A Night at the Operaby MeaPortia
Part 1 (2008)
Part 2 (2008)
Part 3 (2008)
Part 4 (2008)
Part 5 (2008)
Part 6 (2008)
Chapter 4Locke ran up the stairs and to the balcony that held the others. Since they hadn't actually paid for tickets, and the show had been sold out contrary to Locke's expectations, they were lucky to get these far away balcony seats. All Locke knew was that they felt millions of miles away from the dressing room. The other Returners sat in the front row of the balcony with the poorer folk who had managed to scrape up enough cash to take their significant other on a date to the opera.
"Hey brother," Locke heard Sabin whisper to Edgar, "why's everyone singing all the time?"
Locke hurried past them and gave the letter to the Chief. "Trouble," he said as the Chief read the letter and looked ready to pass out.
"Good heavens," the man moaned. "You have to do something! This is horrific!"
"What is it?" Edgar asked. "What's wrong now?"
A sudden triplet from the orchestra caused them to jump and look back at the stage. The waltz was over, the survivors of the West were recapturing Maria's castle, and the expression of relief on Celes' face couldn't all be part of her Maria act. The climax of the opera was two or three scenes away.
The Chief scanned the scene and pointed out at the catwalk, which was visible in silhouette from the balcony. "That thing's going to use that?!"
Locke followed where the man's finger pointed and saw a writhing form...pushing...a spare counterbalance?
"You've got to be kidding me," Sabin said. "Is that the octopus from the river? Didn't we kill it?"
"Apparently not," Edgar said, now serious. "But it will kill Celes if we don't hurry!"
The Chief nodded and pointed toward the right of the balcony. "Quickly! The remote locks to the catwalk are behind the door to the farthest right! You don't have much time!"
Locke, Edgar, and Sabin sprang up and fairly ran through the aisle toward the door. Locke, first of the three, reached the balcony's wing and threw open the red velvet drapes to reveal even more people seated and intently watching the show.
"Door, door," he muttered, "where's the door?"
"There!" exclaimed Sabin, prompting people to send glares and shushes toward the Returners.
Locke barreled through a row of seated patrons, leaving outraged gasps and dirty looks in his wake. "Scuse me, sorry about that, coming through, watch your toes, look out ma'am, pardon me!"
Edgar and Sabin followed closely after, offering somewhat more sincere apologies for the disturbance. They barged through the door and found a stagehand watching the opera below with a bored expression. He perked up when he saw the three newcomers.
"Hey, this is off-limits! If you're looking for the gentlemen's room-"
"Chief's orders!" Locke exclaimed. "We need access to the catwalk!"
"Look!" Locke pointed out at the catwalks and toward Ultros.
The kid looked horrified. "Is that...an octopus? Pushing a counterweight? How is it doing that? For that matter, how did it get there?" He looked toward the three Returners with the same horrified expression. "An octopus in The Dream Oath. Ye gods, now I've seen everything..."
Locke grabbed the kid's shoulder. "The catwalk!"
The stagehand shook himself out of his daze. "Right. Chief's orders, huh? Third switch on the right will get you over there. You'll have to pull it, it's too heavy for me."
Sabin laughed and pulled down on the switch. "Got any jars you want me to open while we're here?"
Locke barreled back out the door and again into the angry patrons, the Figaro brothers behind him. They stepped over and around a different row of patrons on their way out, including one older woman who must have recognized one of them by the odd look she gave them as they hustled past. The treasure hunter tossed back the velvet curtains, one of which caught Edgar in the face and showered him in dust, and ran across the balcony's main aisle back to the Chief.
A few ushers moved to intercept the three running men, but the Chief motioned the ushers off. He said nothing but pointed frantically at the left balcony.
"Up there!" Locke told Edgar and Sabin. "There's the door to the catwalk!"
They rushed up the side aisle and hurtled into another balcony wing full of paying customers. Instead of trying to pick his way through an aisle crowded with feet and bags, Locke ran between the first row and the balcony railing. As they received curious stares, Locke threw the door open and stared out at the maze of wooden planks and rope.
Images of the rope bridge where Rachel fell superimposed themselves over the reality of the catwalk. The dim light was almost the same as in that cave, and he imagined that he could see Rachel standing there smiling at him. Locke hesitated for just a second and then felt Edgar and Sabin both run into him, knocking him at least ten feet forward and to the floor of the catwalk. The boards and rope swung themselves from the momentum.
"Thanks," Locke said as he dusted himself off. "I'm going to be spitting sawdust for a week."
Edgar said nothing in response but stared at something above and past Locke's head. When Locke looked at him with a curious look, Edgar pointed upward. "We were right."
There in the roof of the opera house was a hole in the roof no bigger than two and a half feet wide.
Locke adjusted his bandana. "He's actually showing up."
"That," Sabin said as he slid his iron claw onto his right hand, "or this place really needs renovations."
"Told you they lost too much money to the burlesque theaters," Locke said. He unsheathed his knife and squinted toward the middle of the stage. "Is that Ultros there?"
"Is it an ugly purple octopus with bad teeth?" Edgar asked as he loaded his auto-crossbow. Then, to himself, he muttered, "Never thought I'd say that."
"Looks like it."
"That's Ultros then."
The three of them moved forward on the rickety catwalk, trying to keep their footing as their own movements caused the ropes to swing the boards holding them up. Every once and again, they'd step on a rat or two, making the rodent squeal and fall down to the stage.
One rat fell down below and onto an extra's cape. The poor man screamed and flailed as the panicked rat scrambled into his shirt and started running laps. The extra ran off-stage, shedding his costume all the while, as Ralse and Draco hurled insults at each other, some not entirely in-character.
"I take it back," Locke said as he gingerly made a left toward center stage. "This place might be more interesting if they keep making shows like this."
Edgar chuckled. "Barbarian," he said. "But I have to admit, this is the liveliest opera I've seen in quite some time."
"You actually go to stuff like this for fun?" Sabin asked as he punted a rat across the catwalk. As his brother nodded, Sabin grinned. "That's right, you probably take all your fancy dates here."
"I happen to enjoy the arts for the arts' sake. I'll have you know that there are some things in life more important than taking a beautiful woman out for an evening."
Locke and Sabin looked back at Edgar with disbelieving expressions.
"I haven't found them yet," Edgar admitted as they pressed onward, "but I'm sure they're out there."
At last they evaded the rats in the rafters and reached where Ultros was struggling against the counterweight. The octopus stopped suddenly and looked up at them.
"Long time no see," he said in his characteristic burbling voice. "Did you miss me? Huh? Huh?"
"Shut up already," Locke said as he pointed his knife at Ultros. "What do you think you're doing anyway?"
"Causing trouble, of course," Ultros said as he shot an arm out around Locke's ankle. The treasure hunter fell to the slippery catwalk and looked completely disgusted as his back was coated in slime from the octopus.
"Could have done without that," Locke muttered as he took a slice at the arm holding him. Ultros gave a yelp of pain and hurled himself at the treasure hunter, knocking the catwalk off-balance. The octopus was the first to slide off, followed by Locke. Edgar and Sabin tried to pull Locke back up to the catwalk without success; the momentum and weight of the younger man and the octopus was enough to pull all four of them off of the catwalk and send them down to the stage below.