Well done and massive thanks to our Maria Alvarez for brainstorming, evolving and executing the idea of The Bairiri - the cultural, musical, and artistic coming together of the Gentii species and Starfleet. These sims were beautiful to read!
(( Genti II - Grand Central Establishment, Federal District. Brynja Bairiri Hall - Main Stage ))
(( OOC: Buckle up! I did my best to roughly notate which parts were which, but it’s all pretty approximate if you dare to try matching it up. If you have Spotify, I recommend the edition I’ve been listening to. If you’re short on time or don’t enjoy classical, I’d still encourage you to give the finale (last track) a listen. If you need youtube, this is the best I can do (finale) - personally I find the sweaty conductor distracting (maybe listen, don’t watch) and the live audio quality is inferior, but hey it’s free.
Once again, thanks to everyone who contributed, and bravo! Without further ado, turn up the music (no really), and I hope you enjoy reading! ))
How exactly do you represent the sum total of the creative and aesthetic output of billions of people living over as many as ten thousand years? Maria couldn’t even be sure how to represent her own tastes, let alone attempt such an undertaking. Should she go modern? Classic? Jazz? Should it be from Earth at all? Orion courtier? Andorian acid? Edo futurist? Cardassian traditional? Some fusion? Endless choices boggled the mind.
Truth be told, ever since she came out of the shared dreamscape and learned there’d be another attempt at the Bairiri, there was only one piece of music that she couldn’t get out of her mind, but she rejected it. It was too hard, too long, too old, too schmaltz, too traditional, and most of all: too ballet. She’d spent far too long investing time training in so many other forms of dance to distill herself down to that - not to mention she was still wrestling with how to feel about ballet.
She’d appropriated the growing empty space in Arrow where the holodeck would eventually live for her practice the entire week. She sampled parts of as many as fifty pieces, but, try as she might, every time she put on music she found her heart going back to an ancient, mystic tale. Finally she gave in and decided to give it a chance. When she heard it again, in its fullness for the first time in a long while, she knew her heart was set:
As she finished the dramatic red, black, and gold stage makeup and tested her pointe shoes one last time, it was a decision she now knew to be the right one. The metaphor was too alike, the music too powerful. From behind the curtains, Maria wondered if R’Ariel or Quentin had made it to see her dance. She’d put up the holocamera Regan’s sister had gifted her, just in case, but a recording wouldn’t be the same. She hoped they would understand the deep personal nature of what was about to transpire. And, perhaps, how immensely exhausting an undertaking it was.
Performing the entire ballet was, of course, out of the question. The manpower and time to achieve that was simply unavailable. Had she not performed the firebird role before, it would have been impossible. While some cuts made Maria’s work easier, many removals eliminated vital rest. It turned a twelve-mile jog into an eight-mile sprint. That only compounded the dramatic changes to the choreography since its creation nearly five hundred years ago that kept the dance modern and relevant: each rendition layered in diverse new styles and moves, piling yet more taxing and technical challenges atop an already difficult ballet. So, she had to pare back in places to save strength for the climaxes. Even with the simplification, her whole body was already prepared to have its revenge on her for the hours of practice every day, just as soon as she stopped to rest.
But that wasn’t going to happen yet. The sun had just dropped below the trees, setting off a colorful, smokey light show in the darkening Gentii sky. The lightest of breeze picked up in the semi-outdoor stage, tussling the red “feathers” of her short dress adorned in shimmering gold swirls. The costume hugged her body and clung to her arms and legs like any dancer’s costume should. R’Ariel’s words of encouragement to throw herself into the role replayed in her mind. Though her willowy form was certainly on display, she was now transforming into another creature entirely; becoming something born of ancient magic with powers untold.
As the high-power lights flooded the stage and the holographic orchestra tuned, she felt the familiar rush of blood through her chest and cheeks and fingers. It wasn’t quite the usual performance anxiety - the Gentii had never seen anything like this, and she’d practiced tirelessly. Instead, the warmth [...]ing her nerves was a friend that focused her. She imagined the heat in her veins belonged to the firebird herself, manifesting in her body and to help her take flight.
She looked across, beyond the other side of the stage was a surprise for everyone: her Gentii counterpart, Eka, who would dance the part of Prince Ivan. She proposed the idea as soon as she settled on this dance, and within the hour she was shaking the man’s hand. It was a massive gamble, but the consummate professional learned the choreography at an unbelievable pace. It forced even more simplifications, but the reward was fully embracing the purpose of the Bairiri in a way Maria enjoyed far more than she even thought she would. He looked back to her and nodded. He was ready.
The orchestra fell quiet, and the hall became very still as the spell set in. Countless Gentii (and at least a few crew) waited for the start of the legend of the Firebird. As she entered the stage, Maria felt all the other thoughts and inner talk melt away. She was no longer an listless ensign or an out-of-place officer, or even Maria.
She was the Firebird.
( Introduction, Appearance, Danse, Capture, and Supplication of the Firebird )
The lights came up, and the faintest of creeping the low strings set the scene. The holographic backdrop and set depicted an old, decrepit garden overgrown and only darkly lit by the light that filtered through to the dank forest floor covered in fungus. Smoke rose in the background. This place slowly succumbing to a rotting power no magic could not defend against.
The firebird entered, stage left, and beheld the land’s steady march towards ruin. Her flight coasted from one side of the stage to the other, distraught by the steady defilement and decay of her natural home. She flew and flew, gliding through the twisting vines in search of any life that hadn’t been overtaken. The grim, plodding music offered little hope for the magical beast. The light steps and buoyant arms carried the bird back and forth, a little arabesque in a place that looked hopeful, but then up and onwards when the leaves wilted away at the slightest touch.
Then - at last! The firebird spotted a cherry tree with a single blossom in a grove. The flower radiated faint holographic light in the dim light. The radiant red creature finally descended into the clearing. She cupped the precious life in her hands, thankful to have found anything remaining. She turned slowly, appearing to hover, supported only by one pointed foot, tending to the branch and tree that held the pink-white flower. She pranced with delight at finding something so beautiful still tenuously holding on to life.
Suddenly, the wind turned, pushing in the smoke from far away. It flooded in like fog, suddenly gripping the tree trunk, threatening to strangle the life from it. The firebird flew into action, circling the tree now under her protection. She flapped and flapped, whirling her limbs to drive away the choking smog. As soon as she chased some out, yet more rushed in. But in the end, her sheer energy and the wind from her wings pushed the fog’s grasping fingers back, saving the tree.
She danced again a while, slowly and gracefully, assuring herself the grove was now safe. Finding a forest creature, she playfully chased after it, her soft and gliding movements taking joy in the small pleasure. Finally, content with the sparse grass and leaves, the firebird finally set down to rest on a branch. Immediately disaster struck.
The bird leapt into the air, frantically working to escape. The cruel chain pulled her back to the ground, her feathers collapsing. She got up and twisted the rope round and round, trying to wear out its threads. She jumped again! But it was no use. The tether would not yield - its teeth held fast.
When all seemed like it would be lost, a hidden figure emerged from the woods. Prince Ivan (played by the Gentii Eka), the philosopher, ruler, and hunter, danced his way out onto the stage. He circled the entrapped mythic beast in slow steady steps, hardly believing his fortunes.
The firebird, huddled in a shivering mass on the floor, looked up to him with soft pleading eyes. She held her arms close to her, then offered up her hands in supplication. She slowly rose, announced by hushed strings that wove a winding melody as delicate and subdued as her dance. She circled, dipping repeatedly to beg the prince for help.
And free her he did, only to bind her to himself. The firebird hid her face, then took his hand as the strings warmed into the pas de deux. The orchestra, never quite sure of its footing, swelled and dropped back, in and out of key after key, as the prince and firebird danced through the grove - the red wings never able to spread and carry her to freedom. The prince led his prize through each step, never letting her out of reach.
The dance seemed to stretch out, the pair twisting around with the woodwind’s harmony. The firebird, on toe points, was paraded around the stage for the audience to see. But the uneasy music kept any glory at bay. Every once in a while, she’d attempt to flit away, just to be restrained by the prince once again.
Finally, after a long dance, the firebird knelt at the side of the cherry tree, and wept. A tear fell to the ground, and her magic filled the stage with horn and light! Suddenly a thousand glowing pink-white blossoms bloomed, breathing life and light back to the tree. The prince, shocked and realizing his error, dropped the tether.
The firebird looked up, realizing she was now free. She wriggled from the dreaded leash, and took flight across the stage, a trail of twinkling magic left behind her wings. The prince chased after her, still fearful of the wrong he’d nearly committed. The firebird circled back, and took his hand, again suspended in an airy arabesque, leg arcing into the sky as she floated.
They danced again, but this time he pleaded for her forgiveness in each step. His frame lifted her into the air, and she exalted in the flight. At last, the gentle duet wound back down to a whisper.
The firebird, facing the prince, plucked a feather from her plumage - glowing brightly of red and gold as if holding her fire in its veins - and offered it to the prince. It was a token of forgiveness and gratitude all in one, but more than that: it was a way to summon the firebird and her magic in a time of need. She swirled about with great majesty, and the feather’s light blossomed, imbued with her powers.
The prince accepted it with great reverence, hallowed music weighing his motions down. He led the firebird through a final dance in thanks of his own, then the music carried her off into the sky and off the stage.
(( Genti II - Grand Central Establishment, Federal District. Brynja Bairiri Hall - Main Stage ))
( Tsar Ivan and the Princesses’ Round )
Prince Ivan was alone on the stage. With the magical protection of the firebird now gone, the fog began to creep back in. He moved through the forest, seeking shelter from the oncoming nightfall, the ever thickening vines and branches closing in about him as he searched for the way out. He gracefully circled one spot, then another, and another, hoping to find escape. But it was not to be, for a dark and powerful curse animated the trees against him.
There! In gaps, flashes of white shapes frollicked just out of view. Their music was light and beautiful, almost enticingly so. Ivan chased after one, then tumbled headfirst into a clearing containing old stone ruins. He sprung back up, and to his amazement several women (holographic in nature) dressed in pale white circled around on the stage, arms joined together. They danced around and around, half peasant-like, half with seductive regency. The orchestra warmed into a simple, lyric melody led by the winds and echoed by the strings. The women reached out with translucent limbs, beckoning to Ivan to follow.
And follow he did. He floated towards them, drawn in by their ethereal beauty. When he caught up, the princess in lead, wearing a silver circlet, let her hands alight in his. Overjoyed, he took it and whirled her about in slow motion, unable to remove his eyes from her. He lifted her, regarding her like a precious jewel. She, in return, glided around him in dainty pointed-toe grace, leading him through the ruined stone walls.
The romantic swells of the orchestra shifted through the keys, as gentle and tender as the prince’s movements. She regarded him equally - falling in love with each measured lean and step. Yet the music shifted into an uneasy, disquieted minor even as their footwork grew more intimate. The prince seemed to take no notice as the orchestra took an unexpected turn into dissonance.
They danced and danced, the other women praising the pairing. The stage lights slowly narrowed and narrowed as Ivan’s steps became more and more labored. But still he went on and on to the slow lyricism, still unable to drag his gaze away from the princess. He went on until finally the light shone nowhere but him. In the background, darkness fell fully on the stone ruins. Exhausted, he slowly laid to the ground, and released his grasp on the woman who slipped into the now-everywhere dark.
( Appearance of the monsters and the Capture of Ivan by Kachtchei the Immortal )
Clangorous bells sounded with the crash of a cymbal, and blue swirling light appeared everywhere, as if through the lens of rippling water. At the edges of the castle wreckage, the petrified forms of a dozen knights standing still in stone were revealed, fortelling Ivan’s fate. The prince, realizing his peril and free of his trance, scrambled back up to find the maidens were now ghouls and goblins swarming around him.
The monsters taunted the stricken man, forcing him to leap to and fro. Their giddy demon dance was pushed on by the whip of dissonant horns. Dark horns and claws and gnarled feet terrorized the audience equally, flooding up to the brink of the stage before withdrawing in a wave. An audience member shouted out, temporarily forgetting the limits of their holographic power ended at the lip.
Then they were all suddenly still. A short horn intercession, and timpani silenced their cacophony. Silence rested heavily. Ominous, muted reeds twisted together in malicious harmony as a figure emerged in the dark. First seven foot tall, then eight, then nine. The hideous and powerful Immortal Kachtchei stepped forth into the diseased light, tattered rags doing little to mask his mangled form. His nails were so long they curled in on themselves. His beady eyes glowed out at the audience before casting their glare onto the Prince.
Ivan scrambled up as the music turned to stark clashing harmonies. The dark magician approached him, heavily swaying on each beat. A mangled hand reached out towards the prince, and Ivan swirled away in fear. Ivan danced again, attempting to escape but the monsters blocked his path at every turn. They closed in ever tighter as the music spelled his imminent doom. Kachtchei raised his knotted staff, and prepared to cast his wicked curse.
The glow under Ivan’s jacket was his last hope. He drew forth the feather, the red and gold filling the stage with its glow. He thrust it high, and the abominations cowered from its radiance!
( Return of the Firebird, Her Enchantment, and the Infernal Dance )
The feather glowed bright with the light of a sun, and the firebird appeared in the center of the stage unfurling her plumage (a special effect masking the transporter beam). Seeing the prince’s predicament, she flit over to him in a rush of music. She swirled energetically about, shielding him from the hordes of beasts taunting him. They recoiled as she chased them back, then rushed back in as she moved to the other side.
Kachtchei stretched out his arms, tattered robes hanging from his bony form. He swung forward, trying to catch the firebird with his curled nails, but she was too fast. She pranced out of the way, light on her feet. She circled back, just out of reach and he swung again with a heavy step forward. Again, he missed - the firebird sprung effortlessly away, beating her feet midair in a teaseful flourishing cabriole.
She led him through a chasing dance, ever just out of reach. Her plan steadily became clear as the golden-red trail of her sparkling magic began to weave a spiraling trap around the sorcerer. As her sweet enchantment grew in power over him, so too did the monsters steadily fall to her magic. The music grew and grew, causing more and more monsters to follow her steps, succumbing to her fast fluttering steps. The stage steadily turned redder and brighter as her elemental energy dominated the creature’s minds. Finally, even Kachtchei himself was bound to her dance, his hulking mass entranced.
The full orchestra struck. Percussion shook the very walls of the performance hall. The sides of the stage belched flame and the spell was sealed. Horns blared and the whole ensemble ran into a dizzying fervor. The monsters fell over themselves, leaping from all fours, led on by the ever-tireless firebird. Her weightless effervescence was totally beyond them, seemingly unbound by the laws of gravity with easy flicks of the legs keeping her suspended mid-air or on toe point.
Kachtchei himself fell in alongside his own cursed servants. The firebird circled him, her swirling flight forcing him to exert his own enormous size into the air with great effort. The symphony careened further out of control as the beasts pushed themselves ever harder and faster. Any time one would flag, the firebird was there, her lyric magic jig keeping them from flagging. On and on they went, possessed of no will other than to dance under her spell.
The firebird’s spell crescendoed with the music - she swooped from one end of the stage to the other, until the full thunder of the orchestra joined her in powerful spin after spin, the magician and foul servants spinning with her. One by one they fell away until it was only the magician who remained standing. At last he too dropped to the floor, exhausted by the dance, unable to move.
That left the firebird to finally alight next to Prince Ivan, now released from Kachtchei’s powers. Rescued and reunited, he took her hand and led her through an adagio berceuse, warm strings underpinning the gratitude and peace that came after the toil of the dance. The pair took slow, steady steps across the ruins, the prince’s hands on the firebird’s waist, supporting her as their fluid motions glossed across the stage.
But there was still something else stirring. The hulking form of Kachtchei rustled with an ominous double-reed dissonance. He awoke, then snatched up the firebird, catching her by surprise! She flailed and fluttered in his grasp, trying to escape. Ivan, seeing her peril, pulled his sword and lifted it high. (A skilled eye would have caught the influence of Klingon Operatic arts here in particular.) A swift stroke, a short struggle, and the sorcerer stopped moving.
The firebird flitted away, escaping his reach, but it wasn’t necessary. His body fell to the floor with a clangorous clash of cymbals and horns, sword in back.
Kachtchei was no more.
( Finale )
Quiet settled, and profound calm washed throughout the auditorium, only the hushed whisper of violins speaking in unified harmony accompanied the first pale yellows of dawn. Then, something even more unexpected: a soft carpet of grass came to life at the feet of the prince and the firebird, sprouting as if in fast-forward. As the light continued to rise, the reason became clear: the magician’s cursed machinations were burning away in cleansing fire.
The sun crested with the horn solo. As the curse lifted, the monsters transformed back into the women the prince had danced with. Now, instead of sickly pale, they were radiant and vital, wreathed in silver-laced white gowns. The firebird swooped over to the princess, still slumbering, and woke her with a gentle touch. She rose to the tune of the horn’s anthem, life and light spreading their foothold around her. The princess looked up to the firebird, then the prince, the first people she’d seen with her own sight in ages.
The princess took the prince’s hand, and the two danced for joy, united this time of their own volition by the soft violins. As they did, the other women regained their feet. The firebird roused them, her flute joining in the reverie, her magic accelerating the crescendoing return of their epic theme. Then, even the stone encasement of the knights began to crack and fall away, their cruel entombment finally coming to an end. The strings soared with full brass as the transformation gained speed and life returned.
The firebird took flight, and the knights and women paired off; the prince with the princess. She twirled about, flowers and trees of the glade returning to full leaf and blooming in the magical contrail she left behind. The plants clawed up the stone ruins as she danced and leapt for joy at life returning to the garden. Then, a true miracle came with the arrival of a new elevated key.
The old stonewall face crumbled away under the weight of the new greenery. The wrecked magician’s abode dissolved away with the chest-rumbling exaltations of the full orchestra. In their place, golden red walls erupted from the ground forming the pillars and vaults of a magnificent new palace. Beginnings erupted everywhere around the firebird and the royal court, exploding out into the depths of the forest, dispelling every trace of the defeated evil.
At long last, the orchestra halved their tempo and returned to the home key, giving shaking grandiose acclaim of the soon-king Ivan, and his soon-queen processing down the red-and-gold marble steps. The knights and maidens were their entourage, the firebird the symbol of their new peace and balance with nature. The firebird herself alighted, resting in the officiant’s place, tongues of flame on her feathers bearing witness to her rejuvenated power and spirit.
Brass blasted their final cadential pronouncement over heroic strings, the powerful vibrations moving the air inside the audience’s chests. The firebird anointed the prince as king and regent over the reclaimed lands with fire that spread across the stage. She placed a crown on his head, then the princess’. The new monarchs turned to the audience, and the orchestra swelled to its final climax. The final cymbal crashed, and the lights blinked off.
The story was over.
By the time the lights came back on for bows, Maria was herself again, though not entirely the same Maria. She was gracious, all smiles and gratitude for the crowds; friendly to every Gentii or crew who came up to her after the show, but everything after that last note turned into a surreal blur. Like there was still a piece of her still up on that stage. Still a piece of her that was the firebird. Maybe a piece of her that was still Quentin, too.
She lingered a long time into the night on the Gentii surface, even well after she’d taken the makeup off and changed into something far more comfortable. There were a great deal of “hows” and “whys” from new converts to modern ballet, all of which she answered thoughtfully. But eventually, they all left for home, exhausted from the days-long Bairiri. After the public left, she found herself saying her farewells to Eka, even giving him a tight hug he never expected. The look in his eyes as he said goodbye told her it would be a long time before he forgot this night.
Maria still couldn’t rest though. With the Bairiri hall emptied out and closed for the night, she found herself meandering the quiet streets of The Grand Central District, brilliantly lit by beautiful skyscrapers. Even though she was totally depleted, she couldn’t get free of the music or the rush of the performance. She had probably danced as well as her very best before she injured herself.
She wandered until she found a park with local late-night patrons indulging in the street-side carts under warm street lighting illuminating every step. A couple was making out on a bench, totally unaware of the alien not ten meters away. She strolled the path inwards until her toes were at the edge of a pond that reflected the city lights and stars back to her.
She closed her eyes, and found herself to still be humming the final theme. Her arms moved through the fluid motions on their own by pure memory, her body not ready to let go of the magic. A tear finally started to dribble down her face.
When she opened her eyes again, there was a woman watching at her, completely still. In the dim light, Maria saw that the Gentii was totally fascinated, even moved, by the scene.
Maria just smiled.
Ensign Maria Alvarez
Ops Officer, USS Arrow