Title: Code: Project Aurora
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Just using these very fine characters for my own dastardly deeds.
Warning: EXTREME violence and gore.
She dreamed of a theatre, all big and curved high ceiling decorated with intricate spirals and cherubs that wore gold leaf and crowns of daisies. Cupid was there and looked glorious as he held his bow and arrow at a pair of star-crossed lovers with an ocean between them.
The balcony boxes were filled with the upper crust and while the light lay dim, she could make out the gowns worn by the noble ladies. Pearls shone iridescently and diamonds sparkled, silk gloves covered their graceful arms from finger to elbow. They were all magnificent in their splendour and clapped quietly, appropriately, so as not to detract from the performance about to begin.
Her eyes tracked a pillar and tried to read the writing, but it was no use. Not enough light and the pillar was so far away from where she sat, down in the front row. On the floor and far away from the nobility.
All the rear rows at the back were full and she could see each and every one of them. Zombies swayed with decay and atrophy, while the Tyrants stood indestructible in their determination. Dogs played roll over with the lickers, and the puppies were without fluff and fur but groomed themselves regardless.
The rows grew emptier the closer they got to the stage, and the people differed. Luxury and opulence didn't exist down here on the floor and nobody wore the finery of the nobility. Such things were not meant for those on the floor.
They were sombre in their attire. Suits of charcoal and dark grey, with unpolished shoes and aged skin that wrinkled from a lack of elasticity. There were no black suits, of course, and the gowns were muted shades of berry and wine. They were all the same down here and it was okay.
Of course it was okay. Let the nobility look at us in disgust. She wasn't here to see them anyway. She was here to see somebody else.
Somebody whose name was whispered behind hands and fans alike. Somebody who catered to all crowds because the nobility couldn't keep her out of reach. Somebody who couldn't be controlled by anyone or anything.
One Night Only, they said.
Just for you.
So here she was, in a theatre that was as packed as it was empty and her eyes turned to the stage. How exciting it was to be here and to see that lone microphone stand tickled her senses and she knew this was to be spectacular because nobody breathed.
They all waited, just like she waited. Everyone on the edge of their seats until a low murmur moved through the crowd.
The curtain began to rise.
The wait was over.
A hush swept through and this was it.
This was history in the making. One night only and just for her.
Claire shook in her boots and inched forward in her seat, her knuckles white from the force of her grip on the arms. God, but it was too much, and she had waited forever for this.
And there she was.
Hair blonder than blonde that fell in rolled waves down to sculpted shoulders and she was so beautiful. It hurt to look at her, but Claire looked anyway and was mesmerised by the quiet power that emanated from the slip of a woman.
"Ooooh..." Went the monsters.
"Booo..." Went the nobility.
The Lady walked forth, she smiled as her arms gracefully opened in a welcome that warmed Claire right through to her very bones.
"I thank you all for coming, my beautiful audience. Now, my dears." The Diva looked at each one of them in turn, but not the nobility. Never the nobility. "I was to perform Queen of the Night aria, but there appears to be a change of plan. I hope you will forgive this creature."
The nobility clapped and whooped with delight, and Claire glared up them, appalled by their total disrespect.
"How can you be so ungrateful?" Claire stood, gaze on them up there. The upper crust. "This performance is one night only. A special performance just for me. So just... Sit down and shut up."
That told them.
If she only had one of her guns, then she could really teach them some damned manners.
Then she realised as she stood there, both hands on her hips, that she had also interrupted the Diva, and oh. Oh. Talk about a helluva faux pas to make.
Claire tried to make it right. "Just... Well. That's all I wanted to say."
She had been noticed now and she could see the Diva's attention wholly on her.
The silence hurt more than when she'd been shot the first time.
"Come here. I wish to look at you." The Diva gestured to her right. "Do hurry up, dear. I've not got forever."
Laughter murmured from the monsters and the nobility hissed and booed. Quieter this time, but loud enough to be heard.
"Me ?" Claire licked her arid lips as she subtly glanced around. Made a point to ignore the noble crowd. They just weren't worth her time. "Why? I'm nothing special. I'm just Claire. Claire Redfield."
"Then approach me, Just Claire Redfield." The Diva was everything gracious.
"I'm here." The spotlight made her eyes hurt. "It's wonderful to meet you, Madame. Really."
Amusement sparkled deep in the glacier blue eyes of the Diva. “An honour for us both, I believe. I have much gratitude for you, dear.”
Heat burned her face just enough and Claire gave herself a quick fan with her hands.
"Now.” The Diva beamed out at the monsters and ignored the nobles. “Answer me this, Just Claire Redfield. If a red house is built with red bricks, a blue house is built with blue bricks, and a black house is built with black bricks. What is a greenhouse made from?"
The riddle was a surprise, sure, but she knew the answer well enough. “Glass.” Claire nodded, so sure. “A greenhouse is built from glass.”
"Well, you do have something between your ears, Just Claire." The monsters roared this time and the nobility hung their heads. "A plane is flying across East and West Germany when both engines cease to work. The plane unfortunately crashes. Where are the survivors buried? East Germany or West Germany?"
She knew this answer, too.
"You don't bury survivors." The round of applause from the audience was mind blowing and elation ballooned in her chest to leave her breathless and wide-eyed. A child on Christmas morning. She gave her very best curtsey to acknowledge the audience. Her audience. The Diva’s audience.
"I know a good one." Claire flashed her best and brightest smile at their audience. Purposely turned her back on the nobility.
The Diva arched a regal eyebrow. "Do you indeed? I will hear this riddle from you, Just Claire."
She would? It was one thing to be invited on stage with The Diva, but this? This was something else. Okay, okay. Deep breaths. Don't fuck this up and turn into Woody Woodpecker or Porky Pig. This was it. This was her big moment and she would ace the fucker or die trying.
Time to drum up some anticipation. "Are you ready for it? Okay, here it is... Rich men want it, poor men have it, and we die when we eat it."
Only silence this time and it stretched Claire's nerves tight as could be as she stood there, under the Diva's shrewd scrutiny.
Tried to cover her blunder. "I see we have a tough crowd here tonight."
The noble ones laughed and cackled, but the monsters stood silent.
Those bottle blue eyes went from her old combat boots all the way up over her worn jeans and a stained tank top. The Diva spoke not unkindly. "Is that what you are, Just Claire? Nothing?"
Elation turned to concrete in her stomach and it began to weigh her down. Down back into the empty front row centre stage seat.
"What? No!" Claire defied gravity to stay where she was and that pull on her feet grew stronger, harder, yet still, she resisted. Dug in her heels and glared at the Diva.
"I don't understand? You invited me up here and you're pushing me back down? You want to make up your damn mind, lady. I'm no-one's doll."
"You said it yourself." Diva's words inspired laughter from the audience. "You are nothing, and because you are nothing, nothing is what you eat. Ha!"
Gravity began to loosen its grip. "The hell I'm nothing." Claire rolled her shoulders and met the Diva's gaze without a flinch. "You hear me, lady? Find someone else to be your damned puppet."
Diva nodded in approval. "There is hope for you yet, Just Claire Redfield. I suppose you will do."
"I will, huh?" Claire cocked her head in a way that made the monsters cheer. On her side again, were they? Good. The nobles could keep their mouths shut, too. She didn't need the likes of them .
"Now, do be a dear and wake up. Put an end to this wretched nonsense."
Claire felt her own lips curve and curl and she smiled a crocodile’s smile. "Putting an end to wretched nonsense is what I do best."
And just to finish off, she bowed deep to the noble ones and slowly straightened just enough to see her brother’s face disappear behind tragedy.