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Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677

“That one’s cute.”

“These are pilots. They are here to bring the threats against New Anchorage to heel, and, if they stay, they may have to lay down their lives for it. These people are not here to be our friends. If you’re going to judge them on their physiques, it should be in regards to how well they can handle themselves in a fight. Even then, that hardly matters compared to how well they can pilot.”

“That one’s cute, too!”

Eli pinched the bridge of her nose. “Vera this is not appropriate behavior for a pilot.”

“Well, like you keep telling me, I’m not a pilot yet,” Vera said. There was a little bite in her voice, but she was still smiling. She stuck her tongue out playfully at Eli and turned back to the newcomers.

They didn’t look like much. It was hard to tell the weather-beat of a veteran from the grime of needing a shower and a washing machine. Then again, none of them here had ever been much to look at either. Raschke was, generously speaking, a “man of the people,” the pilots and staff were nobodies, some of whom weren’t even natives. Even Sophia had been a haggard woman, blown into her role like an icy tumbleweed, and gone just as quickly. No, she thought. Not gone. Deserted. She left us.

Eli regarded the newcomers more heavily. If only she could know from a look who meant to help them and who, like Sophia, would betray them. These people would sign their names and make their pledges, but those were words only, and for all her shortcoming’s in understanding people, Eli knew better than to trust them by their words.

Or, she thought, eyes falling upon the commander. Their ranks.

“Ohmigosh,” Vera said, sitting up in her chair. “Hey, I think that one’s a kid. Lizzy, look, that one—she’s a kid!”

“I see.”

Vera’s smile twitched. She searched for something in the air, and then her eyes went wide. She hopped out of her chair, said something about practicing sims, and then scurried off.

Eli was tempted to follow out of concern, but she’d have had no luck voicing them. It was all Vera talked about nowadays, piloting. Whether it was simulations, speculating about her own NC, worrying over her own capabilities, or, perhaps worst of all, waxing about her conversations with Stein, there was no escaping it. Eli had no issues with piloting, and by all accounts she should have felt proud of how much effort Vera was putting into it. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. All she felt when they talked about the future was dread, and guilt. One day, sooner now than later, Vera would do for New Anchorage exactly what Eli expected of every pilot: she would put her life on the line.

Eli got up from the table, unfocused. She cast one last glance over the newcomers, then left for the hangar.

Smith's Rest | HQ Tram Station
January 16th, 2677

One two-three, one two-three.

Eli tapped her fingers on the table, entirely absent. Even her own thoughts keeping time in her head sounded distant, or so engrained that they were nearly unreal. She sat at a small table by the tram station, eyes transfixed upon the rails like she was waiting for them to rattle with the incoming transport. Her coffee, untouched since she’d sat down, was cold now. Most things at the station were cold, given the open ends. Between the wind and chill, there weren’t many people around who weren’t explicitly paid to be there. She wasn’t sure if that same motivation applied to her. It wasn’t why she was here, sitting alone at a table, waiting for a trolley full of new-blood, but it was perhaps a justification.

A particularly harsh breeze flooded through the station. She adjusted her scarf—the only not-strictly-in-code addition she’d made to her uniform—and sat up straight, legs crossed, fingers trilling, staring.

Her data-tool beeped. It beeped three times before she blinked herself out of her trance and answered the call without checking the ID. It would have been a bad habit, if anyone but her sister ever called her.

“Lizzy?” Vera asked. “Where are you? Did you hear the announcement?”

She sounded strained, Eli guessed she’d been running simulations all morning. Vera was the…proactive sort. Ever since she was tested, even before the surgery, she’d accompanied Eli to the facility’s gym, and started each morning with a run through the hangar so she could marvel at the NC’s. As soon as she could hook up to the simulation pods, that had taken a priority spot in her routine.

It would have made Eli proud, if it didn’t disturb her so deeply.

“Lizzy?” Vera asked again.

Eli cleared her throat. “I did, yes. I heard it.”

“So where are you? Graham said he wanted us to look busy. Guess he wants to make a good impression on the new guys.”

“It ought to be them concerned with making impressions,” Eli said lowly.

Vera was quiet for a moment.

“Are you waiting at the tram station? You’re gonna stare at them, aren’t you?”

Eli’s fingers stopped tapping, her lips pursed. “I’m observing the band of wasters and mercenaries Commander Graham has seen fit to invite into our home, and trust with the safety of our people.”

“God—hold on…” there was rustling on the other end of the line. “I’m on my way down there.”

“I do not need chaperoning, Vera.”

“You’re gonna look like some kinda goblin, I’m coming down. I wanna see’em too, anyway. Maybe try and get’em in a good mood before Graham, y’know, ruins their day. See you soon!”

Vera cut the call. Eli pinched the bridge of her nose, and tried to go back to watching the tracks. But it was no use now, Vera had a knack for making Eli feel entirely aware of herself. It was the sort of social awareness she lacked on her own. So, instead of doing anything useful, she sat there, feeling awkward, trilling her fingers off-time, until Vera appeared in the tram station.

She’d thrown on a uniform jacket and shorts over her pilot suit, and that seemed to be enough for her to deal with the cold. That, and the ushanka perpetually snug atop her head.

“Heya,” she said, taking the seat opposite Eli. She looked out at the tracks either direction. “Not here yet, huh?”

“Not yet. Soon, I imagine.”

Vera nodded. “I’m excited. Not that you all aren’t great, but, man, I can’t wait to meet some new pilots. I bet they’re gonna have so many stories.”

“Don’t get too attached,” Eli said. “Even if they all manage to stay, they still have to survive.”

“I think someone’s afraid they might make a friend.”

Eli shot her a scowl, but it was weak. Vera giggled and sat back, taking the cup from the table and peering down into it.

“This is…coffee.”

“People drink coffee,” Eli said, certain of it.

“It’s cold. And you hate coffee.”

Eli rolled her eyes. “By all means, take it.”

“No thanks,” Vera said, setting it back down. “I don’t need to be this short forever.”

Vera Voloshyna | Firefly | F | 14 | Smith’s Rest

Personal Dossier

Physical Description

Personality Traits

Effects of Polaris Shift

Personal History

Tactical Preferences and Skills

Neural Combatant



Squad Role

NC Description

Weapons and Armaments

Elizabeth “Eli” Jackspar | Blur | F | 21 | Smith’s Rest

Personal Dossier

Physical Description
In a lot of ways, Eli resembles her mother. Spirely, with strict and rigid posture and a demeanor that might generally be considered as “harsh.” Physically she’s a bit lanky, and if observed in her rare, relaxed moments, one might remark that she seems ill-fitted to herself. Her hair falls long and flat, and is a shade of off-white that makes her otherwise porcelain skin appear thin and pallid. The sunkeness of her eyes is off-put by their brightness: a deep, bright blue like the depth beneath a sheet of ice.

She tends to dress conservatively, and her wardrobe is slim. An assortment of long shirts and pants, pull-overs and thick boots. The one constant is the plain, sky-blue scarf she wears as often as she’s allowed—which, considering the lax dress code in the facility, especially among pilots, is nearly always. Beneath it all though is her pilot suit, donned first-thing, so that she can be ready for anything that might come New Anchorage’s way.

Personality Traits
Fiercely Loyal

Effects of Polaris Shift
Eli may be newer to piloting, but she’s been given no breaks for it. The nature of her combat role, as well as Blur’s reliance on the physical and mental reflexes of its pilot necessitate both high and consistent rates of synchronization. Due to a crisis of identity brought on as a result of her mother’s psychological conditioning, Eli has little to no trouble assimilating herself into Blur and achieving these synch rates, and it’s here that her Polaris Shift finds its roots.

Eli is slowly losing herself to her NC. The more benign effects of this Shift include things like adherence to patterns and routines, acute awareness, and the occasional need to remind herself to blink. In more serious instances, or flares, Eli ceases to think of herself as a human being, but rather a part of the machine. She may neglect sleeping and eating, disregard pain and harm herself as a result, or simply “shut down,” which could more accurately be described as an immobilizing episode of dissociation.

She’s found some success in repressing these effects through medication. Alternatively, the commands of her mother, or the consolation of her sister, have also shown to be able to “snap her out of it.” But as with all Polaris Shifts, there is no long-term cure.

Personal History
Eli was five when she learned that her name was short for “Elizabeth.” Her mother used it the first time she’d cried during one of their conditioning sessions.

“Elizabeth,” she’d said. “Never cry in front of me again.”

For most of her life, Eli rarely left the ramshackle library the Jackspars called home. She spent her days studying, practicing, and doing what her mother commanded, when she commanded. At night, she would listen to Vera talk about her day; where she went, what she did, who she met. Second-handedly she developed a sense of community, which mingled nicely with her burgeoning desire to protect Smith’s Rest.

As her mother began to take a more active role in the Smith’s Rest community, Eli was subjected to fewer conditioning sessions, and the two were around each other less often. She spent more time with Vera, who coaxed out of her an almost human affection, which blossomed into a genuine, if repressed, personality. She grew to be more than just a prospective tool, she became a sister and a friend. She became “Lizzy.”

When the day finally came that Smith’s Rest acquired its Neural Combatants, Eli was there fresh and early. She hadn’t considered that she might fail her compatibility test, her mother had never even mentioned it. It was as if the woman knew, somehow, that her daughter would pass. Eli considered it a sort of destiny. Of course she would defend Smith’s Rest, what else was there?

The cockpit fit her like a glove. Blur was her second skin, her body-away-from-her-body. Never before had she felt so certain of who she was, never had she dreamt of what fulfilling her purpose might feel like. Together with her team, under the command of Sophia Torres, Eli finally saw what Smith’s Rest could be.

Then, Sophia vanished.

Smith’s Rest, now expanded into the Free State of New Anchorage, went on without her. The NC program went on without her. It seemed like everyone was willing to move forward without batting an eye at the fact that their head of defense had disappeared overnight. Eli, however, was not. Her sharpening image of New Anchorage could not accommodate deserters, or traitors, or those whose intentions were too selfish to put the good of the people before themselves. When Raschke brought on Michael Graham, and he proposed to flood their ranks with mercenaries, Eli was…less than confident in his choices. She was, admittedly, less than confident in him.

Now, with her sister’s imminent career as a pilot, and her mother’s growing popularity among the people of New Anchorage, Eli feels stuck between her obligation towards her home, and her own distrust of the strangers inhabiting it.

Tactical Preferences and Skills
Up Close and Personal: Eli isn’t a good shot. One could justifiably say that Eli is in fact a bad shot. Thankfully, swordplay and fist-fighting require grace and power over accuracy, and utilize a different sort of hand-eye coordination, which Eli excels in. Quick, agile, and ambidextrous from years of self-teaching, Eli would like to say she makes up for her shortcomings in long-range combat with her prowess in CQC, but she still has to reach her target first.

Unwavering Loyalty: Alternatively: “goal-oriented,” “single-minded,” and “unhealthily skeptical.” With Eli, the mission always comes first, because to her, the mission is always in the interest of New Anchorage. Instilled within her is an almost fanatical loyalty to her home, desire to protect its people, and see it prosper. To her, any pilot who fights for them should be willing to lay down their lives for the good of New Anchorage. This has led her to hold a distaste for newcomers, especially mercenaries, or former mega corporation pilots. Consequently however, her trust, once gained, is absolute to a gullible fault.

Reliable: Eli is, if nothing else, a phenomenal solider. She gets things done. She follows directions and fulfils her tasks with speed and proficiency, never questioning—out loud, at least—the orders of a superior. For everyone else, especially her equals, she rarely keeps her doubts to herself, and as standoffish as that may sometimes be, one can at least rely on her to be honest and direct.

Neural Combatant


Bipedal, Melee

Squad Role
Close-Range Assault

NC Description
Blur is a light-weight, medium-sized Neural Combatant designed to embody the “high-risk, high-reward” philosophy. Likely created by Red Star, it was recovered from a glacial wall. Its sleekly humanoid, aerodynamic frame and snow-white exterior help it live up to its name amidst the Alaskan wasteland, and especially during blizzards. The array of propulsion engines affixed to its back expand and shift during use not unlike spines, or sharp wings.

Weapons and Armaments
Omni-Propulsion System: Integral to Blur’s design philosophy is its array of engines, which help it to achieve the ludicrous speed required of a melee-oriented NC. When coupled with Eli’s quick reflexes and intuition, they also provide Blur with a surprising degree of maneuverability, necessary for avoiding the front and backline fire it tends to draw.

Bladed Weaponry: Blur’s weapons reflect its orient towards melee-combat. A beam-sword of standard design, an energy-projected, wrist-mounted shorter blade, and sharp, retractable claw-tips for its fingers complete its standard arsenal. The only deviance in the design of her weapons is that they’ve been fitted to work with Blur’s Energy Relay System.

Energy Relay System: What the Omni-Propulsion system does to initiate combat, the ERS does to finish it. Considering the prioritization of agility over distance-closing speed in close-quarters, the ERS seeks to make sure that the engines’ massive energy output isn’t put to waste once Blur has actually reached its target. It allows Eli to pump extra power to her sword, or her gauntlet-blade, or even the sharp-tipped fingers, which can come in handy when cutting apart NCs and holding against other melee weapons.

Flare Cache: When fancy-feet and speed just aren’t enough, or as a proactive-countermeasure to cover its approach, Blur is equipped with multiple rounds of flares with which to throw off heat-seeking ballistics. They don’t always count for much, and they’re no replacement for covering fire, but in a pinch Eli has found them useful.
E e m i Q i n g

Eemi Qing



Home Sea
The Dragon Sea

Aether Sign

Aether Abilities

Standing a smidgen over five feet, and weighted like a wet feather pillow, one might not think much of Eemi at a glance, but she isn’t out to strike anyone as imposing. Her black hair falls long and she can often be seen wearing a sun hat that’s just a bit too big for her head.

Hung from a sash at her waist are a string of gourds, containing water purified with her Hydrosympathy, which she uses for her healing abilities.

Eemi would call herself a pacifist, but more in the way that she hasn’t had to fight yet, rather than that she wouldn’t. She despises conflict as much as she fears it, but she also understands that Gaia’s peaceful years, if there ever were any, are long behind her. A lowborn girl from the Dragon Sea isn’t going to change the violent nature of the world.

Instead, she’s put herself to work cleaning up after it. Though she’s only been away from home for a little under a year, she’s managed to help a handful of people from the skiff she sails in, in which she stores a small assortment of herbs and remedies from her home sea.

Eemi set out with a single rule—heal those who need healing. Be they diver, merchant or even pirate, Eemi’s gentle hands and soothing waters find them all equally.

Eemi was born on a small island in the Dragon Sea called Shurei. Her mother, Luumi, was a soothsayer of moderate renown, that occasionally sailors would visit from other islands seeking readings from her.

Over the years Eemi saw all sorts sit across from her mother as she cast their runes and read their cards. Merchants would ask after the safety of their new routes, budding adventurers and superstitious soldiers from as far as Xian packed up and set out on her tidings. Even bandits would come, sometimes in the dead of night, heavy with doubt. Luumi read for them all.

“All I offer are words,” she would say. “The actions are their’s.”

She tried to teach Eemi some of her ways, but alas, her daughter did not share her connection with the stars. Eemi liked to read the tides to predict the migrations of fish, and mix elixirs from the reagents in Luumi’s cabin. She was a diviner by hobby, but that was not enough to hold her on Shurei forever.

When Eemi turned sixteen, Luumi saw how restless her daughter had become. So, with a heavy heart, she gifted Eemi her skiff and bid her to follow the tides she envied so much. Luumi never read her daughter’s cards, or cast her runes, but she said one day, when the time was right and Eemi returned to Shurei, she would.

Gourd Strings: Hanging from either hip like faulds are strings of four gourds each, containing water purified with her Hydrosympathy. The water from these gourds heals much more quickly than sea or river water, but it takes time and ritual to refill them.

Suturing Kit: Sometimes water isn’t enough. Eemi’s skill as a healer isn’t to the point where she can mend serious injuries—at least not in any timely manner—but she knows how to stitch a wound, and she won’t shy from a little, or a lot, of blood.

Old Dagger: Eemi had to promise her mother she’d take this, and promise again that if she had to, she would use it. Of course, she’s never wielded a weapon in her life, nor does she intend to anytime soon, but she wasn’t allowed off the island without it. More than once, Eemi has been tempted to dump it overboard or sell it off, but it’s been with her for a year now, and the nostalgia it has outweighs how much it unsettles her.

Coral Runes: Eemi didn't inherit her mother's gift for divination, but she at least knows how to go about looking like she did. Her readings serve more as a comfort for the people she heals than actual predictions, or as a way to break the ice with strangers.

Smith's Rest, New Anchorage | HQ
March 27th, 2677

Finding Mister Kalfox wasn’t difficult in the end. “The Office of Financial Administration” might not have been large, but there were enough big words that following the signs was easy. Easier than was finding the Financial Administrator himself. Or his office, anyway.

Vera was stood outside the door, fidgeting, twiddling her thumbs, rocking on her heels, finding any way to avoid knocking. Only now was it occurring to her how ridiculous this all seemed, even after Percy had proved to her that she’d been scared for nothing.

But how could it be nothing? The poor woman had mentioned Ingram and Ana by name. She knew enough that the Kalfox name had weight beyond New Anchorage’s walls, and the idea that someone knew Stein’s father wasn’t completely outlandish, but what about Ana? How had she known Ana? Percy was a nobody, who would possibly know the Moores? More than that, who would possibly know the Moores enough to threaten them?

Maybe this was because Percy was a pilot. It worried her to think as much, but what else was anyone supposed to expect out of a life of fighting and killing in the cockpit of a giant robot? What if he’d just shot the wrong person, made the wrong enemy, and now Ana was in danger?

Vera swallowed down the thoughts of herself garnering such enemies. That wouldn’t be her, she would do things differently. She would.

Steeling herself, Vera knocked on the door and tried the handle—unlocked. She cracked it slightly, enough to get her voice in.

“Mister Kalfox?” she called inside. “Are you in? I uh…something's…can we talk? If you have a moment, I mean.”
Also still here.
E V A N D E R and S O L I A

Windward Island
The Skullfish

Solia hastened back to Evander, stepping between him and the beasts. The closest one was smaller, adolescent, and ignored her at first. She caught it by the arm as it lunged for her partner, jerking it up off of its feet, then as if the thing had been made of dirt and feather rather than flesh and scale, she hurled it away, against the helm’s railing.

The second was fully matured, with a wide jaw and hands big enough to grip a man’s skull and tear it to ribbons with its claws. She glanced to where the unfortunate crewman had been cut down. His sword lay there, skittering about the wood as the waves rocked the Skullfish. Too far for her to reach, but perhaps Evander could.

Before she could suggest as much, the bigger Savorask crashed into her—or more accurately, against her. For its size it might have expected an easy tackle, but instead she only staggered back, and its claws scraped awkwardly past her ribs and collar.

Solia had an instinct for momentum, especially in combat. She knew if she tried, she could right herself and try to force the beast back outright, but even caught off-guard this position was no disadvantage. She leaned into the stagger, stepping into a sturdier stance, then took the Savorask by its neck and side and in a whirl threw it head-over-heels across the helm.

The younger one had composed itself, and its sights had not strayed from Evander. It stalked towards him, evidently wary of any more surprises, but seemed no less ferocious. Solia meant to engage it again, but before she could even start for it, a sudden and powerful force latched itself about her left arm and stayed her.

Turning, she saw that the adult had its tongue wound up her forearm, and from across the helm had begun trying to reel her in. To her surprise she had to fight just to keep herself stationary, and as the Savorask found its footing, that too became a struggle. Not for the first time, she had underestimated flesh.

“Evander! she called, when it became clear she could not intervene. “The sword! Arm yourself!”

Evander didn’t need to hear her call twice, eyeing the approaching Savorask making its way toward him at a menacingly slow, measured pace. He met the eyes of the creature as he pushed himself up from the deck to stand on his own two feet once more, before suddenly dashing for the sword. The creature reacted to his sudden movement by quickening its own pace, hurrying toward him in a race to reach the blade before Evander could grab it.

With the advantage of initiative, Evander managed to reach the blade not a second before the long claws of the Savorask would have sliced at his vulnerable flesh - and instead the creature now found itself on the defensive, with Evander grabbing the bottom of the blade’s hilt and lifting it in an upward slash aimed in the general direction of the beast. It may have been young, but it was not an easy target, and it lept backward in a quick reaction to the swing of the blade that allowed it to escape almost unscathed, bar a slight slash on its chest.

The creature backed off for a moment as it re-evaluated the situation, and began to feel the shock and pain of the light wound from the blade.

In this moment of opportunity, Evander turned his attention quickly back to Solia, who was still wrestling against the larger Savorask that had its powerful tongue wrapped around her forearm, attempting to pull her towards it.

Spinning on his heel, he hurriedly took the few steps required to shorten the distance between himself and the two, raising the blade in the air and bringing it down with considerable force to cut the tongue of the Savorask and free his partner.

Unfortunately the beast was spurred into panic by the oncoming blade, briny adrenaline surging through it that granted it the kind of strength only living things could will themselves into. It did not release Solia, but rather tightened its grip and threw itself back, and her forward—directly into Evander’s path.

The sound was unpleasant, but it was also unlike the parting of flesh, and there was no agonized scream to join it. Instead, the slamming edge skirted down her shoulder and embedded itself a few centimeters into her bicep. She blinked, thankful that her upper arm was in better shape than her forearm. Even though the sword was plain and simply-edged, a powerful swing might have shattered her elbow completely.

“I appreciate your efforts, Evander—” she began, only to be hauled ever closer to the large Savorask. The sword wriggled free of her arm and clattered to the ground at Evander’s feet.

It may have been worth trying to resist, plant her feet into the deck and hope she didn’t crater the wood. Instead she let herself go on, nearly jogging into the beast’s pull until the moment of truth arrived, and it made to clamp its jaws down on her weakened arm. Right then, she took a solid stance and swung the fist of her right arm, free of chips and cracks, in from the side. Most of the teeth there broke free, or just broke. She took a firm hold of the hinge of the beast’s jaw to anchor it, gripped the tongue with her damaged hand and wrenched it back with as much force as she could safely muster.

This sound was unpleasant. Something further down in the Savorask’s body came loose, or perhaps it was many things; admittedly she wasn’t entirely savvy of their biology. Regardless, the thing went limp, its tongue slackened, and she shoved it away.

Her focus returned to her partner to see how he was faring.

Evander was admittedly taken aback by the situation, still processing the relatively quick succession of events that led to Solia destroying her opponent. He made a mental note that it was probably a good idea to remain on her good side if he didn’t want to find himself dismembered. Indeed, the source of her strength was puzzling - but he didn’t have time to think on that for now.

The younger Savorask, seemingly enraged by the rather brutal death of its companion, parent, or whatever it might have been, let out an almighty screech as it sped towards him.

“Ah, damn”, he thought. Awkwardly planting his feet firmly on the ground with a slight space apart from one another, in an attempt to mimic the stance he had once been taught to use when ‘bracing’ for an impact, he was well aware that his days of trained combat were but a distant memory. And his abilities in the battle against these creatures only highlighted as much.

The creature came within striking distance of Evander after only a few seconds, arms outstretched and flailing wildly at its target. Given the pace of his foe, he had found himself with little time to properly react - and beyond bracing for the inevitable and physical clash between the two, he could do little more than raise his sword. Evander gripped the hilt of his dull blade with both hands and raised it to his side so that his shoulder faced the creature. Grimacing, he awaited the attacks of the creature as its claws came hurtling toward him.

Strike, slash, the Savorask’s claws were vicious and quick, but thankfully it hadn’t saw fit to employ its razor jaws. In truth, there wasn’t enough time for the beast. Even if Evander had been entirely unarmed and immobile, there was too much of him to go through, and too little space between them, and his partner.

Solia closed the distance much like the Savorask had—a few long strides, a nasty swipe, and she had the thing by one of its slimy wrists. She dragged it away and flung it heavily against the railing. At first it managed to stay aboard, but one crushing blow to its underdeveloped ribcage was enough to cave them in, and the beast toppled over, back into the crashing waves.

“Evander?” she called back, and returned to the helm. “Are you alright?”

Evander looked himself up and down, noticing a slight gash on his right upper-arm. The adrenaline had prevented him from feeling any great pain thus far - but now that he had noticed the wound, he would be lying if he said it did not hurt. Despite this, however, he had escaped remarkably unscathed, and it wasn’t merely luck that had saved him.

“Just fantastic”, he said in reply through gritted teeth. He covered the wound with his left hand, with some drops of blood escaping through the gaps between his fingers. It had been a while - a long while- since he’d been injured, and even though his new battle-wound wasn’t anything serious, he hadn’t yet become re-accustomed to the experience.

“Looks like we got all of ‘em up here.”, he remarked while surveying the helm one final time. “Rather, you got all of them. It’s a good thing you were around!”

“I appreciate your assistance in kind,” Solia said, eyes hovering over his wound. “I apologize for leaving you alone against the beast. We should find a healer for that, when this is settled.”

Evander offered only a slight shrug in response, typical of a Northerner unused to accepting much help. “We’ll see. It’s not too bad.”

Turning his attention to the situation on the rest of the ship in an effort to steer the conversation away from the wound, and better hide the pain, he gave a slight nod to the deck below the helm as he looked over the railing toward the fighting still ensuing. It was chaotic, but it appeared as though the crew were gradually bringing things back under control.

“This is not how I thought today was going to go.”

Smith's Rest, New Anchorage | HQ
March 27th, 2677

Vera didn’t remain in the cafeteria long after she finished eating. Normally she wouldn’t have minded sticking around to chat up the other pilots, but with some of the more familiar faces already miles away, piling onto the morning’s general discomfort, she politely excused herself to Joshua and headed into the hall.

It would be time to start training soon, she guessed. She’d hook herself into one of the simulations and spend a few hours getting used to the feeling of being, well, a giant robot. Equal parts thrilling and unsettling. But before that…

The Jackspar house was built on routines. Mom had them, Vera had them, and Lizzy had them. Her sister’s had transferred the easiest into their new lives, and so that made her daily haunts predictable. It was morning, there were no pressing engagements, so Vera determined that she should veer to the pilots’ gym. Lizzy always did physical warmups out of bed, then again after breakfast. Back home she’d had to do them to eat at all. Now, she supposed, it was just habit.

Sure enough Vera found her there. She was alone, and taking advantage of that, had music blaring from her data-tool so loud it nearly floored Vera when she opened the door. Thankfully the walls were thick. Even more thankfully, Lizzy noticed her immediately and lowered the volume—not completely, but enough. Vera couldn’t fault her for it, back home every day for her had been silence.

“Vi,” she greeted, monotone, but Vera deciphered a pleasantness in it. “You’re up early.”

“Everyone is today, I think.”

“It would seem,” Lizzy huffed. She’d taken up at the chain-dangling punching bag, and it looked as if she’d been at it for a while. Her fatigue jacket hung by the door, and the pants were rolled up high on her shins. Recently she’d taken to pulling her hair back into a tail when she trained, and while Vera thought it looked nice, tough even, part of her worried she might eventually just cut it all off.

Lizzy assumed a fighting stance, and went to work on the bag again. Vera hopped onto the small rise of the makeshift boxing ring and sat there by the data-tool, watching her. There was a striking dissimilarity—to her, at least—in the way her sister fought, and how she danced. In the comfort and privacy of her hobby, with Vera her opposite, she was like a tide. She was serene, moving to and fro as the waves did, imperceptibly, rising and falling with elegance that might have been orchestrated by similarly cosmic forces. Vera knew Lizzy would never wear a dress, but liked to think that, if she did, and to delve even further into impossibility, if she danced, she might look like a drifting, ghostly sea-being—the kind that she’d read about, that were so far down they had to make their own light.

With the bag as her partner, she was much less aquatic. Every action was sturdy—not stiff, but sturdy—every movement sure, and purposeful. The ambiguity was not for her, it was for the bag. She did not stop to consider her partner, to let it breath or to move in accordance with it, she had the lead. When she pivoted, and the bag swung past her, she’d just as quickly yank the momentum from it with a flurry of fists, knees and elbows. No, these were very much strong, unyielding, earthy movements.

“So Percy, Stein and Alan took off for the mission,” Vera said.

“I’m aware,” Lizzy hissed between strikes.

“Think they’ll be alright?”

“I think at least one of them will be.”

Vera might have laughed if she thought Lizzy was trying to be funny, but she knew the statement, and the lack of faith, were sincere. The curtness surprised her nonetheless.

“You alright? You seem upset.”

“I’m fine.”

“Did you want to go?”

Lizzy struck the bag a tad harder. The chain shrieked. “I’m a soldier of New Anchorage, of course I wanted to go. All of us should want to go. I’m sure Fouren and Moore were just thrilled for the opportunity.”

“Right,” Vera mumbled. “You…sure you’re not mad?”

“I am not mad. It’s not my place to voice doubts in the decisions of my superiors. I won’t pretend like I understand Graham’s reasoning. But I am not mad.” Lizzy’s focus on the bag grew more intense. She struck harder, faster, dipped the swings she let through and followed up on them with ferocity that made Vera feel a bit bad for the stitched-up sack of stuffing. She went on. “Our first contact with this settlement in months—if not longer. They need help, we want to establish relations. What should we do? We should send a team who can competently navigate the Alaskan front, effectively handle any raider presence, and properly represent the operations and interests of New Anchorage. I know, let’s send the Russian, the Waster, and Moore!

Percy’s name was punctuated with a particularly weighty uppercut that sent the chain warbling. Lizzy exhaled and held the bag steady.

“Uh. Don’t tell Percy I said that.” she said, catching her breath. “I’m…trying to be nicer. To people.”

Vera laughed, somewhere between nervous and genuine. On one hand it was nice to see Lizzy get passionate, on the other, she worried about how many of those punches could have been meant for Percy, or Alan, or anyone else.

“For what it’s worth, pretty sure they’re just going there to help. Don’t think it’s a negotiation.”

“Everything is a negotiation.” The words were cold, certain, and familiar. Vera wasn’t sure how she felt hearing her sister repeat one of mom’s mantras. Before she could dwell to long on it, Lizzy changed the subject. “Have you seen Madison this morning?”

“Oh,” Vera blinked herself back. “Uh, no, I haven't She wasn’t in the dining hall yet when I was there. You lookin’ for her?”

“Yes. There’s something I’d like to talk to her about.”

Lizzy snagged her data-tool, her jacket, and slid into her boots. She checked back over her shoulder as she tidied up her uniform, and it seemed to Vera like she was being analyzed.

“How’s the plug? Are you sleeping alright?”

“It’s fine.”

“It’ll be a bit uncomfortable for a while, but if it gets too bad or it starts hurting all the time, you should talk to Lofgren.”

Vera giggled. “It’s fine, Lizzy. Really. I’m good. I’m even training.”

Her sister smiled, just barely. “I’ll have to hear all about it, later. I’m going to check the mess hall. If you need me later, I’ll be around.”

They waved goodbye, then Lizzy left. Vera hopped down from the ring, and considered staying for a bit. She threw a few jabs at the bag, but found it was much tougher than she’d thought, and remembered anyway that she had other, more important things to do, like find Stein’s father. The conversation with Josh had distracted her again, but now she was awake, she’d eaten, she was focused.

Vera barged back out into the hall, and set out for Mr. Kalfox’s office. She was determined to get answers, or at least warn him that a big fan of his had come to town.
S o l i a

Windward Island
The Skullfish

As the Skullfish drew nearer to Gullspire, the winds borne of the storm that surrounded it began to beat against the ship, and its crew. There had been a time Solia had reveled in gales like these, she could cut through them with ease and grace on the back of her aether wings. Now, though, she steadied herself, and held her cloaks in a tight brace.

When Evander had been summoned to the helm, she followed. With their goal closing in on them, few had their eyes turned backwards, and she did not need to worry much about someone spying her if a rogue gust tossed her hood back. Soon enough it wouldn’t matter, thankfully. Once they reached Gullspire she had every intention of abandoning this ridiculous ruse. They would be too far in, no one would argue hard enough to send her away. Something had proposed enough of an issue to warrant a request to turn around, but before she could put much thought to it, the ship was rocked, suddenly and rather violently.

Solia was able to keep her footing without much issue, though she did ready herself to catch Evander should his own fail him. It became immediately clear that this was not simply the storm, and sure enough, only moments later she was met with a familiar, albeit unwelcome sight.

Now what are you doing here, so far from home?’ she wondered.

The Savorask were a common sight in Maelstrom, at least in the lower docks. When the storms passed through, ships unfortunate enough to be caught on their way to port often found themselves harassed by the abyssal things. She and her siblings had come to blows with them many times. Then, she had her wings, and her spear. Her harpoon, the wretched thing, was still on Windward. She would have to make due.

Solia yanked her hood down, and briefly rolled the sleeve of her left arm up. The damage there, under the bandages, was still evident to the touch, and she resigned that it would be best if she fought mainly with her right hand.

She started to descend onto the deck, then remembered Evander, and remained by the helm. She could not tell if he was armed, nor did she know if he had experience fighting such beasts, or how much, if he did. Down below the Imperial girl and plenty of the other crewmen had already drawn their weapons. Together they would manage, alone, Evander might not. It wasn’t a risk she was about to take, regardless.

“Keep at the helm, or descend to the deck?” she asked. “I’ll have your back, either way.”
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