Forty minutes and several compressed ribs later, she stood before Todd in a traditional Chatwayan dress, with all the poofs and flounces and a girdle that was a size too small by human standards. The collar was three layers of stiff fabric in accordion folds that flared around the back of her neck and crossed in front of her chest. She was so glad it was still early and the corridors were empty, and that Enigo was still asleep.

“I hate everything about this plan except its anticipated success,” she declared. “And I expect you to help me out of this corset afterward, even if I have to make the captain marry us first.”

Todd regarded her with a funny grin on his face. “You’re adorable,” he declared. He himself was in the traditional dress of a suitor coming to ask for a daughter’s hand; which is to say, ostentatious in its gold braid, jewels, and filigree.

“Are you wearing a wig?” he asked.

“You think I had time to do my own hair like this? There’s not enough stay-spray in the universe. Let’s go. The ceremony takes 90 minutes and I have to be on duty at 0900.”

“I talked to Shavala, and he’s got everything ready for us. Shall we?” He crooked his arm.

She shook her head. “I have a better idea. Doall to Teleporter Room Three. Minion Jared, how would you like to do a little room-to-room practice?”

A moment later, the two arrived in the living area of Ellie’s quarters. Shavala gave a little gasp of surprise when they materialized, but it quickly turned to a coo of admiration. “Oh, Lady Ellie, you look lovely. And Mr. Todd!” His eyes misted with sentimentality.

Ellie hoped she’d also be crying with happiness when this was over, too. Shavala had set the table with a traditional Chatwayan breakfast of sweets and strong coffee. Ellie resolved to have her mother help her loosen the corset as soon as the preliminaries were done. That would make her happy, regardless. “Are we ready, then?”

Shavala shook himself and wiped his cheek. “Of course. Todd, you need to be here.” He led him to a corner not immediately visible. Then he went to awaken her parents with the traditional words. Where had Todd found this script, or had he asked Shavala? She heard her parents murmuring in confusion but finally rising and donning robes.

As her parents stepped into the room, Ellie dashed to them and knelt at her father’s feet.

“Daddy, Daddy! I have found him,” she recited. “I have found my One True Love, he who completes my soul. I beg you to hear his petition that my life of happiness may be secured.”

On cue, Todd stepped out of the corner and held out his hand toward her. “Ambassadors Doall, I, too, beg. For I have found my forever in your daughter’s eyes, and I implore you to bid her stand at my side, so that my life of happiness may be secured.”

Her parents said nothing. They looked from her to Todd and back to her, their expressions not pleased, but aghast and worried.

Finally, her father spoke, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“It’s just…” Her mother continued, then paused to take a breath. “You realize we can say, ‘no’?”


Security Minion Michael “Tank” Martinez stretched his arms and worked a crick out of his neck as he wandered the officers’ corridors where the ambassadors were being quartered. Things had been quiet since they’d all come back from the party. If you could call it a party. The only person who seemed to have had anything he’d considered fun was the Gavite, and he’d gone home with Lt. Straus. She certainly had eclectic tastes. He tried not to think about it too much.

Then he saw a shadow where a shadow should not be and hastened his pace. He found a Gavite in formal dress hanging from a Jeffries tube. He had what looked like a playful bite mark on his cheek, but there was nothing playful about the angle of his neck.

Tank smacked his communicator. “Martinez to Bridge. Security Alert! I think the Gavite ambassador has been murdered.”