The idea for this story came to me after watching Romancing the Stone, (no, I don't own it-duh!) hence the title. While there are a few similarities to the film, you'll soon see it's an entirely different tale.
Also, a certain dashing Romulan left me a review a while back, asking me to include him in a future story. His alluring words and manner of address moved my fluttering human female's heart to such an extent that I eagerly promised to oblige his humble request. You'll find out who he is in the next chapter.
"I hate my life!" the woman cried as she lay on the floor, staring aimlessly at the ceiling. "What's the point of all of this?"
Ever since before she even learned to read, Lorna Winters was a born storyteller. She began her career by telling her tales to the birds on her window sill. What she really wanted was a pet cat. But her parents wouldn't let her have one, so her feathered friends had to suffice.
When she was old enough to go to school, she met her first human friend-another girl named Anne. After a few weeks, Lorna grew brave enough to confide the facets of her vivid imagination to her new companion. Anne adored her stories, and even made some contributions to them herself. Each day, the two girls would spend their entire recess in their pretend realms.
Sadly, once the kindergarten year was over, Lorna's family moved away, and she never saw her friend again. Her parents were both in Starfleet, and their postings changed often. As a result, Lorna never spent more than two years on any one planet. And while she grew up seeing many wondrous things and places most people could only dream of, she was alone.
She turned to her daydreams for solace. Her second grade teacher, instead of punishing her for not paying attention in class, recognized that she had a special gift, and strongly encouraged her to write about her fantasies. It was only natural that Lorna would become a writer when she finished school.
But now, Lorna had hit a block. In her mind was a blank, empty canvas, but she had no idea how to fill it. All of this, of course, had happened before, but the experience was no less devastating. She felt worthless and stupid, though she knew it wasn't really the case.
"Let it go, and write something else until it comes to you again—it will come eventually," her favorite high school teacher had once advised her.
What was truly bothering her, however, was not her writing, but her life. She had become quite successful, with several of her books on the interstellar bestseller (my, but that had a nice ring to it!) lists. Writing was her reason for living, the driving force in her life, her obsession. All across the galaxy she was known and loved.
But few if any of her fans knew of the lonely journey that was her reality. Contrary to what one would think, she had never been in love, never even been on a date—unless one counted the prom.
"If only my life was more like one of my stories..." she whispered dejectedly. Each night, she dreamed of a swashbuckler with flowing blond hair, intense blue eyes, and a thick English accent. She wanted a hero who would sweep her off her feet and rescue her from the doldrums of her mundane existence.
Her pity party was interrupted by the doorbell.
"Whaaaat?" she groaned. It was Catherine, her agent.
"You didn't sleep last night, did you?" Catherine was the closest thing Lorna had to a friend. Like a few of her teachers, she understood her—sometimes better than she understood herself. What's more, she had taken it upon herself to become Lorna's mentor, as well as her agent.
"No." Lorna rolled over and got to her feet. Her apartment was a reflection of her current state. The large heaps of dirty laundry and menacing stacks of dishes in the kitchen said it all.
Catherine was not surprised by any of this, and at once she saw the problem. "You're too hard on yourself. You need a vacation to clear your head."
Lorna blinked. "But the deadline is tomorrow! Ahem, aren't you supposed to be the one reminding me of that? I don't have anything to present!" she confessed.
"You let me worry about that," she said with a twinkle in her eye.
"But what about John? He's gonna flip!"
"He's waited this long, he can wait a little longer. It won't kill him."
Lorna's publisher was overall a decent man, but he was annoyingly impatient. Fortunately, the authoress was in the coveted position of having several publishing companies vying for her work, as well as a large and devoted following of fans. Since there was such a demand for her books, in theory, deadlines were more like guidelines. But Lorna had never dared to test that assumption.
"No, he'll just kill me," Lorna pouted.
Catherine laughed. "You have to remember that John is, at heart, a reader. He gets excited when he reads your stories and wants to know what's going to happen next. You should be flattered."
"I am, it's just..."
"You need a vacation," she repeated firmly. "Trust me, Lorna. Let it go—just until you get back. It'll still be there."
Lorna sighed. "Alright, you've convinced me. But where should I go? My brain is like Jello."
"Pack your bags and let's go to lunch. I'll bring some travel brochures." She turned to leave.
"Catherine," she called after her, "Thanks. I'm sorry for acting like a spoiled brat. I really don't mean to be."
The agent's face was full of understanding. "You're not a brat, kiddo. You're just in a rut. Now hurry up. I'll be back for you in an hour."
"Why not Risa?"
Lorna shook her head. "Everyone goes to Risa. I'll be recognized and flattened by some crazy mob."
Catherine wasn't deterred in the slightest. She watched as Lorna shoveled rice pilaf and falafel into her mouth, and realized that the girl hadn't eaten breakfast. Knowing the temperament of writers in general, and this one in particular, she probably hadn't eaten dinner the night before, either.
"Okay," she said patiently. Now for the option she had intended to suggest from the start. "How about Corporatia?"
The girl looked up and swallowed. "Where's that?"
"Bingo! I hoped you hadn't heard of it."
"So, spill." Lorna took another bite, but her interest was clearly awakened.
"Picture this: Quaint buildings nestled in mountainsides, fabulous restaurants and wineries, spas, theatres, a grand historical library, and shopping—you'll be able to shop 'til you drop."
"Sounds exciting," she said wistfully, "What's the catch?"
Catherine chose her words carefully. "Well, it's not exactly where most people would think to go on vacation. It's an interstellar business center."
"What?" Lorna gawked. "That sounds like a drag! And I don't wanna be around all those people right now…"
"You need to be around people again, for your own good," she insisted. "You've been a recluse for the past month. It isn't healthy. Besides, how else do you think I'm going to appease John? I'll tell him you're going there for research."
"But that's a lie."
"Not really," she smirked. "I know you. This is exactly the kind of place for you to find inspiration. Consciously or sub-consciously, you'll get ideas from it for your story in some form or another."
"Well…okay. I guess I can check it out."
"Good! Now here are your tickets." She produced a PADD from her purse, which contained all the necessary documents. "You leave first thing in the morning."
Early the next morning, Lorna sleepily pushed herself onto the transport. She really needed to stop pulling those silly all-nighters. Once she got to her seat, she reclined and took a sip of coffee.
Corporatia? Even its name sounded dull and official. Was she seriously going there for a vacation? How did she wind up in these kinds of situations? Catherine obviously had planned it from the start. Why would she think that drab planet would appeal to her? Still...it was better than being trampled to death by rapid mobs on Risa. And no one would look for her in a place like there—for good reason, too.
She looked at the PADD. Hmmm. It was a neutral world, though all of the major powers had a presence there. The Federation, the Klingons, the Ferengi, the Cardassians, and even the Romulans.
"Well, fancy that," she said. She had been to numerous places before, but this would be the first time she would ever leave the Federation. She continued to read.
No weapons of any kind were allowed, and so it was considered to be one of the safest planets in the galaxy. Its position of strict neutrality made it an ideal place for banks.
"Just like the Old Swiss," she chuckled. The thought made her somewhat hopeful. Switzerland was a beautiful place, after all.
There were indeed countless fine restaurants, markets, spas and theatres on Corporatia.
"Guess all the corporate desk jockeys have to have somewhere to go on the weekends. But if all of these places are closed during the week I won't be a happy camper." She sighed and put the PADD away. "Oh, yes, just the place I'll meet the dashing Englishman from my dreams..."
The transport took off, and Lorna closed her eyes to take a nap.