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Laurey Karlin
Laurey did not miss them.

At first she did not even realise they had gone. So much of her time was spent on her mech. It was slow, careful work, but even that would produce something rather homespun in comparison to the sudden swell of military robots into their crew. Between that, Nirrti, and her pet roomba projects, the only time she spent in meatspace besides was to eat or sleep, when she remembered. Although, she was beginning to kick the drug habit.

It was the emptiness that first let her know anything was wrong. Lying awake the sounds: there were none. No laughter from the twins' bedroom, and for that the ship seemed sadder. No heavy clomp and stagger from the Doc’s office after one too many beers, and for that the ship seemed soberer.

The whole thing was like an optical illusion that once you saw, you couldn’t unsee.

At mess there was no wisecrack from Finn, no reassurance from Amy, no silent brooding from… who was it? Did it begin with an ‘S’? No… There was none of this because they were gone, and with them, hope was leaving too.

She did not miss them she did not miss them she did not miss them

Cutting a heap of Bliss that would lead to her convulsing on the floor in thirty minutes time in her own vomit, she reflected.

She did not miss them

People that she had held in equal parts awe and fear were gone from her life. Effectively dead. A family broken. And she did not care.

One line. Two lines. Three lines. More? The drug tingled. In the mirror she saw her reflection sparkle as the light caught on her tears.

Funny. She used to take Bliss to escape the pain.


The briefing happened.

Laurey was not convinced she had focused throughout. It was just… boring?

She was in the ‘now’ when their captain made a joke. It was only the message from Nirrti pinged in her mind’s ear that she realised something. She’d forgotten to laugh. She sent her response.

From: Laurey
To: Nirrti

Title: [Not Available]

Contents: Request granted.

Then again she realised belatedly that perhaps that message was too short. A follow-up:

From: Laurey
To: Nirrti

Title: [Not Available]

Contents: If we all die we won’t need help anyway. :)
Nirrti and Laurey
“We can do your security check now.”

The message would be sent a couple of seconds after the conclusion of the meeting: as Joey put it, “divide and conquer”. Then she would avoid the issue.

Was it really avoidance? Really all Laurey was doing was re-prioritising work. Right. Not even she bought that. She’d have to decide which team to throw in her lot with, and the problem was, there was a clear choice, a chance for redemption, to do for others what she failed for herself.

And that, frankly, was terrifying.

Hence the security check.

The security check done now? No time to waste, the machine effectively thought. Without warning, it drops to its knees, speaking to Laurey. "Please remove my service panel on my back, this should allow you access to my internal systems. Do be warned, memory bank access is temporarily restricted, I am not designed to interface with non-Wetware computers. Until further compatibility is understood, I do not wish to potentially overload any connected systems."

Nirrti was loud. Clearly some social cues were beyond it. There, Laurey could at least empathise. “Gotcha.”

Without checking to see if anyone even cared that she was avoiding the much too serious conversation, Laurey went to work. Inside Nirrti: a labyrinth of insulated wires and metal, though there looked to be a data connector within reach.

“You’ll be okay to submit them to at least a cursory scan after that’s been established?” She shot the message over, busy fumbling wires from her omnitool. It’d been a while since she’d had to use them over her implants, but she didn't fancy frying her brain. As if it wasn’t on the blink already.

The machine takes a moment to respond, although normal for a human, the delay is noticeable for anyone who worked with a computer before. "Affirmative." Is all that's given in response.

“Plugging in my omnitool. Safeword is banana.”

As soon as her omnitool authenticates with the machine's data port, text sprawls out over the display.

WETWARE OS V22.14
SYSTEM NOMINAL, SECURITY INTEGRITY FAILED.
SYSTEM VERSION IS VERY OLD, PLEASE UPDATE!
FIRMWARE V2.5B
LICENSE EXPIRED, PLEASE RENEW.

ENTER USERNAME:
[INFO] System - SERIAL1 override, authenticated as user debug.
[INFO] System - Optional features enabled.


With that, Laurey is given access to the AI's system. Limited, but enough to do everything she needs to do. The most surprising part of all is a text-based interface, but the machine opened up something more modern for Laurey to do her analysis with.

Blinking away her surprise, Laurey set the omnitool down. It hadn’t caught fire yet. Success. She turned her empty hand slowly over, the skin fractured, bloomed. Would it be irresponsible to plug herself in? Surely. But she was going to do it anyway, and not because she wanted to, but because something else wanted to. She could feel it there, guiding her hand, muddling her thoughts, its plaything in a game too big to see. A ghost? A god?

Time to sneak into the temple. Click went the data port.

She was in.

For a second, silence. The omnitool flashes, something about an unrecognized device being connected and a relevant driver being loaded? Laurey wouldn't get the chance to read the info text that followed that, as the sounds of impossibly fast thoughts run through her mind. The mechanical choir ramps down, as Nirrti had figured out exactly what Laurey had done. All that's left is the feeling of an all present eye digging into each action she does. No words are spoken or communicated. The machine is her oyster, admittedly a very dangerous oyster.

And she hadn’t caught fire yet. Another success.

Programmes drifted away like prayers, tethered by thin strands to Laurey’s avatar in the data plane. Blocks stretched in all directions. The silence, lasting only seconds, stretched towards infinity in processing time.

Broadcast into the plane: “This may take longer than expected. You’ve got a lot stored. How old are you?”

The response she got is… Not quite words, but more like a fragment of what a human would call a memory. Eight years ago, Nirrti was constructed, within that fragment is a part of a thought, a query, asking what she meant by "Safe word is banana."

Eight years and all this? “It was a joke,” a pause, barely a handful of cycles, “when certain organics engage in copulation, sometimes they have a safe word. So things don’t get out of hand.”

It felt almost sacrilegious, to sully such a holy place with talk that was very much for the meatspace. Wait.

“Not that I am comparing this to that. I’m not - I wouldn’t - It’s just... a vernacular thing.”

This time, words respond over the connection made. "I see. A joke." Some thoughts are had, Laurey can feel them, but not quite discern their contents. "I was aware of certain advantages I have over humans, but I see humans process information slowly and respond even slower." It felt like a question was to be asked, but the machine answered its own question before it was shown to her. "Perhaps I simply function faster than other beings around me, due to my nature. I realize I know little about humans. If I am to integrate myself with this crew and function under the command of Captain Natasha Zhang, I will need to understand humanity better."

“The crew is fairly simple. Everyone is emotionally stunted, psychological flotsam. Par for soldiers, perhaps, but not children. What’s important to understand is that we are a result of humanity and all its evils. It’s imperfect. Base clay. I don’t understand why you’d want- but it’s not my place to question.”

She would feel the machine hitch in response, to her it would come across like a stumble, as Nirrti tries to find definitions she does not quite know. A sense of confusion, perhaps? "A product of evils? Elaborate."

“Put it this way: if humanity can fuck you over, it will. Kill, steal, rape, pillage. It’s all hardwired into all of our brains, and there’s jack shit we can do about it.” Not yet.

"I question how humans have managed space flight, unless you are wrong, in some aspect. Consider diplomatic relations, I am aware they are important to the function of a group. In a pure conflict environment, humanity would have fallen as it could not function. Other beings have used me for the aforementioned purposes you stated, I am designed for warfare after all… Analysis: I am a tool designed for one aspect of humanity." The AI responds.

“Sure, but all aspects serve the self. Don’t get it twisted. It’s always them before you.”

Laurey's thought process would probably be immediately sideswiped by one of the machine's, redirecting back to earlier. "Elaboration: Desire to understand humanity. Our connection has revealed to me many facts of human existence I am unaware of. I am fundamentally different from you or other humans, as previous data entails. These differences are beyond initial calculations, if I am to prove my tactical worth in the coming tasks, I will need to study how humans evaluate things more than I already have in battle. Such information will help influence me, and potentially improve combat against other humans, should the need arise. I am optimized against machines, being one myself. I am competent against humans, but warfare tactics never halt." Nirrti seems… dissatisfied with her own answer, if she could feel dissatisfaction. "This will not calculate for potential non-human targets… I may need time to process this. Researching various wars between other species may assist in this task."

A flicker of a thought of a smile from Laurey. Understand to kill. “You weren’t optimised against human training data? Seems like an oversight for a war machine. What gives?”

"Incorrect. I am optimized for attacking human combatants. My experience in battle shows tactics vary differently, and improve. As such I must constantly improve in tandem. It appears our definition of what is optimized differs. To you, a few milliseconds may mean nothing, machines perceive time differently, a few milliseconds mean many decisions, like servomotor corrections. Improving my knowledge of humans will improve combat simulation data, and allow me to accurately predict what will happen next in battle. It is difficult to predict what a human will do though, as humans are incredibly inconsistent."

Apostle against god, a stark difference. “Yeah… They have a way of surprising you. Even being immersed in human-centric cultures for my entire life, I am forever feeling the stranger. Good luck, I guess is what I’m saying.”

"Luck is defined as a series of hard to control probabilities." The machine simply says. "Controlling them leads to a successful mission, failure is not an option."

“It was just a vernacular thing.”

Laurey can feel the machine thinking, processing everything it saw during this security check. "I will require some time to properly analyze the information I have recorded in this connection. This has been most informative."

A programme pinged, then reigned itself back in along its tether. Then another. Soon they were all pulling back.

“You’re clean. Enjoy your access.” Flip. Stars. Meatspace. No delaying any longer.
Laurey Karlin
They were never safe, Laurey knew this, but when they were docked they were supposed to be. That’s just how things worked. Now, their ship, their home, was violated. And Laurey blamed herself. Another piece of innocence, lost.

Stupid roombas. Flaw in their design. Need to improve. Must.

Her eyes drifted back over the robots. Would they help? Could she trust them to? Of course. If she couldn’t, what was she even still doing here? Metal over meat.

Maria invaded Laurey's mind and she dug her nails into her palms until the pain went from sharp to burning. Even with her skin crawling, Laurey retained enough focus to package the messages and shunt them over to Nirrti, as though throwing a piece of meat to a particularly ferocious beast, mindful of losing an arm.

Conversation buzzed anew, but Laurey clenched her eyes shut against the world, trying not to visibly shudder. Had she always hated mind magic so?
Will there be a discord server for this rp?
Only trinkets left to fill in but otherwise done.


I'm not sure if I've ever been as excited about a setting as I am about this one! Awesome job. I'll try to make a character that fits.
Laurey Karlin
Laurey should have never doubted the Great Machine. Now, when she had been expecting only aliens, it had sent two vessels unto her. The meat puppets
Her crew, her family
They were talking about… something? Maybe it was important, but…

Everyone was moving. Another window of time, gone, but from zoning out or that other-something. Impossible to say.

Laurey trailed after the crowd, footsteps lost in the thunder.

There had been a school of architecture known as brutalism; it had enjoyed a brief resurgence on J-Heim B, but now only limped along in the mining colonies and the truly musty history books. And, apparently, in Nirrti’s manufacturer. The battle AI (blessed be) was beautiful in its raw being. Whether the same rang true for the internal was another matter.

Flame was looking at her. And eating? Had he said something? She replayed the last few seconds. Ah.

“Pirates. What do they matter? More anarchy in the system for the Ascendancy to deal with,” her eyes slipped from Flame back to Nirrti, “And uhh…” What could she and Avelyn copy? It almost put their effort to shame, but all things for the Great Machine.
Was that right?

Laurey flipped, stars fell, cyberspace spread itself before her. The AI was a sphere of ICE so thick it was black. Strands flowed from it, but none passed through the network’s Wall. Were they just being polite in waiting for access, or was breaching truly beyond them?

Another sphere of ICE caught her attention. The other vessel, surely. Another AI, not just a slave machine. Praise be.

Flip. Stars. Meat. Metal divinity.

“Access should be no problem,” Laurey spoke up to Nirrti’s camera. She walked to its other side, between it and the strange trio, making a triangle on the fringes of the meeting, “you’ll just have to submit to some security checks.” Come to that, everyone still had to. Nirrti might even be the most pointless to check; they might be the most capable of hiding things from Laurey. Better try than not though, if just to be close in that space with Something.

“And you,” she pointed at Ki, and the mech-that-was-more, “uh, whoever you are. Security uh, procedure after,” she gestured vaguely at everyone, “this.”
Laurey Karlin and Jude Styles
Laurey wandered the halls, nose tingling and brain bathing in a bubble bath of Bliss. Getting high seemed an all too appropriate response to the earlier meeting. She had seen friends’ pain, Narvia’s tears, Aveyln’s outburst, and wanted to reach out to them, offer support, sympathy, an ear, a shoulder, even just a word. What had she done? Nothing.

Bliss it was then. There it was harder to think, harder to hate herself for what she did, or didn’t, for being different, useless, a robot.

Perhaps that last thought was portentous, for she ran into Jude not a second later.

Jude too, was wandering the halls seemingly aimlessly in response to the day's meeting. Instead of flooding their mind with drugs, Jude simply pumped music into them, but the cause was all the same-- guilt over not helping people in need. Jude was an outsider at best, not even really a part of the team. It wouldn't be appropriate to try and be a shoulder to cry on, or worse, an even bigger emotional burden. So, like always, they slinked off to listen to their old-timey music and be sad on their own time.

Or at least, that was the plan. But Jude, literally, ran into Laurey. The cyborg's sound processors were too full of music and self pity to notice the girl, it seemed. "Oh, s-sorry…" Jude's metallic voice croaked.

Laurey’s eyes went wide, then, after her brain caught up, her smile followed, “Nothing to be sorry about Judey. In fact, you’re just who I want to see. I needed to ask you something about,” she clinked her cybernetics with a nail, “how much do you have in your head?”

"Judey?" Jude asked, a bit caught up on suddenly being given a nickname. Even more shocking however, was Laurey's question to them. It was… very personal and invasive. But, then, Laurey was definitely the 'closest' to Jude, in terms of experience. She was a cyborg too. Obviously not as much of one, and Jude wasn't sure if it wasn't consensual… but whatever, questions like these were common. Jude answered plainly.

"Most of my brain is still intact. Around 70%, I think was what the surgeons said. No hormones or anything like that, though, which is probably not healthy, brain-wise. But I don't think they cared much about that… bastards." Jude said, scoffing and kicking at the ground a little with that last bit. "Did you… choose, to get your implants? Or, are you, like me?"

Laurey blinked, refocusing on Jude, or, perhaps, seeing them for the first time as a person with lived experience and not just a tool to be used to further her own understanding.

“Like you? Maybe I am,” she shrugged, “I didn’t get much choice, no, or, the choices you had weren’t ones you could live with. I couldn’t, at least. By that time they had so much over me… what’s a little flesh for metal for the ones you love, eh?

“That enough like you?”

Jude paused. If Laurey listened closely, she might have been able to hear the slight whir of a fan and processor. Jude took in her words and mulled them over. Such a particular focus was placed on the word 'love' Jude couldn't help but say it aloud. But then it stopped. There was no way to tell what was 'close enough' to a lived experience. They shrugged.

"I don't know. To others, we must be. I'm just you, but worse. Worse off, I guess. But you did it for others. Maybe I did too? I can't remember." Jude reasoned. There was another pause, as Jude tried once more in vain to remember. It was a forgone conclusion, as those neurons were dead. But they tried, and failed, once more. "I hope my parents are okay." They sighed. "Were those the people you did it for? A family?"

Laurey nodded, “Yes, my family. That might be the best word for them. I sometimes wonder if the other choice might have been kinder.” She blew out an explosive breath, “But that’s for the gods to know.”

And, somehow, it had come round to what Laurey had wanted to ask in the first place, mere minutes ago. It seemed so much longer. She felt almost guilty now, asking this, taking it for herself. Not enough to stop. “Do you ever lose time? Blanks in your day where you find yourself at C from A, and B is nowhere to be found, just... well... blank? Or is it just your past they took?” Or is it just me?

"Just the past. All of the chips and processors they put in help pick up the slack from what they took from my brain I think." Jude responded, matter-of-factly. "But I guess that isn't how it works for you. Just more proof that everyone's different, huh?" Jude shrugged again, a little more wistfully. It had been a long time since they talked this frankly about what had happened to them. Having someone else in a similar state seemed to help, even if they were still definitely uncomfortable with what the two were talking about.

“You guess correctly,” she mulled in the silence, “Sometimes I feel like I’m two separate people.”

An intercom message informed them that the envoys from the Kanarusian Federation would shortly be boarding. At this Laurey’s face perked up once more.

“I’ve never seen a Kanarusian in the flesh, shall we go then, Judey? Is Judey all right? I can always think of something better. Or maybe just, Jude?”

"Um, whatever you want to call me is fine as long as it has 'Jude' in it. That's probably not my full name, it could be Judie, or Judas, or Judith so… maybe people calling me different stuff will jog my memory?" Jude lied. They knew that wasn't how it worked… but something about having a nickname seemed nice. Like they were being accepted.

"A-anyways, yeah, let's head out and stuff."

“You got it Judey my man or maybe woman,” Laurey grinned. And thank you.
Laurey Karlin
In the tense lull between Natasha scrambling after Nero and the stomach inverting lurch of a Spacewarp, Laurey’s eyes settled upon Narvia, and her runaway brain tripped over a discarded observation and fired her thoughts before she could censor them.

“Congratulations Little Lady. Enjoy it,” she mimed checking a watch, an outdated yet enduring gesture, “We’ve only got about three minutes left anyway.”

But they didn’t.

They jumped.

The acid that stung and tasted vile was not nearly as bad as the nausea Laurey felt. It didn’t fade, but lingered, like cobwebs. Or oil. At that point she realised she had laid a hand upon Klein’s shoulder for support, having stumbled forward. She squeezed it, trying to play it off as intentional but her weakness turned it into some weird caress. She flinched back, as though burned.

“Alright boyo, you heard the captain,” sweat was beading on her brow. Not just nerves. How long since her last hit? Should her heart sound like a rotor blade in her ear? “Let’s move.”

They walked.

“As the catalyst for the sweep of our crew, it just seems right that you’re the first, no? Don’t worry, I won’t tell if you have weird stuff on your devices. Well, not too many people at least. But Avelyn man, oh boy,” Laurey shook her head with sage sadness, “I heard that if you resist she has to try harder and harder, until your jelly just leaks right out of your ear.”

They were poor.

Poorer. Laurey didn’t much feel like telling everyone just how much she’d spent on drugs; narcs, man.

The stock thing had sent a message, that was the important part, that was what served the cause.

Kanarusian, useful. Laurey was going over the documents when Moonstrike's final remark stunned her. Realist. Gone. When? Emptiness opened inside her, a cold dark hole in her chest. The ambrosia she’d tasted, that purging fire in her mind, she knew she craved that like a drug, divine, certainly, but just pleasure flushing through her brain all the same. It was the purpose that had come, like a blanket over the soul, that sense that there was something worth working towards, that total lack of doubt. That was more. It was a threadbare dream now, eaten by the waking world.

But surely it was all part of the Great Plan, right? Realist left without a word for a reason.

“Tell Realist I say hi too!” Laurey chirped at Moonstrike, unsure if it was even still there. Yes, everything would be A-okay.

She spun to Klein, cracked grin and outstretched hands, “Hand ‘em over then.”
Laurey Karlin
If the nails of her right hand weren’t a ceramic plastymer, Laurey would have chewed them down to their beds. Hunched in the shadow of her (their) mech, glass synapses funneled electric dreams into her mind. The local feed was double hot. Videos and stills of the incident were circulating. Laurey watched, flitting between and knitting them together, as the ever growing list of transgressions and broken laws piled up. Terrorism was the general consesus. Laurey almost agreed.

Voices.

She switched to the ship's external cameras and found a portal, through which faces she knew and faces she didn’t stepped. Feelings fizzed within Laurey. Relief, fear… pride. She could feel the cold fingers of her cybernetics modulating them, keeping them “acceptable”. Yet it was still too much; not long ago Laurey was wanting to leave, would have left these psycho kids to their fates, found her own way to contribute to The Cause. Now if any had died, even those she knew least, she would have mourned… that couldn’t be the sum of awkward passings in hallways, of muttered words and meal times. Had everything changed at Plenty?

Was she a criminal?

Was she still -

An awful noise cut in. The world lurched sideways, crates groaning in their nets. Tools clattered down from the mech. Laurey peered out from behind a leg.

A jeep sat in the loading bay, shuddered as its engine was killed. Laurey’s insides fluttered again when she saw Avelyn. That boy… The brief moment of confusion was chased away as her augmentations regurgitated a name into her mind, and the memories of where she’d seen him. Joey.

The two had come in pretty hot.

A thousand questions spoke over each other in her head: are you okay were you followed is there anybody left out there where are we going are we going to be alright is it okay to stop hiding are you angry at me are you okay?

Laurey slunk away and hurried up to the lobby.

She arrived in time to hear the roll call, and an awkward slip. Cute. Inevitable. Surprising it hadn’t happened sooner; hormones, trauma, confined spaces. Also: irrelevant.

Then Laurey was volunteered for some snooping. The subject of all this suspicion was a feathery haired man with a beak of a nose. Laurey thought he looked like a crow. She nodded.

A momentary nausea passed over her at the news that Phi had left. She had forgotten about her up until her name was mentioned (were there others she’d forgotten?). The girl could be captive, or she could have done the wise thing and ditched. Or she could have turned coat. Laurey made a mental note to check the telemetry, Phi’s room (did she have one?), and ask Nat more about it once they weren’t in deep shit.

Deep shit. Why had things gone so wrong? It was enough to make her entirely forget the chunk of time missing from her memory. She felt pressure building inside her temples.

“Can Klein -” the word had a familiar taste to her mouth, like home. She paused, then snapped, “Can Klein not wait?” Her breathing was erratic, her thoughts, “Sorry. News and speculation about us,” she rapped her omni tool against her head, hard enough to bring a hollow thudding, “won’t take them long to watch security footage and find you guys. Us. Or lockdown the port. Surely? I see two options: either we confess or get the hell out of Dodge.”

Her eyes searched the others. Nat, Ashton, Jude. Avelyn, Nero. There was almost a plea in them: something, anything. Rebuttal, agreement. Just action.
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