Laser Ball

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"So, if you just met the girl, you should say something like," Grant lowered his head and began speaking in a softer, depressed tone, "'oh, you know, I haven't been feeling great lately.'"

In the locker room, an assortment of crew members were chatting while getting suited up for a game of laser ball. Seated along the benches, outfitted in protective suits, they snapped on their helmets, slung energy packs over their shoulders, and plugged in their laser-pistols. Most of the sixteen in attendance were human, and all but Rolland, Quintin Archibald, and Jovan Leeper -the Dragoon Lieutenant- were crew on the Avalon. There were also a few aliens among the group. Two of the baboon-like Mangeroma were getting dressed in suits specially fitted for their small stature and furry, pointy heads. Koda was also there -the towering ambassador from the wolf-like Waya species, who doubled as security personnel.

"What?" Ken squinted his eyes and looked to Grant for clarification. Grant was large and muscular -a life-time body-builder who stood over six feet tall. He was fifty years old, but could pass for much younger.

"You should sort of act like you're down in the dumps," Grant leaned over and pressed the back of his hand to Rolland's shoulder, "it's a great way to start a conversation with a girl."

"I don't need any help in that department," Rolland stated plainly. Ken shot out a sudden, loud laugh.

"Seriously," Grant said, "you should try it."

"Or," Ken started, plugging the cord from his laser pistol into its e-pack, "you could just talk to them -you don't need a strategy."

"It's not about just talking, it's about seeing what kind of person they are -see if they're self absorbed or if they care enough to ask what's wrong."

"By pretendingto be depressed?" Ken raised an eyebrow. "And then what are you gonna say when they ask? You gonna lie?"

"Uhh... Well..." Grant stammered.

"Way to start off on the right foot!" Ken laughed.

"What do you guys think?" Grant looked over to the furry Mangeroma, who looked at each other, then back to Grant. "Yea, you guys. How do you meet girls?"

"Talking is not important." Krill, the smaller ape leaned forward. "What is important is to make yourself attractive."

"Looks like you're out luck!" Ken slapped Grant on the back and laughed.

Brodfay, the other ape looked over to Krill. "But talking can be useful."

"Yes, it can be." Krill turned from Brodfay back to the humans. "Attractiveness is not physical alone -it is reputation, ability, strength, intelligence, money, power -anything that sets you apart from others in a positive way. This can include conversational ability."

"What about you?" Grant looked over to the towering, wolf-like Koda. "Any advice?"

Koda peered down at Grant for a long moment, and his lips appeared to roll back slightly, revealing monstrous, canine teeth emerging from his black gums. His jaw looked powerful enough to bite through a human arm.

"Uhhh..." Grant shrank back a bit in his seat. "You okay?"

"Give him some time," Ken interjected. "He likes to think before he talks."

"Permit me to make an observation about the romantic partnerships of your species." Koda's voice was a loud, deep sound accompanied by a guttural growl. "Since I have been among you, I have heard endless talk about your preferences, about the ideal qualities of a mate, as you see them, about how to make yourselves attractive. Brown eyes, blue eyes; Grey fur, brown fur; long braids, short braids; tall, short; skinny, fat. Yet you fail to realize that there is one factor in common for all of you -human and Mangeroma alike- one factor that you all look for in a mate, and it overshadows all others."

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