Whump! The first shoe hit the wall. Whump, followed by the second one. Why couldn't someone make a pair of shoes that not only looked good, but was comfortable too. That search still continued. Azarra had been on her feet for 7 straight hours, greeting the passengers who came aboard the first shuttle at 10 a.m. and the last at 4 p.m. But, all were accounted for, except for Quinn Malden whose droid, Ru-L8 came on board and said that his Master had been delayed and would catch up later. Governor Casselbury had arrived a few days earlier to make sure the Empress was ready. His wife, Daysha, had come on board yesterday with her band to get everyone settled and rehearse in the ballroom. Crew quarters had to be assigned to Rikon and Lt. Haska, who had decided to "hitch" a ride back to Varelttas. Shortly they would be underway, so she had a few hours to relax before dinner at 8 p.m. Seleene (thank the gods for her) was checking with the dinner chef and said she would handle any minor problems that came up. So, Azarra would fill the sunken triangular tub herself and take a good, long soak before dressing for dinner. It was amazing how remarkably smooth all the cruise preparations had gone. The decorating of all the staterooms, moving in the furniture, towels, sheets, blankets, hiring the staff including breakfast, lunch/dessert, and dinner chefs (background checks a must, of course), arranging for all the food, wines, and planet tours, and more importantly, getting sponsors to pay for a lot of it. She was especially pleased with the Trinkit bags that each passenger would find in their stateroom, containing the commemorative wine goblet and pin, a bottle of Rividh Sparkling wine, itinerary, identicard, coupon book for MallWorld, game room tokens, etc., most "donated" by willing merchants for just a little advertising. Azarra opened the walk-in closet to decide which gown to wear - each one an exclusive done by a different designer like Rowena and willingly given to the Empress for the publicity it would generate. Perhaps the midnight blue velvet slip dress with the embroidered stars would be appropriate for the first dinner. She was especially pleased with the "planet wear" ; designers had taken some aspect of each planet and turned it into an outfit for sightseeing and shopping. She had to admit that the MallWorld ensembles were a bit unusual; she certainly would not blend in with the crowd in those. She only hoped that the shoes would be comfortable. After a good, long soak and a quick report from Seleene, she was again ready to greet the passengers for their first of 13 dinners. As Azarra entered the dining salon, the view took her breath away. Everything sparkled - the china, the glassware, even the silverware, each place setting accompanied by a commemorative place card. Azarra took her place by the door across from the steward who would direct people to their tables, as people began arriving. Everyone seemed as anxious as she was because they were all seated well before 8 o'clock. Her dinner companions were Ily on her left and Captain Alexander Merritt on her right (what a find he had been; the women couldn't stop staring at him all through the meal, and there were actually brains housed in that stunning body). The dinner, as she expected, was superb; her favorite course was the dessert - the cruise logo done in chocolate cake and candies (it was as delicious as it looked). Even the toast with sparkling Rividh wine, given by Governor Casselbury was fine. Much attention, mostly feminine, was being paid to Rikon as the vintner of the wines being served. Azarra made the rounds and spoke to everyone, not just those lucky enough to be at the head table. After the meal, many of the guests took advantage of the music provided by the band in the adjacent ballroom. Azarra, with much still to do, left before someone asked her to dance; her feet would just not take that. After another brief meeting with Seleene, who sat at Table 2 to make sure that all the guests received the same treatment as those at Table 1, and a holoconversation with the Tatooine representatives, Azarra crawled into the huge bed, wrapped herself in the blanket embroidered with EMPRESS and fell asleep. ~ Tatooine filled the view port, shades of beige and yellow. Breakfast, although served a bit early for her tastes, was excellent and now everyone was gathering in the docking bay to board the shuttles that would take them planet side to Mos Eisley where the sail barges awaited. Making sure everyone had sunscreen, hats and comfortable shoes, she was the last to board. The first day was spent "sailing" from one site to another, stopping to peruse what the travel agents called the "magnificent sites of Tatooine". Azarra found them boring and understood why both her father and brother had wanted to get off this planet as soon as possible. Lunch was pleasant and there was even time to do a bit of shopping (or what passed for shopping there) before she returned on the last shuttle. The evening meal was once again magnificent and as she left the passengers enjoying the band and a play, Azarra went to her quarters to check on tomorrow's arrangements. She still hadn't adjusted to the smell of roses each time she entered her suite. It certainly was a surprise when she had first come in to see 20 vases filled with a dozen or two of the Empress rose, a midnight blue flower shot through with silver, which she knew had been genetically engineered not to cause her an allergic reaction. Upon arrival she had immediately contacted the Emperor to thank him for his thoughtful gesture. He had seemed a bit confused about her transmission, but he still wasn't very good at acknowledging his feelings in such matters. After attending to the ever-present paperwork, Azarra retired. The second day on Tatooine was much like the first, the shopping still leaving much to be desired. The highlight of the day was the lunch; she must personally congratulate the chef when she returned. She was looking forward to a day in transit and then the visit with her mother on Varelttas; perhaps Sarid would be "civil" since she was now his Empress.
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