“Evening,” the Comet King said from across the table, stifling a yawn. “Why don’t you tell me something about yourself and why I should marry you?”
Her name was Jessica. She was twenty-three and beautiful, long dark wavy hair, curves to die for, deep brown eyes, et cetera. She bit her lip in a way the Comet King assumed was supposed to be seductive.
“I graduated from University of Colorado with double degrees in physics and political science,” she said. “I’ve been reading about you ever since you won that battle at Silverthorne. I always thought you were a real hero, like out of some fairy tale. The day you became King of Colorado was one of the happiest days of my life, because I know we had someone wonderful here taking care of us. I think I’ve been in love with you ever since I saw the coronation on TV. If you let me be your Queen, I will try to be an inspiration to young Coloradoan women everywhere. I’ll serve you well and give you lots of babies.”
“You’re very beautiful,” said the Comet King, in the same way a judge at a dog show might pronounce a certain poodle to be very beautiful. “Thank you for your time. My staff will get back to you within three to five days.”
“That’s…it?” asked Jessica. She tossed her hair seductively. “But I thought we would be able to spend…you know…more time together.”
“I am very busy.”
“I wouldn’t have to wait until our wedding. Even if you’re not interested in getting married, we could still…you know.”
“I appreciate the offer and my staff will get back to you in three to five days.” He got up from the table, gave her a little bow, and walked out to the atrium of the palace. Nathanda and Caelius were fighting over a toy. He gave them a quick glance, and both of them tried to push the toy at the other, then stood to attention. He smiled and found Father Ellis, sitting alone beside one of the big targeting computers, looking annoyed.
“That was four minutes! You can’t say you gave her a fair hearing!”
“She wanted to have my babies,” said the Comet King. “She knew about the curse, she knew they would die screaming and cursing their father’s name, and she still wanted to have them.”
“She loves you,” said the priest.
“They all love me,” said the Comet King. “Can we give up now?”
“It is not good for man to be alone,” quoted Ellis.
“I am only half human. Whatever I am, it’s fine for it to be alone.”
“You told me you wanted my help being human, and I’m giving it to you! You need to get married. I don’t make you meet a new girl every day. Just dinner Saturday and Sunday. Two nights a week. Two dates. Is that too much to give your old friend, and a nation anxious to have a Queen?”
“Another one of these tomorrow night? No. Cancel. Tomorrow night I am holding annexation talks with east Oregon.”
“You can’t just cancel on her! She’s here already! She’s come all the way from Utah to see you.”
“The Oregonians have come all the way from Oregon. That is farther.”
“Look, Jala. These people are infatuated with you. When I announced that you had given your permission to meet two women a week, I got so many applicants it takes half my time now just to sort through them for the good ones. This is probably going to be the highlight of this poor woman’s life, and all she wants is ten minutes with you over a dinner table.”
“What about tonight? Can I just get both of them over tonight, and then have the rest of the week free?”
“I’ll see if she’s around. But you better give her a full ten minutes. You hear me, Jala? Ten! Now you go back in the dining room, and I’ll find her and send her in, and you give her ten minutes and not a second less.”
“Yes, Father. Whatever you say.”
Five minutes later, a young woman walked into the dining room beneath Cheyenne Mountain. Stick thin. Boyish body. Light brown hair. Simple tan dress. She introduced herself as Robin Allison Minstrell. Something something philosophy Ph. D something something whatever.
“Good evening,” the Comet King said from across the table, playing with an olive on his fork. “Why don’t you tell me something about yourself and why I should marry you?”
“I’m not sure why someone like you would get married,” said Robin, “but I would assume you’re being pressured or feel some obligation to do so for the sake of the kingdom. A relationship would probably take up a lot of your time and distract you from your work, which of course is vital to the future of humanity. Whatever good I could do with my own life is probably less than the amount of good you could do with the time you save by not having a demanding wife, and I wasn’t sure you realized the option existed, so I decided the morally optimal thing to do would be to offer to marry you so you could have the public relations benefits of marriage without the time-related costs. Of course, I could help your mission in other ways too; as your Queen, I’d be a natural choice to take over a lot of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and press photo ops you have to do. All of this time saved would be time you could devote to your primary mission of fighting back against Hell.”
“Who told you to say this?”
“What? Um. Nobody. I studied philosophy. Peter Singer, the Australian philosopher. He believed that only the course that most effectively eases suffering is morally permissible. I…I have a book I can give you.”
She reached into her purse and handed the Comet King a book. He looked at it for a second, then took it and placed it beside his plate.
“You knew this man?”
“No. He died before I could meet him. Killed. In Salt Lake City, February of ’74. But I read everything. I did my thesis on him. I wrote dozens of papers. And every time I submitted another paper to the journals, to get thrown in the wastebasket or read by a couple of academics, I thought, things have gotten too bad, I just can’t keep doing this. So I quit and joined the military. Administrative work, supply management, that kind of thing. But now there’s peace. Thanks to you. And I thought, given the extent of your genius, helping you would be a more effective use of my time then anything else I could do. I considered joining your government, but since I’m pretty and charismatic I thought it would be more effective to offer my hand in marriage instead.”
“I accept,” said the Comet King. “My uncle Vihaan is in the third floor library. He manages my schedule. Ask him when a good time for the wedding would be.”
Without a word, Robin got up from the table and headed towards the stairwell.
Jalaketu toyed with his olive for another moment, then popped it in his mouth and walked out the door into the atrium. Father Ellis saw him and rose to his feet in a rage.
“SEVEN MINUTES, JALA. THAT WAS SEVEN MINUTES AND FOURTEEN SECONDS. YOU PROMISED ME TEN. I WANT YOU TO GO BACK IN THERE AND…”
“Father, I need your help.”
The anger evaporated from the priest’s face. “What’s wrong, Jala?”
“The girl. Robin. She told me that marriage and relationships were a waste of the time I should be spending planning my war against Hell. She offered to marry me, serve as my public face, and leave me alone completely in order to free me from the burden. I said yes. She and Vihaan will plan the wedding. You’ll need to officiate, of course.
“God damn it, Jala! I wanted to humanize you, and instead you found somebody just as defective as yourself. You’ll get nothing out of it, she’ll get nothing out of it, and you’re going to miss your chance at something natural and important just to get someone who will pose for photo ops once in a while.”
“No, Father, I need your help.”
“Why? What is it?”
“Father, I think I’m in love.”