Kneel Before the Kings

If the world was pretty and all too fake, ran by a corrupt monarchy, colorless and left for dead - who's to say what's right?
Maybe the girl who brings tomorrow, her and a faceless army. When time for rebellion comes, it makes you, or it drowns you.

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2. Atrasado de Moda

“I don’t get it.”
“Neither do we, but that’s our - Cerdo, stop moving - that’s our duty.”
“It makes no sense.” 
Queen Malvada would have slapped her son right then, but didn’t. She should have, for two reasons.
One, he wasn’t her real son, just the heir to the throne, conceived by the fittest, healthiest and most well-bred civilians of the world. Two, she needed to teach Prince Cerdo to shut his fat mouth. Especially about something as sacred as the ball.
“Aren’t royal balls for princesses?” Cerdo wheezed, holding in his stomach as his suit was strapped together.
“It’s just called a ball. All of Earth will be there and you need to find a few wives.”
“How many?”
“Well how many do you have, Cerdo?”
He counted on gloved fingers, “At least two.”
“At least isn’t good enough.” Queen Malvada stood in front of him and made sure he looked decent. All white, all fitting. Yes, he would do. 
“I’ll find out before we go.”
“You better. I can’t have you looking bad tonight. Do whatever you like, just don’t you dare give Crasterra a bad name.”
“I won’t, promise.”
    “I promise. Please, Cerdo, stop with the twenty-first century slang. It’s foul.”
    “Sorry, ma’ lady.”
    The Queen felt sick just looking at the the chubby prince stand there, smirking and sweating through the new suit she had just got him for that night. She turned to leave his dressing room, which was, of course, all white and all fitting. 
    “Oh, and Queen Malvada?” Cerdo never stopped smirking.
    “Yes?” She half turned around, but that seemed to be enough to welcome him to pressing his form against her and looking her up and down.
    “You look really stunning in the dress. White is really your color.”
    Sure, maybe she wasn’t really his mother, and still only twenty years older than the late teenager, but she swore that if the prince pressed into her even a little more, the white floor would run red.
    “Just go and find another wife. And remember, I’m your mother. Touch me and I’ll have you thrown out of the palace.” she snapped, stepping away swiftly. 
    “Sure. And King Herir is my real father.” He stepped back into her, but never laying a finger on her skin. She could feel his heavy, hot breath on her lipstick, “But that didn’t stop him trying this on me, did it?”
    She pushed him hard with the heel of her hand, “We don’t talk about old kings. And anyway, he was brought to a hospital, so he’s far out of our hair now.”
    “Easy to say when he wasn’t your dad.”
    “I was his wife. Stop wallowing.”
    “Oh please, you saw him twice in all your life. He never even went near touching you.”
    “That’s all this world needs. And all you need to get tonight. Now, get out of here and find out how many wives you have, for God’s sake.”
    Prince Cerdo stopped smiling, and finally left his room, the Queen not lingering far behind. It didn’t matter how impersonal the rooms were, there was something about a place where Cerdo spent extended periods of time naked that sent a rush of blood to her face. 
    She supposed it didn’t matter though. That night would be the night of the ball, and nothing was going to mess it up for her.

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“Ladies! Ready for the ball?” Cerdo was trouble. A boy with his head in the gutter who was raised with bottles of the finest wine and rooms of the finest women. Empathy wasn’t a word to him, but you could bet that screams were familiar sounds.    
Three women, all his wives, huddled together in the corner of a room with the layout of a prison. A room for a toilet, and then piles of clothes and old dishes lining the walls. This was one of the few rooms that weren’t fully white, and instead coated in black mould and the faint traces of blood. They cowered when he swaggered into the room, his hands already reaching out for them, like a baby and a sweet. 
“I said are you ladies ready for the ball?” He pressed his pignose right into their faces, “Huh?”
“W-We don’t attend the ball, Prince.”
“Prince?”
One of the girls with matted blonde hair and dark skin bowed her head, but he grabbed it back up to meet his eyes, “Sir Prince.”
“That’s ma’ girl. Now why don’t you girls get dressed, huh? You can’t be meeting our lovely kingdom in these rags.”
The girls didn’t speak, but just waited for him to grab one of them and demand an answer. He finally choose a black haired, red lipped girl who had broken her leg long ago in that room, and then tried to shuffle out of his reach, failing admissibly. 
    “We don’t have more clothes, Sir Prince. And we cannot go to the ball.”
    “Now, why wouldn’t you be? Everyone is always there. All of this... this…” He extended both his arms, the women nearly shrieking at each one of his sudden movements, “Beautiful world!” 
    They nodded, the two girls linking their arms to stubbly hold each other together. But one girl sat on the kingsized bed that they shared. She sat at the edge, her chin a little higher, and her eyes and little clearer. 
    He smiled, like a hyena in the jungle, “You’re new aren’t you? I forgot about you. Now that makes three wives. So, darling…” He wrapped his strong fingers tight around her wrists. Her red hair bouncing when he forced her chest against his, and when he forced her head back. She bared her teeth, but she didn’t dare speak against him and his habit of pressing his face so close to someone else. “...Why don’t you get changed?”
    “Into what?” she nearly spat at him.
    “Into nothing.”

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A few hours passed. Prince Cerdo’s suit needed to be rewashed for undisclosed reasons, but everything was back to as it should be. The evening of the ball came, and the lights in the grand hall were lit, candles lining the roof. 
    Servants hurried around. All their heads were shaved and their fingers all twitched when a loud noise was heard, and that was just who they were made be. Artificial intelligence ran the rest of the house, including cooking and most of the cleaning. The Queen and a former King, Amainado, took their places high up on the balcony. They sipped white wine and waited for the ball to begin. 
This was an important day. Prince Cerdo was allowed a few wives as secret toys, but they were never to be brought outside. No one knew they existed - except of course everyone knew because sometimes when new servants were hired a random beautiful girl the Prince’s age would be chosen, and disappear a few days later. But these girls weren’t to be taken to events or made Queens or anything. A new Queen was to be chosen, and there needed to be a few to chose from.

Not long after, the servants cleared to the side and lined the walls, serving as waiters and as bodyguards. The room went silent right before the first few civilians cautiously walked into the room. They first presented a gift of a prized possession, everything from a wedding ring from long ago when marriages were common, to a basket of large fruits. 
All the ordinary guests wore bedsheets or curtains tied together, or anything to stay white. But the girls wore something special. Their hair was hidden behind tight cloths, and their faces were coated with white powders. And there was always a tooth-and-claw battle to get the nicest dresses in the towns. The white gowns would be dumped in the town hall and whoever snatched it won. You’d be surprised how much blood could be exchanged for one night of beauty, just to be chosen as a plaything for the royals. But isn’t it better than a life on rations? I mean, these girls avoided being given of to older men when they were children, so why give it up when they were so close?
The ball started, and it was nothing like a ball. 
The girls lined up, all shaking and keeping their posture as straight as a stick figure dolls. The palace had knights, who wore chain armor and silver helmets, and firmly took the girls by the waist as a chamber orchestra held up their bows.
The room was deadly silent, the local people watching eagerly, and the rest of the world praying to dead religions. The girls couldn’t breath in the tight corsets, the men couldn’t blink in the chilling air, the women’s hearts couldn’t beat through the tension. The white room was still, every last nook in light. Every elegant design polished and shining. 
    The royal family, every last former king and queen after joining Malvada and Amainado, sat on thrones with their hands folded in their laps and their eyes darting across every stray hair and bead of sweat on the girl’s almost flawless complexion.
The world hung on a thread, and as the strings were bowed, the world shook. 
    And that’s exactly when she came in.

    She put her hands on her knees when she puffed. She had ran at least a mile and she was already stuffy in the stupid, tight dress. It’s ruffly skirt was hitched up past her knees, and she only wore white make-up on her eyes and lips. A single curl of deep green hair hung across her damp forehead. 
    The Queens nearly fainted, and the Kings nearly fell into comas. The prince's heart just raced at her white stockings, and white loveheart cut, and her white lips. 
    Queen Malvada stood up, pushing her chair back, and nearly letting in topple, “Let the ball commence!” she ordered, and the musicians immediately obeyed. 
    She made her way past the servants, tossing them a sack of silver coins. She approached a knight who didn’t yet have a dance, and whispered to where an ear might be under the silver plates.
    “Hey, sorry I’m a fair bit late. My name is Florence Manana, I’m here for the ball too.” She mostly breathed in this ear with heavy pants, but it was so quiet, the whole room turned to watch them make their way onto the dancefloor.
    The music started up, and everyone began the first test. An elegant dance, composed years ago and repeated each year. The girls began to step in time with the pulse of violins and cellos, twirling and bowing when needs be.
    “The Adagio by Albinoni. Great piece.” Florence’s small talk echoed, and as drinks were given the men and women, quick whispers were shared, like “Who is she?” and “What do you think they’ll do?” 
    The royalty didn’t stir. There hadn’t been trouble in hundred of years, and it wasn’t about to start today because one talkative girl had ran late.
    But then again, that hair… The Queen thought. 
    But then again, those legs… The Prince thought.
    Even Malvada snapping when she waltzed in was out of line, so they didn’t move. They simply watched as she explained to her knight why she was late, along with a life story.
    “...Then you see, I had to run. It’s really not my fault that we only get one pod to ride here in. And this dress I made myself out of curtains from this rubble I saw way back. See the little flowers? Anyway, I thought it was cute.”
    “All civilians should only travel by pods” The knight hissed back. The knights never spoke.
    Florence just shrugged, her feet itchy from all the running and slow dancing. She tried to reach her ankle with wingtip shoes, but she nearly fell straight onto the marble floor. She thanked her reflexes internally. “I know, but this night only comes once a year. And anyway…” She licked her powdered lips, and sighed. “I need to have a chance to be picked. I mean, I ruined with coming in late, I know, but I have to try. Really, it’s this or starve.”
    “No citizens starve. Rations are always supplied.”
    “Yeah, but you know what I mean. There’s a difference between surviving and living.”
    “If you want to do either, I suggest you shut up.”
    Florence sucked in a sharp breath, but before she could ask him if that was like it always was in the palace, she shut her mouth and just continued dancing, pressed up to a stranger and eyes running over her figure. 
    A thicker girl, with bright eyes and dolly lips. She looked so extraordinary she’d make you forget that the world’s string was pulling away.
    And while the bows stopped without an applause, and the Queen rose to invite the eligible ladies to the next trail of simple conversation, and the Prince thought of what he’d have to do to steal that pretty little girl with the inappropriately short skirt away, the string snapped. 
    “Okay, mother fuckers, I’ll make this easy,” The white walls said, “Get down on the ground, or get down on the fucking ground.”
    The walls broke down, and a dozen soldiers draped in colours came crashing through. They held up swords and guns, and the women sunk into the floor, hiding their faces, while the knights took out long swords that buzzed and hummed with electricity. All the while, no civilian made a sound, because they all knew better. But the royals hit a button, slamming down a glass partition between them and the bandits. “They came.” Queen Malvada whispered, and the royal’s hearts stopped in their chests. “This cannot happen. They will not disrupt our order.”
    “Hello Queenie! We decided we’re not going to let you steal away any more of these beautiful ladies just so that man-child doesn’t get lonely. Maybe it’s time we got a few for ourselves, huh?” A man with a black visor covering his whole face and red hair trailing past his hips called up to the balcony. The could have been sick right there and then, watching these tiny, insignificant rebels take charge of the dance.
    “Guards, take them!” Malvada called, and the knights slashed their swords through the air simultaneously. 
    The man with the long hair and hidden face sneered, although no one knew yet, “Alright, let’s play.”
    The dozen or so men started shooting and slashing, doing anything to get past the guards to the girls. Each limb of the knights falling with a clunk, but nothing inside but wires and cables. 
    The knight grabbed Florence Manana and forced her behind him, knowing that any of these girls could be taken, but this was the only one the prince would kill for. Florence didn’t appreciate this, however, and as soon as a shot made its way into the base of his throat and his robotic head coming clean off, she stood up. Still, the civilians just watched from the floor, the guards falling down one by one and the royals holding their breath and cursing the bandits to hell. She was the only standing girl in the room, but she still didn’t run. She should have wondered what rising would cost her - not only her potential marriage but also her life - but really, she was too transfixed on the men.
    They wore colours she could never have dreamed of, and bowties and bulletproof vests and thigh-high boots. They wore lipstick and shields and chains. They smiled at each girl, bowing before slicing the robot’s heads straight off. It seemed like this was almost ordinary, since no one was reacting, but at the same time the blood-curdling shrieks of tearing metal was something from outside time itself. The room smelt of oil and tobacco. 
    And Florence just watched as these Malontikos rebels stole away girls, with a buzz of a teleporter and the the flick of a wrist. The girls broke into particles, and flew away in clouds of dust. One mother cried, but no one stopped them. The had actually made it through the guards, and this now was them declaring war. There was nothing to be done except sit and wait, and then bomb their homes. The Queen marked down their grinning, coloured faces in her mind. She’d make them pay for giving her a bad name, she swore on it. 
    A man with curled blue hair, all black eyes and a face like a once-shattered porcelain doll that had been glued back together but still bore the cracks grabbed Florence's hand, “Belle princesse d'être, oui? You need to get out of here, the Prince wants you more than anyone else, I can see it in his eyes. We’ll deliver you back, but I need to save you now.” 
    “B-But… I need to marry him. They say royalty will save you.” Florence copied her mother’s words, but somehow they sounded like lies on her tongue.
    The man could see that, and smiled. His smile felt like the sun to snow, “They also say dulce et decorum est, but you will not die tonight. Come, please.”
    “No, I can’t.” her voice sounded so weak, but it echoed through the room. 
    The man’s black eyes darted up the queen, and he watched her fingers linger over a button that flashed red. It was time to run. 
    He reached up and yanked the cloth off Florence’s head, her green locks falling down her back. The room gasped. 
    “No, no - I’m not one of them! I just thought it was nice, please I need th-”
    “You need to leave.” Although his didn’t push her, she felt trapped between his eyes and the Queen’s.
    “Please, forgive-”
    But the Queen already pressed the blue button, and before anyone could scream bullets rained from the sky. Five girls screamed out as their dresses turned crimson, and the rest ran out of the line of fire. One of the rebel men hit the floor, his glasses shattering as he fell.
    “Nekro!” someone tried to run to his flailing body, but he was held back until the dying man fell still.
    The man grabbed Florence’s arm and shoved a teleporter down into her skin before she had a say. She screamed as her body broke apart, but her mouth was already evaporating. 
    “Je suis désolé. I’ll see you in the city.” The man whispered, running his gloved fingers once through her cheek. She was all air now, her body being dragged away from the ball and into a truck just outside. Illegal teleporters were never that strong.
    Florence fell with a thud onto a blonde girl's lap, who took her by the shoulders, “My twin sister, Angelina, have you seen her?” the girl cried.
    She remembered the scene of watching the other half of these siblings fall, her body ripped open by bullets. 
    “No… No, I’m sorry.” Was all she could say. The girl let her go, her head falling into her hands.
    “Does anyone know what those men want with us?” another said. There was about eight of them in the back of the small, dimly lit van. They shuddered as guns fired outside. 
    “They’re Malontikos. They’re rebels that come to ruin the kingdom.” 
    “Why?” They asked the girl who sat, eyes transfixed on the blood on her well-deserved dress. 
    “Because fuck the future.” 

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