There are some things you never say in fiction. “I don’t see how things can get worse” ranks right up with “This is the happiest day of my life” and “Nothing can tear us apart.” When last we met, our intrepid (or should I say Impulsive) chief of security had taken down the angry, jealous prince and uttered those infamous words. (About things getting worse, that is. He was not especially happy at the moment.)
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Captain’s Log, Intergalactic date, 6767689.56. Thanks to an altercation between our chief of security – who, for the record, was just doing his job, albeit a bit enthusiastically – and Prince Petru of Clicha, our peace mission has gotten more challenging than ever. Prince Petru has challenged Lieutenant LaFuentes to a duel for the palm of Lieutenant Loreli. No amount of diplomacy, scolding or simple horse sense can sway the infatuated prince from his obsession. I’ve brought together my senior officers and Councilman Edor to determine what to do next.
The iGotThis class vessels had three rooms that connected to the bridge: the Captain’s Ready Room, a briefing room and the all-species head. The head was currently occupied by Gel O’Tin, but that’s probably TMI, so let’s turn our attention to the briefing room, where Capt. Tiberius, Dr. Pasteur, Lt. LaFuentes, Lt. Loreli, Ensign Doall and Councilman Edor sat around a barbell-shaped table to discuss what they should do with a problem like Petru.
“I’m telling you, Boss, I can take him. Five minutes in the ring. I’ll bring on the pain and fear.” He cracked his knuckles, which were indeed bore the tattoos PAIN and FEAR.
“We can’t afford to humiliate the crown prince,” Jeb said. He cast a look at Edor, who nodded agreement.
“This is a duel to the death,” Edor said.
“And no one is dying or getting killed on my ship over a romcom, got it?”
“Yes, boss,” La Fuentes said.
“And don’t call me ‘boss.’”
The doctor, however, asked, “But what if LaFuentes did die?”
LaFuentes laughed at the idea, the captain said, “Maybe you’d better give yourself a hearing exam doctor.”
Pasteur held up a hypo spray. “Just hear me out. Before the fight, I give him 40CCs imposazine in a delayed-reaction dose. Once it takes effect, it produces near-death comatose symptoms.”
Edon paled. “Isn’t that what you gave the prince for his acne?”
“Just .1 CCs. It’s all about the size of the dose. However, Enigo, you’re going to wake up with the best skin of your life. Provided, of course, you can bring on the pain and fear for about 10 minutes, and then throw the fight. Not that you’d actually have much choice as you’d be slipping into a coma. But can you make it look good? Then we just cart you off to sickbay and pretend to put you in stasis. You can nap until we’re out of the system.”
“And Loreli?” Jeb asked. Doall, meanwhile, had started to toy with her hair. Readers will learn that this is a key indicator that she was working on an idea and had more than 30 seconds to implement it…or rather, readers would have learned that naturally if we hadn’t just told you. She leaned over to whisper to Loreli while the doctor hemmed and hawed and finally suggested something about being too grief stricken to marry.
The councilman shook his head. “Prince Petru would not allow it. After winning a duel for True Love, he would feel doubly sure of the righteousness of his actions. Besides, no self-respecting Clichan would fight such a fight then throw away the prize. He’d lose face in the council and among his subjects.”
“Captain, I think the doctor is still onto something. Forget the imposazine. LaFuentes, you throw the fight.”
“But it’s to the death!”
“I don’t see how this helps, Doall,” Jeb said, “but I trust your brain…and your impressive collection of romance novels. What are you thinking?”
Doall blushed to learn that her secret pleasure wasn’t so secret. She’d thought she’d convinced everyone that the pad she carried everywhere contained only science journals and technical manuals. Nonetheless, she spoke with a voice that was confident and professional, because to do anything less would send feminazis screaming for the author’s head (as if having a “ship’s sexy” isn’t going to do that, anyway.)
She said, “LaFuentes accepts the challenge. He gets to pick weapons, right?”
LaFuentes cracked his knuckles. “Phasers!”
“Oh, come on. You have to be flashier than that.”
Jeb said, “I’d pay to see that!”
“No! Knives, swords! Bladed weapons. Nice and flashy, with little tassels that do nothing but look cool and get in the way. Something that causes quick damage but not ugly bruises and can let you see the fear and desperation in your enemy’s eyes before you strike a killing blow. This is about style. ‘Phasers!’ Anyway, we load the arena with bladed weapons. We bring in an audience – the crew, some of Petru’s friends, and the most influential members of your society. The more happily married or lovelorn, the better, right? And Princes Katrin and her entourage.
“Enigo, you come in, fire in your eye, ready to fight – to kill! – to keep Loreli safe. The captain orders you to stand down, and you refuse. He threatens you with court martial, but you will do anything to protect the woman you love.”
“Whoa, wait!” Enigo turned to the captain. “I swear, sir, we’re just friends, really.”
“Forget reality!” Doall cried passionately. “Petru doesn’t care about reality. He’s got this whole fantasy playing in his head and if we want to win, we need to take his game and make it ours. So, if the captain accepts this plan, you have been secretly in love with Loreli and are now taking the chance to not only come clean but to make her yours.”
Enigo sighed. “Fine. But the Bloods and Crips gave up knife fights after the zombie virus hit. No one wants to get that up close and personal killing someone when he might already be dead. I’m out of practice.”
Doall tsked. “Oh, is that too challenging? Suck it up. Besides, it’ll make it easier to throw the fight.”
“About that,” the captain cut in. “I’m not sure I see the up side to this.”
“I’m getting there. This is good. Imagine the arena. The crew watches as their beloved security officer risks everything, from his profession to his life, for love. The Clichans, too, see his passion and sacrifice and can’t help but be drawn in. Loreli watches from a corner of the field where she can be seen by both parties. Oh, and wear that pink tulle number you got when we went shopping on Visa. It makes you look delicate.
“The captain can’t sway you and finally gives up. The two of you face off. He gets a few jabs in but so do you. You don’t gloat – this is too serious. This is love. You are fighting for the happiness of Loreli as well as your life. Loreli, you watch from the sidelines, wincing at each cut Enigo takes for you.”
“Wait, I gotta get cut?”
“As he spills his blood for you, the realization dawns. You love him! You always have but never realized until just that moment. And now, your happily ever after is at risk.”
“I gotta get cut?”
Doall stood, knocking her chair over and making Edor squeak in surprise. “Suddenly, Petru disarms you! Loreli squeals your name! You try valiantly to defend yourself. You dive for the fallen blade, but it’s just out of reach. You spin to find Petru hovering over you, sword raised. You glare at him with defiance even in your defeat. ‘Do it!’ you tell him. ‘I would rather die than live without her.’”
“Whoa, chica! I don’ gotta death wish.”
Doall ignored him but stood with her arms over her head as if clasping an invisible broadsword. “Petru pauses to say something charming and gracious about how he will care for her in your name, but what’s this! Loreli has run onto the arena, her tulle skirts flying – we should set the environmental controls to cue a breeze. She throws herself over Enigo’s body and raises her hand to Petru.”
At this point, Doall kneeled in front of Edor one arm up as she pleaded, “Please, my prince. I beg you, mercy. Spare his life and I will go with you.”
Edon turned away, sniffling.
The captain cocked a brow in his direction. “Well, then. I still don’t see how this helps get Loreli out of the marriage.”
Spell broken, Doall cleared her throat and retrieved her chair. “Scenario One: Overcome by pity, Petru spares Enigo and presents Loreli to him for the sake of True Love. Katrin steps forward to take him instead. The audience is charmed, and mission accomplished.
“Scenario Two: Katrin intervenes on Loreli’s behalf and talks Petru into letting the two lovers go.
“Scenario Three: Petru spares Enigo, but keeps Loreli. Loreli goes with him and does the heartsick routine until Petru releases her.
“Scenario Four: Petru spares Enigo, keeps Loreli and is deaf to her heartbreak. Edor, however, lets it slip to influential parties in both governments about how the bride despairs. On their wedding day, she approaches the altar, trying to put on a brave face for peace for the Union and knowing that the only way her True Love lives is because of her impulsive promise. Then – crash! The temple doors fly open! It’s the human, LaFuentes! He rushes down the aisle and throws himself at Loreli’s feet.”
Again, Doall turned to Edor as she acted out the impassioned plea. “’Loreli, my love, my finest flower. I can’t let you do this. I have no life without you. There are only empty days of torturous despair, knowing I have damned you to this loveless marriage. I will not be the reason for your sadness!’ He turns to Petru. ‘My Prince. If you must take my reason for living, then I insist – kill me! Now! I would have a quick death at your blade over the slow wasting away of my broken heart.’”
“Yes!” Edor sobbed openly. “Yes, this is perfect. Ensign Doall, you are a genius. This has to work.”
“And if it doesn’t?” Jeb asked.
The doctor shrugged. “I can give her a couple of pills of imposazine for right before the wedding. He can be an early widower, and we’ll offer to take her body home. I can revive her when we’re out of Clichan territory.”
“So it’s settled, then.”
“It is not!” LaFuentes said. “How come I have to throw the fight? Why can’t I beat the snot out of Petru and we let Katrin do the impassioned plea?”
Before anyone could answer Enigo’s very valid question, the ship rocked and the red alerts started to sound.
Who’s attacking the Impulsive? Will the captain consider LaFuentes’ plan? Are he and Loreli really “just friends”? How many of you wish you’d had .1 CC of imposazine as a teen? I can’t answer the last one (but comment below!) As for the others, stay tuned for the next episode.