The First Galactic Princess – A Bedtime Story, p.1
The First Galactic Princess – A Bedtime Story
by Kevin A. Lyons
Copyright 2012 by Kevin A. Lyons
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The First Galactic Princess – A Bedtime Story
Once upon a time, a long time ago, long before the stars in our skies were born, there was a galactic empire.
It was so long ago that time itself was young and the energy between the galaxies had not yet gone dark. In fact, most of the galaxies back then were still just big whirlpools of hot gas. So long ago that our universe was still finding its place among all the universes.
Way back then, in the first galaxy, there was a galactic empire. It was the first galactic empire.
Oh, it wasn't like the empires we know today – after all, it was a very small galaxy – but it was the first galactic empire, and to the people who lived there it was very grand.
* * *
The first galactic emperor was a wise and just man, for the most part, and the empire thrived. He worked hard for his people, but sometimes he was distracted, because the emperor had a daughter and daughters will do that whether their fathers are beggars or rulers, and he loved his daughter more than all of his empire put together.
The princess was very young. And beautiful, of course, as all good princesses are. Her hair was as black as the deepest reaches of space, and the lights in her eyes shone more brightly than any star in the night. When she was in space on the imperial satellite her gown floated in the air around her, but she spent most of her days on her home world, in the capital city.
Her favorite place in all the universe was the garden. But this wasn't just a garden – this was an imperial galactic garden. It was bigger than most towns. It held a small mountain, a stream, and even a waterfall. And, of course, the most beautiful plants and flowers from all over the empire, safely enclosed within a tall wall, and all carefully planted and tended by a small army of gardeners.
When the princess was very, very young her father would meet with his advisers in the garden. Some of the advisors would bring their children and they would all play together, with the children of the gardeners, under the watchful eyes of their parents.
As the princess grew she wanted to be more independent. Her father understood that his daughter was growing up, but he knew that the universe was not always a friendly place, especially to a young child. And so they agreed that she would earn more freedom as she demonstrated that she could handle more responsibilities.
The first responsibility that the princess requested was that she be permitted to spend time in the garden, all by herself. Her father agreed, eventually. She worked hard to follow the palace rules and was doing well in her classes. She was always on time for important family functions. And, most importantly, she remembered her father's rule about not talking to strangers. Ever. He knew he could trust her, and he knew that the garden was a safe place.
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So that's how it was that the princess was alone in the garden one day. Her father was hosting a formal dinner that night and gave her permission to spend some time in the garden until it was time to get ready.
She walked along old, familiar paths beneath towering trees. Each tree was marked with a small plaque giving its name, its planet of origin, a description, and some numbers. There were green leaves, yellow leaves, and red leaves. There were branches that seemed to stretch up to the sky, and others that seemed to knit together into living walls. She checked her watch and saw that she had an hour before dinner. She knew it would take her fifteen minutes to get to the palace and another fifteen minutes to get ready. That left her half an hour to wander the garden paths.
She stopped by a small waterfall that splashed into a pond. Tiny fish that glowed like underwater sparks were resting together in a school. A pink leaf dropped from an overhead branch and fell silently into the water. It only made some gentle ripples, but the little fish were startled and suddenly flashed brilliantly like fireworks and darted in every direction to hide under the leaves along the edge of the pond.
The princess noticed a chubby little frog in the leaves, undisturbed by the commotion. Above the pond butterflies as big as pancakes, with wings like shiny blue foil, fluttered in lazy circles.
Just then an enormous, ancient tortoise poked its head through the bushes. Its shell was as tall as she was, but it was the color of old wood and she hadn't noticed it. It lowered its head to take a noisy drink from the pond, lumbered out onto the path and turned away from her. It moved down the path so slowly it looked like a movie in slow motion. The princess was so fascinated that she followed it. The tortoise didn't seem to notice her at all.
She followed it past a patch of yellow flowers that shrank into their leaves when her shadow fell on them, and popped back out when she walked away. The tortoise led her down one path after another, turning left and then right, until it stopped at a patch of vines bearing small, green melons.
As the tortoise chomped on the melons the princess suddenly remembered the royal dinner! She checked her watch – her half hour had just passed! She wasn't lost. She knew the garden well and knew her way back, but it would take too long. Even if she ran it would take her half an hour to get back to the palace, and she couldn't go to dinner in her play clothes! She had to get dressed!
Well, she decided, at least I can try! She started to run to the garden gate, taking a more direct route than the tortoise had chosen. She ran to the main path and turned at a large bush.
Just past the bush a young boy, who seemed to be her age, was kneeling in the path and tending to a patch of flowers. The princess was running too fast to stop, and she tripped over his foot. She fell forward and landed on her hands and knees.
The boy stood up and started to apologize. “I'm sorry,” he said. Then he recognized the princess and gasped. “Your highness! Are you all right?”
“I'm fine,” she said, getting to her feet. Then she looked more closely at the boy. “You look very familiar. Have we met before?”
The boy blushed. He was surprised that the princess remembered him. “Yes, princess. My father is one of the garden keepers. We used to play together when your father held meetings here. My name is John.”
“Now I recognize you! We played together in the sand! You built the nicest sand castles!” The princess was smiling. “Do you work here in the garden?”
“I do in the summer, when school is closed for the season. Summer is a busy season in the garden, and I was able to qualify as an assistant gardener.” John smiled.
“How wonderful!” the princess exclaimed!
“Thank you. I do enjoy it.” John smiled.. “And my father is happy. He knows I love it here in the garden as much as he does.” John dusted off his knees. “But you really should be careful. You can get hurt running on some of these paths.”
“I know. I really shouldn't be running,” the princess said, “ but I'm very late and I was hoping to get home to the palace. I really should be there already. But now I don't think there's any way I can get there in time.”
“When do you have to be there, princess?” John asked.
The princess checked her watch. “The dinner is in twenty minutes, but I still have to wash up and dress. That will take fifteen minutes.”
“I have a belt phone. I use it to call for tools, fertilizer, and anything else I need for the plants. Let me see if I can call my father at the main office. He may be able to call the palace. At least he can tell them where you are and that you'll be late, so they won't worry about you.”
“Thank you,” said the princess. “I think my father w
John unclipped his phone and called the administrative office. He spoke for a minute, then clipped the phone to his belt again. “Well, princess,” he said. “Your father was in the office when I called. He was wondering where you were. My father will drive him out to see us. They should be here in a few moments.”
“They'll know where to find us?”
“Oh, yes. The imperial garden is so big that we have a grid system to keep track of it. See that little sign by the tree trunk? It gives you the name of the tree, but it also has two numbers on it. Those two numbers tell the office exactly where we are.”
“I didn't know that,” the princess said. “I think that's a good way to keep the garden organized!”
And just then a small hover cart floated quietly down the path. It settled to the ground a few steps away from them and two men stepped out. One of the men was John's father, the other was the princess' father, the emperor. The princess smiled – she had never seen her father in a work cart before.
Her father smiled at her. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“I'm fine, father,” she answered. “I stumbled over John,” she said, smiling. “He was able to help me. He called his father to let you know where I was.”
“Did you get lost?” her father asked.
“No, I didn't get lost, but I did lose track of time. I'm sorry I'm late. Did I cause a problem with the dinner?”
“No, there's no problem. But we should hurry. Everyone will be waiting for us.”
The princess motioned for her father to lean down to her. He did, and she whispered something in his ear. The emperor thought for a moment, and whispered a reply in her ear. The princess smiled and nodded.
The emperor reached out to shake hands with John's father. “My daughter and I want to thank you for your help, and for your son's kindness. We hope you and your family will be able to join us for dinner at the palace, at your convenience.”
John's father smiled. “We would be honored, your highness. I'll tell my wife of your invitation and we will call the palace to make the arrangements.” Then he turned to John and said, “We're very proud of our son.”
John smiled at his father.
After they were back in the hover cart the emperor leaned down to his daughter and said, “And I am very proud of you.”
* * *
About the Author:
I was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. When I graduated from college, with a degree in Geology, I left – for a while. I worked on oil wells from California to the North Slope of Alaska, from the Gulf of Mexico to the first test well that was drilled in Georges Bank, off the coast of Massachusetts. Then I came back to New Jersey and spent a few years working at the Division of Fish, Game and Shellfisheries.
I left again for Connecticut to work for the phone company, just in time for Ma Bell to break up. I came back to New Jersey with AT&T and eventually found my way to Bell Labs.
I left Bell Labs to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that my youngest has left for college I’m making the transition to “merely unemployed.” Or maybe “writer.” We’ll see.