Welcome back, fiction-friends, to another episode of The Armchair Adventures of Perilous Pauline! Hard-pressed heroes have written in, and Novelocity’s veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. Add your own advice in the comments below!
Okay. Here’s the thing. I’m a soldier from the mid-twenty-first century. Yes, I know that means I’m out of a job. No, I don’t want to talk about it. What’s important is that my current job, body-guarding scientists on trips back in time, has taken a turn for the fucked up.
I’m not going to explain the part about how time travel works. Let’s just say we arrived back in the time of the dinosaurs and we met the natives. They weren’t friendly. Now I’ve been neutralized and kidnapped by a loin-clothing-wearing rage-fueled beefcake named Trals.
Now, Trals dragged me back to his tribe and I’m pretty sure that that ritual he performed was a marriage. But it’s not for the reason you think. He’s not interested in sex. He just wants to use me and my weapons to kill his enemies. I can’t understand his language, but there’s a definite “the rivers will run red with their blood” vibe, you know?
So here’s the problem. Waging war in some crazy bronze-age dinosaur timeline is not what I signed up for. I need to secure those scientists and the time machine and get the hell out of here. But here’s the bigger problem: I don’t want to. All I want to do is to get with Trals. And by “with” I mean “into the loin-cloth of.” Yes, I know there are a thousand reasons not to fall in lust with this guy. But I guess what I’m asking for is a reason why I should? Because I already have.
Wait, wait. Let’s review. You’ve been sent back in time, taken prisoner and forcibly married to a homicidal Neanderthal, and your biggest problem is that he’s gay?
Or maybe straight. (Throw me a bone here – Stupid doesn’t have a gender, but presumably you do.)
Well, far be it from me to act the prude – you know I’ve never been averse to a little primitive behavior – but how much do you actually know about this guy? Like, what’s going on behind that alluringly sloped brow of his? Is he a career warlord? Does he want a family? Where does he see himself in five million years?
Look, I’m not saying a Flintstones/Jetsons relationship can’t work. But before you sweet-talk Captain Caveman into a night of prehistoric passion, you need to figure out who he’s going to be in the morning. Get to know him. Learn his language. Find out what you have in common. And who knows? Crushing his enemies with raptor-mounted laser cannons could make for a great couples’ activity!
It’s not too late to write, is it? I’m on a self-driving rickshaw in a neighborhood built from shipping containers and the BoozeNGo drone hasn’t buzzed by with another bottle yet so I’ve got a minute. You see, I owe a LOT of kiz to this guy I used to know who just happens to have made a name for himself as an international crimelord, and all I’ve got going for me is my hacking skills and my irresistible charm. Rich folks pay me to keep their seedier activities from showing up on the social feeds, which means I need to fit in at the best parties in the city. Which means looking damn good. Which means money. Which I’m supposed to be sending to the guy I owe so he doesn’t kill me. I could really use some advice here. Or some more top-shelf liquor. Prolly both.
All right. Listen, kid. I don’t have to know what social feedings and hack-skills and booze-drones you’re on about to know an excuse when I hear one. You screwed up. You spent somebody else’s money, and now you’re on the hook, right?
Well, I’ll tell you something: parties aren’t a real job unless you’re serving hors d’oeuvres or jumping out of a cake. So if you don’t want to end up in a pair of concrete future-boots, go take a cold shower and a hot cup of coffee, pull on a clean shirt, and get yourself a job. And I mean an honest trade for an honest wage – no more of this fiddling with cyber-widgets, you hear?
And good lord – auto-rickshaw your way to an AA meeting, will you? Life’s too short to spend it swilling Courvoisier in a shipping container, even if you are God’s gift to happy hour.
My Master, Cloud Born Izhar, has chosen this Deep Night Festival to begin our pilgrimage, a ritual of which I am sure you are probably deep in preparations for. It marks my chance to walk in the footsteps of the Savior of Humanity, ascend to the rank of Cloud Born, and complete my training under my most illustrious mentor.
I only pray I am equal to the task.
I have many concerns regarding this but I would inquire to you about one of a more personal nature. My peers have seemed distant since the announcement I would be accompanying them. Truthfully, there have always been barriers with the other acolytes which I cannot clearly understand.
Like family, I assist them in their chores, help them to memorize the twelve thousand, one hundred and sixty-two mantras. And like a family, we work together toward a common goal. No fields to tend, no trade to perfect, but a Temple to grace and venerate and a Mighty Dragon of Storm and Fire to appease. And though I pursue these tasks tirelessly, I sense my efforts are not often respected.
I am starting to think it may be because I am different. As you can see, I am an Ek’kiru, or bugman.
But I have kept my wings mostly to myself. My hands, the extras, have found their way into the lower sleeves Master Izhar sewed for me, but this has only been for efficiency’s sake. I realize my eyes, quite large in comparison, and my antennae, can be a distraction for my peers (and myself), so I do my best to keep these tucked beneath my hood.
Despite this, my fellow acolytes’ indifference taunts me.
I am being silly, I know. We are all brothers under the Undying Storm as the Attarah’s wisdom says. However, I would like to hear your advice. Commoner’s tales, the riddles of trolls, and all the murkiness of thought outside the Temple notwithstanding, I hear you are most wise and as my Master reminds me (over and over) Wisdom shall chose the house in which it dwells. May it grace yours until the Timeless Age has begun.
My goodness. That is a whole lot of words to say “I’m a lonely bug-monk without any friends.” Are you sure they’re not just cold-shouldering you because you never stop talking?
Well, listen. Relationships are hard, and coworkers can be damned annoying. Here’s a funny thing about people, though: we don’t respect someone who isn’t genuine – no matter how many mantras they’ve memorized. Yes, it’s hard to be the diversity hire. But if you want to be taken seriously, you can’t go around sweeping yourself under the rug. Own your bugness, man! Put those extra arms to some use. Be the giant click-beetle everyone at work can agree on!
And while we’re at it, let’s see what we can do to work on your banter. I know you have a Temple to grace and a Mighty Dragon to appease, but visiting a Party of Cocktails would do you a world of good.
Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!