Monday, 15 April 2013


"I can't believe that you're happy with this," Gunnery Chief Philip Eslingen leant back in his chair, frowning.
Sitting across from him, Engineer Yvonne Carteret mirrored his expression. "I'm not," she said. "But she's always been good to us, for an egger. Remember back when she started - she was always checking in on us, making sure our quarters were up to standard, that we were happy. Not many capsuleers do that."
"She doesn't any more. Hasn't for a while now." Eslingen's voice was flat.
"I know. It's been stressful. But the pay is still good." Carteret sounded like she wasn’t able to convince even herself.
"You can't actually want to be out here, this far from home, working for these people? The way they look at us, speak to us. And what the Cartel does. Drugs, slaves. It's everything we think is wrong."
"So you think we should abandon her? Betray her, even?"
Eslingen sighed. "I think that I can't stay out here for very long. And she's clearly... well, something's happened. She's not the same Laria that we used to fly for."
"Maybe we can persuade her to go back. To leave the Cartel and go back? One way or another, maybe we can make her do it."

Laria stared disbelievingly at the screen for a long moment after the man she knew only as "The Commander" terminated the recording, and sat down across the table from her. She tore her eyes from the fading image of her crew and looked around, her vision blurring. The Station Manager, looking uncomfortable in his own office, shifted in his seat. "We thought you would want to see it," he said, a finger tugging at his uniform collar.

Laria took a breath. "I..." she said, trailing off, lacking any reason for speaking other than it being her turn in the conversation.
"They're close to open mutiny." The Commander's voice was granite.
"They don't mean it," Laria said. "They can't mean it." More of a wail than she wanted.
"We cannot allow them to move beyond talk. You must see that." The Commander said. Laria nodded mutely. "We have plenty of qualified crew to replace them."
"But they're my crew. Eslingen has been with me since I first got my licence. Carteret from my first cruiser. I trust them." She stopped. "I trusted them." Her voice sounded hollow, even to her.
"It's your decision."
Laria looked around the room, searching for some way out. The metal of the bare room seemed unyielding, unhelpful. Cold. No space to maneuver. Nowhere to run. She sighed, and nodded. "They go back. To the Federation. With my strongest commendation on their records, and a generous payoff."
"As you wish," the Commander said. He let a few heartbeats pass. "You're making the correct decision. The loyal decision."
Laria shook her head, and stood, wobbling slightly, nausea sweeping through her. "You'll see to it?"
"We will," the Commander confirmed. "And may I say how well you're settling in, Pilot Raven. It is an honour for us to count you as an ally."
She tried to smile, but couldn't find a way to make the muscles of her face move, so settled for a curt nod and headed for the door, trotting back to her quarters as fast as she could.

After the door slid closed behind her, the Station Manager looked at the Commander curiously. "Should I arrange their transport to the Federation?"
"No," The Commander said. "To the processing facility in Jorund. They have valuable skills that we cannot afford to let go. After a few months in the accelerated program, they should be ready for reassignment." There was not a trace of emotion on his face or in his voice. "Except for that Gunnery Officer. Kill him in front of them." He paused. "But remember to take the payment from her account."

Some hours later, Laria had stopped crying, and washed her face. She called up the holo images and records of her replacement crew. An array of stern, humourless, faces looked back at her. Hard-bitten and experienced, they were the classic image of a pirate crew. Laria took a deep breath, mentally pushing the past further away from her. She was an Angel now, and it was fitting that she have an Angel crew.

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