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Authors: Michelle M. Pillow

The Perfect Prince

BOOK: The Perfect Prince
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Nadja Aleksander inhaled a troubled breath as she took one last look around her room aboard the medic ship. Silk draped the walls, rich and luxurious. Every modern convenience known to space was at her disposal. She had a beauty bed, maid service, and a personal medic unit that checked her blood levels every morning and automatically wrote out her diet for the day.
Nadja had grown up in spacious rooms just like this one, traveling the galaxy with her surgeon father as he moved from medic assignment to medic assignment. She had seen many things, discovered many cultures and places. She had been accepted into the most royal of homes. She had been given everything she could ever want, except her freedom. It was a prison of gilded bars, but a prison nonetheless.
She wrapped her light brown hair into a bun at the nape of her neck and whipped a cape around her shoulders. Her heart thudded nervously as she contemplated what she was going to do. She had never been on her own before, never been without family close by.
She set a letter on her dresser for her mother and hoped the woman would forgive her, even if Nadja knew she would never understand her need to leave. The thick folds of the cloak enveloped her completely with its fur lining. Going to the metal door, she slid it open with the push of a button, and then paused to listen.
Below her deck level she could hear the celebration that would last late into the morning hours. It was her engagement party and no one had noticed that the bride-to-be had been missing for nearly two hours. It wasn’t about her anyway. It was about the joining of two men--her father and Hank, his Medical Alliance associate.
She grabbed her bags, flung them over her shoulders and made her way across the ship’s hall to the elevator shaft that led down to the docks.
With a press of a button, she was whizzed down to the docks. No one seemed to notice her as she rushed from the medic spacecraft, through the hanger darkened with night. When she crawled under the pilot’s window, she heard a woman giggling within the cockpit. Irvette would be keeping the pilot occupied for the rest of the night, so Nadja had nothing to worry about. She hurried past the small luxury crafts and the personal units waiting in line for their maintenance the next morning.
Nadja came to a corner but just kept walking, not knowing where she would go. A guard smiled kindly at her as she passed. He glanced at her bags and motioned her to move further down the corridor to a carpeted docking plank reserved for first class. She followed his direction curiously and saw a bunch of women loading into a nearby craft.
Above them was a banner that read Galaxy Brides in curving script. She took a deepbreath and pulled down the hood of the cape.
A uniformed man with a clipboard looked her over and smiled.
“Are you here for a last minute replacement?” he asked.
Nadja nodded.
“Sign here,” he said, handing over the clipboard. “We are several short so they will take care of your health screenings in flight. You’ll have room 206 on platform two.
It’s the room all the way to the back. Ship orientation is tomorrow at 9:00 AM.” Nadja signed her name and handed the clipboard back. Her fingers shook nervously.
“Galactic identification?” he asked. Nadja gave him the card and he barely glanced at it. “Perfect, Miss--ah--Aleksander. Welcome aboard the flight to your future!”
“Excuse me.” Nadja’s voice was soft and low. The man turned to look at her. “Do I owe you anything for the flight?”
“No, Miss. Galaxy Brides Corporation owes you.” He smiled happily.
“I wish to evoke the right of privacy law. If anyone asks, I’m not here,” she said.
Her voice was soft and demure.
“Police?” the man questioned in surprise, though the idea didn’t seem to concern him. He had a quota to fill.
“Stalker,” she whispered. The man nodded in understanding. Nadja glanced around and saw a red headed woman standing in line behind her. She lowered her voice, and said, “He won’t leave me alone, so I am leaving.”
“I’ll make a note, Miss. That won’t be a problem.” He began writing on her file.
“And, by the way, where are we going?” she asked, her voice again mild and unwavering.
The man laughed. “Most women ask before they come down here. It must be some maniac you are trying to get away from.” Nadja gulped but said nothing.
The man reigned in his humor, and answered, “You’re heading to Qurilixen, Miss.” Nadja nodded and the man left to check in the redheaded latecomer. She hesitated, looking again at the banner. A droid came forward to grab her bags and began leading them up the plank. This was it. This was her ticket to freedom.
* * * *
One month later.…
Nadja smiled, looking nervously around the spacecraft’s beauty parlor at the other brides. They hardly seemed like the same women she had shyly met that first day of orientation. Since then, all of them had been enhanced with beauty machines. Their breasts had been lifted and enlarged using the latest technology in modern genetics.They’d been offered permanent hair removal. The hair on their heads had been made to grow long, which Nadja had learned from the Qurilixian uploads was the race’s traditional style. The uploads were designed to teach the brides everything they needed to know about their new home, through just a few short hours of brain wave transfer.
When Nadja stepped aboard the ship, she had no idea who the Qurilixian were.
She only vaguely remembered learning the planet’s name in astronomical geography as a student.Since she signed her agreement without even reading it, it hadn’t mattered to her.
It was part of her new life of taking chances. She had decided she was going to take the first ship she saw that would have her and that is exactly what she had done. Her father and the fiancé he had picked for her would never suspect her of such a bold move. She was going to be free.
It appeared that taking chances was going to pay off for Nadja. She didn’t miss the irony that she was running away from one arranged marriage into another. But, at least this one would be of her doing and her doing alone. She was the only person who had anything to gain or lose
Nadja couldn’t have been more pleased to discover that she was off to the outer edge of the Y quadrant, to a place inhabited by primitive males. It’s exactly what she would have asked for. It was perfect. Qurilixen was far away from where her father would think to search for her, and the Y quadrant didn't participate in the extradition act so he couldn’t register her name and force her to come back without causing an intergalactic incident.Qurilixian women were rare since the planet suffered from blue radiation. Over the generations it had altered the men’s genetics to produce only strong, large, male, warrior heirs. Only once in a thousand births was a Qurilixian female born. Since they had no women of their own, the services of corporations like Galaxy Brides were invaluable to them. In return, the Qurilixian would mine ore that was only found in their caves. The ore was a great power source for long-voyaging starships, all but useless to the Qurilixian, who were not space explorers.
Nadja smiled, liking that little fact as well. Since she had been born on a ship that was doing light-speed, she was tired of moving around. She wanted to stay put for once and develop roots. She wanted to make a friend and keep her. It was too hard to develop friendships when the other person realized exactly who her father was. She’d seen more people pale and back away from her at that bit of news than she cared to remember.
As to the grooms, she didn’t care what they looked like. She wasn’t picky. The best comparison anyone could make was to warriors of Medieval Earth. The Qurilixian worshipped many Gods, favored natural comforts over modern technical conveniences, and actually preferred to raise, grow, and cook their own food. They were classified as a warrior class, though they had been peaceful for nearly a century, aside from petty territorial skirmishes that broke out every fifteen or so years between a few of the rival Dragon houses.Anything was better than the balding pervert her father had tried to force her hand into marriage. She should have known something was up when their ship changed course and headed to another region—one where law would permit her father to choose her husband for her.
Nadja glanced over to her side. Morrigan Blake was looking in her general direction. The woman was quieter than the rest and always seemed to be greatly distracted, as if her mind swam with thoughts that had nothing to do with her surroundings. She had tried to talk to the woman a few times over the last month and found her to be rather intelligent and polite. Truthfully, Nadja was surprised that an independent woman like Morrigan would choose to go to a place like Qurilixen as a bride. She held still as six robotic hands flew around her head, putting up her light brown hair into a traditional Qurilixian upsweep. Still looking at Morrigan, curiosity got the better of her, and she asked softly, “What about you, Rigan? Have you finished your Qurilixian etiquette uploads?”
Morrigan blinked in surprise at the sound of her name and Nadja guessed she had disturbed the woman from her thoughts. It took Morrigan’s dark eyes a moment to focus before she realized what had been said. The woman gave her a light smile.
“Didn’t you know?”
Nadja carefully looked over to her other side at the sound of trilling laughter.
Gena’s red hair was finished and her beauty droid was placing the customary short veil over the curly locks. “Rigan finished her Qurilixian uploads first. It would seem she is most eager to please her new husband.”
“Or to be pleased by him,” Nadja heard someone say. This last comment was followed by nervous giggles. When Nadja looked at Morrigan, she swore she saw the woman’s eyes roll in the back of her head.
The brides were being prepared for the Breeding Festival that night on Qurilixen.
It was the one night of darkness on the otherwise light planet and considered the only night the men could choose a mate. It was a primitive ceremony to say the least, but Nadja thought it very rooted and straight to the point. Just one night for engagement, wedding, and honeymoon and presto, you were a married couple.
The other women spent the entire trip speaking of marrying Princes and noblemen. The truth be told, Nadja wanted a working man—someone with a small house and a garden. She didn’t want a pampered life anymore, where society dictated her actions. She wanted to fade away from the responsibility and spotlight and maybe help people. Marrying a small town family doctor would be ideal. However, she would be happy with a farmer or miner or anyone who could provide a decent enough life so they would never starve.
“I wish I could be so ambitious. I’m afraid I didn’t watch a single one of those boring uploads.”
Nadja had been so wrapped up in her thoughts, that she didn’t see who spoke.
“I tried on my gown this afternoon,” Gena announced. Nadja flinched as the woman brazenly started poking at her chest. “They are gorgeous, but I think I am going to go get my breasts enhanced again—just a little bigger—and I’m going to have my nipples enlarged. Those Princes won’t be able to resist me. Maybe, I’ll marry all four of them just for fun.”“How will you know who the Princes are?” came the cynical reasoning of Pia Korbin. Nadja was intrigued by the woman, who was perhaps the most beautiful on the ship. A large part of the beauty came from her not seeming to realize her own beauty, and that she was the envy of half the passengers. “I’ve heard that all the men wear disguises.
You could end up with a royal guard.”
“Or a gardener,” a brunette offered with a laugh.
“I hear they wear practically nothing at all,” a woman with flaming red hair and sparkling green eyes the color of emeralds added. “Except the mask and some fur.”
“You can’t miss royalty,” Gena announced with a bounce of excitement. You’ll see it in the way they move.”
Nadja certainly hoped so. She wanted to avoid them at all costs. Though she really doubted the Princes would be there. Royal matches were hardly made by whim or chance.
They were more of a political maneuvering. A royal family would never take a gamble on a stranger. It was more than likely an advertising ploy used by Galaxy Brides Corporation to make the trip more enticing. If so, it was a good one, for it had worked on most of the women.Morrigan stood as her droid finished, prompting Nadja to try and do the same. Her droid wasn’t done placing her short veil and gently pushed her back down. Nadja sighed, resigned to remaining in her chair.
The spacecraft was a nice one, though her suite on the medic ship had been nearly twice the size as her one aboard this ship. Nadja was used to the pampering and thought nothing of it. Some of the women jokingly called their quarters the harem. The service was adequate and the staff completely mechanical, so that none of the women could be compromised. Besides, robot servants were cheaper than human ones. One lifecell battery would keep them running for a century or more.
One by one the women finished their beauty treatments, and went to get dressed.
Nadja stood, and saw that Morrigan was already gone. She sighed, guessing that was one mystery she wouldn’t be able to solve. Too bad, she would have liked to have the intelligent Morrigan as a friend. She had been too bashful around the other, bolder women to make too big of an effort. Besides, they would never understand her desire to marry a commoner and not a Prince.
“Miss Korbin,” a robotic voice said. “This way, it’s time for your last treatment.” Nadja glanced over her shoulder. Pia, who was behind her, seemed to frown in 
BOOK: The Perfect Prince
6.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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