Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Lesson

She bit her lip, ignoring the faint taste of pod fluid that it brought. Her hands were still shaking, but she’d be hard pressed to say if the cause was shame, anger, guilt, or all three at once. She could only be grateful that no one could see her flaming cheeks inside the pod.

She was still floating in space, now protected by the Dauntless tower shields. Unsure what to do, she simply hovered in space, trying to keep her voice as calm as she could whenever she had to speak to any of her corp mates in channel. She should probably dock up, leave her pod for the night, have a cup of tea and a lie down. Yet she couldn’t make herself leave the pod, walk the cramped quarters in just her flesh and bones, weighed by shame as she was. She couldn’t make herself run the risk of having to look the remaining XianKun sister in the eye.

The night the two sisters had shown up along with Loken and all four of them had gone out to clear Sleepers out of space, Kayleigh Jamieson-Read had made a mistake so grave, so basic and so costly that she could only wonder at the fact she hadn’t been fired yet. How could she have been so incompetent precisely then?

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!”

In a moment of distraction, she had lost the New Dawn, the very Loki she’d been so proud of. And she could blame no one but herself for losing a ship she’d worked so hard for and had paid so much for. She’d lowered her guard in a dangerous system while out at a place called “The Line” and had been jumped by six hostile capsuleers. Tor and Loken had warped back to help her but she’d been too far gone, and instead they’d ended up losing their ships and also their pods. All because of her.

Kayleigh herself had somehow managed to save her capsule. The ejection had felt different, somehow. For a start, she had a massive headache. One of the sockets which connected her to her pod felt… tingly, and not in a good way. The jin-mei didn’t quite know what to make of it. She could only sit and worry, and hope there was nothing wrong with her because out here there were no real medical facilities she could visit right now.

Outside, Yal was orbiting in a lazy circle. Kayleigh shivered and suddenly felt the need to have more of a skin around her. She willed her capsule to approach the hangar and boarded the Starcutter.

The Myrmidon-class battlecruiser was an old ship, as such things were counted among capsuleers. She hadn’t been flown in a long time, before Kayleigh had brought it back out of the Alenia hangars for Dauntless, but she felt comfortable tonight. Like an old friend. She wouldn’t be much help right now, fitted as she was with all gas harvesters and no weapons, yet being surrounded by the elegant Gallentean design gradually made Kayleigh relax a little more.

Chewing at her lip, she started planning for the next day. There was no way she was going to be able to afford another Loki so soon, but she could certainly work hard, make money go into SPHERE so they could replace their losses. Tomorrow she would start by probing a new exit, bringing in something she could shoot with, and then finding a market for all the odds and ends they already had gathered. It would be a start.

Yal still flew lazy circles around her.

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