Imagine having Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, for your great-grandmother! Her likeness, carved in marble, balloon breasts and all, is everywhere in that fabled city. Small wonder Jane Carter became a punk.
She awoke from a drunken sleep one morning to find a green, four-armed ogre with tusks banging his forehead on the floor before her. His tattered harness identified him as a member of the Imperial Guard.
"The Beast Men have invaded the capital!" he wailed. "You must free our people, oh princess."
"Why me?" she asked blearily. "Why not somebody who gives a damn?"
But blood will tell. The next thing she knew, the faithful remnants of the old regime had her decked out in her great-grandmother's thong and breastplates, and she was fighting on the parapets, sword in one hand and ray gun in the other.
Because she was so hung over, she had not a thought for personal safety. "Wassamatter, you never saw facial piercings before?" she said to an astonished warrior as she blew him away. "It's called a Mohawk!" she screamed at another, and ran him through.
The citizens, not close enough to smell her breath, were inspired, and took up arms.
The Beast Men didn't have a chance.
So it was that Jane Carter ended up, against her will, on the Imperial throne, with a scantily clad male crouching to either side of her, pouting and caressing her calves. A thousand servants rushed to do her every bidding. She was respected, revered, adored. Statues were erected in her honor.
The irony of this did not escape her.
© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.