Aboard H.M.S. Defiant
Six Months Later
I circled the fencing cage as I had many times before, my sword extended in a defensive position. My opponent circled as well, looking for an opening. We tapped swords numerous times, her taking my measure with each parry and riposte. We danced like this for several seconds, back and forth, my thrust followed by her parry. The game was tenuous for her. I had her down 2-0. Another victory and I would win the match.
She made an awkward lunge at me, and I countered her thrust, then reached out and grabbed her sword hand by the wrist. She tried to do the same to me, but I held her off, my superior size and strength being more than a match for her. I had her now, and the only question was how I was going to finish it. I swung her around and then pulled her toward me, rolling her over my thigh and then dropping her to the mat. Gently, I hoped. I whipped my foil into her rib cage, and the scoring bell sounded.
Game, set, match.
She dropped her foil and exhaled deeply, then pulled her mask from her face and looked up at me.
"I'm never going to get this," she said.
"Nonsense," I replied, doffing my own mask and then reaching down and grabbing her hand, pulling her up from the mat with a firm tug on the arm. "It took a while, but 'I' finally got the hang of it."
"As I recall," she said, wiping sweat off of her forehead with her sleeve, "you never beat Captain Kierkopf, and I have never beaten you."
I smiled down at my wife of half a year, Karina Feilberg, Princess of Carinthia, Countess of New Queensland, fencing rival. Though it was hard to call her a rival. We had been at this almost six months, and she'd never really come close to beating me. It wasn't her fault. Dobrina Kierkopf was an excellent athlete, Karina far less so. She was small and petite and no master with a foil for sure, nor would she likely ever be, but she humored me on the mat. I liked to think she made up for her wants as a swordsman with other more favorable attributes.
She reached up and wrapped her arms around my neck. I was a bit over six feet one, she almost a foot shorter. She went to her tiptoes, then kissed me. It was a wet and sweaty embrace, but not altogether unpleasant. As I said, she had her favorable attributes. Still, I wasn't much for public displays of affection on the ship I commanded,
H.M.S. Defiant. After all, I was the captain, and married or not, we couldn't be seen "eating bread in front of the poor people," as she liked to say. Not a good example.
"I'm heading back to the stateroom to shower. Will you be joining me?" she asked impishly. It was an advantage to have your wife aboard ship, no doubt, especially one as enticing as I often found Karina. But I had business to attend to first.
"Regrettably, madam, I will have to pass. All captains staff at 0830 in Maclintock's office. I'll just catch a shower in the men's locker room."
"Are you sure you can't be a bit late for that? It is a Saturday, after all," she said. Now it was my turn to smile. We had both found solace in each other's arms the last six months in the aftermath of the attack on Carinthia and the death of her father, Grand Duke Henrik. We were learning to love each other, and it was a good thing for both of us.
"Duty calls, madam," I said, "and it sounded like serious business." Which I was sure it was. I looked around the gym quickly to make sure we were alone, then gave her a another light kiss on the lips. Again I got the impish smile.
"Your loss, Captain, sir," she said.
"May I remind you, Lieutenant, that I am captain of this vessel and you are merely my astrogator and a junior officer. I can order you to do what I want at any time," I said.
"Oh, you can," she acknowledged. "But there are certain orders a wife can refuse that a junior officer never could." With that she swatted my butt, picked up her mask and foil, and made for the ladies' locker room. I watched her go and smiled again, counting myself lucky. She turned back to me at the locker room door and gave me that smile one more time. I laughed, hoping that the staff meeting would be over with quickly so I could get back home to where I really wanted to be, with her.