Status

Recent Statuses

3 mos ago
Current Rough day today, will get back to posting schedule tomorrow.
3 mos ago
Things will be a LOT calmer after Hallowen tomorrow!
3 mos ago
Just picked up my fusisble glass pieces from my last class at the Arts Center and I'm absurdly proud!
3 likes
3 mos ago
Power has allegedly been restored to my house. Returning home tomorrow!
3 mos ago
I have no power at my house and will be out of town for a memorial this weekend. Thanks in advance for your patience!

Bio

About Me:
I'm in my mid-30s, happily married with two young children. I've been role-playing since I was 14 years old, starting with AOL chatrooms and instant messenger (the dark days), before graduating to IRC, Gaia, RPNation, and then this website. When not roleplaying I am a GM of a raiding guild on Stormrage server, play on a couple breedable websites, listen to Kpop, consume small amounts of more adult-oriented anime, manga, TV shows (sci fi, fantasy, drama, Korean), and binge on romance.

I'd love to get to know other RP folks, especially if you're my age!

What I like/want in RPs:
Romance (necessity, I respect not everyone likes it)
At least 2 paragraphs per post
Sci Fi, (High, Low, Urban) Fantasy, Futuristic, Supernatural, some modern or psuedo-historical
Someone who plays male characters
Plots that allow me not to have to write realistic melee action (but I love to read it!)
Characters 18+
Players 18+
Intrigue/mystery in a story
Cooperative world building

What I don't like:
Players under 18
Children or teenage characters
Western or prehistoric settings
Plots with only action
Almost all furry/anthro pairings
G-rated romance

Message me if you think we'd be good RP partners for each other! Please note I do require romance, though I certainly do NOT want that to be the summation of the story. I also adore romances that have conflict and disagreement just like actual real relationships have. Some mundanes/players believe that all love stories develop "organically" in the story- but my real life experience has taught me you can have no chemistry with someone that would be great for you, all the chemistry in the world for someone you never thought you'd like, and romance is not 'organic' and predictable in practice. As a mundane/player we make the decision for romance because, quite frankly, we aren't the characters no matter how alive they might feel. They don't truly exist physically to have chemistry. If you feel differently we will not be a good fit for each other.

Additionally, I require players separate themselves from this characters. This should go without saying, but just because we write a romance together does not mean there are real feelings beneath. I am truly happily married. Please, please, please don't expect any fiction to translate into real life.

Most Recent Posts

Like any noblewoman, Solae was quite adept at concealing her emotions from the most discerning eyes. Rene was still able to recognize the tell-tale creases at the edge of her mouth and a darkening of her gaze that reflected frustration. Whether this was because he was an aristocrat that had been trained at an early age to read the hidden emotions of his peers or because his fiancee was simply not putting forth much effort to disguise her feelings it was impossible to tell. What was clear, however, was that Damaris was blissfully oblivious that there was anything amiss in her temporary maternal figure. Without any prompting she skipped ahead to lead them towards her home located on the northern side of the large island. Any trauma the youth might have suffered from the sea had been forgotten in the glee of growing closer to her parents and the safety of their presence.

When Rene had presented the plan of sailing the repaired barge to San Roayo his marquise paramour had expressed concern. While it was true they had been successful in escaping and eluding the duke's rebellion thus far, for longer many might dream them capable, it had not been without struggle and injury. Solae had had survived the assault on the embassy but had to watch her closest friend and colleagues die in front of her eyes. She had stumbled upon Rene, the one person on the entire planet that might understand and help her, but she had lost her parents and her home. They had found refuge in Lord Armor's mansion but discovered an atrocious bounty put on her head, had to perform an emergency surgical procedure, and fled with little with the estate was ransacked. The assistance of the Parks had been invaluable, and the Syshin had seen past their apprehension to trust and help, but Solae had very nearly been kidnapped by slavers. The attack on the smuggler's plantation had netted them healing for Rene, a ship on which to integrate Mia, and supplies, but they had both been seriously wounded and the heiress to the Falia fortune had nearly died. Now that the Bonaventure was stranded on the caldera with little fuel she did not have confidence in their luck.

"We might be on Panopontus longer than is safe," she whispered. Without method or materials with which to make the barge salvageable they had only the inflatable raft on which to depend. Returning to their vessel sans Damaris would be less weight on the raft but she had serious doubts it was sturdy enough to endure the ocean's waves. The thick rubbery material it was constructed out of was durable but chosen with the expectation it would only be utilized for emergencies. No one in manufacturing had anticipated two imperial citizens fleeing from a coup and trying to use it as a prolonged method of transport. Given the option Solae would take the risk. As terrible as it would be to found by their enemies it was still preferable to drowning.

"I know we had to bring Damaris home," the diplomat sighed, "but I can't help but feel this might be our undoing." Before the adolescent had jumped out from behind brush and swung a plank at Rene's head going to San Roayo was not a moral obligation. They had the freedom to either seize the opportunity, and the dangers accompanying it, or to decline and see how long they could stretch out their food rations. With how well Solae had packed it would have been weeks at minimum before they would need to worry. True, the Empress would have remained ignorant of the violence in the sector, and they could be labeled deserters, but few would have truly blamed them sincerely.

They had landed on one of the western shores. City proper was to their right as they trudged north, their clothing soaked and the ground below them soft and muddy, with beach to their left. Large chunks of coral, vegetation ripped from the ground, and pieces of debris from nearby structures littered the sand. Jagged rock jutted out intermittently and proved the coastline was a mixture of approachable and hostile to ships. They had been fortunate to find a section that didn't rip their boat in half.

Buildings on Panopontus were vastly different than those on New Concordia. There were far more residences farther inland, but the ones they passed all had been raised above the ground on supports of concrete, metal alloy, or a dark grey synthetic composite. The tallest in their line of vision was four stories tall; most were only three including the functional bottom floor with the support beams. Not every home had survived the monstrous storm. Smaller houses without multiple layers of reinforcement had been flattened into piles of rubble. A rough visual approximation was that a third of what had been upright a week ago was still remaining. If Solae remembered correctly the hurricane had breached the island from the southeast before passing over, perhaps devastating smaller islands before San Roayo, and that was why so many were spared in this location. If she was a betting woman she would have wagered that most of the disaster relief services were focused on the corner that taken the brunt of the assault.

"Damaris, please watch where you step!" Solae called ahead. The girl turned around and giggled, nodding her head enthusiastically, before she started to prance again. The more that the diplomat looked around the more she realized that there were only a handful of trees in sight. Older giants had been toppled, most onto barren roadways and walking paths, but a few into yards, and at least laid precariously on a roof. Smaller trees had been so thoroughly obliterated there was only a fresh stump, splinters, and branches as any evidence they had existed at all. She wasn't certain if she should be more impressed at the savagery of Mother Nature or the efficacy of architecture that this much of an San Roayo was still standing.

"Her mother and father are going to take one look at me and know I'm not a commoner," she thought aloud. "Do you want to tell them about what is going on? And don't tell me it's my decision alone. Even if I'm easier to spot as a noble you have equal say in what we do or do not divulge. They could be grateful and sympathetic, or they might try to play this to their advantage. I think the former is more likely but... I didn't believe the duke was capable of this level of bloodshed last week and today we're refugees. I don't want to rely on my judgment alone."
As the barge cut through the waves breaking onto the shore of the caldera, the engine fervently pushing them towards the greater ocean, Solae was infinitely grateful for one of her many genetic modifications made in generations past. Neither she nor Rene were prone to motion sickness. When the aristocracy was sailing the stars many, many years ago they quickly discovered the inconvenience that was any of nobility falling ill due to motion sickness. Most spaceships were more like their aircraft predecessors than their sea relatives, but there was a certain amount of turbulence, especially with interstellar jumps, that could make anyone predisposed empty their stomach and have profound vertigo. Scientists had been tasked with eliminating this weakness that marred their image. It was a minor enough alteration that it had not been subject to the same sort of controversy that surrounded gender selection, aesthetic meddling, and fitness enhancements. The marquise could only surmise that Damaris's tolerance (or immunity) was due to the necessity of her environment. Everyone on Panopontus needed to traverse by boat; only the wealthy could afford better and this planet was not populated by the upper class. Once could rightly assume that the affluent quickly left this world for one of more luxuries as soon as they were able.

"Not the best chanty for right now," Solae murmured in Rene's ear. She was not trying to be critical but she recognized that the reference to 'peril' might unnerve their young passenger. Fortunately Damaris was not paying attention to either one of them. The girl's lips were pressed together tightly as she clutched her seat until her knuckles turned white. Their adolescent friend's eyes were fixated on the horizon in a vacant stare that spoke to either being consumed in fear or actively disassociating from the horror.

Tempted as Solae was to fish out the medical kit for a sedative, just so that her companion would not have to relive her trauma, she knew that would hurt more than help. Sleeping through the journey would grant Damaris an escape from facing her fears, but doing so would almost certainly exacerbate the issue later. Confronting the ocean now could help keep it from festering and anchoring itself so deeply in her psyche there was irreparable damage. One could only imagine how paralyzing it would to dwell on a planet that was classified as "largely aquatic" and be terrified of the coastline. The linguist reasoned there was a great deal of difference, however, between ignoring Damaris completely and enabling through an offer to travel unconscious. What was needed was comforting and reassurance.

"Do you like to read, Damaris?" she asked, tapping gently on the girl's fingers so as not to startle her.

"Read?" Damaris repeated with surprise. Solae had used this tactic on her before and for good reason; an unanticipated change of topic to one seemingly unconnected to the present tended to grab attention. It made a person unconsciously start trying to deduce what had caused the change of subject. Regardless of whether or not such a discovery could be made the brain naturally tried to forge the connections on its own.

"I know how to speak and read a lot of languages," the noblewoman confessed. "When I was in school my teachers were fond of making us read a story in one language, then try to read or translate it into a language we were learning. Do you know what happened? It helped me learn more quickly but it also meant there were a few stories that I had spent so much time reading, and trying re-write in another language, that I remember them very well." Of course Rene knew there was more to it than what she was divulging. Members of the Empress's court and their families typically had incredible memories from the scientific intervention that guaranteed their beauty. Solae's memorization was equal parts repetition and an ability she had been born with. "What if I told you a story while Rene gets us home?"

"What kind of story?" Damaris inquired with a touch of hesitation.

There was a bit of negotiation to be had on which precise tale would be recited. For someone so young Damaris was surprisingly discerning on what she did and did not want, which created a challenge for Solae's limited mental library, but they settled on a relatively modern fable that was penned approximately two centuries ago. Coincidentally the moral that was the theme was tolerance of cultural differences and the importance of cooperation to thrive. There were no Syshin characters or allusions, for bringing in a subjugated race would not have allowed it any amount of success, but they could have been interchanged with the human foreigners.

It took the entirety of the fable, a hearty discussion on metaphors, and a second shorter story that was ancient and centered around a poisonous maiden before San Roayo was close enough that the engine had to be throttled to keep them from crashing into the rocky outcroppings. Damaris had drifted over next to Solae during the ride and they had huddled together for warmth. The air had chilled as the day drew on, the sun dipping below the horizon, and the sky darkened. The dip in temperature had proved to be their biggest discomfort. As if tired from the record-breaking waves created by the typhoon, there were relatively small tides between the land masses, and Rene encountered little difficulty in steering towards their target. All of these factors had bolstered Damaris's confidence significantly. Instead of shrinking back she leaned forward and squinted at the lights and shadows emerging from the craggy rock and grassy hills that dominated the island she called home.

"I think we need to go north- to the left," she told them with the assumption their first destination was her house. Solae glanced to Rene for confirmation he wanted to drop off Damaris before proceeding further. It was her belief this was the best course of action but she didn't want to be a dictator giving out orders. They were equals in their adventure and endeavors. He had just as much weight in their decisions as she did... even if she suspected sometimes he didn't find himself deserving or wanting of such.
As Solae started to try to take a few more steps closer to where the barge was bobbing in the water, floating but tethered in place, she realized that Damaris was firmly anchored in the sand by fear. The pressure of the young girl's grip was not sufficient to bruise but was painfully tight. Though it might be easier to simply drag their young charge to their makeshift vessel to save time, and wait until they were sailing to reassure her, it would also be cruel. Inwardly the diplomat sighed.

Truthfully she couldn't blame the adolescent for her apprehension. Not only had she been traumatized when she was ripped from her home town, violently carried by the water to the island, and deposited on an abandoned caldera half-alive, despite Rene's best efforts their transport was not inspiring confidence. She had no doubt it would survive their journey to San Roayo and that her paramour had done the best he could with the resources available. What she recognized, however, was that for someone as terrified as Damaris nothing short of a huge ship that appeared unsinkable would assuage her. This was no luxury yacht where the owners and occupants could hide below deck and try to avoid the ocean. It was not a military carrier that was so massive one could explore the levels for days without confronting the sight of the sea. All three of them would be exposed to the elements no matter how short the trip and they could not trick themselves into believing they were still on land.

"Damaris," Solae started as she knelt down. "Do you know why I have hair this color?" she asked gently with a soft smile. Her question was so unexpected that the youth blinked several times, distracted momentarily by the query, and almost forgot the dark mass of water that was so close by.

"Your hair?" Damaris replied with her eyebrows knitted in confusion. For a second the girl glanced to Rene who just shrugged affably rather than offer a clue as to either the answer or Solae's aim in asking something so bizarre.

"My parents, and some of my parents' parents, and my parents' parent's parents, used science to make changes to babies before they were born," she explained. It was a gross oversimplification but it was easy to appreciate that details weren't needed to make the point she was about to make. Trying to delve into the technology that was used in genetic modification would be tedious, lengthy, and challenging even for adults. "One of those changes was to make my hair this color. That's why some princesses look a little different. What about our knight, Sir Rene? What do you think they changed about him?"

Damaris was so absorbed in this new line of thought that she turned and stared at Rene for a moment, oblivious to the ocean she had planted herself to avoid proximity to. Solae gave her a few seconds to scrutinize Rene, who seemed somewhat uneasy under the intense stare, before she gave her fiance a subtle wink. "They made him tall?" Damaris suggested. Common men and women were not necessarily short, but nobility had generations ago began assuring their male progeny were typically taller than their counterparts. The average aristocrat towered above their lesser peers given the gap in nutrition and selective DNA editing, though some planets had more comparable heights among their populace.

"Well, I think they did," she whispered as she leaned in, "but they also made him strong. I know it's hard to trust someone you don't know, but because Sir Rene is so strong I know that if anything happens to me on our way to San Roayo he will be able to rescue me better than anyone else. And I know he'll be able to rescue you better than anyone else too. We wouldn't be taking you home like this unless it was the only way. We have to believe in Sir Rene, though, even if it's difficult." Solae paused a minute to let her words sink in and then stood, tugging on the little hand clasped in hers. "You ready to try to get on? If we go now we'll have a chance to sit there for a moment before we have to leave."

Damaris eyed the barge warily as she struggled mentally with pushing past her fears. Sensing her trepidation, but also the smallest hint of courage blossoming beneath the surface, the marquise turned to her soldier and made a motion. "Do you think you could carry her the last few steps?" she asked quietly. The pair might not be the best of friends given their rocky start, but she couldn't imagine that it would hurt to have some physical assistance, especially since she knew from experience that this sort of situation could make someone who was scared feel like their legs were jelly.
Leanja sighed once it became clear what ailed his psyche. His chant was odd, one she was not familiar with and did not fully understand, but his explanation of his troubles were sadly much less foreign. This errant knight truly did wish to be a beacon of virtue but had fallen into a quagmire of ethics and morality. No one but perhaps the insane was truly free of self-doubt as to whether they were right or wrong, good or evil, respectable or corrupt. More than once her mother had warned her that things were almost always in shade of grey. Some day in the future she would have to navigate those waters as the leader of a kingdom; it was one of the things she looked forward to the least as an err in judgment could be catastrophic.

"When a baby is born they are innocent. No one would ever suggest you ought to kill a baby, would they? That baby could one day grow up and be a wonderful person, someone who does great things for the world, or they could become a heinous villain. We don't know when they are a baby, do we? All we know is that when they are an infant, at that time, they are innocent. You did all anyone can do, sir knight," she proclaimed with empathy as her hand remained gently laying on his armor. She had noticed the translucent shimmer at the edge of his eyes and sensed something almost arcane in his person but it did not make her determination waver. Leanja recognized herself as the last person who ought to judge another for inexplicable magical abilities.

"Everyone has a choice. That baby will chose its path when it gets older. We can all try to help, but no one can predict, or force, someone onto the path we want for them. I know I wasn't there but... you gave those people a gift. You shielded them and, while they should be thankful and follow your example, it's not for you to control what they do with their lives. Where they have failed you perhaps others will not. Has every soul you saved turned to darkness?"

Withdrawing her hand she reached into a pocket and pulled out a small rag that was covered in soot. The princess used this strip of cloth to clean her hands and face on the occasion she got dirty exploring the wilds and could not afford to cast a spell for cleanliness. Gingerly she leaned forward and tried to scrub away some of the dried blood that clung to the plate. Leanja could not erase the past but she could try to reinvigorate faith into a downtrodden man. Surely being covered in the spilled bodily fluid of the slain was not beneficial to his mental well-being.

"Maybe this is a test. It's easy to thwart evils that are unknown to us, isn't it? It's much harder when you have to strike down someone you know would hurt others. For what it is worth, sir knight, I don't think what you've done is a heinous crime at all. When you were needed you were there, and when people turned to villainy you had the courage to confront them. Not everyone could do that. I would think many knights would falter in their devotion and be able to strike that blow no matter how righteous."
It might have been wiser for Solae to take a nap herself but she elected not to do so; Rene had made significant contributions towards getting them to San Roayo and she felt obligated to match his efforts. She obviously lacked the raw strength he possessed and thus had been of little help in making the barge sea worthy. What she was able to offer was an apparent natural knack for technology that had not been explored during her upbringing as a future marquise and leader of the Stellar Empire. The diplomat was by no means an expert even with the tutelage of Mia. Time and practice were absolutely necessary for her to reach the skill level that mere apprentices had in the field. The artificial intelligence she was reliant upon for her learning was also not designed for the purpose of imparting a specialized education on its users. Even with the advent of synthetic beings, human (or humanoid) individuals were used for instructors, as it had proven an impossible task to make any program mimic the discipline and intuition that were used by the best to motivate and understand their pupils.

Both the woman and child were seated at the small table in the galley that seemed to get very little use. Damaris had a tall glass of water that was half-gone, a simple beverage intended to make certain she stayed hydrated, while Solae had an almost empty cup of coffee. She had spiked her brew with a few splashes of cheap liquor that she had discovered buried deep in the pantry where one smuggler must have been hiding it from their criminal colleagues. The linguist wouldn't jeopardize herself or anyone else by getting inebriated, so the dosage had been low enough it would not even produce a buzz, but it gave a little more bite that helped keep her awake, alert, and focused in conjunction with the caffeine.

"Did you have a good nap?" Solae asked as Rene entered.

Hanging off the back of her chair was a small waterproof tote that in its past life had been used for the transportation of small sums of currency and illicit drugs during inclement weather. Tucked inside was a clunky, outdated tablet roughly the size of a brick and half as wide. What it lacked in pleasing aesthetics it made up for in the multiple protective coatings and barriers that meant anything short of an apocalyptic typhoon would not destroy it. Twenty or thirty years ago it would have been standard issue for colonizers and scientists evaluating the results of terraforming on an unstable world. Solae didn't know what the tablet had been used for before, although she ventured a guess it was something unsavory, and had it reset to factory conditions. The only data that had been uploaded after it was wiped clean were maps of San Roayo. All of the rest of the storage was free purposefully for the noblewoman to fill to capacity with what she could download from the communication center's archives.

In addition to the sturdy tablet she had packed a compact emergency medical kit, a small set of utility tools in case she had to brute force her way into a control system, and the funds that had been left behind by the prior crew of the Bonaventure. Packing any more felt as if it might be too burdensome. Solae recognized a need to travel as lightly as possible while being prepared; they did not want to appear more suspicious than they already were and they ought to weigh down their sea vessel as little as possible if they hoped to navigate it successfully.

Damaris let out a giggle at the reference to the nap as Rene stepped in. Knowing he had taken a nap had made him significantly less frightening to the adolescent as she saw it as something small children did rather than adults. Her parents were not of sufficient social standing to take breaks in the middle of the day, like many working aristocrats who took full advantage of their status, and so she legitimately did not know anyone above the age of a toddler had such liberties or inclinations. Considering it as was advantageous for Damaris to be more friendly and trusting towards the soldier, Solae was not inclined to point out the gap in her perception.

"Did you want to have something to eat before we go? We have quite the variety of instant, high in carbohydrates, low in nutritional value meals to choose from. I'll even let you take a swig from my bottle," she teased with a wink. Damaris only devolved into more girlish giggling that reminded Solae of when she used to be so easily amused by adult things. At the time her parents had found her adolescent amusements grating because a lack of composure could reflect poorly upon them.
"Excellent, then you can report back to take a two hour nap," Solae replied smoothly. Damaris immediately burst into a fit of giggles in response to the maternal remark so casually issued to a full-grown man undeniably larger (and perhaps older) than his female counterpart. Despite the amusement it caused the young girl, and the sweet delivery by the diplomat, her tone was insistent. She had seen the exhaustion in Rene's movements and countenance and now had a fresh worry on her mind. They would not fare well on the open waters, much less with their mission on the land, if their navigator and protector looked like death warmed over. He would be responsible for finding and perhaps hauling fuel back to the caldera. None of their goals would be more easily achieved with him sleep=deprived.

"Will he really come back and take a nap?" Damaris inquired. Now that she had filled her belly with protein bars and an instant vegetable soup she had become emboldened. Physical recovery had strengthened her courage to ask questions, to show glimpses of her personality, to not be so timid and paranoid about her host and hostess regardless of their origin.

"Maybe, maybe not," Solae shrugged, "He's my partner before he's my knight in shining armor, so even when I tell him what to do I need to respect his right to refuse," she said, trying to utilize this bit of time as a teaching moment. Damaris had not yet puberty yet but she would in a few years. Their encounter with another might be fleeting but she wanted to impart on the girl a model of a relationship with healthy boundaries. The aristocrat wasn't honestly certain what courtship and marriage was like in the troubled teenage years of the general populace, but it was a horrific mess for nobility. Surging hormones, parents who treated each other like business partners, and the backstabbing that happened all too often among the elite did not make those awkward years of transitioning from a child to an adult any easier.

"Mia, can you please pull up a map of San Roayo?" the slender blonde requested.

"Yes, but there is not a proper display in the kitchen. Would you prefer for me to use the screen in the hold or the cockpit?" the artificial intelligence replied. Her tone was still even, placid, and polite, as if the inappropriately sultry vixen had never existed. Solae was now certain she found it unnerving to hear Mia speak without the purr. The comical and exasperatingly amorous manner in which she spoke when a minor wasn't present had become comforting in its own way. Now that it had disappeared she was nearly unrecognizable to her biggest supporter.

"Let's use the hold. Would you mind coming with me, Damaris? If we're going to take you home with the high tide I will need you to show me where you live so we don't arrive on the other side of the island. The storm will have caused a lot of damage so we'll want to travel as far as we can by water. Roads will be washed out for at least another day or two while they clear debris off of them," she explained as she led the way to the hold. By the time they had changed rooms Mia had already projected a very simple topographical map of San Roayo onto a large screen attached to an abandoned storage rack. Solae would never tell her innocent charge that this same screen undoubtedly was used to monitor the vitals of slaves chemically induced to a comatose state. She and Rene may have committed grand larceny by taking The Bonaventure, and continued arguably criminal acts to elude capture and defend themselves, but they were still putting the space vessel to more moral use than it had likely seen before.

The girl looked at the map for several long moments. It wasn't that she didn't know where she lived but rather she wasn't familiar with looking at the geography from above. Solae was beginning to contemplate how she might be able to assist, either by conducting a long range scan and building a more basic 3-D image, or by trying to hijack a satellite in orbit around the planet. Damaris cocked her head to the side and pointed to a small ridge on the outskirts of the city where homes were clustered tightly together near the shore. "There, I live there I think," she said.

"Would you like me to create a chart, Lady Solae? You may want to upload it to a device and take it with you on your journey," Mia suggested. She sounded like an eerily pleasant automated system or perhaps a recording of a receptionist that was given a script of appropriate words and phrases. The linguist bit the inside of her cheek lightly to keep herself from commenting. Shifting her focus back towards their upcoming mission she nodded.

"Yes, thank you Mia. It would be in our best interest to take something that we can upload data to since we won't be able to easily contact you. Can you do an inventory search and let me know what would require the least modifications, have the largest storage, be moderately resilient to moisture, and have a sufficiently long battery?"

"Of course, Lady Solae," Mia replied instantly before falling silent to carry out her task as well as afford her human counterparts a chance to converse. Rene and Solae had gotten used to having the company of a sentient machine but Damaris had not; she found the concept novel, fascinating even, but it was hard to trust a disembodied voice guided by foreign algorithms and with no facial expressions to interpret.

"Is there something else you need from my home?" the girl asked with a slight quiver in her voice.

"No, we're just taking you to your home, I promise. Since we'll be in town, though, I thought I'd try to find some information on how Sir Rene's family is doing. He had to work very far away from them and they haven't keep in contact. We want to see if they are safe, if they moved, if they are doing well before we see them. It's very hard to be apart from your family, isn't it?" she asked rhetorically with a soft pat on the head. Her heart ached all that much more for her recently deceased parents. Perhaps a week had passed since they were brutally murdered and instead of mourning them like a dutiful daughter she was trying to forget them while she kept her mind occupied and hands busy. Reuniting another group of relatives was all she could think could possibly be penance for such a transgression.
"We are going to do our best," Solae promised smoothly with a tone that was softer and free of the frustration she had expressed while conversing with Rene. Detangling herself from her fiance she strode over to their young guest with a gentle smile on her features. Despite how congenial and kind the marquise had been, Damaris was still nervous and suspicious, and had backed away a couple steps anxiously. The young girl continued to watch her pensively as the diplomat knelt down in the space where she had stood a few moments earlier.

"Before we try to find your papa I want to make sure you're feeling better. I don't think your papa will like us very much if you are sick and hungry when we take you home, will he?" Solae asked somewhat rhetorically. In truth she wasn't as worried about the parental figure as she was about making certain that Damaris had the strength necessary to endure the boat trip on the barge to San Roayo. Right now the conditions were relatively favorable to travel but she dared not make the assumption that the weather would continue to be mild. She needed to prepare for the very real possibility that they could meet with a wide variety of difficulties while transporting their charge across the sea. The more they were able to rejuvenate the girl the better. "Do you feel better after getting some rest?"

Damaris glanced over at Rene before looking back to Solae. She was both old enough and smart enough to realize that no one would have tucked her into bed if they didn't sincerely care about her well-being. They had not earned her complete trust but she also wasn't making the worst assumption about the needle and tube dangling out of her arm. "Yes, thank you," she said after some hesitation. The youth was still rather convinced the flaxen-haired figure in front of her was a princess in disguise so she wanted to mind her manners. It was the soldier that was the more intimidating person that made her wary. Watching the couple together, however, she was starting to believe that the man was actually a knight guard of some sort for the delicate royal lady.

"Wonderful! Are you hungry?" Solae asked as she reached out with one hand. Damaris was slightly reluctant but her growling stomach was testament that the IV hadn't been a complete replacement for food. Using one hand to keep the sheets wrapped around her she used the other to accept Solae's proffered hand. The noblewoman stood and and started to lead her towards the galley where Rene remained waiting. Whether it was because he was dozing while sitting, because he was afraid to move and startle Damaris, or because he was also half-starved she couldn't be certain.

"What kind of shelter is this?" Damaris asked inquisitively as she glanced around. Hours ago when they had brought the girl onto the ship she had been too drowsy on their approach to notice it was a galactic vessel. By the time they had actually reached The Bonaventure Rene had to carry her as she succumbed to the siren song of slumber. It was not surprising that now she was seeing the interior that she was realizing this was no simple beach house. The way that Solae had referred to it had made it seem smaller and more modest than it was. The freighter was not as large as any space yacht but it was significantly larger than the smallest cruisers used for transportation of a mid-income family.

"It's a spaceship," Solae replied honestly. "We're trying to get back to our own home. Well, I suppose we're trying to go somewhere to make a new home. You see, that man over there is a little scary because he's so tall, strong, and handsome, but I love him very much, so we're looking for a place where we can get married and have a big house," she elaborated with a wink to Damaris. Her new smaller friend's eyes got wide and after a couple seconds she giggled as she looked over to Rene. Like most girls her age she found the concept of romantic love both silly and enchanting. To hear the absurd way that Solae described it just made it all that more humorous.

"There is one more introduction I need to make. We have an Artificial Intelligence system- a computer that talks to us- named Mia. If you hear her talk she is just here to assist us. Mia, would you mind saying hello to Miss Damaris?" she requested.

There was a faint hum before a nearby speaker before they heard Mia's dulcet tones. "Hello, Miss Damaris. It is a pleasure to meet you," the sentient machine greeted but without a seductive undertone. Solae and Rene had both prepared themselves for the purr and breathless anticipation that was firmly integrated into Mia's programmed persona. Evidently even Lord Armon realized that he couldn't have a sultry vixen whispering to his visitors with underage children in attendance. Mia was wholly inappropriate, normal even, and Solae was stunned at what a profound difference was. The linguist had gotten so used to the comically sexy voice that she didn't know how to adapt to this newfound formality.

"You should get changed," Solae suggested to Rene as they joined him. While she wouldn't have objected if he wandered around nude on the regular she felt a touch uncomfortable having him soaked to the bone and shirtless in the presence of an adolescent girl. "Can you look for something we can use for a jacket for Damaris while you're getting dressed? At some point we'll need our sheets back," she said with a bemused grin. Because they had put Damaris on their bed, as none others were cleaned in preparation for guests, it was their linens that were being used as a makeshift cover. Solae was generous but not enough to let go of her one few domestic luxuries.
The faintest smile tugged at her lips for Leanja found victory in hearing the strength growing in his voice as he asserted he was healthy, ready to fight, and ready to serve. Perhaps he was still ensnared by the past but this was a precious first step out of the internal quagmire he had willingly submerged himself into. Tali was still pacing at a distance, keeping the princess in her line of vision, and was less convinced that stopping for the errant knight would have any victories. The handmaiden didn't lack compassion but she had a more healthy amount of caution about whom they consorted with and how leisurely. While the heir to the throne might be swelling in pride over her minute gain that did not mean this was worthy of their attention, safe, or not about to turn on its head and devolve rapidly.

"I don't proclaim to be a lady, but my mother is one, albeit certainly not your lady. She once told me we should never presume to know any lady's heart except our own should we happen to be one," she cautioned gently but sternly. It would have been comical if their only audience wasn't an increasingly worried servant of the royal lineage. The youth was so confident, so composed, and so casual she was almost chastising the brutish figure that had scared away so many other travelers on the road.

"Sir knight, no one but your lady can judge you for whatever you have done if what you say is true, but you should not let whatever sins you bear keep you from your duty. If you have marred her name and your own, what good will it do to sit here and possibly tarnish it more? If I had a knight I would want him to prove his diligence, his loyalty, his faith by trying to redeem himself. Only then would my heart rest easy," she stated resolutely. "If our soldiers their battle and then refused to fight again in the war many innocent lives would be lost."

After a moment's pause she reached forward and put her hand on the massive gauntlet. Out of the corner of his eye her eyes she could see Tali nearly have an aneurysm at the gesture. "There are many people who still need knights. If you are able I am certain your lady would want you to defend the weak. No leader of any country can be a force of good for everyone at all times. Until your lady releases you from your service, I truly believe you are needed."
"I already don't like this plan," Solae said disapprovingly as Rene appeared on the ramp of the Bonaventure. Her gaze slid over to the injured shoulder that had been washed clean by the rain but was still clearly wounded from his adventure in getting their barge afloat. Pressing her lips into a flat line she took a sip from her second cup of coffee before continuing. "This was not supposed to be the dangerous part and yet here you are already injured," she objected flatly once she had swallowed down the bitter caffeinated beverage.

Both law and professional protocol required that any technology that incorporated artificial intelligence not include program personalities that were capable of actual emotional response. Sophisticated software might mimic their affect in certain situations, such as mirroring empathy when specific parameters were met and the correct dictation in their code was triggered, but they were not independently capable of evolving into true feeling. Mia and her kind were, however, capable of what could be interpreted as loyalty. Home systems would have an administrative user that was prioritized above all other humans that interacted with them. As Rene might correctly surmise, Solae had inadvertently become the administrative user and thus the paramour soldier was secondary in the chain. The inappropriately seductive synthetic being would not jump to his defense so long as it was the diplomat chastising him.

"I needed a break," she said with a gesture towards the repurposed engine. From the tools splayed around it on the floor it was clear that not all the necessary adjustments had been completed. Solae had made another cup of coffee because she had gotten more frustrated than she ought to over the task. Unlike her beau she was not as adept at compartmentalizing and adjusting to such large deviations from her expertise. She had spent her entire life being railroaded into careers rubber-stamped by the nobility as appropriate for her station. While she had had not been bothered by mingling with her societal lessers in the least, and embraced it whole-heartedly, it would take more time for more monumental transitions. Rene had the unanticipated benefit of being thrust into the military and spending years realigning himself, embracing new roles, and developing new skills. By contrast the linguist was still in her first week.

"We encountered some errors while increasing the throttle to compensate for a water transport vehicle rather than a spacecraft," Mia purred in such dulcet tones he could see Solae almost bristle. Rationally she knew the computer was not competition but sometimes it was hard not be slightly irked at the openly seductive voice speaking to her fiance. "I am running simulations to try to determine if our margins were too generous. I estimate the calculations will be complete before our guest awakens."

"I'm self-medicating with coffee in my best attempt to pretend I'm not bothered," Solae explained. Glad as she was that Rene was successful in his endeavor she felt as if her nerves were frayed. Once the engine worked properly they still would need to navigate over foreign waters, with a child to whom they were scary strangers, trust that their charge wouldn't turn them into authorities, obtain fuel, and sneak into one of the communications buildings to dig for information. On New Concordia all of their missions were simpler and with a single goal; now they were pursuing many, all at once, and flying relatively blind given how little familiarity they had with the planet on which they had landed. Some anxiety was only natural. Were the aristocrat to be completely placid that would have been cause for concern in and of itself.

"You should get yourself patched up or I can do it for you if you need me to. While we're waiting- do we need to find containers for the fuel? We haven't really discussed at length how we're going to do it. I have currency but if we're going to headed there tonight, before sunrise, won't we look suspicious making a purchase?" Not that Solae really wanted to add another larceny to her criminal history. Hopefully they could obtain some secretly and leave behind physical payment, but she realized this might be an impossibility. Solae was too weak to haul fuel, and too recognizable to try to charm her way into making a slightly strange transaction, so Rene would have to rely on his social skills if stealth wouldn't suffice.
Rhiane shrugged as he suggested no one would believe she was at death's door not too long ago. Once again she proved herself to be disturbingly unconcerned about her own mortality. A casual observer might erroneously conclude she didn't recognize the danger she had been in, that she was willfully ignorant to the price she'd ultimately pay for being a commoner spouse in the royal family, that a healthy young lady at herself couldn't possibly be ready to die. Luke's experiences with the former farmer had likely made him view her casual attitude toward it differently. He may now rightly presume that somewhere along the way his fiancee's mind had been warped and that she was truly unconcerned with how long she would ultimately live. She was by no means suicidal, nor was she unwilling to fight for her survival, but her jokes and gestures belied an acceptance that was unhealthy at best.

"Just doing my job," she remarked nonchalantly. "To be resilient and recover as quickly as possible is one of my requirements, isn't it? Maybe I can convince everyone that I am at my peak performance when certain food items are involved," Rhiane suggested cheekily before taking a second bite of the tiramisu and sinking into her medical mattress with bliss. It was incredibly unlikely that sweets would become an accepted tonic for any ailment of the princess elect. No matter how well supported it was that morale had a direct influence on one's recuperation the crown would not always be this indulgent. The cunning businesswoman suspected she'd not be able to exploit this tactic much unless her life was in peril again or she was pregnant. At those times the stakes were higher and thus the rules less stringent.

"I'm not exclusive to sugar," she remarked as she surveyed another item to sample. Luke's advice had not gone unheeded. Rhiane was a stubborn woman but she knew she had her limits and it was literally impossible to consume everything that had been ordered and delivered in such generous portion sizes. "I like spicy food too although all I've really had of it are peppers and a few simple recipes using them. Our farm never grew peppers really well," she lamented though she was so ecstatic about her dinner it was distinguishable only by the slightest dip in her voice. "One of our trade partners used to give mom samples of his peppers and I would eat them raw before anyone told me you're supposed to take out the seeds," she recalled with a little laugh at her childhood naivete.

With that she dipped her spoon into a delicate mousse as she watched her betrothed access a control panel for the television on the opposite wall. She was envious of the familiarity with which he navigated technology. Rhiane had proven to herself and the kingdom she was an intelligent woman but that did not mean she memorized and/or understood everything instantly. Social situations and accounting figures had always come more easily to her than other endeavors in her education. Hopefully she wouldn't need Tobias or Luke guiding her how to select a channel or play a movie after a few more times watching them queue up their selection.

"You do know not every woman likes the same thing I hope," she said with a roll of the eyes but her tone was still as bouyant as ever. He might credit her continued good mood on the rich silky taste of the chocolate mousse she was taking the tiniest little bites of between her sentences. "I really like the action and adventure genre," she thought aloud, "and suspense. Earlier today we watched a good drama. I guess I really like every genre," Rhiane concluded, "so I will take any and all recommendations you have since you're the expert. I especially want to watch the ones that help me understand all your references."

With that she settled herself into the covers and turned her attention back towards the screen as she dabbled into a bread pudding that was more often baked in other kingdoms. Its soft texture had helped make it survive to be on her medically approved menu; it also had a relatively mild taste and was a favorite of one of the sous chefs that hailed from another country north of New Rome. Unfortunately she was not allowed to have it at the hot temperature it was usually served at for fear that might aggravate internal abrasions. Even lukewarm she enjoyed the cinnamon and raisins that were dispersed throughout to give it a flavor that reminded her of home during the winter season. "You really seem to love film. What do you like best about it? I'm sorry, didn't mean to sound like a newscaster doing an interview," she laughed, "I was just curious about its appeal to you personally."
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