Nadia stood off to the side, watching, waiting. The others milled about, talking among themselves. Sounds of inane chatter reached her ears. She wondered how the other nine females could be so casual at a time like this. Didn't they realize this was the most important day of their lives? She mentally composed herself as the light shifted, and the music changed. The soft refrains of the processional brought the chatter to a close as ten young women fell into line. Once again, she repeated her mantra silently, “No matter who is chosen, I will be content. I will trust in the will of the council.” Outwardly calm, she followed behind the nine other girls as they walked out onto the stage. The hall was eerily quiet as the music faded. The light shifted again, dimming and taking on a pink hue. When they stopped, Nadia could not see the line of young men that stood on the opposite side of the stage. The light didn't reach that far. She suspected that meant that she could not be seen either, which was fine with her. Though every effort had been taken to make them all as beautiful as possible, she knew that the beauty technicians had been pushed to the limits with her. She felt like a weed in the rose garden. She was the only of the ten to be chosen based solely on intelligence. The other nine had been chosen by a series of contests showcasing beauty, talent, skills and endurance. Those were the traits that it was hoped would be continued. She wondered if that meant that her selected mate would be like her, or if he would be beautiful and talented. The podium rose in the center of the stage and the spot light shone brightly on it. Approaching the podium from directly center stage was the austere form of President Haney. His bald pate and wrinkled face looked more drawn than usual. His uniform was in sharp contrast to the man. Not a wrinkle or out of line crease could be seen and the many medals on his chest gleamed in the bright light. The brief applause that followed was silenced by his raised hand. “My fellow survivors, we come together in this, our darkest hour, to celebrate a moment. A moment of hope. Hope that our race might continue. Hope that somewhere out there, these extraordinary few might find a place to begin anew,” he paused. “These ten pairs are but the first wave. It is our hope to send more, perhaps even families, providing they pass the physical tests. But these ten couples, whose nuptials we will soon be observing, they are the pioneers. They are our future!” He finished with a broad sweep of both arms out, and as he did so, the lights came up on the stage. For the first time, she could see the men lined up on the stage. There must be some mistake, she thought. How could they possibly think that she would be a good match for the dark, brooding young man that stared at her now? Without further ado, the music began to play a new march. Nadia recognized it as the wedding march. She once again followed the line of beautiful women as they moved to center stage to meet their mates. As she took his arm, she noticed that he was flushed, and seemed as uncomfortable as she was. “My name is Nadia,” she whispered softly to him. “Yosef,” was all he said. They were approaching the place they were to stand so that the assembled crowd could approve their joining. “Couple Number One. Please step forward.” The gorgeous couple moved forward. “Is anyone opposed to this joining?” President Haney asked the audience. No one spoke. “Is anyone in favor of this joining?” a chorus of “I am” was returned. “Very well. Couple Number One is now officially joined in the eyes of the council. You may depart. Couple Number Two will please step forward.” As each couple was presented and unanimously approved, Nadia tried to study her mate discretely. He wasn't unattractive, but there was an air of sadness, of darkness about him. In a flash of intuition, Nadia knew that his heart belonged to another, and she ached for him. Not that either of them had much choice in the matter. “Couple Number Ten will please step forward.” Nadia and Yosef walked together to the mark on the stage. “Is anyone opposed to this joining?” As with all the others, there was no response to this question. “Is anyone in favor of this joining?” Again, the “I am” chorus resounded. “Couple Number Ten is now officially joined in the eyes of the council. You may depart.” They walked together off stage, where they were led into the reception room that had been set up for them. She could still hear the president speaking. “Let us all go now and pray that these Ten Pairs be blessed and protected as they begin the journey to find humanity's new home.” The reception room was no place for the modest. Instead of a nuptial feast, as they would have had before the blast, they were greeted with crates, boxes and spacesuits. Like it or not, Nadia was now a wife and soon to be leaving Earth forever. “Whoa.” The sound of it surprised her. It was the first sound her husband had made since telling her his name. He was flushing more than ever as the couples that had been joined just before them stripped out of the finery and got into the space suits. He looked at her with panic in his eyes. She was just as mortified as he appeared to be. The thought of disrobing in front of him was troubling enough, but the entire room full of people? It was too much. “How about we block for each other? “ she suggested. “We can get our spacesuits and go in that corner over there.” The look on his face was pure gold as he nodded. “Good idea. Thanks” Nadia decided that she was lucky. Her mate was as shy and sensitive as she herself was. “Hey, we have to take care of each other from now on, right? We might as well start now. Couple Number Ten all the way,” she said as she led him into the corner. She used her gown to obscure him from the room. And when he was changed he returned the favor, using his suit jacket to shield her form from all the eyes. “I am glad they paired me with you Nadia. I think we are going to do just fine,” Yosef's voice was strong, slightly accented. “Let's go find Couple Number Ten's berth, shall we?” he said with a genuine smile. “ I'd love to show you my book collection. I think you'd enjoy it as much as I do.” “With pleasure Mr. Ten.” Nadia laughed. It was all going to be just fine. She just knew it.