The ISD EMPRESS sat within the framework of the orbital starshipyard as the workers polished her inside and out for the upcoming cruise. The blue of Coruscant’s cityscape glittered below. It was the day before departure. Governor Casselbury stood near the viewport of the bridge facing his temporary duties on the Empress Azarra’s ship. His executive officer on the cruise, Captain Alexander Merritt, leaned over the console screen, poring over the ship’s travel itinerary with him. The crew had been inspected, properly briefed and the ship was in tip top shape and ready for the voyage. Suddenly the Communications Officer stepped forward and clicked his heels in attention. “Governor, a message was received in my office for you.” “From Coruscant?” The Grand Moff cringed inwardly, hoping the Emperor hadn’t changed his mind about not going -- during his absence, the Empress had already moved him into the Imperial stateroom, where he would be staying with his wife. “No, the message was hand-delivered by one of the passengers,” he replied, and handed Casselbury a small square envelope, its flap sealed. With surprise written on his face, the Governor took it from the officer. As he began to open it, his nose caught a familiar waft of perfume and so he moved away from the prying eyes of his men. Gingerly he opened the seal and smiled - for inside was a card with nothing but a red lipstick mark made from a kiss. Daysha was trying to tell him she was aboard. They hadn’t seen each other for an entire year now -- too long. “Is everything all right sir?” Merritt inquired. “Yes. My wife has arrived.” He turned toward the waiting Communications Officer. “Personally see to it that she and the rest of the entertainment crew are comfortably settled in. I will finish with this and meet her in the stateroom before dinner.” He grinned to himself. Suddenly he was looking forward to this cruise... Daysha Skylar-Casselbury made her way down the ship’s decorative corridor. There was a lightness in her step as she followed the uniformed steward to her assigned stateroom. He paused before an alcove with large ornamental double doors with a silver nameplate that read ‘Emperor's Suite.’ The young entertainer’s eyebrows arched and her bright blue eyes widened. “Wait a min...this can’t be right. This must be the royal suite!” “No ma’am. The Empress herself assigned this room in your husband’s name, and yours. It’s my understanding that since His Majesty won’t be present on cruise, the Empress has made the room available to you.” Without waiting for her reply, he opened the doors and gestured with a bow. Daysha hesitated for a moment before entering inside. She found herself standing in the middle of an enormous windowless room with deep red walls and trimmed in wood. She felt a shiver as she eyed the oversized bed in the elongated shadows of the crystal floor lamps on either side of it. The dancer surveyed the large mural of the Imperial Palace with an artist’s eye. “I’ll just set your luggage right here,” the steward stated, lowering her trunks to the floor. Daysha turned around and gave him an incredulous look. For a moment she’d almost forgotten the man was waiting for her. She handed him a generous tip and poked him with a well-manicured nail, “Hey -- if any of this is some sort of joke of my husband’s...” The steward answered her with a soft chuckle. “Not a joke, ma’am. If you’d like, you may send a communication to the Empress herself? I don’t believe Her Majesty is aboard yet.” Daysha shook her head and smiled. “No..no - I really don’t want to bother her. I expect my husband will be here soon enough and he’ll explain all this.” With a polite bow, the uniformed servant exited the room, closing the doors behind him. Daysha looked around the room nervously and touched the luxurious midnight blue coverlet on the bed. Her eyes looked down at the plush gold rug with the Imperial ‘snowflake’ design on it as her boots traveled over it. She wandered into the adjoining bathroom area and eyed the dark marble bathtub and gold fixtures with a smile. Impulsively, she removed her clothes and turned on the water spigots. ‘Why not take advantage of a good situation?’ she thought, and laughed to herself, hoping that the Emperor wouldn’t change his mind about going on the cruise and suddenly walk in. After putting in the herbal oil and laying a pretty towel over a nearby chair, Daysha began to luxuriate in the bath and didn’t hear the approaching footsteps on the soft carpeted floor. The Governor leaned inside the room and grinned at his wife lying naked among the bubbled water. “Hello, dear heart. I see you’ve made yourself at home...” Daysha sat up, startled and laughed. “I *see* you got my message. Well, don’t just *stand* there, love -- step in...we’ve got a *lot* to catch up on!” The happy moments afterwards meant a great deal for the married couple. They tried to make up the time they had lost in a year. As the Governor’s inspection hour of the ship approached, they moved to dress. Daysha walked over to her open trunk and lifted out her newest designer gown. It was made of pure black silk draped with a lacy red material. “Won’t this be perfect for the opening dinner tomorrow night? I had this custom made in Cloud City. Isn’t it beautiful?” she gushed. The Governor laughed. He walked over to his wife and took her hand. “On you, it will be...” “I’ve missed you, my love,” Daysha whispered. “We owe the Empress a mountain of thanks. If it weren’t for this cruise....” “I know,” he said, as he squeezed her slender arms. “You can tell her yourself tomorrow, when the cruise officially begins.” TO BE CONTINUED...
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