“Terrestrial teleportation incoming. Please stand clear.”
A yellow horizontal circle appeared on the roof of Mule Tower, and a moment later a man popped in wearing a black business suit.
Raleigh walked over to shake the man’s hand. He stood at medium height, about five foot nine or 175 centimeters, with nondescript short brown hair, olive skin and brown eyes.
“Pastor Dawson, how are you?”
Raleigh noted the man had a rich, deep voice doubtless beneficial for speaking from the pulpit.
“Can I offer you something to drink? Baptists avoid alcohol, don’t they?”
“Some do,” Dawson said, looking around at the city from the view afforded at the top of the skyscraper. “Especially pastors and deacons. I’ll take some water, though.”
Raleigh motioned to his bot who hurried over with a glass of water.
The Pastor took a sip then met Raleigh’s eyes and said, “Now, what can the First Baptist Church of Port Ryan do for you, Captain Raleigh?”
“I need to get married.”
Dawson nodded. He said, “Very well. I don’t usually marry people who are not members of the church, but it’s not unheard of. I’ve done it before. I like couples I marry to go through a newlyweds’ class. It’s a series of discussions, really, where we talk a lot about what it means to be married, examine what the Bible has to say about marriage, and then explore some topics that help bring to light the differing expectations couples bring into marriage. You might be thinking one thing and she might have different ideas. These are sessions on finances, how many children you plan on having, which family you’ll visit for Christmas. Things like that. I want to make sure all the unspoken expectations are hashed out before the ceremony to help solve problems before they start.”
“Well, I’m afraid we don’t have time for that. This is an emergency.”
The pastor nodded again and said, “These emergencies typically take about nine months to manifest, Captain. I’m sure we can work the Newlyweds Class into however much time is left before then.”
“No, not that kind of emergency. This one’s different. Look, we need to get married today. Right now, in fact. I’ve paid the license fee and LuteNet has the paperwork ready. All we need is a certified pastor to say the words, lead us in our vows, and we’ll be good to go.”
Dawson blinked in surprise. He said, “Well, uh . . . it doesn’t usually work that way. I’m sorry, Captain, but I have to get back to the office. Perhaps you could have somebody at the Administration Building help you with a civil ceremony.”
“I would, but everyone there is on holiday, and I need somebody right now. You’re it.”
“Look, Captain, I’d like to help you. But you need to go through the Newlyweds’ Class. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a lifelong commitment, or at least it should be. God says in the Bible, ‘I hate divorce.’ The classes are well worth your time. They’ll help prevent a divorce from happening later.”
Dawson set the glass of water down.
He said, “Now, if you’ll excuse me I really must be getting back. We’ve had an influx at the orphanage and I need to make sure everything goes well for mealtime tonight, along with a hundred other things.”
Raleigh said, “I will of course, pay your fee.”
Dawson smiled and said, “I do take an honorarium for weddings, but even so, I want you two to go through the class. Call my office and make the first appointment. We’ll talk later.”
“Wait. I need to get married today. Right now. If you’ll follow me, the bride is waiting in the cafeteria. All you need to do is pronounce us man and wife.”
Dawson shook his head.
“I really need to be getting back, Captain.”
“Deposit 10,000 credits into the orphanage managed by First Baptist Port Ryan.”
“Done, Captain. I have transferred 10,000 credits from your personal finances into the Lute Baptist Orphanage account.”
Dawson’s eyes grew wide.
Raleigh said, “Consider that your honorarium. Now, if you would follow me, we have a ceremony about to start. They’re waiting for us.”
Jillian stood crying in front of one of the large picture windows in the cafeteria. On one side of her Skylar hugged her, offering comfort. Granny stood to her other side, still hoisting a blaster over her shoulder and chewing on a cigar.
Several crewmembers sat in chairs at tables nearby, casting sympathetic looks at her.
Jillian sniffled and Skylar offered a tissue. She took it and dabbed away tears.
“I’m sorry. I just . . . this is not how I expected to get married, you know? It was going to be a beautiful ceremony on Italia with rose petals in the aisle, and mountains and beaches and horse-drawn carriages and everyone I knew was going to be there . . . Instead I’m in the cafeteria. It’s just not a special day, you know?”
Skylar nodded and squeezed her again, offering unspoken support.
Granny frowned. She said, “You love him, don’t you?”
Jillian nodded, dabbing her eyes with the tissue.
“Then it don’t matter. Gettin’ hitched is the important thing. The Captain’s quite the catch. Ain’t never seen a woman able to reel that fella in like you did.”
Several sitting at the tables in the cafeteria murmured in agreement.
Kim and Pak sat together nearby. Kim said, “We thought the Captain would remain a bachelor forever.”
A chorus of agreement came from others in the crowd.
“You definitely changed his attitude toward marriage,” Skylar said, giving her friend a big smile.
Jillian gasped as she had another thought. “What if he’s just doing this for convenience? What if he doesn’t love me?”
Several people chuckled, including Skylar and Granny.
Granny said, “Girl, that boy is head over heels in love with you. There ain’t no doubt about that.”
Before Jillian could explore the notion further, the elevator dinged open and Raleigh stepped out with Pastor Dawson. Raleigh headed for the window, the pastor in tow.
Dawson nodded at the pirates who looked back at him expressionlessly. He blinked at the big gun over Granny’s shoulder, but made no comment. She smiled at him, removing her cigar to do so.
So far, nothing cracked his shell, or caused him any discomfit. He was a pastor on a pirate planet, after all.
Jillian dried her tears and stood up straight. Raleigh introduced them.
“Pastor Dawson, this is Jillian Thrall my bride.”
Dawson’s exterior finally cracked, wide open. He stared at her in astonishment.
“Jillian Thrall? The Tetrarch’s daughter? What are you doing here?”
She smiled at the expression on his face and said, “It’s a long story.”
The pastor took a moment to gather his wits. He kept staring at Jillian, utterly flabbergasted.
Finally, Raleigh turned him around to face the crowd, who now sat up in their seats expectantly.
Skylar gave Jillian a final hug then stepped aside.
The elevator dinged again and Maxwell came out, hurrying over to the window. He gave a gold ring to Raleigh, and another one to Jillian.
“They’re brand new,” he said in a reassuring tone. “I didn’t steal these.”
Granny moved over so Max could stand next to the Captain, serving as his best man. Jillian and Raleigh turned to face the pastor.
Dawson looked at the pirates seated in the cafeteria, then at the couple facing him. He took a deep breath and smiled, relaxing. Likely, this would be the only sermon many in the room would hear in a while. Perhaps it would be the last sermon for some of them, based on the precarious lifestyle of pirates. Dawson determined to make the most of his opportunity.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered today to unite these two in holy matrimony . . .”