The Department of ERR (Extraction, Rescue, and Relocation)
By Merissa Taylor-Meissner
As the prince clutched her entire body against his—his gilded chain mail chest against her corseted bosom–the princess could not help but swoon. Finally, after several years of being locked in a forsaken tower with no end in sight, her she had been rescued from a dull and lonely fate by her dazzling prince charming. He lifted her up gently. As he cradled her, her lavishly layered dress and her sea of blond hair swept against the floor.
She looked up at him, willing her eyes to be as big, bright, and blue as they possibly could for this life-defining moment. She batted her eyelashes, and then slowly puckered her lips.
“Just one moment, milady. I must ensure that my paperwork is correct,” the prince interjected, abruptly lowering her onto the petal-dusted satin sheets beside him. Briskly, he removed a series of documents from his leather satchel.
“Paperwork?” asked the princess, bewildered. Where was her true love’s kiss?
He was oblivious to her puzzlement as he rapidly ticked off a series of checkmarks. But suddenly, his bureaucratic frenzy came to a halt.
“Oh dear,” the prince muttered. “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”
“Is there a problem, my darling?” the princess asked. She began to worry that she would never get her true love’s kiss, or even a haircut. She was tired of tripping over her own tresses, or worse, forgetting to sweep them out of the way before she he went to the bathroom.
“Erm, according to the manifest, it seems I’ve—” he coughed daintily, “mistakenly rescued you, milady.”
“What mistake?” she cried desperately. “I’ve been wasting away in this tower since puberty, waiting for some prince to sweep me off my feet. I don’t even know if I like boys yet!”
“Well, my assignment briefings usually come with exact coordinates; however, this castle was poorly signed and situated well south of the path indicated. Very inconvenient, not like those airy seaside palaces. So straightforward, just a quick sail down the coast, and so much more healthful. The sea breezes, you know? Much better than a moldering old ruin full of wood rot and mildew.”
“You’ve been to other castles?”
“Yes. Erm, it seems I was actually designated to make a rescue at a neighbouring palace just a little further south. The edifice is similarly decrepit, but the princess…since you’re quite awake, you are obviously not the sovereign-in-waiting in question,” he chuckled drily. “The damsel’s insensate; at least she won’t chastise me for being late.” With that, the prince turned to stride away, still tittering.
“Wait!” commanded the princess. “What about me? Can’t you rescue me as well?”
The prince shook his head sorrowfully. “I’m quite overqualified, milady. I sincerely regret the longitudinal error, but I am restricted to rescuing royalty of 8 or higher; what is colloquially known as a Cinderella. I couldn’t possibly intervene here; your rank is only a 6, or what we refer to in the business as a ‘Frog Princess.’ We are obliged to prioritize, you know. The Department will send a lad out to engineer your departure any month now, without a doubt. He won’t be so devastatingly handsome as I, but beggars can’t be choosers, what?”
A Frog Princess? She had been corset training for over five years!
“Well, could you please explain to me how you got in?” the princess inquired delicately, fluttering her lashes in the prescribed manner.
“Naturally, the Department armed me with a set of master keys before I set out on my first recovery journey. Fortress, Palace, or Castle class, even Grand Manors…they’re all covered in the training,” he boasted, pulling out the key from his satchel.
“I’ll have that,” the princess snapped as she snatched a large, silver key from his outstretched hand. She vaulted away with as much speed as she could muster, bundling up her shroud of hair as she went. When she paused at the door, she saw that the prince was rooted to the spot, still dumbfounded. She roughly stuffed the hair down the back of her dress and turned back to tear the prince’s sword from its hilt.
“No fear, I’ll have the Department send someone over ASAP,” the princess taunted as she swept out of the room. “It might take a few months, or years even. I’m afraid you won’t have much pull as a Frog Prince—no wait, as a Frog, period!” With that, she locked the flabbergasted rescuer in her chambers and exited the castle in triumph. Once in the courtyard, she grasped the sword inexpertly to hack her hair off into an awkward pageboy. With a coy wave and a wink to the prince pining at the high tower window, she leapt onto his handsome white steed and galloped off into the sunset.