May 20, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 3

The Terrace could never be considered just a restaurant, even by human standards. Six very large, very elegantly tiered platforms gently sloped down the landscaped hillside, spanning from the second floor kitchens and enclosed dining/buffet area—which also included access to the open walkway that straddled the entrance chamber—down to the lush park level with its cobbled walkways, decorative flowerbeds, and open sound stage for daily theatrical and musical productions.

Each widening white marble tier and gracefully graduated steps created a semi-circle, with the sound stage as focal point, and easily accommodated fifty tables per tier, allowing plenty of room off the main traffic areas for privacy and larger groupings. In times of emergency more tables could be set up or removed altogether and stored, forming a makeshift auditorium of chairs and steps for all residents and helpers.

Open twenty-four hours, daily, patrons of The Terrace were pampered with immaculate snowy white tablecloths and linen napkins, Bromon crested flatware that had a solid comfortable feel when used, fresh cut flowers or potted plants at the peak of blooming, and crystal flame lighting encased in glass lamps that increased in illumination as the day/night cycle rotated.

While the food courts in the Galleria and Hi Top Lounge were great for a healthy quick bite or takeout, The Terrace offered seven-course dining of the highest quality cuisine. Through the assistance of human helpers and the Crystal Lake Acres Corporation, Terrace staff regularly received meat and dairy products, along with hundreds of cases of different cultural wines that were stored in temperature controlled vaults throughout the city. Over the years Thalians had become connoisseurs of homemade fruit wines that offered higher alcohol content and no chemical aftertaste, making the house wines a popular choice for celebrations.

The crunch of stones and pounding feet preceded Debra and Damon around the wide gradual curve of the jogging path. Water droplets still covered the manicured lawns from the dawn sprinklers, filling the air with a moist freshness that smelled of pungent soil and scented blossoms.

Leaving the path, the sovereign and consort stopped at the bottom of the Terrace steps for a final set of stretches, arms and legs wet with sweat, faces flushed radiant with health. Since becoming the first official Thalian couple to reside in the city, they were regularly spotted early each morning on the more arduous jogging paths that ended below The Terrace for a full breakfast at the sovereign’s table on the second tier.

“All I’m saying is the consort needs to set an example,” Damon lightly panted, retrieving his bottle of water from the freshly scrubbed marble step. Dressed only in tight knee-length shorts and knob-soled running shoes, he toweled off his chest and arms before slipping on a lightweight black tank top.

“That’s easy for you to say,” Debra snapped pulling on black sweatpants over her exercise shorts. “Where do I find an hour, let alone two, for fittings? I don’t want a new wardrobe. I don’t need a new wardrobe.”

Damon watched well-toned arms pull the matching outsized sweat top over her head, his eyebrow sharply raised as if to say “I rest my case”. “What are you going to do, where black sweats to the Jubilee?”

“Are you saying the marriage is off if I don’t get a new wardrobe?”

His thumb lightly brushed the tip of her chin. “Personally, I find you appealing whatever you decide wear. But the elders are not quite as enamored with their consort as I am. Why don’t we start with one piece of clothing for now? Charon has designed a stunning gown just for you, that won’t be unveiled until Jubilee.”

He signaled the wait staff to begin serving their pre-ordered morning meal. Down on the stage fresh flowers were being artfully arranged amongst faux Greek columns and marble benches. At the moment a lone harpist practiced an afternoon number that promised to sooth diners and passersby, a Thalian composition that would be accompanied by several flutes and violins.

Seeing Damon at his sovereign best with staff and residents made Debra a little uncomfortable inside. Not that she would ever call him a politician. But he was a man born to incredible power over others and carried the heavy mantel of his position extremely well. Maybe what she really felt uncomfortable with was her own inability to face people as gracious and diplomatically.

“What if I don’t like Charon’s dress design?” Debra murmured irritably. “We haven’t covered wardrobe in my consort lessons yet. Am I allowed to wear what I want?”

“It’s just a design, love,” Damon responded gently. “Charon will be more than happy to change whatever you don’t like. She’ll ask you a few questions about your preferred lifestyle, colors, accessory choices, then draw up several designs for different occasions and you’ll pick the ones you like and any modifications you want.”

Using the Bromon crested fork, she managed to push her scrambled eggs from one side of the plate to the other. “I guess you think I’m being silly.”

“I think, other than school, you’ve never had to deal with a public life. You’ve never had a big family around you.” He leaned closer, his long fingers reaching out and holding her smaller hand. “Your life above made you the most self-reliant person I’ve ever known; you can improvise better than anyone. I don’t want to change you, Debra. Just help you find your full potential by introducing you to a little more adventure where choices are concerned.”

Debra drew in a small calming breath and pushed aside her uneaten breakfast. He was using his best velvet voice on her again, the one that had kept her trying to survive here in the real world. Only this time the marital bond made the truth of his words sweetly evident. “All right, I’ll find some time this morning.” Glancing at the plain watch on her wrist, she grimaced, tossing the white napkin on the table. “Crap, I’m going to be late for class.”

Had there been other children and young adults in the city, Debra would have been part of a class of ten or fifteen students studying control techniques for several basic psychic skills; most likely in one of the large teaching rooms on the second level. The handful of second-generation babies remaining in the city were born with mature psychic knowledge and insight, yet were too fragile physically to leave the nursery for extended periods. Being trapped in so short a life, theirs was an existence of play and loving indulgence.

With no young people to train, the lecture theaters and labs stayed empty, instructors competed amongst themselves to retain and expand proficiency, and like Eron, elders and grand masters often reminisced about the old days of educating and yearned to be of use again someday. Now, suddenly, Debra was theirs to shape and mold, a Vion no less, and created a zealous fire of determination to provide the sovereign’s consort with the utmost training and curriculum.

In her honor, all instructors had sworn the highest possible standards would be applied to Debra’s training, whether she agreed to such in-depth tutoring or not.

Not sure whether to consider her instructors’ undivided attention as a blessing or a curse, Debra felt compelled to follow along with the chosen courses even though there were times she felt like an adult attending kindergarten class.

When she asked to learn Thalian psychic ways she had not envisioned hours of breathing and visualization. What did breathing have to do with using the killing power?

Now very late for her first class of the day, Debra waved a timid greeting and hurried over to join grand master elder Mica on the agreed to bench in the park. Being in a class of one meant lessons were often held in the park or some tucked away alcove in the entrance chamber, sometimes even in an empty area on a lower tier of The Terrace.

“You’re late.”

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