LOCALE // Smith's Rest, New Anchorage
TIME // Afternoon
LOCALE // Smith's Rest, New Anchorage
TIME // Afternoon
Once Joshua had made his way from the microphone, Celina resumed her position center-stage, only this time she hesitated before requesting the next pilot come up.
Vera figured out what was happening, she’d guessed there would be some sort of pre-statement before she and Lizzy got a chance to go up. It made enough sense, they were awfully big elephants even in the convention center. Despite how generally well-liked her mother was, rumors of favoritism and the like had to exist somewhere.
“Before we continue, I’d like to make something perfectly clear,” Celina began, posture straight as a tombstone. She regarded the crowd with the utmost seriousness, though her tone carried an air of levity to it. “I love my daughters–both of them–very much, and like any parent, I’m concerned for their safety, and their choice of profession does nothing for those worries. But they’ve also both made a decision I must respect, one I’ve made myself, and that is to put New Anchorage before everything else, even themselves. You are of course welcome to question them in any manner, on any topic you wish, and as will be the case in their professional careers, I will not interfere.”
Then she stepped away, and motioned to the table. A flitter raced up past Vera’s stomach, stopping briefly at her heart along the way. She felt like she was in Lofgren’s office once again, waiting to be stuck and tested for an answer she didn’t know she wanted an answer to. She wanted to take Lizzy’s hand, but knew it would be out of line. Besides, what did she really have to be afraid of? If Percy could do it, if Ryn could do it, if all the new people could do it, couldn’t she?
Lizzy stood up, a blank-faced beacon. It wasn’t quite the confidence Vera was hoping for, but she felt at least more compelled to follow, so she did. She shuffled out from behind the table, then strode with sureness she had to mirror off of her sister’s shadow up to the microphone, which was much too tall for her. But that was okay, because Lizzy seemed to be ready to go first, which was even more okay, great in fact. She stood straight, and moved to adjust her ushanka, only to remember her mother had told her not to wear it, and suavely brush the hair from her face instead. The room felt suddenly draftier.
“My name is Eli Jackspar, I pilot the Blur.”
A hand came up, the first question. “Have you and your sister been treated any differently since your mother’s election?”
“Vera and I have received no special treatments as a result of my mother’s office, nor should we. Commander Graham has set the same goals and standards for all of us. Even if she were inclined to try, all that would do is hinder our ability to protect this place.”
Vera was glad Lizzy had gotten the question. She was right, nothing had been easier for them, but in the back of her mind she couldn’t help but feel like there was something different. Did they get different looks when they turned their backs? Did the others trust them? She didn’t know, but it was hard not to wonder, if anything, that they weren’t under an extra layer of scrutiny.
Another hand quickly followed. “Speaking of, since your sister doesn’t have an NC, and since you’re the youngest of our own pilots, would you consider yourself the least-experienced?”
Lizzy’s lips twitched, but she remained composed, much to Vera’s relief. Mother had told them both to expect questions like these, doubt, it made sense, but it didn’t help with her nerves. Her sister at least had missions under her belt.
“By definition, yes. But, I learn quickly, and in practice I feel I’m more than suited for my work. The same I think can be said about all of my fellow pilots. Whatever trials we may face, I’m confident that incompetency will not be among them.”
“What do you think will?”
Once again Lizzy hesitated, and Vera could tell very clearly what she wanted to say. But her sister, with a near-imperceptible glance to their mother, seemed to reel herself in. She cleared her throat.
“I think what’s most important going forward, is that we keep the best interests of New Anchorage, its progress, and most importantly the safety of its people, at the heart of all of our decisions, at every level. I would willingly lay down my life for New Anchorage, as should be expected of all who take the responsibility of its protection into their hands.”
That seemed to satisfy, maybe even more. Vera saw nods of approval, a few emboldened looks shared between listeners. She might have felt proud of Lizzy, if it didn’t become immediately clear that her round of questions was over. Instead the flitter returned with renewed vigor, and on its way back up past her heart it split and detoured through her arms, making her hands shake as Lizzy unfastened the microphone and handed it over.
She stared down into the innumerable tiny holes, trying to steady herself, when she felt Lizzy’s hand on her shoulder. She looked up, and found her sister’s eyes, cold yet comforting if only for how familiar they were. In a quiet whisper of warmth and encouragement, she said simply: “You can do this, Vi.”
Vera smiled, she believed her. She’d been through attacks, tests, the surgery, training, she could do this. This was nothing.
“Thanks,” she said back, quietly. Or at least, she meant to. The microphone in her hand, so close to her mouth, decided instead that her meek reply would blare through the speakers, loud and crackling and sudden enough to startle her into dropping it to the ground in another rumble.
“Ohmigod!” she squeaked, and fumbled the microphone back up. ”Sorry! I’m sorry, sorry–wow. Hi, I'm Vera Voloshyna, or Vera Jackspar I guess too, more, uh, more...yeah.”
She saw mixes of confusion and exasperation in the crowd, and struggled to swallow back her nerves. The first hand came up.
“You’re how old?”
“Uhm. I’m uh, I’m thirteen. Almost fo–I mean, fourteen next month.”
More discontent worked its way through the people, though they seemed to be looking between her and the table of pilots. Eventually another question popped up. “I’m still not sure how I feel about using kids as pilots, but in Miss Drahdt’s case, she has experience. Don’t you think you’re a little young to be starting fresh? Wouldn’t it be better to wait a few years?”
And another. “Aren’t you afraid of getting hurt? Or worse? What if you’re not good at it?”
“I mean, sure I–I guess. But everyone starts–”
“What if a couple years go by and you decide this isn’t what you want to do? You’ve got your whole life ahead of you, why choose to do something so risky, so suddenly?”
Vera was so focused on the crowd that she nearly missed Lizzy move to take the microphone from her. She jerked away.
“No it’s okay, I can, uh, I can answer this. I got it,” she said, and Lizzy stepped away. Vera observed the crowd again, but stopped trying to read them. She just needed to speak.
“So…my parents weren’t from here. My mother, I mean my mother now told me that when they came here they expected to be chased off. But they weren’t, they, you all, you let them in and you let them make their own little place by the south gate. Then when they left, I grew up in a place that didn’t think twice about accepting me into the community. I mean sure, we weren’t the most social family, but we were around.”
Vera wondered absently if what she was doing was lying, if not telling these people what that little old library was like, was the same thing. She wouldn’t know what to say or how to say it anyway, but if she did, could she?
“I thought for a long time that’s just how the world was. I thought everywhere was as nice and accepting as Smith’s Rest and, uhm, I learned later that wasn’t true. Like, at all. There are places out there that are a lot bigger and a lot smaller than us, and they treat people horrible. They take kids like me, and they really hurt them. They don’t get a choice about what they do when they’re older, if they get to be older. But I get that choice, and I know that makes me really lucky. I want to be a pilot because–”
Because what would you be otherwise?
–“I want to make sure places like this, nice places, get to stay that way.”
With that there was a long silence. Vera held the mic stiff, watching the crowd glance and whisper amongst themselves until, to her relief, it became apparent the questions were done.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, and handed the mic back to Lizzy, who fastened it back to the stand. On their way back to the table, and only when she was absolutely sure she wasn’t going to be projected, Vera let out a heavy sigh, and they took their seats.
Celina approached the microphone, and clearing her throat, took the attentions of the room once more.
“I’d like to thank Commander Michael Graham and the pilots for their time, and their sincerity in answering your questions. We’re going to take a brief break, then continue on with the day as planned. Thank you.”