Title: Star Cruise Mystery Dancer
Author: Veronica Scott
Genre: SciFi romance
Tassia Megg is a woman on the run after the death of her elderly guardian. She needs to get off the planet in a hurry when chance directs her to an open dance audition for the luxury cruise liner Nebula Zephyr’s resident troupe. One thing Tassia can do is dance.
Security Officer Liam Austin is suspicious of the newest performer to join the Comettes. She shows all the signs of being a woman on the run and seems to fit the Sectors-wide broadcast description of a missing thief, accused of stealing priceless artifacts. As he gets to know Tassia during the cruise, he starts to wonder if she’s something more – a long vanished princess in hiding from deadly political enemies of her family perhaps?
And what’s the story with the three-eyed feline companion other crew members swear Tassia brought aboard the ship? Does the animal even exist?
As the ship approaches its next port of call, all the issues come to a boil and Liam must decide if he’ll step in to help Tassia or betray her. F’rrh the alien cat is the key to the mystery and Tassia’s fate.
A science fiction romance take on the Anastasia tale...
“Name?” The staffer at the desk barely even glanced at her. Poised to enter data, she wasted no time asking the few questions.
Fingers flying as she entered the information, the clerk said, “Real name?”
Tassia panicked, wondering how the woman knew she was lying and was tempted to flee, but then the clerk glanced at her with a bit of exasperation. “Is Tassia your real name or your stage name, honey?”
Cool relief flooding over her, Tassia sagged a little as she said, “Both.”
The woman made a note on her data pad then handed her a badge. “Here’s your number.”
“Thank you.” She glanced at the door to the audition room, took a deep breath and forced herself to walk in that direction.
There was a crush at the door, and she hung back.
“First timer?” asked a friendly voice.
“Does it show so badly?” she responded, trying to be polite.
The woman who’d spoken to her had riotous green and mauve curls and a friendly demeanor. “Kinda, yeah. You’ll be fine, don’t give in to the nerves. I’ve been to a Comettes audition before, and they’re all business, no funny stuff, high class.”
Tassia pondered what ‘funny stuff’ denoted but was afraid to ask. “Any tips?”
“Smile and make eye contact. The judges like to see a solar size personality come through for the customer while you’re performing.” Extending her hand, the other dancer said, “I’m Micki, by the way.”
Noticing the woman’s amazing manicure, with long nails decorated in intricate patterns, she provided her own name. “Tassia.” Fearing she was out of her depth in this crowd, Tassia hugged her backpack more tightly. Happy to have found a congenial person, she stuck with the other girl as they finally cleared the door and entered the huge open space.
“Come on, we’ll grab a spot by the mirrors. Gotta get warmed up.” Micki towed her off to the side, and they dropped their gear next to piles of bags. Other women stood there fixing their makeup or doing stretches and dance moves to loosen up.
Increasingly dubious she could snag one of the open spots in the troupe against all this competition, most if not all of whom had clearly been dancing professionally; Tassia reminded herself the vision had sent her here. Since Micki was concentrating hard on her preparation, Tassia pulled off her outer clothes, stuffed them in the bag and followed her new friend’s example.
Her green leotard looked ludicrously cheap in the sea of elaborate, colorful dance costumes. I can’t do anything about my clothing. Holding her head high, she stretched and danced a few steps of the folk dance she’d learned most recently. She heard a couple of women nearby snicker and, although she was blushing, she finished the sequence then did more stretching.
Soon enough, the applicants were called to line up by the numbers, and Tassia stood on tiptoe to see the judges.
“Good morning, I’m Riall Cartajj, director and choreographer for the Comettes, and I want to welcome you today.” The no-nonsense woman speaking was dressed in a clearly expensive, flowing skirt with a matching top and coordinating jacket, subtly made-up, not a hair out of place, and consummately professional head to toe. “Let me run through the agenda. First, we’ll do two minutes of free style in groups of ten. Then I’ll announce those who need to remain for the next round, which will be a two minute solo routine of your choice. If any candidates from round two appear to be still in the running, then my assistant Syadana will teach you a portion of a Comettes’ routine, and I’ll decide if you’d fit in with my troupe or not. I need five dancers and possibly an alternate or two, but I won’t hire anyone today if the fit isn’t there. Questions?”
There were no questions. Tassia hung onto her backpack tightly, a bit intimidated at the way the women surrounding her seemed so comfortable with the audition process. One probably didn’t start a career as a professional dancer in the Sectors by auditioning for a premiere troupe. Taking a deep breath, she reminded herself sternly there were no other options for her so she’d simply have to be good enough to force the Comettes to want her in their ranks.
As the first ten girls lined up on the specified area of the floor, Tassia was suddenly glad her number placed her in the tenth group. She’d have time to see what other people did for their freestyle to attempt to impress Ms. Cartajj. And a solo, if she got that far.
What she realized as she watched the dancers take the floor was people were highlighting what they did best. For some it was leaps or turns. For others apparently it was gymnastic moves, although for many the skill being showcased involved a lot of precise steps accented with shimmying and hip swivels. A number of the women had obviously pre-choreographed sets of steps they repeated as long as the music was on.
By the time her turn came, Tassia decided to do a sequential series of rapid steps, pirouettes and showy poses requiring supremely good balance, which she could fit to the music being provided. It was her observation from watching the judges that dancers who showed technical skills appeared to make more of a favorable impression than the ones who did flashy, sexy moves. She walked confidently to her designated spot on the temporary wooden dance floor, assumed the opening pose and launched into her routine as the first notes sounded. Remembering to smile as if her audience was composed of her best friends, she had no clear memory of the two minutes when she finished with a graceful final pose. As she walked from the space, she believed she’d done well.
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A science fiction re-telling of the Anastasia legend. Is she the real princess, survivor of a terrible massacre, or is she an imposter?
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Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven-time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”
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