Challenge: Vanilla #23 - Music / Singing / Dancing
Extras: Wafer Cookie
Word Count: 669
Summary: Maxim 'invites' Kse and Paradigm to a masquerade...
Notes: Aaaa please forgive the somewhat odd lines of the picture, my scanner is nearly dead so anything I draw has to be done on the computer and after five or so years I still haven't got the hang of Manga Studio. It was only supposed to be a sketch I drew to explain the comment about Paradigm's mask (it's not a syntax error, I really did mean it that way), but I got a little carried away and now I think I might actually finish it...
This was supposed to be a little fluff filling in the blanks before Messy Stuff Starts Happening - but is now demanding a sequel. And yes, Maxim really does have a physical, human body here.
"Why're we doing this again?" Paradigm fiddled with his cuffs.
"Because we can." Maxim said simply. "And because I want to get some use out of this body."
"That doesn't make sense." He gave in with the cuffs; they would've stumped a genius. "Most people try to preserve their bodies, not wear them out. And a masquerade?"
"Most people," Maxim said drily, "have had a lifetime in which to preserve their bodies. And why not?"
"The outfits," Paradigm said plaintively. "I look like− I don't even know what I look like! Who designed this damn thing anyway?"
"That's what I'd like to know." The edge to the woman's voice was unmistakable. She couldn't have sharpened it any further if she'd tried.
Maxim whistled between his teeth. "If I didn't know better I'd say that you−"
"If you know better," Kse growled through gritted teeth, "then don't say a word." She stepped into the room with all the grace of a ballet-dancing hitman.
Even if she walked like a thug, Paradigm couldn't fault her figure. In a dress that seemed to be made out of midnight itself and accentuated every feminine curve, she looked the epitome of elegance. "I'm impressed."
"You'll be impressed when I shoot you." The beauty didn't extend to her mouth.
"Yes. I probably will be."
"And if you say anything," she addressed Maxim without looking, to his amusement, "then you will suffer. Do you understand me?"
"Your mask, my lady." He handed her the feathered shape with a broad grin.
Paradigm almost felt sorry for the toastmaster. It couldn't have been easy for him as it was, faced with a man wearing a mask with only one eye and a woman who looked as though she could happily rip off his arm and beat him with the wet end. But when the unfortunate Master of Ceremonies found himself announcing the man with the vivid pink hair as "Maxim, Lord of the Lines" Paradigm thought he might choke on his own words.
"I said there would be no problem," Maxim said calmly, descending the stairs to stand with Kse and Paradigm in the whirl of people. "It's not like we're not officially invited."
"We're officially invited," Kse snapped, "because you officially invited us."
Maxim failed to suppress a smile. "And you're not happy to be here?" With one hand he made an airy gesture that encompassed the huge hall.
Paradigm couldn't help being impressed, despite himself. It wasn't often he got to see men and women wearing their bank balances on their sleeve. The marble floor was so highly polished that not only could he see his reflection in it, he suspected he could also see up some of the less genteel ladies' dresses if he so wished.
"Happy," growled the woman, "is not the word." Her look of murder attracted stares of surprise from the dancing ladies and gentleman; it only caused Maxim to laugh out loud and offer her his arm. Kse stared at it as though it was loaded. "What?"
"Dance with me," he grinned.
She took his arm gingerly, fingers resting lightly on the expensive fabric of his sleeve. "I can't dance. It's not something they tend to teach you along with the advanced killing techniques." A rare expression of apprehension passed over her delicate features before setting into something more closely resembling determination.
Maxim's smile never wavered as he led her into the throng. "If you'd just agreed to have that chip inset, I could've sideloaded the steps to you."
"Just because I don't want to be a freak like you−"
"Who're you calling a freak, Agency drone?" Their good-natured bickering faded into the ambient crowd noise, leaving Paradigm alone. A month before he would have felt too self-conscious about his travelling companions to agree to this event; a month before, Kse would have been dancing with a tangle of wires and three vast screens. He let a small smile curve his lips, then headed off in search of free food.