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[Fiction] Turkish Delight

Rashima 'Veil' al-Hariti

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In its centuries of existence, the city of Istanbul had seen battles and politics, bloodshed and blood-sports, pleasures and pain beyond telling. It had been ruled by emperors and sultans, infidel and pagan and faithful alike, crossroads of ancient cultures in a land almost as old as time itself. But never had the venerable city seen an event such as the one that would unfold tonight at the newly refurbished and reopened Farouk's wineshop. It was the novas-only party for the launch of the debut album by one of the the world's well-known belly-dancers and arguably one of the Middle East's most influential novas - Rashima 'Veil' al-Hariti.

A single reporter and cameraman were allowed into the party, namely the nova journalist Galina Vereskova and Jimmy 'Skycam' Mendez, known for his astonishing aerial shots of events. Veil was not completely heartless to her baseline fans; she had given N! the rights to broadcast her debut party on the OpNet in return for a small fee, twenty-percent of which she got to keep. The Sixth Djinn was only called an album by courtesy; her performances were always on DVDs and straight-to-OpNet clips, because they invariably included dancing.

The performer herself was dressed relatively modestly for the pre-party interview, a broad gold coin-drapery belted over her flowing rainbow scarves instead of under it like when she danced. She had not altered her appearance from the tall, lithe Arabic beauty she was naturally, but for a change, her hulking cousin and self-appointed bodyguard Tarif wasn't present; he was studying medicine at the University of Istanbul these days, persuaded to leave by a generous scholarship from Veil, who was said to be sick of his overprotective nature.

Beyond Rashima, with her dusky skin, raven curls and smouldering brown eyes, could be seen the interior of Farouk's wineshop. No longer close and dim, it reared towards the sky three-stories tall around an open courtyard and stage, the five tiered balconies supporting a dome of arabesque brass filigree inlaid with forest-green and azure-blue glass. Pillows and divans decorated each balcony in a harmonious riot of pastel and vivid colours, some grouped around hookahs and others around gambling tables or small circular bars. The Turkish government turned a blind eye to what was technically illegal under Islamic law, because Rashima was a valuable commodity. No more dancing for two hundred dollars a night; she knew her own worth.

As promised, DeVries Elites were hired to keep the peace. They were all attractive 'coloured' women, from the Indian fire-manipulator Maya 'Kindler' Narjantan to the Spaniard known only as La Diabla Noche and the English-born black woman Victoria 'Ebony Thunder' Roberts. All were Elites with solid if not outstanding records and known to be cool-headed under stress. Veil wasn't taking any chances with her party.

Skycam was behind Galina as the blonde interviewed the Arab beauty she had inadvertantly discovered over a year ago in her Nova Insight series. He was a wiry Mexican with a broad grin and thin moustache who managed to get a good shot and a good ogle of Veil at the same time, something she seemed to regard with amusement.

"So, Veil, what can we expect tonight?" she asks, her voice a medium soprano that everyone would stop to listen, it was so pleasant.

"Hopefully something a little less ... energetic than Slattern's recent visit to the Amp Room and more quiet than Lemmy's party," Veil replies in the kind of throaty, husky voice with an exotic accent that would drop a man to his knees if she asked him to. "Not that both events were bad as such, but it is not what I am aiming for with my album launch."

"The Sixth Djinn is called an album, but it's really a DVD. Why is that?"

"I can sing very well, but people pay to see me dance. Why deprive them and deliver a second-rate performance?"

"Wow, good answer. So why is it called The Sixth Djinn?"

Veil smiles mysteriously. "Because I like the sound of it. Why does everything have to have a meaning with you Westerners? Something can just exist without explanation, without meaning... Like a nova. We exist, and that is it."

Galina purses her lips for a moment. "So... Any plans for tonight?"

"Of course. But I will not spoil surprises." The Arab beauty rises, her scarves slipping out from under the coin-drapery of their own accord. "My guests arrive. You had best get ready to observe."

Skycam takes the hint and rises to the apex of the dome, preparing to activate all of the cameras placed strategically around the place. Galina positions herself by the entrance while Veil sits on the stage, her long legs crossed demurely and her scarves shifting restlessly like a cat's tail, revealing slivers of dusky flesh and henna patterns.

"It is time."

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Haze heads towards the venue. His robes are perhaps the only telltale indication of his movements. They whisper like silk as he moves, a seemingly endless sussuration.

His bone white skin and hair would certainly draw attention in the mainly Arabic Istanbul, were it not for the fact that his image was as insubstantial and fleeting as smoke.

Though he preferred to avoid any attention, he felt it would be rude to his much more public host. He seemed to become more solid as he neared the entrance, his bare feet now making soft footfalls on the street.

He smiled at Veil as he approached, keeping a respectful distance of about five feet. His voice was clear and unaccented, yet it seemed to be no more than a whisper.

"Good evening, Ms. al-Hariti. I am Haze." He gives a small smile in greeting and waited to see if he was welcomed inside.

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They walk out of the darkened alley after the wailing has subsided. Both are a picture of utter modesty considering their normal attire. Lemmy is dressed in a full suit of deep navy with an ice blue dress shirt and a snow white tie. His hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail. His female companion is in a full burkha with only her eyes showing. Despite the voluminous folds of cloth hiding her figure from view her gaze alone seems to drive men to distraction as they walk to the wine shop.

"Now babe, you sure we ain't doing nothing wild tonight?"

"No my sweet little one. Not tonight. Tonight is about culture. Our culture supplanting their culture. We sit and enjoy the art."

"Okay, you got it. Behave like I'm in church."

"And when we get home I'll be as bad a girl as you are good a boy tonight."


They walk through the entrance and move quickly to avoid the reporter laying in wait.

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  • 1 month later...

Veil inclines her head to Haze, allowing him inside. "Call me Veil," she admonishes the albino before catching a glance of Lemmy and Slattern. The dancer felt a twinge of envy at the sheer sensuality of the woman who had started an orgy/riot at the Amp Room, but suppressed it. She was the hostess and Slattern had promised to behave.

Galina went to interview them, but Veil jerked her chin to the side. The reporter, who was said to possess telepathy, got the picture and backed away.

"Hello, you two," she greeted with a faint smile.

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ronin's tie pin this evening was a traditional Evil Eye of hematite set in Turkish silver, and it matched the cufflinks on his single-breasted pinstriped Armani suit. He checked it one last time, unused as he was to having one on, straightened his black Indian silk tie, and walked into empty air, through time and space and into Farouk's wine shop, his predetermined point of origin a vague and uninviting corner nobody was paying any particular attention to at that moment.

The lavish adornments of the building were a vast improvement over the hovel they replaced, he noted. The city of Istanbul had changed much since the last time he had visited, when he remembered it as Constantinople. It felt somehow threatening to be back. There was something here that was perhaps better left buried in the swamp of his memory, if the twinge of unmistakeable danger tickling behind his ear like an insect was any indication.

But he ignored it, and turned his attentions to the striking woman he was here to honor this evening. He neared well enough to make his presence known as she greeted Lemmy and Slattern (and made a mental note to speak with them both momentarily), and waited patiently but coolly for his host to receive him.

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Lemmy steps forward and bows deeply towards Veil, "And greetings to my favorite Mistress of Motion. Tickled less blue than normal for the chance to see you do what you do oh so fine one more time. And have no worries, my Dark Princess," he gestures to Slattern, "will keep me on a tight leash. I promise from nose to toes that the nary a problem I'll cause. Just here to admire your fire."

Slattern's eyes sparkle from behind the heavy cloth and her voice comes out a sultry croon, "Yes, thank you so very much for having us Veil. I appreciate any opportunity to see such an artiste as yourself perform. I am sorry to see that we do not find more of our brothers and sisters in attendence. Perhaps they fear being caught out of sight of the local Starlords? Too bad, I am sure that they will regret missing your performance."

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Veil chuckles richly at Lemmy and Slattern's words, inclining her head. "It is unfortunate indeed. But then, many of our kind share the baseline opinion that if it is not flashy or involves brightly coloured lights, it is of less worth. I pity them. There is nothing more real than the feel of silk against skin and the ground against your feet. That is something that baselines miss out on. I pity them for that, and those of our kind who choose to limit themselves."

She pointedly does not glance in the corner where the other nova has entered, but says, "Come out if you have peaceable intentions. Be gone if you do not."

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ronin quirks an eyebrow and stifles a growl at the words Veil directs at him, and adjusts his tie mildly with cautious indignity. He takes two steps forward to the three novas congregated around each other and bows his head to Lemmy first with a respectful and knowing nod and then smiles enchantingly, as best he can, at Slattern, taking her hand in his and kissing it gently on the back, before rigidly turning to Veil and lowering his gaze.

"I came here this evening to honor you, revered miss, but you chose to insult me. I made my intent clear before I arrived and went out of my way to show that I was hear with peaceful and joyous intent, and you opted to suspect me of treachery. It will not be forgotten."

Craning his head back towards Lemmy and Slattern, he flatly bids "Good evening, sir, good lady", to the couple and then a grimaced "And good evening" towards Veil, before walking seamlessly out the front door.

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Alex Craft wanders down the crowded street toward Farouk's wineshop. He takes his time, enjoying the feel of Istanbul - a city he has spent too little time in before. Pausing to finish some kind of unidentifiable pastry he had picked up on the walk from the airport, he takes the moment to check out the wineshop from a distance - letting the intervening distance (and walls) peel away from his sight.

Somewhat surprised by the small crowd, he shrugs and pops open his cell phone, dialing and waiting a moment before saying, "It's me - I'm near the shop ... ok, I'll meet you there."

Pocketing the phone, Alex walks the rest of the way down the block. He is dressed formally - for once - and seems to clean up beautifully in a three-piece and tie in varying shades of tan.

Upon reaching the entrance, he bows to Veil with a flourish, then nods to the others, saying, "Alexander Craft. I saw a couple of your performances at Lemmy's party. Beautiful work. And, fair warning, a lady I know is dropping by via teleportation any minute now. Your security should know, since she can be kind of ... flashy."

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Neil stepped out of the cab across from the wine shop.

"Be well, my friend", said the driver, in the distinctly dockside Turkish dialect. "Tonight, I envy you."

Neil smiled back at him.

"You have a comfortable wife and loving children to go to when the night ends, Maruk. I am envious of you, having such a place in the world."

"Such is the ways of foolish men," he responded, "to envy what another man has, and not his own possessions."

He laughed and eased his battered cab back into traffic.

Neil navigated the cross-street traffic without irritating the motorists too much. As he approached the door, one of the elites eyed him suspiciously. Neil had the habit of not meeting everyone's expectations of what a nova should look like.

His colthes were dusty and worn. His boots caked with several days worth of road. Still, when he looked up at Victoria "Ebony Thunder" Roberts and smiled, she could tell he was one of them. Too full of life and energy to pass for a baseline to her well-trained eyes. She cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Neil No-Ebony, No-Thunder Preston," he said, by way of introduction to her. A broad, toothy grin and an outstreched hand greeted her.

She snorted, gave him a smirk and thumbed him toward Veil.

Neil shouldered his backpack, kept grinning at Victoria, and made his way toward the hostess.

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