|An Automated Opera
Author: Atrix PM
the phantom of the opera is a robot? How could that work in a story? trust me...it DOES!Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Tragedy - Chapters: 2 - Words: 5,741 - Reviews: 3 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 02-11-09 - Published: 02-10-09 - id: 2634068
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
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I looked stupid as Carlotta.
My chest was too flat, my makeup was caked-on and smeared, and when I tried to look cocky and self-assured like her character would, I just ended up looking constipated.
It's hard to look full-of-yourself when you know how stupid you appear to other people.
The robot, or Erik, as he liked to be called, glared at me critically from the shadows where he was standing. "Start from the top. I know you can do better and we don't have very much time."
"No excuses. No one will mistake you for a showbot when your acting is this bad. I expect more from you, now start from the beginning of the scene."
"I can't act cocky when I look dumb. I am not normally good at this, and the fact that I look bad is making my acting even worse."
Erik sighed. "You don't look stupid."
"The chest of this costume is hanging off of me. I don't have the boobs to fill it up."
Erik's eyes darted to the part of my anatomy in question, then darted away even quicker, his eyes leaping to mine with intense anger. "You look fine."
"I coughed while I was putting this lipstick on….and it's too dark for me to know where I smeared it."
"There isn't anything wrong with you."
"I am wearing a robot scalp on my head, and I know that some of my natural hair is poking out….and let me tell ya…it's not red."
"You look FINE! You should be overjoyed that you don't look good in Carlotta's costume…She is the most unattractive drag-queenish woman that has ever crossed the stage of any Broadway play. Just relax and enjoy the fact that you get to be on stage tonight. You get to be a star."
"But you're the star."
Erik sank further into the shadows of the dim maintenance room. "No. I'm not. They don't come for me."
I raised an eyebrow and stared at my kneecaps, draped as they were in the thick Christmas colored fabric of Carlotta's Hannibal costume.
"Why did you do this anyways?" I asked quietly. "I didn't mean any harm when I signed for this job. I don't see why you had to screw me over."
"I don't want to deal with any other maintenance crew workers that the producers might hire for these showbots if you quit. I long ago deemed that the moment I found someone who would deal properly with the truth of my condition, I would make them stay permanently in their position. So long as you have a problem to fix, you are rooted to this job, I like it that way. I do need at least one connection on the outside world, after all."
"So no one knows that you can function independently?"
"I would know how to deal with them if they did."
I frowned, scared by the cold way that Eric had expressed this, I gathered my courage to say,
"So if I said no?"
"You would not. That is why you do know." I could feel, but not see, Eric's face tighten. "Do you have objections?" He asked.
I glanced nervously about the poorly-lit room. "I have questions."
"You may get few answers…but none at all if you choose not to help me."
I waited for a few moments before answering his unspoken request. Hindered by the thousands of chaotic and nervous thoughts that flew through my mind, the only statement I could produce was this:
"You're just like him, you know."
I felt the interest of my invisible partner, and chose to continue speaking.
"The phantom. You are him. I already know so much about you that you wouldn't have to tell me. I can tell that you're extremely smart…and very strong, and even more ruthless. That is one of the reasons why I wouldn't deny you what you ask."
The phantom remained silent.
"Another reason is that I just plain like you. It's taking me a tremendous amount of effort not to ask you for your autograph."
The phantom remained silent.
"And another reason is that any one showbot from this play is worth more money than I can ever repay to anyone. So my hands are basically tied here…I don't know why you even bothered asking."
The phantom abruptly stepped from the shadows, his expression frank and fixed behind his white mask.
"I pity the situation, though I am overjoyed at the outcome. I will be happy to help you too, you know."
"In what ways?"
"While I fix our prima donna I will teach you how to emulate her, as I was doing before."
"Fix her? I thought you wanted me stuck here?"
"Only long enough for me to decide what I'll do next. Perhaps I'll leave here, or perhaps I'll retain my position for a while…in the mean time, I need someone like you here to be my….Madame Giry, if you will."
"Fifteen minutes to showtime."
My face paled.
"I think I might pass out. Oh my god…the biggest opening night in history and I'm going to screw it up."
A cold hand rested on my shoulder, then hesitantly left, leaving in its wake the receding tingles of its presence.
"You will be fine." The phantom said lowly, musically as he disappeared, perhaps leaving through some trap door of the theater.
I took a shaky breath. "I sure as hell hope so."
Eric walked away from the room with a different fire lighting his coal black eyes.
He was glad that his plan had played out the right way.
He definitely didn't want to deal with any other maintenance engineers.
He'd finally found the right one.
When the lights in the theatre come to life, your heart stops.
When the curtains rise to reveal the under-exposed faces of thousands of onlookers, you completely flatline.
And when you hit your character's part, and you know you have to speak…or worse, SING, you might as well be declared dead.
That is how stressful and unnerving all of these occurrences are.
No wonder they wanted to replace human actors with showbots.
I fairly struggled through all of my parts, but as I watched Eric perform, I felt stricken by the sheer brilliance of his acting, his voice, and his mannerisms.
He was truly incredible.
From the very moment he stepped on stage, he gave the audience exactly what they needed. Not one of them was dry-eyed by the end of the show…including me.
It was clear who the showbots were here.
I worked increasingly hard as the show went on, trying harder and harder to appear professional and perfect enough to be a showbot.
Only when the curtains fell on the show, and Eric pulled me away from the stage towards the dressing room, a ghost of a smile playing across his lips, did I know whether I did well or not.
"Did I do well ?" I asked fidgeting with my costume as Eric bolted the door of the engineers room. "Tell me if I did well! Did I butcher the show?"
My eyes filled with nervous tears at his silence.
"Did I screw it all up! Will they catch me now! I'll be arrested! Or they'll fine me more money than I'll ever be able to repay!" My breathing became labored.
"Relax." Eric whispered; using his voice to soothe my agitation. "You did far better than anyone would have expected. You started a little rough, but you still did better than any of the actors on Broadway, so you'll be fine, even if you weren't convincing enough to be of the shobot caliber. You are a natural actor, Meg, and you'll only get better with time."
I fell against the wall, weary with relief.
"You have to get out of that costume." Eric remarked candidly. "The managers of the show will be here any minute to check on their prized technology."
I sucked in a shaky breath and nodded.
"I'll see you tomorrow, then." said the melodious voice of Eric, as it resonated from behind me. "I'd appreciate it if you'd come in a bit early. There are a few things that we should get straitened out before the next show.
And then he was gone.
He wasn't a huge help, was he?
I thought this as I slipped into my pervious outfit, hastily pulling off Carlotta's scalp and tugging my own hair out of it's ponytail.
Then, I moved the REAL Carlotta (the one with no arms) into a corner, threw a sheet over her, and wondered how I was going to explain Eric's absence to the higher-ups.
(go-figure that he wouldn't have stayed to make things easier on me. THAT certainly didn't seem to be his objective.)
When I was all situated in my normal garb, I unlocked the door to find a clean-looking man in a suit standing just beyond the threshold.
His hair fell just above his shoulders, his skin was spotless, and his general appearance simply exuded richness and the influence that it implies.
I stared at him uncomprehendingly for a few moments before allowing him to enter the room.
"So I see that Carlotta malfunctioned a bit during the beginning half of the show." He commented, staring down at me in more ways than one. "Do you mind telling me how that happened?" He asked, one perfect eyebrow raised.
It was time for me to use my random technical terms. I hoped desperately that this man knew nothing about electronics, because if he did; he would find me out instantly.
"The humidity slowed down the exhaust fan in her main circuit drive." I stammered. "There was nothing that I could do at the time…but if we put a fan up it would stop the moisture from pooling in her RAM port. That's what I think would do the trick."
I was sweating by the end of that statement, because by the time I'd finished speaking, I'd realized how stupid I had sounded.
"Really." The man nodded. "We'll have to purchase a few fans, then."
"So, do you mind if I take a look at her?" The man proclaimed, striding over to the draped form that was Carlotta before I had the time to stop him.
"WHAT? NO!" I shouted hastily, successfully stopping him from removing the sheet.
The man cast me a threatening glance. "Excuse me? Perhaps you don't know who I am. Let me clarify my position for you, in hopes that you'll understand yours a little better too. My name is Augustine Giry and I am the owner of this production. You are an engineer under my employ. Now please explain to me why you believe you can deny me the right to see the robot that I paid for?"
THINK MEG, THINK! Come up with an excuse or kiss your life goodbye!
"The sheet over the robot was a temporary precaution I took to ensure that the humidity wouldn't get the best of the machinery overnight. Until you get at least three fans in here and at least as many dehumidifiers you can't afford to take that sheet off the robot, even for a few seconds."
Augustine looked at me, then the robot, then me again.
Clearly there was a conflict taking place within him. The conflict between trusting someone he considered untrustworthy, or risking the money he had invested in his Carlotta showbot.
His money won.
What do you expect?
Augustine sneered at me before walking past me towards the door.
"You'll have your damned fans." He spat. Looking me in the eyes as he stood in the doorway. "But I swear to god that if that robot is not up to speed by tomorrow…I will have your head."
He gave me one last glance before vanishing into the hallway.
"Nice lipstick." He said suspiciously, grinning.
My eyes widened.
Well Augustine hadn't asked where Eric had been…but perhaps that was because he had other things on his mind.
I had forgotten to clean off the damned makeup.
Now, maybe I couldn't give Augustine full credit for being a technical genius…but I could give him a few points for being observant. After all; he had noticed that my lipstick had been smeared in the same way that Carlotta's had onstage.
Which would impress me if it didn't scare me so much.
I shook my head as I punched the radio feed in my arm so I could listen to my favorite station as I drove home.
(forgot that this story took place in the future, didn't you?)
It would be easy to detract from Augustine's suspicions. I would just have to smear my lipstick a little bit everyday, which would eventually lead him to suspect that I was just an extremely clumsy person. Far, far too clumsy a person to be the actor that was masquerading as Carlotta.
I smiled as I pulled into my driveway and dragged the bag containing Carlotta's costume out of the trunk and into my house. I had decided that I would make a few adjustments to it so long as I would have to wear it while I performed.
I was just about to plop it on my sewing table and take the bust in a few inches, when I noticed something on my kitchen table.
It was the music for the phantom of the opera, and a choker necklace.
I read the note on the top of the music score.
You had misplaced Carlotta's choker when you left the dressing room.
Bring the music when you come in tomorrow, prepare yourself for grueling practice.
One thought possessed me as I picked up the lace choker in my fingers, running the fabric over in my hands.
How the hell did he know where I lived?
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