Beauty Of The Blue Clad
rating: +3+x

The scraping of an ornate, white chair against a simulated marble floor stops when a dark blue hand with polished black nails and loose gold bracelets lets the front half of the chair down. A small metal box with protruding metal boxes floats steadily over a glassy white table in front of two blue eyes absent-mindedly staring into the distance. The metal box stops over an empty mug held by another hand—this one with deep indigo nails and jeweled silver bangles. The blue eyes close, push, and open again. Gold bracelets clink together softly as a defined chin finds rest. The metal box makes a whirring sound, and a dark brown liquid churns out. Steam rises from the mug. "Audala," says a polished, tired voice, "fifty-four milliliters of hazelnut cream."

"Audala, I want my hair curly today. Oh, and make it silver to match the outfit for the show tonight." A metal band in the shape of a semicircle floats silently down. It presses softly against lush, glittery blue hair, then moves forward and down, following the shape of the head. It separates length-wise. The first band pushes four short blue-purple tentacles at the crown of the head aside, while the second rotates to face the convex side to the hair. Thin metal strips descend into the hair, turning it silver where they touch. The band makes a beeping noise, then quickly rushes through the remaining meter of now-silver hair, which slowly starts to curl. Two beeps are made in quick succession, and the two bands recombine, then float up to the ceiling.

Blue eyes watch the window of stars slowly rotate. "Audala, execute command 'Morning Greeting'."

"Hello, Vallian," says a pleasant female voice. Vallian takes a small part of her hair and begins braiding it. "Today is the seventeenth of Rakuil. The weather is warm on Vanaria B-7, and it's going to be a wonderful morning for you! We expect just over four hundred million guests at tonight's venue, as well as over two hundred twenty-three trillion viewers across Carthara! You look dazzling as always, and I'm sure you'll—"

"Audala, end command. Also, lower 'energetic' by 10 points." Vallian clicks together a silver clasp to lock her braid. She plays with the green gemstone attached to it for a moment before putting her arm down on the table. "Audala, begin audio log to Doctor Alloet."

"Tangai yjuseppa, doctor. I tried the breathing exercises you recommended—they work—but I feel I'm being affected more frequently the closer I travel to B-7. I don't want to suffer the way my last producer had, what with his wife and the pills… Do you suppose another remedy could be more effective? And in regards to… that… I still can't say her name. Sincerely, Vallian. Audala, end log."

Vallian stays silent for a few minutes, staring into space. Her vessel shifts into view a vast terrestrial planet. She can just see the horizon from here. Vanaria B-7 shimmers in white starlight, the green and purple land coming to life under Vanaria B. Vallian can almost feel the crystal clear waters of B-7's Leathuan Ocean coursing over her when she looks down at it. She stands and walks away from the window.

A plain white door slides aside. Vallian steps in, taking a seat on a thin, violet comforter. Pressing her hand against the semi-transparent blanket, she takes a breath and looks at the mirrored wall at the head of her bed. She takes a deep breath, then mutters, "It can only get better."

She removes her jewelry, placing each polished ring gently into their positions in a carved wooden drawer at her bedside. "Audala, close the shutters, dim the lights," says Vallian. She crawls onto her bed and lays close to herself.

The metal blinds begin to close. They shudder in a low echo simultaneously, and the lights dim and redden in a simulation of night. Vallian glances up, curious, when a call signals from Audala. She answers by picking up a small glass device. Blue light shines on her face, pressing away the red ambience into the shadows around her head. "Yjuseppa." She smiles at the screen.

"Tangai yjuseppa, Vallian," says a voice, soft and plain. "Apologies for calling inconveniently. I'm just letting you know that Kakkanos obtained the court statements from Lord Tymellia's record vault."

"Don't worry, Nilet, you're a sweetheart. You wouldn't mind sending those to me, would you?"

"It's been long. Kakkanos wants to see you just as well as I do. Wouldn't you rather enjoy our company? Additionally, it is safer to give you these documents physically."

"You make a point. Unfortunately, I'll be busy preparing for my show, besides… It's not like the Cartharan police would investigate me, the amount they get paid."

"The amount you pay them, that is, Vallian. You're correct there. I suppose I'll have to let you go this time."

"Thank you. Come see my performance tonight, Nilet. It would be nice."

"Perhaps I will."

The blue light cuts, leaving Vallian in dim red. Her smile leaves her, and she gets up from the edge of her bed. Audala notifies, "You have received a file from Nilet."

Vallian looks at her glass device, then puts it aside. She taps the mirrored wall twice, and a portion of it sinks into the surface. The doorway moves aside for her. A light turns on in the closet. She pulls out a stationary article of clothing, completely silver, and it animates, falling into her hands. "Audala, turn the lights up," she says. The red lights shift into orange, brightening.

Vallian plays with her curls and moves her hands up and down a matte silver dress that clings to her. She steps towards the mirror, too close to see her whole self. Reaching up, she feels two thin rough patches on her cheeks, scar tissue from Nilet's surgery. Then, she sits back down. "Audala, if we left now, how long would I have on the surface?"

"Three hours. Four if we take immediate warp action to the surface."

"Audala, direct the three hour course." She brings her glass device to her lap. Blue emanates from it once again. "Thank you, Nilet. And Kkanos," she whispers to herself, sliding her fingers across the screen.

The floor rumbles, signaling entry. Vallian hears a faint whistling from outside the vessel. She reaches for her glass device, loosening her safety strap to reach it. "Audala, play statement 17GY-T62N-QRA1," she says.

Audala adds a click to the beginning of the audio. A voice slightly higher than Vallian's says bitingly, "Yes, I was there when the airlock was breached. I watched him disappear from the control panel. He was neglectful, self-righteous, harsh… He got what he deserved."

"-QRA2, please, Audala…"

Click. Gratingly, "I killed him… Two weeks ago, I was out doing juvenile things—you know how us Bexxakeci are. My father called me inside. I tried to disagree with him, but he insisted, reminding me about her. See? I can't even mention her name anymore. It makes me change my words. Certain phrases, certain names. Do you see these things inside me? You can, can't you? You can."

Vallian puts the device down and sits still for a moment. "Audala, call Nilet." She leaves the device on her nightstand. When Nilet answers, she says softly, "Stay silent. I've been thinking about it more and more lately. Leca'atta would never have done something like that. She loved father more than I did. Not to mention that things were going well for her. She was about to study theatre… just like me. She was better than me, you know."

Vallian moves but stays silent for a few moments. She slides her finger across glass. "My mother also made testimony. She was on the same ship." She taps the glass.

Loud sobbing plays, and a broken voice mutters, "I still can't believe it. I still can't believe it. I still can't believe it."

"Sorry. No. No. No. Audala. Play -QRB1."

In almost monotone, a voice with great posture says, "I watched it all. He was in the airlock when Leca'atta intentionally malfunctioned the mechanism. Vallian was up in the star room, playing with her Dieket toys. He was gone instantly and without a sound. I would only hope it not painful for him. To be more concise, Leca'atta killed her own father."

"My mother always adds extra details when she lies. Later on, she mentions something that I don't fully understand. Audala, -QRB7 and 8."

Click. "Kileagh is not part of my family. Leca'atta is not part of the Elae Seraun. She has vocal censors, the same as Vallian." Another click, and the voice says more aggressively, "No family member of mine is involved with a group like that. What's your name? I'll have you discharged."

"I don't know anyone by the name of Kileagh," says Vallian. She is met with silence. "Nilet, you can talk now. I want you to help me… size up the situation."

"Vallian, I'm more surprised than anything. I didn't think you'd be and to go through them and listen. Do you believe that she didn't kill him?"

"Yes, yes. I know my family well. Do you think I could be right?"

"I can't say so, no. Your argument sits on an intuition about your mother. You haven't seen her in years, have you? Vallian, you should visit Kakkanos and I."

"Perhaps you're right… It's been nice calling, Nilet."

A long buzz erupts in the ship, and Vallian's safety strap unclips. She feels the weight of home.

"Kkanos, I'm glad to see you're in good health." Vallian says to a red scaled person about a meter taller than her. A man covered in braided metal cords and black plastic plates sets a chair right behind Vallian. She sits down, and he pushes the chair forward. "Thank you, Nilet," she says, turning her head toward him.

"I'm always in good health," Kakkanos roars energetically, filling the large chamber with voice. "I'll remind you that Nilet is state of the art, and he belongs to me, Valleen."

"And in good humor as well, Kkanos."

"Hm." Kakkanos smirks with a long, jagged mouth, then places a hand quickly to rest on the arm of a beige porous rock chair. Meanwhile, the other hand rests on the knee of that side. Kakkanos' mouth curls down to its resting position. "I have reason to believe you are in danger, Valleen. Know that I tell you of this in friendship. I cannot watch you go on stage today," Kakkanos says, containing his energy.

"The Elae Seraun? Bexxaket terrorists?"

"Yes, Valleen. I am surprised that you would know already."

"I just had a feeling they would appear. I found something out, Kkanos, and I'm going to see Leca'atta today, after the show."

"It has been a long road for you two. I suspect you will need help. And you won't be cancelling the show, will you?"

"Of course not. I bought something for myself. It was a bit of a paranoid purchase, but…"

She backs out of the room for a moment and returns with a silver gauntlet. She pulls it over her arm. A low hum emanates from it when she pulls back a lever on the inside of it. Then, in a moment, thin diamond plates unfold from the design of the gauntlet, stacking vertically until they reach from the edge of Vallian's feet to just over her head. The entire mechanism vibrates and hums. Little electric snaps occur momentarily before Vallian shuts it off.

"Leaning into Cartharan equipment recently?" says Kakkanos. "I can not blame you. Top of the line nowadays."

"It helps my image, too. I'll be going now, or I'll make myself late," says Vallian.

"Perhaps you would enjoy the sweet taste of a balsaberry with us? I grew them here," says Kakkanos, standing up from the chair and maneuvering swiftly to Vallian for such a large thing. "He said that balsaberry was your favorite, after all, Valleen."

"I suggest violet cream to go with it. But I'm afraid I can't stay for long—perhaps just one will do." Kakkanos grins at this. "Balsaberry is my favorite, after all, Kkanos."

Kakkanos leaves the room. Nilet remains motionless, while Vallian rocks in her thoughts. After a brief silence, he asks, "Did the Elae Seraun kill Lord Joli?"

"It's just Joli, Nilet… No, father… The Elae Seraun would never kill their own. I know that much."

Kakkanos charges gracefully into the room with a plate of juicy red balsaberries in one hand and a small table in the other. "I looked for the violet cream, but we have none. I apologize, Valleen," he quietly bellows.

"No, it's okay. I think I have to leave now, anyways. I'll take just one." She picks up a balsaberry with the whole of her hand, but it slips out of her grip and onto her dress.

A crowded mass of people, most of whom do not know each other, are turned, talking to those who they arrived with. Concentric rings of chairs descend in steps around a small flat platform, stretching up, far away, for further than the eye can see normally. Above, two additional auditoriums hover, also in discussion. Large transparent panels seem to telescope in to the same center stage sit in front of each row. Then, the audience disappears.

The night turns silent, as the world realizes its utter darkness. The lights had been shut off, but it seems that the stars in the sky have as well. A silver spark shines brightly for a moment from the center. Small orange spotlights shine up at the source of the spark from the perimeter of the stage, where Vallian stands, alone.

Vallian lifts her head and watches the audience, her expression blank. She can feel the crowd watching her, as she raises her arms in tune with low drums beating. Blue eyes search to the far left and right, as the orange lights hazily twist with shaded silhouettes of a million sisters peering overhead. Vallian hears the sound of her voice singing the Cartharan anthem of royalty, the first of fourteen songs for the night. As she finishes, the crowd cheers.

The silver gauntlet activates with the turn of a switch. A violet streak of light dissipates upon contact with the silver shield. She slams her foot into the ground, opening a trapdoor, which she throws herself into by her feet.

The tunnel is unlit and precariously floored, with obvious black pits in the metal paneling that become obscured by the darkness. Smooth, tanned hands with red-scaled backs appear suddenly in front of a small orange light.

"Valleen, follow me," says Kakkanos, turning around and shining the light down a small maintenance passage. Wires hang loosely in various shades of black lit orange. They both walk cautiously.

"I know how to get out of here," she replies in a trembling whisper. She leaves the silver gauntlet activated, and it crackles sporadically in the dark with dim gold sparks. Vallian watches the arches of Kakkanos's back to predict where the tail is sweeping while looking ahead.

The soft brown fabric around Kakkanos's body makes a quiet brushing sound against itself with each bounding step.

A tiny strand of light peers over the edges of what seems a door frame. Kakkanos wastes no time opening it, revealing a city drenched in lights and rain far above the ground. Vallian deactivates the gauntlet and steps across a wide gap from the door to an open vessel hovering as close as it safely can. It sinks slightly as she steps in, then rebalances itself once she sits down in the backseat. Nilet sits just in front of her, driving. As soon as Kakkanos closes the door, they take off down into the depths of the streets.

Silently, a slab of grey metal slides into a similarly colored wall. Vallian walks forward. Glossy blue rings adorn her crown tentacles. Blue hair flows down her back freely. Her shoulders drift fore and back evenly under thick pale blue sleeves that connect across her back and the top of her torso. Black rings connect a darker transparent veil that drifts down her back to her knees. Cloudy blue frills dance and jumble around her stomach, while underneath a nearly violet dress hugs her gently.

On the opposite end of the hall, another sliding door moves aside. Two guards, helmeted and clad all in grey, precede a figure dressed in cheap white silk. The garment folds over her neatly, held together at her side by a single silver clasp. "Hello, sister. You've grown," she says coldly. "But you look just like you did." Leca'atta's marble-like, translucent skin pulls her cheeks up toward her black eyes. She steps forward to meet Vallian, placing her hand against a crystal clear panel. "It's you, right?" Vallian remains silent, but places her hand against Leca'atta's and looks just below her face, to the narrow streaks of dark violet that run under her skin from her cheeks to her chest.

"It's been so long. Leca'atta…" Vallian shuffles closer to the panel, looking down and away from her sister.

"I almost denied the request to come see me."

"Oh, so you did?"

"Why are you here?"

"I've come to ask about Kileagh."

"Do you not have time to talk to me? … You wouldn't remember her. She was our sister. You were born, and then she…" Leca'atta looks away from Vallian. "She died in the Bexxaket incinerators." Her eyes drift back to her sister's face. Vallian's lip trembles, and her eyes look over Leca'atta harshly. Leca'atta's throat glows soft violet, up into her cheeks. "I saw you, you know. You did well. Better than I ever could." Slowly, they began to soften, and Vallian seemed to relax.

"Leca'atta, I want you out of here. I don't want you to have to use silly names like incinerators anymore."

"It's been a long, long time, Vallian. I don't want you to trouble yourself like that. Please, just enjoy your success. Let your sister waste away in here. Where she's safe. Not happy, but safe."

Vallian sees a faint reflection of herself in front of her sister. She looks at her sister more closely. "Have you been w—" The transparent slate turns black in an instant.

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