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Avelyn and Laurey

Avelyn has a truly beautiful mind, a logical and pleasing mass of insulation and propagation. A convert-to-be if ever there was. Now we work on our project together, a brain child perhaps more her own than mine, and I am at once humbled and engaged.


Nero and Laurey

Nero accepted my possibly foolish request. My flesh suit needs it; every measure must be taken to ensure I can ascend, even if it means suffering. And suffer I suspect I shall, for long have I neglected physical activity for the Dream Space. Yet all things serve the Great Machine.

The refectory was empty, so Laurey thought, as she grooved to the ceaseless pulsing beat playing inside her skull.

“No food,” she muttered, looking into a fridge that was stocked with constituents, nothing ready to be consumed. The cupboards and lockers then? That’s a negative. Just ration packs and canned goods. Where were the fried doughy delights, the Zin Zabaar cloying with yoghurt and spices?

Well, it’s a good job that someone around here had the good sense to keep their snacks on hand. Actually, it seemed to be the habit of any and all of the Star Marines to keep their own stash in their own rooms. Years of military action and a footlocker will lead to that. Or maybe, they just didn’t want...well...anyone raiding their stuff, like in the fridge. Regardless of the fact, in walks Nero with one of his prior purchased munchies from before they even met, looking for a drink to wash it down. He was at least out of his mask and whistling, looking relaxed. She probably didn’t hear ‘im before he walked in, which means he went to stealth for...some reason.

Laurey tried to remain nonchalant, even threw a lazy salute to him, but her eyes kept falling down to what he was eating. He seemed less like a predator when his mask was off.

“Yo Nero, what ya got there?”

”Kurata Cakes.”, he said, indicating the small strangely-squat muffin-like snacks that - if memory served - were like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with a hot streak of something in the middle. Nero headed to the fridge to find some milk - good for candy and hot stuff - once Laurey was out of the way.

”Startin’ to run out, actually. Hitting the bazaar’s a good idea, since I don’t buy shit by the boatload like Iris.”

He gave the augmented girl a look.

”Still getting the headaches, eh?”

“Not a bad idea, not a bad idea,” Then she shook her head firmly, “Not much actually,” a white lie: not at all, “not since the rescue mission. Maybe the stress was making them worse, maybe I’ve accepted this lifestyle now,” she made a gesture with her hand that said, “beats me”. Except, she thought she knew quite well what had caused the pain to stop. Realist. Just a theory, for now, but…

“It’s a strange life. You know, I was looking through the vent systems earlier. Apparently someone has been passing through them. Pretty dangerous; this ship has a circuit switcher to shunt stored toxins, helps reduce emissions for stealth or something. I hope whoever’s doing it knows, or they could wind up, you know, dead. I don’t want to have to drag a corpse out of there.”

There was a blink as he pulled out the milk he was looking for, looking back at her with an ounce of surprise and a fair bit of confusion.

”Wait, that’s a thing? They never did that on the bigger vessels…”

He looked irritated, suddenly, inwardly thinking ’Now, I have to keep track of that shit or haul my mask around every time? Fucking bullshit…’ as he poured himself a drink and pulled on it in a large gulp. Nero didn’t think about everything he was doing while angry. He didn’t stay that way right now, but he wasn’t happy about...you know...almost getting himself killed.

Laurey smirked.

“It’s every six hours, starting midnight, midday, or any interval in between. Whatever floats your boat. And, you know, it might not kill you, could just leave part of your body paralysed, or cause brain damage. I’m not a doctor, I just know that shit’s bad.”

Laurey paused, as if deliberating whether to say the next bit, but she did, “You’re a good fighter, right, I mean, you dealt with that gnarly crow geezer. Well, do you think you could teach me,” she pointed a finger at her face, in case it wasn’t obvious who ‘me’ was, “just the basics. I don’t have magic or anything, but I’m going to be living this life, at least for the moment, in my duty as Vassal, Envoy, and Prophet. May as well be prepared, y’know?”

He properly got her attention with this, aaand he wasn’t going to say that the computer expert wasn’t going to do that great, but..ah, why the hell not? She looked physical. It’s just that she spent alot of time sitting around in front of a screen, connected to computers. Anyway, Nero shrugged.

”I did better on the ship, where I got the flamethrower, but yeah. I went to war. I know what to do. Actually, fighting and killing is one of the few things I’m good at.”

It helped that he didn’t feel any remorse over that kind of thing.

”Probably better to start out in cargo, not here. Uhh...what do ya wanna know? What do you know?”

He didn’t have any problem with this. Just...people coming up to him to ask for his help on things is… Mostly, it doesn’t happen. It was unexpected.

Her face scrunched up in a parody of thought, “I guess we could start with how to throw a punch?”

This caused him to stare for a moment, genuinely shocked.

"Wait...nothing? You never had to really fight someone...ever? But you’re in with Moonstrike...”

She shook her head, “There are other ways to contribute, but that being said, this little cohort does seem to rather put me in the firing line. I was… against violence for a long while.”

At this, he crossed his arms, saying "You know, a little violence really does solve things. Hell, a little more of it, and I could’ve stayed out of the fucking army.”. He sighed, finishing his milk, then.

”But yeah, you need to punch shit. It takes care of things, especially if people are assholes. You walk into a place, someone’s bein’ a hardass, but you don’t have to worry ‘cause you know you can drop ‘im.”

“Sometimes, sure, violence could have saved me too. But here we are,” though she smiled, her face had that far away look. The life flushed back in, “Let’s learn how to crack some skulls!”

He got up, then, saying “Yeah, let’s fucking do it!”, before they’d head off. Anyone in earshot who heard this shouting wouldn’t have a clue about what was going on, but they at least were pumped.
Narvia and Laurey


I apologised to Narvia today. I think I hurt her. That might have been intentional. I'm not sure... sometimes I think I understand my motives, my actions, other times there are black spots. It can't just be the drugs. Is there a hole burning itself in my brain?


Now that Laurey's mind was free - no, not free, merely unfettered, on its ways out of the maze - she realised how harsh she'd been to Narvia. It had mostly been in her head, but Harbouring such outdated beliefs would only hinder her... whatever she was on. It had to be made right.

The Bliss muffled the world like the legs of a lover and her tongue was sherbet. Oh yeah, that monkey was back on her shoulder, and it was holding on. Tight. It pointed the way through the corridors (through the maze), through an atmosphere thick with blueberries and lightning. Conversations (heavenly choirs) babbled down through open spaces (wide...). She knew where she was (she did not know where she was).

She half hung from the doorway of Navi's room, the metal a glass of water to her fingertips (she remembered when it was locked away on the bed of an icy river).

"Narvia?

Narvia was hugging a seal plushie on her bed while being slightly distracted in her head. All of the money she was given to her by Ashton and Flame was a bit too much for her to handle. She had slight tears rolling down her eyes. It took her a few seconds to hear a voice in her room and recognized it as the nice lady or Laurey's voice asking her a question. She looks to where the voice is coming from and Laurey opened the door to her room.

"Yes, what is it nice lady?"

"Nice lady..." A moniker, and accusation. "No Navi, that's why I'm here. Why we're all here. I'm not a nice lady."

Tears meant sadness, emotions overflowing (leaking out). Not a good time to pile on more. Yet Laurey was selfish, she needed to apologise.

"Yes, that's it, I'm selfish! You are too. The way you use your vulnerability as a machete, to hack to what you want. But not just us," Laurey sunk to her knees at this point so that Navi was eye-level. Eye-level with crazy, "All of humanity. We have to burn it down." Too extreme. "No, augment. Ascend. Flesh falters, machines are divine."

"I'm moving past it. On a journey. A metaphysical pilgrimage. Maybe. That's why I'm saying sorry. For hating you in secret for making us fight and nearly die. No. For catalysing those events. It wasn't a fair thought. We're all flawed meat sacks."

Blinking those wide eyes, Laurey's pupils narrowed, coming back into focus on Navi's face. She smiled.

Narvia listens to what Laurey had to say and it doesn't quite make any sense to her, but then why did she like the moniker in the first place, if she wasn't a nice lady. It causes Narvia to continue crying since it makes little to no sense in her understanding of everything, her innocence. When Laurey said that everyone is selfish including herself but not them just them.

Narvia stared directly into the eyes of Laurey and saw a hint of something different than her innocence allowed to see previously. It was the words what Laurey said after and it was a bit harsh to hear and causes her to cry more. She couldn't stop crying, all because Laurey hates her but she does suppose that Laurey telling her this to move on with what Laurey wants instead of what everyone else wants. Narvia was unnerved by Laurey's smile and it causes her to speak up after only listening.

"I-It isn't like I wanted to be ex-experimented on by the Ascendancy's Scientists. Or have my father hate me or anyone trying to dissuade me from being happy, it's just hard to keep my emotions bottled up. You may hate me but that won't stop me from b-being who I am."

Narvia stares back at the unnerving smile of Laruey's but holds her seal plushie tighter. All because she is scared much by the admittance of Laurey that everyone's flawed, no one is perfect. If they were there wouldn't be wars or secret deals or anything like that.

"Exactly! That's good." Change is inevitable before the machine. "Or a start. It's... something. Nobody wants the shit life shovels us, but it's there on our plate, and we have to eat it or starve. More power to you girl. Shouldn't bottle them up anyhow, they tether you to mortality. Like my hate. Hate is so selfish. I'm leaving it behind. Moving on up. What I'm saying Navi is that I did hate you, but now that hate is gone. Washed away in my baptism. It's against the..." Doctrine. The Word of God. No, The Thought. Zapped straight into her mind. "It's gone. I think that was my point."

Narvia listens to Laurey while holding her seal plushie tighter. It was a bit strange for what she said about the hate being selfish, or having emotions tethered to mortality. She had a look on her face of a bit confusion and a bit understanding but she knows her mother and siblings aren't religious. It made her think that her father is or something that drives him to be a disgusting person to his children and ex-wife. However, Laurey's point was that the hate that Laurey had for her is gone and that allowed Narvia a sigh of relief grateful about that.

"I-It's nice you are moving ahead with your life, Laurey. I should try to do that but I'm too attached to my mother, and older siblings to try. But, I do have others that care for me as much as my biological mother and siblings. I-I don't know what to do about that about this ache in my heart."

It was hinting at something that was clear as day for people to see right through her as how innocence she is, but she has been growing. Her heart hurts for something more than friendship but she has no idea how to get that or what it is on the tip of her heart and mind. It is scary feeling that way but it is something to think about.

"Cut it out, replace it with a tin one from the Emerald City, I hear they have spares, it's what I'm going to do. Or..." she pointed a single finger upwards, then spread her hands on either side of her face, waggling her fingers like a bad street magician, "use the amazing powers of introspection. Figure out what's causing it. Then figure out a solution. But something will always replace it. Meat mortals are made to suffer."

The world thrummed, a bass string. The comedown. "Anyway, I need to go get something to eat. I've... I'm overdone. Ciao bella." A mock salute.

Narvia felt like that reference that Laurey made was to a old child's story or something like that. She watches what Laurey was doing with her fingers and hears use introspection to figure out the cause and find a solution but it will continue to hurt.

"T-Thank you, Laurey I will try to find a solution to the problem I am having."

Laurey than spoke about getting something to eat, though Narvia wasn't that hungry right now and wanted to sleep after all the tears. It is exhausting crying all the time. She yawns slightly and smiles to Laurey.

"Okay, bye, Laurey. I need some sleep."

Narvia gives a mock salute back and then she gets into her bed and falls asleep, hopefully Laurey will shut her door when she leaves.
Laurey Karlin
The door to Realist’s Cell ground open to the whir of powerful motors.

Inside was lit only by the electric fire thrown from the cell terminals, harsh and blue. A frame of black metal and thick arteries of wire, red as blood, bathed in the light. With the hue and angular nature of the AI core, it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to imagine it as a chunk of ice in Judecca, crushing a sinner inside. Certainly the silence helped.

Laurey let out the breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding.

“It’s something, isn’t it?” Laurey jumped as Jan spoke from beside her, but nodded. Her cold sweats and the deep craving inside her seemed so far away in its presence.

Crossing to the consoles, Laurey near tiptoed, trying to break the silence as little as possible (it seemed safer that way).

“I’ll need some privacy when I worked,” she said as she came to the eye-watering screens.

“Can’t do, I’m afraid. Security issues and all that.”

“Of course,” she nodded, then drew a deep breath. In some ways what she was about to do was akin to undressing in front of Jan; it laid a part of her bare, part she wanted to keep away from others.

Her finger blossomed and the facets found their places.

“Be quiet then.”

The world fell away into the cold light of tumbling stars.

It was also on J-Heim Beta that Laurey had plunged into an ice lake. Supposedly the adrenaline rush it brought on had health benefits, but it only froze Laurey and made her sniffle for a week afterwards. What she remembered from that experience, what was burned into her primate brain, was the way the cold had driven all the air from her lungs, like she was at once falling and had been struck by an ice-wrapped truck.

Now she felt it again. Now it was worse, not just an icy pool but an ocean, her mind drowning, and the red eye of the leviathan fell upon her.
Laurey Karlin
The elevator lurched upwards, carrying Jan and Laurey away. What might have once been a smooth journey was now one that screamed into the emptying metal halls, juddering the bones of those on the platform. It was a wonder it made it to the upper level, but that it did, with an unhealthy thunk as it settled into place in the courtyard.

The cavern was lit barely; shadows clotted and curdled, growing like tumours in the fading glow of the emergency lights.

Amy’s voice seemed more an intruder inside Laurey’s head than ever in that silent hall, where great circuits would fall silent, one by one. It was a surprise how impotent she felt in that moment. Jan was already walking off, the clomping of his boots and the ghosts of their echoes the only company. Laurey followed. The head engineer’s previous energy had vanished, leaving their walk to Realist’s cell a sombre thing.

It was right in front of Realist's cell that Nero spoke inside her skull. His voice was welcome, but the news he bore was anything but. Portals. Portals fucked things up royally. And she’d been almost enjoying playing spy, the feeling of the adrenaline stirring her organic components into a frenzy, the feeling of sticking it to the Ascendancy right under their noses. She had been beginning to believe.

Still, all good things.

Jan was looking at her oddly, but when she met his eye he nodded. For once Laurey was grateful for being misunderstood. She nodded back.

“Alright, let’s open her up then,” Laurey said, as she waited for her hopes and dreams to be laid to rest. It was just so exhausting, hope.
Laurey Karlin
The corridors constricted around them, the vessels of some beached leviathan. With the thumping in Laurey’s ears, it wasn’t too hard to imagine. It was almost a relief when they came to the cell blocks, like emerging from water and drawing that deep, grateful breath. Except that there were many cells emptied, broken in some way during the crash. That would have been concerning even if Laurey hadn’t been dressed in her Ascendancy Officer uniform. Her scalp tightened over her skull, an involuntary reaction to the fear.

And that damned shouting…

The message that blipped into Laurey’s mindstream did even less to comfort her.

>>>Fireteam Lamia engaged by unknowns in armory. Target is human male with possible interference magic, supported by mechanized troops.

Perhaps being field marshalled was a smarter decision than agreeing to board this prison. She drew another deep breath, this one physical instead of metaphorical, and focussed on not throwing up. It kept her quiet as they rose through the ceiling, pausing in block B to inspect other potential Star Marines.

Finbarr approached cells housing would-be allies, began a tirade they might not have time for.

>>>Fireteam Harpy to Horus, status of Fireteam Lamia?

Don’t be dead, she thought after sending the message. Later would she reflect on that thought, and what it meant for her future.

“Sir,” Laurey said, speaking to Millard, “I believe taking these two Star Marines into our custody will be a simple task. I am eager to have Realist safely under our control as soon as we can. If you would, I’d like to have Jan esort me to the AI’s cell whilst you handle them?” The words fell out with the haste of a stimulant addict evacuating their bowels. It ended on a lilt, becoming a multi-layered question: ‘is it a good idea?’, and ‘is it a good idea?’.

@samakama @6slyboy6 @Th3King0fChaos @Letter Bee

Finbarr, Millard, and Laurey

The second Decoy team was being led to a tour of the cells, through the engine room by the Chief Engineer of the Prison Ship, one Jan Makarov. Jan was a young-looking, reasonably-skinny, enthusiastic ball of energy who said, "I can't believe the Star Marines are real and you fight alongside them! You three do so, right, right?”

"That's absolutely correct, Mr… Uh… What was it again?... Ah, Makarov." Finbarr looked around the room with his cerulean eyes, taking in all the details of the engine. "Star Marines are indeed a thing of truth. They're really good at what they do."

Finbarr chuckled internally, as the man had no idea he was talking to one of the famed marines of the stars… children whose dreams were taken for the sake of war. I know that because I'm one of them…, he thought.

“Wow,” he said, before remembering himself, “Anyway, this ship has a Spacewarping Engine installed, and it's pretty intact, too! This means it can be repurposed for another ship, as Spacewarpers are precious nowadays."

Casting her eyes over the room, Laurey thought everything was pretty much intact, definitely salvageable. It also filled her with a sense of dread; if the AI was free, what could it do with all this resource? Even though they were on its side, AI were notorious; human lives were a vanishingly small factor in the calculations of those machine minds.

“Indeed they are, sir,” her jaw was a twitching, clenched thing, “I’d love to stay and work on it, but our duty here is pressing.”

Millard had taken a hardened persona, he had no real emotion on his face. He had a grizzled face with his stubble there to sell his look, with a slight shift in his neck as he walked he leaned slightly forward and made his presence seem almost ever looming. His eye scanned the room as when the head engineer talked, Millard looked the man in the eyes, as if his eyes were piercing through him, as he spoke he made sure everyone knew what he was here to do.

Millard took up the role with ease, after all, this was his job a while back. As he had started to take a bit more of a leading role, keeping the engineer on track with a quick and sudden, ”Oi, Kid”. As his eyes would meet Millard’s stern and cold eyes as he continues, ”Cut the chatter. We need to make sure that AI isn’t loose. If it is, we will be in some deep shit.” As he casted his gaze to Laurey as he then continues, ”Like lieutenant Hawthorn said our duty is much more important. If that AI gets out, they could cause great harm with just that Spacewarper alone.” As Millard tosses a finger as he gestures to some of the control panels as he then continues, ”Lieutenant make those skills useful and check to see if anything is being tampered with”. Millard had no clue if Laurey had any skills in this regard, however to fake skills is very easy, as long as he keeps the Head Engineer distracted. Honestly, it was easy, as he quickly took his arm and threw it over the shoulder of the boy as he says, ”Kid I need you to be very clear with me. Have you seen anything strange as of recent? This could be imperative, as if the AI got control of this ship, this could be a planet buster we are sitting in”.

The Chief Engineer says, “Nothing much, except for some rumblings in the solitary cells. That said, we do try and make sure that Realist is isolated from any electronic systems outside its chamber plus we make sure that the Spacewarper’s controls can only be used by a human. And that means me!”

A pause, “Well, me and anyone authorized by the Warden - Both of us have a set of exclusive passwords keyed to our DNA!”

Laurey had fallen away with a salute as soon as Millard gave the order. She’d been itching to peer under the skin of this beast. Just itching in general.

The consoles rattled off a stream of data at her touch, telling a story she already knew. Things were mostly fine. She wiped the cold sweat from her cheeks and eyes. After opening a maintenance panel, her finger blossomed and entered the computer system’s stream of information. The world restarted, changed. The firewalls were distortions in her abstraction, as they always were, but the sheer number of them was a heady sight. She felt no AI presence. Of course, that didn’t mean much, but she felt somewhat comforted. She shut down the terminal.

Withdrawing her hand, and her mind with it, she saw it was shaking worse than before. She’d blamed it on the space travel when the young engineer had asked. Something about sealegs.

The others were out of sight now. She peered further into the maintenance port and yanked on a motherboard, fettered by wire. That was fine, it was loose enough now that she could reach the chip she’d been hoping would be there. It disappeared into her breast pocket.

“Everything seems fine,” she reported, after jogging to catch up with the others.

"So no evil AI trying to kill everyone in here then.", Finbarr chuckled, tapping unto Makarov's shoulder. "Is there anything else you want to show us?"

These hands are getting itchy…

“I wanted to move us to the cells, actually,” Jan said. “There are some prisoners of importance the Warden wants you guys to look at with a view to remanding.”

""Oooohhh, prisoners?", Finbarr said, rubbing his hands together in pretenseful glee. "What are they on about?"

Jan’s response was, “A few people claiming to be Star Marines, but who’ve committed treasonous actions of some sort, going by how the people who captured them say. They have the powers to match, too. We’ll leave their judgement up to you, by the way.”

Millard had a feeling that there would be prisoners still here, yet for there to be Star Marines, that is a strange idea. However whatever is the case, they needed to investigate either way, if not to find allies then to at least keep up appearances. However, the good news comes from the fact that the AI isn’t running amok, sure it was going to be on their side, however, it doesn't know that right away, and Millard didn’t want to go and fight it. However, this Jan kid is following smoothly, so Millard has little worries on what will happen.

"Do you want to see, take a look?", Finbarr asked Millard. The plan was to get the AI out while the decoy teams were keeping everyone else distracted, but the addition of more Star Marines to their company would strengthen their numbers. Especially if these were just as treasonous as Jan claimed…

Millard looked towards Finbarr as he says taking in a breath, ”It seems we have more kids to babysit”. Millard says this with a bit of a tirade expression, looking as if he was going to be doing something exhausting. Yet he was interested in the idea of more people to add, they could be useful in the end, and besides, he’s not letting these kids rot here. Yet he still kept up his act, he needed to keep up his part. As he allows Jan to take lead to show them where the cell’s are.

The engine room doors opened, and the group was led to a bunch of winding corridors which led to the cells, a bunch of corridors which was deliberately claustrophobic.

“Never gets easier,” Jan said as he shuddered.

Finbarr walked on ahead, looking towards the insides of the cells. It was true; there were kids in here, and if Jan was to be believed, they were just like his good self. "Are the surveillance cameras in here working? Would be terrible if they're broken by the crash and these Marines somehow escape."

Jan considered the question before responding, “They are - We jury-rigged the remaining cameras here to one of the secondary communications rooms. We are watching over the prisoners and Realist right now.”

"Hmmm." Finbarr wondered if Laurey could do something about the thing with the cameras, but they can't afford to be seen doing anything fishy, especially since the cameras here are still active. "Well, I suppose that we should deal with them appropriately. Don't you agree, friends?"

If they could get those marines out of sight, perhaps he could portal them into the ship. That is, as long as they also get Realist with them. That machine mind had always been their objective.
Laurey Karlin
Laurey was okay.

During the flight to plenty, Laurey was not exactly chipper, but more… pleasant? Colder? Less offensive.

The space battle had not shaken her resolve; it had strengthened it. She knew she wanted to serve the rebellion, that was a desire that burnt away all doubt. But the experience had birthed new iron truths that she held within herself. Namely this: the crew was insane. Not every individual, perhaps, but through mutualism they were a toxic whole. That had to be the truth. It was whilst she had been vomiting that Laurey had found this truth, staring her in the face. This ship was full of damaged goods led by a damaged captain.

So Laurey’s only hope of surviving was to do her best to avoid angering the bloodthirsty hormone-bombs.

As such, she spent most of her time in her room or workshop. When she met another she interacted with all the flavour of water. She even stopped having so many headaches in public
She had these in her room instead

And didn’t visit the doctor anymore
The silicon and gold were agony inside her

And even her mind was calm through careful self-medication of Bliss

But beneath the surface it was roiling agony. Computations eroded her day upon day and the world seemed a little duller and the people around her further and further from reach. And it hurt and it hurt and it hurt and it hurt

For the journey she was a pallid, sweaty ghost.

She made a drone. Modified one of the roombas, already equipped with weapons from its previous modifications, to respond to instructions through her omnitool, and therefore her mind. Simples things; there was only time for basic fuzzy logic. And it was still earthbound, but it would fly someday.
And it hurt and it hurt and it hurt

So busy she was that she didn’t notice what a watershed moment that battle had been. She did not notice the new division that rent the heart of the group. There were those who had fought, and there were those who had not. She did not notice Amy’s conspicuous absence. She did not notice the satisfied languor with which the killers stalked, lions full after a hunt. She did not notice Navi. The catalyst. Stupid Navi who deserved every ounce of loathing Laurey harboured against her. Sometimes even that grew cold. The tear in the group, it could grow, the slow death before total oblivion. But Laurey did not notice. That had to be the truth.
andithurtandithurtandithurtandithurtandithurt

Laurey would not see it. One more mission and then she was leaving. The AI was the only thing stopping her asking to be transferred now. There was a proverb floating around the web about the five things a wise man feared. One was an unfettered AI. When strong AI was created, it was an act in defiance of any god. What pride it had inflated. What terrible cost it had wrought. A mind born of numbers, shorn of all psychology, infinitely contemplative and incidentally cruel.

It represented an intellectual diamond, and secretly Laurey hoped that it had been damaged, that she could salvage some esoteric knowledge or arcane programme something that would
Nothing will help you, hoping for a miracle is childish

Really take her drones to the next level.

Her part in the plan was therefore a godsend, and whilst there existed the formal possibility of violence, Laurey doubted the survival of any organic lifeform inside the ship.

She had the perfect skeleton in the closet for the role. From her footlocker she produced it, all crisp lines, immaculate. The skin of another life, one that would fade into the past and soon be someone else’s. She ran a finger along the fabric, and started to wonder at how different things could have been, but that way pain lay.

She arrived back at the pre-mission muster in her Ascendancy uniform, her hair tied and stuffed under a cap that was pulled low to hide most of her affronts to god. She nodded to Millard and did not taste blood. Laurey was okay. That had to be the truth.
Laurey Karlin
There was a great chasm of silence as Laurey stared at the ‘captain’, save for that chiming in her head from so much magic. For the corporeal plane it passed in less than a second, but for Laurey it stretched like spacetime around a blackhole. It wasn’t that Natasha had spotted a weakness to exploit, something only visible to a veteran and not a green engineer, a faint hope Laurey had held onto, no… it was that they needed a release? Were the kids that unstable that their counselor wouldn’t be enough. They needed regular suicide-runs too? Their ship was breaking a military blockade, one of Grand Admiral Kherol, he of Proxima infamy. What were they hoping, that he’d let a rogue combatant off with a kiss on the cheek and a number to call? They needed to scram. What the fucking fuck were they -

The world turned diaphanous, and Laurey forced herself to stay, biting down on her tongue. Copper pangs and strawberry pain. The kids were forming up, ready to go. The one called Nero lusted for combat like a rutting buck. It didn’t seem like a battle she would win, and dissent now would only throw more trouble into a sticky situation.

Yet Laurey questioned her place.

“As you wish, ‘captain’.”

The ship shook and Laurey cursed. She was at the comms console and inspecting the screens for a report. The shields seemed to have held, but they were hot.

With comms online she piped a message to the boarding party: Omnitools on streaming/record for combat analysis.

As the breach came into existence Laurey observed that her legs were shaking. There was a lump in her throat and a growing pressure in her chest and it was really happening. Fuck fuck fuck. The word tumbled over infinitely in her mind as she rushed from the bridge. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. She almost made it to her bathroom before she threw up.
Laurey Karlin
A young girl watches the transport leave until long past when the after-images of its thrusters fade to nothing. Ghosts of ghosts. She does not cry now. Behind her a gate stretches high, higher and high, as if to deny her from Heaven itself. She shivers and wonders at when it got so cold.

In the prismatic forests on Maiden’s Reach a monohorn drinks in the moons with its mirror-eyes. It cannot know that in less than a week starships will arrive and tear down the night sky. It will never see it, either. A glass lion shreds its throat and it’s dead before it hits the ground. The lion laps up blood dyed silver by the moon.

In a satellite orbiting Terra a computer system wheezes, coughs its last bit, and dies. It’s a ternary system, the back-up of a back-up. It’s cold in space and so far from anything. So far from home. Even if somebody could come up, they wouldn’t notice that the system was dead; it’s the back-up of a back-up. The satellite continues to orbit.

On the floor of the Xuanzang’s medical bay Laurey Karlin convulses. She has just left Nero with a handful of choice words, only noticing his vanishing act on a semi-cognisant level. For close to a minute her body shakes and her face rocks against the floor. When it stops at first she is confused, and then the pain wakes too. Steaming vomit chokes her senses, her throat raw, nose whistling and burning as chunks of curry seep out. She does not cry now.


Laurey is in her workshop, interfacing with a roomba. The procedures are dusty, and when she shifts them round it sends sneezes through the system. It makes the process slow. There are only two more robots left to work on, stacked inactive on another workbench, whilst the one in front of her has its guts splayed and tacked into various devices. In space it's about efficiency, not just in cleaning, but in making use of what you have. Hence the security subroutines Laurey was also crafting for each roomba.

She has not told anyone about her seizure.

The mood-adaptive music is quiet, close to monotonic, as the weak AI shapes it into an ambient sound that smooths away the edges of the world and allows her to sink deeper into her focus.

Bridge. Now!

The music stutters then stops. The muted ring of footfalls and a deeper bass drumming bring her back. She scrambles to the bridge.

Through the viewport it is chaos. The stars themselves seem to burst. Laurey looks away fast.

The plan itself is equally shambolic. Thought up fast and full of flaws, but any action is better than no action. Most of the time. What Ashton proposes seems close to suicide, and Natasha goes along with it! Laurey’s no soldier; this is too close to death, it’s decaying musk crawling down her neck. But to fight seems futile. They are outnumbered, in guns, ships, and manpower, taking on unnecessary risk against a foe who would either be dead or limping from its wounds very soon, if the flash of the battle Laurey had glimpsed was anything to go by. It just seems so stupid! So -

The world fuzzes into static, and when Laurey comes to she is slouched in a chair, and Samuel is telling her something. A slice of time taken cleanly from her brain. She looks over and stares blankly, then her mind catches up.

“Right.”

She stumbles over to a mechanical interface for the comm systems. One of the screens shows a radar, fuzzy, but interpretable. The blobs show her the problem again, the sheer odds stacking against them. Her lips feel dry as she licks them. She sighs and turns to Natasha.

“Captain, do we really want to send up a beacon and paint a target on ourselves? We could just get out of here, let them kill each other. I don’t care if one of these kids is worth ten men, or even a hundred in a fight, if we get blasted out of space then they’ll die as well as one.”

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