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  • 📅 December 2022 is YE 44.9 in the RP.

RP The Yontô Hissy and the Rusteater

Soban

Convention Veteran
RP Date
YE 44.7
RP Location
Pisces Station
Pisces Station
YE 44.7

Aliset leaned back at her desk, seeing the classroom before her. Sure, she knew she was on one of Pisces Station's volumetric decks, and merely a telepresence in this command class, but she wished there were some way to make the hours pass easier. The fractional seconds of latency between her volumetrics chamber and her telepresence drone made it difficult enough to keep up with her class, forcing her to think and react faster than anyone should reasonably have to.

That part she didn't mind so much. It just meant she would make a better commanding officer when the time came. What she did mind was this strange and alien command structure she was being taught to run. That commanders weren't people who knew every weld, or who hadn't grown to age aboard or been selected by their ships for their skill and prowess. She was a pilot, selected at her Trials by Soren for the comand training. She could park any vessel she flew with a hand's breadth on any side even without the augments some part of her desire. She understood much of the necessity. After all, military command was far different from civilian. A civilian captaincy could be as simple as owning the ship and paying the crew.

But military... Far more involved. The selection of her ship was more important, the crew had to trust the command staff. She knew this, intimately. Instinctively.

Although she usually attended in person, her permanant residence wasn't far from campus, the lanky Separa'Shan also sat in a voumetric deck. That she was read in on some secrets had opened a oppertunity for her to advance the study of genetics in a unique way. It would also serve as the thesis she needed to graduate with her MD. For now, what that meant was she also was attending remotely.

"Alright, folks. Today's simulation day. Each of you take a tablet and go stand under the number displayed on it." The instructor was already talking as he walked in, a full two minutes before class was scheduled to start. "What are your questions?"

Sacre glanced around, looking for her number and joining the Senti who stood at it. She took stock of her partner, the Senti were ever rarer than Separa'Shan. Even though Separa'Shan joined the millitary at a higher rate than average. There were only a few hundred million of them total in the tens of billions citizens of the empire. Senti who had joined the Star Army and eliginble be in this advanced class could be numbered on one hand, probably with fingers leftover. Nevertheless, Sacre had studied thieir unique physiology and genetics. She noted how Aliset's gait was slightly off, and hips seemed slightly awkward. It was probably a bent pelvis. Similar to how the last couple of feet of her own tail landed slightly off due to some injuries sustained in the war.

Sacre wasn't proud of many of the countless scars that crisscrossed her tail, body, and face. They were the result of pride, weakness, and what had scarred her soul more than her body. However, the ones that she had earned serving Yamatai she was proud of. They were the good scars, the kind that came from doing something worthwhile with their life.

"So, why do I have to carry them through this simulation?" Sacre asked, pointing a thumb at her partner. However, her words didn't match her emotions, she was fairly indiffrent if slightly negitive to anyone.

The instructor nodded, "This is a pair assignment, each simulation has been programed to play to each of your strengths and weaknesses."

Aliset gave a small chuckle as she listened to Sacre's pride and confidence, deciding to speak her mind in Essian, no matter how terrible her accent. "I think you'll find me more capable than you first think."

Sacre looked annoyed at the intrustion of Essian into the conversation. She strongly disliked her native language. She had practiced for years to remove every trace of it's accent from her speech. She hated feeling inarticulate, and being looked at as the 'one with the funny accent' had driven her to work hard to excise it. She couldn't even remember the last time she had actually spoken in Essian.

She didn't put hands on Sacre, no pat on the shoulder or back, and was very careful to avoid the tail, having beem bitten before and not yet knowing the difference between pythus and venis. As she made her way around her partner, she offered a smile and a hand before speaking. "Aliset of Koun. I'm a helmsman, right now. You're... Medical, right? This sim's gonna be interesting. We allowed to know what we're getting into?"

"Sacre Sanssinia. I've also been a team leader for a squad backing special forces. So it really could be anything." Sacre replied.

"This simulation will put you under the command of a superior who will direct you through a crisis situation." The instructor explained.

"Alright, sounds like a plan... I was captain of a postage freighter for ten years, and a Ginga pilot with the 17th SBW during the Battle of Glimmergold, so we both clearly have strong leadership potential. I just have the knowledge and skill to do inflight repairs if we need. Here's hoping we can avoid bumping heads too much, right? Knowing these command types, it's gonna be a lot more complicated than our instructor says, but I highly doubt it'll be harder than my Trials. Shall we give our class a show?" Ali's smile only widened, never dropping as she slipped into a casual parade rest and faced the instructor.

"It's never as simple as the mission brief says it will be." Sacre said, joining Aliset in a casual parade rest.

The instructor looked out across the groups. "Allright, people attending by volumetrics, you will be dropped immediately into the simulation. Everyone else report to your volumetic deck. Good luck."

With that Sacre and Aliset were standing on the bridge of a Medical frigate.

Ali's first action was to walk to the helm, tapping the occupant on the shoulder to announce her presence as she looked over the current location and spatial situation. Furrowing her brows, she double checked the location of the little medical frigate, then looked to Sacre, and the captain in turn. "I could go for a briefing. I mean, we're in neutral territory, everything looks normal, aside being neck deep in a nebula."

"A wildcat colony settled Echronedal three years ago. What they didn't know and wasn't on the survey, is that the whole ecosystem of the planet apparently breaks out into a aether firestorm. A sort of natural uncontrolled version of what our power plants do. It's being swept by the wildfire and we've been sent to the rather chaotic evacuation to save as many lives as we can. We'll be arriving in five mintutes, what are your thoughts?" He asked.

She quickly scanned the bridge and helm controls, attempting to identify the class of vessel. "No weapons to disable the aether storms, only a handful of shuttles, too deep in the nebula to call for Flotilla assistance..." Aliset spoke quickly, rattling off the facts she knew too quiet to be heard at any real range. "Standard doctrine would claim we land medical personnel and control, use the main ship for orbital tracking and comm relay to bring the civilian fleet into the evacuation... And I don't speak the language..."

Sacre looked at the map of the evacuation. "It doesn't help that the dunderheads put their city in the forest. Lots of animals running from the fire make thermal less useful. We should deploy science teams ahead of and behind the wavefront, see if the eggheads can pull something from their asses. We need soldiers to coordinate the city on the ground. Three prongs for the mindy search teams. One in front of the firewall, moving forward. One following whatever passes for roads in theese parts. One doing a search pattern coming inward towards the city."

"If I can maneuver the ship into low orbit, and I mean really low, we can use the thrusters to maintain geosync. I'll need some software engineers to reformat our gravitic shields to form a lagrange point inside the atmosphere and pull the atmosphere up to us, while using the distortion drive's continuum anomaly to slow the fire down. This'll allow their aircraft to enter our docking perimeter, but it'll make gravity real interesting down there. Make it easier for the Mindies to make their jump, too. We'll have to use some of the onboard weapons to keep clear sattelites, cause we'll be running with almost no shields up here." Aliset's idea spilled out before she could stop it, and she furrowed her brows, trying to consider if it was good or bad. She shot a look to Sacre for confirmation.

Sacre considered Aliset's part of the plan. It reminded her of Gravity, and part of her was suddenly sad, but she hid it quickly. "It sounds, intresting, although I'm not an expert on drive systems."

"I mean, it's not that different from the gravimetric distortions used by certain organic ships to avoid reentry. I used on Soren at Akina, but we didn't have much of a shield, so it was still a little rough. I also only had fifteen people. Fact of the matter is they probably don't have enough of a spaceborne fleet to handle the evacuation. Besides, multiple trips takes a while, especially dodging Aether storms. About fifteen minutes to break atmo, eight to enter. The less fuel and braking time we can use, the faster turnaround for civilian pickup. If their aircraft can land on the hull to drop passengers, even better. I like your plan. Took it into account with mine," she bluffed, turning to the simulated superior officer. "Captain, permission to take the helm and engineering boards?"

The Captain nodded, "We'll do it." He said as the medical ship arrived on the planet. Sacre issued orders to the ground team and started coordinating the search and the evacuation. Mindys and dropships deployed from the ship as it descended into the atmosphere.

With Aliset's direction to the helm and engineering boards, the continuum distortion drive spooled, even at maximum power, this close to a gravity well, it was only running at about eight percent efficiencey, not enough to move the ship past light speed. But that wasn't what she planned to do as she fought with the software. Atmosphere lifted to envelop the ship as the lagrange point was set, the shields inverted to form a simulated gravitational mass that would allow aircraft to maneuver in the atmosphere, and she looked up for a moment. "Comms, could you inform the folks down there on what we're doing, broadwave, repeating, use our com towers as a landing beacon if you have to. I'm having trouble with this... This drive was never meant to be repurposed like this. Neither were our shields. I'm reading half burn just to maintain altitude. We're gonna start overheating and burning things out if we hold this for more than a few hours... Helm, please start descending again, target altitude two five kilometers, reduce shield and lagrange to match. Descent rate five zero meters per second."

Sacre moved to the ground controll station, pulling up a map of the area. "All right apes, deploy out before it gets too crispy around here." Her hands swept over the map marking areas of responsibility. "Groups one and two, you have the city. One help with the evacuation, ir's your job to keep things orderly so we can get as many people out as possible. Two sweep the city to make sure we aren't leaving anyone behind. Three, sweep inward from the storm front to mark emergency pickups. Four your sweeping out from the city. Medics are assigned to the small craft. Triage injuries on the way up so we can prioritize treatment." Sacre explained as blue blips marking shuttles and powered armor poured out of the ship.

Anyone could see how Aliset was stressed, bouncing between stations and communicating across as many systems as were on her board, even slipping a few times into the notoriously information dense Shuristan for a few words before catching herself. Still, she was focusing on the ship, and using its systems to maximize Sacre's effectiveness on matters outside of the vessel. The MEGAMI system's constant software blocks and the technical limitations were starting to wear on her, though. Even with portable conn panels floating around her as she stood between the stations. She was deeply thankful that the other people on the stations had summoned additional boards to grant her simultaneous control as a tertiary. "Ghods, this level of control would be easier with a SPINE implant... Okay, looks like we're stabilizing. First point of failure's gonna be the FTL drive. How's that evac doing down there? Cause if I need, I can start redeploying tractor beams as docking webs and start pulling craft in... Right now the smallest I can manage is a small bus."

Sacre looked up from time to time from her monitor to the rest of the chaotic bridge before diving back down into giving the infantry more precise orders. Her words were terse and sharp as she gave a few informal reprimands to vital sectors. As her tension rose, her words became more professional. "I can have the small craft stack up so the tractor beams don't have as much work to do." She advised Aliset.

Breathe, Ali. What do you need to do better? The departments know. Let them handle it. They have the intimate knowledge. Let them do the shenannigans. You just have a bad idea and a freighter captain's instincts. The thought crossed her mind as she took a deep breath, moving the helm panel off to the side. The secondary helmsman had started settling into a groove with his primary and the requests of the command team. She could hear them chattering between themselves and passing information as they controlled each thruster with a precision she simply couldn't. She found her hand there idle as they didn't need her there at the moment. "Alright comm, could you pass me a headset, command channel? Who needs what, Engineering, I'm gonna switch over to take a look at some other systems, please let me know if something's up with the drive. I'm gonna use my helm panel to designate targets for FTL suppression."

Sacre started getting into a groove as well with her teams. The commands were given with an occasional sharp remark on how to improve. "With sector three cleared, you dunderheads need to move to sector seven to help team three."

Medical isn't too busy, yet, and they resupplied before we dropped out of FTL... I'll keep an eye on them, soon as they hit 50% supply, I'm gonna need to ask Fab to start spooling up... Which is gonna take more manpower away from other stuff. We should be in the groove by then, just gotta stay there. "Infantry, you got any guys need something to do? Cause if we have the portable graviton emitters for it, a few guys on the hull to catch people as they get caught in that gravity well would be a lifesaver. Also surface side triage if you can. Anybody who's not off the ship or already neck deep in something. CIC, if you can please help Engineering, helm, and other systems get around MEGAMI's safety limits, that would be amazing, cause I can't get infromation to support you folks while fighting with the ship. But try not to pull her offline, I need her to coordinate power. Sensors, could you tie in your feeds to engineering and helm so we can play a round of whackamole with these storms? Who's got ideas? Cause I need as much help as you folks are willing to give me."

As they worked the aetherflame wall moved steadily, devouring acres and acres of what had once been prime wildland. Sacre looked at her board, "There shouldn't be anyone directly below us. Medics are trialing on the way up." Sacre informed Aliset.

Suddenly, the aetherflames surged, smashing into the ship. The shields flicked, preventing everyone from dying, but the ship was like a toy in a vices dog's mouth as it was shaken.

She gave a sharp yelp as she tried and failed to lock her mag boots, proceeding to be thrown across the bridge with one particularly violent pitch, and immediately regretting not tying in sensors earlier.

The ship took a plunge, crashing into the surface behind the wall of flame and digging a trench. Everyone was thrown from their seats on an Impact that sent a title wave of burned dirt into the sky.

Sacre got up, sliding over where the captain lay deathly still. She put two fingers to his neck, before looking up and announcing "The Captain's dead." Even though she had been suspecting that this was coming, she was still shaken slightly by it, even though she didn't let that show.

Aliset groaned from her position on the floor, dragging herself to her feet as she moved, shaking off the dizziness and the surely newly bent bones. Feeling the gravity below her, she had trouble telling whether the artificial gravity was working or not. Locking her boots to the ground, she looked at each station and the recovering crew. "Damage reports, please. Sacre, how're your people doing? If they can, we need to keep the evac effort up. I'll work on getting us back in the air."

She would not ignore the Captain's death. But for now, they were still in the middle of a planet quite literally on fire and stuck planetside. She couldn't do anything about it right now.

Sacre checked her screen as the damage reports came in. The aether wall had leaped forward almost a kilometer and while there hadn't been any infantry, two shuttles had been destroyed. The ship was mostly intact, the tough armor taking the brunt of the damage, but the surface of the ship was scoured of almost anything that jutted out too far. There were casulties across the ship from people and things falling and crashing into each other. The engines were also damaged, unable to operate at their full capacity.

"We've lost two shuttles. The flamewall is a problem. I don't think we can survive anouther surge like that. Engineering, we need to focus on getting the ship back up so the shuttles we still have can land and drop off their passengers. Science, did you detect anything before the surge? Medical, what do you need from us?" Sacre asked, trying to be proactive in the situation.

Aliset let nodded at Sacre's observations, finding her boards to let her fingers fly across them and get readings on systems as they recovered. "Do we have external comms? Engineering, what's the ETA on getting us off the ground? I've got Megami handling damage control and hull breaches, so let her do her thing. Fab looks like they're coming back online, now. Goddamn, those girls work fast, so we should have parts en route to their needed locations momentarily. Helm, you got any power?"

"Coming back online, now. Waiting on Engineering."

"Gotcha covered. Stand by, take us up to safe altitude as soon as you can. Engineering, you mind reversing my shield modification soon as we have engine power? Medical, I know you're kind of overwhelmed right now. We'll get you as much help as we can. Just bear with us, okay? Comms, I'm punching in an old Shuristan equation, now. With a tie-in to sensors and engineering, it'll let us use our CFS as an external antenna."

From engineering a voice asked, "Those orders are somewhat conflicting, who's in charge up there anyway?" The engineer asked.

"Sorry about that, Engineering... There's a little chaos up here, too. To clarify, I got MEGAMI handling the hull problems, so try to get us in the air as fast as you can, okay? Soon as you're able, we could really use our shields unmodified to help keep those fires off us. Sacre, you mind taking the conn? I'll go duke it out with the computer."

"I have conn," Sacre said, moving towards the center of the bridge. Her eyes darted around the bridge as she assessed things, reports starting to filter back to them about what the status of the ship and the evacuation was. She had been focused on her part of it, and the crash had damaged the ship. So a lot of the information was new. The ship gradually righted it's self and moved upwards. "Place us behind the colony, and keep a distance from the aether wall. We can't afford anouther hit like that again." She ordered.

"It looks like some of the tractor beams were damaged in the crash." One of the hanger bays reported.

"Got you, pulling up your diagnostics and ordering parts from Fab, now." Aliset's voice cut through the comm, her marker popping up as she parsed out the diagnostic data. "Looks like a couple Megami drones can handle the repairs."

For an instant, it wasn't clear whether the voice was in Sacre's mind or her ears as Aliset flashed her a thumbs up and spoke. "I got your back, Captain."

Sacre nodded in return, thankful for the words. "In the meantime, I think we can use powered armor to control the shuttles and make sure they land efficently." She said agreeing with Aliset.

She turned her attention to the next issue, and together they managed to work together to rescue a lot of the civilians trapped before the wall of fire completely destroyed the colony as the ship escaped. The simulation paused and noted that they managed to save 86% of the Civilians. This was noted as being a excellent score for that aspect. Sacre didn't show her emotions outwardly, but she was flooded with an immense anger. She marched over to the display and tried to find the 'replay assignment' button, but it was greyed out. She hit it several times anyway in frustration. "We should have done better."

Reaching over, Aliset placed her hand in the way. "Sorry. I should have done better. We'll have another shot at this simulation later in the year... If they want to show us how much we've learned."

Turning, she gave a smile as her form shattered into motes of light, leaving behind an echo of an impression. She was just as shaken. Just as angry. "We got a few moments before we gotta get back to the classroom. just need a drink of water. I'll be back in a handful."

"Right," Sacre said, disappearing as well and stepping out into the hall of Pisces Station to grad herself a drink as well. She looked over to her left and saw Aliset exiting another one of the volumetric decks. She felt amused by this, "I thought I had gotten rid of you when I left my deck." She said, sounding acerbic even though her emotions didn't match it.

"Hey. Sorry about using Essian back there. I... You're here... Well, that explains the emotional imprint.." Her brows furrowed, walling off her own emotions as though to protect herself... No... It was something else. "Sorry. You were amazing in the command chair. I got a lot to learn."

"If the amount you had to learn was a race, you would be light trying to get to the edge of the universe." Sacre commented.

"I haven't spoken Essian in a long time. When I joined the army, I bearly spoke Yamataigo well enough to join. One of my first nicknames was
Yontô Hissy." Sacre explained.

Just the diversity hire, Ali. Captain Belmont may think different, but you have no promise that this girl will think diff-- The thought cut off, as though the walls had finally settled into place, not that she had cut herself off. It was clear that Aliset was still dealing with a lot of insecurity as she finished her glass and folded the silicone away into her pocket, starting to move back to her volumetric chamber. "Yeah. Some of the nekos on my ship call me Chui rusteater. Kinda dumb, really. Thanks. I didn't know I needed to hear that. Yonto Hissy sounds a little asinine. Good to know their insults haven't changed."

Tsulrati weren't psionic. Nothing in Sacre's studies showed more than a basic ability for telepathic or empathic abilities. Lower psionic potential than humans, or even Separa. The only discrepancy was the burial steel, but every race had outliers, and there was next to no verifying research on its claims, anyway.

That amused Sacre, once again reminding her of Gravity. The Senti woman was attractive in her own way. She was assertive and eager to try new things in a way that Sacre wished she had more of in her life.

"C'mon, pretty one. We don't want to face the teacher's ire more than we have to. Would rather she not turn off the safety restricters from her end and strangle me for being a smartass." She gave a cheeky smile over her shoulder. "As entertaining as it would be to watch a 120lb cat girl try to get a good grip on me."

"She could tell me to do it. If I strangled smartasses when they were being idiots, I don't think I'd have time for anything else." Sacre replied, rejoining Aliset in the classroom that had most of their classmates returned and lounging around talking while they waited for the instructor to come back.

"On the plus side, we actually scored really high for our first run through the simulation," Aliset gace a small smirk as the classroom faded into view, immediately returning to her partner's side. "Gotta admit, you'll make a Hell of a captain, one day, Sacre. It'd be an honor to serve under you till a ship decides to select me. I'm in the astronav class next period, but got lunch before that. I hear there's a great little Duskerian joint on deck 22. Rumor is they serve real pack roach."

Sacre didn't know what she meant when she said the ship would slect her. She decided to ask her sometime. Sacre nodded, she wasn't particularly hungry, but having lunch with Aliset would be enjoyable. "Lunch would be intresting. I was slicing slides all last night so I didn't have any time for breakfast. I wonder if they serve the packroaches whole."

"You sure you can handle a thousand pounds and two meters of murder bug? I mean... I'm sure you could, but that's a lot of bone, from what I hear. It might take you a few days to be able to move again." She gave a small laugh, the mental defenses dropping just long enough to let the image of Sacre bloated full of pack roach and curled up under a restaurant table slip through. "And my room's a little toasty for most folks, but I'm sure the small space is a bigger problem or I'd be willing to say you're welcome to crash out. I'm buying, but let's try to keep it limited to like a leg quarter or something."

Aliset was correct, but that wasn't exactly the deterant she might expect. It probably wasn't polite, but she wanted to show off a bit for Aliset. Sacre opened her mouth fully, her jaw unhinging, cheeks unfolding, and throat widening to show she could probably swollow something pretty large whole if she wanted. "Separa'shan usually have their own division in extreme eating contests. I don't know if I could, but it might be fun to try However, I'll content myself with one of your small meals." She commented, radiating amusement despite the deadpan way she said the words.

"I don't doubt you, not in the slightest. But a whole pack roach is a very large, very expensive thing. Like smallish Kodian big. One of my flight school mates was on the officer exchange problem and got to go hunting with the Duskerian Legion once. She sent me back photos and two words." She gave a shrug, smiling. "Dunno if it was a pack roach or what, but it tore up a Mindy pretty good. I hear Sirrus is a deathworld. I think she might have been a bit biased on just how big those things are."

She tried to avoid staring at the inside of the jaw, especially the upper, but after being bitten by a Venis, she had to ensure those fangs wouldn't be going anywhere near her chest again. But Sacre didn't have fangs. Come to think of it, her form was a bit stockier, her face a bit softer and less reptilian and her tail longer, more muscular and powerful. Must be an ethnic thing, she dismissed the thought offhandedly, in stead, turning her mind towards the first time she had seen planet Yamatai as more than a simple blue marble, standing on the hull of some golden hulled piecemiel cargo ship delivering mail in the form of recruits, herself included.

"But yes, I'll get you a meal none of the smaller races would be able to finish," she laughed. "Then... Well, I hadn't planned that far beyond that... Maybe there's something you want to do later? Sorry, I'm not real creative."

Sacre finally felt like she was starting to understand Gravity a bit more with the attractive Shuristian. "I've got classes and a lot of research I'm doing. That said, with Shurista's achives opening up, I'm going to be going there soon to see if they have any records of what I'm looking at. I don't know much about your people. So just getting to know you would be useful. I enjoy making knives and knife throwing, I think there is a place to do that somewhere on the station. What do you like to do?" Sacre asked.

"There's a really nice--" Don't let your heart cost her life, Ali. Not like it has for the others. The thought cut through Aliset's defenses like a knife, ripping its way free like a scream from her throat and carrying the smiling faces of her fallen husbands on it, turned to closed eyes splattered in blue blood, then glowing steel for one. The other, the shattered husk of her sister in law after his disappearance. Shaking her head, Aliset continued. "Deck forty five. Aah, there's a little shop down there. An old Samurai blacksmith, retired and enjoying his obscurity. I don't know how helpful it'll be, considering I've never forged a knife in my life. Let alone thrown one. But it sounds like fun!"

Sacre nodded, feeling grief, but unsure as to why. "Making knives is both useful and fun. Long as you don't permanantly scar yourself, a likely outcome given your dexterity, you may be able to make something that at least resembles a knife."

The smile Aliset gave seemed hollow and indistinct, but the attempt at sincerity was there. "And a research nomination to the Shuristan Grand Library? That's really impressive. What are you planning?"

"It's not technically a research nomination, Admrial Fletcher..." Sacre trailed off for a moment, not sure of how much she could say. "Is very concerned about a new threat, I'm going through the Millitary Intelligance program which has some sort of priority, but from my understanding of things that I really don't there is some contriversy the eggheads are sorting out. I don't really care, but they seem to."

"What, like Senti being psionic or something dumb like that? I mean, don't get me wrong, digging around in the Library may reveal something, but it's far from a complete repository of the Universe. There's an equal chance they've never seen it before." She gave a shrug. "Good hunting, though. I really do hope something helpful is in there."

Sacre shrugged, "He's also worried about stuff like that, what with the Rathankans. He doesn't trust them. Not that he trusts much of anything that isn't a part of Yamatai. but I'm on a new external threat. I've been to where we think it comes from and I'm pretty certain that Shurista hasn't been there. However, if they do have records, it means that we might be wrong which would both be a relief and its own sort of worrying. Someone has to track the information down, so I'm it."

"Atteni Soren is an archivist. Mention me and she'll help you..."

The last of the students and the teacher entered, and the class fell silent. "I'm sending each of you your computer scores. I'll also be doing an individual assessment. Congratulations to Chuis Koun and Sanssinia for having the highest score of anyone in this class. What do you think the purpose of today's assignment was?" The teacher asked.

Aliset balked, looking confusedly at the teacher. What? Is she talking about us? Uuh... Adaptability? Teamwork under fire? Something like that? I dunno. I was just kinda winging it... Sacre's the real hero of that sim...

Her body spoke before her brain as she raised her hand as though she knew. Which she most definitely didn't. Put your hand down, you dumb xeno bint! But Ali was not as stubborn as herself, it seemed, as the psionic signal controller in her breast pocket sparked and let off the tiniest puff of smoke. "Damn it, those are expensive..."

Sacre glanced over at Ali, hearing what she sait and noticing the thin whiff of smoke that no one else probably did. She wasn't sure what it meant, but she would probably ask later.

The teacher pointed at Aliset, "What is your answer?"

Sacre was brought back to the question and her answer rose to the top of her mind. It was command, the simulation was designed to push us into conflict about who was in charge. There were three major factors in our sucess. First, we were able to establish quickly who was in charge. Second, I knew how to conduct a evacuation. Third, Aliset's innovative ideas probably allowed us to increase the rate we were able to get shuttles docked then back out and repair damage. The thoughts had a strong undertone of obssession with getting the simulation right and saving everyone.

Thank you, "The simulation's exercises had several factors defining success or failure. In the case of Sacre Sanssinia and myself, it was a challenge of who was in charge of the situation combined with a complex exterior situation a sparsely equipped rescue vessel. With our differences in command style, there was expected to be an incompatibility and argument. However, our passing score was based on those same factors that should have made it difficult to pass. In establishing early who had overall control of the situation, we managed to rescue 85 pecent of the possible civilians. We will be working on ways to improve our future scores, as we don't believe that the score we got was acceptable."

She offered a smile to Sacre. putting her hand down and sitting back down in her seat as she took a deep breath, beginning to wrestle her emotions back to something approaching calm.

The teacher nodded, "Sometimes in the fog of battle, it can be unclear who is in charge. This lack of clarity most be resolved quickly and efficently, often it matters less who is in charge than that someone is in charge and taking control of the situation." There was class discussion for a while longer, addressing various aspects of the simulation before the class was finally dismissed.

Within half a second, the tsulrati had disappeared, and could be found outside her volumetric chamber, a set of tools working on what appeared to be a personal psionic signal controller surffering burned shielding. "Cheap ass piece of substandard civilian junk..."

Sacre exited her volumetric chamber and looked over at the electronic mess. "I can't say I've ever seen someone so inept they can break electronics just by being around them, but I suppose your inneptitude is exceptional." She said, her tone dry. Her mood was midly curious and amused, not knowing what it was that was broken.

"To be fair, it comes in a five pack, and I really don't want to break out the null glass." Aliset looked up momentarily, then downturned her head until something in her hand sparked and fell, exhuding a foul smoke as Sacre could finally see the remains of a civilian grade psionic signal controller. "And I just shorted the power supply... Great."

"You get what you pay for." Sacre shrugged, "You need to grab a replacement before we eat?" She asked.

"I should be good. It's fine. Not like it was really there for more than keeping me from getting a headache around so many Nekovalkyrja." She shrugged, scooping up the charred plastic as she crushed it into a foil ball and tossed it away. "Thanks for the save back there. I was kinda panicking and I kinda winged it in the simulation."

"You were the one who suggested that I be the one in charge." Sacre said, unaware of her helping Aliset in class.

"I meant... Never mind. Let's go get food." Aliset gave a soft, warm smile as she straightened. "I'll grab a new PSC from the vendors on the way. I think I have the credits... Oh! Right, YSE uses KS. Sorry. Anyway, you still want a whole pack roach to show off?"

That wasn't what she had said, but perhaps what she had meant. The two of them moved down the corridor together. "I've learned to live with Yamatai's rather irregular feeding schedule, lots of small meals. If you got me a pack roach, I probably woulsn't need to eat for a month. So something smaller will be fine."

"Yeah, let's go with a leg quarter, keep you full for a week?" Her joke was punctuated by a shake of her head. "I dunno. I think you'll really like Shurista. It's beautiful. Lots of parks. Real stone houses. Real wood. And most of the clothes sold on board are natural fibers. They have a universal basic income based on what we use and the waste produced. It's very different. Just remember that the water credit doesn't exchange with the KS, yet... Which is why I have problems buying nonmilitary clothes. Gets real expensive when you're not on UBI, anymore."

"It sounds like a beautiful place. My original solution was never leave where it's acceptable to wear a uniform. What's a water credit?" Sacre asked, curious about Aliset's home.

"Oh!" Aliset quickly lifted her necklace out of her uniform, unclasping it to dump a series of metal rings into her hand. Reclasping her necklace, she offtered the weighted steel rings, each with a different colored gemstone.

"So most gems are kinda useless to us, especially sapphire. So we artificially induce colors in them to help color code our currency. Each of these weighted steel rings denotes a volume of water. This little white one is a deci, or one tenth of a liter. The brown is a single, then we have increasing quantities by muliples of five." She separated out each of the notable currency units, and quickly counted up. "So these would be a total of... Just under five thousand liters of water in value. This is about one month's income for a postage freighter captain like I was, not counting the Ubi.

"I'm probably not going to be able to bring several onsen of water with me." Sacre remarked dryly.

Gently, Ali took Sacre's hand, dumping the currency into it. "Then take these. I have a few hundred thousand liters. Nobody out this side of the lonely expanse takes Shuristan credits. The credits are based on water volume on the Flotilla. Both in use and in the greywater system."

Sacre flinched away from the unexpected contact, causing the gems to fall and scatter acorss the corridor. There was a bright sharp panic that threatened to overwhelm the normally stoic Separa'Shan. What looked like a knife of bone suddenly sprang from her wrist. Sacre stopped herself from doing more. The bone knife slid slowly back into her wrist. "Sorry, I... don't like being touched unexpectedly." Or at all a voice inside her added.

"I was one of the first Separa'Shan to leave our homeworld. I was young and nieve, looking for adventure in whatever came my way. It didn't end well, and there's still... shrapnel." She added in explaination as she stretched out with her tail, using it as a sort of broom to gather the scattered gems.

"I get it." Ali stooped to help gather up the fallen currency, offering a warm smile. "I've never seen an implant like that. It's really impressive. But I am truly sorry for what made that necessary. "I'll keep that in mind. I... There's a solid dose of trauma on my side, too."

Sacre put them into a pocket, "Thank you for the loan, I'll be sure to repay it when I can."

"What's a loan?"

Sacre gave Aliset a odd look, not understanding how someone could not understand what a loan was. "Sometimes you need more money than you have, so you agree with someone that has the money, but doesn't need it right now for them to let you borrow it. In exchange, you pay them some money for the service." It was vastly oversimplified, but hopefully enough to get the idea across.

The concept brought furrowed brows and radiating confusion from Aliset as she tried and failed to fully comprehend it. "Weird. Senti have this belief that any negative action puts everyone at risk, while doing something positive for others, with or without an expectation of repayment allows everyine to prosper. So the general expectation is to pay it forward, not back. It's one of those cultural things that I'm still wrapping my head around."

"My father was very good at making loans that benifited people. I don't have many good memories of him, we fought, a lot. But I do remember this one debt that he forgave and he explained that anyone can lend with the expectation of repayment, it is much more difficult to lend without a real expectation of repayment even though it helps everyone." Sacre explained reaching back to things from a long time ago.

"Do you have a good relationship with your parents?" Sacre asked.

"My grandmother volunteered me to the Shuristan Councils without my knowledge. My father killed my assaulter and then proceeded to coddle me for fourtieen years. I suppose my relationship can be described as average." She shrugged again, smiling. "Aside from your father, do you have any family? People you're honestly close to?"

"I used to have a very large family, but the way I understand it is that the senator from Essia was from my hometown. My father was rather... defiant during the occupation. So there's not much left but a smoking ruin. I'm not good at relationships. I have a girlfriend, and well I'm not sure what Hildr is. There is Klaus and some others from various postings. But I wouldn't describe my social life as exactly thriving." Sacre explained.

"Ah... Same, honestly. I don't have a lot of folks I'm really close to. There's this Consort, Sayako, and my Captain. But my husbands are dead. I have no siblings, just cousins, and I may have burned the bridges that would make me welcome on Shurista. So I'm kinda out on my own. Little lost xeno girl. With just enough known by my ship medics to not kill their diversity hire when she got bitten by a Separa Captain. It's been a long few years." She gave a soft, hollow grin, considering her position. "You were there, once. The Star Army isn't exactly our normal. So I got awakened. I'm working with our CMO and Say to make an implant that'll help me feel the ship. Normal stuff to bring me up to something approaching standard."

The two finally arrived at the Duskarian resturaunt. "We're two sad sacks aren't we? It might have been harder for them to accidently kill me, but have you ever tried going up stairs with this tail? Don't even get me on the expectation that your able to fly. Yes, I do enjoy being a blimp." Sacre comiserated with a bit of sarcasm, waving her tail in the air for emphasis.

"Oh, my gods, and when they expect you to be able to just sleep in gravity? I never snored once in my life before joining the Star Army!" Aliset laughed, "Now I'm waking myself up literally twice a week! And personally, I think you have a rich and beautirful coloring and pattern on your tail. While yeah, stairs and zero grav channels are hard, at least you don't have a medical profile requiring you to wear mag boots so you don't go sliding across the bay floor during PT."

Breaking away from the conversation, she quickly ordered and paid for the whole leg quarter of slow roasted pack roach, and a barbeque plate for herself. It was a pleasant note that they offered to change up the recipe for her species, one she took without thinking. "And half their controls are either psychic or deadass just "Oh, just connect this little USB port in your left ass cheek. Like I have one, Megami! Also, the Nekos like refridgerator magnets."

Sacre didn't laugh, but she was highly amused. "Have you ever seen us do a jumping jack? No, because it's made for ridiculous biped physiology. I've got a great idea, I'm going to fall over and than catch myself repeatedly. Yes, this is a sensible way to do things. Nekos like refrigerator magnets? How so?" Sacre asked, finally taking a bite of the huge packeoach leg.

"I have seen that. It was sad and dumb. Any idiot can see that jumping jacks aren't good for either of us. You fall over, I leave a dent in the deck. Gods, I hated flight school. And yeah. Magnets. My bones are ferromagnetic. So magnets stick to me. Apparently that was really funny to the kittens." She took a forkful of her barbecue, giving an eye roll. "And then they keep it so cold in their ships! I'm stuck in a 30C and I still have to wear a thermal layer and a heater. I've gotten about staying just dehydrated enough."

"You're species is warm blooded at least right? Why are you so lethargic Sacre? It's like two degrees out, not even freezing! I was made for twenty five minimum. If you aren't sweltering, than I'm probably trying to figure out how to conserve energy in a blizzard. Why is the heat lamp glued to my tail? You guess."

"I'm risking hypothermia below thirty, and I'm comfortable between forty and eighty, so I get it! I went out in the snow one time, woke up in a hospital. It was like one and a half degrees out and apparently I was unconscious in five minutes."

"Mmm fourty. I might have to see if I can use you as a heat source. I was assigned to Ralt once, way up in the north. I hated every second of it. Everyone else is like yay! Snow. I'm by the fire and trying to figure out how to get closer without actually being in it. What's been your worst assignment so far?" Sacre asked.

"Easily shore leave on Freebeer with the Wrath of Nepleslia, during the disaster relief after Turassiel, " she gave a chuckle, though it was dark, not quite so soft. Clearly more had happened there than she was about to say. "You think Ralt's cold? Freebeer's a ball of mud and ice full of gun nuts and incoherent boogaloo noises. I still celebrate Lois Pascal day, but damn it, I don't want to be digging bullets out of my half frozen ass half the time Or trying to run on any high G world. You think these are made for running?"

Aliset grabbed and lifted her breast, before letting it drop. "What about yours? Worst or strangest assignment."

"Everything is so much lighter out here." Sacre thought a moment, "Strangest has to be the time I heard a insane dead God talking to me and I helped destroy a universe. That one was weird. But it's probably the combination. Riding dragons was fun. Once you've spoken draconic, nothing else is quite the same." Sacre said, turning the leg over and eating the other side.

"If you dislike low gravity, you will have to get used to Shurista. There is no gravity. We never needed it. Our physiology lets us use magnetic fields in the place of gravity. So... Yeah. Good luck?"

"Magenetic fields? I don't hate low grav, but I do like having the ground under me, or at least thinking I do. On the other hand, there are plenty of Separa'Shan who swim, and I've heard being in zero g is like that." Sacre worried slightly.

"You'll be fine," she started focusing again, radiating confidence in her smile. "You're among the top of your class. You did your zero gravity training before the Draconic Wars, you learned to speak the language. Considering what little I know of our universe, I would assume that Draconic isn't simply an extragalactic, but an extradimensional language. Don't ever doubt your ability to adapt. Not to me, please."

Sacre didn't really see herself that that. There was a lot of fear and insecurity she still felt. "You don't know me very well... but I suppose I have adapted. From hunting in the jungle alone, to being wrapped in a giant metal caccon. Perhaps your on the opposite journy and you'll end up being a lone hunter in a jungle."

"You're as insecure as I am." Aliset offered a forkful of her barbecue, a bright smile on her face. "And that's perfectly fine. Knowledge of your limitations is a powerful tool. One I learned to use too late. For all its flaws, you get to see something truly beautiful. And when you get back, tell me how the sun sets over the hull disk, and tell me how the hullsong feels, okay?"

"Hullsong? What is that?" Sacre asked, the encouragement from Aliset perking up her feelings.

"How do I describe hullsong..." Aliset looked off to one side, her forkful of barbecue just within reach if Sacre wished to lean forward and claim it. "You know how in an older ship... When you hear the creaks and groans, the slight vibration when the engines light or she hits atmosphere at the perfect trim. It's literally the song of the hull. And... I know it's weird..."

Sacre thought back to a old cago transport that she had been stationed on, one of the fans was supposedly completely within maintinance specs but it had this tiny hum and on the ship Sacre could tell exactly where she was based on what the hum sounded like.

She shook her head clear of the memories, trying to keep her confidence up. "It's probably just some silly superstition. And I've been thinking it more and more now that I'm on ships that don't sing. It's kind of... Unnerving. I don't know how to share memories with people. Can barely peel apart enough encryption to activate controls or talk to the crew of my ship."

"Our ships don't sing?" Sacre asked, not completely understanding what Aliset said.

"Our starships are living amalgamates of our ancestors. Literally built of half a million years worth of the cremated remains of... My species doesn't die. Not in the traditional sense. When our bodies die, we get cremated, folded into steel that makes up everything from our ship hulls to..." She pulled the fork back, setting it on her plate to pull a necklace from her uniform, an ornate and abstract shape of burial steel and white, opal like slag gem nearly the same size as Sacre's rank pin. She unclasped it from her neck, placing it on the table to slide across.

"Cookware, tools... Even jewelry. This necklace is part of the remains of Setiel Soren. My mother. Every ship's soul is the amalgamate of those who lived and loved in its hull. When we die, those emotions and energies don't just dissapate. Those memories don't just dissapate. Sorry, that probably sounds like a bunch of religious and superstitious hoogedy boogedy from a weird ass spacer nomad, doesn't it?"

"Pretty much, I'm an atheist. But it does remind me of a old Separa'Shan belief. We're born into this world, and we make friends, enemies, lovers, and more. We are then reborn with the chance to remake ourselves and fix the relationships we have broken. Eventually, we will fix all of the relationships with everyone in the universe, and everyone will live in harmony. It's a stupid anchient belief that really doesn't make sense, but there you go." Sacre explained.

"It's the way Shuristans believe." Ali shrugged. "I was raised in the culture. I'm still learning what was real and what was just myth. But that was my main source of training and learning. It helped me feel the ship around me. Let me do things that weren't strictly by the book. And it's part of why I got so stressed out in that simulation. I still find myself listening and feeling for it."

"I don't think any ship can tell you what to do, well the ship's AI might, but that's not the same thing. I don't get a sense from a scalpel 'ok, make an incision there', and if I did, I'd probably be labeled as crazy." Sacre responded, finishing the leg and putting the bones on her plate.

"I was called crazy. Flight school sucked. I dunno/ Might be some artifacting AI combined with instinctive sentimentalism. Throw in a bit of jerry rigged engineering and a loose beam, and bucket of bolts, five or ten thousand years of rust, and anything'll start loooking like ghosts in the metal." Somehow, she didn't sound convinced as she gave a soft shrug. "I dunno. Forget it, I guess."

"What was leaving there like for you?" Sacre asked.

"Like I cut away a piece of myself. A piece that had abandoned me thirty years ago. I've grown stronger for it. I wasn't going anywhere with my career with my own species. I'm sixty kilos overweight, got a twisted pelvis, and my heart costs lives. I'm better off here. What about you? You grew up planetside, right? What was that like?"

"I grew up before Yamatai came, my brother told me that I actually tried to bite one of the away team that first visited the surface. I'm not sure I believe him, but it was right before my ascension and I was eating everything I could put my mouth on. My father was a tradtionalist, so I spent a lot of time in the jungle, hunting, learning how to survive on my own. My favorite way was sitting in the branches of a tree over a game trail and then dropping on whatever came by. There was this one rock I'd hide under at night and then look up at the sky. I always wondered what was up there." Sacre said wistfully.

"I didn't get along with my father, we fought a lot. So when I decided to leave, it felt freeing. Like I was where I was meant to be, and there was a universe of possibility. Instead, I found a universe of pain. Hopeful, nieve, childish are the words I'd probably use to describe myself when I left. I haven't been back since. I think we felt two very diffrent things leaving. I was rather glad to have it behind me." Sacre explained.

"Not so different as you might think. My whole life, I grew up listening to the songs of peoples who could look up and see the stars lensed through an atmosphere. Not half a meter of glass. The first time I felt sunlight on my skin, it was... Indescribable. I used to sit on Soren's hull and watch the void. Wondering if what I was always hearing on the comms were just more echoes of the dead and dying. Then we picked up a beacon. I'd been Soren's captain for maybe...Ten? Twelve years before we caught a beacon. Refugee camps at Akina. I thought if we made contact, and forced Shurista to make contact then maybe we could finally see something real. But then two years later, nothing had happened. So with the Kuvexian War heating up, well, I figured I needed to help out. So I got warranted as a bomber pilot... Okay, pretty different. I mean, I passed my Trials at sixteen." She gave a shrug, picking up her biscuit. "Maybe Turassiel wouldn't have split if I didn't decide to be a hotshot. Maybe we would be a bunch of derelict remnants of a half million year dead culture. Who knows?"

There was a lot in what Ali said that Sacre didn't understand. "Turassiel, who's that?" She asked.

"Turassiel is... Was one of the sister structures to Shurista. Ninetey three hundred kilometers across, population of nearly three billion. It operated out of Nepleslia. Two years ago, the Gift of Song was leaked and it was attacked. Eighty five percent of the population was lost. My husbands and I were pulled to the Wrath of Nepleslia to perform search and rescue support. The Grand Library was completely ruined. Ninety eight percent loss. I hear they're starting to rebuild, now."

"I'm sorry, I didn't know about that. But I'm not sure why you would blame yourself. I don't think your the type to leak something like that." Sacre responded, the single structure had almost ten times as many people as there were Separa'Shan.

"I wasn't. But thank you. I don't think we ever found out who leaked the songs. They likely died in the attack. All I know is I still some times have nightmares about it. But that's unimportant in the long run. They're a hardy, industrious people. They'll recover. What of Essia? I hear it's a beautiful world. Full of beautiful people. Now that may be a bias with my first experience with a Separa being that I got bitten by the Captain of the Wyvern. But I'ld like to form a more honest opinion."

"I'm probably not the best example of the beautiful people. In my memory, their just people. The thing that's there that I've not really seen many other places is the density of... life. It's packed in everywhere. Everything constantly moving, growing, changing. What I remember is a lot of hard work, taking care of animals, stoking fires for the forge. We were semi-preindustrial, so none of the conveniances you find on starships. There was this one ridge, where you could look out over a valley filled with life and see the sun set over it. A warm red glowing ball sinking between the splashes of clouds. Always unique and beautiful. You should go there if you get a chance. Hopefully you won't rust from all of the humidity and rain. Because it's like a lot." Sacre said.

"Not the best example? That bone knife you almost took my hand with is a really interesting and unique augment, you have a softness and warmth about you that's lovely, and... Anyway, I've never been planetside to really see a sunset. Or a sunrise. I mean, it's happened, but... I've never been able to just appreciate it." Pushing her empty plate away, she kept nibbling on the biscuit, as though chewing on her thoughts. "It's a common misconception that humidity leads to rust with my species. I'd be more worried about a lichen or moss infection."

"Then you should probably include whatever lichen-off you have in your bag. When it comes to a sunrise, get there while it's still dark. The rise it's self is beauitiful, but also how the jungle changes as the sky does. From black to blue to pink and purple. There are a lot of animals active around sunrise that aren't active the rest of the day, so getting their early is your best chance to see them." Sacre explained.

"It sounds beautiful. And the fact that there's no solid barrier between the ground and space doesn't bother you? I always found it strange and disquieting how atmospheres work. But it sounds stunning."

Sacre shrugged, "Physics? I find it much weirder to grow up in a tin can than on a nice solid planet that anchors you to the ground. It's a lot harder to destroy a planet than to poke a hole in a wall."

"And it's harder to kill a ship than that, too! I mean, dozens of redundant systems and safeguards, knowledge of the... You're screwing with me, right? I'm the weird one for my first experience with walking in gravity being at Akina?" She stuck her tongue out, teasing.

"No, I'm clearly the weird one for having the experience that most people throughout time have had." Sacre said deadpan.

"Oh, I dunno, considering how fast Senti reproduce and how many Flotillas are out there, you planetborns might be the weird ones." She gave a shrug, throwing her hands wide. "Fact of the matter is that since it's next to impossible to know where all of the Flotillas are, and it's hard enough to find even one, an actual population estimate would be impossible to make. But yes, I'm the strange metal woman from between the stars. Least I could have done is be cute, but I can't even do that, can I? I'm all dented up and have a visible love for this strange planetsider food called pizza."

Sacre thought Aliset looked very cute. "I think that when it comes to cuteness, you are such a failure that you have utterly failed to fail."

"Wait, huh?" Just like that, Aliset's confusion sparked, as though something had ricocheted off her consciousness. Her face flushed a soft blue as she rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sorry, you're the pretty one, here."

You have a girlfriend one part of Sacre's mind reminded her. Who's practically given you a blank check the other part added. Sacre looked down, to hid her own flushing cheeks. "I haven't been pretty in a long time. I know you and Gravity think so, but..." She traced some of the scars that ran up her neck and onto her face.

Tsulrati are polyamorous, some part of Aliset's mind snapped back as she offered a soft smile. "Your girlfriend? Gravity's her name? A smart and lucky woman, to have your heart. Why don't you tell me about her?"

Sacre hadn't said that, but it was an easy enough infrance. "Callsign actually, she's a pilot, like you. We met while we were serving on the same ship. I was a lot more... acerbic back then. More than once when someone touched me accidently, I sent them flying to land on their asses. Once during a mission even. I was a Santo Hei, but I'd been all over the enlisted ranks. Kept getting busted down for fighting. I didn't like people." Sacre explained, relaxing and thinking back.

"So our pilot, Gravity, decided to break me out of my shell. She was so annoying, but also... radient? She had this enthusiasm for life and doing things. I felt more, alive, when I was with her. She pulled me along on a lot of adventures, and I began to realize that I wanted more of that 'spark' in my life. One thing lead to anouther, and you can't lie in Draconic. It will pull the truth from you, one way or anouther." Sacre said, looking at Aliset, but her mind somewhere else.

"So even with the truth that I'd fallen in love with her, that I trusted her, confessed. Trust being in some ways more important. There were a lot of bumps along the way, but we tackled them. Her with endless optimisim and energy, me with logic and stopping her from doing things a bit too hairbrained. She put up with me when I was at my worst, so I give her my best. She's changed me, for the better and how can you not love someone like that? Want to help them grow and change for the better." Sacre finished, finally coming back to the moment. "Have you ever felt something like that?"

"His name was Levente Barna. He was a Nepleslian exchange pilot on the YSS Tokyo. I was a Santo Juni. He was my escort pilot. Funny enough, he was the grounded and reasonable one. His sister, Grand Admiral Irene Barna is so much like him. But she's the logical one. He went missing on a routine patrol. All that was recovered was his knife. The one I gave him." She gave a soft shrug, her smile never wavering. "It's a wonderful feeling. Maybe in a couple centuries I'll be able to persue it again."

Sacre nodded solemly, "I'm sorry for your loss. If I lost Gravity, I hope I'd be able to find it again someday." Her communicator buzzed and she glanced at it. She stood from the table, "Duty calls. I've got to get to a meeting. But I'd like to do something with you again."

"Yeah. Maybe something with brighter conversation." Ali looked at her comm. "Oshit, I gotta get to my xenolinguistics class..."

--

JP with @HarperMadi
 
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Soban

Convention Veteran
The meeting had been a long one, but profitable. Admiral Fletcher had wanted details about the planned mission to Ayenee. However, he had seemed pleased at Sacre's intelligence if not always her mouth. Now Sacre was in her assigned quarters on Pisces station. She flopped into the nest and curled up, "Computer, Call Gravity." She said, sounding a bit tired. The simulation and the meeting had taken a lot out of her.

Gravity picked up, volumetric projected into the room. "Hey, what's up babe?" The blue Neko said with a grin.

Sacre almost never smiled, she hadn't even ever smiled at Hildir. However, the sight of her girlfriend brought a smile to her face. "Not much, just figured I'd call you to talk and stuff."

Starlight and Ophion swarmed Gravity, perching on her shoulders. The robotic pets called Drakes looked like small versions of Dragons. Starlight was green with golden eyes and resembled Apollo, the Dragon Gravity had bonded with. Ophion was electric blue with golden flakes.

"Awesome! How much can you talk about what your doing?" Gravity asked, moving to lay next to Sacre in the nest.

Sacre checked to make sure they were on a secure connection, they were. "Fletcher wants to keep a lot of the things I'm working on more secret. However, you've already been read into a lot of it. You remember the briefing we were given about the alien swarm that ravaged Ayenee with endless waves of creatures?"

"No, I don't remember anything about apocalyptic threats." Gravity said with a touch of sarcasm.

Sacre reached out to touch Gravity's image, but her hands passed through the volumetrics. "Well, I've confirmed that they are very similar if not the same. This means I'm being assigned to go back to Ayenee and see if we can find any remains or perhaps even a living part of the hive that was left behind."

"Apollo." The single word from Gravity was a choked whisper. The pilot had bonded a Dragon on Ayenee, becoming a Dragon Rider. The separation had been the hardest thing when they left. Even Draconic had been stripped away from them. A heavy silence hung in the air between them. "I miss him so much, I... I think if it wasn't for you I'd go and join him. Be his..." Gravity started to cry softly.

There was a long silence and Sacre wanted to wrap herself around her girlfriend to hold her tight. However, the distance separated them. "I know, so I want to bring you along." She said simply.

"No... I can't go." Gravity cried, bowing her head.

Sacre looked confused, "Why not?"

"Because... because I love you more. Because if I go, then it all comes back and I'll want to stay. I don't know if I want to hurt you like that." Gravity explained.

"Because I'll almost never see you." Sacre said, trying to puzzle things out.

"Exactly, Apollo and you are the two best things in my life, I don't want to have to choose between them." Gravity said earnestly.

Sacre nodded, "I understand."

"No,you don't. You still have the Army. You still love it. I hate the army. It's taken Apollo away, it's taken you away, if it wasn't for Hildir, I'd have nothing left." Gravity said with a sudden intensity.

There was a brief silence as the two worked through the emotions of that statement. Sacre thought for a long moment and nodded to herself, a decision reached. "Ok." She said simply.

"Your planning something. I can see it on your face." Gravity said.

"I'm not, I... want you to be happy." Sacre explained.

Gravity clearly didn't believe her, and changed the topic. "So how are classes going?"

Sacre shifted, trying to let the emotions she felt fade, but they stubbornly refused to. "Do you know Aliset? She's assigned to the Koun."

Gravity thought for a moment, "Mostly by reputation, she's a good pilot, but a bit of a wildcard."

"She's in one of my command classes. We were assigned to do a simulation together, and well, we managed to hit it off better than I've hit it off with almost anyone. I enjoyed her company at lunch after class. It was... enjoyable." Sacre finished lamely.

"oooh, it's about time. Sacre and Aliset sitting in a tree-" Gravity teased.

"No. it's not like that." Sacre interrupted Gravity. "I think we might be friends in a weird way?"

Gravity nodded, "You need to give a side piece, relive some of that" Gravity paused for a irritatingly long time to build to something. "tension while you are out there chasing around an army of bugs." Sacre's brows furrowed in annoyance. Gravity laughed, "You love me."

It was true, "I don't love it when you do that." Sacre said, determinedly stoic.

"Well, if you want to go and get you some hot Senti, I'm not going to complain." Gravity added.

"I don't want that. It's disgusting." Sacre replied, a bit sharply, but also blushing.

"I don't recall that being what you felt right before you left." Gravity said with a lecherous grin. "P U D D L E." She spelled out.

Sacre flushed red at the memory of that steamy night between the two. "If you were here-"

"If I was there, or you were here, I'd..." Gravity said, suggesting a few options for Sacre to indulge herself in. The rest of the phone call was surprisingly exhausting for just being two people talking.

--

"Sir, can we talk for a minute?" Sacre asked Fletcher as the crowd gathered in the meeting room.

Fletcher glanced at the time. "We have a bit before the meeting, What about?"

Sacre slid over to a corner of the meeting room and Fletcher followed. "It's my girlfriend. I'm not sure what to do and I think you might be able to help."

Fletcher looked concerned, folding his arms. "Go on." He said cautiously.

"Sir, as you are aware, my girlfriend is read in on Ayenee. What you might not be aware of is that she formed... a friendship there." Sacre said, not sure how to say it.

"She became bonded to the Dragon Apollo. Both of you learned Draconic. You two also visited the hidden Dragon city, and you traded with a local merchant. I am well aware of your... adventures in Ayenee even before we needed you for this." Fletcher said quickly.

Sacre was surprised he knew all that. However, he was a Taisho, there was very little he wasn't cleared to know. "Yes, sir. She's always been homesick for Apollo. She hides it well most days, but there is always this... longing. Apollo is almost as important to her as I am."

Sacre took a breath, knowing she didn't have much time. "I... I want her to be happy and to have both of us if she can." She explained.

"What do you want me to do about it?" He asked.

"Is there an assignment she would enjoy that would let her keep a foot in both worlds?" Sacre asked.

Fletcher considered for a long moment, looking at Sacre. She shifted slightly under his gaze. "This is really important for you." He said. It wasn't a question, but Sacre nodded anyway. "The number of people who are even aware of Ayenee is limited. Those who have been there recently, even fewer. Fort Miller isn't somewhere we keep a large force. There may be a few strings I can pull, but Ayenee isn't my area of operations. I can't make any promises."

Sacre nodded, looking down.

"May I touch you?" Fletcher asked.

Sacre furrowed her brow, but mentally prepared herself. "Yes sir, if you have to."

Fletcher rested a hand on Sacre's shoulder reassuringly. "Everything will be fine. Know that even though I have a lot of people to take care of, I do want what is best, even if I can't manage it."

"Your a Taisho, you can't manage anything without a Juni breaking it down beyond usefulness first." Sacre said, trying a joke in her serious sounding humor.

Fletcher frowned, but then gave a small smile. "Don't make me send you to the Humor College of Tania."

"There isn't one?" Sacre asked, confused.

"Which makes it all the more embarrassing if I have to send you there." Fletcher said with a small laugh and a grin, returning to the meeting.

--

Sacre was in the lab, preparing equipment for the next day's work. It was the small diligent things that made everything work right. It also reminded her that while she was studying to be a doctor, she wasn't one yet. Her communicator buzzed and she saw it was Gravity. She put the call on speakerphone. "Hey beautiful. I'm working, but I could use the company right now."

"I was asked if I wanted to go back to Ayenee today. I... I don't know how to respond." Gravity said.

Sacre nodded, "You have wanted to go back there, what's the job?" She asked.

"I'll be on a Fuji, same sort of thing as the Kaiyo was doing, but my understanding is with the increase in base personnel, we'll be going back and forth more often. I'll be spending a lot of time away, and... and... I'm not sure what's going to happen." Gravity admitted.

Sacre was quiet for a few moments while she thought about it. "Well, it could be worse, Apollo and I could be divorced too."

Gravity laughed at Sacre's stupid joke. "I don't want you to feel abandoned."

"You won't be abandoning me, you'll be happy and you being happy makes me happy. Comperson. If this assignment lets you have both of the things you want, then take it with both hands and have them both." Sacre said, trying to sound more confident than she felt. The truth was that she had a small pit in her belly, a worry she wouldn't see Gravity again. She knew it was foolishness, but it still lingered.

"Right, and perhaps I can smuggle you back and we can ride dragons together, and have more adventures." Gravity said, becoming more enthusiastic.

Sacre nodded, even though Gravity couldn't see it. She wasn't sure how to tell her girlfriend the next part. "I'm going to have to stay here mostly. I feel your love for Ayenee, I really do, but it's not something I feel myself. It's a great place to vacation, but it's not home. I..." She trailed off, not wanting to say it out loud. "I love Yamatai and Star Army. I can't really see myself without them. Their something I've been a part of my entire life and I don't see that changing."

"Oh."

A long silence hung in the air as Sacre worked and Gravity processed everything. "Then I don't know if I want to go back, I have forever, I can wait."

There was another silence as the weight of death pressed down on them. Sacre wasn't suicidal, however, the fact she didn't have a backup and would age and eventually die permanently without one and Gravity kept hers up to date so she was effectively immortal wasn't something they talked about much. Sacre thought for a long moment, trying to figure out what to say. "You could, but there is a part of you that would be dead inside. When we came back and you lost Apollo, I saw the toll that took on you. You want me, which is why you stayed. However, you also want Apollo. Don't think I don't see the far off look in your eyes when you look at Starlight."

Gravity was quiet for another moment. "Alright, I'll do it. Just... Just don't be mad if everything goes sideways. I don't want it to, but..." she trailed off.

"I'm enough of a badass I can rescue my princess from wherever she's been trapped. Even if I have to duel a Dragon to do it." Sacre said firmly.

"You'd fight Apollo for me?"

"If I had to, but I was actually hoping to be fighting with him in that scenario." Sacre admitted. Gravity laughed and they moved on to lighter topics as Sacre worked.
 

Soban

Convention Veteran
It was a few days later when their schedules had managed to work out right together. The old Samurai Blacksmith had been pleased that people were looking intrested in the old ways of making things. Yu Kurosaki looked anchient, with white hair in a topnot and a beard. Despite his age, he was muscular with a bright gleam in his dark eyes.

Sacre arrived first to talk to him, she had been a blacksmith's daughter and had learned much of the art from watching her father. Then from making and balancing her own knives. So they were able to chat happily about some of the more technical aspects of the craft while Sacre waited for Aliset.

Aliset was not far behind, carrying her own apron gifted to her by her Smith grand mother, and a burial steel sledge on her hip. She offered a deep bow to Yu Kurosaki before offering Sacre a sweet smile. "I brought one of my grandmother's hammers, if that's okay.

"Is it going to hold up? I don't think I've ever seen a golden hammer before." Yu remarked with a look of concern.

"Burial steel. I'll offer it to the forgemaster for inspection. As is Senti tradition, when bringing your own hammers." Aliset offered a smile. "It's good to see you, Sacre! How are you?"

She lifted the hammer out of the belt loop on her hip, setting it gently on the counter with another bow to the forgemaster. To his eyes, it was a simple 3.5lb shaping hammer, one horisontal cutting edge across the base with a solid octagonal face, a soft back angle and rounding ensuring a solid, square hit at just below the line of the hip.

"Thank you," He said taking it and inspecting it carefully. He hefted it, checking the weight and feel in his hands. He hit it against a anvil and inspected it again. With a nod, he pulled one of the things he was working with out and hit it with the hammer, then inspecting it again. He finished his work with the hammer before returning it to Aliset. "A fine hammer, it should serve you well."

"Not being burned at the moment, so not terrible." Sacre responded dourly.

"That's good!" Aliset picked up her hammer again, offering a bow to the old smith. "My grandmother gifted this hammer to me while I served on the YSS Tokyo,"

Her smile didn't waver as she accepted her hammer back from the forgemaster and slipped it into her hip. "What shall we learn? I was actually... When I was Shuristan, my grandmother fought for my right to a Smith's training, and was denied. I was denied until someone had to bury a Senti aboard Tokyo. I was the only one approaching the skills. I'd like to learn more than just burial rites."

"Burial rites?" Yu asked.

"Aah... Our bodies have a really high metal content, and when combined with the fact that we've been nomadic for so long... Well, we get cremated. And then the resulting steel is forged into... Pretty much everything. So... Yeah. Nobody ever..." Ali's brows furrowed as she caught herself remembering something. "Anyway. Yeah. Our burial rites revolve around the forges. So the Senti find places like this to be holy."

Yu nodded, stroking his beard. "Perhaps I should visit this place. I'm sure you have many intresting things and techniques." He said.

She gestured to Sacre with a smile. "Last time this lovely lady and I got together, she told me she'd be studying at the Shuristan Grand Library in the near future. And I heard that they intigrated a Zodiac fortress to Shurista's hull, so I'm sure..." She glanced to Sacre, offering a smile.

"I'm sure the people of Shurista will be happy to show you their techniques. I heard some of your discussion... Sacre, I didn't know you were a Smith."

"It's a hobby, I learned a lot from my father, but I wanted knives with the ballance I liked, so I had to learn to make my own. That lead to me making other things from time to time, but mostly knives." Sacre explained casually, still not quite getting the importance of smiths to Shuristian culture.

Aliset looked to Yu, then back to Sacre, her shoulders relaxing as a smile grew across her face. "I think it's more than that. I know the culture and stories of Shuristan smiths. But the first time I swung a hammer was last year, after Glimmergold... Could you maybe... Teach me?"

"Sure, what do you want to learn?" Sacre asked.

"I was denied the right to train when I was a little girl, so I know... Really next to nothing. Can we start with like a simple knife or something?" Aliset seemed to stiffen, not sure how to begin. She knew the basic sciences of metallurgy and theory. Yu could tell she had never made anything aside a single collection of ingots. "So... Yeah... Let's get started! I barely know how to hold a hammer, so you're the lead here."

Yu considered for a moment, "Knives are flashy things. What we probably want to do is start out with something that teaches the basics. Sacre, grab three irons of stock." He went over to a cubboard and pulled out a metal leaf who's stem curled over to form a sort of key ring.

He gave the small iron object to Aliset. "It's simple, but has a lot to teach you. I made a lot of theese when I was a young smith. I'll go first while you two watch me, and then you'll follow the same steps that I do when your metal is ready. Does that make sense?" He asked.

She considered the piece of metal, feeling the way the steel had flowed under the hanner, letting her psionic abilities flow through the metal. Sure, it wasn't burial steel, but the principles were the same. She let her mind reach into the metal, feeling the flagellates, microscopic crystals of steel and tiniest impurities that made it stronger. "I think... Yeah, that makes sense. I have a few people I'd like to make some gifts for. Building the skills now will be a great help. Sacre, I'm glad you had this idea!"

Sacre nodded, starting her own work across from Aliset on her own anvil. She worked carefully and skillfully, critiquing herself as she worked. "I wasn't sure if this was something we would both like." She admitted, enjoying the sight of Aliset working with her. The Shuristian woman was very attractive to the medic turned doctor.

As Aliset watched carefully, she found her eyes drawn away from the metal by Sacre's movement, and sharply looked away, covering her rising blue blush as she watched the forgemaster's instruction. "I don't know why you'd think that. With how the smithy is crucial to Shuristan culture, it's the second most popular date idea to galley duty. I know it sounds dumb, but mine is a working culture."

When she had seen Yu drop the finished leaf into the water to quench, Aliset nodded, moving back to her anvil. Placing her hammer next to another few, she picked a simple flat and round hammer from the rack, gently setting her bar against the anvil and guaging her strikes carefully. It was slow, but she was being careful, and before long she had her point, already adjusting to start working her taper.

"Then again, we also have a lot of farmer's markets, so that's a pretty popular date, too. Something about mundane intimacy... Or was it intimacy in the mundane? I dunno. Anthropology was never my strong suit."

"I've tended towards the bit more exotic for my dates. Things that we wouldn't normally go see or do. Well, for the big dates. There are also the little weekly dates I'd go on. On ship it's almost always to the small garden we had on the observation deck. A special time just for me and them to be apart from our usual routine and with, really with, each other." Sacre said as she pounded the leaf into shape and bent the metal into a little circle to finish her first leaf. She quenched it and looked at it carefully to see how she could do better. "I think it might be intresting to go to a farmer's market again. I don't think I've been to one since I left Essia. Do you think there are any on the station?"

"There might be, I've been so busy with work and school I haven't really had time to look." Second heat and Aliset started drawing out the stem of the leaf, reminding herself that metal would curl, and that's not what se was trying to correct right now. Elbow set, bar level, drawing it forth and hoocking the leaf blob to straighten that tang as she started rolling the metal under the soft beat of her hammer. "They're all over the place on Shurista. Can't throw a ball without hitting a street vendor of some kind. I don't think anyone owns anything that isn't hand made by someone. It's actually really weird for me to look at factory made coffee mugs."

"My father was a blacksmith, but he was also something of an industrialist. He was one of the first to really make machines for making machines far as I know. So the idea wasn't something completely new to me. However, the scale of it was impressive. A billion perfect copies of a neko, with a billion perfect copies of everything. What does a single unique and imperfect thing have to compare to that? But for a unique slave, people will commit murder. It turns out that we don't crave perfection, we crave uniqueness. We crave being valuable. Imperfection is in its own way unique." Sacre took the leaf she was making as an example. "I was a bit bad on the shoulders and too agressive on the right side so the centerline is off. A press could probably make a thousand in the time it took me to make one. But the one is valuable because it's unique. I don't think I could make a identical one if I tried." Sacre mused thoughtfully.

Finally, she had achieved a basic shape, deciding to gently pull her hammer blows towards herself to attempt to get a heart shape. She knew her hammer blows weren't perfectly centered, and decided to work with the curving of the metal, shaping one lobe at a time to allow the centerline to curve and give an illusion of symetry, knowing she had missed the line.

As she twisted off the taper and then wrapped the end into a hook for her last heat, she gave some thought to Sacre's words. "That slavery comment's oddly... Specific... But I get it. A billion perfect coffee mugs can't replace the one I have in my room from Nicol. He got it from a street vendor on Turassiel the first time I made a postage run there. Something about the hand feel of a hand made mug you don't get from a factory made one. Or the weight. We have factories for things that need to be made that way. Fuel. Medicine. Computer chips and individual components."

Finally taking her little leaf out of the heat, she gently pushed the stem backwards, gripping the leaf in her tongs before rolling both wrists to form the ring and pressing the end of the ring to the stem, pinching the joint in pliers to be dunked and swirled in the water. Picking up a wire brush, she started cleaning the metal, checking her work. "That didn't go to plan..."

"How so?" Yu asked gently, joining Aliset.

"Oh, aah... Well, I accidentally caught the first centerline strike with the corner of the hammer, not the edge, and tried to correct for the fact that it was off center with a bit of a curve. I mean... It sorta worked? And that ring is way off square. Easy fixes, I'm sure. It's nice, though! I think."

Sacre nodded, "It's good for a first try." She said, thinking it was indeed good. She offered a few tips on how to hold the hammer for a edge strike to reduce the chances of it happening. Yu also had a few ideas that would help her with the next time.

"So you want to try again?" Yu asked the pair. Sacre wanted to, but she looked at Ali to see what she thought.

"Yeah! Let's go for it," her excitement seemed boundless as her enthusiasm.

"Excellent!" He said, putting the stock back into the fire.

Sacre enjoyed watching Aliset's enthusiasm and excitement, she didn't have enough of it in her life. Someone who wholly commited enthusiastically was intoxicating in a way. You already have Gravity. one part of her thought, If one is good, then why not two? Gravity's given you permision. Anouther argued back. She's a widow, and she as much as said she's not looking right now. The conflict raged for a few moments until Sacre realized that the stock was hot enough and grabbed hers to start back on.

She postioned herself at her anvil so she could see Aliset. "So you can see what I meant as we start making the point." Sacre offered, hitting the hot stock.

"This is completely different from cold carving," Aliset lifted her stock, quickly hammering out her point as she let herself relax. The first one didn't go so well, and she had two excellent teachers who had given her advice. The knapping sound of their hammers against the stock filled the room as she lifted her stock vertical, blunting the tip she had formed before starting her initial draw. Doing it once gives a lot of confidence, even if the first attempt wasn't necessarily good.

Tapering was easy, as long as she kept the metal good and hot, hiking her hand up on the choke of the handle, and watching her force. It was more attention to detail than anything, as far as she felt. Looking up, she shot Sacre a smile. "You're thinking loud. I can't really make it out, but you sound kinda... Nervous? What's up?"

Sacre thought for a moment, hammering at her piece for a seond longer than she needed, trying to figure out how to respond, so she gave the response that gave her the most time. "Thinking loud? I'm not prone to babbling every thought that enters my empty head like some people are." She asked, trying to figure out if she should just tell the truth that Aliset was perhaps the second person she was attracted to in her life or say something else.

"I'm still new to the whole telepathy thing... Amazing what modern surgery can do. I mean, yeah, it's a bit difficult to decipher... But I can kinda hear whispers, some times. And recognize voices. Yours is really pretty. When you're not arguing with yourself. And I really don't want to intrude and invade your privacy by sitting here just fighting through a translation when I can just ask you."

Taking Sacre's advice especially in mind, she attempted the heart shaped leaf and curved spine again, using the round back of the hammer in a sharp draw towards herself to pull some of the material towards herself, before one quick cross strike pushed the spine into a curve.

Sacre hammered the flat heart shaped pattern of the leaf. "I've fought Mishuu psionics before, it wasn't fun. Kinda left a bad taste in my mouth for the whole thing. My understanding is that Separa'shan have thick 'walls' for such stuff. Which is why I wasn't effected as much. That's not what I know, but what I was told. But I don't know much about them. So what can you do?" Sacre asked, hoping to perhaps deflect from a thorny question of feelings she didn't know what to do with.

"I've never dealt with Mishhu before. I've read about what they can do, though. It's why I got the implant. The ability to match and exceed that kind of ability and defend my crew and my family was really important to me." She offered a smile, setting the keychain back into the heat. She supposed the injection could be an implant. But the training she had recieved had been minimal. "You're the first Separa'Shan I've met since the surgery, so I don't know. But I do know I don't want to fight. Not you. I like you. Why would I betray your trust like that?"

"Because you are secretly a jerk who is lulling me into a false sense of security so I go along with whatever hairbrained scheme you want to use to take advantage of me." Sacre responded with more than a notable hint of bitterness.

"I'm... Why would I..." Aliset's confusion radiated off of her as she pulled her steel out of the forge, brows furrowed as she picked up her hammer again. "I'm not one of them. I'm a navigator., not a..."

She considered her next hammer blow, but the blow never came as she closed her eyes, planting a hand on the anvil as she set the hammer down with a soft click Taking off her apron, she reached over to turn off the little forge and pull her unfinished keychain, cutting it off before sweeping it into a quench bucket as she put up her stock. "I get it. Really. Sorry. I think you'll be happier if I'm not close enough to hear your mind. I can't put up walls that thick."

Sacre moved around closer, touching Aliset's arm. "I didn't say you were that way, I said that's why you might betray my trust. I've had several betrayals happen in my life. I wasn't a good slave, and so I tried to escape. It never worked, but the times it was closest was when someone I thought I could trust betrayed me back to our masters." She tried to compose herself and think of happier thoughts than the darkness that swirled at the back of every interaction.

"I've lost a lot in my life. At some point, I kinda became jaded to it all. If I couldn't keep friends, why make them? Why let that hurt back into my life? I walled myself off with thorns, keeping everyone and everything from reaching where it might hurt me again. I resisted Gravity even while I was falling for her because I was scared." Sacre admitted.

"A lot of people think I'm brave, they see a blazing sun and think confidence and courage are what define me. They want to join the army to be like me. What I can't show them is how it feels inside to be me. I'm depressive and there is a lot of anixity, bad habits, and fear that are constantly threatening to overtake me. I don't like people. Sometimes I do like people who aren't like me. Who are constantly putting themselves out there, who take to things with brightness and determination rather than stoic resolve." Sacre took a breath and decided to tell a truth.

"That's you, and... and... I feel something with you that I've only really felt with very few people. I'm not certain what it is, but I do want to know where it goes." Sacre said, pouring her heart out.

As Sacre's hand stayed Alistet's movements, something started to become visible, swirling colors and scars that showed and highlighted her history and memories' effect on her psyche and abilities, like a soft glow or aura. Nothing was really clear, but there were certain things that could be obvous, such as the smoldering wound in her side, as though a piece of her had been ripped out, not once, but twice.

"Look, I... I appreciate it, really." Offering a smile, Aliset looked back, and Sacre could see the corrupting influence of her grief fade just a little bit, though her fear seemed to creep from those wounds. "I haven't been through what you have. But I can see where you're coming from. You scare the Hell out of me, because what happens if I start falling? Is that gonna put you at risk like it did for Nic and Lev? I want to see where this goes, too. But I'm tired. I know I don't show it well, but I kinda miss the simple life as a postage courier. But my home's a combat ship, now."

She gave a soft shrug, breaking contact as she scratched at her bent ribs. "So yeah. I'm a telepath. I'm not a monster, and I'm sworn by culture, career, and power to help people. But I just kinda want... My instincst are screaming at me to build a familial network, and I've been fighting it because I know my heart costs lives, and I could stand to retire and be just a little old sweetwasp lady in some back corner of an ag dome or some random planet... But there's some part of me that wants to be proven wrong."

Finally, she slid her barstock into its shelf. "I'm willing to try. Maybe you can teach me Draconic."

"I don't have the same community building instinct. Mine's been warped into a weird pretzel, generally around those few I can call 'not idiots';" Friends. "Unfortunantly, Draconic isn't something that can be taught here. I can screech at you in a rumbly voice for a few hours if you want though." Sacre said, trying to lighen the mood a tiny bit.

"I mean, I learned Essian because of someone a lot less cute and a lot more venomous." Aliset gave a small laugh, rolling her eyes. "With no help from people that spoke it, just a translation from a ship that... Well the jury's still out on whether or not Koun-Chan actually likes me or if she thinks I'm as dumb as I do."

Aliset reached over, lightly touching Sacre's nose with a soft "boop" sound and a widening grin. "Maybe on round three we can go somewhere you can teach me?"

Sacre's eyes went wide as she touched Sacre's nose. Sacre tried to move away from the terrifying touch, but it happened. Sacre slammed down iron control, and just pawed at her nose for a bit. She remembered something Admrial Fletcher had said. "We'll see."

"Sorry about that. Either that or we could take a volumetric trip to somewhere we can both be comfortable. I mean, the thermal suit does itch some times." A soft smile at that cute pawing crossed Aliset's face. "I dunno, maybe a beach or something. I can't swim, though... I could bring my husband's guitar. I'm not real good with it. Better with a Shuristan Khatakara. But it's similar enough... Sorta. The Khatakara has a single fretboard of eight strings and then nineteen harpoid strings, and they're all silk monofilament... And the guitar's made out of wood with only one resonating chamber where a khatakara has three chambers and is made of burial steel..."
 

Soban

Convention Veteran
Pisces Station
“Sweet spot”
YE44.7

Every ship, every station, had a sweet spot. That place where gravity didn’t quite work, or didn’t work at all. Where the direction of down changes or between the output nodes of the gravity generator, there was always one or two comfortable chambers where someone could bask and relax in the null gravity. If they knew where to go and how to get there.

Floating there with her tools around her, Aliset let her back curve, sailing through the air with the practiced ease of thirty or more years never experiencing gravity’s pull. She could finally move, finally breathe as she folded her worries away, turning over once to touch her hand to the deck plating, her fingertips seeming to gently brush to stop her arc, rotating her body to kick off the bulkhead with that same practiced, balanced gentleness that barely made a sound and yet stopped her rotation cold in a cloud of red hair like a flaming ball of blue green eyes and silver skin. It was hot, here, between the cooling pipes deep in the bowels of the station, deep in the reactor and gravity core sector. An uncontrolled maintenence hatch like what Aliset had climbed past to get here could easily reach sixty degrees celsius. And this was perfect for the metal fleshed young woman who came here to meditate and consider.

A small sprite of a young woman appeared. Akita wasn’t the main station A.I. but she was a station A.I. Keeping watch over all of the digital and physical systems that a huge station like Pisces had. “If you were anyone else, I would be calling emergency services for your burns. It’s good to see you here again.” She said brightly.

“Akita, how are you?” Aliset reached for her jacket, carefully folding that and placing it against the plate as she blushed a dark blue. Her camisole and shorts betrayed that the rest of her uniform lay discarded about the chamber as Aliset’s secret little place where she could truly be comfortable was slightly less private, now. “Sorry, I’ll clean up. I know this isn’t supposed to be a place to relax, but… Hi!”

“Well, I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything lately, but I wouldn’t know if I did.” She said with a laugh, trying to deal with her new assignment with a bit of humor. “What brings you up here? It’s a long way from much of anything you're probably involved with.” Akita asked.

“Just had some thinking to do is all. You know how cloudy a Senti brain is when we can’t sleep because nobody wants to put my bed in the Koun’s sweet spot. Haven’t found it yet. So I get bad dreams and snore myself awake and it’s so damned cold. You know Chui Sessinia? Sacre?” Ali seemed to zip around the room, casually gathering her clothes and gear as she set up a makeshift null grav bed nest in one corner. “I was gonna take a nap after I got used to it again. I’m off duty, and it’s the weekend. No school tomorrow.”

“I know of her, she’s highly decorated for a Separa’Shan and an excellent medic by all reports. However, she also has a reputation for being… prickly. Before being assigned to the Kaiyo she was most well known for having the most justified stabbing incidents. Did you meet her?” The sprite summarized.

“I was partnered with her for my last command simulation. We went out for lunch afterwards. And then to the forge down on deck… Can’t remember off the top of my head. You know, Yu’s place that makes the really nice officer’s swords, and who fixed my service knife when the handle came apart.” She unwrapped a hammock like roll from one of the smaller bags, a simple two point sling design that seemed designed to close around her and offer support and pressure like a cocoon. “Anyway, I really like her. You mind if I set up a napping spot in here?”

“Sure, just remember to take it all back down. So are we talking like or ‘like’ like?” She asked, hovering around to see the hammock that Aliset was putting up. “I don’t think I’ve seen a hammock like this before.” She commented.

“What’s a hammock?” Ali looked at the sprite confusedly. “This is just a bed. My people don’t have gravity. So we have beds that offer support and pressure without it. This one’s made of stretchy wool and silk blend, with a fur lining from a felinid animal native to the Flotilla. Can you touch in your present form?”

Finishing the hookup, she offered a grin. “I think I really like Sacre. But I’m nervous. She’s… She’s really pretty, I’m not normally attracted to women, but I… I dunno, it’s probably stupid. I take it you were watching the simulation? Hard to not get bored out here..”

“Not currently, I’m basically a volumetric right now. I could bring over one of my drones and touch it that way. But it looks pretty. Sacre’s very imposing, I’ve seen a lot of men who were less mascuine in certain respects than her. I didn’t watch the simulation, I don’t get bored as easily as a biological. What happened in it?” Atika asked.

“A flaming shitshow that Sacre was not impressed with. It was the Echronedal simulation. You know, the one with the naturally occurring aether storms. We got 87 percent. But Sacre was pissed. I took her out to lunch, then she took me to a forge, and now I’m debating what to do for outing number three, if we’re a couple, and if she’s gonna get hurt. I’d really prefer not to be putting people at risk just because it’s well recorded that my heart costs lives.” Climbing into the bed, Aliset began winding the tiedown ropes across buttons, drawing the bed closed to wrap herself in softness and fluff. “Sacre’s very imposing. But I’m not really that scared of her. She has a lot of trauma. And that causes her to be prickly. I get it. I’m not exactly virgin in that sense, either.”

“She’s a perfectionist, I don’t think there is an extra credit on that, but she would probably still be frustrated with a 100 because you didn’t get it fast enough. The amount of time someone spends in the volumetric decks practicing isn’t something I can share.” She said, making an implication by not saying anything.

“Your heart costs lives? You’ve mentioned you're a widow, but that seems extreme?” Atika asked, trying to figure out what Aliset was feeling.

“Look up my marriage records and the status of both of my husbands, please. The man who bent my pelvis was killed for what happened. All of the people I have loved romantically have died fairly shortly after I fell for them.” She gave a shrug. “And now I’ve gotta worry about that. So I’m torn. I’m wanting to let myself go. I know she can take care of herself, but then there’s Lev. Second Mishhu war veteran from Nepland. Missing in action.”

Atika nodded, floating upwards to sit her small sprite on the Hammock. “I doubt you are cursed. Statistically, it’s uncommon to lose more than one spouse. However, there are numerous occasions on which it has happened. Many of those who have lost more than one spouse do go on to find love again. More importantly, you deserve to love and be loved. She might not even feel the same way about you. You should find out, and then make a decision rather than worrying about unlikely hypotheticals.” Akita offered, trying to help her friend.

“I… Thank you, Akita. I have three centuries, but it’s really hard to think of myself as anything less. One or two, sure. But three for three? I’m sorry, that sounds like a pattern. I do like Sacre. But her being an exotherm makes date ideas difficult. Combined with our differences in cultures and prior traumas and responses, it’s gonna be a challenge. I’m up for trying, but it’s still gonna be complicated… And I’m way too nervous to approach this directly. Like I know I’m culturally prone to hero disorder, but I can’t see a way to handle this that doesn’t backfire, so it’s just looping back to overthinking and stress.”

“How does her being an exotherm make things difficult? Sacre has lived in Yamatai a long time. Accommodations being required for Separa’Shan personnel are mostly recent. She’s used to things being outside of her comfort zone. The upper end of the temperature range that Separa’Shan are comfortable in is the lower end of your species comfortable temperature range. Don’t over think, do. What is the most popular thing for you to do for a date or just getting to know each other? Do that. And if she doesn’t love you back, you can still be friends.” Atika suggested.

“Most popular is kitchen… You realize you sound like my grandmother, right? Besides, we’ve done things culturally important for my species, and less for hers. Like going to a forge, or out to lunch. She’s a smith, as well as a medic, by the way. Far better than I could ever be… Anyway. Is there a date idea that’s more Separa centric?”

“Go sunbathing? Separa’Shan form a lot of their relationships sitting around in a warm place just talking while they warm up. A sunning rock is a social center of sorts for them.” Atika suggested.

You know… That sounds kinda nice. I’m kinda… Well. I’m sure you have access to Senti beauty standards and healthy body shapes. And by that know I’m distinctly not that pretty. Like at all. I’m continuously shocked that anyone finds me attractive, and I gotta admit, it’s a bit odd.” She gave a shrug, nestling deeper into her furs as she slipped out of her shorts and top, now fully covered. “But I guess she’s not of my species, is she? I dunno, it’s still weird! Cooped up in a bridge for fourteen years and then I come out and I’m suddenly attractive?! What the Hell?”

“What do you find attractive about Sacre?” Atika asked.

“Uuh… She’s sweet, precise… Highly skilled in a lot of fields. She has soft features and a bright smile… And she has a great sense of humor, her tail coloration’s really nice, and she’s got… Are you recording this? I know how mischievous your model can be, if you go to Sacre with this information and my insecurities… I probably wouldn’t be mad because I’m way too insecure to do that.” Her head popped out of the bed, looking to the sprite with confusion and a deep blush. “You’d tell me if you planned to do something like that, right?”

Akita gave Aliset a mischievous grin, “Nope. What’s the point of a practical joke if you spoil it? But now that you’ve asked, I’m not recording any more than you are. Anyway, half of the stuff you listed isn’t physical. It’s about who she is as a person. How you feel being around her. It’s also the most important stuff, because being hot doesn’t make you funner to be around. So if she loves you, it’s going to be how you make her feel rather than how you look. That’s not to mention that you actually are attractive, for a several ton hunk of metal.” She jokes.

“One hundred and seventy kilograms, thank you! My love of pizza and flat breads put me at only forty kilos overweight, but not several tons! That’s the force it’ll take to pull me out of your core if you want to go down that route!” Ali’s arm popped out of the bed to point with five fingers in a mock outraged knife hand. “And you’re pure chaos, aren’t you?”

Atika giggled and nodded, “I’m not pure chaos, I’m also whimsy and delight.”

“Except that delight and whimsy can be derived from chaos. Don’t make me tell your mother you’re giving people relationship advice when they’re naked in bed and hiding in the maintenance shafts to take a nap in the closest to comfortably warm this station can provide.” Aliset shot a pouty look. “And maybe I won’t have to teach you the name of a Senti chaos entity that loosely translates to goblin or gremlin.”

“You shouldn’t threaten someone with a good time.” Atika wore a mischievous grin. “So have you decided where you're going to take Sacre?”

“I’m not bringing her here! Volumetric deck, maybe? Sunbathing on the shores of Rok’Veru’s Southern Sea? I dunno, I can punch up a quick and dirty volumetrics room program… Nah, that’s kinda dumb… Do we have volumetric simulations on the personalities of Nicol Sanger and Levente Barna? I’d like for her to be able to meet them in some way, even if it’s as NPCs at a pool or something. Or I can have a couple faceless NPC pool boys to ogle. I don’t know!”

“I don’t believe we have them currently, however, they can be created. However, they would be simulacrums, not the real thing. You would notice the differences, Sacre probably wouldn’t as I don’t believe she knew them.” A volumetric pen and paper appeared in Atika’s hand as she took notes for how she might be able to help her friend.

"Yeah, thinking on it, I might just go with photographs… Like a normal person. So. Sunbathing at Thor's Crater on Rok'Veru?"
 

HarperMadi

🎨 Media Gallery
Sacre looked around at Thor’s Crater, unsure why Aliset had brought her there. “I don’t know if the middle of nowhere has a middle of nowhere, but this sure looks like it.” She said with a serious sounding tone, not really sure why Aliset had brought her here. After two weeks of being mysteriously gone, even by the standards of operational secrecy, it perhaps wasn’t the most encouraging thing she could say, even if she meant it with a tinge of humor.

"Well, we're… Volumetrics are amazing. But this is a moldavite mining town on Rok'Veru. I kinda wanted to sunbathe on the edge of the crater." Aliset shrugged, having herself just gotten back from the salvage mission at glimmergold. "I brought us some picnic stuff."

“Sounds like fun.” Sacre said dourly, looping up at the edge of the crater. “Have you ever been to Thor’s Crater?” She asked as the two headed up towards their destination.

“Not in person. My husband, Levente, often said it was beautiful. A green flash in the morning as the sun sparked off the moldovite in the crater floor. I’ve wanted to go in person for a long time.” She offered a soft smile, keeping her eyes to the horizon. “If you prefer, after this, I’ve got to open my salvage. I found some… interesting things on the manifest, and I’m not sure what to do with it.”

“Your husband?” Sacre asked, she was good at controlling her emotions, but there was still a note of disappointment there. She used her tail to clear an area for them to sit with the picnic basket that would give a good over look of the crater as the sun’s rays started to hit the other rim.

“One of them. They’re both dead, far as I know.” She let her voice soften, almost growing too quiet to hear as she looked to the coming sunrise, the air already growing warm enough for her to take off her jacket before setting the basket to the side and spreading the blanket. “You sounded disappointed that I was married. Something you’ve yet to tell me?”

Sacre took a breath, trying to find the words to explain herself. “I’m sorry to hear that, I was hoping you were single, but not like that…” Sacre trailed off, realizing her words were perhaps sounding callous. She shifted, trying to find a way that navigated a thorny pit of emotions she wasn’t good with. “I’ve loved few people in my life. Gravity loved me despite me being…” She was going to say unlovable, but that was a contradiction. “Thorny. I feel something for you, something I haven’t felt for many people. Gravity says I should explore it, but while she has her girlfriend, I haven’t ever felt like this for two people at the same time. It’s confusing.” She said, trying to be honest.

“Aah. I’m… Trying to see where you’re coming from, that it can be confusing to love more than one. But the hope that I was available, and that Gravity approves of your feelings, I’m glad for.” Offering a smile, she started pulling off the tee shirt to reveal a simple black two piece swimsuit underneath, folding the shirt away carefully. “I am… Confused, myself. I’ve never felt attraction to another girl before… Well, the Captain of the Wyvern emptied her venom glands into my shoulder and left me with some very confusing emotions and hallucinations. Stuff I’m still trying to work through. I like you. And I know there’s a certain infomorph spying on us to sow chaos.”
“Atika? She introduced herself a couple of weeks ago while I was dealing with some missing laundry. It was right before I left. She does seem to have a mischievous streak.” Sacre said, considering what Ali had said. She took off her top, revealing a practical black sports bra. Below her breasts in a quick release clip hung a surprisingly large fighting knife. “I wasn’t always attracted to women, sometimes I’m still not sure. I had some bad experiences, mostly with men. I hated everyone after that, but men especially. However, just because something bad’s happened to you doesn’t make your natural drives go away.” Sacre laid out her long lanky body, 420 centimeters from the top of her head to the tip of her tail next to Aliset’s comparatively diminutive 165 centimeters.

“I know. It’s been really hard for me to acclimate to a new crew. My instincts tell me to build romantic connections, a family network of spouses that ensure my safety and ability. But all the men I have ever loved are dead.” Laying on the blanket, Aliset undid her belt, sliding the cargo pants off her legs to lay in the morning sun as it crested the crater, washing the sky in bright green for a moment as the glass of the crater floor reflected the light. “I don’t want to put anyone else at risk if my heart costs lives. Three times cannot be a coincidence, can it? Atika says it’s statistically unlikely, but equally unlikely that I’m cursed.”

Sacre considered this as she slid her skirt off, revealing the full extent of her scars. They were everywhere except her forearms. Her back was a spidery web of scars from the many punishments she had endured. “I’ve been as close to death as it is possible to be and live. I’ve also lived without love, pushing everyone away. Living without love is worse than death.”

She tried to avoid looking at the scars, but curiosity overtook her as she finally glanced, then looked away. “I… Yeah. I suppose.”

“You can look, everyone does. There are nine hundred and seventy six of them. I’ve counted.” Sacre said quietly.

Rolling onto her stomach, Aliset took a deep breath. “You’re very pretty, you know. I know it’s probably a hard change of subject, but I’d like to maybe move to something… Maybe a little happier than asking who gave you those scars and then… Well, I don’t know. I see the way you flinch every time I’ve offered physical affection. I’m sorry. My culture is a bit more intimate, and I’m trying to get better about asking.”

Sacre nodded, scooting closer to Aliset and resting on her side. “Sorry, I’m still working things through. Separa’Shan when they are sunning often crisscross their tails and touch each other a lot during that time. It’s a very touchy and social activity. I’m not really equipped for either of them yet. I’m worst with a stranger’s touch that I’m not expecting. If I’m expecting it, want it, it’s a lot better. Or if I can trick my brain into it being me touching you, it’s a lot better.” Sacre said, taking Aliset’s wrist and moving her hand to rest on Sacre’s waist where the scales met the more skin like texture to demonstrate. “You're warm,” She said.

There was a slight hitch in Ali’s breath as she stiffened momentarily, then relaxed her hand across Sacre’s skin. “And you’re soft. You know, Atika never told me how touchy this idea was, I thought going sunbathing with a Separa would be just laying on some towels in the sun and talking. I’m noticing a trend with that little AI.”

“It’s is mostly laying in the sun and talking, there isn’t anything sexual about it. It’s just that we are long and really lazy sometimes. You get hundreds of us together, and well, that’s a lot of tail. So not touching anyone isn’t realistic. You get used to each other’s texture and the feel of them. Everyone feels a little different, has their own way of moving, own heartbeat.” Sacre put her tail over Ali’s legs to illustrate the gentle pressure of having someone lay on you. Aliset’s heartbeat was strong, slow despite the growing blue in her cheeks, her skin more human-soft than the metallic lustre would have implied as she rolled to one side and faced Sacre.

“I must admit, I’m fighting my instincts a little, here. Part of me wants to lean into it, part of me wonders if pulling this null glass out of my neck so I can really feel would be worth it.”

“What are your instincts telling you to do?” Sacre asked.

Gently, Aliset rolled a shoulder, pushing herself closer to Sacre’s form, not to avoid the growing heat of Rok’Veru’s sun, but to offer her own warmth. “I… Don’t know, really. My species relies on our minor psychic ability to decode our senses, and to decode the input from the subconscious portions of my mind. A few weeks ago, I was given a drug that would enhance those latent abilities, and when I scared some people, those powers were suppressed. Completely. It’s… Everything’s bland, and kinda colorless. I can feel your scales across my legs, and your weight, but it’s dulled, like I’m in a volumetric simulation, and not really… Here. I just know that some part of my mind wants me to do something, and I just can’t tell what. But the only thing I can feel any real detail in is where the implant is.” Lifting her hair out of the way, Sacre could see the scar in the skin, probably the only exterior marring to Aliset’s skin, right where the shoulder met the neck. “It’s why I haven’t been able to hear your emotions since we got here.”

Sacre took a look at it, her fingers probing gently. “How does null glass work? I’m arrogant enough to think I can remove it. However, if there would be consequences, we might be able to optimize it a bit. Let you feel what you normally would, without letting you use telepathy. It would probably take some trial and error.” She asked.

“It’s a little shard of purplish glass, kind of like an old psionic signal controller. It…. Well, anything it touches becomes psionically dead as long as it’s in contact. That’s all I know. It’s not really important, though. I’m kind of enjoying this time with you. It’s really nice, even if I can’t really hear myself think.”

Sacre considered, “Any time you want it adjusted, you can come to me.” She said, moving her green eyes from the scar to Aliset’s own iridescent blues. “How does it feel in your head? Is it that your own thoughts feel muted or is it that there are other voices pressing against your own?” Sacre took a breath, “Sorry, I’m being a doctor rather than just being me. When people I like are hurt, I tend to go a bit overboard trying to fix them. I’m probably going to be obsessing over this for months.”

“It’s fine,” Ali gave a soft laugh, letting the light spark off her eyes as she lay back. “Yeah, my own thoughts are muted as well. When I had the powers, I could feel the emotions around me, hear whispers, my own senses and mind were clear, like a ringing bell… I could feel the creak of every individual bolt and rivet in the hull, feel the power flowing through like my own heartbeat… I know it sounds weird. My people call it hullsong. It’s like the voice of the ship surrounding us. A natural part of how we do things in Senti culture. Our ships are, after all, the living avatars of our ancestry and history, made of the metal of our bodies and the souls of our dead. I know you’re not superstitious. It’s probably stupid.”

“I’d want to run repeatable tests. Like if you could tell one ingot from another identical one based on various cues. If it’s repeatable, we can do science on it. If it’s not, we can do history on it. Science and rational inquiry, not old wive’s tales. I reject the supernatural, but not that we don’t fully understand everything yet. There is a lot of the universe we have yet to explore. We do ourselves a disservice by cloaking the edges of our knowledge in mystery rather than using it as a guide to where we need to shine the light of reason.” Sacre explained.

“When you put it like that, it feels wrong that I was mocked for it in flight school. My powers were not nearly so strong, and I could not feel my training vessels. It was… Unnerving. But the Star Army was able to chemically replicate burial steel. It was cold. Lifeless. I appreciate the effort. But it wasn’t my mother’s steel. My necklace is made of that. I can’t feel it, now, but it is her.” Aliset shook her head, looking away for a moment before she lifted the woven mass of golden steel and white slag gem over her head, offering it for Sacre’s inspection. “If you want, you can touch it.”

Sacre took the necklace, for her it just felt like metal, warm from contact with Ali’s skin. She didn’t feel whatever Ali felt when she touched burial steel. It was certainly finely crafted. “Some people, when they die, have the carbon in their bodies compressed into a diamond.” Sacre thought out loud, wondering how a diamond made like that would feel to Ali. She placed it back around Aliset’s neck.

“I don’t have anything like that, I lost my knife and stone a long time ago. However, I’m never alone, I’ve got my Coralians.” Sacre showed Aliset her wrist, there was a tiny, almost undetectable line that opened up, pushing a small flat knife made of bone out. “They are a symbiote that lives under my skin. My forearms also had scars until the surgery. I got them with all of the options, so I have to take some biological metals and other nutrients they need that I don’t.”

“That’s the knife you almost got me with when we met… May I?” She gestured, as though to attempt to feel out the edges of where the symbiote sat. “My body has its oen symbiote, a bactirium that renders me immune to viruses and nanomachines, at the cost of medical injections of them being lethal to me.”

The knife slid all the way out into Sacre’s hand in a very natural movement. She handed it to Ali. “You can keep it, every so often I need to clear out the top knife to keep my little buddies in shape. Bacteria symbiote? Interesting. One of my interests is in genetics, partly because of these guys, partly because I work with genetically engineered supersoldiers. I’m not nearly as accomplished as one of my old crew mates, Mochi, but I’d like to think I’m good.” Sacre explained.

“Wait, Iemochi… Aah… What was his name… Ahm… Fayani? The director of SARA?” Aliset held and examined the knife carefully, noting its razor edge, before she reached into her discarded pants, pulling a small golden metal compass from the pocket. “He’s the one who approved my project to get implanted with Yamataian starship connectivity implants. Preferably without nuking my immune system. Here, this compass was given to me by Nicol Sanger, made for me by him. It points to a mass of burial steel in my quarters, always. No matter how far away or if it’s in FTL. It always points to a mated compass in his personal effects. One I wear with me. When he made it, it was so we could always find each other. No matter how far away. But he’s now a mass of steel in a Ginga and in my personal effects.”

“No, Seinosuke. Not sure what he’s doing now, we mostly lost track once we were no longer serving together. I’ve heard he’s doing some government thing now too, but I don’t know what it is. I’ll have to see if I can get on that project, give me a good excuse for a ‘close physical examination’.” Sacre said with a hint of suggestion. She smiled a little bit, “I think Gravity might be rubbing off on me.”
“You need an excuse?” her tone turned teasing as her face started turning a deep blue. She looked away suddenly, considering. “The compass is yours, if you want it. My people offer burial steel as a gift in the form of something precious about someone we want to bring into our families. Something they see as normal, but we see as precious.”

Sacre took the compass. She examined it, a part of her curious how it worked. However, it was more important as a symbolic connection. “Thank you, a compass to always point me towards where a part of my heart is. And no, I guess I don’t.” She said, leaning over and kissing Aliset on the forehead.

The kissed woman gave a soft sound of surprise as she stiffened under Sacre’s weight, the heat in her face growing enough for her to finally feel it. “I… Aah. Hi! Sorry.”

Sacre pulled back from Aliset quickly, “Did I do something wrong?” She asked, an edge of nervousness creeping into her voice. She had multiple awards for combat valor, but relationships still scared her.

“No, no, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just… I’m not a pretty woman, by my species’s standards. And I’ve never… Well, I’ve never gotten into a relationship with someone of my gender before, so I suppose both of us are a little nervous?”

Sacre breathed in relief, moving back to Aliset’s side, pressing in a bit more to actually cuddle with her tail. “Good, you're warm; like most Nekos are like a bit warm, but you're a lot warm.”

“I mean, my body temperature isn’t much higher than a Neko, usually… Might be that my biology’s iron based. I’m more thermoconductive. I think that’s what the medic called it.” She set the knife aside, softly maneuvering her body to a slightly more comfortable position, nestled against Sacre. “This is nice. After I earn the right to have that implant removed, it’ll be better, right?”

"What do you need to do to earn that?" Sacre asked.

“I don’t know. I didn’t hurt anyone, thank gods, but it did cause some awkward situations. And during the injection, I may have blown a Plumeria’s PSC.” She gave an awkward smile, deciding to leave the situation vague. “I thought I had broken the First Law when I picked up on and mirrored someone’s emotions, and caused a rather awkward situation. My ship’s doctor stipped me of my powers, claimed they were too dangerous for me to use, especially with my mental health.”

“Yamatai isn’t fond of telepathic powers. Many of our enemies in the past have had them. I’ve fought them and it’s easy to see why. You might want to talk to them and see if they are willing to modify the null glass to make you feel more normal. My mental health has always been a bit fragile, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been growing more resilient recently.” Sacre said thoughtfully.

“During our date at the forge, I could feel your emotions. As during the class. It was why I stopped you when you were so angry with yourself for not scoring perfectly. I could feel you from across the volumetric bay. It was why I’ve been so nervous. I could never hear your thoughts, just kinda feeling an emotional impression. I’m sure if I had projected it, or decided to not try walling myself off, you could have felt it, too. I came face to face with something that scared me. And I wanted to be able to defend my family. My crew and my ship. It was stupid.”

“And now you don’t know what I’m feeling?” Sacre asked.

“I do not. Nor can I hear my own thoughts. Like a simulation. I’ll admit my curiosity, but I am growing used to it.” A soft shrug was her response before nestling deeper into the soft skin and scales.

Sacre cradled her, soaking up the warmth of both the simulated star and Aliset. “A simulation? your talking to me, so you can think. I’m not sure I understand.” Sacre said.

“Well… It’s complicated, I suppose. Like if I’m not focusing on a train of thought, it just fades to static. Everyone thinks in different ways, from running narrations or movies, to collections of sensations… We all have our own internal language that has to be translated into words that we then translate back into our own thoughts and streams of consciousness to understand. For me… It was always impressions, images, sensations. When I hear someone else’s thoughts, I know it’s not mine, because it’s whispers or images, feelings that are easy to separate from my own because I don’t think like that. It’s really hard to gain useful information telepathically. From a Neko, not so much, because it’s a constant string of logic that just kinda translates itself, one way or another. When I finally heard the burial steel for the first time, truly heard it, it was like touching a copy of my own mind, but far more ancient and powerful, memories and history… Like an emotional imprint of my species’ ancestors. Beautiful, but… Intense. I can still think, but I have to focus on it, or it just gets… Lost.”

Relaxing into Sacre’s grip, Aliset looked up to the simulated sky, brows furrowed as she dredged up clear enough thoughts to try and really speak on the matter. “I suppose it’s why I’ve been so one tracked since my powers were suppressed. I was impulsive, reactive and adaptive before. But just like how I can’t feel the difference between glass and metal anymore, I can’t just switch trains of thought. I have to go find it. And meditating is difficult.”

Sacre really wasn’t sure what to say to that. “Well, you can feel me. You're here now and we are basking in a beautiful sunrise. See down below us? I think the sunrise is about to hit the moldavite.” Sacre pointed down into the crater.

Looking to where Sacre pointed, Aliset’s thoughts faded back into the blank static as she smiled. “Yeah. And I like this. Tell you what. I want you to decide when to remove my implant. It’d mean a lot to me if you were the one to pull it.”

The huge rock of molddavite didn’t look particularly impressive in the shadow, then in a matter of moments the sun hit massive green gem, the power of the sun coursing into it and lighting it, almost from within the entire gem flashing into a sudden green flash of brilliance. “He was right, this is pretty. I bet it’s even better in person.” Sacre said with a touch of awe.

“He was from here,” Aliset let the reflected light from within the stone wash over her, smiling at its brilliance. “And yet, despite that we went to his home world for leave once, I never got to see this. Maybe I’ll find a way to take you there. If my sister in law will let us pass, that is. It’s almost as beautiful as you.”

“The reflected sunlight must be in your eyes.” Sacre said with her serious sounding humor. “Beauty fades, bodies age, but a good spirit, one that keeps you up when things are down and lifts others up to. That’s what I’m drawn to in you.”

“My vision’s not strong enough for that to be a problem,” Aliset gave a small chuff of laughter. “The way it makes your scales sparkle is magical, though. You’re a medic, it’s in your nature to help people, no matter how hurt you’ve been. But that’s not what drew me to you. It’s your confidence. Part of my ability, when I touched you that first time, I could see the scars. Imprints on your aura from your past. So much pain and anger. And yet, unchanged and immovable. Like the hull of my homeship, pitted and scarred, but still protecting everyone and everything precious. You have that same soul you find attractive about me.”

“I think for a long time, I didn’t want to be attractive. It’s brought me a lot of trouble, caring hurts. So I tried to keep the circle of people I care about small. I feel like I’ve grown, but old habits.” Sacre said.

"By Senti standards, I am not an attractive woman. Dented bones and a figure too full. Most of my species are lean and muscular. I have an obvious love of pizza and other things that cannot be made in null gravity. So I have trouble seeing what you and Sayako do." A slight shrug from Aliset's form denoted some level of uncaring in her words, if not her tone. "Old habits. I dunno. Caring does hurt sometimes. But it's worth it, in my experience. Don't worry, you'll know when I ask for permanence in this."

Sacre nodded, “ok.” She said, and was quiet for a while as the two cuddled in the simulated sun.

“Only one question… May I kiss you?”

Sacre blinked, and felt everything in her head grind to a screeching halt. Everything seemed to be clamoring for attention at once. “Ah.. uh… one moment.” She breathed out and collected herself to straighten out her rampant thoughts. It was what she wanted, she was enjoying cuddling. They had been talking about their relationship, their romance. However, she hadn’t been thinking about what they were doing in that way. The part of her deep in her brain that she had to suppress that found sex disgusting but also craved it deeply roared at her. It took a moment to stuff that dragon back into it’s cage so Sacre could do what she really wanted to do rather than what her brain told her. She sent a tightening pulse down her tail that Alsiset could feel. She closed her eyes and put her head down as she mentally composed herself. “Sorry, sometimes I’m still…” She waved her hand vaguely. “Resistant to what I actually want. I’m trying not to sabotage myself, but that’s hard. What I want is for you to kiss me and I’m not going to throw you over the moon. I mean, un–”

Sacre didn’t have time to finish as Aliset wrapped her arms around the Separa’s back, pulling her close, using her weight to drag herself in. A hand snaked up Sacre’s back, gently supporting her head and pulling her down to Aliset, where the taste of metal awaited her.
 

Soban

Convention Veteran
OOC: With @HarperMadi
IC:


Atika hovered above a small pile of crates. Each of which was prominently stamped with “Second Chance Salvage Giveaway YE 44” and a name. The tiny sprite had a couple of robots standing by to help her move what she got. For the moment, they stood still while AI waited for her friends to arrive.

Sacre and Aliset came in together and the AI’s avatar swooped in with a grin on her face. “Soo. How are things going?” She asked brightly. Sacre narrowed her eyes at the volumetric representation of the AI as Aliset blushed a deep blue, looking away.

"It went great. I kinda want to go there for real instead of a volumetric deck you could have been watching."

“I wasn’t watching, I’m not a peeping tom.” Atika said, slightly indignant. “Who knows, you might get a shuttle in this salvage so you can go!” She said waving her hand at the pile of crates with the three of their names on them.

“It’s not winter festival. Probably just junk I’ll once again wish I hadn’t gotten.” Sacre said dourly, looking at the crates and putting hers into a short separate pile.

“My former people have a long history of finding uses for junk. Making it into something beautiful.” Aliset looked over the crates with her name on them, considering them. Most were too large to simply stack like Sacre was doing. No, two of them were easily large enough to hold a body. One… Well, that was significantly larger. Nearly half the size of a land vehicle the Star Army was always so eager to use. There was one small crate. One that couldn’t be bigger than a few magazines or books. “Papers can be copied to digital. The wood pulp recycled and broken down for cellulose. Or for building materials. Hull glass is always needed, though silicon and oxygen are byproducts of our method of aluminum production.”

“Recycling, putting something old and worn out back to good use. I’m glad we don’t recycle people then I guess.” Sacre said, opening one of her boxes. She pulled out a datapad. “Huh, I wonder what’s on it?” She asked thumbing it on and opening a file.

It took a moment for Sacre to realize what she was seeing, she dropped the padd, recoiling in shock. Playing at full volume was rather embarrassingly loud moans and gunts of a porn with a Separa’Shan, a younger Sacre, displayed. Sacre hissed at the tablet and Kusanagi, her fighting knife appearing in her hand. Atika was quick, turning the screen blank. “That… was unexpected.” Sacre said, perturbed, picking it up and trying to decide if she wanted to stab the datapad to destroy the memories she felt welling up inside of her.

Aliset peeked up from her manifest, furrowing her brows before turning to Sacre. “Hey, you okay? That… Sounded like you.”

"It was me…" Sacre paused for a long moment as she processed her feelings. It still hurt, she was still angry. However, she didn't want to find the bottom of a bottle or get into a fight anymore. "Those perverted morons don't hurt me the same way they used to. Atika, how much of my… disgusting library is on here?" She asked.

Atika's eyes went to the mid distance for a moment as the AI accessed the tablet. "All of it, and quite a bit more, whoever owned it they appear to really like-"

"If it isn't mine, wipe the slate clean. My stuff put into a single folder."

"Including the fanfiction?" Atika asked.

"Fanfiction, what kind of hideous pervert would do that?" Sacre asked, stunned for a moment.

“I imagine there are many.” Aliset gently approached, gently taking hold of the top of the pad. “Atika, could you get me the names of all people involved in the manufacture of this material? And then send it to any contacts you have on Shurista, along with their entire criminal histories. Maybe we can make this sector just a little safer.”

"Affirmative." Atika responded.

She offered a soft smile to Sacre. “Are you okay?”

Sacre took her hand and stood back up to her full height. "I'll be ok, just knocked me for a loop. A lot of what happened was semi-legal at the time. So a lot of them don't have Criminal records. Most of them are already dead, Sanssinia used vaguely legal methods, but didn't murder any of our slivers. Ven… Ven didn't even blink at being… disproportionate. The few still alive, like Poseidon, are very hard to kill; not for a lack of trying." Sacre used the other two parts of her full name like they were other people.

Sacre glanced at the tablet than at Aliset. "I gave this… collection to Gravity. I don't know what she did with it. Symbolically, it was me taking off the crushing weight of everything that happened while I was a slave."

Sacre offered the tablet to Aliset. "This is all the parts of my life that are horrible and disgusting. I'm not going to let them put that back on me."

Gently taking the tablet, Aliset looked at the blank screen, the handful of glass and metal, and slowly, casually, with an ugly crack, folded the tablet in half. “Then we’ll keep that weight off your shoulders. The Senti have something called the First Law. The idea that autonomy of mind, body, and soul are holy. That every being capable of feeling and communicating its needs is worthy of that reverence. Any who would take that autonomy away, violation of mind, body, or soul, are immediate threats to the community. Not people. Monsters to be hunted and destroyed without trial or ceremony. And I will ensure that the few people who survived that event will never harm another soul. Okay?”

Sacre gave Aliset a hug for a long moment before releasing her, "Thank you."

Placing the crushed tablet into a back pocket, she offered a warm hand. “C’mon. Let’s look at the rest of this stuff. I got something about a helashio in a box, so I’m pretty sure you get the opportunity to free someone else.”

"I wish I didn't know what a Helashio was, so I could imagine it was something nice, like chocolates." Sacre said, joining Aliset as they moved towards the imprisoned fox-person. She readjusted the medkit she always carried on her belt, just in case.

“And ruin your appetite with a grizzly surprise? I’ve heard these things are still popping up. Disgusting practice.”

"One that's still alive and well outside of civilized space." Sacre commented.

Kneeling next to the box, Aliset picked up a handful of tools, beginning to pry open the crate, revealing the cryo storage unit inside. “Atika… Is this thing stable? Does it have power, and if so, how’s the occupant?”

Atika accessed the storage unit. "Everything seems fine in terms of the unit. No errors or loss of power or temperature." She said.

Sacre brushed a bit of gathering condensation off of the small display and put her knowledge as a doctor to work. "The numbers look right, whoever we have in there is probably healthy and can survive the standard wake up procedure. No need for a medbay."

“Alright. We got a medic, here, so no need to call them. Let’s get this open.” Aliset tried to brush some of the frost off the viewglass, until she recoiled with a hiss, holding her hand as the biting cold rushed straight to her steel bones, and she could feel her flesh contract slightly. “Aow. That’s facking cold!”

Sacre turned, and looked at Aliset. She moved closer and took Aliset's hand to examine it for frostburns. "Did your mother never tell you never to touch something cold?" Sacre asked with a serious sounding humor.

“Yes, I know, cold metal looks like hot metal…” Aliset rolled her eyes with a small laugh. “I’m find, it just stung. Kinda like when you go outside and take a deep breath and… I think the humans call it a brain freeze. When your skull shrinks slightly from the cold air? Don’t worry, I’m okay. Funny that I felt that past the psi damper."

"Probably because cold is even more dangerous for you than it is for Separa’Shan. So it activates a stronger response." Sacre said before completing her examination.

Sacre returned to the cryochamber, "You might want to stand back." She warned.

“Might?” Aliset chuffed, obeying to stand clear as she quickly disrobed her jacket to help warm up the occupant as soon as they were out of that damned pod. “I’m clear.”

Sacre's fingers ran across the controls. Atika turned into a live image of what was happening for Aliset to have a better view. A cold fog rolled off the cryro pod, falling to the ground and moving outwards. Inside the pod, there was a Helashio who was curled in a fetal position. After a moment, Sacre said. "Temperature normalized, you can approach and not get turned into a popsicle."

Taking Sacre at her word, Aliset approached, ensuring that her jacket's heaters were still on as she gently reached it into the fog, wrapping the heated soft cloth around the shoulders of the entombed. She proped the skin, checking the cool flesh for frozen spots and injury before reaching in and beginning to lift the form to a sitting position. "I wonder if this one has a name."

“I didn’t see a name anywhere, some masters decide to give them a certain name they like regardless of what their actual name is.” Sacre responded as she helped Aliset put them into a seated position. She looked at the Helashio. “Can you understand me?” She asked in Yamatingo, then again in Trade. Atika hovered over Sacre’s shoulder and repeated the question in Lorath.

The Helashio was understandably groggy from their long stasis, and Aliset's warmth wrapping over them was welcome as the young creature pulled the jacket tight across their shoulders. They didn't speak, hiding behind hair and an operations grey heated uniform jacket.

"It's okay. You're okay. We're here to help." She didn't know if the youth could understand her, but she kept her tone low, even, warm as her jacket and soft as velvet as she cleanly translated to heavily accented Trade. "Do you have a name?"

The Helashio looked at Atika and said something in Lorath, Atika nodded and said something to him. “He speaks Lorath. Let me get you both a translator earpiece. I’ll have to translate your language into Lorath.” She said, a flying drone arriving a few moments later with a pair of ear pieces. Sacre picked up the earpiece and placed it in her ear.
Mirroring Sacre to a point, Aliset showed her earpiece to the young Helashio, offering a soft smile before placing the translator in her ear. "So we can hear you. Not sure if it translates well."

There was a weird doubling, first in Lorath then in Yamatingo as Atikia asked the Helashio the next question. “Thank you for your patience, I had to get Sacre and Aliset translator earpieces so they can understand you. What is your name?”

The Helashio nodded, seeming a bit submissive. However, she furrowed her brow at the question. “I don’t… I’m sorry mistress, I don’t remember.”

Sacre frowned, “May I touch you?” She asked.

Atika translated and the Helashio nodded, “Of course mistress.”

Sacre’s frown turned into a flat unhappy line. She brushed the hair away from the collar, revealing faint dark lines. “I’m not a mistress, I’m not anyone’s mistress.” She grumbled as she examined them.

“How do you wish me to address you?” The Helashio asked.

“Sacre will do fine.”

"Is… Is that a collar?" Aliset leaned in close to look at the darkened lines under the Helashio's skin. "Definitely Lorath make. Should be a remote somewhere around here…"

Aliset's hand squeezed once, reassuringly as she began digging through their guest's case in an effort to find anything that looked like a remote control. It was in a box.

"Atika, did this pod's transponder make any hits? I'm going to want everything I can get on this person for when we free them."

“We have the equivalent of a shipping label, but she was probably considered cargo. The Lorath may be difficult to reach.” Atika responded.

“It’s a nasty collar too, all of the ‘upgrades’.” Sacre said as they examined it with a bit of anger under her voice. “Atika ask her if she remembers anything before just now.”

The Helashio considered for a moment and shook her head. “My first memories are of you two helping me up.”

“I’m going to strangle her master if I ever find them. They wiped all of her memories. The good news is that it probably means she’s ‘strong willed.’” Sacre said, with a growl rising in her throat.

"We don't give predators that level of ritual or prestige. A clean kill will do. Can you remove her collar? Preferably intact enough to get the serial number." Gently, Aliset moved an arm, giving up the chase for a bit to slip one arm under her ward's knees, wrapping the other around her lower back to interlace fingers. "Up we go. Let's get you some clothes."

Sacre shook her head, “I’ll need a medbay for that. Can you give me the controller?” Sacre asked.

Lifting the Helashio out of the crate, Aliset gently set her on the edge, supporting her back to keep her from falling back in as she reached down and finally found the cursed device, handing it quickly over to Sacre.

Sacre looked at it and fiddled with it for a few moments. “Whoever set these defaults is a sadist. Memory wiping every day, direct mind control option, active tracking, all of the punishment settings at max. There is even an added bit here where it will automatically punish her for certain types of thoughts. It’s worse than mine was.” She commented with an agitated swipe of her tail through the air. She focuses on the controller. “Ok, they're all off now. It shouldn’t do anything to her until we can get it off. It’s not going to be easy, this one is designed to be really invasive.” Sacre explained.

Sacre looked at the Helashio. “If I give you a knife, will you promise not to stab us?”

The Helashio had been watching everything with curiosity and intelligence. “Of course, Sacre.” She said, with ‘Sacre’ sounding a lot like ‘mistress’ had.

“Good.” She reached under her tunic and brought out Kusinagi in it’s sheath. She handed the knife and the controller to the Helashio. “These are yours.”

“Do you really want to give a slave a knife, Sacre?” She asked.

“No, because slave’s don’t get weapons. I gave you a knife, so your not a slave.” Sacre said, a bit of her agitation calming.

"We have never been your masters, youngling. Nor ever shall we be. It's illegal in both our cultures. In fact, even claiming you as such would obligate someone from my culture to end your master's life. You are the master of your own fate, okay? There's a good bit of learning and history we have to… Hey, Sacre, would it be possible to use the collar to… somehow download languages and information? Like how to take care of themselves, what's happened since they were sealed away, that sort of thing? Use it as a teaching tool before removing it, rather than a slaver's tool?"

Sacre considered for a moment, "It might be possible, but I'm not sure. Atika?"

The sprite bobbed a moment, "It's not as straightforward as a Neko would be. Can I take a look at your controller?" She asked, floating in front of the controller.

The exslave had a brief moment of panic and confusion cross their face. "I… I feel conflicted mistress. Letting you have control is something that scares me, but I don't know why. I also feel a strong urge to just comply with whatever you say. It's disconcerting."

Atika nodded, "I'm asking because it's your choice. If you don't want me to, that's fine."

The Helashio nodded slowly, "Promise you won't… do anything bad?" She asked.

"Without hesitation." Atika responded before putting her hand on the controller. The Volumetric avatar of the AI closed it's eyes. "Wow, they really didn't want you to remember anything… but I think if I manually repurpose this code… got it." Her eyes popped back open. "If a Neko is a eight lame highway directly to downtown, this is a meandering eight hour bus on a one way road through mountains. I can give you some stuff for your immediate perception, but you'll have to transfer it to long term storage on your own. Do you want to learn Yamatingo?" She asked.

"Ok." The enslave said.

"Here we go… try saying something…"

"Something?" She said in a heavily accented voice.

"Better than nothing!" Aliset quipped with a giggle. "Great work, both of you! How are you feeling, friend?"

"A bit dizzy, and naked even with this coat on." She admitted in heavily accented Yamatingo.

"Oh! I did promise you clothes!" Aliset jumped up, out of the crate, to begin rummaging through her pack nearby. No underwear or socks, but a clean tee shirt and slacks, just in case some of the machinery had decided to vomit its oils on her nice clothes. These were offered quickly and with a warm smile. "Unfortunately, my culture requires something called the Trials of Adulthood before I can call you an adult, but the choice to go through them is yours. I'm sure you're of Yamataian legal age… Right? Anybody know how old this girl is?"

"Biologically, young mature. Roughly equivalent to where a Neko would come out. With soul transfer and the number done to her memory, who knows." Sacre said.

"What are the Trials of adulthood?" She asked.

"Just a series of practical and written exams designed to determine your skillset, aptitudes, and ability to care for yourself. All Senti go through them," Aliset gave a shrug. "Failing a portion means foster care for a year to learn the needed skills, but that's not a bad thing. They usually start around… three months before the sixteenth birthday? Ish? I dunno, mine were almost twenty years ago. But passing them means full right and privelidge as an adult. One of my crew mates didn't pass until he was nearly twenty one, so he had a lot of experience on other ships. Made him a really high value candidate for any crew. Thing is, you're not Senti. So you don't have to. It's one of those you're your own master now things. Also, Sacre, the biological info you just gave could be anywhere from fifteen up. You know how my species ages, I have a real hard time telling with other races."

"They age roughly at the same rate as humans. So between eighteen and twenty four, my guess with likely stressors, to be on the younger end of that." Sacre said with a shrug.

The Helashio thought for a long minute. "Can I take the test and see how I do?" She asked.

"Of course. It'll tell us a lot about you and might help reconnect some of those missing memories." Aliset gave a soft smile, gently lifting the offered clothes again. "And I wouldn't foster you to a new ship this round, anyway. With what's been done to you? You need all the help you can get. Do you have a name? Or something you want to be called until we find yours?"

She took a breath, and nodded. "Ok, I want to take the test. I… I had a name, I think, but I can't remember what it was." She concentrated, "I… I don’t think I was called it very often." Her face tightened as she tried to remember. "A pretty yellow thing on a green thin thing?" She said with a frustrated shrug.

"Aah… What was the word for it?..." Aliset's brows furrowed as Yamataigo seemed to slip her mind for a moment, her brain growing hazy. "Atika, what's gėlė in Yamataian? Could you show yellow ones with a green stem? We might be able to tell what kind by what she recognizes."

Atika’s avatar turned into a flower. “The word is flower. Here are some yellow flowers. Sunflower, Pansy, Dahlia, Carnation, Zinnia, Yarrow, Goldenrod, Marigold, Daffo–”

“Please, stop, go back one.” She said.

“Marigold?” Atika said, her avatar turning back into a Marigold.

“That’s not the right word for it… but I recognize it and feel an attachment to it I guess?” She said.

"Your native language is Lorath, right," Ali pulled the datapad from her thigh pocket, opening a translator app. "Sorry if I mess this word up…Co-- Cohagisd? I think? I dunno, Lorath isn't one I can call a language I speak, yet. Pronunciation's all over the map…"

“Cohagisd…” She said, looking away and trying to get the feel of the name. “It is hard for you to pronounce. Something’s off about it, but I can’t put my finger on it. Cohagisd. Marigold.” She repeated the two words a few more times before she shook her head. “It’s more, right, than Marigold. But I don’t know if it was my name. I don’t know. Marigold sounds prettier in Yamatingo.”

"Partially because Lorath sounds like a drunk Katamuran taught some Neplelians Turassieli and they used it to shout at Shuristans whilst more high than normal…" Aliset responded in rapid fire Shuristan before shaking her head. "Isn't Helashio in the same language group? I could have sworn there were like four or five languages there…"

“...I don’t remember.” Marigold said.

“Though a few tribes speak them, The ancient languages of the Helashio are effectively dead. My databanks don’t have any of them. Hici'emi is a dangerous place to visit since the departure.” Atika informed them.

Marigold sighed, “Marigold it is then. For now.”

"Till we find the real one," another shrug. "We still have a lot of crates to get through if you want to help. Otherwise, we can take you to Medical, or we can go ahead and deactivate that collar permanently. The choice is yours, Mari."

“I think I’d like to help out.” Mari said brightly, turning to the pile of boxes.

“I guess, I can go next. As long as it’s not a live hand grenade, It should be better than the last one.” Sacre grumbled, taking down another one of her boxes. She pried it open and there was a canister of what looked like a glob of a white substance, floating in a containment vessel.

“I don’t want to alarm you, but that’s anti-matter.” Atika said softly.

“Of course it is.” Sacre said with an unamused look on her face.

“On second thought, I’ll be waaay over there. Outside of the blast range.” Marigold added.

"Sahweet!" Aliset pumped her fist, rushing over to examine the containment unit. "This is enough antimatter to run a Plumeria for two, maybe three days at full steam! You know how expensive this stuff is, right? We can power anything off this stuff!"

Giddy, excitable, even whilst her lover was holding megatons of explosive potential in her hands. But the containment looked like it was perfectly fine, and stable, as though freshly pulled from a reactor core. "Very nice find!"

“Is there anything you want to use the power for?” Sacre asked, not sure what she wanted to do with the concentrated source of matter-antimatter reactions. The fuel was valuable, most ships that weren’t in Yamatai’s military could use it.

“Not really, I don’t have anything that runs on antimatter, far as I know. But if I get anything runs on Aether, I’d really love that shit ripped out and swapped for fusion or anti as fast as possible.”

Sacre nodded, “I’ll have to look into it, probably a couple million if it can run a Plumeria for a few days.” She said casually, putting it aside.

“One point four with current prices and grade, if you want I can broker it for you for twenty percent.” Atkia offered.

Sacre considered this for a moment, “You're robbing me on the brokerage fees, that includes delivery which is what five percent? How about fifteen percent and I’ll deliver it to you?”

Atika gave a brief confused look at the Separa’Shan. One of her robots was literally standing there, ready to take the antimatter. Then she nodded, realizing “Ok. I accept.”

“Marigold, I need to get this antimatter delivered. Five percent of the value, if you can manage not to drop it with your clumsy fingers.”

Marigold approached, and took the container. “Yes, Sacre. Where do you want it delivered?” She asked, shifting uncomfortably and not quite sure how to hold the container.

“Over there to that robot.” Atika said, pointing to one across the cargobay.

Marigold shrugged, and walked over to the robot and put it in the waiting robot’s arms.”Delivery complete, I’ve created a bank account for you and deposited your five percent and your refugee relocation funds into it.” Atika said, displaying a bank account with just over seventy thousand KS in it.

Marigold nodded, “Thank you, mistress.” She said, not really sure what the little charade meant or how much seventy thousand was.

"Damn, they're giving refugees enough to buy small houses, now…" Aliset gave her soft comment. "That'll set you up pretty good for a hot minute. Like I rarely spend more than a few hundred KS a month to feed my big ass and keep out of hypometallicism…. Alright, Mari, we'll get you sorted and settled in, here. And I'll get you out comm codes so you can call us anytime… Here. This was my mother's. Now it's yours."

Lifting the necklace off her head, Aliset showed the glittering slag opal and burial steel, before settling it over Marigold's neck and claiming her as part of her family. "Atika, could you mark miss Marigold as an adopted sponsored dependant on my pay stub, please?"

"There is some paperwork, most of which I can prepare. Marigold, do you want to br provisionally classified as Aliset's dependant?" She asked the Helashio.

Marigold looked at Aliset, "Yes, I think that might be for the best." She said with a nod. A form popped up for Aliset to read and sign, and with a slight flourish, Aliset signed over half of her pay.

"In Sacre's capable hands, you're gonna do fine. Let's get you to Medical to get that collar removed and see if we can restore some of your memories, okay?"

Marigold nodded, and Sacre came up beside Marigold as the three headed to medical.
 
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