I’m glad you’re here!
Today is the public debut of a little story I wrote for a competition. This version isn’t quite the version submitted – it’s been revised based on the judge’s suggestions and expanded a bit – but I think you’ll enjoy it.
Time to set the scene for you. In A Quiet Revolution we find out that Commander Daniela Garcia proposed to Lt. Elliott Kay after a bare four months of dating. There’s a scene in the novel which shows her getting some advice from various people, including her friend, Lt. Petra Orloff, as well as Kendra and Aiyana Cassidy.
What you don’t get to see is the actual proposal, carefully scripted by Daniela, as befitting the Deputy Commander – Attack Group.
Without any further ado…
In hindsight, it was probably the wrong venue for her proposal.
Yes, she’d first asked him out at a Fleet bowling party, which is one reason she’d chosen the bowling alley. The fact the alley was aboard an orbital habitat which housed 40,000 people was immaterial.
She invited their mutual friends but skipped family. Her parents were Earthside and weren’t going to come up for a night. Her sisters? Busy, as usual. His parents were divorced, remarried, and couldn’t stand the sight of each other. Not what she wanted tonight.
Tonight was about them and their future.
Maybe they’d only been dating for four months; so what?
When love was right, it was right. It didn’t matter how long or how short the relationship was. All her friends said so. So did all the ezines and the stupid rom-coms she giggled at with Shannon and hated herself for wasting time on the next morning.
She was going to propose to Elliott.
She’d gotten pointers from Petra, who’d also proposed to her husband, as well as both Aiyana and Kendra which was a bit weird. Kendra was the Admiral, for the Gods’ sake!
She knew she could do it. Hell, she ran a squadron, didn’t she?
That was one of the obstacles, of course. She ran a squadron, and wasn’t about to give it up; he was Tactical Officer aboard the Enterprise and wasn’t going to give that up, either. Whatever shape their marriage took it was going to mean long separations, unless one or the other bent to the career of the other.
A voice interrupted her musings.
She looked up. “Hi Shannon.”
“Naah. He’ll say yes.”
“No, I meant about the party.”
“The birthday party? For Wrangler?”
“You didn’t know? His buddies booked a couple lanes tonight so they can get stonkered while making fun of his hook.”
“No! Oh, crap.” She called up the reservations on her implant. There was hers, lanes 1 through 4. And yep. Looked like Mutant had booked lanes 5 and 6.
“Well, we’ll just deal.”
“Hi, babe,” she said, giving him a kiss. She took his arm and started walking with him.
“Sorry I’m late. Staff meeting ran over.”
“Your fault?” She fingered his uniform jacket. For once she was in casual clothes; much as she loved her pilot’s uniform, she was not going to propose marriage in her combats.
“Never mind.” She emphasized her point with another kiss. “Come on.”
He slid his hand into hers and said, “What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion; at least, not for us. Wrangler’s throwing a party, so it’s probably going to get noisy, but we’re just taking chance to get together with some friends.”
They might have been dating for four months but he knew her tells. “Uh-huh. Pull the other one.”
The sound from the lanes was getting louder.
“Maybe a little celebration of Shannon’s promotion.”
“And yours.” The pride in his voice shone and lifted her spirits.
“Don’t remind me,’ groaned Daniela. “I didn’t think being Shannon’s deputy would carry so much extra paperwork.”
He opened the hatch for her and the volume jumped. “You know the Fleet flies on paper, not antimatter, right?”
She returned a wave from Mutant before veering left to join their friends.
The welcome was raucous; Direwolf pilots weren’t noted as ‘shy and retiring’, and the starship crew felt they had to uphold the honor of their ship. The parties naturally mixed; Shannon was the former Wolf CO, after all, and had trained a bunch of them. It interfered with Daniela’s plans a bit, since she needed a moment where their friends weren’t being pulled in different directions to pop the question.
Still. She had time.
Unbelievably there was some actual bowling going on, for values of bowling. Bowling balls were heading more-or-less down the lanes at irregular intervals, though the pins weren’t in any particular danger.
Then Hopalong had the bright idea of adjusting the gravity.
One of the benefits of living aboard the Njord was all gravity was artificial and controlled. If you wanted to do some low-g gymnastics, or if you wanted to increase your weight training without getting additional equipment, you could have it tweaked to fit.
And Diana, the station AI, could do this in any area.
Including the bowling alley.
Her usual avatar appeared. “Yes, Hopalong?”
“We ain’t hitting shit! Less gravity!” The slightly slurred words didn’t seem to bother her.
“It’s a problem with your aim, not the gravity.”
“No, we’re good, we just need less res-, resis-, the balls need to be lighter!”
“Very well, Hopalong. What setting?”
“Les’ do Luna normal. Moonball! No, Ceres!”
“1/30 g for lanes 5 and 6 in effect.”
“T’anks. Grab a beer, if ya want.”
“Perhaps another time.” She vanished.
He grabbed a ball, shoved past Jammer, and launched it downlane. In the reduced field, it didn’t even arc but flew the entire length before disappearing into the back of the lane, completely missing the pins yet again.
Daniela only noted it in passing; she was still gathering her group together. It took several minutes, punctuated by the occasional cheer or groan from Wrangler and his buddies, but she finally had them all following her. It helped that Wrangler’s birthday cake was on its way out, a white monstrosity in the shape of a Wolf shuttle.
Elliott was up next on lane 4, his last frame. Perfect timing.
His first throw was a bit off, leaving the 10 pin standing.
After this, she thought, moving closer, ring in hand and kneeling. Her friends grew silent as they realized that the moment was now. Elliott remained blissfully ignorant of the non-commotion behind him. He lined up and released, the ball spinning down the right side of the lane.
The edge closest to lane 5.
Artificial gravity does odd things at field boundaries. There are ebbs and eddies, turbulence and interference zones, and the steeper the gradient, the stronger the effects.
Daniela was a veteran pilot of the hottest bird in the Fleet. She’d seen plenty of oddities in her flying days.
She’d never seen anything quite like this.
A third of the way down the lane Elliott’s ball abruptly rose, as if it had entered a vertical U-turn. Elliott squawked in surprise, drawing every eye to the wildly spinning ball, now veering over lane 5 and heading towards the pilots clustered around the cake. They dropped to the deck to avoid the four-kilo missile, which slammed into the pastry.
Which more or less exploded. Everything within three meters was covered with cake and icing.
Including Daniela, still standing, watching the progress of the ball.
She was liberally splattered from head to toe, including the ring.
Chocolate? she thought, licking her lips and wiping frosting from her eyes.
She saw Elliott, shocked into stillness, a meter away, lightly dotted with pastry debris. Daniela held out the cake-transformed ring.
Elliott sputtered, wiping at the cake in the sudden silence and Daniela’s heart dropped.
Gods love me, how in the seven hells did this happen? What if this is an omen, a warning?
Her arm was settling, lowering, as her thoughts raced and all the doubts and worries which plagued her took their turn.
Then he was pulling her to her feet and embracing her, cake and icing be damned.
“Yes, I’ll marry you,” he was saying, then he was kissing her and her world brightened again.
They gradually became aware of the cheers and applause of their friends around them and reluctantly separated.
“He said yes!” Daniela shouted.
“Kinda figured,” Shannon shouted back.
“I don’t think it’s official until you give him the ring,” added Locksmith. Elliott waggled his fingers at her. Laughing and aided by the icing she slid the ring down, giving him another kiss for good measure.
Elliott raised his hand, rotating it so everyone could see.
“Chocolate,” he said. “I always dreamed of a chocolate ring.”
She leaned into him and his arm came down around her.
“Hey, Danni,” he said under the din before they were mobbed with well-wishers.
“Next time you have a question, a life-altering one?”
“Ask me in quarters.”
“And no cake?”
His headshake was emphatic. “No cake.”