Friday, 18 December 2009


I remember when I was a little girl -- back before Mum left, and before my little brother got big enough to fight back -- Dad took us on a trip to Gallente Prime.

This was a big deal back then: he had just retired from his Navy service and had stumbled into politics rather by accident than by intent. He'd simply been a victim of saying, 'Somebody ought to...' one too many times, and one of his old drinking buddies finally responding, 'So why don't you?' Mum had been enamoured of Dad's position in the Navy when they'd met, hooked up and married, but wasn't too keen on the shift; she said a regional planetary governor's position was hardly noteworthy after Dad's service record.

But Dad had ideas. He'd spent thirty years of his life in service to the Federation, and felt he could better help his people from the ground they walked than from a station looking down on them. Mom was not one to suffer in silence, and things were just beginning to break down between them.

From his modest governor's salary, Dad scraped together enough to charter a private Exequror-class cruiser from Athinard to Luminaire. He booked tours of historic monuments and museums all over the system, got a hotel room not too far from the Crystal Boulevard so he could take Mum shopping. For what we had at the time, he really went all-out.

The flight there took a while, since they didn't want us to get sick during warp. I was supposed to be paying attention to my tutor, but what I really wanted was to be stood with my nose pressed to the forward viewscreen, watching nebula-dust flash past. Too bad the VI noticed and gave me a mild static shock through my tablet stylus to get my attention.

I tended to get zapped a lot in class. 'Head always in the stratosphere, need to bring you back down to earth,' the Virtual Instructor had said when I complained, once.

My brother Val had been all excited about going to the places we'd only heard about through class and docudramas. Me? We were in space. SPACE! It was my first dream come true, and I had to attend classes as usual even though we were on holiday. How unfair was that?!

But lessons were over soon enough, a jump or two before our destination, and I could not get away fast enough. At some point, Dad joined me in the forward lounge on the level below the bridge, where I stood with my hands and face pressed against the transparent material, oblivious to everything but the stars.

He ruffled my shoulder-length mass of red curls. 'Pretty, isn't it?'

I nodded without taking my eyes from the view, utterly entranced.

I heard him take a seat in one of the chairs behind me. 'I used to stare through my skylight at night when I was your age, and wish I could be out here. Six years later, they let me into the Navy, and I never regretted making that wish come true.'

'Is piloting even better than this, Daddy?'

He chuckled. 'As different as this is from riding in a hovercar. Down here, we're just along for the ride. But up there on the bridge, the captain and crew are all a part of the ship. They have holo-projectors so that they see things the way the ship does.'

For the first time, I turned away from the view, just as we coasted past the sun. The shifting light made the shadows in the dimly-lit lounge slide across the walls. 'Do capsule pilots have the same thing?'

'No, they have something different.' He patted the seat beside him, and I went over to hop up and snuggle against Dad's side. He put his arm around my shoulders. 'They have a full neural interface with their ship, and their crew are just support. The capsule allows them to actually become their ships.'

'Oh.' We watched in silence as the ship slowly sailed up to the gate, and there was the soft ping alerting the passengers to strap in for the jump. My stomach twisted and I felt dizzy for a moment; then the world returned and the view out the window had changed.

Dad's hand squeezed my shoulder. 'Does that sound like something you'll want to do in a few years?'

I nodded just as Mum's voice came from the door behind us, 'Do you really want to be giving her that idea, dear?'

Dad half-turned to look over his shoulder. 'I don't see why not. If it's something she wants to do with her life, she should be allowed to try.'

'But there's so much more for her...'

'You mean less dangerous.' Dad gave that low laugh again. 'Also more mundane and more boring.'


'Aevy, I'm not going to discourage our children from finding happiness their own way, and this isn't the time to have the same old argument.'

Mum sighed. 'I was just wondering if you'd like a drink. The captain says they have a bottle of Heurot '87 set aside. Complimentary.'

It had always been a sticking point between them whether to ecourage me and Valar to make our lives planetside or let us reach further. Mum had always had the daft notion that I'd be a stunning fashion-designer or some such, possibly because I spent so much time drawing. When I finished my formal education, I'd gone along to the art institutes to humour her, but the attitudes there had disgusted and -- at one place -- outright offended me. When I entered the Naval prep academy at 16, she stopped sending me messages; after the hounding she'd given me about it, I was relieved. Val never got the same treatment, prehaps because she felt a Navy career was better-suited to boys. I don't know; I don't care, anymore.

To this day, I feel annoyed that my decision to pursue somewhat less-than-legal activities has pleased her, since piracy is SO much more glamourous than being a boring old naval officer, don't you think, darling? The holos never do show the harder side of it, after all. But Dad... Dad had to publicly disown me, in order to not lose political face. Despite that, he reached out to me through Valar, and we send messages regularly via a reroute set up by an acquaintance of mine.

I learned more from Dad than I maybe thought, at first. We both break the rules in our own ways, and are utterly unashamed about it.