Junelle Caprice’s Theatrium was drenched in yet another fiery tropical sunset. It was Junelle’s favorite time of day.
Junelle was onstage, dancing with her Allegiant, Sir Sweet the Sweetest. The song — Don’t Tell ‘Im by Jeremiah, may his voice live on — was just ending, and Junelle and Sweet shared a passionate kiss, though it was obvious Sir Sweet was more into it than Junelle.
Suddenly, from over the two of them, there was a wall of fire. It was an enormous tip. A gargantuan tip. The biggest tip Junelle had ever received. The sheet of fire lasted a good ten seconds, spanning the entire length of the stage.
Junelle looked into the audience.
“My princess,” called a voice.
The audience parted in its center to reveal a lone figure.
It was a Repentant with bright red hair. He was instantly inundated by jeers and threats of violence.
“I offer Tribute,” he said, staring only at Junelle. “I have been watching you for months, as a Fag. Now that I’m allowed to be seen — “
“Won’t be seen for long, white man!”
“ — I have just tipped you my entire yearly BIC, my princess. Please allow me one Tribute. I have prepared it especially for you.”
Sir Sweet was incensed, but Junelle looked both flattered and intrigued.
“Everyone stop,” said Junelle. Everyone did, the aggression simmering like the sunset overhead.
“Repentant,” said Junelle. “You have a mighty pair to set foot in here and presume to buy my affection. If you really want to get to know me you can request Audience like everyone else.”
“I am not worthy of Audience with a being as perfect as you,” said the Repentant. “I only want to offer Tribute to the most beautiful Anodyne in the Auburn Palace.”
“Step off, white man,” said Sir Sweet, putting himself in front of Junelle. “Understand this — WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE.”
The crowd agreed, expressing their displeasure at the Repentant’s presence again. The Repentant kept his eyes on Junelle.
Sir Sweet knew he had the crowd on his side and kept ranting.
“Even Lindy’s been singing nothing but white songs for the past two days — last week he was doing Prince, he was doing Michael, he was doing Marvin, Diana, Sam, and Alicia. Now what do we get? Panic At the fuckin’ Disco. All cause we can’t eject you motherfuckers from the Entrance all at once. We gotta accommodate you, cause fuckin’ Majors let the Commons talk him into taking the money.”
The Repentant stood at the foaming circle’s center. The audience members placed their closed fists against his cheeks and forehead, gritting their teeth, snarling threats and bile at him. He stood with his hands behind his back, taking it, looking like a Marine in the middle of a chewing out.
Junelle regarded the Repentant with an expression that could’ve been anger or curiosity or intrigue or all three at once.
“I’ve been thinking,” said Sir Sweet, working the crowd, enjoying his spotlight. “I think we’ve been too generous to these Repentants. They fucking lost. They’re where they belong now — below us.”
The audience agreed.
“I think we’ve given them the benefit of the doubt for the last time.”
He drew his sword and leapt into the crowd. He walked toward the Repentant, who still hadn’t moved or spoken since his initial greeting.
“Power is the only thing,” said Sir Sweet, showily slashing the air with his sword. “Power, and who holds it. And these Repentants have proven to us time and time again that they are not fucking worthy of power!”
He held the blade of his sword to Erik’s throat. Erik didn’t move.
“Say the word, my princess,” said Sir Sweet. “Say the word and I’ll send him on his way.”
Junelle finally held her hands up. The crowd immediately got quiet again.
“Sir Sweet, I don’t recall giving you permission to speak,” she said coolly.
“I am here to defend you, my princess,” Sir Sweet replied, holding his blade to the Repentant’s throat.
“I don’t need you to defend me,” said Junelle.
She put her hands on her hips and looked at the Repentant.
“You know, if you want Audience, it’s customary to request Trial by Combat.”
“I understand, my princess.”
“You just gave me your entire BIC. What will you do for money until the end of the year?”
“It was worth it, my princess,” said the Repentant. “Only to have a chance to give a Tribute to your beauty and power. As to my own devices, I will figure something out.”
“You don’t belong here,” snapped Sir Sweet, his blade still dimpling the side of the Repentant’s throat. “My princess, permission to send his head rolling.”
“I’m here for one reason, my princess,” said the Repentant, eyes still on Junelle. “You. I only ask that we phase private.”
The audience vehemently disagreed. How dare the Repentant suggest that?
Junelle nodded, slowly.
“Very well, Repentant,” she said. “The stage is yours. But if you want this to work, you’re going to have to do it in public.”
Both Sir Sweet and the crowd were shocked at Junelle’s leniency but had no choice but to part and let him through. Sir Sweet hesitated withdrawing his blade, but the Repentant finally turned and looked him in the eyes and he relented.
“The second you walk out of here, milkflesh,” he said, sheathing his sword. “Your ass is mine.”
Sir Sweet and Junelle went to the back of the Theatrium’s circle and took a seat at a table.
The Repentant took to the stage amid the jeers and boos, still stoic and unaffected.
He stepped to the center, cradled the mic.
“My princess,” he said. “I have arranged for accompaniment.”
“Go ahead,” said Junelle, taking a seat near the bar where her Mod, Dave, was standing vigil. Sir Sweet and several other Suitors sat around her like a pack of wolves, glowering at the Repentant.
The Repentant whistled and from the three phase portals around the stage came otters. Furry, sleek, little brown water weasels, all scampering up to the stage.
Junelle couldn’t help but squeal at their adorableness. Her Companion was an otter, and she suddenly wanted to cuddle him.
“I sought help from your favorite animal,” said the Repentant. “They’ll help me express my desire.”
He tapped on his tag and instruments appeared on the stage. Otter-sized drums, keyboard, guitars and bass.
The otters scampered up to the stage, picked up the instruments and without further ado began playing. It was a thumping, sauntering mix of keys and bass and spicy licks of blues guitar.
The Repentant stood at the mic and sang over the shrieking, jeering audience.
You wanna know if I know why
I can’t say that I do
Don’t understand the evil eye
Or how one becomes two
His voice was a warm baritone. The audience spat the Tribute into their hands.
“Make It Wit Chu, Queens of the Stone Age, may their voices live on.”
I just can’t recall what started it all
Or how to begin again
I ain’t here to break it
Just see how far it will bend
Again and again and again and again
The otters sang and to the chagrin of her Allegiants, Junelle couldn’t help but squeal with delight.
I wanna make it
I wanna make it wit chu, sang the otters.
Anytime, anywhere, sang the Repentant.
I wanna make it
I wanna make it wit chu, sang the otters.
Junelle was absolutely spellbound, smiling open- mouthed up at the performance. She ignored her Allegiants and the crowd’s angry attempts at derailing the performance. The Repentant didn’t allow his concentration to be broken. He sang right at Junelle.
“Goddamn blanks,” growled Sir Sweet. “Rock and roll fuckin bullshit.”
And just like that, Junelle decided she’d had enough. She decided right then and there — she was giving this Repentant whatever he wanted. Not for him specifically, but to show this presumptuous Sir Sweet who was really in charge around here.
“I know this song,” said Junelle.
She bounded up onstage and joined the Repentant before anyone could do or say anything else. Sir Sweet looked like his head might explode.
Sometimes the same is different
but mostly it’s the same
these mysteries of life
that just ain’t my thing
Her audience was speechless. Junelle danced up on the Repentant and grabbed his hand and put it on her hip. They moved together, sang together.
If I told you that I knew about the sun and the moon
that’d be untrue
The only thing I know for sure
is what I won’t do
The two of them danced and sang together, and the crowd was all gaping mouths. People snapped pictures with their Tags.
In the back, Sir Sweet and the other Allegiants were having conniption fits.
I wanna make it, I wanna make it wit chu, sang the otters
Anytime, anywhere, sang Junelle and the Repentant into each other’s eyes.
A little otter guitar player stepped forward and played a scintillating guitar solo. He wore little sunglasses and Junelle couldn’t help but pet his furry little head.
“What’s your name, Repentant?” Junelle asked the Repentant.
“They call me Firecrotch, my princess.”
“Well, Firecrotch,” said Junelle. “I think you should formally request Audience.”
“Yes, my princess.”
“What do you say?”
Firecrotch stepped away and held aloft a bag of treasure.
“Princess, Sorceress, Temptress,” he said. “I beseech thee. I come bearing gifts, will you receive me?”
Junelle grabbed the bag of treasure and the two of them disappeared off the stage.
The otters kept up playing and singing the refrain.
The audience stood speechless, looking at each other with confusion, unsure of what to do.
In the back, Sir Sweet got a drink from the bar and downed it.
“What just happened?” another Allegiant, Sir Dixon, asked him.
“We just got colonized,” Sir Sweet growled. “That’s what happened.”