Thursday, 13 February 2014

Smelling as Sweet

There were so many forms. There were always so many forms. Laria Raven-Caine flicked her hand across her datapad, sending the latest "Register your name-change" missive to the station's comm network. And everyone seemed so very interested in her. Which, she thought, rather happily, was pleasing. As a notorious criminal - she noted the little quiver somewhere around her lower stomach as she thought the phrase and so she thought it again - As a notorious criminal, there seemed to be much greater attention paid to where you where and what you were doing. It was certainly a way to make your name known. Even if that meant you had to send a lot of forms around when you changed it.

Of course, it meant doing some things you weren't proud of. That didn't mean that you didn't enjoy them. In fact, Laria thought that she enjoyed some of them rather more than the average Angel Cartel pilot did. She ought to really feel guilty... Suddenly, she blinked at a question on the latest one.

Reason for name change:
[ ] Marriage
[ ] Divorce
[ ] Adoption
[ ] Change of gender
[ ] Other ___________

She wasn't getting married. Having not got married, she couldn't get divorced. She wasn't being adopted and she was quite content with her current gender, as interesting, intellectually, as penises were.
There wasn't enough space in the "Other" gap to explain all the complexities. She settled on entering "Because I want to" and continued to the next form.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Outside

Laria studied the woman closely. She deserved attention. She had dark hair, hazelnut eyes, and a confidence that oozed from her, a mixture of flirtatiousness and danger that was intriguing. It combined with a physicality - not strength, for the woman did not look physically strong, but an awareness of her own presence, of her own body - to give her an energy that drew attention.

There was something else there, though. A coldness, a hardness. Just beneath the surface, just poking through in odd moments and movements. A set of the corners of her mouth. A flintiness in the eyes. She had the air of someone who had committed crimes, broken hearts, and didn't really care about either.

Laria stepped away, and the figure in the mirror receded. She liked that person. The person that she saw in the mirror. Not exactly a sassy adventuress, but something darker and more primal. A pirate, a lover, a walking scandal.

The only problem was that she didn't feel that way. She still felt like a scared little girl, improvising wildly in fear that someone would discover she didn't belong. That she would be rejected.

She wanted to be the woman she saw in the mirror. She just didn't know how to be. And so she would continue to fake it, because there seemed to be no other path available to her. She was a prisoner of her own choices.

She blinked, feeling her brow furrow. Wasn't everybody, in a way? That thought comforted her, and she turned to her datapad, bringing up an array of faces, dossiers glowing beneath them. Recruiting time, for her merry band. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Allegiance


Your past is like a shadow; it follows you everywhere. There had been a time when the Angel Cartel was her enemy. Or, not even that, she had thought of them as a nuisance. In capsuleer slang, the ships belonging to non-elite forces were "rats", vermin to be exterminated.
Laria counted the ships go out; then she counted them back in again. Sometimes the difference in the numbers filled her stomach with the kind of cold that weighs your organs down, that makes gravity pull at you with a personalised force. If this was loyalty, thinking about the crews that didn't make it, then she was loyal. But whenever she met anyone in station, the look they gave her was one of distrust.
It was possible to quantify the reputation you had with a group. The system was well established, widely used. It was a way of automating the incentives of building trust with a corporation, of qualifying for perks and privileges. The estimation with which Laria was held by the Angel Cartel glowed red on the wall of her quarters as a constant rebuke. She had checked the records. She had been a thorn in the side of the Cartel, constantly disrupting their plans and activities, inflicting losses.
She regretted it now. Whatever she thought about the activities of the Cartel, they weren’t any worse than the Empires. Or at least, they were less hypocritical about it; there was an honesty to their dishonesty. Most important of all, they were her people.
Laria looked at the plan she had produced. It seemed... tricky. Long-term. Lots of small acts to improve her reputation with the Cartel. It was good. She should do it. It just wasn’t enough, though. She needed something visible, a statement of allegiance that was at least semi-permanent, and she needed it now.
She’d tried several designs involving the Angel Cartel logo, but none seemed right. She wanted to express something about herself, not just wear a badge. She looked out over the docking bay, and the wingy bits on her Scimitar caught her attention. She remembered the holo-wings she had tried out when first considering joining URIEL
That was it. That was the expression she was after. She brought up Station Services, searching for the “customise your appearance” facilities.
Some time later, Laria stood in front of the mirror, trying to twist her head 180 degrees. It certainly looked good. Sassy, a little hedonistic, a little naughty, a whole lot Angel. On balance, she was pleased. Now she just needed to decide how best to display it. And who to.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Crew


"I can't believe that you're happy with this," Gunnery Chief Philip Eslingen leant back in his chair, frowning.
Sitting across from him, Engineer Yvonne Carteret mirrored his expression. "I'm not," she said. "But she's always been good to us, for an egger. Remember back when she started - she was always checking in on us, making sure our quarters were up to standard, that we were happy. Not many capsuleers do that."
"She doesn't any more. Hasn't for a while now." Eslingen's voice was flat.
"I know. It's been stressful. But the pay is still good." Carteret sounded like she wasn’t able to convince even herself.
"You can't actually want to be out here, this far from home, working for these people? The way they look at us, speak to us. And what the Cartel does. Drugs, slaves. It's everything we think is wrong."
"So you think we should abandon her? Betray her, even?"
Eslingen sighed. "I think that I can't stay out here for very long. And she's clearly... well, something's happened. She's not the same Laria that we used to fly for."
"Maybe we can persuade her to go back. To leave the Cartel and go back? One way or another, maybe we can make her do it."

Laria stared disbelievingly at the screen for a long moment after the man she knew only as "The Commander" terminated the recording, and sat down across the table from her. She tore her eyes from the fading image of her crew and looked around, her vision blurring. The Station Manager, looking uncomfortable in his own office, shifted in his seat. "We thought you would want to see it," he said, a finger tugging at his uniform collar.

Laria took a breath. "I..." she said, trailing off, lacking any reason for speaking other than it being her turn in the conversation.
"They're close to open mutiny." The Commander's voice was granite.
"They don't mean it," Laria said. "They can't mean it." More of a wail than she wanted.
"We cannot allow them to move beyond talk. You must see that." The Commander said. Laria nodded mutely. "We have plenty of qualified crew to replace them."
"But they're my crew. Eslingen has been with me since I first got my licence. Carteret from my first cruiser. I trust them." She stopped. "I trusted them." Her voice sounded hollow, even to her.
"It's your decision."
Laria looked around the room, searching for some way out. The metal of the bare room seemed unyielding, unhelpful. Cold. No space to maneuver. Nowhere to run. She sighed, and nodded. "They go back. To the Federation. With my strongest commendation on their records, and a generous payoff."
"As you wish," the Commander said. He let a few heartbeats pass. "You're making the correct decision. The loyal decision."
Laria shook her head, and stood, wobbling slightly, nausea sweeping through her. "You'll see to it?"
"We will," the Commander confirmed. "And may I say how well you're settling in, Pilot Raven. It is an honour for us to count you as an ally."
She tried to smile, but couldn't find a way to make the muscles of her face move, so settled for a curt nod and headed for the door, trotting back to her quarters as fast as she could.

After the door slid closed behind her, the Station Manager looked at the Commander curiously. "Should I arrange their transport to the Federation?"
"No," The Commander said. "To the processing facility in Jorund. They have valuable skills that we cannot afford to let go. After a few months in the accelerated program, they should be ready for reassignment." There was not a trace of emotion on his face or in his voice. "Except for that Gunnery Officer. Kill him in front of them." He paused. "But remember to take the payment from her account."

Some hours later, Laria had stopped crying, and washed her face. She called up the holo images and records of her replacement crew. An array of stern, humourless, faces looked back at her. Hard-bitten and experienced, they were the classic image of a pirate crew. Laria took a deep breath, mentally pushing the past further away from her. She was an Angel now, and it was fitting that she have an Angel crew.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Pod Entry

(( So, I was inspired by a post on Backstage to envision Laria getting into her pod. Here's the result.))


Laria always showers before entering the pod, if there's time. It's become more than a habit, verging on a ritual. Hairband looped over her left wrist, her hands gather her hair into a high ponytail, baring the port at the base of her skull. Then boots, trousers, overshirt, t-shirt. Always that order, folding neatly into the canister that will be carried with her pod. Underwear last, laid on the top of the pile like a benediction.

She turns her back on her clothes, on her quarters, and steps through the shower, eyes closed, letting the spray take away the dirt of the station, the invisible grime of being a human being. A second step, through the dryer, and then out onto the balcony that opens out onto the docking bay. She doesn't look. Her gaze fixes onto the pod, as if breaking her focus and acknowledging her surroundings would invalidate the cleansing. At the entrance to the pod, two technicians wait. When had she stopped recognising them as people? Stopped being bothered by being naked in front of them? It must have been around the time that she had fully accepted that she was a capsuleer, and that set her apart.

She reaches the entrance and turns around, pausing for a heartbeat before taking a step backwards, a step of faith in a way, letting herself fall into the seat. The technicians crouch over her, impersonally connecting pipes, offering the mask to her face. There's a moment of amusement as she opens her mouth to allow the tubing a path to enter her. There's a jolt, a shock through her body that spasms her muscles momentarily as the connections mate to the ports implanted along her spine. Her vision goes black, the feel of the cool air on her skin disappears. A small green dot pulses in the corner of her vision. Perhaps some capsuleers have other visions piped to them in this waiting period, but Laria likes the darkness, likes the feeling of disconnection. With her senses rerouted to the pod, she doesn't feel the movement as it lifts away from the balcony, doesn't feel the fluid filling the space around her, doesn't notice her body being suspended as the seat falls away. The pod's systems tell her mind that her body is breathing, fake the sensation of an occasional swallow. Laria changes the options from time to time, fiddling to find the right level. Sufficient stimulus that her reptile brain doesn't panic, not quite enough to hide the truth from her conscious mind.

There's a few seconds where she worries. Worries that something has gone wrong. Deaf, blind, mute and paralysed, she is vulnerable. But she has found that the vulnerability magnifies what comes next.

There's no warning. No gradual arrival of light into the tunnel of darkness. Sensation, stimulus, and input hit her in an ecstatic instant. The ship is alive. She is the ship. Her senses are the ships sensors, her vision that of the external cameras, of the drone cameras, a thousand feeds to process. For a moment, she lets it wash over her, feeling the ship's armaments, systems, defenses waking from slumber like a lazy morning with a familiar lover. Then she's working, narrowing down her focus to a few key views, the most important metrics and indicators. At the same time, she opens a channel to the station traffic control. Does she actually speak? She has wondered. Maybe there are never any soundwaves to carry her words. Maybe they only exist electronically, a simulcra of speech. Maybe she thinks about this too much, sometimes. "Kinakka control, this is Hurricane-class Battlecruiser "A Little Girl Lost", pilot Laria Raven, requesting permission to undock, outbound to Onnamon."

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Departed


The body is delivered to her hangar in a crystal glass casing with golden frames. her body is positioned so that her hands are together holding a single red rose. Clad in a white funeral gown she looks almost peaceful and life-like with the intricate make-up detail, glossy red lips, and immaculate blush and eyeliner work.

It's clear that a lot of restorative work has been done to the body to make it beautiful again. A snow white angel in a crystal casing, in vacuum suspension.

Laria realised that some people might think it a bit odd to have their own corpse displayed in their quarters. She looked at it as a reminder, a lesson... and a watershed. A dividing line between then and now. In many ways, he had taken her innocence. She had run away from everything she had built up, had fought with Jude... for what? For a life as a pirate? What was that worth?

It was worth the pumping of adrenaline through her body, even with her life support systems warning of a chemical imbalance. It was worth the electricity shocking through her when she fired on the law-abiding. It was worth the feeling of being an outsider, on the edge of civilisation and not being sure which direction looked more inviting.

It was worth looking in the mirror and not quite knowing the body you saw, but liking the confidence in her eyes and the smile on her lips.

Laria looked at the display case, and reached up a hand to lightly touch the crystal glass. "Teach me to be bad," she whispered to her former self.

(( OOC: Thanks to Vince for the description of her returned corpse))

Friday, 22 February 2013

Surprise

Laria blinked as she read the message, the letters suspended, glowing, in the air in front of her. She passed a hand through them, as if expecting this to change them, or make them somehow solid. This was... not what she had expected.

She stood up, and walked to the balcony that overlooked her docking bay in the KK-owned station. Lots of ships. Lots of nice ships. Crying out to be used.

Laria turned back to her holographic display and called up the interactive star-map. There was an awful lot that she hadn't seen yet. And though this idea scared her, maybe that was the essence of adventure.

Still, it did seem like some kind of betrayal. A big betrayal. She called up an old old program and stepped into the middle of the holographic field, then looked in the mirror. A pair of large wings sprouted from her back, waving lazily in the breeze, just the merest hint of incorporeality indicating their nature.

It was definitely an idea.