Speaking of Best Laid Plans…

I told you part two would air this week and we’d be going every other week from now on. Well…I kind of goofed and posted a week early, karma kind of ran with it. Here’s the sitch: We’re moving to Florida. Yep, my husband’s startup, Rocket Crafters, got funding, so we’re off the the Cape to build and launch rockets. Talk about sci-fi to sci fact. (Disclaimer: There will be no declarations of “Hold my beer and watch” when dealing with real rocket fuel.)

That means my life for at least 6-8 weeks is going to be a topsy-turvey scramble of packing, graduating kids, and moving. (At least the house is under contract, so if all goes well, it’s sold.) This is good news for my science fiction parody fans because I’m moving ST:HMB to weekly. Come back every Wednesday for the amazing adventures of the HMB Impulsive!

Now, to business. If you missed the previous episodes, then you can find Episode One here, and Episode Two here. If you read them and need a brief reminder: Loreli, the Ship’s Sexy and Xenologist, was assigned to help the royal children of two warring planets fall in love. Captain Tiberius approved the Security Officer’s and Cheif Engineer’s plan to modify the shields to make a wikadas-blade-style shield. We paused for a week-long commercial break – hope you all went to the head – and now, we return to Loreli in the VR Deck.

Aloe-based life form, Loreli, by Len Fabian

Loreli stood at the control panel and scrolled through the virtual reality deck settings. The diplomatic offices of both planets had given her several suggested environments in which to place the royal courtship, and multiple scenarios, romantic and otherwise, where the prince and princess could meet, conflict, and eventually reconcile.

It was a fascinating twist on humanoid mating. Many of the scenarios the Clichans provided would have easily made plots for human romances, particularly the kind Ellie called “romcoms,” but Loreli’s observations had shown her that most human relationships began with friendship and attraction. The Hierarchy chose mates based on complementary support, rather than conflict. The Bonks were all about conflict, but they were straight up about it. Only the Clichans had codified it to such ritual: meeting, judgement, inciting incident, conflict, mutual appreciation, resolution, love & matrimony.

This was going to make a great presentation for the Xenologists Symposium next year.

If she ever got to see the ritual through to completion. In less than 30 minutes, Prince Petru had declared every suggestion unsuitable for the most important romance of his life.

The heir apparent paced the length of the VR room, expressing his emotion through motion, as most fauna-based species did. He didn’t have a lot of space for pacing; the room was set for “Space Captain and His Captive” and the captain’s ready room was crowded with treasures, beautiful jewelry on display and a large wardrobe of women’s gowns. Petru himself was dressed in the full regalia of an Ambrosian captain – or the VR equivalent. In reality, he wore a Greensuit, a simple jumper made of material that accepted the computer’s commands to create the image of any number of costumes. Once they had settled on a scenario, Loreli would have the appropriate garments made.

Petru would have looked quite dashing and romantic, if he didn’t pace half-hunched over and if he’d stop slapping at his plated hair with the palms of his hands. Just exiting adolescence, he had the wiry physique that often came with youth. He also had a pimple, carefully camouflaged but not invisible.

Was that why he was nervous? Many species considered acne attractive, a symbol of youth, indulgence and hormonal excess, but the Clichans, like humans, found them embarrassing. She made a note to take him to sickbay. The doctor could clear it up with a simple ointment and a pituitary suppressor.

“You are being ridiculous,” Councilor Edor argued. For a diplomat he had little patience for his prince. “Are you sure you don’t like the classroom rivalry scenario? That’s how my wife and I fell in love, and we are still together after 40 years. It’s a classic.”

“This isn’t just any budding romance,” he said. “We are uniting worlds for the first time since the Breakup of 3221. The place of our meeting has to be big, with high stakes, high emotion, serious consequences if we don’t put aside our differences and see the best parts of each other.”

“The union between our worlds is already high stakes!”

“You don’t understand me!” the prince said. “You can’t understand what I’m dealing with. Now get out.”

“Prince Petru…”

“Out! I am the prince, and this is my courtship, and you are not helping. No get out!”

Edor threw his hands in the air and spun away to leave. He paused and heaved a huge sigh. “Where’s the exit?”

Loreli opened the door. “If you take a right, three doors down, you will find the mess hall. I will alert Commander Smythe that you are there. Perhaps he can arrange a tour of the ship while the prince and I continue our work here.”

Edor’s angry expression softened. He bowed, keeping his eyes on her, which in that position, meant her chest. Apparently, 40 years of marriage didn’t mean he didn’t appreciate other females. Not that Loreli minded, of course. Part of her job was to be appreciated, and as a botanically-based life form, it was her nature to thrive on being admired.

“You are as gracious as you are beautiful,” he said.

“Thank you. Take a right, then third door on the right.”

When Edor had left, the prince flopped into the captain’s chair and set his booted feet on the desk. He would have looked quite charismatic except that he whined, “I don’t want to get married!”

“Oh? Would you care to elaborate?”

“I’m only 22. I haven’t even had my first kiss yet…unless you count the serving girl, but she was egged on by my mother and it wasn’t true love…and actually, it was kind of gross. She had bad breath and her hands smelled like floor cleaner. But the point is, I haven’t had a chance to live! I don’t want to be stuck with the same person for the next 120 or 130 years.”

“Perhaps Princess Katrin will die a young and tragic death,” Loreli suggested.

“Well, yeah. One can hope. I mean, the grieving widower, determined to do well by his wife’s people? I could do that! Plus, sympathy attraction? I have heard the stories! Wow. Is, is that true for other species?”

“Sympathy generally inspires maternal feelings, though I have heard of a phenomenon called ‘pity date.’ It is generally considered a bad thing.”

“Well…what about you? I mean, your species?”

“We don’t ‘pity date.’”

He dropped his feet to the floor with a thunk and approached her. “No, I mean…how do you…? It’s just, Botanics are plants, right? But you look so, so…”

“Botanics reproduce through several means. I spore once every five of Botan’s years. At that time, I will return to my homeworld, take root, and wait for the summer winds.”

“’Summer winds.’ That’s romantic,” he murmured. He took a step closer.

“As for this form, when I decided to leave my homeworld and join the HMB fleet, I chose it to better fit in with my crewmates. It’s simply a matter of proper pruning. My natural form is far less curvy.”

“I’d like to see your real form. I’ll bet you’re even more beautiful.”

His face had turned pink, making his zits stand out even with the concealer. It was kind of adorable, like a bud waiting to bloom. She made a note for her report. However, the hopeful look in his eyes put her on Yellow Alert.

He was young; a cold shoulder should deflate his attraction and perhaps make him more cooperative in planning his coming romance. She turned away coolly and started scrolling through files. “That would not be possible until my retirement. What about Hostiles in the Hood? Cyberzombies overwhelm New Elay and two rival gangs band together to fight them off. Lieutenant LaFuentes uses it to train his team on leadership and wartime diplomacy, but if you and Princess Katrin took the role of rival gang leaders…  What are you doing?”

Petru had moved behind her and put his hands on her waist. “You’re so pretty and you smell nice.”

“Prince Petru, unhand me and back away.”

“Come on. Be my forbidden affair! It doesn’t even have to be love. You can forever be the smile on my face that my queen doesn’t understand.”

His hands tightened on her and he pressed closer.

“I’m warning you one last time. Back off now, and we can forget this.”

He rubbed his cheeks against the thick leaves that passed for her hair. “Aren’t you feeling the summer wind now?” he murmured. One hand gripped the fabric of her outfit while the other blocked her escape.

“Security to the VR room. Petru, stop that before—“

Suddenly, the prince screamed and jerked away from her. He clawed at his face where a dozen small needles pierced his skin. He passed out.

She managed to catch him and lower him to the ground just as security ran into the room.

“Oh, harvest.” She sighed.


When my oldest was about five, he sat on a cactus. He did not pass out, but stood still yelling, “Get them out! Get them out!” A lot of gentle pulling and a paste of Vitamin C (all we had at the time) took care of him. I think the prince is going to need a little more care.

While they get him to Sickbay, why don’t you sign up to get notices of upcoming episodes? Also, come on over to the Facebook group and tell me what your favorite – or least favorite – romantic cliché is.