3 years, 3 months, 3 days. That's how long her record sheet said she'd worked for Dragonstar. A funny date, a coincidence.
Kayleigh stared at the datapad, dotted line flashing at the bottom waiting for her to press her thumb there, and she hesitated. She lifted her grey eyes to sweep the room.
Her office was already empty, naked of everything but the very last personal touch: the old Dragonstar Racing Team poster from Season I. She smiled faintly as her gaze lingered there, on the image of herself, Iconath, Loras and Scavanger. It seemed like a lifetime ago. It made her sigh as her smile faded.
In the fast-paced world of capsuleer pilots, three years was a long time. It was depressing to see it all come to an end, when three months back everything had been going so well on the way to a healthy and thriving corp. Now, Dragonstar was a ghost of itself. Most pilots had left to other corporations within Nox Draconum. They were down to Druif, Quintrala, herself and Kiarra, basically. Kayleigh simply didn't have the strength anymore, not after the rug had been pulled from under her in that way. It was time to let go, start anew, change scenery.
And yet she couldn't help feeling she'd somehow let the corporation down, that she should be doing something, anything. With another miserable sigh, she turned her gaze again toward the datapad. That dotted line still there, blink, blink, blink... Grey eyes hard as steel, Kayleigh finally thumbed it. With a quiet bleep her life with Dragonstar came to an end.
She felt that she ought to be crying, but she couldn't shed a tear. She was too tired, too defeated. She simply got up, strode to the poster and retrieved it. At the door she cast one final glance at what had been the Director's office, her home away from home for so long. She lowered her gaze, shook her head and walked out.
In the empty office, the automatic door slowly closed itself.
I lost my fight with Timsinsal. It was a close one, Punisher vs Rifter, both really hugging each other's hulls. He was dealing more damage, but I was sucking his cap to feed my armour repairer and this was causing him trouble.
Eventually, though, he did break through my tank and that was that. A very good fight, but I finish my PvP stint in fourth place in our little tournament.
In other games, RedKiwi defeated General Ization and is now officially the winner. The General and Timsinsal now go on to play a match for 2nd and 3rd places. I'm curious to see who gets it.
When the camera drones came online she could see the other competitors warp out. She tried to keep sharp but she was sluggish, her reactions dulled. Jump after jump, she was falling behind, losing touch with Takashi and even her own team.
She felt tired, weary. No matter how much she tried to focus on the race, the rush, the excitement, all she could do was fumble and make mistakes. Overshooting cans, slow selection of gates, bouncing off asteroids at waypoints...
It was doubly embarrassing because the League was testing new technology which kept track of each pilot's location and sent back telemetry to the viewers. Why did she have to perform badly precisely when all eyes got to see more?
Because she was tired. Because she'd lost her spark when the rug had been pulled from under her feet and Dragonstar corp had all but died out. Because she had been spending sleepless nights planning a move, trying to let go, and yet she still felt stuck. And it was getting in the way of her racing.
She struggled to push it all behind her back, to somehow recapture the thrill of the race. But it was a long struggle and by the time she managed to find her rhythm it was too late to catch the lead.
Or was it?
She caught a lucky break at a multiple-can waypoint: Demon and she tagged a can which might have been a fake, losing a little time to Takashi and Quin. But in a lucky break, it turned out to be real, so while the leaders had to go back, she kept on racing, fighting Demon for position.
They couldn't catch Takashi, even though this bit of luck had reinvigorated her. She found herself fighting for second place overall, almost like the old days, finally feeling the old thrill returning on the final dash to the finish line.
Then she got stuck at a gate. Demon went past. A delayed Quin went past and there she was, still stuck, error messages popping up. There was some problem with her authentication, apparently.
Her heart fell all the way to her feet, and the thrill was lost once more. She just felt so tired. She ended up docking in 4th place, third in her class. It felt hollow.
Natalie raised her head from her book and swept the busy hangar with her eyes. Organised chaos, as it was every Sunday night. And in the center, literally under the spotlight sat the Distortion, with its pretty green and gold design which looked like dragon scales, being tended by a team of mechanics busy with last-minute tweaking. Daniel was busy polishing the number 2 on the Ares' wing, now.
What she couldn't see was any sign of the pilot, Mrs Kayleigh Jamieson-Read - better known among the fans simply as KayJay.
"She's late," came the low voice at her elbow.
She set the book down on her lap and turned her eyes to the chief mechanic, Steele, a big Brutor and the only man in that hangar to manage making the Scuderia jumpsuit look uncomfortable. "Yeah, she is," she agreed, swinging her feet now. Perched as she was on a stack of crates, Natalie was still only just taller than him. "Tell your guys to watch out. I don't imagine she'll be in much of a good mood. It's not like her to be late for this."
Ten minutes later, she arrived. Natalie noticed, even with her nose in her book, because it was as if the spotlight had suddenly shifted from the interceptor to the petite jin-mei striding quickly straight toward Steele. She wondered if all capsuleers did that trick of getting all attention focused on them in a room full of mere humans. For a moment, Natalie watched the scene.
The mechanics themselves, usually a loud and lively crew, suddenly were keping their exchanges strictly to the business at hand. Natalie smiled wryly. No one wanted to get noticed by the capsuleer. She didn't mingle with the grunts, as a rule, and it was taken as fact among the team that when she did deign to speak to you, you were about to get fired.
When she saw the conversation was nearly over, Natalie put her book away and hopped off the crates. Sure enough, just a moment later Jamieson-Read started making her way toward the pod dock, greeting Natalie with just a little nod. Natalie followed.
At the smaller, more secluded dock, Natalie assisted the pilot out of her regular clothes and into the Scuderia flight suit. She noticed the pilot was pale, and had long dark circles under her eyes as if she hadn't slept in days, but the distant, hard gaze invited no questions. Despite the quick change, Natalie had time to wonder, glancing at the jin-mei's naked back, if it had hurt to get all the sockets, or how it felt having them on day after day, or even what it was like to have a ship plugged in there.
But there was no more time for wondering; Kayleigh had stepped onto the lower half of the pod. Natalie got the first cable, smiled faintly and asked "Are you ready, captain?" All she got was a nod in reply.
One by one, the assistant connected each cable to the appropriate socket. Then she stepped back. "All done, captain. Fly safe," she said, punching the button which would trap the pilot inside the egg and start up systems.
I don't know how he does it. None of us can figure it out. Quin had the initial lead for a couple jumps off the start line and then Takashi overtook her and that was that; he never again lost the lead all through the race.
At least this time, despite all our little mistakes and mishaps, we didn't lose as much time as in previous races. When he docked at the finish line after fifteen waypoints I was four jumps from him. That's four to five minutes, roughly. There have been much worse gaps. And if Quin hadn't had the misfortune of a capsule systems reboot early in the race maybe the gap might have been shorter.
Of course we could get our act straight and stop miswarping, for one. And I personally could certainly use an intensive training session on how to handle multiple-can waypoints. It's unacceptable to keep losing so much time there.
On the other hand I'm really happy with the way Quin, Demon and I work together. It's such a seamless teamwork! It's really anyone's guess at the start line which one of us will arrive first at the finish line. Last night it was me, no doubt thanks to Quin's capsule glitch. A shame the rest of the team seems to have lost interest in the competition.
We may have got a new pilot coming in. It seems Demon convinced rookie Ayre Rowan to join our ranks. She was worried about team orders or that we would require her to change corporations, which surprised me. The thought had never crossed my mind. No one should quit their day job in order to race. That's certainly not what the Scuderia is all about.
Although in her case I doubt the term "day job" applies. Seems she's employed with the Hellcats, and therefor possibly makes her living as a pirate, for all I know. That's fine. It's always nice to have pilots on board the team who might know what they're doing if ever things get ugly on the track again sometime. But for now, I just hope she settles in well with the rest of us and finds fun racing out there.
Blog posts are labelled according to a certain logic, most of it self-explanatory. Note, however:
In-Character: events that would one way or another become common knowledge out there. Fiction: most likely events that are not common knowledge. Do not assume you know this about my character unless you have good reason to. Out-of-Character: mostly ramblings from the player, not to be associated with the character herself.