A Rosebourne Christmas by Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon Tuesday 29 October 2886 Earth Relative Time Aboard Royal Navy (Space) Pocket Battlecruiser BCG-500 His Majesty's Starship Rosebourne "Merry Christmas, Captain." The look of surprise on the face of Sub-Commander Elinor Dawes more than made up for the trouble Lt. Tom Guyrere had gone through to arrange for this gift. It suited her startling English rose look, he thought. "It is Christmas morning on your native world. At least for the past thirty-seven minutes by my calculations." Most spacers reckoned in Earth Reference Time, but just for this occasion Tom had kept track of the Golden calendar and knew it to be Sunday 25 December 586 A.A. in the city of Secundus, The British Sector on Golden. Gold Christmas on the Planet of Gold. "Yes. Yes, of course," she answered, glancing at her own clock from home. Her executive officer was quite correct -- just past second midnight there. Standing up from the desk in her day office, Ellie took the large package, wrapped in the reds and golds of Golden, and nearly dropped it. "Heavy," she said, a quizzical look spreading on her face as she pushed her reddish bangs back in that unconscious move of hers which meant she was thinking. They made an interesting pair. Both in their mid- twenties, neither born on Earth. Of course, the differences in their backgrounds was extreme -- she came from the planet Golden and he grew up on a tin-can mining station in Free Space. She was British Star Empire, he came from the mongrel polyculture Out There which wasn't even American anymore. He stood tall dark and rough, while she was pale and lovely in that way which people called unconventional beauty. Her family owned the patents on all the technologies which made faster-than-light travel through jump space possible and if they were not the wealthiest family in existence, it hardly mattered. Riches or good looks, however, had not gotten her either commission or warship. Hers was one of the finest analytic minds in relativistic tactics and strategy. The British Star Fleet could not rush Ellie to meet the alien Enemy crisis fast enough. His family was gone, killed by raiders who meant to steal the modest stock of metals they had accumulated, and Tom had been rescued by a passing British warship. When he was old enough, he had enlisted in the Royal Navy to return the favor. It was the Enemy War which had promoted them fast and brought them together on this ship at this time, deep in the War Zone eight-hundred light years from Earth. But Christmas was a common bond in space, even amongst many non-Christians. Tom could not have afforded this, Ellie thought as she fingered the sprig of evergold tied into the red ribbon, and then she frowned. "You brought the goldplant virus aboard my ship?" Golden was called Golden for a reason -- a disease which rendered nearly all green plants yellowy-gold in color under the light of a star much yellower than Earth's Sun. "No, sir. I seemed to recall a story you told of a red rose with green leaves which survived without changing on Golden..." She smirked. "You had it preserved in plasticite. Very clever, Mister Guyrere. May I?" At his nod, she slipped long fingers under the edge of the paper, eventually unwrapping the gift without ever once tearing the wrap. She recognized the heavy 26th century book almost immediately. "My God, Tom -- this is a copy of The Illustrated Art of War and it looks to be an original. These are very rare." "One-hundred-and-twenty-five printed," he replied. "This one is number ninety-five." "You couldn't possibly afford this. Tell me straight off -- did you go to my father for this?" "Absolutely not, sir." "Hmm." She sat back down. Such a book would surely fetch an auction price of at least £100 000. "Well, I don't know how you arranged this -- it surely was a labor of many months -- but thank you." "Four months, sir. And you're quite welcome." *** Tom entered the wardroom to get a cup of coffee on his way to the bridge. Second Officer Lt. Christian Bowles stood straining hot water through loose tea leaves. "You're quite the man of the hour, Tom," Chris said. "Captain is unable to fathom how you managed it." "I'm glad it worked out." "But how in the worlds did you do it?" "You remember the story about the Captain's cousin Elizabeth?" "Yes. Elizabeth Bell-Hanson, I do believe." "Well I knew her as Lisa Hanson of Bell-Hanson's Traders on Castlerock." The light dawned on the English lieutenant. "You were in the British school at Castlerock Station -- after the death of your parents." "Kensington School," Tom said. "When I found out this summer they were cousins, I wrote to Lisa and explained I wanted to do something special for Ellie on Gold Christmas. She got in contact with Sir James." "But you assured the Captain you did not contact her father." "And I didn't -- Lisa did." "You are a sly fox, aren't you?" Chris said, a smile playing across his normally dour face. "I am the executive officer of one of your king's starships -- I am expected to be ruthless and resourceful." "My hat is off to you then." "And a very Merry Christmas to you, too." "Indeed." Chris raised his tea and Tom his coffee in salute. "Merry Christmas."