A Word From the Author: Welcome, all, and thank you for your interest in this little tale. I have a bit I'd like to say, but for those of you who care not for an author running his mouth and would prefer to just 'cut to the chase,' then simply skip ahead past the bold print. I'll not hold it against you. For those of you who are still reading this note, let me say first off that I was as surprised to find myself writing this story as many of you will be to find it here. But i confess, I've been in something of a lurch lately. I've temporarily burned out on writing the Vanguard Saga (and the writing quality of 'The children's War' lately will give evidence to that), so I decided to take a little break and write something else. Unfortunately, the stories on my account, which normally fill this role, have suffered from a lack of inspiration as well. But rather than give up, I decided to return to where it all began, with a story of Mike Jones and Princess Mica of Argonia, the star-crossed lovers (or perhaps that should be 'Southern-Crossed lovers) of the classic NES generation. this will not, I warn you, be a sweeping, tear-jerking love story of a gallant hero and his princess. For those of you seeking that, scroll down a few stories to Erico's work. This, rather, is an experiment: my first attempt at a romantic comedy. Was the experiment a success? I leave you, the reader, to decide that. and without further ado, enjpy.
Love at Second Sight
Chapter One: A Banana Cream Pie
The South-Pacific island village of Coralcola usually fell virtually silent at dusk. With the sun's light gone from the sky, and electric light unavailable anywhere on the island except for the laboratory on a sandy outcropping at its center, there was little to do on a typical night but retire to one's hut and sleep well, in preparation for the labors of another up-with-the-sun morning a scant few hours away.
But this was not a typical night.
On this night, the village was alive. Torches illuminated the village square, and the air was thick with the primal music of island drums as they played wild rhythms with constantly increasing energy. Coconut wine flowed freely, and laughter and song wound their way into the night as if to reach the very stars the villagers so revered. It was a night of celebration. It was a celebration of reunions, for the laboratory's occupant, Dr. Stephen Jones of Americola (Dr. J to the villagers), had returned safely after his abduction by the star-men. It was a celebration of heroism, for the doctor had been rescued from the star-men by his visiting nephew, fifteen year old Michael Jones, who had now returned to the island with a story that would be the stuff of songs for generations. But perhaps most importantly, it was a welcoming party. A "welcome-to-Earth" party to be precise, for seven new arrivals from another world.
And Mike Jones, the brown-haired, freckle-faced and peach-fuzzed savior of two planets, sitting near the edge of the square to rest after joining in the revelry for a while, intended to welcome one of those seven to Earth in style.
"Some party, wouldn't you say?" Dr. J's voice cut into Mike's thoughts and Mike turned his attention away from the fireside dance to look up at his approaching uncle.
"Totally," Mike answered, grinning.
Dr. J. grinned back. "So how's it feel, slugger?"
"How does what feel?"
"How does what feel?" Dr. J echoed in disbelief. "Being a hero, genius! What'd you think? That I was asking how it felt having bananas in your ears?"
"Oh, that. Yeah, well," Mike faltered, blushing slightly at the embarrassing reminder of his peculiar 'fashion-statement' upon returning to the island. "To tell you the truth it hasn't really sunk in yet I guess. I mean… me? A hero?" That was a bald-faced lie and Mike knew it. He'd thought of little else since his defeat of the alien warlord Zoda. But apparently it was convincing enough for Dr. J.
"Well, you'll get used to it, slugger," the doctor gave Mike a companionable slap on the back, a gesture that turned into wrapping his arm around the teenager's shoulders. "Seriously, Mike," his voice took on atone of gratitude. "Thanks."
Mike didn't respond at first
"I mean it, Mike," Dr. J went on. "If it hadn't been for you I'd have probably starved to death in those ruins, if Zoda didn't come back and finish me off first, that is. And I didn't exactly have time to thank you before. I guess I was too busy talking you into boarding Zoda's ship to look for those three cubes." At the last sentence, his tone was tinted with a hint of regret.
Mike grinned at his uncle awkwardly. "Aw, man, it was nothing, unc."
"'Nothing' my foot," Dr. J answered somberly. "You did what no one else had been willing to even attempt, and you got me out of a truly messy situation. You saved my life, Mike." After that the two fell silent for a moment. Then Dr. J's face brightened and he said, "Well, I just wanted to get the gushing out of the way, since you're probably about to have villagers swarming all over you, all wanting to meet the hero of two worlds, and you'll be so busy signing autographs and taking pictures you won't have time for your old relic-digging uncle."
"Aw, come on doc," Mike said as his uncle withdrew his arm. "Half the reason for this vacation was to spend some time hanging out with 'my famous archaeologist uncle.'"
Dr. J laughed. "And what was the other half?"
But Mike didn't hear. His eyes were focused on something behind Dr. J. turning around, Dr. J saw what –or rather, who- was responsible for the distraction, so he wasn't surprised to hear a hurried 'catch you later, unc' from Mike as the young man dismissed himself from the doctor's company. A young girl, about Mike's age (or so he guessed, which was all anyone could do where the seven newcomers were concerned) had excused herself from the party and was now walking in their direction. Mica, Dr. J recalled the way the girl introduced herself, speaking for the seven rescued children. Princess Mica, to be precise, probably looking for a private word with the 'knight in shining sneakers.' "Stay out of trouble, Mike," he called as his nephew jogged over to meet the girl. He watched for a moment and then, grinning slightly, walked away shaking his head and musing "ah, youth."
Mike slowed to a stop as he came within conversational distance of Mica. "Hi," he greeted, flashing his most charming grin. "Leaving the party so soon?"
"Oh, I just needed to get away for a minute," Mica answered, smiling back. It was a girlish, innocent smile, devoid of pretense.
Mike decided it was just about the coyest thing he had ever seen. Especially after what she said earlier. A hint of mischief entered into his grin, as he recalled the first words Mica had said to him. There had been the formal introductions, the telling of the seven children's tale about their world's destruction by Zoda, and about how Mica's father, Hirocon, transferred the 'essences' of the seven children into some kind of cryo-stasis in three cubes and put them in an escape pod on its way to Earth. There had been conversation among the Coralcolan villagers, and the chief's assurance to the seven children that they were welcome here, and Mica had then expressed her gratitude. And then, after this, she'd looked directly at Mike and said 'I'm hungry. Is that a banana cream pie?' Now tell me if that wasn't a loaded question. Yeah, Mike thought. She digs me. And why not? She was a princess-in-distress, and I'm the guy that saved her. "Well," he let his grin fade. "Care for a little company?"
Mica smiled again, but it wasn't quite the same smile. "I think I'd like that," she said honestly.
Barely twenty minutes later, the two teenagers found themselves walking along a stretch of beach on the southwest shore of Coralcola Island (or C-Island, as the National Geographic Society maps called it for want of enough space to print the tiny island's full name). It was not far from the village: barely three hundred yards if one could walk in a straight line. But there was no straight line from the village to this beach. One had to walk east-by-southeast from the village to reach the narrow pass that led from the island's higher elevations to this beach, a beach formed as a side effect of the amount of drifting sand in the local riptides. The shouts and songs of the villagers' party still wafted their way out here, but they were faded enough by the distance and the forest in between that they were little more than festive background noise.
"It's still kind of surreal," Mica confessed, her eyes jumping from the night horizon to the sand in front of her feet and back again. "After spending twenty years in those cryo-cubes, it started to feel like it was going to be that way forever, that nothing would ever change. And we all expected to find ourselves on a completely foreign world if anything ever did change. But your world isn't so different from ours at all. Your people don't look that different from us, even your language is the same. Isn't that strange, Mike?"
Mike nodded sincerely. "Totally," he agreed.
For a while Mica said nothing. When she did it was, "do you mind if we sit down and rest? My feet are a little tired."
"For you, princess," Mike replied, "anything."
Mica gave him a reproving look as she sat down with her knees pulled up toward her. "Please," she said. "Just 'Mica.' I'm no princess here."
Mike sat down beside her, his legs stretched out in front of him, leaning back on his hands. "Mica then," he said with a smile. But Mica wasn't looking at him. She was staring up at the array of stars that dusted the sky, and her eyes had taken on a vague and distant quality. To be specific, she was looking directly at the Southern Cross.
Mike's eyes took the opportunity to spend a few moments just drinking up the sight of her. Different planet or not, she was a heartstopper. Her straight, red hair (which actually had hints of purple in the dim light), was cut shoulder-length, and curled outward slightly at the ends. Her eyes, like the eyes of all six of her companions, were brown, and Mike wondered if Argonians had somehow never evolved different colors of eyes. Her slender ears were pointed, which was, as far as Mike could tell, the only visible difference between Argonians and Humans. Her skin was a creamy ivory shade, and her face had a dainty, aristocratic look in spite of her shy demeanor. She wore a high-collared red and gold tunic made from some kind of silk, and an elaborate blue cloak. The latter, Mike guessed, was a mark of her royal status. At the moment, the cloak hung loosely off of her shoulders and trailed in the sand behind her like a bridal train, allowing Mike's eyes to trace her slender body… Slow down, Ace, Mike mentally scolded himself. You've got all night for that. Don't let her catch you with your eyes wandering. Giving his head a thought-clearing shake, Mike looked back toward her face. She was looking back at him now, smiling that same innocent smile that Mike had seen at the party. "So tell me, Mike," she said softly. "What's this game you want to teach me to play? Is it an Earth custom?"
Mike looked at her, puzzled. "Game?"
"Well, I took a look at your thoughts, and I saw that you're eager to tell all your friends how you 'scored' with me. But I'm not quite sure what this game is that excites you so."
"I… I, uh, well…" Mike stammered on for several seconds, and would likely have embarrassed himself if he hadn't belatedly noticed a phrase in Mica's comment that he had overlooked. "Wait a minute, you took a look at what?"
Mica giggled. "I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have looked in your mind without telling you."
Mike's eyes widened, slightly worried. "You can read minds?"
Mica's giggling stopped, and she looked as if she had only just realized something embarrassing. "I'm sorry. I… I guess I forgot for a minute that this isn't Argonia anymore. I really do apologize, Mike."
Mike ignored the apology. "But, how?"
"We Argonians are telepaths, Mike. We can pick up on some fully formed thoughts, and occasionally mental images of someone near us. It's a sense that we call 'second sight.'" She looked away sadly. "I guess that's something I conveniently forgot to mention to the villagers. I doubt they'll be as welcoming when they realize that."
"Now wait a minute," Mike argued. "I wouldn't say that. I mean, yeah, it'll be kind of a shock to them, but it's not going to change anything."
"Won't it?" Mica countered. "It changed your opinion."
Mike put his hand on her shoulder gently. "That's not true, Mica."
Her eyes met his, and there was a fragile hope in them. "It isn't?"
"Not at all," Mike assured her somberly. "In fact," a grin spread slowly across his face. "If you can read minds, then you've known all this time what I had in store, and you haven't tried to put the brakes on yet…" he left that sentence to hang, unfinished, in the salty air.
Now it was Mica's turn to look puzzled. "Haven't tried to… what?" For an instant she locked eyes with Mike, and she didn't need second sight to know from the look in his eyes what he meant. Mike watched as her facial expression changed to horror, then fury, and a host of different shades in between. "Why, you… you… Beast!" The accusation began in a whisper, and ended with a shout that was accompanied by a stinging slap to Mike's face that left him sprawled face-down in the sand as she got up and stormed back to the village.
After she was out of sight, Mike picked himself up out of the sand and dusted himself off, allowing himself to wonder just where he had gone wrong. "Y'know," he said aloud to no one in particular, "I'm beginning to think I may have read her wrong."