Monday, 9 November 2015

Spaceman: The Cosmic Nightingale

The Opera

Back in the day, Oywei looked like yet another star in the sky from afar. It glowed with the gleaming excellence of it's illuminated cities. It was both literally and metaphorically a shining beacon to the rest of the Cosmos. 
It was no surprise that thousands flocked there. It was a luminary capital of finance, industry, art, invention and capitalism. Many tourist brochures didn't have a section devoted to Oywei, for two reasons. Reason One: It made everywhere else look dismal. Reason Two: Everybody was already going to go. To visit the Rust Cascade and not visit Oywei was to put on an oxygen tank and not inhale. Completely unheard of.
Of Oywei's thousands of enchanting settlements, the most famous was Oywei Major. It was renowned as the Capital of the Emperor's Continent. From the atmosphere by which you approached it, it was truly majestic. The tide of incredible architecture dipped and spiked like a longitudinal wave. Every tower gleamed; it's glass facade caught in the glare of the twin suns. Further down, if you were to trail between the feet of these structures, you would be amazed even more so. Your eyes would trace the buildings up, losing sight of them beyond the clouds, your mind would float away filled with paradise soaked images of your surroundings. During the day, everything seemed to shine. The permanently polished pavements shone in the Suns, the ships and space vessels zipping past shone in their beauty, the people shone in their incredible personalities. Every moment of contact with Oywei Major was seared upon the memory for the rest of your life. Every tantalising whiff of an exotic food, every snap of a foreign language enticing you to interest. Every sense was assaulted with beauty. But there was only one way to be assaulted by true sensory perfection. And that, was to visit the Opera.
The Orient was Oywei's premier opera house and Oywei Major's pride and joy. A stocky building, it didn't begin to compare architecturally to the divine structures around it. But it didn't need to. It held a content far more valuable than any of the interplanetary banks or vaults surrounding it did. It held the spark of imagination. It held the stuff of dreams.
That night, the Orient was holding one of the most revered operas in the Cosmos. The Cosmic Nightingalewas arguably the greatest masterpiece ever put to music. Critics flocked to every new performance like Moss Eagles to corpses. From across the Cosmos, Native and Settlers alike united to enjoy the three hour stage traffic. Gridded landing platforms extended from the Orient's roof, held aloft by well worn concertinas. Ships touched down, sometimes so heavily that the chauffeur was shouted at for spilling the owner's drink. Suited men with umbrellas escorted the customers across the roof, through the thin sheets of falling rain, towards the safety of the plush lounges above the central auditorium, to wait for the Royal Box to be fully cleaned.
Far below, wavering spotlights illuminated the thin rain. Men and women ran towards the revolving glass doors, their collars pulled up to keep their ties dry. Inside, they were greeted by Lobby boys and concierges, as well as a fresh pump of heat and plush velvet carpet. The reception room was circular, illuminating by a hovering chandelier. The heat from the hover engines warned the room and evaporated any rain brought in. The room began to pack tightly, until eventually the Royal Box had been cleaned and it was time to let the lower class in. They oozed through the wooden doors, down a brief corridor, into the main auditorium. A collective "Wow" arose.
The Auditotium was a giantic dome, curved and stretched in every imaginable respect. One side was taken up by the stage, currently hidden behind a cascade of Eden velvet. The other side was carved with staggered tiers, each holding hundreds of plush seats overlooking the rest. The walls, lit by a plethora of swinging chandeliers, were intricately carved with scenes from hundreds of infamous operas. A spotlight cast it's unwavering glow on a section of carvings depicting the Final Act of the Cosmic Nightingale. The people who didn't want spoilers tried to avoid it.
Finally everyone had taken their seats. The Royal Box was suddenly occupied by two wealthy oil barons. The husband commented to the wife that it was irritating nobody had stood to bow for them. The wife told the husband to shush, the show was starting. It truly was.
The heavy curtains drew apart, revealing the stage, cast in complete darkness. There was a beautiful silence for a moment, as the chandeliers in-illuminated gradually. Darkness took over and then, a piercing note of purest song. The voice quivered and wavered, a pitch so perfect and enchanting that the glasses of wine in every hand seemed ready to shatter. A thin beam of white light cut down from the top of the stage, casting the source of the note in an ethereal whiteness.
Inka László had already made a name for herself as the child star of much loved cult series 'Ginger Nut Girl.' Many had been worried that once she'd left the comfort blanket of kid's television and plunged into the dangerous universe of proper acting, she'd be left without a hope. How wrong they had been! Within her first season as a professional performer, she had released an old Earth Blues album, starred in two blockbuster films and won half a dozen awards. Some girls and some boys wanted to be her, some girls and some boys wanted to be with her. She was constantly referred to as the type of person that your grandparents would be honoured if you took her home. Her reply to that? She complained about the sexism of the subject and used it to launch her own feminist campaign. It was the first independent campaign the Federation approved in all the time it had been going so far. For a woman who'd only just entered the public eye, she was moving fast. None of those things, however, were her crowning success. Her crowning was success was, of course, the Cosmic Nightingale. And so it began.

The room was silent. That note carried on for longer than many knew were possible. Inka László stepped forwards. She looked incredible, a vision in gold and silver and a thousand other colours the eye couldn't quite comprehend. She was playing Rennie, a baroness trapped in a boring life of servitude and sewing, locked to the realms of her bedroom with nothing but the sight of the setting suns to entertain her. She dreamt of adventure. All the gossip rags agreed the role had been written for her. She declared her loathing for her solitude in the language of the Earthfolk, a strange mangle of words called 'Italican.' Her voice reached strange quivers and pitches that brought a tear to some of the audience's eyes, and an extra beat to the hearts of the rest.
She continued, turning her back to the large fake window on the right of the stage. She walked towards the left. As she did, a gigantic pirate ship swooped in. It hung on invisible wires inches above the stage, swinging back and forth with relative ease. The lights illuminating Rennie went out, and instead went to illuminate the ship. On board were a group of space pirates, rugged and angry with glorious beards and mock ups of swords which could cut through polycarbine. On their sides were mockups of the infamous FlintLock pistol, a type of collector's edition pistol that had two thousand produced but were all stolen in convoy from their factory planet to the distribution centre. They began singing, rougher and hoarser than Rennie had. Those who could speak Italican would know they were singing about how they needed a pirate clean. After a few moments, the lights cut back to Rennie. The orchestra played the same music but quieter and softer now. She sung of how she wished she could find adventure. She wandered across the stage to her desk, staring out of the window. 
The lights turned on revealing the pirates. Complete silence as the Captain and Rennie stared at each other. Their faces painted a picture. The audience burst into roars of laughter. 
Eventually, the laughter dribbled to silence once more. The conductor took a deep breath, nodded to the director and then motioned for the orchestra to began to play. Rennie ran backwards, singing of how she was scared. The pirate leapt through the window and to the floor, marching towards her and commanding her not to be scared. He sung of how he was a noble and valiant hero, of how he was an adventurer and a rogue. He lied and lied until even Rennie, who knew nothing of pirates, was sceptical. Then he invited her onto his ship.
The opera continued, with the music becoming more swashbuckling, louder and bolder. Rennie tumbled through the ship, pirates appearing from every direction. Their voices joined the chanting and soon the operatic echo was louder than the music it copied. And then, a stunning silence. Another ship had joined the already present ship, called the Cosmic Nightingale. The new ship was manned by Federation privateers, tasked with slaying all pirates with no hesitation. The pirates, thus, took it upon themselves to slay the Federation Privateers. 
As the battle took place, fake cannons were set off and signified by a splash of artificial lighting and a deep hit of the drums. Swords clashed and mockup FlintLock pistols were set off. The Captain, who had successfully wooed Rennie, swung on descending ropes from the atmospheric envelope of the Cosmic Nightingale to the other ship. The  commander of the other ship was none other than the son of the Emperor. Around him was a sea of warrior droids, played by giants from Falout. The Captain managed to take most of them out, but not the Emperor's son. He had lifted a gun and was pointed it towards the Captain when suddenly he dropped with a heavy thud. The spotlights depicting the rest of the fighting dimmed until all the audience could see were the Captain and Rennie. The orchestra flipped over their sheet music and began the next song. It was, arguably, the most famous of all the songs in the Opera. It was, of course, the song known as 'To Become A Pirate'
The Captain announced that Rennie had sworn her blood by saving his, that she had become one enemy of the Federation and thus a friend of the pirates. He made her vow and swear and give her life away. And then, in the second most touching moment of all, he kissed her upon the lips and told her that it was not all over and that she was a pirate now.
The pirates left the stage on their ships, taking the captured privateer ship with them. The Emperor of the Federation, who looked in no way whatsoever like the true emperor of the Federation, entered. He was rolled in on his throne, his court and his maids following him soon enough. The maids won the opera it's age limits with their clothing and the court with their words. In a deep tenor that threatened to carve itself into pure stone, the Emperor commanded recommence for his son. The privateers and generals in his court all bowed and offered their duties. None of their voices were near as deep as the Emperor's. As he spoke, his chair lifted higher and higher to emphasise his importance. Finally, the only line in the Eden Tongues, he announced, "Have the woman who killed him follow him to Niflheim and anyone who dare stand in your way sent with her!"
The court left the stage and the pirates entered. They were in the lower reaches of their ship, laughing and jesting and playing cards. Rennie was amongst them, every bit an equal to their merriment as she was to their occupation. She stepped forwards to the audience and allowed the men to quieten before  she began her soliloquy. She told the audience how she much preferred that life to the one she'd experienced before hand, and how she'd fallen in love. She explained that she was happy with an illegal life, as long as it was exciting. She announced that she was a free and happy woman now.
It was in that moment that the first fake cannon went off. The entire opera hall was meant to feel like it was caught in the blast, emphasised merely by the way all the actors fell to the floor. The Captain leapt back up and onto a table, drawing his sword and announcing they were at war.
Everyone, including Rennie, drew their weapons. The Empire Privateers and Warrior Droids marched on set and announced they were here to claim the monster which had slain the Emperor's son. Rennie was prepared to step forwards, but all the men stood in front of her. Their chanting voices created a shield, repeating over and over again that they would protect the girl with everything they had. And so, the fighting began.
In many adaptations of the opera, this scene was set to music known as the Ballad of War. It was, however, decided that in this production the scene would be completely silent apart from the clashing ring of the duelling swords. The ring and clash was the wood wind of scraping swords, and the explosion of guns and cannons was the percussion. The Ballad of War had never been a more fitting name.
The closing scene of the Ballad was the Captain's death. The Emperor's new heir, his daughter's husband, drew a bayonet through the Captain's chest. Rennie saw it from the other side of the stage. As the Captain fell, so did all the other pirates. The battle was instantly lost. 
The final scene was the most famous. The Death March, a famous piece of music, played at full volume as the Emperor read the list of Rennie's sins. The music grew louder and louder. Rennie was marched across the stage towards the steps up to the erected gallos in the centre. The dead of the play stepped out, chanting louder and louder. Rennie put her head into the noose. The cacophony grew louder and louder, the light brighter and brighter. The room seemed to be shaking with the build up of energy and power. Cutting through all the terrible chanting and pumping drums, Rennie's voice sang the death song. Louder and louder the music grew, but her voice piercing the veil of noise. 
The Emperor grabbed the lever, hoisting it back and then darkness, silence and the show was over.
A video camera in the corner relayed footage of the standing ovation to a ship beyond the enclosing atmosphere of Oywei. The man watching the screen smiled to himself and shouted, "Set course for the Orient."

Inka László gave the actor who played the Captain a grand hug and congratulated him on his excellent acting. "Oh, thank you, darling!" He cried in return. "Although, kissing yourself is always the hardest bit!"
She wandered one, not entirely sure whether he was kidding or not. She curved her way up a double helix staircase that ran almost parallel to the stairs leading from the Box. They circled up and up towards her dressing room at the very top of the Orient. She found it as she'd left it; a short narrow room with a dresser sat in front of the body length window. There was a button to the side of it that, when pressed, transformed the window into a mirror. She did that and began to get undressed out of her dirty costume. She picked up a tabard and a pair of leggings and pulled them on, settling into the chair in front of the mirror. She took a couple of pills from her desk to quell the headache currently forming in her. She absolutely loved performing in the Cosmic Nightingale, but the percussion did horrors to her health. After she'd quickly swallowed them, she sat back in her chair and breathed in and out, resting her vocal cords. 
She meditated for a good ten minutes, trying to rest her soul and body before she had to begin rereading her lines for the next performance. She breathed in and out, in and out, felt her blood circulating calmly. Then she stood up and pressed the button to turn the window back to the mirror. She went over to the set of drawers behind her, searching for her script. She'd read through it whilst the suns set. She found it exactly where she'd left it and went over to her chair sitting, back down again. What she saw wasn't the twin suns dipping below the horizon, but instead a pirate looking at her whilst stood on the gangplank of a pirate galleon.
She gulped.

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