns of the African bush popped with the purple blooms from over 50,000 Jacaranda trees, all carefully integrated into the capital's structural planning and reflected richly on the skyward-reaching structures.

Storr never tired of the view, though he longed to be out of the bustling city and into the more pastoral lands to the north...his home. The silence, however, was gnawing at his core. What could the summons be and why did it upset Jaya so much? That it came from the ambassador no less and required her sister to divert to Earth not to attend the wedding but to witness the serving of it did not bode well.

Mtendere, to his credit, tried to banter with Storr and Jaya about the former's more embarrassing escapades into the African wilds to lift the mood but was not successful. To be fair, the trio had some good laughs and it helped the time pass but the unspoken content of the counselor's PADD weighed heavy in the air.

"Storr," Jaya whispered during a quiet spell. "This is bad. Very bad." She hesitated before saying more.

The MCO looked up to their chauffeur and back to Jaya, shaking his head as the privacy glass began to rise. "Mtendere is my oldest friend and knows things about me that even my parents do not...this is as safe a place as any to talk about this. Who knows," he continued with a quip, running a finger across her cheek, "the old man might even have something useful to contribute."

"My hearing hasn't completely gone, sir," the man reparteed, lowering the glass back to its stowed position.

Jaya feigned a smile of amusement, but it quickly wore thin.

"The Foreign Ministry has dug deep into my past, and what they found was enough to warrant a tribunal hearing for..." She could not bring herself to speak the words. Her hand covered her mouth long enough to choke back the tears that threatened to burst. "Riswan was named my advocate as next of kin. It's... this is not how it was supposed to be."

Storr remained silent though wondered what could be in the past of his youthful beau that would create the legal ruckus that they found themselves in.

"There were other men," she said at length, though she quickly added, "I've kept my Oath of Celibacy. The desire to do so is what first brought me to you."

He raised a brow at the comment, equally protective and jealous despite her clarification. Yet who was he to demand celibacy? There had been several other women in his life yet they really meant little more than one night stands or short-term relationships at best. And to what avail? What did he have to show for them other than leaving pieces of him across the Alpha Quadrant? Why had he not listened to his parents and the church on these matters? To be able to giver her the purity that he expected could have been no truer a gift yet he had squandered it for petty and instant gratification.

Storr's cheeks flushed with regret, shame, and a remainder of suspicion as they both looked out their respective windows.

"I've had to build walls around myself, as most Deltans do away from home." Her voice drifted along with her gaze away to memories of times gone but not forgotten.

"All counselors suffer the risk of misplaced emotions from those they counsel. It's unavoidable in many cases. Couple that with my... nature... and let's just say I've evoked some powerful desires in others." Her wan smile belied the regret in her eyes. "Most patients quickly see the error in their feelings, often moving on with little encouragement from me. But... I never told you the reason I came aboard the Vindex."

Jaya and Storr both turned away from the window of the vehicle to look each other in the face. Her eyes pleaded for understanding, for defense, for sympathy while his for forgiveness and restoration.

"The Renown's chief counselor was a Betazoid. He fell in love with me, and so I transferred to the Vindex. The Vindex had no counselors at the time, so it seemed the perfect solution." Jaya looked down at the PADD. A teardrop fell from her eyes onto the touchpad screen.

"Storr, he killed himself." She handed him the PADD. "It's in the evidential appendix."

Storr's mouth gaped. He had no idea as to her reasons to come to the Vindex and while others suffered, he was able to revel in her in ways others only dreamed of. While the Betazoid's actions were...reprehensible, the MCO could almost understand and pity the man, Jaya being as charming as she was.

Her Deltan poise collapsed into a torrent of regret and shame. How she longed to reach out to her man, but the weight of the report and the guilt it posed kept her shackled in place. All she could do was wrack her body with weeping.

Major Garlake quickly closed the gap between the two and enveloped Jaya in his arms, wanting for all the world to shield her from this shocking turn of events. He held her for what seemed like an hour, her sobs racking both her body and his soul, dark blue and black clouds roiling with white lightning striking at the flanks of his consciousness.

"Jaya," he finally said, her breathing no longer ragged and measured as if just before sleeping, "you cannot hold yourself responsible for this. Whatever your part in his feelings, it was his action that took his life, not yours, and it was ultimately his decision and choice. You cannot be held responsible for the choices of others."

Lowering his voice, he dropped his forehead to her crown, savoring the contact. "No matter what this ambassador thinks of you or what you've done, I will never leave nor forsake you. On my honor, we're not leaving this planet until you're my bride and your name is clear."

Jaya had no words, but her arms slid between his as she returned his covering embrace.

The charming family homestead boasted the character of generations come and gone, and Jaya tried to make the most of it. With their service to Starfleet, there was no telling when they could make the trip back again. Try as she might, the pit in her stomach would not go away.

As soon as Storr's feet touched the ground, he felt an immediate warmth radiate from his feet up through his hair. HOME. Spread over 1296ha of hills, grassland, savannah, and jungle of the former D'Nyala nature reserve, the Garlake estate's agricultural and ranching fields boasted frequent visits by white rhino, giraffe, waterbuck, zebra, tsessebe, and eland, while lion, leopard, brown hyena jackal and smaller cats stalked them among the impressive Nyala Berry and Baobab trees.

An Old-world style Homestead, Manager’s house, Owner’s house, and Guesthouse made up the main campus, while 5 Garages, several Storerooms, Workshops, Barns, Stables, a Pump House and Implement Sheds rounded out the exceptional building infrastructure. All were low and incorporated wood from the surrounding forests, stones from the nearby river and Lake Mokolo, and split shingles from the Boabab trees, blending effortlessly into the surrounding wilderness. Well manicured lawns and landscaping around a pool and trails into a garden beckoned Storr back to his youthful playgrounds but he resisted their pull; hand-in-hand, he lead Jaya to the front door of the Homestead and rasping twice with the knocker. It was the time of reckoning.

Introductions went surprisingly well, considering Jaya's outsider status, and she was immediately taken into confidence by Odele, his younger sister who took her promptly away to give her a tour of the house and began welcoming her into the family, seemingly oblivious of Jaya's sudden introversion (or potentially because of it).

Dinner was already prepared and all but set on the table. Jaya ate barely a bite. Storr's parents were polite, and it seemed whatever reservations they held about her were temporarily stayed by her lack of appetite. Storr did his best to make up for Jaya's reclusive manner, thoroughly enjoying the familial conversation and more than once forgetting to talk with his mouth closed, earning him a look of ire from his mother that had not waned in the last 30 years. Once dinner conversation fell stale, Jaya turned abruptly to Storr.

"Should we tell them?" she whispered.

Storr thought for a few moments before putting a hand on Jaya's thigh under the table with a gentle squeeze and looking up to his father and mother, sitting at the head and right of the table respectively.

"Vader, Moeder...there are some legal issues that have come up suddenly and we need to return to Johannesburg tomorrow morning to speak to the Deltan ambassador."

"Is everything..." his mother began, before his father extended his hand vertically low to the table but still with the full authority that his salt-and-pepper hair, short-trimmed beard, and position commanded. Dorothy Garlake pursed her lips but sat back and looked from Kevin to Storr expectantly.

"What seems to be the problem?" the family patriarch asked in a thick Afrikaans-laced Standard baritone.

"False accusations about Jaya's involvement in a man's suicide at her previous posting," Storr replied, sitting straighter in his chair.

"Well, did she? And does any of this have to do with her Oath, marriage, or you?" Kevin asked, the last word pointed like a spear at his son. "Because we've already spoken about the difficulties in marrying outside..."

"Kevin! Not now at the dinner table and especially just after they got here. Jaya darling, would you come with Odele and me? Let's show you your room." Dorothy Garlake said with a sincere smile, Odele immediately springing to her feet, thankful for a reprieve from the tension rapidly building in the room. Storr and Kevin instinctively stood as well, both being raised in the old gentlemanly customs and neither wanting to violate them for different reasons.

Jaya allowed herself to be led away from the dining hall. Part of her felt embarrassed for being such poor company. The rest of her summoned a murmur of gratitude to Dorothy and Odele for their kindness before clamping back down on her misery.

As he sat, Storr's eyes watched as the three women left and made their way back to the guest room, his gaze filled with concern as he watched Jaya do her best to play the role of appreciative guest despite the torment that was surely tearing at her core.

"Vader, it does not and I don't appreciate you accusing her of having a hand in it or wrapping me up in some kangaroo court legal matter because I'm human," Storr replied, turning back to his father satisfied that the women had left earshot.

A glass of port wine appeared before the two men, momentarily delaying their conversation as both the elder and middle son thanked Pemphero for her service. The plump negro maid exited the dining room as quickly (and quietly) as she appeared and Kevin Garlake took a long drink before returning the glass to the table.

"Storr...I only want what's best for you and it seems that this situation keeps getting deeper. First, Jaya is a non-human, second she's Deltan which comes with a great deal of emotional, mental and physical baggage and now third, you're telling me that the Deltan ambassador to Earth has seen it to himself serve Jaya with papers for a hearing which will no doubt drag you along? Do you see what I'm seeing here?

Storr swirled the dark, purple dessert wine in the crystal glass, the liquid creating perfect waves along the edges as trace amounts were left and slowly began sliding down before being absorbed by the next sliding wave, the process repeating again and again.

"Vader, I love Jaya and she loves me. It's not a trick of the light, hormones, mental persuasion or any other nefarious thing. If she is to go through this, it's with me at her side; where I need to be. I can't lead if I'm not there, no matter how small a role I might play in the proceedings."

Kevin Garlake took the last sip of his wine and sat back, a deep breath escaping his nostrils. "It'll be a long, early trip'll need your rest." With little fanfare, his father rose, nodded to his son, and left for his bedroom.

His thoughts racing, Storr finished his port and pushed the glass away from him to the center of the table, repeating one of the poems that he memorized while sitting around this very table in his childhood. "The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Jaya did not sleep a wink. The guest room would've been more than comfortable under normal circumstances. It was rather quaint, and Jaya hated herself for not showing more appreciation. Her emotions had been quelled into hibernation through the long, sleepless night. All that was left before her was to face her destiny.

When she met with Storr in the living area of his family home, Jaya hoped she did not look as anemic as she felt. It took great focus and strength of will to maintain the emotional composure that she had effected for the challenge before her.

Taking Jaya in his arms, he held her close and kissed the top of her head, the traditional "English breakfast" of eggs, bacon, boerwors, sautéed mushrooms, broiled tomatoes, and baked beans with tea and coffee awaiting everyone. "You need to eat to have your strength for today," Storr whispered, his hand embracing her waist and leading her to the table. The energy coming from her seemed...muted and the MCO attributed it to lack of sleep and food. At least he could try to do something about the latter.

Jaya had little to eat the day before. With her deliberate state of emotional calm, hunger was merely another concern delayed for another day. When she cleared first one plate, then a second, it was for a different reason.

"I seldom eat meat," Jaya said into her empty plate. "In fact, the last time was several years ago on a dare."

She ran her napkin over her hands and mouth, then stood up from the table to stand next to Storr. "If I'm going to defy the greatest mandate of my people, I may as well work up to it with lesser ones."
The remark was bland and frigid in comparison to Jaya's usual self, but the flicker of her winsome personality flashed through her eyes for a moment.

Storr cracked a smile as he shot a warm glance towards Jaya, catching her eyes before turning back to his plate with vigor. Perhaps his little firecracker hadn't flickered out after all.

The ride to the Johannesburg consulate was quiet. In fact they had little more to say. Assurances had been made. The only comfort to be given was through the death grip of hands joined in courage and commitment.

An attache was waiting for them outside the consulate. Storr exited the vehicle and helped Jaya out a well. When Jaya greeted the attache, the Deltan did not reply. He gave a curt nod and gestured with his hand for the couple to follow him.

The consulate was not large by any account. One might think the Deltan Union had little business on Earth. The brightness of the main lobby with its plasteel construction gave way to the dimly lit interior chamber lined with granite stonework which drew the attache like a fish on a line.

Jaya squeezed Storr's hand and looked up at him for yet another exchange of comfort. She knew that despite his tough guy face, his stomach was in as many knots as her own. More, perhaps, given the human predilection for fight-or-flight responses.

The place and situation were alien to him but he returned Jaya's squeeze and smiled, a twinkle of defiance in his eye. This china shop needed a bull, and he was happy to oblige if necessary on her behalf...he just hoped that the message transferred.

The attache wordlessly pointed to a low table beneath a bench of assembled Deltan officials. When Jaya and Storr were seated, the attache indicated the bench.

"The honorable Ambassador Stelio Kontos presiding."

He then left without further pomp or circumstance.

In the middle of the three officials indeed sat the imperious Stelio Kontos, Ambassador Extraordinaire to Earth. Evidently, he had come to the Johannesburg consulate from the embassy in San Francisco specifically to address her case himself.

"Jaya Maera," Kontos began without ceremony, "you have been summoned by this tribunal to answer for the crime of infidelity. How do you plead?"

It was her moment of truth. Jaya stood up from the table, unclenched her jaw, and plainly stated, "Innocent."

Kontos lowered his eyes to assess the ream of notated data in front of him. "Very well. Let us proceed. The advocate for the accused shall come forward at this time."

From a dark doorway came Riswan's lithe form, silhouetted by the insufficient light. She climbed the steps near the bench to stand between the tribunal and the defendant's table.

"State your name for the record," said the leftward tribunal member.

"Lieutenant Commander Riswan Maera." Her tone was respectful, but the corners of her mouth etched downward in the slightest expression of disdain.

"Do you swear to speak the fullness of truth to this tribunal under penalty of expulsion from the Deltan Union?" Ambassador Kontos asked.

Riswan's mouth stretched into a faint smile, but her eyes narrowed. "I so swear."

"It is so ordered," Kontos said, making notations and moving onto the next point of order. "Do you know of any cause for which your sister stands accused as charged?"

The silence which hung in the air was palpable.

"Answer the question or you will be charged with contempt." Kontos stared her down with unblinking resolve.

"Perhaps," Riswan said at last.

Kontos cocked his head with a bemused smirk. "'Perhaps'? By all means, Commander Maera, do enlighten the tribunal. What is this 'perhaps' of which you speak?"

"Counselor Maera is just that," Riswan said. She turned to Jaya and regarded her with a look of pride. "A counselor. It is to be expected that infidelity accusations would fall against her due to her sensitive work. As for proof of such accusations," Risan turned back to the tribunal and shot Kontos a particularly challenging look, "I know of none."

"Approach the bench." Kontos held out a PADD for Riswan.

Riswan stepped forward to claim the PADD.

"Please read aloud the third paragraph." Kontos folded his hands before him and settled in to listen.

With a sigh of reluctance, Riswan did as instructed. "In the course of such events," she read slowly with precise diction, "it was determined that the chief counselor had taken his own life due to his romantic desires for the junior counselor who had transferred offship."

"Go on."

Riswan took another breath and continued reading. "As expressed in his final log, the deceased stated that Ensign Jaya Maera had 'made him feel like no one else ever had or ever could again.' It would appear that such language and subsequent action of the deceased is pursuant to acute mental instability congruent with prohibited sexual relations between a Deltan and an outlander."

"Stop there." Kontos waved for the PADD back.

Riswan returned the PADD to the bench.

"Thank you, Commander," Kontos said. "You are dismissed."

Jaya was numb. Inside she filled with the compulsion to weep again, but she had been spent already. She barely noticed Riswan step down from the dais before the bench.

Had this tribunal just accused Jaya of breaking her Oath with the Renown's chief counselor based on circumstantial evidence? Storr was no lawyer, not by a long shot, but his blood began to percolate as he watched the haughty Deltan's titter over their pre-ordained conclusion.

The tribunal conferred in hushed, hurried whispers. It seemed their decision was not long in rendering.

"In view of evidence at hand and in accordance with Deltan law," Kontos intoned, "this tribunal has deemed Jaya Maera in breach of her Oath of Celibacy. The penalty of which is immediate expulsion from the Deltan Union, and a recommendation for official censure with Starfleet Command."

Jaya shook her head over and over, shedding tears from her eyes. "No... no, no, no."

"Jy probeer my se dat perdedrolle is fye!!" Storr roared as he leapt to his feet, his chair crashing to the ground with a clatter that filled the small chamber. It was time for the bull and this one had horns. "Starfleet law clearly states that hearsay and circumstantial..." the MCO was just getting started when Jaya's sister appeared from the side, unannounced.

"I beg your pardon." Riswan returned to the front of the chamber, though did not reascend the dais. Instead, she stood directly in front of the accused's table as a wall between Jaya and the tribunal. Storr, leaning forward onto the table with his knuckles, stayed standing though silent.

"Ambassador Kontos, members of the tribunal," she began with a gentle tone that grew firm and bristled. "This is wrong."

Riswan pointed her finger back at her sister. "Jaya has done nothing wrong. Your burden of proof has not been met, as there has been nothing but weak, circumstantial speculation presented."

"How dare you challenge this tribunal's ruling?" Kontos said.

"Because this tribunal did not weigh all the evidence," Riswan retorted. She presented a PADD herself. "This is the report of the counselor's current commanding officer, and she has testified in absentia that Jaya has upheld her Oath of Celibacy to the letter."

Riswan ascended the dais long enough to deposit the PADD on the bench, and then returned to her position before the accused's table. Her actions were bold enough without standing in front of the bench without being duly recognized.

"Consider it an addendum to the Commodore's sworn testimony which you had me read earlier," Riswan said. "And since you elected to omit the opening statement from that testimony, allow me to recite for the record now." Riswan recited it from memory, lacing each word with contempt to match the ambassador's. "'Counselor Maera is an exemplary officer and a credit to her race.' He admitted that the circumstances were regrettable and the details seemed incriminating, but the Commodore did not accuse her anymore than her Captain Ainscow..." Riswan arched an eyebrow over a vaunted smirk. "... as has been intimated by the ambassador."

"Commander, you are out of order," Kontos seethed.

"YOU are out of order, you pompo..." Storr began, his fingers together like a blade chopping towards the ambassador; his fight response was in full swing for his future mate as he was more than willing to break some fine dishes in her defense. He stopped mid-sentence, however, taking a deep breath as Jaya's hand entwined with his.
"Ambassador Kontos, I also will testify before this august body that Jaya has stayed true to her Oath despite my multiple...advances to behave otherwise." he said, derision dripping from his response, "All of her emotional, mental, and...physical conduct with me has given witness to her celibacy amongst non-Deltans and has shown nothing less than a desire to remain so outside of our upcoming marriage."

Storr knew that it was impetuous of him in a court that had little to no regard for him but Jaya's honor had to be defended...if he would not defend her here, how could he anywhere else?

"The fact that you not only could not control yourself, but would stand here and boast of the fact in an ignorant defense of the accused, only underscores the folly of your proposal." Kontos glowered at the boorish human with a mix of pity and annoyance.

Storr's eyes narrowed to slits. "I am not ignorant nor am I boasting; I am merely speaking the truth concerning the defendant's unassailable character in light of known and repeated attempts to persuade her otherwise. My proposal is because I desire to wed the most honest, sincere, loving, beautiful, empathetic, loyal, and brave person I know."

"To put it simply, Mr..." He scanned his documents for a name. "Garlake... is that Deltans do not 'get married.' Our society is as universal as it is closed. A Deltan is 'married,' to borrow from your parlance, to every other Deltan in the Union. Few races can even understand that, much less walk it out in a manner conducive to their mental health and wellbeing. If a trained Betazoid, with his mental acuity and empathic strength, succumbed to the degenerative effects of Deltan fraternization, then what hope do you have?"

"Hope is not a strategy, Ambassador," he simply replied, standing to his full height behind the table. "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise."

Jaya trembled throughout the entire heated exchange, but when the ambassador struck her beloved with that pointed barb--the counselor met her threshold.

"That is enough!"

Before she knew it, Jaya realized she had climbed atop the accused's table and cast a finger of judgment against the tribunal.

Riswan turned around and stared with alarm. Her head shook slowly from side to side as she mouthed the word, "No."

Storr looked up to see Jaya atop the table, fire licking from the edges of her eyes, smoke from her ears, and the smell of brimstone singing his nostrils. If he didn't know any better, there was a spiked tail whipping from her buttocks and blackened, leathery wings about to unfurl. The MCO leered and folded his arms, facing the tribunal; they were about to find out why Rudyard Kipling said that the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Jaya knew she should stand down. Everything from her training to her experience to good common sense demanded she regain her composure and start again. But she was not speaking from those things. She was speaking from the heart, as her empathy-laden words attested.

"When this man asked for my hand in marriage, it was at his own volition. It was in his right mind with full knowledge of the risk it posed. Major Garlake is a hero to this Federation, who puts his life on the line every day for what he believes..." She cast a softer look at Storr. "... and for what he loves."

When Jaya turned her attention back to the tribunal, her passion returned as before, though unshed tears came with it.

"What happened on the Renown was tragic and awful, but it happened after I left," Jaya said. "Had I remained, perhaps my colleague would still be here today, but we don't know that for certain. Betazoid women are well known for their sexual Phase later in life, and I'm here to tell you their men can be no different. I did not file complaints against my colleague then, nor will I speak ill of him now. What I do know is that Storr Garlake is the strongest man I have ever known." Her furious gaze went straight for Ambassador Kontos. "And I do mean ever. If anyone can prove our conventions wrong, it will be him. And I will be honored to be his wife in Earth tradition, with or without your approval."

The maelstrom of passion swirled throughout the room long after her words echoed away. Everyone from the tribunal to Riswan to Storr himself just stared. At length Jaya remembered herself and climbed down from the table with a helping hand from her beloved.

Storr nodded lightly to his fiancee, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and standing beside her, facing the tribunal in solidarity of their decision and love. He would have it no other way.

The members of the tribunal leaned together once more, conferring amidst themselves in a flurry of commentary. Quiet deliberation soon turned animated, leading to Ambassador Kontos to throw his file over the bench onto the floor. He removed himself from the bench and stormed out of the chamber.

"Ambassador Kontos has excused himself from the rendering of the tribunal's decision," said the man to the left. "We, of course, recognize the exemption of Terran marriage vows to the Oath of Celibacy. Upon filing the legal witness of said event, the Foreign Ministry will formally recognize Major Storr Garlake as an inclusive party to Jaya Maera's Oath of Celibacy. The two shall remain monogamous for the duration of their union."

The woman to the right picked up where he left off.

"The matter at hand, however, is the charge of infidelity. While circumstantial evidence is not typically sufficient to convict the accused, the self-inflicted death of a Starfleet officer demands the utmost scrutiny... and the harshest standards."

The other tribunal member began again. "Therefore, our decision is as follows: the marriage will be recognized by the Deltan Union as adequate to the requirements of the Oath, and will be subsequently monitored for signs of instability. Another tribunal will reconvene in one year's time to assess the mental state of the human, which will be used as the test to ascertain Jaya Maera's guilt or innocence in the matter of infidelity."

Letting his arm slip lightly from Jaya's form, he stepped forward to the edge of his table. "If I might address the tribunal concerning the...celibacy requirement and to better educate them in regards to Earthly marriage?"

The two remaining Deltans looked to each other with mild apprehension before the first turned to Storr and addressed him in a measured tone. "You may speak."

"Thank you." Clearing his throat, the Marine composed his thoughts. He never thought that there would be a legal need to defend the institution of human marriage to an alien race, let alone he be the one to do so. Storr dug deep into his past conversations with his father, mother, and pastor, and tried not to be embarrassed. He knew that these were natural things to discuss but to do so in such an environment felt uncomfortable in the least. Well, uncomfortable was the reaming that he received from his father the other night and before breakfast again concerning this matter. This? This was leagues below that, though he had better represent his position and family well if he desired to come home with his head held high. If at all.

"Marriage is meant to provide three things to the couple and society as a whole: Helpful Companionship, Children, and Sexual Protection. By the first, I mean that men and women are oriented differently. They need one another, but they need one another differently. The man needs the help; the woman needs to help. Marriage was created by God to provide companionship in the labor of dominion; Man needs a companion suitable for him in this work and must receive help. She is called to the work through ministering to him. He is oriented to the task, and she is oriented to him.

"Second, to children. One of the things that man...I cannot do alone is reproduce. I am helpless in this and need Jaya in bringing godly offspring. Children are not to give purpose to parenting but rather they are a purpose of marriage.

"Finally, to protect against the frequent struggle against the temptation to lust, fornicate, and commit adultery, the very divinely provided practical help is sexual activity. In order to provide satisfactory protection, sexual relations with a spouse should not be infrequent. There needs to be quantitative protection, particularly for the husband. At the same time, the benefit of sexual relations should not be measured merely in terms of frequency or amount. There needs to be qualitative protection, particularly for the benefit of the wife."

Storr took a deep breath let it out slowly before continuing. "It is this structure that Jaya will be entering with me into and to remove the...physical component would be to eviscerate two of the three main tenants of the institution itself. I know that it is as alien to you as Deltan ways are to me, but I would not be asking her or you for this if I did not know that we can not just survive but thrive despite our differences. My health, mental stability, and even my own survival are mine and mine alone to give and I give it willingly into a marriage with Jaya Maera, knowing full well the dangers and blessings that it will bring."

Heat seemed to evaporate from the man as he relaxed his grip around Jaya's hand, not realizing how hard he had been holding it during his short speech. Interestingly enough, there was much of what he had just said that the two of them had not discussed themselves...Storr only hoped that she would still be on his side of the table after the next few moments.

"Duly noted," said the leftmost tribunal member in a dismissive tone.

"Respectfully, Major Garlake, while you are welcome at these proceedings, your... religion... is inadmissible as evidence." The tribunal member on the right projected a more sympathetic expression. She was quick to add, "but thank you for your enlightening remarks."

Storr felt more than deflated by the tribunal's casual dismissal, alternating between humiliation and abject rage at being treated like a young colt or puppy that had done something wrong yet still adorable.

"Our decision stands," the first tribunal member said. "It is so ordered."

With nothing more to say, they stood up and exited through the same path as the ambassador.

Jaya sat down and stared at her hands. She had spent all night preparing herself for one verdict or another -- either innocence or conviction. But with this unexpected turn of events?

"You're lucky." Riswan sauntered over to Jaya's side of the table and looked down at her. Her teasing smile spoke of bemused admiration. "I half-expected them to add contempt to your list of charges and lock you away for good."

"They may as well have," Jaya said, her forlorn face downcast. "Now we have to spend our first year of marriage with this specter hanging over our heads. Any sign of trouble, and that ambassador or one just like him will use it to nail me to the wall."

Storr gently elbowed Jaya with a crack of a smile. "At least you wouldn't need to worry about getting your boots scuffed up anymore."
Turning to Jaya's sister, he nodded deeply.

"Thank you for representing and defending Jaya during the proceedings. You risked a great deal to defend the both of us when you don't even know me and...this whole affair is partially my fault."

"I won't pretend to understand your reasons, but I know Jaya would not do this without good ones." Riswan looked down at her sister again.

"At least you have your man. Husband." She said the word with a bittersweet excitement. "I wish you both all the best."

Jaya looked up at her sister. "You know, if you don't have to return to your ship right away, there is a ritual to legalize our marriage. Earth tradition requires the bride to have a 'maid of honor.' Could you... stand with me?"

The request elicited a surprised look of shock at first, but Riswan considered it for a moment. "Yes, Jaya. I would love that."

Storr smiled. It would seem that the bride's side wouldn't be empty after all.


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