Matilda Dulac and Wil VanLipsig knew one another 10 years ago, but time and distance made them forget one another. Reconnecting again by chance, they fall almost instantly in love. After a bizarre series of events brings her father back into their lives, they decide to marry aboard the Mining Guild ship, Flotilla. Coerced into a whirlwind wedding, they find themselves caught up in the chaos and romance of the moment.
"Attention crew of Flotilla. At 2230 hours, nonessential personnel will assemble in the main cargo bay to bear witness to the happy union of Captain Dulac and Colonel VanLipsig. For essential crew, the ceremony will be broadcast live. Slatterly out." He grinned, rubbing his hands together with glee. "You need a dress and a bridesmaid." He tapped his com-link again. "Rebeckah."
"How would you like to be bridesmaid for Captain Dulac?"
"Tell her I'd be delighted. Grammery out."
"There, all set."
"What about the dress?" Matilda asked.
"Just wear that slinky black one from dinner with the Cats," Wil suggested.
"Brides are supposed to wear white."
"Tilda, you don't have the luxury of being picky. There's no time to synth one. Wear the black dress. And you, old man." Ed pointed to Wil. "You need a best man. Marc is officiating and I have to give the bride away."
"Caprilla!" Marc made another call and was assured that the giant cat would be delighted to stand up for his friend.
"There, easiest damn wedding in the history of the galaxy." Marc looked at his watch.
"You have exactly forty-five minutes to dress. Ed, you and I are going to sit here and get shit faced while we wait."
Ed held up his glass, toasting them. "To the happy couple." He was happier than he could ever remember being. "My baby girl is getting married." He kissed her. "Go get dressed."
Matilda and Wil went back to their cabin, excited but stunned. It had all happened too fast for either of them to comprehend. They dressed quickly and in silence. He wore his Marine dress uniform and she put on the black dress.
"I look like I'm going to a funeral, not a wedding."
"Nonsense, I'd marry you if you were naked."
"You would not. You wouldn't get to the altar if I were naked."
"True, I'd have sex with you in front of the entire ship's company."
"Yes, and all the women would see what a great ass you have. I think we'll pass on that."
They hustled down the hall to the cargo bay. Becky met them outside the door, as Caprilla was running silently up the hall behind her. He leaned over, sniffing Becky's neck, making her giggle when his whiskers tickled her.
"Mm, another delicious smelling female! It is too bad human women are so delicate."
Marc walked up about that time. "You making a play for my woman, Cap?"
"This one is yours?" Cap shook his head sadly, sighing heavily. "I'm always behind you two. It's the sorrowful story of my life. I shall have to see if I can entice Ariella into joining me after the wedding." He nodded sagely, chuckling and twirling his whiskers.
Marc went in to get into position. The groom and best man went with him. Prentiss had put two large crates in the center of the room and scrounged a couple of mining lanterns from ships' stores.
"We don't have candles," Prentiss apologized. "This was the best we could do on short notice, sir."
"It'll do fine, Prentiss. We aren't picky. Bible. Did anyone get me a Bible?"
One of the crew ran up with a tattered, dog-eared book.
"I couldn't find anything newer. I've had that one since I was a kid. I hope it will do."
Marc looked at the tattered, beaten up book, frowning deeply as he grappled with frustration. "It's in another language?"
"Hebrew. It's actually a Talmud, but it's the same God, just a different attitude." He winked at Marc.
"So do I at least have an order of service?"
The crewman looked surprised. "No, sir. You have to do it from memory. This is a mining ship, sir, not a luxury liner." He chuckled, wandering off into the crowd.
"Well, Rabbi Slatterly will think of something." He sighed, shaking his head. He hit his com-link. "Okay, we're ready. Please tell me we have music."
Over the speakers, processional music started. It wasn't Mendelssohn or even Wagner, but it was obviously a wedding march, sounding vaguely alien in nature. Caprilla and Wil took their positions and the doors at the far end of the hold opened.
Rebeckah came in first, in a dark red dress that was cut a little too low and slightly too large for her, but looked very pretty with her pale skin and blonde hair. Caprilla licked his lips and purred, earning him a frown from Marc. He chuckled at Marc's consternation.
Matilda and her father entered arm in arm. She looked radiant, even in black. One of the women had found her a bouquet of silk flowers, another had loaned her a blue garter. She had her grandmother's engagement ring that her father had kept for her. The dress would have to do for something new. She flushed bright pink when she came in and the entire crew cheered.
Prentiss, Weiss and Matisse stood in the front rank of officers, clapping and whistling like her own, private cheering section. Marc began the ceremony in a robust voice.
"Dear Friends, we gather here to join this man and woman in Holy Matrimony. You are going to have to forgive me if I make mistakes. This is my first wedding and my memory isn't as good as it used to be. So if I screw up, just correct me. Who gives this lady to marry this man?"
Her father stepped forward. "I do." Bowing, he stepped back.
"Do you, Wilhelm Erik VanLipsig, take this woman to be your wedded wife?"
Wil grinned at her. "I do."
"Matilda Emily Dulac, do you take this old reprobate to be your wedded husband?"
She swallowed down a fit of nervous giggles. "I do."
"Rings. Do we have rings?"
Her father stepped forward. "She can use her grandmother's ring and here," he took the wedding ring off his own hand. "Wil can have this one. I don't need it anymore."
Choking down a sob, he stepped back by Caprilla. Feeling sentimental, the giant cat slapped Ed on the back, nearly knocking him down.
"Take the ring, my dear and put it on his finger. Repeat after me. 'I, Matilda, take thee Wilhelm, to be my lawful wedded husband."
He paused to let her repeat the words. Then he motioned in mute appeal to the crew. "What's next?"
They shouted in unison, the remainder of the vows.
"What they said!" Marc bellowed, gesturing wildly.
Matilda repeated the words with a little prompting from the miners. They cheered loudly when she finished.
"With this ring, I thee wed. I know that part!" Marc yelled proudly.
"With this ring, I thee wed," she repeated quietly.
Chuckling, Wil repeated his vows, getting a little help from the crew when he missed a part.
"Now, by the power vested in me by the Mining Guild, the Galactic Committee and God Himself, I pronounce you husband and wife!"
The entire crew joined him when he yelled, "You may kiss the bride!"