Alae shrugged into the long feather cape, settling the weight over her cotton-like tunic. She stroked the perfectly-replicated parrot feathers, garish in their natural colors.
“They used to grow these on birds, you know,” she told her escort.
“Pfft, next you’re going to tell me they grew the rubber backing on trees.” Eka had no interest in ancient cultures, nor in the natural world. She liked the slick lines of the machines and the smooth comfort of plastic, the sameness of synthetics.
“Well, no, but they did make a lot of things out of products they had on hand.” She held out her hand for the scepter and, solemn-silly in her own ritual garb, Eka handed it over.
“Seems inefficient,” she complained. “It’s hard to get any level of replicable similarity from different batches of plants.”
Alae shifted the scepter – made of real wood, and inherited from her grandmother, like this position, like the cloak, vestigial holdovers from a landbound time – from hand to hand, studying her escort. She looked so gorgeous like this, her hair beaded with synthetic turquoise, her eyes lined with imitation khol.
“You’re not that much of a machine,” she said gently. “You enjoy beauty.” She was beauty.
“Of course. I put up with you, don’t I?” She pushed the scepter aside, smirking at the knob on the end, and leaned in for a kiss, her beads clattering. “Organic unpredictability and all.”
Her kisses were electric and riveting, sweet and intoxicating like simulated mimosas, delicious and habit-forming. “I love you too.”
“Of course you do.” She touched up Alae’s make-up with a maternal thumb. “Garish, archaic, and lovely, your majesty. You look suitably regal.”
“And inefficient?” she teased, to cover the warm flutter Eka’s compliment made in her belly.
“Queens aren’t supposed to be efficient. They’re supposed to be proud and aw-inspiring and traditional, to fit a ceremonial role.”
“Vestigial.” She quirked a small and entirely non-regal smile. “Like hair. Something we’ve evolved out of the need for, but can’t stand to get rid of.”
Eka chuckled. “I like my hair.” She shook her head to make the beads clack, and her smile grew thoughtful. “You know, your majesty,” she mused quietly. “They used to think the coccyx was vestigial, too…”
375 words. Originally meant to be 250 (2 hours’ wordcount goal) but it wasn’t quite done, so I went on for another hour. Still micro.