Hi readers, bookworms, and robots!
This actually happened a few days back, but I’ve been so busy with space things I rudely forgot to update my page. Shame, shame, shame on me!
As you might recall, back in 2017 I was a part of the amazing PEW PEW anthology series. A set of amazing, hilarious space adventures that I couldn’t believe my little stories had the honor of being presented with. Out of the three novellas I submitted, two of them followed the adventures of Miss Planet Earth: awakened thousands of years in the future with her visa long since expired, our poor Katra has to find her way back to a home that no longer exists – with Space Pirates in tow.
I got the idea years ago, when I was joking with friends about how Miss Universe pageants didn’t really cover any planet other than Earth. Not a new trope, not hardly. In my first vision of the story, Katra was sent as a sort of ambassador to compete in the pageant. I wanted to write about the people she met, the struggle to remain a perfect representative of her culture while competing to win and avoiding other competitors’ dirty tricks. It’s one of the reasons I wanted her to be Latina, as anyone who is not of a native to their host country is always seen as an ambassador of their entire culture. The struggle to be one’s self when everything you do is judged and reflects back on your people as a whole is heavy.
But this story is supposed to be a fun one. As I wrote the first draft, I found it to be bogged down by ideas I wasn’t yet ready to tackle. Not to mention, the story has been done incredibly well by other authors with much more experience than me. So I turned it into a comedy. Instead of focusing on the pageant, it came to me to focus on how the world changes after first contact – but thousands of years in the future. And I had a blast writing it!
When the rights reverted back to me this spring, I secretly started putting together pocket paperbacks of Katra’s adventures. And now, after weeks of waiting for the approval… they’re online! Well, Miss Planet Earth I is in paperback, Miss Planet Earth II (The Amulet of Beb-Sha-Na) is still just an ebook. But in any case, they’re now available for your viewing pleasure!
Check out the very first chapter to see if it’s your cup of tea!
A pageant queen out of time. A secretive assassin in the wrong body. Space pirates and demented droids. It’s been a long day.
Katra Zorento won the title of Miss Universe only days before first contact was made. Armed with only her charm and her golden bikini, she was sent to compete on the real stage, against the rest of the Milky Way – only to overshoot the arrival by 13,000 years.
Now, with her visa expired and no one on her side, she must make the arduous trip back to the planet that once was Earth… That is, of course, if dashing space pirates don’t get in the way. And to make matters worse, her fiancé’s brain might be trapped inside her head. Katra’s only allies are a mysterious assassin trapped in a 9 year old’s body and a ‘service’ droid with memory issues. But if she survives this, she could win the most valuable crown in the universe…
Chapter 1: In which mistakes were made, and visas revoked
Katra Zorento woke up to find she had overslept the pageant by 13,000 years.
Her fingers were still frosty as she sat at the desk, trying to warm them in the soft fabric of her leggings. To her left was the open casket she had been pried from: her cryogenic sleeping pod, packed with her makeup bag, her red ball gown and a bikini. There was also the large golden disk she had brought from Earth, a replica of the one from the Voyager probe, a gift for the Council of Twelve.
Every member of which was now dead. The council itself abolished 4,812 years ago, after an incident with a gas cloud which proved once and for all that diplomatic missions and fire breathing dragons do not mix.
At least not on a spaceship.
All this Katra gleaned from the overstuffed office she found herself in. Posters covered the walls, telling the history of this weird planet through snippets of Public Service Announcements. The Council’s abolition was a stark reminder not to travel through nebulas in the first place.
They tried the gas – and ended civilization. Don’t gas and drive.
The entire floor space was taken up by her pod, two chairs, and a desk, so Katra had to tuck her legs under her seat since there was no room to put them down. Across from her sat what appeared to be a formless blob of gelatin, which wobbled back and forth on its hovering chair, as if waiting for her to speak. Every once and a while, a paper on its desk would ruffle, though how it was moving Katra had no idea.
“You understand your visa has long since expired, yes?” the blob said. The voice was loud, and somehow directly in Katra’s mind, which made her spine tingle. She had never met a telepathic alien before, nor any kind of alien, so the entire experience was a little unnerving, to say the least.
“Yes, but, what happened?” she asked, trying to keep her still thawing limbs from trembling. “I was supposed to meet Chancellor Forbin and…”
“As I explained earlier,” said the blob’s voice, somehow conveying a sigh through its haughty mightier-than-thou airy voice. “Chancellor Forbin has been dead for over thirteen millennia.”
“But the trip was only supposed to take fifty years,” Katra protested, “and where is Marcus?”
“Yes, my bodyguard, Marcus. We were put in cryo-sleep together.”
“Ah, the male.” The blob mentally ruffled the pages on the desk. “I thought they explained after they woke you? And your visit to a dislocation officer didn’t make it clear to you?”
“I’m not quite sure what a dislocation officer is, exactly.”
Katra looked down at her lap and tried to avoid eye contact. Not that there were any eyes to latch onto, but gazing in the blob’s general direction made her mind swim uncomfortably.
“You’ve been sent to see a dislocation officer – me – because your traveling companion’s mind was too damaged by the time spent in the cryo-sleep.”
“Marcus is dead?”
Katra couldn’t help but glare at the blob in complete shock. Marcus. Dead. He was – no, had been – more than just her bodyguard and constant companion. The two of them had been engaged to be married upon their triumphant return to Earth.
And now he was dead. And was there even an Earth to return to?
She wanted desperately to ask all those questions, and more. But she was face to face with a sentient slice of Jell-O and not quite sure how to proceed.
Her heart shook with silent, terrified grief.
“His body passed away not long after your departure from the planet formerly known as Earth,” said the blob, “though… how much do you know about dislocation?”
“Ah.” The blob seemed to hesitate. “Did the officer who put you in the chamber explain the process employed to preserve your body during the cryogenic session?”
“Vaguely,” Katra replied. It might have been thousands of years ago in history, but for her it was less than an hour ago that the strange man with gray skin had hastily sputtered some space jargon before sealing her and Marcus into the pods. That in turn was only minutes before she woke up in a strange orange room, surrounded by giant lizard-men trying to spray her down with a hose.
“So you know the consciousness is downloaded to a quantum cell, in case the physical mind is damaged in transit.”
Katra’s heart leapt. “So Marcus’s mind is still alive?”
“Yes, and no,” the blob almost seemed embarrassed at this. It was hard to tell, what with the lack of facial expressions. Or any face to speak of, for that matter. “Due to a malfunction that must have occurred during the incident that destroyed the male’s physical mind, his upload was compiled with yours. So when you awoke…”
“Shut. Up!” Katra could almost shout with glee. “He’s alive? In my head?”
“Yes,” the cloud said, perplexed, “you do not find this perturbing?”
“We were to get married!” she sputtered, “this is even better! Two minds, one body. For as long as we both shall live, in sickness and in health. This is better than marriage!”
The blob swiftly tossed a stack of papers into the trash. Katra’s excitement faded. She had probably just lost a massive bargaining chip with her outburst.
Marcus? Are you in there? I need you. I’m making a mess.
“You sure he’s in here?” she asked. The news alone was enough to bring heat back to her chest, drawing out the ice forever. “Safe and sound?”
“Yes, the download was definitely complete,” the blob said proudly, “your mate’s consciousness is safely in your head. But he may not present himself at first: he must carve a space in your gray matter. Humans have gray matter, correct?”
Katra nodded, though not entirely sure. It was the future, after all; maybe modern humans had done away with the stuff entirely at this point.
“Once the consciousness emerges, he may try to take control of his new host body. We apologize for any inconvenience this brings you.”
“What is inconvenient is me being here in the first place,” said Katra, her spark finally returning. Maybe it was the news that Marcus was safe and hers alone; maybe it was the heat creeping back into her extremities. Either way, she was majorly pissed. She crossed her arms over her chest and propped her extremely long legs on the blob’s desk.
The blob said nothing. Katra wondered how it even saw what she was doing.
“How come I wasn’t woken up in time for the pageant?” she spat, “the engineers calculated everything perfectly. A fifty-year trip, not a minute longer. What happened?”
“Well, this is closer to ancient history for us, now,” said the blob, “you understand, a year after your departure for Earth, faster than light travel was invented.”
“The council decided they didn’t want to wait another forty-nine years for you to arrive at the pageant when they could have everyone show up the next day. So Earth sent someone else.”
“Who?” Katra slammed her hands on the table, making the Jell-O wobble. Which was an odd sight to see. It wobbled to one side and then back, like someone had poked it with a stick. “Don’t tell me it was that bitch, Riley. Miss Australia? She had no place as my runner up.”
“Then you’ll be happy to know that Miss Earth – formerly Miss Australia, according to my notes – was eaten and digested by Miss Ma’jarkeen. Which is why the pageant was canceled and hasn’t been held since.”
“So our ship got there and you… what? Put us in a warehouse and forgot to revive us for thousands of years?”
“I’m sorry, not my department,” said the mound of gelatin, “I’ve already outstepped by pulling up so much information from this case. To make things short: we’re sorry for the inconvenience, and we’re sending you home right away.”
“It used to be called Earth, yes.”
“What is it now?”
“Super-freaky funland dark-side death-zone powered by MnM.”
“You call that my home?” Katra sputtered. She would have stood up, indignant, but there was no space for her to do so in the tiny office. “What the fudge is super-strange dark world death thingy?”
“Super-freaky funland dark-side death-zone powered by MnM.”
“That can’t be Earth!”
“Well, I’m sorry, but things change, child,” said the blob. “Your home planet had to make ends meet somehow. Becoming an escape room theme park was the logical choice.”
“An escape room… theme park?”
Katra felt as if the ice around her heart had gone right back to being frozen, as cold as the popsicle she had been inside the pod. She wished her eyes could shoot literal daggers across the room, but even if they did, she doubted they would hit the gelatin or harm it in any way.
“Yes, and quite a nice one,” said the blob. “I brought my hovel-mates there a few cycles ago. Such fun! Much better now than it ever was before.”
The pageant queen was fuming now, but she forced herself through the breathing techniques her coach had instilled in her and stayed focused. There was no point lingering on the fact that her home was gone, or the fact that everyone she ever knew or loved was now dead. Except maybe Marcus, her one love, her rock, who was living quite silently in her head.
“I want to go home,” she murmured, under her breath.
“Do not worry, we’re sending you back, all expenses paid.”
“It’s not my home anymore.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but according to your passport, it is.” The cloud made the little green booklet drift up before Katra’s eyes. “And your visa expired quite some time ago. So we have to send you back. You understand, of course.”
“Of course,” said Katra, keeping that pageant calmness. “Do I get some kind of compensation, at least?”