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Ryoma Hoshino

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((Backstage, King Levin III Grand Opera House, Va'ku))

::Baale dipped a slender finger into a small ceramic pot containing a reddish paste. The paste was made from the crushed shells of a type of ocean arachnid. She brought her finger up and smudged a little paste on the prominences of her cheeks, rubbing it until it blended beautifully into her blue skin. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, turning her head from side to side, guiding a wayward lock of hair into its rightful place. Her long glossy black hair was fashioned into a towering sculpture, rivulets of which cascaded down onto her bare shoulders. She hooked large golden hoops to her ears, one for each lobe, and inserted her graceful arms through a string of gilded bracelets and bangles, some of which glittered and shimmered with embedded gemstones the color of the rainbow.

Pleased with what she saw in the mirror, she got off her stool and made one gentle turn on her dainty forefeet, her supple neck craning to catch her reflection as she did so. Her gown billowed out around her, suspended in the water. A creation of immaculate beauty, the coral-hued gossamer gown was a sight to behold. It covered her legs under a bell, tapering as it wound tightly around her waspish waist before flaring upwards to drape loosely over her small breasts. She smiled. She touched the heavy gemstones-laden shell-and-coral choker around her neck. Then her smile vanished. The gorgeous dress, the breathtaking jewelry, the awe-inspiring make-up and hairdo they were all not hers. They belonged to the state. To the men who ran the state. She was merely a character chosen to adorn these accessories for the night's performance.

She lifted the hem of the gown and swam out of her dressing room, making her way to the main stage through surprisingly lonely aisles and walkways, murmuring the words to the aria she was about to deliver. She was calm and composed, having done this many, many times before. She was gifted with an exceptional voice, a melodious, hypnotic, soul-stirring voice. The men paid good money to come to see her perform every fortnight. That was her purpose, she reminded herself, to please the men in any way she possibly can. She could begin to hear their rushed and coarse voices even now, as she neared the stage. Lascivious voices, teasing and taunting and impatient.

A figure swam hurriedly up to her from a side aisle.::

SIMOUX: ::loud whisper:: Baale!

BAALE: ::startled:: Simoux! ::looking around anxiously:: What are you doing here? You are supposed to be at the mill. It's your shift!

SIMOUX: Oh Baale! ::She clasped the woman's shoulders in her partially webbed hands.:: I come bearing sorrowful news.

BAALE: What is it? ::Her heart rate quickening.:: What news? ::She wasn't entirely certain if she wanted to receive it to begin with.::

SIMOUX: The elder women from the center have been summoned to your father's house. Three of them. Tonight.

::Her heart sank to unfathomable depths. For a moment she honestly thought she had died. She felt nothing. Nothing the warm ocean water caressing her skin. Not the beautiful soft dress hugging her body. Not the enticing lights and music beckoning her to the stage. Three female elders summoned to her father's house. When that happens it only means one thing and one thing only. She was to be married off. And by the next reversal of the nebula's magnetic poles.::

SIMOUX: I am so sorry, Baale.

::Baale's lips quivered when she tried to force a smile. Her shaking hands gently held her friend's and coaxed them off her shoulders. She squeezed Simoux's hands in hers. A tear threatened to spill from her eye.::

BAALE: Lom.. .. ::Her voice choked.::

SIMOUX: I can't get word in. The launch site is too heavily guarded. ::She started shedding tears. If not for herself, for her friend. It was the very least she could do at the moment.:: I will try again when this cycle ends.

BAALE: No! It's too dangerous! Don't do it, Simoux. I can't bear to lose you. ::She turned her face away to hide a falling tear.::

SIMOUX: ::turning her friend's face back to her:: Don't cry, Baale. You're going to ruin your make-up. ::She carefully wiped away the stray tear and perfected the rouge once more.::

BAALE: Do you know.. ::voice choking again:: who he is?

SIMOUX: ::shaking her head:: No. But I heard it's someone important. Someone very high up in the state. ::Her voice trailed off and she bowed her head.::

::A gong sounded above them.::

BAALE: I must go now. They are calling me. Thank you, Simoux. ::She kissed her friend on both cheeks.:: Now go! Before you get caught.

SIMOUX: Oh Baale.. ::Then she swam away, vanishing down a darkened aisle.::

::Baale inhaled deeply, expanding her chest and collecting her whit and thought. She blinked back another rebel tear threatening to fall. She hoisted the hem of her gown once again and swam upwards. Upwards through a square cutout that led directly onto the wooden stage. She was blinded by the bright lights, just the way she liked it, so that she needn't peer into the lubricious eyes and salivating mouths of the hoards of males spilling over themselves in lust and desperation, spilling out of the ornate viewing boxes and gaudily gilded seats, competing to catch a glimpse of the exquisite soprano.

She waited until the rowdy crowd quieted down before opening her lips to begin singing. This part of the aria was a solo with no musical accompaniment. Her voice was both hypnotic and haunting. She sang the tale of two star-crossed lovers, whose fates conspired against them to keep them forever apart. In the end, only Death could bring them together.

This tale she sang with all her heart. An irremediably broken heart.::



Baale Adaali

Va'ku Breeding Center

as simmed by

LtCmdr Raj Blueheart



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