Will you marry me?
“Sally Hunter... will you marry me?”
“Yes, yes, yes! Of course I will!!!”
Sally's new fiance slipped the ring he was holding onto her finger and she gazed at it, enraptured. “It's beautiful. I'll never take it off! I'm going to call my parents!”
She pressed a button on the side of her watch and a little hologram of an egg-timer hovered in the air above her wrist, which was soon replaced by the word 'READY'.
“Mum,” she said, as clearly as she could. “No! Stop! End call! I said, 'Mum', not 'Martin'.” She sighed and turned to her fiance, who was in the process of placing his own call. “This voice recognition software seems to be going backwards.”
He held up a hand; his call had gone right through and his mother's face was hovering in the air above his wrist. The universal translator – nicknamed the 'Babel Fish' – that she wore clipped to her collar, automatically kicked in. Still engrossed with trying to make her own wrist-comm understand the difference between 'Mum' and 'Martin', she did not bother to turn the translator off. She soon wished that she had.
“Mama! How are you?”
“What are you calling for in the middle of the day? What's happened? What's wrong?”
“Why does something have to be wrong? Why can't I just call you?” he asked, irritation clear in his voice.
“Because you never 'just call' your mama, ever. Always, you want something, or something's wrong.”
“Mama, that's not fair. I rang you last month just for a chat.”
“Yes, last month. What about last week? Or yesterday?”
“We've been over this, Mama. Sometimes it just isn't possible for me to speak to you. The time-space continuum makes communication over long distances...”
“Time-space fiddlesticks. If you wanted to speak to your mama, you could.”
“Well, I'm speaking to you now, aren't I?”
His mother opened her mouth and then closed it. “OK, you're speaking to me now. But why? What has happened that you ignore the time-space vortex and call your mama?”
“I've got engaged, Mama! ...Well, say something!”
“Engaged? Not to that... that blondie?”
“She's a redhead, Mama. I've explained the difference...”
“Blonde, red, sky blue-pink, it makes no difference! She's a human, son. Why do you want to marry them?”
Halbar's blue skin flushed slightly mauve as he fought to keep his temper. “I don't want to marry them; I'm going to marry Sally,” he said, firmly.
“Silly? Good name for her, whoever she is.”
“Mama, you've met her. I brought her to visit last Snowtime.”
“I remember. You think your mama is losing her memory? She had too much hair. Yellow hairs all over my beautiful carpet. I was still finding them a month later.”
“No you weren't, Mama. The floorbot would have seen to it that any hairs – our blue ones, Sally's red ones, Tinye's green ones – were all cleaned up as soon as they dropped on the floor.”
“What do you have to bring my little poochy into it, for? Tinye's my pet! He can drop his hairs wherever he pleases.”
He sighed. “Mama, look. I'm going to marry Sally. When we've set the date, I'll let you know and you can make the arrangements to come, OK?”
“Come? Come where? You're not getting married here, your home? All Mendians get married from their own homes!”
“First of all, it's the brides who get married from their own home, and whatever else you may want, Mama, I don't believe you want me to become a woman just so I can get married from home! Secondly, it's a tradition amongst the R'shon people that spread to our land less than a century ago. And thirdly, we haven't got as far as locations; it might depend on work.”
“Work, work, always work! If it isn't Silly interfering with your relationship with your mama, it's work!”
“Mama, I'm a Galactic Defender! I don't get to choose where I'm stationed.”
“Defender! Defender from what? Who is our enemy, now?”
Halbar ran the hand of his upper right arm across the thin line of stubble on top of his head that would have been a pale blue crest of hair if regulations did not require him to keep it short. The hands of both lower arms were gripped tightly together. His watch was on the wrist of his upper left arm
“Mama, I have to go. I only called to let you know that I'm getting married and I'm very happy about it. I wanted you to be happy for me.”
“Happy? How can I be happy when you're marrying that human?”
“Goodbye, Mama. I love you.” Before his mother could speak again, he ended the call.
He turned to Sally. “That went about as well as I expected, he said with a rueful smile.”
“My mum says, 'Congratulations!',” she replied.