Don't mind me I'm just sort of shipping Damin and Leeriah... Don't do anything that feels like too much work. You can just post his PoV entries in this thread, appropriately marked. Don't have to start up a whole new one. And, as always, I enjoyed reading.
I have no comment on the Damin/Leeriah front
I'm glad you're liking it
My subscription ran out but I've been writing like crazy and the ideas are coming but then I'm having problem phrasing them and argh! Anyway, here's a few posts.
Set at the end of part one of Leer/Damin holo call
Her figure disappears and my fingers linger for a moment of the controls. The hardest part is yet to come...
I take a deep breath. It is not the time to think of it now. I have company.
'Master Hyllus, you can approach now.'
I turn around and lean against the holo terminal, resting my hands on the terminals edge. I smile at the Joiner as he walks out of the doorway to stand before me.
'I am sorry, agent. We did not mean to pry. We only felt strong emotions that sung so loudly to us we could not stay away.'
'It's alright, Vector,' I assure him with a smile. If I did not want any listeners I would have bought a new holo. If Intelligence wasn't listening, what would be the point in our conversations?
'Would you mind if I call you 'Vector'?'
'Not all, agent,' the Joiner replies with a small bow.
'I would request you also call me by my first name but given our occupation and the difficulty of speaking Cheunh among others, I think we will have to settle with 'agent', 'cipher' or whatever else current missions dictate.'
I keep my smile gentle and friendly. I mean it as much as I can. I don't relish in the news I will have to give Leeriah and I would rather keep my thoughts away from it. There is only one person in the galaxy who calls me 'Damin' and her memory is the only record of that name left. My own parents call me by full name or only 'son'. I think that latter is grossly ironic when it resounds from their cold lips.
'We understand, agent.' An interesting statement. What exactly does he really understand? The Joiner sees more but doesn't the hive impair his understanding of emotions and expressions?
'We did not think Cipher's kept a single mate,' the Joiner suddenly states.
'She isn't and has never been anything like that.' Indifference, agent, where did it go? You need some in your voice at the moment.
Vector returns my frown and a weak mimicry of apology colours and shifts his features. I tighten my hands on the terminal edge and attempt to control myself. It is always hardest when it concerns her.
'We are sorry, agent. We did not mean to offend or misunderstand.' The sincerity in the Joiners voice seems to come from large distance away or down the end of a dark cave: it is only a faint noise or echo of a humans emotion.
'I believe 'it's alright, Vector' is going to quickly become all I say to you.' I force a small laugh and another smile. Fooling the Joiner will prove a personal challenge I look forward to and relish in. It only seems I am off to a stumbling start and a handicap.
He gives me the smile of someone on a spice trip and I am pleased he didn't fail to misunderstand such a small joke.
'We hope not, agent. But before you are occupied with other... people, we would like to take a moment of your time to discuss our position upon your vessel.'
Maybe I have been in the coarse company of Kaliyo for too long but the Joiner's company is soothing and at present, a welcome distraction from less favourable problems and thoughts, and an idle amusement to pass my wait with.
'Please, sit, Vector. We have plenty of time. I have hopes that we will become very close.'
I usher him over to the closest lounge in the room and sit down with a crossed leg and an arm over the back. Vector takes the space I face and sits strangely stiffly, turning his torso so he can face me and keep his feet firmly on the ground. I take this frigidity to note and place it away so I will be able to remember it for future operations. I do not want to be in a cantina and have Vector speak like a man on a spice trip about auras while he sits with an inhuman rigidity.
'So do we, agent. We have finished finalising everything with the diplomatic service. We are now yours entirely.'
'Mine and the hives,' I correct with a faint smile. It doesn't come with malice or suspicion. It is merely a realistic analysis of the situation. I feel I will have as close to trust in Vector as my nature, history and occupation will allow and though I will be playing him like a conductor leads an orchestra, I will enjoy every moment with as much friendly warmth as I can allow.
'Our loyalties are not divided by two opposing forces. We are hoping for an alliance in time between the killiks and the Empire.'
My cynicism is stronger than my training for a moment. I am a Chiss-Human. My existence is not a symbol of the Empire's tolerance only my parents ambitions. I removed outward displays of xenophobia in the Academy by blackmail and when there was no real evidence to incriminate another, I would create some so flawlessly that no one could find it's fraudulence. Such a thing earned my mother's respect for a time though my father preferred brute force. I learnt early on it was impossible to appease two entirely opposite people who only share a common love of the Empire and themselves.
There is a two second pause that is two seconds too long before I can continue civilly.
'You are a very welcome asset to our small team, Vector, and I do not question your loyalty to myself or the Empire.' Not out loud, at least.
'I am sure your actions will only further prove that my confidence is not misplaced.'
The Joiner bows slightly and I appreciate his civility and formality that is very lacking when speaking to the Ratattaki.
'We thank you, agent. We ensure that our duties as Dawn Herald do not interfere with our duties as an Imperial.'
'I would appreciate it if you removed my ignorance around the duties and meaning of Dawn Herald.' I loathe ignorance and I am not a stranger or blind to the Empire's faults: when it comes to alien cultures, the Empire is an expert in wilful ignorance.
'The Dawn Herlad is a warrior and emissary for the nest - one who confronts the unknown. We retain a sense of individuality and it is also why we are useful to you. We honour the killiks gift and we are content.'
Content? What is such a feeling really? Does it just mean you are not restless or unsatisfied? Whatever it is, I have never felt it and Damin feels a squirm of jealousy the agent will not allow.
'Interesting,' the agent says through gritted teeth. There must be something in the way I say it because the Joiner tilts his head and gazes with what I think could be perplexity.
'Surely everyone carries over rituals and habits from their life before Intelligence?'
'No. Having a history makes a person vulnerable. Habits should be forgotten: connections severed.'
The answer is automatic as if it comes from a brain washed reflex. I have severed the connection to my parents but they refuse to do the same to me. It is not out of any form of parental attachment or concern. They do not want their possibly spy son to slip through their fingers and fall out of reach.
'We cannot believe that you feel this way when you keep in contact with a woman who you care so much about.'
'I do not care for her. She is an assignment like any other.'
Vector nods like bird giving a testing peck to a strange seed. 'We are sorry to make you angry, agent. We will not mention her again though we would be interested in hearing of your past.'
I sit straight and move my leg down the black silk of the sofa. 'This conversation is over, Vector.'
'As you wish, agent.'
Vector stands to leave but when he does, the rational agent returns again and I realise I cannot leave things like this. Vector is not Kaliyo or a trained operative. The probability of being betrayed by him intentionally or otherwise is slim on both fronts. But I have not made it to 'Cipher' by playing it unsafe.
'I have met an agent, though,' I begin with a grin. Vector turns back around to me and retakes his seat. 'Who still claps their hands twice after anyone sneezes because their mother always told them a sneeze is how evil spreads. You should see what they have to do when they sneeze.' I force a perfectly practiced and neat laugh that is an exact copy of a genuine laugh.
'You're habits and rituals are still strange as these things go though, Vector,' I gently tease.
'You cannot blame us for trying, agent,' Vector replies with that same spice trip smile.
'I don't, Vector,' I reassure him. I don't blame him because if I had something that made me content, I would damn my training and damn my job. I give him a rare grin and unknowingly begin the basis of a friendship that would become closer and more important than I could have ever thought it would be.
'Now,Vector, did anyone ever introduce you to the composer...'
cross post from short fanfiction thread.
Takes place at the end of their second call.
The last loud note is struck before it fades to strings and wind. The calming and hopeful flute makes me remember the hope of escape. The strings leave me feeling the fear of years past. My finger worms its way into my hair and twists my fringe around and around it, unwinds and then twists again. With each note and each instrument, the memories take on different hues. With each change in tempo so did the memory I watch.
I see her come to my cell that night. I see the Guard dead outside the door with his or her blood eagerly running through the open doorway as if it was tired of being trapped in skin and wanted escape. I remember thinking it was heading in the wrong direction.
As the flute draws longer notes, my memory shifts to her as she moves toward me. Each step seems long and her footfalls match the winds ending notes.
What was it I felt when I saw her? I can't remember. I remember her unlocking my chains and letting me go. Her cold hands held my arm too tightly as she helped me stand and left bruises that would last for weeks. I never noticed how average her height was until I was looking down into her eye. I remember my free arm raising a hand to touch her cheek in what I was thinking was a moment.
She flinches away then and lets my arm go. She takes hurried steps away and leaves the room. I ran to follow with stiff legs that ungainly limped. But there was no need. Her chest was heaving then with laboured, heavy breaths as she stood just around the corner of the door. I didn't need to see more of her than her straight, shaking back to know she was crying.
Her head shakes slightly and she calls to me. 'The Guard is changed only five times every twenty six hours. I've made a clear way from here to the elevator but we need to go to the first floor. Undress the Guard and put his clothes on. No one will question us.'
I do as she says. She never turned around and I was slow and anxious to follow her orders from anxiety about anyone coming by despite her reassurance. The left shoulder and collar was wet with blood but it didn't show. In my relative innocence or sense of prudence, the clammy touch of it on my skin made me shiver.
She turned to me once I was finished despite my lips remaining closed. She smirked at me with a perfect raised brow.
'You look just as piss weak as any new fish around here. No one will know.'
I smiled despite my disgust at my disguise and the fear of getting caught. Her smirk became a smile that's gentle and sad. I remember her white skin blending in with the seamless white walls, leaving only her tight, small black clothes to give her definition and physicality.
I clear my throat and look up and around my clean white surroundings. The door to my room had closed shut and only the small rectangle window let me know there is a room there at all.
'Aren't there camera's around here?' I ask.
I remember that look of contempt for my question and the way she turned on her heel. 'Mask down, 329.'
I move my mask down and walk behind her. My knees don't shake and my back is straight. A General's son knows how to march without fear even when pee drips unseen down his leg. She was correct: no one challenged us. I notice the salutes she receives and the stares of fear. I wonder what it would be like to look at her and feel fear.
'I have attained clearance for you,' she begins as she types her code into the hanger security door. I follow her through and feel tiny and vulnerable in the large open space. I feel I should stick to a wall and find somewhere smaller. How many months was I here? Over a year or less? I lost track despite my most sincere efforts.
'I signed your papers for service leave due to an ailing spouse this morning,' she explained with an amused smirk. Her nose twitched and it made me wonder if she could smell fear.
'I do not have a spouse.' Was your voice smooth and flirtatious or did you have no emotion? Did you make that connection at the time that she killed a man who she knew well enough to know he had a wife and feel sad at his death? When was it later that cynicism took over the memory and you saw that she had waited until it was that Guard on duty because no other would have worked?
'Don't tell them that. 329 had a wife. Aren't you 329?' I slowly nod my head. It is the first alias I had ever undertaken: the first time I stole another's identity. I watch her and stand there not knowing what to do now that freedom is twenty paces and few buttons away. How was this so easy?
'Get on it or die: either way you have to hurry.' Her voice was gruff and annoyed. I now wonder if she still uses anger and apathy to hide her true feelings. I find no condolence in knowing that I may have been the first to see through her.
'General is expecting me in half an hour.' She looks over her shoulder to the door. Do I now imagine the flinch around her eye?
'You don't have to go to him.' Did my voice sound so level and reasonable then or have I changed the plea to what would make it easier to live with?
'And the sun doesn't have to rise.' I never new in those months that she could be so wistful, but I knew she could be that bitter. 'Get out of my sight. I hate the colour blue.' She turns her back on me and I know if she isn't crying now, she soon will be. If I leave, I will never be able to take her tears away again.
I lift my mask up and take a small step to her. 'Leeriah.'
She stiffens and looks up to the hanger ceiling. From here, the night sky can be seen though it is tinted pink by the force field.
The music I only dimly hear reaches its crescendo. The voice of my memory has taken me away and I am there in the place I think of most, with a timidity so un-Imperial stopping me from taking another step forward toward her. What did she look like in that moment? What was her expression? I wish she had turned around.
And then the question comes.
'I want you to leave with me, Leeriah. Will you?'
I draw in my breath and wait for her response. But it never comes. A different woman and a different voice speak from a different time.
'What's with the music, agent?'
I don't bother to look at her as she leans in my doorway. I keep my eyes on the ceiling where the memories I had been watching no longer dance slowly across the metal in time to the music that now sounds only loud and vulgar.
'It helps facilitate my thoughts,' I reply after a lengthily silence.
Kaliyo walks across my room to the screen displaying the song. The impertinence annoys me as much as it did the first time she did seven months ago. Commenting on it will only increase the behaviour from a daily behaviour to an hourly behaviour.
She laughs at me and reads the song title aloud as a belittling question. 'The Force of Destiny?'
'Quite,' I passively reply.
'Are you still mooning over her?'
'Specifics would be helpful in my deduction of who 'her' is, Kaliyo.'
'You know who. I wouldn't say that tracking someone is exactly 'destiny' at work, Damin.'
'The conclusions you spring to!' I marvel in sarcastic amazement. I hate how Kailyo says my name. She says it was the same mocking as 'agent' only that does not bother me. I only want one woman to ever say my name.
'So, what's the play, agent?' She reminds me of a hunting beast that once on a trail of one prey, cannot be taken of it by the scent of another.
'My play in what, Kaliyo?' I know from experience that not responding to her only leads to the opposite desired effect: it makes her stay longer. I desire to be back with my memories. There are things I need to analyse and a future I need to predict from them.
'You're play with her. You've been tracking her since before I met you, you finally meet her where you knew exactly where she'd be, don't sleep with her, keep in contact and seem to have no financial benefit. So what's the end game, agent? She betrayed you and now you want to kill her in some twisted way?'
'We don't all travel the galaxy killing our exes.' I rebuke myself for the hint of accusation that enters my voice. This is one of the few times since I refused to follow such an unorthodox and time wasting scheme that she has spoken to me without a glare. I don't miss it. The only benefit is not half waiting for a knife to be pulled behind my back.
'You want her back?' Kaliyo asks. She hasn't even erred to rebuke me for that.
'Kaliyo-' I alter my heavy reproach before it begins. There is no gain for me to illustrate to Kaliyo her short comings in human understanding and begin a hostile lecture on the complexities and subtleties of emotions, duty and human relations.
'Let's go for a drink.' I continue with no pause and sit up, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed. 'I think we need to celebrate our new crew members arrival.'
I look over at her and see her glare. My eyes wander to the point under her left eye where there is a slight hitch in her tattoo. The lack of symmetry in it offends me and makes looking at the Ratattaki that little bit more irritating. I continue to silently question the Keeper's decision to assign such a companion to my ship and crew. I would prefer another agent, Cipher, or at least an Imperial Academy graduate.
'We will talk about this again, agent. It isn't over.'
She slips away, walking warily backward in a way I don't think she even thinks about anymore. Things are never over until one side is dead and I am determined to make sure that is never me.
Kaliyo was right. I did know Leeriah was in the warehouse that day. But it isn't the first time in a decade I had seen her or we had shared the same planet. But things were never as dire as they are now. She is angering the wrong people on both sides. I know why I approached her and my reasons are more selfish then love.
I know my play is why I can never thank her for saving me. My only unrecognised thank you was keeping her and her location a secret. I can't tell her she's the only woman I've ever loved. I remember her then: young, hurt, angry, passionate, torn, righteous and so beautiful. I loved her as soon as she walked through the cell door and glared at me with so much hostility in that blood shot, arrogant and challenging eye as if she was the one in the chair and was challenging me to do my worst.
I wasn't wrong when I told her she hasn't changed. She's still that girl only I know she's crying over a different man. Why were agent's never trained against jealousy? Because they are trained not to love and not regret. That training was too little and two years too late.
I look up to my ceiling and see too many things there that still cut. My hand fixes my fringe, making sure it covers my eye. I never thought I was insane until I found myself loving her. I have heard wives say to their husbands and husbands to their wives before I kill either or both of them that they still love them no matter what they did to bring this to their house. I wonder if their testaments are as strong or true as mine.
I run my hands and fingers quickly up and down my scalp, gripping and pulling at my hair as I throw myself back onto my bed. My head hit's the hard edge of the frame and I groan and roll over. You're a Cipher. Start thinking like it or you know what happens. Are you ready to die?
No. I'm not.
I take a deep breath and roll off the bed. I switch the music off and walk to join my crew of two with refreshed resolve. Force of Destiny disappears with the touch of a button. I only don't know that changing fate isn't as easy as flicking a switch.
Force of Destiny is a 1862 Overture by Verdi