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M i m i c h i

Mimichi did most of her dreaming in the morning, it had come to be her most anticipated time of the day. When she opened her eyes, while the blurry world hurried into focus, she found she could catch full glimpses of the things that fleeted from her in the day. Some mornings she would see her home, nestled into the Lorro’s crux with naught but the torches to light it in the dark, early morning. Others, the grain in her eyes would fool her into seeing the valley proper, long and tapered like a delta of fertile land. Those were the nice mornings, the pleasant ones whose memories brought less pain than warmth. Some–bittersweetly few–were less kind. In the waking blur she would, on occasion, see her old friends. She would see the other Serpents, strolling the small roads or practicing in the field outside of the manor. She would see her brother, Sazo, sometimes happy, sometimes bearing the look of hatred and betrayal he’d worn the last time she saw him. Yuna, too, would appear on the drearier mornings. She was small, and still had hair down to her shoulders. Sometimes she would smile, sometimes she would cry.

These were the difficult mornings, where the nostalgia weighed so heavy her breath would catch and her eyes would sting. It hurt to see, but it hurt worse for the moments to pass. For every bit of agony, she would not trade them for the world.

This time she saw Hiroyuki lying beside her. His face was abnormally touched by the blur, but she could tell his eyes were shut, and he was smiling. By the way his side rose and fell, it was clear that this time he was sleeping.

A sting caught her eye, and when she blinked the world was focused, Hiroyuki was gone.

Mimichi rolled onto her back and groaned through a series of stretches. She reminded herself, 'this is not the valley,' when she was done and got to her feet. It wasn’t, these were forest trees, much taller and more densely packed than the trees of Lorro. The south was its own kind of lush, one she was not used to, but certainly welcomed. Forests were hard to track through and easy to hide in. Trading in a comfortable night’s sleep on the bed of an inn for the relative safety beneath the towering shadows was something she’d become long accustomed to.

She buried the remains of her cooking fire and pulled her bag down from the branches she’d hid it in. With dismay, she saw one of the flaps had opened, and some of her vials had come open. A misting had passed through earlier, the ground was heavily dewed, her blanket damp. Worst, the moisture had crept into her bag and turned a monkshood paste to slush, which had then seeped into a smaller satchel of raw ingredients.

Frustrated, she dumped the contents of the satchel, then buried the thing itself. It wasn’t exactly rare for ingredients to leak, but where she’d once just pick the replacements herself, her position and disposition made that difficult. She was near a small town, but during festivals even small towns were usually diligent about harvesting the most obvious herbs. What she had left–mostly odds and ends additives, and nearly empty vials of ingredients snagged from the valley–wouldn’t make much without the more basic components. She’d comb with careful eyes along the way, but it was becoming clear to her that she’d need to visit the town to restock what she could. A glance into the pocket holding her money told her it would not be much if she planned to eat.

‘There’ll be work,’ she thought with some level of certainty. Big events, big crowds, these things tended to spark conflicts, and conflicts–at least the way she implemented herself into them–brought coin. Even if nothing needed doing that day, she was confident the next days would see plenty of people in search of aid of one kind or another. Investing in the materials would be worth it. She could likely find cheap food during the festival anyway.

This time she made sure the bag was entirely shut, and all its contents were secure, before slinging it around her shoulder. Last, she hooked the two halves of her weapon to her belt, bound in cloth to keep them from clacking together as much as to hide what they were. She might have called the thing a naginata, if she’d ever seen any respectable form of the weapon come apart at the middle, and require a ridiculous twisting mechanism and pin to keep from breaking at the slightest motion. Even the blade was more a ruined spear than a glaive, which was due more to the shoddy quality of the metal than the shape itself. But it had been cheap, and, to her surprise, had endured crossing a bandit’s sword–though the edge was now severely chipped.

The town, of which she didn’t know the name, wasn’t far. With the traffic, she even felt she could follow the road without trouble. Indeed, festivals, crowds, excitement, they had their merits, and part of her wondered if she might find some enjoyment in the events herself. A small part, though, and one she didn’t give much mind to once she was on her way.
M i m i c h i


Name:
    Kuromizu Mimichi (formerly Kitamura Mimichi), Serpent of the Valley

黒-"Kuro" meaning "black" and 水-"Mizu" meaning "water."
海-"Mi" meaning "sea" and 道-"Michi" meaning "path."

Age:
    35


Totem:
    Snake


Appearance:
    Mimichi has always possessed a sort of youthful androgeny. She is too sharp in the joints to be considered strictly feminine, and too rounded elsewise to be called a man. Her face–unadorned–gives no hint either way. Long hair would have once given her away, but wild foxtails and messy buns are not uncommon among fighting men, nor are they with her.

    She stands at average height for her age, with the kind of lean muscle expected of a woman training since youth. Though she lacks bulk, one could almost tell from her posture alone--straight, with a shell of former pride to it--that she'd spent her life in service to a lord.

    Her attire could be described as “formally practical” or perhaps “ceremonially dutiful.” Toughened yet flowing cloth laid under cured guards about her limbs, never clunky or restrictive but never quite casual either.

Personality
    Once, Mimichi was a brash, hot-headed girl fueled by a competitive nature and an eagerness to serve the ruling family of her home. Later, through a dutiful friendship and eventual marriage to the heir, these fires were tempered by the virtues of combat and second-hand politics.

    Patience, key to the philosophies of the Serpents and the court alike, is engrained into her. Though no longer given to meditation, Mimichi boasts a level of self-control one might expect of a monk. As such, her approach to most things on and off the battlefield is steady and tactical.

    However, beneath Mimichi’s subdued nature is an eroded sense of duty, an understanding reached during the treacherous collapse of the Lorro Valley: loyalty–true loyalty–is without bounds. Sometimes, for the sake of what and who you love, heinous sacrifices must be made and retribution must be forgotten.

Strengths

    Serpent of the Lorro Valley:
    Hailing from a long line of retainers loyal to the daimyo of the Lorro Valley, known as the Serpents of Lorro, Mimichi is a viciously weathered and experienced warrior. Her weapon of choice, the naginata, has long been among the Serpents’ icons, and as such she wields it like an extension of herself. The Serpents utilized an outwardly simple combative style, utilizing the naginata's reach to keep enemies at bay and retaliate with swift pokes or cuts, but they have always molded to a single combat philosophy: Patience. As such, she is a keen observer, able to weave nimbly around opponents, studying their movements until faced with the opportunity to go on the offensive.

    Venomous:
    Aside the naginata, the Serpents’ namesake also derives from their affinity for poisons, and habit for coating their weapons with them. The Lorro, being a lush and plentiful valley, lent its resources to the study of toxicology, which became a founding block of the Serpents’ teachings. Mimichi is able to concoct a variety of elixirs–few of which bear any properties beneficial to long-term health–as well as trace poison through things like smell, taste, and symptoms.

    Motherly Disposition:
    Though separated from her daughter for over a year since they fled the ruined valley, Mimichi raised the girl almost entirely on her own. She understands children, but she also understands what it means to teach, how to nurture, and how to convey meaningful things in simple ways.

    Politically Minded:
    She saw little of her husband in the last years of their marriage, but her years as his body guard taught her many things extending beyond combat. She accompanied him to court, met many nobles, and learned how to navigate the political landscape as she would any other battlefield. Later, when her daughter was poised to become Lady of the valley, she was prepared for the brutal cruelty that would befall her. Now branded a traitor to the empire, Mimichi cannot–and truly never did–consider herself a politician, but she’s taken measures to ensure she would not be so easily ensnared in the many traps the field holds.

Weaknesses

    Wanted Woman:
    Mimichi finds herself entangled in the conspiracy surrounding the fall of the Lorro Valley. Blamed for the murder of her husband, the former daimyo Hiroyuki Kitamura, as well as the kidnapping of her daughter, Yuna, there was a brief time following the siege’s conclusion that Mimichi could hardly step into a town without being assailed by imperial soldiers and headhunters. Though the pressure to bring her in has since slackened, and though the young heiress herself–now living with her uncle–attests that her mother in fact saved her from the siege, the warrant and price on Mimichi remains.

    Honorless:
    The carnage of the siege and the shame brought by Mimichi’s conviction utterly ruined the Serpents of Lorro Valley. The guilt of the bloody swathe she carved in her escape with Yuna combined, weighed heavy enough to break many of her virtues. None would trust a woman condemned of such crimes, and perhaps that is rightly so. The codes of honor, the vows to protect those in need, and the loyalty to her allies, these things have all gone from her. She acts in her own interests, and even in the company of others, one can never be sure if her plans and suggestions truly consider everyone’s wellbeing.

    Nostalgic:
    Mimichi is haunted by the loss of her old life. Often she will see her husband still in the edges of her waking vision, or hear him call out to her in the peaking bustle of a busy street. The greatest ache, though, is that for her daughter, Yuna. The heiress resides with Mimichi’s brother, and a daimyo more powerful than Hiroyuki had ever been, she is still gone under the protection of the Empire. There is little, if nothing, Mimichi would not do to see her daughter again, she is her crux. As well, while she may not consider herself as loyal to the emperor any longer, she always keeps an ear to the ground for news of Yuna’s new home, and any threats that may be encroaching upon it.

    Venomless:
    A wide understanding and skill in toxicology is wonderful when surrounded by a variety of plant life. However, it is currently difficult for Mimichi to obtain the ingredients needed for the more potent poisons of the Serpents. Being a wanted criminal makes navigating more renowned markets difficult, and the smaller farms rarely carry the herbs she requires. As a result, her current collection consists mostly of petty toxins, unfit to adorn her weapon, if prime for meager tasks.
Will also have my CS up today.



Name: Hura Mizukuro
Age: 25
Appearance: Hura is something of a blank canvas. She is too sharp in the joints to be considered strictly feminine, and too rounded elsewise to be called a man. Her face–unadorned–gives no hint either way. A tendency to grow her hair long would have once given her away, but wild foxtails and messy buns are not uncommon among fighting men. In court she was easy to clean, and outside of official business, she was easier to dirty.

As a youth her attire would waver between the dolled kimonos of ceremony, and the dark, toughened cloth of the wet-worker. She has since shirked the former forms of dress, as she has neither a court nor title to call her own.

Hura’s androgynous nature has grown with her, and as such, she is a tough individual to pin down or point out. Some would call this trait “forgettable,” others, “advantageous.” Hura often defaults to: “easily maintained.”

History:



Droppin' hella interest in this
V e r a

• Convention Center, Smith's Rest •



It was still cold, Vera wasn’t sure what she’d expected. She wasn’t so flustered as to try and dunk her head into the fluff again, but a nervous boiling had begun to bubble up back in the bar, and she was thankful for the little twists and drifts of icy air that wormed their way between the fabrics of her coat. Of course, as soon as they led to shivers, their presence would no longer be as welcomed. So, to stave that off for as long as possible, she stuffed her hands into her pockets and trotted off at a leisurely pace.

Soon enough that too was interrupted.

“Stop. I’d like a word with you.”

Vera jumped and swiveled around, surprised to see how quickly a woman she hadn’t so much as heard had snuck up on her. She didn’t look particularly official–then again few people besides her mother did–and she didn’t have a badge or anything of the like, but there was something else. Something in the woman’s face, her expression, how everything seemed to be off to her like she was coping with a bout of vertigo, it made Vera afraid, deeply. They were hard eyes staring back at her. Disciplined eyes. Eyes of authority.

“Oh gosh, are you in with the convention?” she stumbled over every word. It couldn’t be that their first day back in town they’d already gotten into trouble, it just couldn’t be. “Is it the noise? You guys probably heard us from the canteen. I’m so sorry, I think–really just one of my friends, a pilot, I think he’s just had a little too much to drink, you know? We’re not trying to make a racket, I promise.”

“This isn’t about them.”

“Oh," Vera said, relieved though now just as much confused. “Well uh, what's up? Everything alright?"

Before Vera had a chance to react she found her shoulder grabbed by the cold hands of her pursuer. She saw it coming, Graham’s training had conditioned her just the same but between the surgeries and being disoriented it caught her off guard. It didn’t help the woman was stronger and faster, not unlike a soldier. Without much of a struggle, she was quickly backed into the adjacent wall.

“Don’t. Trust. Ingram. Kalfox.”

Vera stared at the woman like she had headlights for eyes. One hand had, on freshly-forged instinct, come up and grabbed the invading arm by the wrist, but she was small, pinned. Her other hand covered her face, expecting some kind of blow, but nothing came. Nothing but the unnaturally cold warning.

“Wh-huh? What? What do you mean?" she asked, more sputtered, actually. She tried to press herself away, feet up trying to bar the woman's legs from shoving her further, but she kept an iron grip on the sleeve.

“Ingram Kalfox is not your friend. He is not your ally. He is not a saint. Do not trust him.” She spoke again in the same militant tone. Her cold, faded green eyes invoked a sense of seriousness and rage.

Then she let go of Vera’s shoulder, as if affirming that she was not here to hurt her but something entirely different. Nonetheless Vera quaked, and for a few moments kept hanging onto the sleeve. When she realized of course, she let go, but couldn't take her eyes away. Didn't. She yielded gaze, but watched the woman's face. It was strong but weathered, and anger seeped through its cracks, almost desperate. She didn't know this woman, but she knew that look, faces like it, she'd seen it almost every day in Lizzy, sometimes even in mom.

“Okay," Vera said, nodding gently, putting her hands up, as if she even needed to surrender against someone like her. “Something's wrong, I get it, and it's stressing you out. But try and sit in my shoes, this is weird, right? I'm not saying I don't trust you I'm saying this is weird. I'm not gonna call for anyone, okay? You could explain it to me, help me and I'll help you."

“I can’t explain it, Vera. It’s probably better that I don’t. Ingram Kalfox will seek to ruin you and if you let him, he will. Everyone who has ever known him knows this. If you are alone with him, your childhood will be over. Just like Ana’s.” She paused, as if the woman realized something and didn’t like it. Before Vera could speak out with any more questions a gloved hand covered her mouth. “Don’t ignore what I am saying. Always have a gun in your pocket.”

As Vera reached for the woman’s hand for a second time she released her grip and turned as she began to hear footsteps and took off in the opposite direction. Vera wanted to shout 'wait!' or 'stop!' or anything, but when she tried, she coughed, and by then the woman was gone. Still, she scrambled after for a few feet, trying to spy her among the people walking this way and that, but it was hopeless. A few passersby shot her odd looks, but otherwise, it was all as if nothing had happened.

But that wasn't true, something had happened. A stranger had just warned her at force about Stein's dad, and Ana, and she found herself reeling. What had happened to Ana? Was she in trouble? Stein had never mentioned much about her dad, but everyone seemed to get on well enough with him. Everyone except Percy, anyway.

“Oh god," she said, spooking herself. What if Ana was in trouble? She didn't have the clear head or the time to try and work out how, or why, but if there was even "if", then she was wasting time. Wildly, she oriented herself back towards the canteen, and sprinted off to find Percy.
V e r a

• Convention Center, Smith's Rest •



“Oh no,” Vera mumbled, as she watched Percy’s drunken show from the counter. She wasn’t alone, his antics garnered attention from most of the handful of patrons there were, including–most attentively, it seemed–the pumpkin-haired girl beside her. Ryn watched with unbroken fascination, wearing the sort of smile Vera had come to associate with cartoonish villains.

Madison came along at last, and showed herself to be a rather surprising voice of reason. Not that Percy was in much of a state to be reached by reason, as he stumbled along, guided by the smaller pilot. They were speaking, but she could really make out much, and what she could came more from Percy’s own drunkenly-escalated voice. She thought, ‘Poor Madi. She’s had a rough enough day.’

Eventually Percy broke away again. “Uh oh,” the barkeep grumbled. He sighed, and started collecting empty glasses from the counter. “I warned him.”

“Sorry about this,” Vera offered.

“No need to be sorry until he breaks or throws up on something.”

She tried to laugh, but it came out more awkward and nervous than sincere, so she returned to the sight. Percy had veered off-course, if he’d even had one, and landed squarely if painfully at the table with Alan and, 'Oh, there’s Lizzy.'

In any other circumstance, Vera would have rejoiced to see her sister surrounded by her fellow pilots. However, given how strung-up everyone was, and how well Lizzy had taken Percy’s last outburst in the facility, she worried. Though she still could only understand–and even then hardly–Percy, she watched her sister’s response closely. Lizzy looked him up and down like she’d check a document for spelling errors, listened quietly, then nodded and mouthed a few words back, probably just returning the greeting. No flash of anger, no anxiety in her eyes or nervous fidgeting, her sister was calm and collected.

Ryn was giggling, quietly, held-back, but they were beside each other and it was hard to mistake. At first she, guiltily, felt a bit indignant; was this really the time for laughing, while their friend was making a scene? Vera glanced back to Percy and the others, and wondered if she was perhaps taking things a little seriously. Maybe Ryn had the right idea, maybe it was funny, but something told her the other girl was finding humor in it for all the wrong reasons. After all, it wasn’t exactly a secret that she and Percy didn’t get along.

“Oof, kinda hard to watch,” Vera said, and it was–for her. She liked Percy, she wanted him to be okay. No one seemed to like him much, and she hoped someday he’d prove them all wrong. But it certainly didn’t seem like it was going to be today.

Hopping off of the stool, she zipped up her coat. “Think I’m gonna go for another walk, try and kill some time before they let Graham go. Been feelin’ kinda homesick anyway.”

It wasn’t exactly a lie, she was feeling homesick and she did want to kill time. She just also didn’t want to do so watching Percy make a fool of himself, and worse, see people tear at him for it, however well-deserved it might be. So, adjusting her ushanka, she made for the door–careful to give Percy and her sister’s table a wide berth–and prepared for the cold.
M i m i


“This time, play like you think you have a chance.”

N A M E

    Mimi Morn

A G E

    18

E T H N I C B A C K G R O U N D

    Srivaki

P E R S O N A

    Beguiling
    Resourceful
    Clever
    Skeptical
    Nimble
    Adaptable

D E S C R I P T I O N

    Mimi is not a girl of note unless she goes out of her way to be so. Standing at around average for her age, wiry but not unhealthy, even her blue eyes are dark and dull. The most noticeable thing about her would be the stark color of her hair, and even that she often keeps topped with her favorite hat. But when she's performing, when the carnival goes live, she can catch eyes with ease. Often donning an intricately designed black robe beneath a shoulder-shawl, candy-stripped pants, and frilled cuffs, her image is meant to evoke an enticing, mystical wariness. Of course, no witch-regalia would be complete without a hat, and Mimi's happens to function just perfectly for her seemingly double-life. At rest, the brim casts just over her face, and the top is flat, but with a simple tug of a string, hidden, flexible fabrics widen the brim significantly, and a stylishly-crooked tip shoots from the cap. Lastly, but as ever-present as the cap--on-duty or off--are the twin, serpentine gauntlets around which her entire wardrobe was designed.

C A P A B I L I T I E S

    Mild Magician: Mimi isn’t an ace with her Psionic abilities, but she’s certainly no pushover. Though the carnival’s low-lying habits lead her to more minimal uses of her craft, her days as a psionic novice are behind her. While she may still have a long road of learning ahead, she has yet and does not intend to falter along it.

    Carny Magician: The carnival is Mimi’s life, and as such, certain aspects of its nature have become engrained into her own. She is a top-notch deceiver, a showman, and could just about sell milk to a cow. As well, given the general caution and occasional violence carnies are met with, she’s grown good at reading a room, a town, and the people in them, almost like a sixth sense for when things are about to go south.

    Rascal: While she isn’t much to look at, being wiry and nimble has its advantages. Namely, she’s good at climbing attractions, trees, and a building here and there if a lookout is necessary. As well, though the Showmaster has long-since discouraged this sort of behavior, quick fingers never failed to snatch a few extra shinies on slower days.

B A L A N C E

    Battle Unready: While Mimi is no stranger to conflict, even brutal conflict, there is a definite distinction between angry townies and war. Magic aside, Mimi might be able to snake around a wily customer, but pit against a proper beast or a soldier makes her lunch.

    Frenemy: While growing up a carny lent Mimi an array of technical skills, what it also did was instill in her something of a toxic mental nature. While she might be unfit for war, “us vs them” is not a new concept for her. In fact, not only does it seem next to impossible for her to trust anyone outside of her troupe, but such people should be wary of her. While often outwardly sweet and friendly, survival is always at the forefront, people that aren’t the family are marks, and marks are dime-a-dozen. Making people like her, making them feel special, it’s part of the job, and so is fucking those people over.

    Dependency: Sure, within the carnival grounds Mimi might seem like some kind of otherworldly, omniscient being, but who doesn’t feel strong on their home-turf, surrounded by the home-team? Unfortunately without the carnival and carnies, she’s utterly lost. A life as an employee means she needs an employer, co-workers, customers. Mimi as she is, does not and cannot exist alone.


H I S T O R Y
    Mimi was, as far as she is aware, born in the Witching Hour Carnival. No one ever claimed her there, and by the time she was old enough to wonder about it, most of the folks who’d been around when she was born had moved on or died. Didn’t bother her much, she only ever asked the once.

    Young, she started helping around the carnival, performing the small, menial tasks other carnies were either too busy or unwilling to do. It helped her get acquainted with the environment, and the environments of the towns they visited. She was small enough to lookout, but also small enough to weasel out of most conflicts before things went south.

    In her adolescence was when she hit her stride. Showmaster Balion took note of her aptitude for the skill joints and mystical boutiques, and after rotating her through the lot a while, took her aside one day and introduced her to something truly magical. Magic.

    He never told her how he learned, and she’d even asked. “Not important,” he’d say, and they’d go back to work. Balion wasn’t a great teacher, he wasn’t even a good teacher, but he was quick to admit that. Sure, when it came to the carnival Mimi had learned fine, just as well as she’d learned to walk, but she’d also learned to do most of it herself. Balion could garner a crowd with unprecedented skill, he could buy a man’s soul off him and sell it back double the price, but when it came to instructing her in magic? It was almost as if he were a student as well.

    Their lessons were hectic, often learning steps out of order, which would set them back weeks, sometimes more, but Mimi never lost heart. When they failed, she’d come back with twice the effort, when they succeeded, she did so exceptionally. Eventually Balion had her using small tricks at her booths, both for practice and the wow-factor for the audience. They continued their lessons, but eventually Balion grew complacent, or he tired of magic, and she did not learn nearly as often as she repeated what she already knew. Years went on like this, and Mimi grew frustrated, a roiling ambition taking hold within her. As a novelty witch she could bring in small profits, yes, but as a powerful psion, a witch proper, their carnival could reach new heights never before seen in the age. Their family would be legend.

    It was not to be.


O R I G I N S

    The Witching Hour carnival is no stranger to Dun. They’ve been through before in plenty of rounds, as the boggy, rural folk tend to be more hospitable to their show, if not simply easier enthralled.

Placeholding Top Post/List


Eli Jackspar
LOCALE // Smith's Rest, New Anchorage
TIME // Afternoon




Eli waited outside the convention center by a back door, colder in the formal fatigues than she would have been in her usual attire. Her neck, so accustomed to a scarf’s protection, almost stung with chill, and she could feel every minute turn of the wind pass through her scalp and down her spine. Were she a woman of less composure she might have huddled by the wall, but no, her instructions were otherwise. She was told to wait, and she would.

Eventually her mother emerged from the doorway, as equally unfit for the weather as she, but just as unshaken by it.

“Elizabeth,” she greeted, and glanced around. “I see your sister is as good at following directions as ever.”

Eli frowned, she hadn’t known Vera was supposed to join her. “She’s probably gone to the canteen with the others. I can get her if you–”

“Hm? Oh, no no, it isn’t a big deal, you’re heading there anyway.”

“Not back in with you?”

Her mother cocked a brow, and Eli turned her head down. It was not time for questions.

“I would go myself, but I’m due back inside. Besides, I’ve less of a place in there than you.”

“You do?” Eli asked, despite herself. Mother was the Elect, she had more place anywhere in New Anchorage than anyone. Eli however could count on one hand the number of times she’d set foot in a bar.

But mother nodded, sure, and so Eli became sure as well. “You should pay closer attention to your peers, Elizabeth. Tell me, how do you think that little show went? Be honest.”

As if she could be anything but, Eli answered just so. “Poorly.”

Mother nodded again. “Quite poorly. To be frank, it couldn’t have gone any other way. It wasn’t long ago you were fighting yourselves in that little facility of Graham’s, one can only wonder how much longer it will be until the next catastrophe.”

“You’re worried about the other pilots.”

“So are you, you said as much back there–very well done, by the way. There were only so many questions they could ask, but I was worried how you’d adapt. You didn’t disappoint.”

There were few things Eli had done in her life to elicit such praise from her mother. It was either a thing she did not know what to do with, or an event to which she had no reaction. Nonetheless, her stomach lightened, and for a moment the air didn’t feel so cold.

“As strong as New Anchorage is growing, and as fortunate as we are to be standing through the hardships it’s endured, our NC program is nothing shy of a time bomb, and no one–not even Graham–can see the clock.” For the first time, mother seemed to notice the cold. She cleared her throat. “No one had fun on that stage, but it was well past time to introduce a little accountability. If that means the pilots don’t like me, so be it–they don’t have to. I think I’ve gotten as far as I can with them for now, anyway. You’re my eyes and ears in there, Elizabeth, you and Vera both. They all probably suspect as much, so you’ll have your work cut out for you convincing them otherwise.”

“I understand.”

There was a knock on the door, mother knocked back, but had not quite finished. She put a hand on Eli’s shoulder, and for a moment Eli felt every last thread in her body pull tight in terror. “It’s easy to feel powerful when you’ve got big weapons in your pocket, but never forget who really controls New Anchorage.”

“The people,” Eli answered, this time sure on her own.

“Yes,” mother said coldly. “The people.”

With that Eli was left alone, and she wondered, briefly, when she would see her mother again. Soon enough though the wind kicked up, and she shuddered like a glacier ready to collapse before shuffling off.

--

Smith’s Rest – Convention Center, Canteen


When she stepped inside, Eli was very quickly warm again. The little hovel was sparsely populated, her comrades took up a good chunk of space, and the rest seemed not to care much, either for lack of interest or lack of senses.

Speaking of, it was impossible to miss the small collection of pilots at the counter as she made her way there. In part for her due to Vera’s presence there, but also, mainly, because she could hear Percy from the door. Not that she could really make out what he was saying. Like there was a third eye in the back of her head, Vera turned around, spotted her, and they exchanged a smile and wave. They’d talk later, when things were more calm. In the meantime, she veered away from them, and hailed the barkeep at the far end of the counter.

“Well hello, miss Jackspar, come to take it easy with the rest of your team?”

“Seems like the right idea,” she said, with a glance over at the others.

The barkeep hesitantly nodded. “Maybe not quite as easy as some of them, yeah? So what’ll you have?”

“Water.”

He snorted. “Water? After that? Got water in big fluffy piles right outside if that’s all you want.”

“It’s cold outside. How much?”

“Shit, not gonna charge you running the tap for a few seconds,” he said, and filled a glass just so before handing it over. “At least I don’t have to cut you off.”

As he went off to go about his business, Eli surveyed the bar around her. Vera, Harrison Kane, Ryn and Percy seemed otherwise engaged, and even if she wanted to involve herself in that mess she had a feeling she would not be much welcomed. One prospect did seem promising though, a lone pilot off in the corner, drinking to himself–she hoped not to the extent Percy had.

It was Fouren, she realized, a pilot she’d engaged with little since his arrival. His interview hadn’t been the worst of the bunch, but all the same she was confident his was not a celebratory drink. The waster was an interesting addition, if not a caution-inducing one. She had no doubts he felt alien in New Anchorage, and rightly so, no large part of the crowd seemed satisfied with his answers, herself included. New Anchorage had trusted outsiders with more promise before, and been hurt for it. It was hard for her to look at him and not see the threat he could pose to her home. Hard, but she’d try.

As she approached his table, her mother’s words stuck with her. It would be a challenge gaining the trust of many of her comrades, a many-faced challenge full of obstacles she had no experience with. It would be hard. She would try.

“Alan,” she said as she rounded up to the opposite side of the table. Every lesson about people that her mother had taught her, and especially those that Vera had taught her, rose to the forefront of her mind. She needed to be personable, she needed to be approachable, understanding, amicable. She wondered if her mother knew these words beyond mere definition.

Taking a seat, she put her drink on the table and tried her best to get a read on his face. How welcome was she here? Was he willing to talk? Was he drunk? Perhaps he’d look at her and see only her mother, perhaps that’s what everyone saw. Simply the challenge, she told herself.

“Is this spot taken?” she asked, a formality she knew didn’t mean much considering she was already seated. So she opted to move the potential conversation forward. “How are you doing? After the questions, I mean.”
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