Thursday, 11 April 2013

Pod Entry

(( So, I was inspired by a post on Backstage to envision Laria getting into her pod. Here's the result.))

Laria always showers before entering the pod, if there's time. It's become more than a habit, verging on a ritual. Hairband looped over her left wrist, her hands gather her hair into a high ponytail, baring the port at the base of her skull. Then boots, trousers, overshirt, t-shirt. Always that order, folding neatly into the canister that will be carried with her pod. Underwear last, laid on the top of the pile like a benediction.

She turns her back on her clothes, on her quarters, and steps through the shower, eyes closed, letting the spray take away the dirt of the station, the invisible grime of being a human being. A second step, through the dryer, and then out onto the balcony that opens out onto the docking bay. She doesn't look. Her gaze fixes onto the pod, as if breaking her focus and acknowledging her surroundings would invalidate the cleansing. At the entrance to the pod, two technicians wait. When had she stopped recognising them as people? Stopped being bothered by being naked in front of them? It must have been around the time that she had fully accepted that she was a capsuleer, and that set her apart.

She reaches the entrance and turns around, pausing for a heartbeat before taking a step backwards, a step of faith in a way, letting herself fall into the seat. The technicians crouch over her, impersonally connecting pipes, offering the mask to her face. There's a moment of amusement as she opens her mouth to allow the tubing a path to enter her. There's a jolt, a shock through her body that spasms her muscles momentarily as the connections mate to the ports implanted along her spine. Her vision goes black, the feel of the cool air on her skin disappears. A small green dot pulses in the corner of her vision. Perhaps some capsuleers have other visions piped to them in this waiting period, but Laria likes the darkness, likes the feeling of disconnection. With her senses rerouted to the pod, she doesn't feel the movement as it lifts away from the balcony, doesn't feel the fluid filling the space around her, doesn't notice her body being suspended as the seat falls away. The pod's systems tell her mind that her body is breathing, fake the sensation of an occasional swallow. Laria changes the options from time to time, fiddling to find the right level. Sufficient stimulus that her reptile brain doesn't panic, not quite enough to hide the truth from her conscious mind.

There's a few seconds where she worries. Worries that something has gone wrong. Deaf, blind, mute and paralysed, she is vulnerable. But she has found that the vulnerability magnifies what comes next.

There's no warning. No gradual arrival of light into the tunnel of darkness. Sensation, stimulus, and input hit her in an ecstatic instant. The ship is alive. She is the ship. Her senses are the ships sensors, her vision that of the external cameras, of the drone cameras, a thousand feeds to process. For a moment, she lets it wash over her, feeling the ship's armaments, systems, defenses waking from slumber like a lazy morning with a familiar lover. Then she's working, narrowing down her focus to a few key views, the most important metrics and indicators. At the same time, she opens a channel to the station traffic control. Does she actually speak? She has wondered. Maybe there are never any soundwaves to carry her words. Maybe they only exist electronically, a simulcra of speech. Maybe she thinks about this too much, sometimes. "Kinakka control, this is Hurricane-class Battlecruiser "A Little Girl Lost", pilot Laria Raven, requesting permission to undock, outbound to Onnamon."

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