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Stomping through the airlock Fa'Rua slammed a fist against the close and cycle button and strode purposefully toward the cockpit.  Her face was a stormy mask of seething outrage as she made her way through the ship.

 

Jolan looked up from his console questioningly and sighed, "I take it then the interview did not go as planned?"  He didn't need a diplomats training to see the truth in his words, nor a twins bond.  He'd felt the oncoming storm since she left the colonial scout corps offices of course.  So he wasn't surprised at her demeanor and had practiced carefully a response, "Fa'Rua such things always happen for a .."

 

""Don't you say reason."  she coldly cut him off as she slung into the pilot seat, "Buckle up, I'll show them who can't perform under pressure."  and slammed the emergency docking release.

 

"I hardly think exiting the base without tower consent is going to improv...."  Her brother didn't get a chance to finish before the ship dropped occ eht docking ring and she punched the engines to max quickly overriding the inertial dampeners to press them both into their seats. Over traffic controls complaints she wove effortlessly through the heavy traffic and shot free of the station making for the system rim as the computer started the jump calculations needed.  As soon as they broke the heliosphere there was teh lurching twisting sensation of the space fold and they were flung thousands do parsecs to a distant lifeless system, "I don't want to talk about it Jolan."  she growled as she stood and stopped toward the rear of hte ship, "I'll be in my bunk start the long distance scans."

 

Flinging herself onto her bunk she glared death at the bulkhead for a long minute before flipping open her com pad and sliding into private mode.  She flipped through the recent photos and conversations and let out sigh and thumbed open the chat window again.

 

Hey you.  You around.  

She hadn't bothered to check the terran time before sending the message.  Nor did she wait for a response before continuing.

What in the void is wrong with men.

 

Why do they expect us to be twice as good as some square jawed jock still trying to figure out how to hold his flight stick to even consider us competent.

 

Temperament under pressure my sweet ass.

 

I'm under more pressure getting up in the morning then these old men have seen on their worst day.

 

Sorry if you're busy I just needed to vent to someone who might get it and not spout platitudes.  

 

The messages came in fast and would leave whatever device Ashley had set to receive them buzzing enough to likely draw more than just the owners attention if she wasn't alone.

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The subsequent delay was noticeable but not terribly long as such delays went. 

 

F*ck, they're even in space? That sucks. 

 

Ashley considered her options as she leaned back against the bar's patched vinyl bench - and decided she was sober enough for this conversation on her Saturday off. It actually did suck to think that even the space people gave women crap, but she supposed some things were goddamn universal. Too bad they didn't blow up with their homeworld...hmm, better keep that thought to myself

 

She didn't ask if Fa'Rua had tried going to Lor Resources or something, instead she said, 

 

They're a bunch of insecure pindicks. She typed back. Hope you piss on their graves. 

 

 

 

 

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they're everywhere.  Fa'Rua might have been stretching the truth a bi with that in the broad reach of space faring species the Lor had encountered there were cultures of greater and lesser equality among the sexes in both directions but at the moment it felt universal.

 

I put in for a promotion,  She paused searching for the words in her limited english and the translation matrix, Search and rescue, fly in where the admiralty hotshots got in over their heads and pull them out.

 

She was seething at the exit interview still, but the blind assurance that her anger was righteous helped.

 

I posted the best simulator scores in a generation, have more stick time than half the flyboys they fast tracked in, they call me out on some nonsense about temperament and performance under pressure

 

Nothing that could be quantified, the usual raft of subjective personality traits that were usually used by these types.

 

I'm just so tired you know.  Sorry, Needed to get that off my chest., How you holding up?   The Lor inquired realizing she'd been monopolizing the conversation.

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It's always some bullshit with those old bastards in suits. "You're too little, they won't take you seriously. You're too pretty..." I'm biracial, so I get "You're not Asian enough" or "you're too Asian", which is a whole other @(#ing piece of #($I. 

 

She considered a moment, smiled lazily, and said, Pretty good though. Girl I'm watching is safe with her church group, so it's my day off. She added a smiley to go with that, and said, Maybe a _little_ drunk? And then another smiley. Here I thought I'd have to drink alone... 

 

 

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Seems like the all the old bastards that couldn't deal with taking orders from a woman jumped to the scout corps when the Grand Nauarchus was named.  

 

Fa'Rua paused as she realized that might not translate well, 

 

Grand Nauarchus is head of the Lor military, scout corps is part of the colonial bureau, For the Preservation of Lor Culture and Tradition, sounds mighty good to the most backward jerks in the service I guess.

 

Before going too far down the rabbit hole of Lor politics though Fa'Rua redirected to the subject at hand

 

So you called it right, sounds like you've gotten your share, it's exhausting.  

 

They do let you have days off, well maybe it is my lucky day, or at least a less terrible one now.

 

You certainly don't have to be alone.

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You're sweet. 

 

Feeling adventurous, and figuring there was no tracing her from here, Ashley took an image of herself sticking her tongue out for the camera, the back of the bar's seat behind her, and sent it off to Fa'Rua. 

 

I don't get a lot of them, but I can only be undercover for so long before I go f*cking crazy. Days off mean I can go drink adult beverages, use adult language, and maybe have adult relations - though that hasn't happened in a long time. 

 

She knew that new relationships didn't like hearing a lot about exes (though picking up a guy for a one-night stand only made him an ex in crazytown), so she changed it up a little. 

 

If you were here, I wouldn't even think about teenagers. 

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Fa'Rua added the photo to her growing collection relaxing back into her bunk a bit more as the days frustrations slowly seeped away.

 

Hmm I'm going to have to try harder to get you to forget about teenagers anyway.  She flirted back playfully.

 

So how often do you get days off?    It was a leading question certainly but she'd not had the mystery terran this unguarded yet.  She liked it.

 

I'm glad you picked up, I needed this.

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Ashley took a moment to do the math. I get about 25% of the year off - but when I'm working, it's all day, every day. I even sleep and eat in-character. Actual days off are 1 in 30. That wasn't exactly right but it was close enough. Everyone thinks my 'character' is sneaking around and gonna get detention when she gets back. She grinned and typed back And hey, I _am_ sneaking around, drinking, and sexting to somebody up in space, so that is _several_ violations of the code of conduct right there.

 

She took a moment to think, then said, If I ever don't pick up, it just means I don't have my phone with me. I can't carry it around the school in case the damn cyberkinetics go looking for nudes or some s*it. A couple of the kids are watching me already, but teenagers don't tend to have a lot of tradecraft. 

 

Anyway, if I ever don't pick up, I'll get it soon.   

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Intense, even on active deploy we get personal time.  On Call?  I guess is the best description.

 

Well now I'm even more glad I caught you on so auspicious a day.  The Lor added quickly.

 

Just need to be creative in the labeling.  You're not sneaking around sexting you're developing a Confidential Informant with specialist knowledge of potential threats ;)

 

I can't imagine having to go back and pretend to be a cadet again, that must be rough, it's good of you to stick with her even if it's the job, Someone of your skills could get lots of security work I'm sure.

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Sh*t! What did I say!? 

 

There was a distinct pause on the typing as Ashley put the details together. I didn't say anything. She's smart, we've been talking for a while, and I've let some details slip. 

 

After a little while, she typed back 

 

It was my idea. I can't complain. I just wish they treated her better.

 

She considered that for a moment or two, then wrote back: 

 

The hell of it is, I am proud of this even though it's awful. I am proud of what I do. Know this probably sounds really stupid to somebody who lives in the depths of space and has seen a thousand planets. But I love this f*cking country. She swallowed, drank some more beer, and wrote again: 

 

This place was founded on the idea that everybody's equal, and sometimes that's BS but that's better than a whole lot of places. People in this country took my dad's family in when they were going to be dragged out of their house and shot in a ditch because they were Chinese, even though half the country thought they were human rats. Everybody gets a fair shot at the dream. But sometimes it's a f*cking nightmare. 

 

She smirked a little and added 

 

Probably sounds like one ant saying she's got the best hill in the yard, right? But that's me. 

 

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Well it sounds like she's where she needs to be thanks to you then.  The Lor replied not aware what sort of state secrets they tread upon now.

 

She spent a few moments checking the suggested information in the translation matrix after the sudden switch to nationalism.  In the end through sudden topic changes where things touched on her work were not uncommon for her Terran friend, girlfriend.  

 

Rather than get hung up on terminology she replied with some amusement, 

 

Nationalism is hardly unique to Earth.  she pointed out readily,  The Lor Empire certainly isn't free of it.

 

Sh added as almost an afterthought, And measuring a societies worth by it's size doesn't really jive with my views so be proud. 

 

Sounds like they mostly have the right ideas, that's rarer than you'd think

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Mostly. 

 

There was a lot contained in that mostly. 

 

Anyway, I thought by signing up to serve the state, I'd be protecting the state - not playing babysitter to a sixteen-year-old. Like I said, I don't actually have it that bad. It's just a raw deal for the damn kid. She thought for a minute, then said, Hey, one last thing about this - do you happen to know of any species that absorbs and reemits EM wavelengths between one meter and one millimeter? I'd really like to know what the hell alien she's related to, but we don't know much beyond Lor, Grue, cyborg, and Khan up there. 

 

 

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Sounds like she has it rough if hte government had to step in, glad you're able to get her some help.  

 

Fa'Rua did not have a full grasp of the situation but clearly felt Ashley was doing the best with a bit of a crap situation.

 

She pondered the question for a moment and called up the atlas on her terminal to run a query on the scout corp database.

 

Not alot to go on, most radiophiles are microbes, even the larger ones rarely sentient.

 

Looking over the results she bit her lip and sighed, 

 

Well if she's like a clone or something someone might have introduced DNA from a radiophile. 

Rumor has it Stellarians leave their world and imposter material beings.  So if she just showed up one day with weird EM signatures and some poorly constructed backstory it might be one of those assholes messing with you.

 

They're immortal energy beings and get bored and toy with corporeals sometimes.  I hope it's not they can be dangerous not malevolent just, as as side effect of entertaining themselves.

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Ashley said a word out loud that drunk people sometimes said in bars, not getting more than just a few glances from the other patrons. Why does this have to be when I'm drunk and talking to a woman I want to make out with? 

 

F*ck, seriously? She thought about what had been pieced together about the President's family tree. She's a hybrid of something. We managed to science it up and we know it was her paternal grandmother...but one might show up on a backwater planet, have a kid, and then take off because they felt like it? 

 

What a bunch of assholes! 

 

She thought for a minute, hand briefly shaking on her phone, then wrote 

 

If you came here with a sensor, could you tell if somebody had Stellarian in them? 

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Not much in the databanks on them.  But what there is indicated that would be a particularly gentle one.

 

The Lor pulled up what she could on the Stellarians and it was sparse.  She examined the details of the system they as she considered the options they might have.

 

Well energy beings, and never heard of one breeding with a corporeal, so nothing like a gene sequence on them.  

 

Fa'Rua pondered the issue a bit longer.

 

I only have the basics on xeno biology, but if she's manifesting Stellarian control of the EM spectrum she'd have to be fused with their energy somehow.  

 

I might be able to get a read on her spectra, then filter for your star and tech, what's left would be Stellarian spectra or just noise.

 

Probably, with some luck.

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Well. Well, okay. 

 

Hey, so. Do you think you could do that? Ashley asked, keeping a smiley-face off by sheer force of will. If you give me time, I can arrange it so the Lor Embassy doesn't find out - and you'd earn yourself a big favor with some of our national leaders. She thought for a moment, then did add a smile. And maybe we could actually spend some time together...?  

 

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Consider me entrapped officer ;) 

 

I think I might have a way around the restrictions, mostly.  she glanced at the door, trading on her brothers staff diplomat status was certainly legal strictly speaking if not in the spirit of regulations.

 

Hey this is a favor for you, if it helps you and your charge out that's all good with me.  

 

Maybe spend some of that goodwill on a vacation 😘

A drive up that coast you were telling me about?

 

Fa'Rua paused and sent a run down of the situation to her brother and fended off his incredulous reply.

 

I can arrange an official visit and slip away from the delegation, any chance I can get a better name than Ms. Mouse with the stunning smile and pink tips?  

 

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Ashley Tran. Ashley stared at the words for a long moment - then pressed "Send." I'll tell my principal you're coming and finesse the hard stuff. It'll be a tough sell, but I don't think they're worried about the Lor Republic leaking information to our press. 

 

Her heart was pounding in her chest and she wished adrenaline actually sobered you up, but what the hell she was doing her best here. I can't wait to see you. I can't make any promises - but I can promise I'll be there. 

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Fa'Rua knew it was an ask, but was pleasantly surprised when it paid off.

 

Thank you.  She replied earnestly.

 

And I'll hold you to that, play your cards right I'll hold you to more 😘

 

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Ashley sent her back a kiss emoji and a promise to text her again soon, then she set her head down on the table in front of her, resting her forehead against the cool of the wood. 

 

"Bad breakup?" She looked up at the hostess, an older woman with greying hair, a stocky build, and rosy cheeks. 

 

"...no." Just the opposite. What the hell am I gonna do?" 

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