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 6Locke's boots slipped around on the newly-slick stage, courtesy of whatever slime Ultros had brought with him. He put his knife back into its leather holder as the octopus fled, soundly beaten for the second time. Sporadic cheers and applause broke out and he slid back to where Celes was standing.
"Nicely done," he told her as she broke out in a smile. He took her hand suddenly and raised it to his lips as if to kiss it.
Everyone on stage looked up for the source of the shout, and a stagehand turned a carbon arc spotlight up to the rafters. Descending dangerously fast from the hole in the roof was a man holding onto a rope, one foot balanced in the nape of a blunted industrial hook. He tossed a merry salute to the audience, prompting cheers as they thought that it was all part of the show.
"It was a superb show, a little out of the ordinary, but I'll be taking Maria now. I'm a man of my word, Chief!"
Celes looked up at the man who had to be Setzer Gabbiani, the Wandering Gambler. His face, heavily scarred and almost bloodlessly pale, sported the most self-satisfied smirk that she'd ever seen. His silver hair and black coat billowed around him as he reached the stage -
- And before she knew it, she was spinning in his arms, gasping in surprise, growing dizzier and dizzier. Someone pulled her in close and then she felt herself ascending. Her feet found stable ground on Setzer's feet and she had no choice but to hold tightly to him.
"Don't worry, Maria my dear," he said as he looked up. They passed through the hole in the roof and the airship, silhouetted by the moon, came into view. "We'll be back on something solid shortly."
"Where are you taking me?" Celes managed to gasp out, no longer playing the part of Maria. She wished they would stop ascending so quickly - she'd never been much for heights.
"Up, right now," Setzer said, his voice still full of cheerful bravado. "After that, you'll just have to see."
A wave of vertigo rushed over Celes as she watched the opera house shrink ever smaller and smaller. She buried her face in something and found - much to her dismay - that she had chosen Setzer's coat. He was surprisingly warm and had obviously used some kind of musky cologne before pulling his stunt.
"And here we are," he said a few moments later as they came to a bone-jarring halt. "Knew that trip to South Figaro would be worth it," the gambler said as Celes looked up. The smirk had changed to a waggish smile of delight stamped all over his heart-shaped face. He gave her a little nudge toward the lip of the deck. "Step up," he told her. "And welcome aboard the Blackjack!"
A crewman took her hand and helped her up before joining a small group of his fellows. Setzer leapt from the hook and landed on the deck next to Celes. As soon as he gained his balance, he took her arm in his and led her over to where the crewmembers had assembled.
"Boys," he said grandly, "meet Maria. She'll be staying with us a while. Maria, meet my crew. If you want anything, just let one of them know."
The crewmembers nodded or smiled politely, and then Celes felt herself being whisked off again. "I'd give you the grand tour right now," Setzer told her as they passed through a private casino, "but we do have a schedule to keep and your admirers to elude. I'll show you around in a little while."
"Wait," Celes said, stumbling over her feet in trying to keep up with the gambler, "are you insane?"
"Only with adoration for you, my dear," Setzer said affably as he opened the door to a small lounge. "You'll have my undivided attention in a bit. In the meantime, there's a nice view there in case you want to say goodbye to Jidoor."
He herded her into the room and shut the door behind him, locking her in. Celes gave a few token pounds on it for good measure, and then a smile spread across her face. Everything had gone according to plan so far.
She did decide to take a look at the view. Jidoor was actually quite pretty at night, Celes decided as she dropped a rope Locke had given her down the viewport.
The actors, crew, and audience watched as another rope dropped down from the hole in the roof. The smallest of the three non-actors, the one who had declared himself "Locke Cole, the world's premier adventurer," was the first to latch onto it.
"There's the signal," he called to his companions as he began to climb it. "Let's go commandeer an airship!"
The biggest man jumped on the rope after removing iron weapons from his hands and the last man - who bore a startling resemblance to the King of Figaro - followed soon after. They waved goodbye to everyone else as they ascended through the hole in the roof and vanished from sight.
There was absolute dead silence all throughout the opera house for several seemingly-unending heartbeats.
Suddenly, all as one, the audience rose up and cheered.
The actors on stage looked from one to another for guidance. After a few surreal moments, Draco took the first bow, followed shortly by Ralse. The cast formed a line and took their bows, the Chief joining in after a moment since he was still on stage. They slipped and slid around in the goo left by Ultros, some of the extras losing their balance in the process of exiting.
The Chief took a final bow and gestured toward the orchestra, which also received raucous cheers and applause. "Part II will be along shortly," the Chief called over the applause, "in which you'll learn the fates of Maria, Locke, Setzer, Draco, Ralse, and the others. Be sure to buy your advance tickets at the box office!"
The red velvet curtain swung closed across the stage and the opera impresario promptly fainted.