Part 3: Talon - Chapter 2

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Lady Geranium Petunia deForêt-Bassyngthwayghte held up her hand just as her Helot maid was about to activate the hair-styler.

'Wait,' she said.

The Helot rolled her eyes, but kept one hand over the contact.

'What do you think?' asked Geranium. 'Honestly?'

'I don't know, miss. Honestly. It's your hair.'

Geranium looked at her reflection on the screen. She moved her head slightly, felt the swish of her midnight-coloured locks across her skin, tilted her head forward so she was looking out through the fringe. So much about her appearance not to like: her boobs were too big; there was a mole on her right upper arm; her nose was just totally the wrong type of nose... Perhaps she should have it altered, take some of the little-girl pertness from it.

'Leave the hair,' she said, and stood up to continue dressing.

The Helot searched in her mistress's shoe wardrobe for something more practical than the pair Geranium planned to wear, but which would still co-ordinate. The wardrobe's AI detected the movement of shoes and activated its vision to scan the clothes laid out on the bed.

'I don't think so,' it said.

'No one asked you,' said Geranium, ignoring the fact that she was the one who'd programmed the AI to make such remarks when it thought she wasn't quite right in her choices of style or colour or what the weather might be going to do.

'The rise in humidity indicates that the possibility of rain is—' the AI began.

'Shut up,' growled the girl. The Helot glanced at the AI's camera lens and smirked; in return the AI uttered the equivalent of an electronic sigh. Neither of them liked Mondays.

'Get my raincover,' Geranium said.

The Helot had a name, Sarti, but Geranium seldom used it. She never used anyone's name unless she absolutely had to. And the problem was that there was a great possibility she would be expected to use a lot of names tonight. Not only that, there was her mother to contend with: she would make obvious remarks to other guests about how much Geranium's clothes had cost and who had designed them. In Geranium's opinion they were just clothes.

'I want a tattoo,' she said to Sarti. 'Across my forehead. A blue dragon that has a speech bubble coming out of its mouth saying You can all get fucked.'

'I doubt that would be allowed, miss,' said Sarti, hastily twisting the corners of her mouth down so as to hide her grin. 'The Chancellor's going to be there. I think she might take it the wrong way.'

'Well there's no right way to take something like that.'

She slipped into her clothes and waited while Sarti made sure everything was connected correctly and the skirt hung in such a way as to hide what needed to be hidden. Then she slipped on the shoes the Helot had chosen.

'These are...' she began, pouting.

'Practical, miss. The possibility of rain is—'

'Oh, don't you start. Now, let's go downstairs and listen to Mother criticise.'

The Marchioness Calliope Japonica deForêt-Bassyngthwayghte didn't criticise, as it turned out. She cast an eye over the gown she had selected for her daughter, who submitted quietly to the examination. Against the Marchioness's advice, Sarti had made a slight alteration to the front so as to reduce the amount of cleavage on display, and lowered the split on the left leg. It perhaps wasn't as alluring as her mother intended, but it meant that nothing suspicious showed itself.

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