STAR CRUISE: MYSTERY DANCER
from Pets In Space 3:
Embrace the Passion
Embrace the Passion
by Veronica Scott
Thanks for having me as your guest to talk about my story for this year’s Pets In Space 3: Embrace the Passion anthology!
I love going back to revisit my interstellar cruise liner, the Nebula Zephyr, for these PISA stories, as the ship cruises through the futuristic human civilization known as The Sectors. I’ve written a number of books and novellas centered on events aboard the ship now and find the whole cruise setup lends itself to telling a good scifi romance adventure tale. Readers new to my world don’t need to know a lot of backstory to enjoy the events, and for those who have read others in the series, it’s a nice return to see some favorite characters (I hope!).
I’ve always been fascinated by dancers and dancing, including (but not limited to) the Rockettes, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, “A Chorus Line”, Dancing with the Stars, old movie musicals, “Center Stage” – if it has dancing, I’ll be there! (I have two left feet so it’s wish fulfillment for me LOL.) When I established my interstellar cruise line, I put a theater and a resident troupe of dancers on board, naming them the Comettes. Unfortunately in the first scifi romance novel I published, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, the ship gets destroyed, so I never had a chance to tell a story featuring my dancers. I put a theater and more Comettes on board my next cruise liner, the Nebula Zephyr, and now finally the right heroine has come along.
The dancing makes for a bit of a lighter element to the story to contrast with many of the suspenseful events relating to the heroine’s tragic past.
Tassia, the lead in this year’s story, is a long lost princess and I asked myself how such a person would get on board the ship and what she could do there to fit in. It occurred to me a princess, even one raised on the run, would probably know how to dance. I set up my auditions at the spaceport of the planet in question and after a long, grueling day, Tassia gets hired to fill an opening in the troupe. See the excerpt below for a taste of the audition process!
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STAR CRUISE: MYSTERY DANCER blurb: Tassia Megg is a woman on the run after the death of her elderly guardian. Her search to get off the planet in a hurry comes when chance directs her to an open dance audition for the luxury cruise liner Nebula Zephyr’s resident troupe. If there is one thing Tassia can do, it 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. Life is about to get very interesting aboard the Nebula Zephyr as Liam tries to uncover the truth. Could F’rrh, the peculiar alien cat he has been hearing about, be the key to the mystery and Tassia’s fate?
The excerpt – the Director of the Comettes is speaking and has outlined the process and her needs. Micki is another dancer who’s kindly befriend Tassia at the auditon.:
“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. She felt her muscles tightening the more she considered the daunting odds of her making it all the way to selection. 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.
Tassia wanted to inquire who the other judges were—several women and one man, but she decided it didn’t matter. The director was the one who did the hiring and who had to be impressed.
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.
“Wow, you’re something else,” Micki grabbed her by the elbow. Micki had been one of the candidates demonstrating spins and beautiful extensions, combined with sexy shimmies. “Where the seven hells did you train?”
“Private tutors when I was a kid,” Tassia said vaguely. “Did I look all right, compared to the others?”
Micki laughed. “Miss High and Mighty Director never took her eyes off you. I’d say you’re clear to the semifinals at least.”
“Who are the other people sitting with her?”
“Her assistant, Syadana, also the Cruise Director for the ship, the dance captains from the two casts, and I heard someone say the cute guy is ship’s security, here to do the paperwork for anyone she hires, so the person can ship out today. The ship leaves orbit tonight.” Micki nudged her in the ribs. “Whoever he is, he was pretty riveted by your performance too.”
Pacing, rising onto her toes to keep her muscles from cooling off too much, Tassia shook her head. “If he’s not a decider, he’s irrelevant.”
Seeming to be at a loss for words, Micki gave her a wide-eyed look. “Well, he’s damn cute anyway. I hope the director lets him vote because I know he paid attention to me.”
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Author Bio and Links:
USA Today Best Selling Author
“SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog
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 audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”