THE PRINCESS AND THE DUCHESS sci fi short
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THE PRINCESS AND THE DUCHESS sci fi short
06-30-2018, 09:48 AM
The Next Bard
Join Date: Sep 2011
THE PRINCESS AND THE DUCHESS sci fi short
“I wish to speak with the captain.” Millicent trembled with anger as she glared at the unshaven lout on the screen.
The ensign darkened. “How did you get on this channel?”
“I used the emergency code, of course. We have an untenable situation aboard this starship. and I need to speak to the captain about it this instant.” She gulped for breath. “Now, will you put me through or not?”
The ensign’s sharp eyes said he might blow at any moment. “The Captain is very busy. Everyone on this bridge is busy, including me.”
“I’m sure we’re all very grateful that you’re doing your jobs. But someone needs to explain to that imbecile Francoise—“
“Wait a minute. Is this about your lodgings?”
“Of course it is!”
“He assigned me to a double, and do you know what is here with me? A Fluttu! Can you imagine that?”
He was done arguing with this moron. The ensign began sticking up fingers as he spoke. “One: xenophobia is a violation of ship’s rules. Two: misuse of an emergency code is a violation—“
“I don’t care.”
“—of ship’s rules. Three: Corporal Francoise has the last word on lodging assignments, so you are out of luck.”
“But I’m supposed to have a single!” Millicent ‘s fist smacked the little desk. Her blood boiled and she wanted to scream at this cretin.
“You may recall that we recently rescued a Fluttu crew and we’re a bit crowded. You also may be aware that we’re presently involved in a difficult dynamic maneuver around Neptune. I think I’ll get back to that so we don’t end up smearing out on the planet.”
“I was promised—“ The screen went blank. Wrapping her chemise tighter, Millicent shot a look at the alien in the corner. Was it upside down? Yes, it was standing on its broad head. It looked almost like some kind of bush. Primitive, that’s what it was.
The shrill Fluttu voice trembled with derision. “I have heard enough of your insults. I happen to be the fal Dimindo of the Eight Worlds. Do you even know what that means?”
Millicent thought it sounded rather ridiculous. “Of course not.”
“I am a princess. They told me you were a special guest. I assumed you were of the highest class.” The Fluttu extended its arms and legs like a giant spider.
The hairy green head turned right-side up. Its segmented lower lip rippled, clattering the hooked teeth. Two bright orange eyes glowed with distaste. “Are you a mere commoner?”
“Why, no.” Millicent brightened considerably. Why hadn’t Corporal Francoise told her? Of course she had no objections to traveling with royalty.
“I am the Grand Duchess of Corinthia, Your Highness, Millicent Polk.”
Millicent swept the hair back from her face and curtseyed. Her appropriation of the fictional persona from The Dawn Breaks seemed eminently appropriate. Her status as a special guest aboard the name was a consequence of winning a contest sponsored by the popular vid show. She had been playing the stately lady since she left New York. Now she could truly live the role.
“You may call me Princess Tru.”
“Your Highness.” Millicent bowed, beaming. Her minor subterfuge would undoubtedly put the princess at ease. Wasn’t this the purpose of a courtier, after all?
When the starship arrived in Alpha Centauri system a week later, Princess Tru and the Grand Duchess of Corinthia were close companions. Millicent adored her association with the princess. She posted a blog on the Sol intranet that received millions of hits each day. Everyone wanted to know about the Fluttu princess and her dear friend, the Grand Duchess.
But they received less than a royal reception on the space station in orbit around Proxima d. Extracted rather rudely from the queue, the princess and her companion were taken to a security room. Millicent tried to protest, but the helmeted escorts ignored her pleas.
The princess slid a chair into a corner and sat with arms dangling. Millicent bowed her head. “Princess, let me apologize for this egregious mistake. I’m sure we can easily clear this matter up.”
Princess Tru drooped lower. “We may need to talk.”
And lower. “You might want to stop calling me that. I may have exaggerated my royal lineage.”
In shock, Millicent stared. “What on earth are you saying?”
“I may not be a princess.”
“You tricked me!” Millicent had never felt so betrayed. How she had kowtowed to this fraud. She was such a fool.
“It’s your fault. The day I met you, you were ready to toss me out an airlock. What choice did I have?”
“You made this whole thing up? Who are you really?” Millicent noted that the Fluttu’s entire continence had changed. Gone were the lofty gestures. The arrogant intonation had vanished from her voice.
“Trudi Eppi, with the Galactic Actors Guild.”
“A commoner? I find your behavior appalling. You are unconscionable.”
“Well duchess, I’d say that makes two of us.”
Millicent felt the color drain from her cheeks. “You knew?”
“Did I forget to mention that Corporal Francoise told me about that contest you won?”
“You made me look like a fool. I hate you!”
Trudi raised all four hands in the Fluttu version of an apologetic shrug. “We just finished touring the Mars Colonies and we were headed home to Rainbow when the engine blew out in our starship. Then we were miraculously saved. When you transferred onto the starship name, I didn’t want any problem. I fell into the role of princess naturally, I played Princess Mu in The Galactic Knight for over a year. It just happened, okay?”
“It is not okay. It will never be okay.”
“Look, I’m sorry. Let me make it up to you. I have a few days before my ship leaves for Rainbow. I’ll take you out on the planet. We’ll see the Misty River and visit Cauldron City. What do you say?”
Millicent became ice cold. “I won’t go anywhere with you. I never want speak to you again.”
“That may be a problem.” The disembodied voice came from a loudspeaker. Lights flashed on behind the two-way mirror and Millicent could see the speaker. Balding, with a roundish badger-like expression, he offered what might have constituted a smile on any other face.
A tall Futtu resplendent in a sequined gold-trimmed robe whispered to the man, then spoke into the microphone. “I’m Job Joones, with the Futtu diplomatic corps. This is Ambassador Thomes. What my colleague means is that we’ll need you to remain together for the present.”
“Why on earth would you want that?” Millicent was determined to defy any attempt to force her. She wanted nothing more to do with the princess.
“It’s that blog of yours. You’ve stirred up quite a fuss back home,” Thomes said.
Joones tittered gayly, “You have endeared yourself to the Earth populace. It’s really quite amazing.”
“We need you to continue the pretense.”
“Your people have never really accepted the Futtu as allies. Now, you’re both celebrities and the entire paradigm has changed. Everyone on Earth wants to meet you. We’ll be sending you back for a planetwide speaking tour,” Joones said.
“I just want to go home,” Trudi groaned.
“I-I won’t do it,” Millicent declared.
“If you refuse, The Dawn Breaks will enforce the ethics clause in the contest agreement. By impersonating a Grand Duchess you violated their honor code.
You’d be forced to pay for the trip,” Thomes said.
“How much is that?”
“A little over ten million. I’m afraid you’re stuck.”
Millicent could never afford to pay so much. She muttered, “I’ll have to, I guess.”
“I won’t. I’m going home,” Trudi said.
“Although we haven’t had a sovereign family for millennium, it’s still illegal to impersonate a royal,” Joones said.
“Please, I just want to go home.”
“That won’t be happening for some time.”
“What about my holiday?” Millicent had come all this way and she wanted to at least visit the planet.
“Cancelled, for the present. We have you on a fast ship to Earth,” Thomes said.
“We need to move this forward as quickly as possible. The United Nations is already discussing a treaty with the Eight Worlds. Your presence on Earth will ensure its passing,” Joones said. He disappeared from the mirror and the door opened. “Come along. Let’s get you on that ship.”
It worked out well enough for both of them. Millicent received a wardrobe of finery and gowns beyond her wildest dreams. She truly adored acting the part of the grand duchess, and Trudi—she was playing the greatest role of her life.
After the treaty was signed, the rumors began to creep out. What exactly was Millicent Polk a grand duchess of?, the Washington Post wanted to know. Al Jazzier demanded proof that the fal Dimindo of the Eight Worlds was even a legitimate title any longer. The UN General Secretary suggested in an interview that she may have been duped. The blog went dormant and both the princess and the grand duchess disappeared from public view.
Millicent was glad to see to see Trudi on Luna before the Fluttu went back home. Both Ambassador Thomes and Job Joones were there. The girls made it a point to ignore the diplomats. Those two, they hadn’t quite forgiven yet.
Millicent gazed at the black canopy filled with stars outside the observation window. “How long will it take you to get home?”
Trudi asked Ambassador Thomes, “You didn’t tell her?”
“Tell me what?”
“I may not be going home,” Trudi said.
“I thought we agreed to disappear.” Millicent didn’t understand this. If either of them were recognized, the scandal could flare up again. The blowback might be enormous.
“I’ll be doing just that. I’ve taken a part with the Martian Thespians. I’m going to play you, in their upcoming performance of The Princess and the Duchess.” Trudi opened her carryall and showed Millicent her costume. Millicent stared at what appeared to be a very good rendition of her own pink, plump face.
“Look at this. It’s nano-engineered for maximum flexibility. I’ll be hiding in plain sight!”
“That’s funny,” Millicent squeaked. “I decided to try a little acting myself.”
Trudi dipped her head and peered. She knew that squeak. “No.”
Millicent opened her bag and there was the Futtu costume. “I wanted to surprise you.”
“I am surprised.”
“I’ll be playing the role of Princess Tru in The Princess and the Duchess. They have these motors for the extra arms. It’s a pretty good disguise.”
Trudi looked at the two diplomats. They knew all about this. They had to. Scurrying out the door, Joones said, “That connection for Mars is leaving soon.”
Thomes rushed after him. “We’ll check on it.”
“Can you believe those two?” Millicent said.
“I’m not sure I believe any of this.”
“Like you said, we’re hiding in plain sight.”
Trudi stared for a long moment. “I’m glad you’re taking my advice. I just didn’t expect you to hide in plain sight of me.”
AUTHOR NOTE: I don't like this yet, but it is my cup of tea
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