The long, dark fingers of night slowly laced over Corsivin’s eastern hemisphere and enveloped the planet’s capital city of Starrypond. As the last slips of light faded from the sky, the city nearly buzzed with excitement. For three days (local days of twenty-nine hours), shuttles had traveled back and forth between a large field on the edge of the city and a titan class freighter, holding in orbit. Not only had Cooper’s Grand Traveling Menagerie and Circus returned to the planet, after fours years but tomorrow (May 15th standard calendar), was Crown Princess Kathleen’s sixteenth birthday.
Every hotel, inn and spare room, even in the royal residence, was packed with citizens pouring in from every nook and cranny. It was getting so bad that people were reduced to sleeping in parks and on street benches. The fresh water sea, upon whose shore the city was built, seemed to be covered with boats of all makes, each jostling the others for a spot closer to the beaches or for space to launch their small craft, so that they might row to the land for the parties.
Cooper Smith slowly brought his strange eyes, which resembled pools of liquid silver, down from the sky. He had been trying to pick out the running lights of his ship, The Traveler
but now glanced around the camp. It was setup in the circus’s normal fashion. Ringing the edge of the field, was a line of energy barrier generators, which served the duel purpose. On the one hand, they kept anyone who hadn’t paid to get a pass out. On the other, they were projecting advertisements for what was inside and effective blocked any free shows. Now these weren’t the newest and greatest tech in the Core and your command street punk should have been able to get through them with only a little trouble but they were a marvel out here in the Belt.
Moving back from the front of the barrier, where the gates were place, sat rows and rows of cages. One side on each cage was made from an energy barrier, much like what was lining the field but it was clear, allowing visitors to peer inside at the many strange and wonderful animals. It also allowed the animals to stare back at you. Many of them would make multiple attacks on the barrier in the weeks to come, as the masses shuffled past, taunting the beasts with their freedom.
Then came the ranks of vender stands. Some travel with the circus, plying the crowds with exotic food or games of chance and skill. Others were locals who had bargained with the ringmaster, promising portions of their profits from local favorites, knowing that the next month might make or break them. The money they could make from this event could outweigh a decade of working more local carnivals and holidays. Those that had traveled to this world, did stand to make a pile of money but knew that the exchange rate from the local currency to the international credit to eat way that amount.
Beyond the cages and venders, stood the main attraction. A trio of brightly stripped tents, the largest in the middle and flanked on either side by lesser tents. In there would the human and alien performers of the circus amaze the crowd or reduce them to fits of laughter. Once the night fell, the tents would be divided, as the freaks came out to play and the more exotic or erotic entertainers would take over. A wonderland for those who kept to the oldest forms of showmanship.
Behind the main attraction were tents belonging to the performers, roustabouts, lighting crews, cooks and the venders. There was also a kitchen and mess tent, ready to feed the battalion and keep them going. There were also storage units, for props and dividers. Corrals and cages for the beasts in the animal acts, which were connected to tubs leading into the main tents, stood in patient rank.
Cooper made small adjustments to his ringmaster’s uniform. Everything had been polished or brushed to perfection and he tweaked his mustache. A message had been waiting for him, when he touched down with the first shuttle. As had been the case, both eight and four years ago, when he had arrive right before the princess’s birthday, she had send him a request, a royal request for a private show, the night before opening day. However, this visit’s letter, while fill of charm and grace, had informed him that her highness Kathleen knew that those past shows had not sampled everything his troupe had to offer.
It also politely demanded that this private show would include a selection from his adult entertainment or she would have his knighthood (which he had been granted four years ago) stripped and his circus banned from Corsivin for the rest of his lifetime. While he had his doubts over the second threat, as her father loved his show almost as much as she did, it wouldn’t do to deprive a girl of her sweet sixteenth, even if that meant providing a little….raunchy entertainment.
Cooper was a little worried about the fact that the princess and her friends would have at the very least, bodyguards with them. Some might have chaperones along and they might report to their parents, the peerage of the planet. The backlash from that might not be too pleasant but he was firmly within both the king’s and the princess’s favor. Any storm that might get whipped up over the private show, could be weathered safely.
A time warning flashed across the ringmaster’s optical implants and with a final adjustment, he strolled towards the gate. He had already informed his selections for the private show and they should be getting their own last touches ready to entertain Princess Kathleen. Or at least, they should be, the fates help them if this went poorly.
He arrived at the gate, just in time to see an expensive and imported hovercar touch down, heralding the arrive of a small pack of landcars. A small crowd of about ten young ladies and their escorts emerged from the locally made vehicles and stood waiting, looking at the first craft to arrive. A blossoming young woman with long golden hair, step out of the hovercar and all but threw herself at Cooper, with a pleasure filled cry of; “Sir Smith!”
“Your Highness” said Cooper in a grand voice, stepping back and bowing, as soon as he untangled himself from the princess’s hug, “Look how much you have grown! I’ve been away much too long!”
“I invite you back every year” countered Kathleen, doing her best to look slightly cross at him, “You always claim your too far away to make my birthday.”
“And it’s a sad truth” said the ringmaster, in his best regretful voice, “But I was able to make it this year!”
Grandly bowing again, Cooper offered his arm and once it was accepted, he led the princess, her collection of friends (all drawn from teenage noble women) and their trailing escorts towards the main tent.
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