2745, Pelta, capital city of the Star Union on the planet Hugan
“Katherine, you are so tiresome,” Jonathan Hurks sighed. “The point of a honeymoon is to get away from our daily lives for a while, not wade hip deep into them.”
Katherine’s gaze slid from her fiancé’s face to glide about the crowded ballroom, already bored with the whole evening. Light sconces in the walls had been set to a warm, rosy output, thus hiding the flaws of the party guests and creating a romantic atmosphere. But Katherine did not feel at all romantic. In fact, she could not feel less romantic if she were in the middle of a natural disaster.
Work waited for her at home and she was eager to be at it, not here with a herd of chattering, superficial twits who complimented her with forked tongues before they went to whisper about her behind their richly gloved hands.
“Jonathan,” she said soothingly, though her eyes still shifted about the room restlessly, “Pelta is a paradise, why would you want to spend our honeymoon anywhere else?”
“Because we both live and work in Pelta,” he said impatiently, “And I would like to go someplace different for a change. You’ve never even been off world. Don’t you want to visit some exotic planet where we can see jungles and wild animals?” His voice dropped enticingly, “I’ve heard that Ophelia is beautiful. It has romantic seashores, gorgeous views.”
Katherine gave a sigh of her own, “I’ve only been in Pelta for three years, Jonathan, surely I haven’t seen all there is to see in that short time.”
“You haven’t seen anything Pelta has to offer, darling, because during the three years you’ve spent here, you’ve done nothing but study and work,” Jonathan remarked dryly.
“Oh, yes? Then how did you and I become engaged two weeks ago,” Katherine teased, finally amused enough to place her attention squarely on the man with whom she waltzed.
Hurks smiled slowly and bent to whisper in her ear, “I suppose there were some things for which you put aside your toils.” He raised his eyebrows playfully, “Perhaps we can indulge in some of those activities tonight?”
Katherine laughed and pushed his face away gently. The musicians ended the dance and the couple separated, though Hurks kept hold of Katherine’s hand and led her to the punch table. A glittering silver fountain bubbled champagne punch from a hole in its peak. The golden liquid flowed down to a series of shallow bowls in which guests dipped their cups. Jonathan retrieved some punch for both himself and Katherine. But when he held out the cup to her, Katherine shook her head, “Jonathan, I can’t. I have to stay up late tonight and finish the rewrite for the Grid manual.”
Jonathan pressed the cup into her hands and said grumpily, “Our own engagement party and all you can think about is getting home to your wretched little apartment to work.” He gave her an appraising glance. “Couldn’t you have at least changed before the party?” he asked, taking in her P.I.L. uniform with displeasure. Katherine stood out sharply in the white dress and blouse amongst the rich jewel tones of the other guests. She had not even bothered to remove her hat, a cylinder of stiff white mesh that reached a foot from the back of her head. Small hanks of blonde hair had freed themselves from the tight bun at the nape of her neck.
“I didn’t have time to change, Jonathan,” she said airily as she tucked strands of hair behind her ears. “If I embarrass you,” she went on, only half teasing this time, “I can go home.”
He quickly snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her against his side. “You’d love for me to say ‘yes’ to that, wouldn’t you?”
Katherine sighed again, but this time privately. She wanted nothing more than to go home, but duty kept her at the tedious party for several more hours. Feeling like a twit herself, she, nevertheless, made polite, if inane, conversation with the society matrons that ruled life in Pelta. To snub these women would, Katherine knew, have unpleasant effects on Jonathan, who aspired to be a Senator in the Upper House, rather than the less influential Lower House Representative that he was at present.
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