Nocturne 2 – Treading New Pathways
Ham and the Madonna were given separate rooms in the inn, yet, somehow, she was in his bed the next morning, head pillowed on his bare shoulder.
“No, now wait…” he muttered as he stretched awake. “I didn’t drink like poor Sinbadh. I know what didn’t happen in the night!”
The Nebulon woman stirred and opened her sapphire eyes. She smiled as she looked at Ham. She was nude under the single sheet. She was powerfully attractive.
“You and I need to talk about this,” said Ham. “I’m a single guy. You can’t be throwing temptation in my way every day like this. Do you understand me?”
“Frieda teached me your speaking. I know what you say.”
“But do you know what I mean?”
“You saved me. You own me now.”
“Trav saved you. You belong to Goofy.”
“He does not want me. I offer. He refuse. I now pick man I love and I offer me to you.”
Ham started to say no. Still, he had to admit, she was beautiful, and he was powerfully attracted to her. He had to make her understand, though. If he was going to get romantic, it wouldn’t be with a concubine. It wasn’t that he meant to reject her; just that he didn’t want her to be that. She would have to understand. Love was complicated, and he’d never felt that way before.
A knock came at the door. Ham nervously jumped into his pants and shirt, motioning for the Madonna to hide in the fresher. She didn’t move or seem to care.
“Who is it?” Ham called.
“Let me in, old Jester. I know about the girl. We just need to talk.”
Goofy! Ham didn’t care much to talk to that trouble-making clown, but he knew there wasn’t much choice. Besides, Trav had freed the Nebulon Princess. Maybe he still thought he had some say in her affairs.
“The door is open.”
Trav Dalgoda and the Duke of Coventry came in together. The Duke raised an eyebrow as he saw the Madonna in the bed.
“It’s not what it looks like,” said Ham, furiously blushing.
“It’s not our business,” said Duke Ferrari.
“Yes,” said Ham, “well… What is your business?”
“I need to pursue the alliance Tron Blastarr is promoting. Count Nefaria has removed me from Imperial politics. If I am going to help my planet and my people, I have to return there and make the government secede from the Imperium.”
“So, why are you telling me?”
Trav lifted his bogus eye-patch and stared at Ham with two brown eyes. “You’re a pilot, Ham. You have your own ship.”
“You want me to take you to Coventry?”
“And possibly beyond,” said Duke Ferrari.
“Why would I be doing this?” asked Ham.
“For the good of your planet. And because it’s the right thing to do.”
“And, also,” said Trav, “I may know where to find another ancient artifact. I read through Nefaria’s cargo manifests. He had something Ancient shipped to a warehouse he owns on Dancer. That planet is right on our way.”
“The water world?”
“Yeah. The pirate planet owned by Razor Conn and the Black Hawk Corsairs.”
“You won’t mind if I replace you with another engineer, Goofy? You’re getting kind of independent of me and Ged again.”
“Oh, I might start my own crew if I can get a hold of the right starship… and find a good pilot. I might even go back to working for old Jester Tron.”
“We have an agreement, then?” asked Duke Ferrari, offering a hand for Ham to shake.
“I’m a sucker for that it’s-the-right-thing-to-do argument. Ged taught me to be like that,” Ham admitted. “I also like a good adventure now and then. Though I have to tell you, it’ll be going the opposite direction from the one I promised Ged I would go. I hate to disappoint my brother.”
The Madonna sat up on the bed and hugged Ham around his middle. The covering fell away. Goofy and Ham both blushed. “I go too. I not want you dead. I need you.”
Ham looked at the Duke. Duke Ferrari was smiling wickedly. Ham stuttered, “So… ah… Duke, can dukes perform marriage ceremonies?”
“Yes, Mr. Aero. I will include it as a small part of the fee for your services.”