The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

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Contains RPGs that are finished.

The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

Postby Irish Wolf on Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:44 am

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.

(want to know more or sign up? Please see the roleplay tab, The Greatest Show in the Universe)
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Irish Wolf
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Arms behind her Laine fastened the last hook on her top. It would be the second last thing to be shed in her act tonight. Checking the rest again, Laine was confident the costume was all in place. A roll of her shoulders to loosen them up and Laine took a last look in the mirror. The bodysuit was broken down into three parts. Done with ribbons and hooks Laine could shed each piece independently during her act. All were released with a flick of one hand. Looking in the mirror Laine was pleased with this one. She had worked hard to get it just right. The blue and purple beading highlighted her best curves. While making it Laine hadn’t been sure when she would debut it for the first time. It felt right that she would wear it tonight.

Cooper had told her that they were performing for the Princess’ sweet sixteen birthday party. Laine always performed for the princess when they came Starrypond. This time was different. Laine’s daytime act was a favourite of the royal family. All sparkles and happiness. This time the request had been for her other act. Laine wondered how this performance would go over.

“Show must go on.”

With a smile Laine sat at her vanity. Brushing her long blonde hair, she twisted it up into a stylish updo. This served two purposes. It showed off her neck and it kept it from getting tangled in her ribbons as she twisted and bent high above her audience. Laine clipped a small feathered barrett into the hair. This would hold it until she was ready to release her hair. The evening show ended with her hair tumbling out as she spun herself down her ribbons. It created quite the affect.

Smiling at herself in the mirror Laine began to work on her makeup. The foundation, eyeliner and eyeshadow. The fake eyelashes were followed by the sparkles and stones she attached to her face.

With a deep breath in Laine was satisfied with what she saw in the mirror. Laine stood and began a slow stretching routine. Nothing too strenuous, just enough to make sure she was warmed up and ready to go. Arms stretched overhead Laine looked at the clock. “Fifteen minutes, time to finish up.”

Laine donned a sparkly purple gown and a pair of heels. Grabbing her two larger feathers she was ready. The dress, heels and feathers were for the opening, the tease before she climbed the ribbons. The excitement of the show bubbling in her stomach, as it did every night. There was a time when Laine had lost that feeling. Cooper helped her find it again.

Laine stood backstage, the separating flap opened just enough that Laine could see the crowd.

“Going to be one hell of a show...” A smile spread on her painted lips.
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Akhiliendra Cassandra opened his eyes and blinked at the light that was in his face. He hissed as he brought a hand up to cover his eyes. “Lux…lux, light…” he muttered, trying to push aside his small robot and the light moved out of his eyes. He waited till the bright dots stopped dancing in front of him. He sat up and had to duck so that he didn’t hit the small robot that was chittering at him. It looked like a small bird made from clockwise pieces. He rolled to his side and slid off of the couch. He could have slept in the bed that would have been kinder to his height, but sometimes he felt that a change of perspective was needed, that and…

He looked in the bedroom and winced when he saw a man and woman curled up in bed together. He breathed out slowly and backed away, sliding the door closed behind him. He backed up slowly and went around gathering his clothes that were strewn about the room. He slid his pants up his long, lean legs, zippered them up the sides and fixed the front and looked around for his shoes. He found one underneath the bed and another on the kitchen table. “Ye-ow, butter boots…” he whispered as he tried to get the butter off of the heel of his favorite pair of black platform heels. “Now, shirt,” he said. He found it in two pieces on the couch. “Oooh, I remember that part,” he said, as he flexed his shoulders and felt the scratches pull at his back. He purred in pleasure as he tipped his head back and took a breath. His shirt he left in a pile and found his red trench coat. He slid it over his bare back and buttoned the middle gold button. He sat down, pulled on his boots, tied them over his pants and then caught his reflection in his mirror. He wrinkled his nose, ran a hand through his gray hair and changed it so that it was neon orange with pink tips. He yawned; his eyes falling closed and when he opened them, his pale blue eyes had brightened to yellow. He stood in the mirror long enough to run a hot stick of black kohl around his eyes. The dark makeup around his eyes only made his skin look gaunter and pale, which was always the look that he was going for.

“Trouble~” he murred before he walked to the door of the house, bent down and grabbed his book bag, tossing it over his shoulder and made sure that his small robot was on his shoulder. He closed the door behind him and hurried back to the circus. There were no rules against him sleeping with non-circus members but he normally didn’t have rounds that lasted the whole night. He blamed his two for one charge that he recently implemented for married couples. Smirking devilishly he reached in his pocket, pulled out the husband’s wallet, thumbed through it, grabbed his credits and tossed the wallet away from him. The money was tucked in his book bag. The jewels, watches, money and small shiny things jingled in the bag. He may have been employed but it didn’t mean that he was going to stop having fun, and pulling one over on those that sought his advice was too much fun for him to give up.

Akhiliendra hurried down the street, through the traffic and darted artfully around people. At over seven feet tall with the platforms on, he seemed to part people as he walked past them. Halfway to his destination, he remembered what he was supposed to be doing. He walked past people and lightly touched their arm, shoulder or hand, and would press information to them. He smirked. It was an invasion of privacy when it worked and an annoyance when it didn’t work. He pressed the information to an officer with a laugh and when the officer registered what happened, the Freak was already down the block and around the corner. He leaned against the wall and breathed out. He loved flirting with danger or…he caught the sight of a young woman and he whistled to her. He saw the way that she gave him a quick one over and then dismissed him. Well, can’t have that… he thought before he hurried up to her.

“Wait!” he said. He walked up to her, his long strides eating up the distance between them. He reached out to grab her arm and felt the tell-tale cold wash through his hand and up his arm. He watched as she kept walking away from him and faded into the noise and bustle of the city. Grimacing, the man rubbed his cold arm vigorously with his free hand. “I hate when they do that, why can’t they just announce that they are ghosts and save me the trouble?” he grumbled. He suddenly felt a sharp prick at the back of his left wrist and he looked down to see the time scrawled out. “Ah…Wands…” he swore as the pain intensified. “I know! I’m late!” he yelled down at the back of his hand. “Wands, Cups, and bleeding Swords, I’m going as fast as I can!” he hollered as he kept moving back into the boundary of the circus. Once he was there, he was able to relax. He had been late so often to the show, and to pack up and leave that he had gotten the implant in his hand to remind him that he was going to be late to things. He burst back onto the scene and straightened his coat. He looked down and decided that he might as well stay in those clothes.

He hurried to the front of the curtain. He didn’t work in the show. He was supposed to walk around the circus and sell the shows. When that was over, he had his own table by the main tent where he told fortunes, read palms, talked to spirits and generally made a pretty penny. He found his booth and sat down. He kicked his bag under the table, undid the button of his coat and settled back. He looked like sin and decadence put into an off-world god that loved nothing more than to lure women away from their lovers (or men away from their partners) he liked to draw people to him and then shove them into the circus. Still, he saw a young girl come rushing up to him with her credit and he laughed. He got out of his chair and sat down on the ground next to her. He made her credit disappear, surreptitiously sliding the credit back to her. “All right, let me see what we got here…” he murred as he perceived that her nurse had finally found her. The strange man seemed to be ignoring the woman as he took the child’s hand and looked down at her palm. He traced her lifeline and laughed quietly. He loved how a child’s life was generally so wide open, so many paths that a child could take. The future truly was theirs. “Look at that,” he said with a nod. “You, my darling,” he paused as he pulled a string of her future to find the best one. “You’re going to become an inter-galactic famous trainer of horses…” he murred with a smile. The shriek that the girl gave was enough to nearly shatter his eardrum and through that, he knew that he had picked right. He let her hug him before he shooed her off, stood up carefully and slid back into his seat to await the next customer. It was only to children that he was truly kind to and didn’t try to rip off. “What a night…” He whispered. “This could be fun…”
And therefore, — since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, — I am determined to prove a villain, And hate the idle pleasures of these days.


"And thus I clothe my naked villainy With odd old ends, stol'n out of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil."
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With a glance at the clock displayed on the screen of a nearby building, Atticus pushed himself up off the bench with his cane and began to limp back through the city of Starrypond to where the circus tents lay in a field on its outskirts. He'd spent a good while wandering the city streets, not because he was particularly interested in what there was to see (he'd been here once before, after all) but because he always forced himself to walk for several hours each day, forced his useless leg to move through the pain that eminated from his thigh, so that the muscles beneath his inked skin wouldn't waste away into nothing. And if they were on The Traveller on a jump between systems, he'd stay in his cabin and do exercises instead, lifting a pulleyed weight attached to his foot until he was breathless with pain. It was only this bloody-mindedness in combination with the nanotechnology they'd given him when he'd first broken his femur, unconscious with the blood leeching out into the sawdust that even allowed him to walk at all, he was sure.

It took him a while to make it back to camp but he passed through the streets unnoticed except for one or two curious looks from passers-by who spotted the tattoos creeping up his neck above his collar. With a nod to the attendant at the entrance to the performers living quarters, he went inside his tent to prepare for the impending show. Not that he had much to prepare of course. He didn't require a particular costume (though he invariably performed topless just so the audience.could see the full effect of the act) and there were few props necessary. An ornate knife Cooper had acquired from God knew where for the final setpiece and a few other less exotic blades for the lead-up. All that was left was to determine who would inflict the final wound. Occasionally, one of acrobats would do it; springing out of a backflip to plunge a knife into his chest had a great effect. More often, he'd get one of the audience to do it, if anyone was brave enough, to dispell any thoughts that it might be an elaborate trick of illusion. Tonight he'd already decided; the Crown Princess would do it, if she dared. The little brat thought she was old enough for everything the show had to offer, did she? Well then, she'd have to experience it in horrifying detail.

Bundling everything he needed into a bag, he made his way towards the big ten. Backstage, the other performers were milling about in the usual last-minute urgency to repair torn costumes, make last minute changes to acts and find lost props. Laine, one of the aerialists who performed a strip act whilst entwined in a ribbon fifty feet off the ground (most males backstage suddenly found the time to watch from behind the curtain when her performance began), was looking out through a narrow gap in the fabric.

"What? Performing to a spoilt teenager and her over-privileged friends? Sounds like hell to me," he said.

Although he'd come to accept that, aside from a little hand-over-hand climbing and the most basic of trapeze work, he'd never be capable of anything close to acrobatics ever again, he couldn't help but feel a hot surge of jealousy whenever he saw one of the aerialists before their act. It was instinctive and he hated himself for it; as if he deserved to ever be near the well-worn wood of a trapeze ever again.

"In case the princess declines..." he added, taking the ornate knife from his bag and holding it by means of an illustration. "Would you? Here's fine." His tattooed fingers touched just below his sternum. It was important to vary the wound sites, he knew. Nanotechnology could only do so much. "Do it however you want to do it. Coming down from the ribbon if you like."
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Laine turned at the sound of the voice behind her. She smiled at Atticus. “It’s a special kind of hell, meant for those like you and I. Aren’t we lucky?”

Turning away from the curtain, Laine was careful not to hit Atticus with the feathers. Her eyes looked large with the fake eyelashes. They sparkled as she looked at Atticus. “I am excited but a little worried. The princess has never seen the likes of the night time show and frankly, royals tend to be a little grabbier after the show. Cooper will handle it if we shock too much.” Laine laughed softly. “Poor Cooper, sometimes I think we have the easy job.”

Laine tilted her head at Atticus’ question. Laine reached out a hand and lightly ran it over the spot Atticus had requested. Laine noted the position based on the tattoos. She could feel the end of the bone and the softer part that she needed to hit. She wouldn’t miss and she wouldn’t hesitate. Laine wasn’t fond of plunging the blade in but when she did it she ensured it was right, it was on the spot and it was quick.

“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll do it. I’d rather do it anyway. Means I know it is done right. It worries me when you let others do it.” She held up a hand to ensure he didn’t interrupt her. “I know I know...more shock that way. Here’s the deal though. I do this and this time you let me take care of you until I am satisfied that you are okay. That means they bring you to my bunk after, until I know that it is okay. If I am going to kill you, I would like assurances that I did it right and you are okay. Humour me, please?” Laine’s hand rested on Atticus’ chest, on the spot he wanted her to hit.

“I’ll be flashy. I’ll sit up in the ribbon the whole time. That way if she backs out at the last second she doesn’t ruin the act. I do that though and you have to let me fuss over you a bit.” Laine looked at Atticus. She worried about all of them, but his was a different sort of act and called for a different sort of worry. “Besides you can read me all the notes that will accompany the end of my act and get a laugh at their attempts to woo me into being their mistress.” Laine smiled, attempting to bring some levity to the conversation. “As if they could tempt me away from all of this.”

Laine looked at Atticus’ face, “Deal then?”
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The excitement was contagious; all the animals pawed the dirt or paced back and forth awaiting their turn in the spotlight. Karenza had been glad to hear they would be performing on a less populated planet, large cities always put her on edge, smothering everything in light and sound. She glanced in her full-length mirror, tonight she wore a crystal in each ear, placed near the point for maximum sparkle. She also had black feathers around her neck attached to a string of crystals, making a fan effect. She had thin bracelets on each wrist and ankle. She even had two on her tail, one at the base and one near the end.

Karenza resisted the urge to scratch at her costume, what some might call scandalously small she considered it silly and extravagant. If given the chance she would perform without it, her fur naturally covering anything of a private nature. Giving her fur one last smoothing, she strode out into the cool night air inhaling deeply, she entered the animal pens. The lions and tigers often sat apart, but at the arrival of Karenza the cats sprung up and began twinning themselves between her legs and purring happily. She murred a few words in response, using the cat language of old to soothe the gentle beasts. Tonight was important, a princess’s birthday and she had requested a more adult-themed performance which meant increasing the danger of Karenza’s act.

She would be using the saber cat and blue tinted liger tonight; both cats were simply huge! While on all fours they could look Karenza directly in the eye and her power over them was shaky, she did not feel the same connection to them as she did to the plainer cats. That was why tonight she would use the metal netting, so she only risked her own life and not any of the audience.

Karenza stood behind the curtain, watching the stagehands hurry back and forth with armfuls of props. Nearly invisible in the darkness she swished her tail, excited and impatient for the show to begin.
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Selene Durlan
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Re: The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

Postby Irish Wolf on Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:14 pm

Cooper sighed in relief, as he slipped into the backstage area. The milling of the crew and the general appearance of disorganization, were a comfort to the veteran showman. Everything was just about to fall into place for yet another perfect performance from this mismatched collection of interesting beings. He had faith in them, from those who had joined up when this was just a traveling animal show, to the most junior of the entertainers he had collected in the past two decades.

As he walked around, a count down clicked away on the bottom his vision, as the tiny computers that allowed his eyes to work, made sure he followed the timeline. At this very moment, Kathleen and her entourage, were in the capable hands of some of the venders, as they laid out a selection of off-world treats, with enough verity to be counted as a feast. It was to give him time enough to check on everything and get the show started.

The Ringmaster arrived at the curtain, just as Laine and Atticus were finishing making some sort of deal. He smiled at them before turning to face almost everyone. Seeming to look into everyone’s eyes, no matter where they were standing, he studied his troupe one last time, before nodding slightly.

“Well my friends” said Cooper, his voice naturally focusing the room’s attention on him, “We have once again come to that point. The opening acts. Now we don’t have a full house but we do have some very important visitors. You have all been selected to showcase everything we can offer and I know you will all do your best. So lets put on a show!”

Reaching into his pocket, Mr. Smith (as he was never, ever called), pulled out a thin metal strip in a plastic sleeve. Tearing away the covering, he pressed it against his throat, where it blended in against his skin. It would act as a microphone, transferring his voice to the speakers, which were cleverly hidden throughout the tent. Now he could get his voice out to the nosebleeds without speakers and the like but it was damn hard on the vocal cords. Like his predecessors back on old Earth, using bullhorns and the first primitive mics, it was just easier.

A warning flashed across the ringmaster’s viston. It was time to begin. Bowing to his staff and friends, he offered his arm to the first act, Laine Armoroso. Once his offer was accepted, he led the acrobat through the curtain and out into the ring. Spotlights came to life and turned to face the pair, illuminated them in the darkness. The crowd stirred, eager for the show to start.

The Princess and her friends sat in a box, right at the edge of the bleachers, with the seats behind them taken up by older married women and bodyguards dressed in bodygloves and carrying concealed weapons. More forms filled the nosebleeds, as vendors and roustabouts sneaked in to catch a free show. Most of them never got to see a show, despite working for the circus and this was a grand opportunity, they couldn’t miss.

The only person who wasn’t a member of the royal party and who was sitting close to the ring was John. An immense man with skin like ebony, John was the chief roustabout, responsible for getting setup, taken down and everything in between but he mostly concerned with making sure the crowds behaved themselves during the night acts. Much like the ringmaster, John (and that was the only name given) had appeared twenty years ago with The Traveler and fit the mold for a Terren Union Special Forces soldier or a cartel enforcer.

“Ladies” said Cooper, his voice echoing in the empty darkness, “We would like to start tonight off with an old favorite of yours, the spectacular Laine Armoroso, performing her amazing aerial acrobatics, although in a form you have never seen before!”
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Though the muscles of his abdomen tensed involuntarily at Laine's touch, he forced himself to step away, out of her reach.

"Fine," said Atticus shortly. If Cooper hadn't appeared backstage, he would have argued with her. He didn't deserve or need her concern and the easy way in which she expressed it made him wary.

As Cooper led her away and the rest of the performers renewed their activity at an even more hurried pace, Atticus limped away to the other side of the curtain. There, he rested his cane against the wall and leaned against an empty animal cage. He caught a glimpse of the ribbons suspended from the roof of the tent through the crack in the curtain then lowered his gaze to the floorboards.

Outside, Princess Kathleen pressed her hands together in excitement as the lights dimmed and the echoing voice of Ringmaster Sir Cooper Smith sounded through the stalls. She felt as if she was about to be let into a great secret, one that was embued with the heady scent of adulthood. This was where she belonged and she felt all the more powerful for it when she compared herself to her peers, even the ones sitting around her. She was a little frightened of course, but she didn't let a trace of it show on her face. The fervent imagination of adolescence couldn't possibly be trumped by something real; whatever the greatest show in the universe could throw at her, it couldn't possibly be something she was unprepared for. She'd be less shocked than if it were one of her parents sitting in her place, she decided. For all their maturity...

She watched as Sir Cooper was followed by a woman. A woman with the kind of figure that Kate longed for when she stood in front of the mirror in her nightgown and obsessed over stubborn puppy fat and buds which refused to bloom. Her first reaction would have been to make a witty comment about the cheapness of her costume or the skimpiness of its hem but tonight, on her sixteenth birthday, she was an adult and instead she grinned wickedly at the girl sitting next to her in a way she imagined to be worldly and a little dangerous then settled down to watch.
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As Atticus stepped away, Laine let her hand drop. He agreed to the deal, gruffly but he agreed. Laine let out a small breath. Cooper entered through the curtain. She gave him a smile as he passed. Laine listened to Cooper's speech, keeping an eye on Atticus. Laine then accepted Cooper's offered arm and stepped out into the light with him. A glance around showed her where John was located. A small nod acknowledge his presence. Most nights he was all the seperated her from those in the crowd who would want more from her. His large body sitting in the crowd was a comfort to her. It was time to begin.

Cooper introduced her and as he stepped away Laine raised her two feathers. The ribbons dropped from the ceiling on the first beat of the music. On the second Laine's hips began to sway. Her feathers began to move smoothly through the air, giving the audience a teasing peak of her in her dress. With a swoosh the feathers were both in her left hand, her right snaking behind to lower the zipper of her dress. With a turn Laine moved into a pose, feathers above her head. She began a slow snaking of her body, the undulations causing her unzipped dress to slip down to her ankles revealing her even skimpier costume.

Lain slowly lowered the feathers and stepped out of the dress. Bringing her hands down she dropped the feathers with the dress and with a flick her heels were undone. A jumping split leap found her out of her heels and in front of her ribbons. Now the real show would begin.

Laine began a hand over hand pull up one of the ribbons, her grabs perfectly timed with the music. Soon Laine was 50 ft above the ground and she reached for the other ribbon. With both in her hands Laine swung one leg out to wrap it around a ribbon. The movement caused her to swing in a circle high in the air, again the movement began and slowed perfectly with the music. Laine hooked her toes into both ribbons now and released her hands. She slid into a deep splits, high in air. Reaching one free hand behind her she released the hook holding the bottom part of the costume on. Grabbing the ribbons again, Laine held on in an iron cross postion. Arms out at her sides she hung between both ribbons. The bottom of her costume dropped off below leaving her in a bra and thong. Laine swung herself back and forth, over and over again building up speed. When she reached the maximum momentum Laine tossed her legs up and proceeded to somersault, holding the ribbons.

Over and over again Laine rolled. The effect causing the ribbons to gather. The gathered ribbon Laine pulled around her. Effectively covering her like a cocoon. Inside the audience could see Laine's body moving to the music, slow and sensual. A leg opened here. Again there. Suddenly her bra dropped to the ground. High above Laine was wrapping one ribbon around her waist. This would keep her in the air when she opened the other ribbon. Once wrapped Laine could roll down it and in the end it would catch her as it was looped in a loose knot. With a flourish Laine released the one ribbon, revealing her naked form. Slowly, Laine rolled down. Closer and closer Laine moved to the floor, picking up speed. It almost appeared that she would not stop. With a jolt the ribbon caught. Laine lay on her back arms out.

Arching back to reach for her ankles, Lain made her body into a perfect circle. She dangled on the end of the ribbon like a jewel on a chain. The ribbon slowly spun allowing the audience a full view of her body. Laine released her ankles and opened her legs into a v. Bringing the v up caused her to tip upside down. Laine reached towards the ground. A small flip found her upright again. Laine began her hand over hand climb of the ribbon again. This time her naked body slid along the ribbon. Laine relished the feel under her.

Laine climbed higher and higher. At the top Laine swung one leg in a wide circle. She swung out on one ribbon and then switched to the other. Laine switched over and over again. Finally gathering the ribbon up again the music began to build to a crescendo. Laine wrapped the ribbon again around her body writhing to the music as she did so. At the height of the music Laine released her hair and released the ribbon. Laine dropped again to the ground. This time the ribbon would not stop her. Her blonde hair whipped wildly around her as she rolled. At the end of the song Laine landed on her feet, crouched low on the ground. The ribbons were swinging behind her. The whole scene dramatically wild as if being blown by an unseen wind.

Laine slowly stood. Her hair draped across her breasts. A look at the audience and Laine began a deep bow. As the applause began Laine turned and began a slow walk to the curtain. The crew would pick up her things.

Parting the curtains, Laine entered backstage again. Looking at Atticus she found him staring at the floor. Laine cleared her throat. "I will dress in a different costume and will be ready for your act." Laine quickly went to her bunk and dressed in a more standard bodysuit. Pinning up her hair again quickly she exited to stand by Atticus. She tentatively placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'll be up above"

Laine stood and watched the other acts. She hoped they all went well.
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Re: The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

Postby Irish Wolf on Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:06 am

Cooper stepped back, as the lights follow Laine, her feathers and the falling ribbons. A smile spread across his lips, as he settled into the dark background. His eyes, like every other pair in the tent, were glued to the lithe acrobat, as she twirled, twisted and slithered along the ribbons, high in the air. The view was just as hypnotic, as it had been all those years ago, when he found her in some run down joint. It had been called Bottoms Up or something like that and it was the only place to get a drink, while he was waiting for a shuttle to make a fueling run to his ship.

Now he had gone right to the bar, not sparing more then a glance over at the stage, waiting to get his drink and spend a great deal of time in the place. When he turned to leave however, that’s when she had come out on stage. He’d never be able to explain what made him spare more then a second glance, at his future acrobat but he did and he saw the talent lurking under her surface. He stayed for the entire show and delayed the departure of The Traveler, long enough to get the credits to buy her debt.

A hearty clapping started, as Laine made her bow and retired from the ring. Most of it came from those sitting in dark seats, whom had forgotten that they were trying to conceal their presence. But not all, Cooper was slapping his palms together, as was John and even some of the bodyguards. One of the large men, who protected the princess, let out a piercing whistle, as slamming one’s hand together while carrying a pair of slightly unstable energy hand weapons, isn’t recommended.

The spotlights broke up, bathing most of the ring in light, as eight men came leaping out from backstage. Each of the octuplets was identical, standing slightly over three feet tall and a professional tumbler to boot. While perfectly proportioned, they all had an interesting deformity, a third eye, located between their two normal eyes and set just above the eyebrows. They leaped, rolled, flipped, balanced and tossed one another about the ring, while collecting the disregard feathers, shoes and clothing, before disappearing behind the curtain.

When Cooper stepped back into the middle of the ring, the lights focusing on him again, a strong metal netting, so thin it was barely able to be seen, rose up from the ground. It completely wrapped around the performing space, even fencing off the backstage area but had some openings, which led back to the animal cages.

“A fine start” declared the ringmaster, looking straight at Kathleen, “Be we have so much more to show you. I’m not completely sure what our next performer is. She might be an genetic experiment, a mutation from the Fringe or an alien, who’s race we’ve never had anymore contact with but she’s here for you. I give you the extraordinary Karenza Shasta and her performing but not totally tame Pantheras!”

As the lights split to cover the spots where the big cats would enter, Cooper wrapped his arm in one of the ribbons, which had remained hanging, flapping slightly. The second he was firmly in their embrace, the ribbons sailed towards the top, carrying the circus owner high up to a platform and safety.
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Karenza watched the ribbon dancer, Laine as she swung through the air. It was an impressive show of acrobatics, though when the girl began removing her clothes Karenza curled her lip in disgust. If was one thing to be a giant bald rat, but quite another to freely flaunt and show it off to a gawking crowd. Turning her head away from the stage Karenza picked up her twin black feather-fans and began flipping them back and forth feeling their weight and mentally mapping her performance. At the conclusion of Laine’s performance, eight tumblers came out, collected the props and hurried back behind the curtain their three eyes each often gave the crowd a start along with their identical height and faces.

Suddenly she was being introduced by Cooper with his usual dramatic flair. The metal mesh came down from the ceiling in a shining wave surrounding the ring on every side. While the spotlights drew the audience’s attention to either side of the ring Karenza began to pad slowly forward from behind the curtain. Upon reaching the center she spread the fans out giving her the appearance of having wings. The spotlights swung wildly and focused on her, the crystals twinkled brightly on her costume her tail moved like a snake just behind her ears. The effect was always stunned silence. Holding her arms out with the fans she tilted her head up and roared, a fierce and primal sound it was also the signal for the gates to be opened.
Both cats sprung out and returned her roar with ones of their own, these sounds rattled the mesh and the audience could feel the thrum in their own chests. With a flick of her fans she sent the cats loping around in opposite circles, she stood in the middle all the while keeping her eyes on the massive creatures. If her concentration or control wavered for one moment both would descend upon her without a second thought. Stopping both cats in front of her, she sent the saber-cat over to a large pedestal and he obligingly sat on it. His stumpy tail twitched as he gazed at her and the other large cat.

Karenza then began to have the blue liger jump through large hoops that hung from the ceiling in varying height increments. It was easy for the powerful cat, his muscles bunching and relaxing with every successful crossing. Finally Karenza brought out a large pole, at the end of it dangled a large piece of meat. Raising the pole to nearly eighteen feet high she gave the command for him to retrieve it. Holding her breath Karenza watched him approach till he stood just under the dangling morsel, she made sure to give him a confident stare she could not appear weak. One of his golden eyes roved over her, before returning to the task at hand. In one fluid movement he sprung and snapped his jaws shut around the meat, he landed softly barley disturbing the dirt.

With a small gesture and a whispered word, the blueish cat loped to the back of the mesh seeming to suggest the end of his act. Karenza had all eyes upon her as she shouted for the saber-cat. It slowly stood up and awkwardly jumped off the pedestal, having short back legs he walked in a strange way. His long canine teeth hung past his jaw giving him a look of savage beauty. Wasting no time Karenza put both her hands in the saber-cat’s mouth and pried his jaws apart, no sooner had his jaws opened then a snow white dove burst out in a flurry of feathers. It made a hasty escape out the tent flap as Karenza turned to the princess and her ladies with a shocked look.

However, before the audience could process the bird’s sudden appearance a roar came from the back of the arena. The liger had not exited like most had assumed instead he came barreling straight at Karenza, she let out a scream. She crouched down, fear upon on her face, thankfully at the last moment the liger leaped over her head and skidded to a stop right in front of the princess. His whiskers brushing the mesh, he released a fearsome roar his golden eyes pinning her to the spot. The Saber-cat also roared his long canines flashing in the spotlights.

Karenza regained her composure and yowled to the cats, which turned and began trotting to the back of the arena. As the liger passed, Karenza swung herself up onto his back. She circled the arena once and then elegantly dismounted as he continued and exited through his chute. Karenza smiled and gave a bow her tail held across her chest. She turned and stepped through the curtain, her ears flicked backward to listen for their reaction.
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Selene Durlan
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Re: The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

Postby Irish Wolf on Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:56 pm

Cooper, not for the first time in his two-decade career, was thankful that he had abandoned the ring when Karenza began she part of the show. Now it wasn’t like he was afraid of performing with predators, hell several years ago, he used to help a man named Kevin Spears, with his act. Spears had been the trainer of a Ganath, which was basically a reptilian creature and could be called a mouth with two legs attached. It could open it’s mouth almost seven feet and it had three rows of big teeth.

And what had the ringmaster done to help the act? Why he had stood in that horrible mouth. Of course Spears had the creature under control the whole time and it had been a terrible blow to the troupe, when both the beast and it’s trainer had been killed in a shuttle accident five years ago. Still the facts remained, the Ganath had been under control, Karenza’s cats, not so much. Her scream was real enough when the liger had charged her and while the whole thing would be written off as part of the act, he was worried one day they find the strange humanoid feline torn apart in a cage with a big cat.

Before the clapping and cheers for the big cats had faded, a trio of clowns appeared in the ring, playing leapfrog. They got to about the middle, before the clown made up in the auguste style (who was at the back of the line) looked up at the crowd. Flashing them a big smile, he promptly planted a foot stuffed into a huge shoe, onto the backside of the clown in front of him, sending the fellow sprawling forwards, into the third clown’s posterior. Laughing, the auguste took off running, as the other two clowns scrambled to their feet and gave chase, shouting at their fellow.

Next came out two clowns, Billy entering from the right side of the ring and Molly from the left. Meeting in the middle, Molly holds up a funnel and a gold coin, a local currency called a Royal. After making sure that the crowd got a good look at what was in her hands, she turns to look at Billy again.

“Hey there Billy! Wanna make a bet?”

“Maybe, what about?”

“I bet you can’t so this!”

Molly took the funnel and tucked it into the belt of her trousers, so that the wide mouth of the funnel part is up. She then balanced the gold Royal on her forehead and carefully tipped her face forward until it the glittering circle of precious metal, dropped into the funnel.

“There. If you can balance this gold Royal on your forehead and drop it into the funnel, then it’s yours!”

“I’m sure I can do that!”

Billy yanked the funnel out of Molly’s pants and tucked it into the top of his trousers. Then, he tipped his head well back and carefully balanced the Royal on his forehead. While he is doing that, Molly turned the crowd and gave them all a big wink. Turning back, she pulled a water bottle from the leg of her pants and poured the whole thing down his trousers.

Billy let out a screech, as the cold water splashed over his groin and jumped into the air. The Royal went flying, glinting in the spotlights, until Molly snatched it out of the air and pocketed it with a huge smirk spread across her painted face. Turning it to a sweet smile, she waited for Billy to settle down.

“Wow, that was a good joke, wasn't it? I bet you think that was funny.”

As Billy chased Molly out of the ring, Cooper readied himself to return to the ground. Whispering a soft prayer to the fates, he grabbed the ribbon again and stepped off the platform, descending nearly seventy feet. The ribbon slowed him enough to land safely in the ring, his polished boots barely making a sound as he touched down.

“Heart stopping” boomed the ringmaster, “And sidesplitting. I now turn the ring over to Lady Eumelia!”
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Eumelia nervously fiddled with the strap that held her dress up. Upon her recent employment with the Circus, she started dressing in the more ‘human’ way instead of the Equastron way, but she was about to go on stage for the first time, which meant she had to get in her costume. She reached up for the black skirt and nodded as the stagehand put it in her hand. The light brought up the grey brindle marks that laced over her white skin and showed up clearly in her dark brown hair and matched the horse hide. She wrapped the skirt around her torso, allowed it to fall softly around her.

She was painted. Her brindle patterning was accented, darkened to black and she remained bare chested, moving her hair forward to cover her breasts and cascade down her back, brushing against her knees as she attached the black stallion with his roan brother, and hooked them both up to the chariot. She stepped into the chariot, allowing the high sides to hide her legs.

I now turn the ring over to Lady Eumelia!

She took a deep breath, held it and let it out slowly. Her act was new, and she had a feeling that it was sink or swim. She gathered the six horses to her with a slight nicker. She was the herd leader, the Matriarch, and the horses would follow her without complaint. There were three young men in her show. They were all handsome to look at, and gifted in their ability to handle the horses, and they were uncovered, leaving nothing to the imagination. The horses wore no saddle, and were adorned in the old way. The horses’ noses had the illusion of being pierced, and a guide rope ran from the piercings, between the horses’ eyes and in the hands of the riders. The three men moved to be standing on their horses. One foot on the back of each of the two horses that they were in control of. She gave the signal to the men, and the act started.

The six horses thundered out and into the ring. The men whooped and hollered, their voices joyous and raucous before they pulled their horses up short with a touch of the rope to the right side of the horses’ neck. The horses faced the Princess and the six horses bowed while the men bowed deeply over them. Eumelia burst from the back, her horses galloping into the center as she controlled them with a guide, only by her voice; such was the connection that an Equastron held with the equine creatures. The act told a tale of three men as they fought to get the fleeing woman, intent on having their way with her. They turned their horses and pursued Eumelia. She led them through dangerous stunts. One man slipped underneath his horses, his head barely missing their racing hooves before he’d leap up and land on the back of another man’s horse. The men were able to stay with their horses as the horses leapt over obstacles, and each seemed intent on the always just out of reach Eumelia.

The leader of the men leapt onto the chariot, pushing his body against the woman’s as his hand snaked for the ties to her wrap. Eumelia leapt to the top of the chariot, raced down the center of the guide pole as her horses galloped. The pace was too quick to see the hint of what was to come as she whirled around to face her pursuer, triumphant and unconquerable as she stood, riding as the men did with her feet braced on either horse. The man, not allowing her to get away, moved to the guide-pole, detached the chariot and caught her in his arms where he triumphantly braced his hands on her waist, moved to position himself into the perfect position to claim her as the horses thundered around the arena---

And the wrap came off, exposing Eumelia. From the waist up she was human, and from the waist down she was the hybrid Equastron. Seemingly more like the fauns of myth with the two horse legs and the long tail.

She kicked away from the man, moving to the back of one horse before she leapt and seamlessly changed from the more unnatural hybrid to the natural human top and equine bottom. She tossed her head back; her hair flowing down around her, not hiding how the woman seemed to be joined to the brindled horse. She was a rare sight as her race was dying, pushed to the fringes by science, pollution and the constraint of not having enough land to sustain them. She was a famous courtesan, the mark of her trade branded into the valley above her breasts, the same mark branded into her left flank. The horses bucked off their riders, the guide ropes and piercings falling from them as they galloped up to the female, surged around her and with a triumphant call, and a merry wink at the crowd, she allowed her black and roan to come to her, giving every appearance that they were her lovers instead of the mortal men that she had cast off. After all, who knew with the Equastron race what was true? She took human lovers, she took non-human lovers. Though in truth, her horses were simply a substitute for the herd that she had been separated from as a child, like her family, and with a laugh, she led the horses from the ring.

Once gone, she looked around, finding the three men and directed them to take their horses and tend to them, while she set to taking the black and the roan to their makeshift area so that she could walk them around and cool them off. She supposed she would have to wait to later to ask Cooper if her act was all right. Being that the princess was the first one to see it… Eumelia still had butterflies even though the show was over. She'd learn later, by the number of curious callers, how she did.
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Re: The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

Postby Irish Wolf on Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:55 pm

The crowd sat stunned for a few moments, as the horse mistress excited with her charges, then broke out into cheers and applause. In a circus full of novelties and strangeness, a transforming centaur was a unique treat. As with the first act, many of the loudest praise came from the men, who weren’t suppose to be in the tent and who had forgotten that fact. There was some shuffling in the dark, as the roustabouts, who were on security, moved the uninvited viewers about, like they were getting rid of them.

As Cooper returned to the middle of the ring, a band of clowns came out, racing towards the chariot. One of them, wearing a roman helmet or rather what on thinks of as a roman helmet, horsehair plume and all, jumped into chariot and began shouting orders. The remaining clowns obeyed, grabbing the guide-pole and pulling the cart about the ring several times before ending towards the curtain. Just before they reach it though, every one of the clowns holding the guide-pole heaved it above their heads, dumping the lead clown on his back. Laughing madly, they scurried away, as the remaining clown grabbed his helmet and chased after them.

Several more acts came into the ring after Lady Eumelia. A mesh sphere was set up and a dozen hovercycles raced around inside it. Two men and two women came out and juggled various blades (ranging from knives, to hatchets, to machetes and swords) between themselves, forming circles and loops of death for the crowd. There was a parade of interesting creatures from the menagerie, some dangerous predators and others were herbivore oddities. The clowns returned several times, with Molly and Billy continuing their running gag, which lead to Billy’s pants getting filled with water twice more before he outsmarted Molly and got her gold Royal.

A dozen fire dancers preformed and almost seemed to do battle with each other’s flames. A score of acrobatic warriors, armed with exotic bladed weapons, did mock-combat across the ring. The octuplet tumblers returned and won a pie fight with the clowns. An all female dance troop left the tent in awed silence, after a number of exotic dances, both erotic and non-erotic in nature. Finally though, the last act approached.

“Ladies” declared Cooper, standing alone in the ring, all the lights focused on him, “I hope you have enjoyed the spectacles, phenomenon, curiosities and extravaganza that we have put on for you tonight. We have but one last act for you. I call to the ring, Atticus Tanner, the tattooed man who has gained mastery over death!”
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Kate sat through the rest of the acts, a giddy sense of her own maturity sitting high in her throat. Here she was, the greatest show in the universe before her, not something silly and childish and colourful but majestic, erotic, thrilling, dangerous. She hid her blush in the dim lighting and watched with guilty fascination and hot jealousy as the acrobat slipped, twisted and contorted her way down the ribbon, skin on silk.

Not long after, the cat-lady appeared in the ring and led her animals around like they were the pet kittens Kate herself kept back in the palace. Maybe she knew some secret feline language, she thought, maybe they were all kin and the enormous cats saw her as their mother. Such thoughts were scattered from her mind by the charge and roar of the liger. She let out an audible gasp as it stopped just yards away from the mesh, but quickly dissolved into shocked laughter as she regained her confidence and the animal slunk away.

Applauding along with the rest of the small crowd, she curled her toes into her sandals and wished, with a childlike fervour she was a little ashamed of, that the show would never end.

But it was not to be, next came the horses and the high-speed performance that told of a strange woman who rejected her three suitors, spurning them for the company of their steeds. Kate felt her lip curl in disgust as the act climaxed and the woman revealed her true appearance, though she kept it from showing too obviously in her expression (unlike like some of her friends sitting next to her) for fear that she might break the illusion of worldliness she imagined she had created. Still, despite the terrible juxtaposition of the female torso and the equine body, she could not help but feel a part of her lift in wonder at the performer's abandonment which imbued her with a wild beauty Kate felt she could never obtain. Suitors would be a regular feature of her life until she decided upon a husband (or had one decided upon for her) and she could not imagine herself running away from it all with the same carelessness.

The show fled past her gaze with upsetting rapidity. More than once, she wished it would last forever, but immediately scolded herself for such a childish thought. Anyway, if it never ended, she would never see the final act, the one she had heard scarcely believable rumours of. Sir Cooper appeared in the ring for the last time and Kate folded her arms about herself in anxious anticipation.

Backstage, Atticus heard his name called and, taking up his cane, limped without ceremony onto the stage. When he'd been an acrobat, he had of course appreciated the little flourishes and stagecraft that Cooper himself so excelled in. These days, he was loathe to overtly indulge in it but he submitted to the ringmaster's suggestions for his act. The quiet music that filtered through the loudspeakers was one of them. The red velvet box which sat in the centre of the stage was another. Aside from the latter, and a wooden bench in the centre of the ring, the place had been cleared of all other props. It was into this empty space that Atticus moved, his lean height at uneasy odds with the laboured antalgic way in which he walked, the muscles of his arm and back tensing unnaturally at each tap of the cane in his left hand.

With no allowance for the attention of his audience, Atticus approached the red velvet box and opened it. The metal blades of the knives glinted dully in the dim lights. He lazily selected one and came closer to the small cluster of people concentrated in the rear-most stalls of the seating area.

"So, Princess," he said, addressing the crowd as one of its constituents. "You're an adult now."

A ripple of discontented whispers at the impudence of this man's address went through the crowd but Kate did nothing but clasp her hands together in her lap to prevent them from shaking. Down below her on the floor of the ring, the tattoos on his body looked like shadows moving over his skin as he limped through the spotlights. And though she could not see the minutiae of his features, he reminded her of one of the synthetic stone busts of ancient leaders that decorated her father's office; straight nose, straight mouth, furrowed brow and hard angry eyes.

"And you'll know that in adulthood there are two taboos to be broken," he went on. "One you've already... glimpsed today; sex. The other..." He threw the knife up into the air with one hand. It turned sluggishly, steel gleaming. "I'm sure you can guess, Princess," he said, searching the crowd for the addressee. "Is death."

Atticus caught the knife by the blade, closing his fist tightly around it. There was a collective groan of dismay from the audience. Blood trickled thickly down his wrist, obscuring the ink beneath the skin. Leaning his cane against his leg, he used the other hand to draw the knife out of his fist as if it were a scabbard before holding up his hand up for all to see. There were two deep scores in the flesh cutting across the lines of his palm. They looked gruesome but Atticus knew from experience that they'd be completely gone within the hour; the nano-particles instilled in the tattoos around the wound would already be setting to work.

He threw the bloodied knife away and limped back to fetch another, this time with a longer thinner blade. Not a single suggestion of pain had betrayed his expression so far; the wound in his palm was comparable to an insect bite as far as he was concerned. No, it would be later, as such wounds multiplied, that he'd have to fight to keep control.

In a flash and with surprising speed, the skin of his chest parted, a sliver of raw flesh cleaving the image of a sailing ship in two. Blood began to well up within it and snake its way down his torso in fat rivulets. Again, the knife was cast aside and another selected. But this time, he advanced back on the audience, looking up with derision at the one or two older women who were already getting up to leave at the back of the stalls.

"Princess! Come down. Come down and get a little closer to it!"

At his call, Kate hurriedly glanced at one of the girls sat beside her. She looked back and slowly shook her head. Over her shoulder, one of the bodyguards had already stood up to block her route to the stairs. It would be so easy just to stay where she was, stay silent. What could he do about it? And yet, something was drawing her down to the ring. Maybe it was a desire to get a little closer, something akin to the kind of instinct that made one drive slower past an ground-craft accident. Maybe it was him, maybe she wanted to see the pain in his eyes and prove to herself that he actually felt it.

Atticus banged his cane against the side of the ring and Kate started. Then stood up.

"Get out of my way," she hissed, pushing aside the muscled arm of a bodyguard and descending the stairs, feeling the eyes of everyone on her. And yet no one spoke to her or tried to restrain her. She truly felt like an adult now and she let herself bask in the attention she was receiving, even the attention of the man in the ring who's gaze was now fixed on her as he limped over to open the door in the mesh and let her in.

"Take it," he said, holding out the knife, handle first. At some point (she didn't know when) the music had stopped and all she could hear was her own breath and the drumming of her heartbeat in her ears as reached out and her fingers closed over the ivory. "Here," he said, moving his fingertips over the bulk of his upper arm over the tattoo of a climbing snake. Kate obediently moved the tip of the blade to where he had indicated but went no further. She caught his gaze and was surprised by the softness of their colour; they were a gentle green, like sun-bleached grass. But they were dipped into a frown and, seeing that she would not initiate it by herself, Atticus roughly put his hand over hers and forced the blade downwards.

She flinched violently as she felt the resistance melt away under his pressure and the blade slide slickly through his skin. Now she was closer, she knew he was in pain; his lips were parted and his breathing ragged. It didn't give her the satisfaction she'd thought it would, now she was down in the ring and could smell his blood and sweat and feel the sawdust inside her sandals. It just horrified her. All the same, she didn't withdraw when he took his hand away and, with a perfunctory nod from him, she even brought the blade down along the flesh of his bicep.

He stepped back and turned around, exposing his back to her. "Again," he said. And with a moment of hesitation, she closed her eyes and brought her shaking hand forward. A jagged wound opened up across the back of a inked tiger and she heard him let out an animal noise from the back of his throat. "Again." Another, this time slicing a rose in two.

"Alright," he breathed, then raised his voice. "And now, Princess... To break the last taboo." He limped over towards the bench and Kate realised what he intended her to do.

Whereas just a few moments previously she had been entirely unaware of their audience, with his increase in volume, she suddenly became intensely conscious of the fifty or so people who had just watched her maim a fellow human being. She didn't dare turn to look at them but at the same time she didn't dare take a step forward towards the ornately jewelled blade Atticus was holding out to her.

"Well?" he demanded.

There was blood on her hands, she could see it now. There was actual blood, his blood, on her hands. She'd even got some on the cuff of her new dress. She looked up and saw the tatters they'd made of his beautiful tattooed skin and she felt like vomiting. With a quick shake of her head, she stumbled back towards the mesh door and into the darkness of the stalls, not stopping to take her seat but hurrying on to the back entrance so no one would see her tears.

Atticus rolled his eyes and cast a brief glance up to where Laine was sitting in the ribbons high above. Deftly, he threw the knife high in the air for her to catch and, dropping his cane onto the floor, collapsed onto the bench, chest heaving with the effort it too not to cry out in pain.
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Laine let her hand slide off the Atticus’ shoulder as she watched the feline woman Karenza head into the ring. From where she was standing Laine couldn’t see the performance but she could hear it. The noise of the cats and their roars. The act seemed to be going well. Then Laine heard something that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Karenza screamed. Laine’s stomach tightened as she waited. "Please let her be okay....” It was a few tense seconds and then she heard Karenza’s yowl. Laine brought a hand to her throat and nervously held it there. When Karenza made her appearance through the curtains Laine dropped the hand again. If anyone had looked they would have seen the relief on Laine’s face. Laine smiled at the feline woman as she passed by, “Excellent job.”

The crowd laughed on the other side of the curtain and Laine knew this meant that the clowns had started their bit. Scratching her leg absentmindedly Laine stole a look at Atticus. His face was stoic and Laine could not imagine what went through his head every night he had the knife plunged into himself. Laine looked away quickly before he could catch her gaze.

The thunder of hooves caught Laine’s attention. “Oh the new act! I wish I had seen a few of the practices.” Laine felt the excitement building. A new act was always a wondrous thing and to be presented for the first time at this sort of event was beyond exciting. The noise of the hooves was deafening even from behind the curtain. “I wish I was out there....” Laine bounced slightly in her excitement. “Do you think it is going well? The crowd is so quiet.” As the hoof beats died down there was a moment of quiet and then cheers and applause. “Oh! It went well! I am happy for her.” Laine knew Atticus wasn't really listening but it did not really matter.

As the other clowns came out again Laine took a moment to help a dancer who was having trouble with the strap of her costume. Having fixed the issue the dancer went off to prepare and Laine stood back beside Atticus. Act after act brought loud clapping and noise from the audience. The show was going well. As the dancers came running back Laine heard Cooper’s voice booming through the speakers.

“I call to the ring, Atticus Tanner, the tattooed man who has gained mastery over death!”

Laine looked at Atticus. She nodded at him and made her way out of the curtain. The ribbons were in the dark at the moment with the lights turned to the centre of ring. In this dark Laine climbed hand over hand up one of the ribbons. Once near the top she wrapped the ribbon around her waist and between her legs. In this position she could sit comfortably and watch the act play out below her. If things did not work with the princess, Laine could drop quickly, rolling down the ribbon to plunge the knife in.

Sitting there Laine licked her lips and waited for Atticus to begin. He walked out and addressed the Princess directly. Laine watched him drag the blade out of his hand, the blood dripping. She had seen it before but it never failed to make her wince. “The pain...” He tried to hide it but Laine knew it was there. Atticus was a performer and would never let the pain ruin the act. It tugged at her and she wondered if there wasn't an easier way then to put himself through so much pain before the final climax. His cane banged loudly and Laine saw the princess stand. Pushing her bodyguard out of the way the princess approached Atticus.

Laine held her breath as she watched the exchange below her. The blade went in and Laine briefly closed her eyes. She couldn’t hear Atticus’ breathing but she could tell by his face that the pain was terrible. Atticus’ voice was raised as he called the princess to commit the final act, he was moving back into the ring. "Will she follow?" Laine watched the princess shake her head. A wave of relief rolled over Laine. The princess wouldn’t do it. She wouldn’t make the final thrust. Laine met Atticus’ gaze and the blade soared up to her. Deftly catching it she paused to wait for him to place his body on the bench. He laid out and even from this height Laine could see how heavy his breathing was at this point.“Straight and true.”The last thought that went through her head as she released the ribbon.

Laine slipped down the ribbon, diving quickly towards Atticus. Her eyes were focused on the spot she needed to hit, that spot only a short time ago she had rested her hand on. The ribbon stopped her so that her body was lying almost directly on top of him. As the ribbon stopped her Laine looked at his face. There was just enough room between them for the audience to see the blade. The tip of the blade poised just over the spot, just barely enough to not touch him yet. Her eyes met his. Staring into his eyes, without hesitation she plunged the blade home. Laine didn’t blink, didn’t look away and there was no pity in her eyes. The aim was true. She had hit the spot he wanted. Laine felt it slide into his flesh, the blade stopping as the hilt met skin and the beginnings of wetness on her fingertips as the blood began to ooze out around the blade. One hand on the hilt and the other hand rested on his flesh, the least she could do was let him know in some way that he was not alone as the life left him. Laine's eyes never left his as she left the blade there and let the audience grasp what she had done.
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Atticus lay back onto the bench, the well-worn wood pressing excruciatingly against the wounds in his back. The pain lapped at the edges of his control like waves crashing against a sea wall. But it was alright; soon that wall would break and it would not take long to drown in the icy water that came roaring through.

Once upon a time, when he’d first started performing this particular act, he’d been almost blind with a fear that rose not from his consciousness (there, there was nothing, no fear there) but from the deepest most primal centres of his being. It was a fear that emanated from the pulsing beating instinct to live and go on living. He’d since learned to tame it and though not it was quietened, its incomplete absence fed his guilt.

High above, Laine slipped down towards him with surprising rapidity, the ribbon pulling out taut behind her like one of the rivulets of blood that still leached from the wound across his chest and trickled down over his ribs. In an instant, she was above him, the jewelled knife inches away from the spot she’d pressed her fingertips to just an hour or so ago.

Her gaze met his in a single crystalline moment. Then, uncharacteristically, his eyes flickered shut.

The blade went in and suddenly agony was everywhere. It was unbearable, intolerable. He threw his head back, his mouth open in a soundless scream, the cords of his neck standing out beneath his skin. His hand instinctively went to the knife but with the last vestiges of his will, he forced it to drop back to the bench again. Letting out a gasp, but nothing more, he opened his eyes again. And yet, he could see nothing but grey now, not the colours of the tent, not Laine’s face, and he could hear nothing of the disquiet of the audience or his own ragged breaths.

The pain was getting further away, it was almost like an echo through his own body now, leaving only fatigue in its wake. It seemed too tiring even to take breath, to keep his lagging eyelids open or to resist the knife buried deep in his flesh.

So he didn’t.

High in the stalls, the audience (those who hadn’t turned away, at least) watched as Atticus fell still. He wasn’t dead, not truly, but he might as well have been. Only the nanoparticles sequestered beneath his skin kept the smallest embers of life aflame inside him. One tattooed hand fell from the bench and trailed in the sawdust.
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Under her, Atticus' head went back and his breathing became irregular. Laine could hear it rattling in his chest. The audience was quiet. It made the sound of his breath louder to her ears. Laine kept her hands on the knife and his chest as he fell still under her. As his hand dropped to the ground, Laine released the last bit of ribbon that was holding in the air above him. She dropped lightly to the ground beside him and cast a glance to the back curtain.

Cooper would be coming out soon. Cooper's appearance in the ring signalled the end of the show and as he talked Laine waited patiently, a smile of a showman on her face. Her eyes occassionally drifted to the back curtain.Laine knew John was waiting in the dark back there. He had moved at some point when she was sliding down to drive the blade home. As the lights moved to focus on Cooper and away from the pair in the ring, John came out. Laine drew the blade out and pressed her hand to the wound. The blood was warm and slick under her hand. John handed Laine a cloth and this in turn she pressed onto Atticus wound. Laine knew it would all stop in a bit but there was no need for him to bleed out more than was necessary. With the cloth in place John picked Atticus up gently. Laine carried the blade as she followed John out. She could still hear the crowd, unsure if they should clap for a man's death but the facisnation and astonishment of it warranted some reaction. The reactions rippled around her as she exited the ring.

The crew would clean up Atticus' other instruments of torture and his cane. John headed to Laine's bunk and gently laid Atticus on her bed. "No one but Cooper or you are allowed in unless it is an emergency. Bring me his cane when they clear the ring, please, he will want that. Thank you John." Laine went to place a hand on John's arm when she realized she was covered in Atticus' blood. With a smile on her lips, "I'll be fine now. Let me fuss." She gave John a wink as she attempted to shoo the large man from her room.

Closing the door behind him with her hip. Laine turned back to look at Atticus. Moving quickly she set the blade down and set to work cleaning the blood from Atticus' body. She reached for a small stack of towels and a bowl of water she used for washing her makeup off after a show. Sitting on the bed beside his limp form she began washing him down.
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Re: The Greatest Show in the Universe IC

Postby Irish Wolf on Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:23 pm

Cooper had the urge to kick Atticus. Did the man really need to drag the princess, the second biggest royal patron on the planet and who had the biggest, her father, wrapped around her finger, into his act? Why hadn’t he asked for a bodyguard? While he could turn aside the wrath from showing the princess some skin (the body is art) with a little of his special persuasion, what the devil was he going to do when she told the king about the final act? Beg forgiveness while being chased off planet? She was just a girl (no matter what custom said), a very sheltered girl and he had just stolen away more innocence then her husband would on her wedding night.

Or at least he had tried too. The ringmaster had let out a breath of relief when Kathleen failed the plunge the blade home in the killing blow and his heart twinged when she fled. He was fond of the girl and could always remember how he first met her. Eight years ago, when he first visited this world, his circus hadn’t been the focus point of the princess’s birthday but something to give the common folk to do while on holiday. Their forth night on the planet, he had been shocked to find a small girl in his tent, demanding that she be allowed to join.

It had been an unpleasant surprise, when two thousand armed soldiers from the King’s Royal Rifles had surrounded the circus, an hour after he had placed a bulletin up on the local net, with the girl’s picture. It had been only his silver tongue, which kept King Theodore from having them all arrested, when he showed up a few minutes later, to collect his only child.

The next day, as Cooper was directing the hasty packing up the show, he received yet another surprise. A letter arrived, stating two things. First that he and his people had been cleared of any charges. Second, that he was commanded by his majesty, King Theodore, to halt any attempt to leave, as the royal party would be reviewing the circus on the morrow. It was the start of a grand relationship between the traveling show and the planet, as the king fell in love with the circus within the first hour. Everyone (who had all thought they were going to be lined up and shot for attempting to kidnap the princess) had been invited to feast that visit.

Now a grumpy performer might have ruined everything. The ringmaster wished that Atticus had been in a better mood but that was like wishing for the fuel in The Traveler’s tanks to never run empty. The man was bitter if there was a show to do and bitter if there wasn’t. The only time the tattooed man had ever seemed happy had been in the days following a new inking.

“Ladies” said Cooper, in a soothing voice, as the lights turned from the limp body and focused on him, “Allow me to reassure you. When you come to enjoy the wider entertainments of my circus tomorrow, I guarantee Tanner will be among us. Tonight you have seen him die and tomorrow you will see him live, for death cannot hold this man. I swear to it.”

“Now” he continued, as the spotlight’s turned off with loud clicks, until only one remained, “I am afraid to say, that is all we can offer you. For but a moment, we have finished but the show will go on. I wish you the most pleasant of dreams and cannot wait to see you at the grand opening in the morning.”

The final spot light clicked off and for a long second, the big top was plunged into total darkness. Then soft lights, built into the walkways along the stands, began to glow, showing the way out.
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It took Atticus four and a half hours to regain consciousness, by which time the main tent had long been emptied and the rest of the camp asleep. He woke slowly and hesitantly, rising out of mental oblivion like a miner surfacing after months spent underground. At first the light and unfamiliarity of his environment was overwhelming but then the pain from what was left of his wounds hit him and he simply ached.

Shifting slightly against the pillow, he remembered he was in Laine's quarters and he wished he'd not agreed to let her take him here. For the next few hours he'd be useless; although the lesser injuries were already reduced to faintly pink shadows of their former selves beneath the ink, the wound in his abdomen would take longer. He preferred to spend that time alone, out of sight and away from other people like a wounded animal retreating back into its den. Later, he'd emerge, cane in hand as usual and most of the circus would never see him in that even more pathetic in-between state. He'd done it a hundred times before, after all. But no, he'd not had time to argue with her.

Awkwardly levering himself up onto his elbows and biting his lip at the protest from the wound in his stomach, he noticed first of all that someone had cleaned the blood off him. Then he noticed that that someone was sitting in a chair beside him, her head a tangle of blonde hair resting on the bed by his feet. In the low lights of her room and without any of the garish make-up of her act she looked very different.

Reaching for the glass of water that had been left beside the bed for him, he took a few thirsty gulps and set it back down with deliberate force, intending for the sound to wake her. He needed to leave, this was too much. Even if it meant that Cooper would find him when he would inevitably come looking for him to unleash some of the anger he was sure he must have incurred for attempting to make the princess take part in the act. Even if he didn't want to.

He moved his good leg away from Laine and went to lift his bad one over to the other side of the bed.
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