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Something So Pleasant About That Place (IC)

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Thanksgiving 2019 

Lafayette, Louisiana 


The picture was of Ashley Tran with four other young women all of whom bore a striking resemblance to her - although none of them had her shade of pink-cotton hair. The five women were smiling and posing in front of a low-slung house surrounded by plants, one that looked rather different than the buildings Fa'Rua had seen on her trip to Terra (though really she'd spent most of her time inside buildings than outside of them). 

Guess who's home for the holidays! :) 


Laying on her mother's living room couch at about 1AM, Ashley judged that everybody was asleep, or at least asleep enough for her purposes. She'd wired herself up against jet lag, especially with what she knew was going to be a short visit. 

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The console trilled an alert as Ashleys message was delivered and Fa'Rua looked down a smile slipping to her lips unbidden.  She looked at the charted course through the latest system a slow ellipsis around the cool red dwarf anchoring the system.  She glanced from the console Jolan and back to the console weighing answering here or begging off to leave her long suffering twin to man the scanners while the autopilot followed the plotted course.  Jolan looked to her with a sigh and small bemused shake of his head, "Go Fa'Rua."  he encouraged flatly, "Your focus is always much improved after your chats with Agent Tran."  he opined without judgement.


She blushed deeply then stood not having to be asked twice and scampered off to her bunk transferring the message to hir tablet there.


Oh Already?  I should send something ...  She clearly hadn't fully grasped the full breadth of enthusiasm the Terrans approached the holidays with more accustomed to the Lor scheduled holidays than the broad seasonal approach that many areas of earth took.


I know I say it every time but I love the new hair.  Did your mother take it as poorly as you worried?  I can't imaging her not loving it it's so pretty on you.

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Everybody thinks it's crazy, but nobody really freaked out. She included a smile with that, reaching back to run her fingers through her hair. She liked the pink hair, something that was all hers amidst disguise and subterfuge, and so did Fa'Rua - which was a feeling that left her warmed by something other than the blanket over her lower body. I think my mom has finally learned I'm a grown-ass adult. Her mom had also dropped some more broad hints about how it would be nice if there were more grandchildren in the family, but luckily hadn't pressed her too much on that - not on day 1, anyway. Sorry Mama, I have a girlfriend and she lives in space, so that's definitely not happening anytime soon. No you didn't 'know it all the time'! 


You don't have to send anything - but if you have any more of that scent, I could use it and think of you...? That got a smile with a wink on it, and she leaned over to take a sip of hot cocoa that she was probably drinking too late in the evening, but what the Hell, it was her mom's hot cocoa. 



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That I can do ?


Fa'Rua smiled at the thought and was hit by the distance between them for a moment before determining it wasn't a gross misappropriation of resources to jump to the Sol system and drop off a car package after this sweep.  


See I told you it would be fine.  The Lor scout had of course advised that everything would be fine in her usual act first deal with problems later approach. 


So nice being home and away from work for a bit?  She asked carefully,  I know the undercover wok is stressful. 

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It is nice. Usually there's at least one big blowup when we're here, but right now everything's quiet, which is not easy in a house with eight adults, two babies, and four dogs. One of the latter was snoring on the rug nearby, so Ashley sent along the image of the sleeping old German Shepard. 


The last couple of weeks at work have been...an experience. Ashley considered her words. It was true that she worried about Judy, who was going to be put on display by her parents over the holiday, but Judy had reassured her she would be fine. She really did like volunteering in that soup kitchen where the First Family labored every Thanksgiving, and she appreciated the short break from Claremont just as much as anyone. Until she actually got a text that Judy was in trouble, or under pressure, she wasn't going to worry about it. So if I'm not actually worried about her, I can bitch about it.A couple of boys in this year's class want to prove they're tougher than Watchdog. It's actually pretty funny, but you start to get tired of not being able to bite back. 


She took another sip of cocoa, listening to the creaking upstairs as her sisters moved around, then typed back: Then there's my ward's choices about her secret identity. She considered what to say, then wrote, With me in the room, after some consultation, she told her boyfriend and her two besties. They took it better than I would have as a teen, I'll tell you that much. I was torn between being terrified and proud. She added an eyeroll after that, then added, What's new with you? 





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I Can't even imagine.    extended family connections were not common in the republic particularly in the more far flung collonies with relitively high rates of migration.  Fa'Rua rarely saw here parents no less more distant relations.


It must be difficult to maintain your cover under such constraint's  Fa'Rua cut off before finishing the thought at the further revelation.


Good for her!  Jolan has been adimant such subterfuge didn't suit her.   I can't say I disagree from my brief conversation.


I'm sure it was a difficult situation for you with the expectations of your employers.  She didn't delve much deeper into that subject it being dangerously close to political meddling and not helpful for the beautiful terran on the other end of the connection.


It's been busy until recently, we found a habitable world and worked with the first landing crew to survey a colony site.  Very aggressive Primates of unusual size so the forrested areas were particularly exciting.  She shared the story withotu considering how unusual it might be to those who hadn't jumped beyond their own gravity well.

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Aggressive primates are the story of my life. Ashley smirked, fighting off a momentary pang of doubt. She was reasonably sure that Fa'Rua was not using some sort of militaristic euphemism there for unhappy natives. You can't be suspicious and paranoid about every aspect of your life, Tran, she thought, picking out the words in Vietnamese as a bit of automatic practice. She had personal reason to know Fa'Rua didn't feel that way about inhabitants of primitive worlds. 


I'd take giant monkeys over the teenage ones I deal with most of the time. So how'd it go, your colonists gonna put down roots? She'd gotten an understanding from Fa'Rua about why colony scouting was so important these days, with so many Lor refugees and so many habitable worlds stretched to the breaking point - and had to admit it sounded like good work. Doesn't have to pretend to be a damn teenager, anyway. 





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I think they have a good shot base camp is established and a colony ship is inbound.  Fa'Rua wasn't really certain how interesting any of this might be to Ashley but she at least seemed engaged.


It's slated to be an agricultural colony, so we pushed the perimeter pretty far.  She paused and stared at the message for a long moment then attached an image of her own,  The Lor affixing some kind of antenna array to a rocky peak a dusting of snow at her feet looking out over an unspoiled boreal forest far below.  


Weather monitoring stations up in the mountains.  The view was pretty amazing.  


The Lor scout bit her lip slightly as it all seemed just so banal compared to the wok Ashley did or maybe it was just nerves.


Time was that'd been the peak of my month if not year, and I'm proud of the work we did, but I miss you.

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I bet. It looks like you could use somebody to keep you warm there! 


Ashley grinned, feeling herself distinctly warmed just by the conversation - and the thought. She knew that objectively it was silly and more than a little dangerous to invest this much passion in a relationship that had had all of one real date, (even if it had ended in bed), especially with all the secrets she had to keep, the distance between them, and the difference too. But what the hell - why did she have to be objective about this? 


I miss you too. I'd rather be zipping through the stars, or even climbing around in an alien forest, than cramming for an eleventh-grade math test, that's for damn sure. Judy had turned out to be pretty good at math, and had volunteered her services as a tutor when they got back. She was a nice kid, anyway. She was reasonably sure that forest wasn't full of a telepathic hive mind of birds, either. 


Tell me about space. What's your favorite story about life up there? 



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Fa'Rua looked down at the question for several long moments.  It was hard to remember that as much as space travel and her mission seemed largely mundane to her it was still unusual for the beautiful terran.


Way to put me on the spot :P  I honestly don't usually think of it like that :D  


She gathered her thoughts and tried to think on what would make a good story before finally settling on one.


Alright so favorite is probably this one time I was on this backwater little planet and I totally saved the day for this badass bodyguard and her cute kid sister.  I dropped in hot and fast, quick heroic pose then into the action taking on this army of assassins back to back like in the vids right? :P 


The Lor scout paused before hitting send but was quick to follow up so as not to totally blow off the genuine question.


Ok Ok, that is probably my fave particularly the end.  But not really space.  Honestly it's hard to pick, I wouldn't say it's my favorite but my first patrol in the Navy is certainly a story!  Also my last patrol not to spoil the ending.


She hit send and began to compose the story line by line, her references just slightly off from genuine earthling but the colloquialisms suggested she'd switched off the translator to talk in her own somewhat limited english as she wove the tail.  It was a regular picket, squadron on patrol to be a deterrent to smugglers and pirates.   Usually no contacts or if there was anything they jumped out of system as soon as the hail went out.  Supposed to be boring.  Freighter with a bad com code comes on system they move to engage, freighter is jamming sensors, claim it's faulty drive.  Textbook smugglers, order of battle is a flyby as warning outside weapons range, hail and if they don't power down move into attack vectors etc.  Usually it's drugs and an autopilot.   But she can't get a fix, and whoever is at the stick is too sloppy for a bot.  She calls in to the squad lead, he tells her sto stick formation.  She flys in tight, well within weapons range of the cruiser putting her gunship at risk and too close for safe fire from the squad.  In close though her scanner picks up lifesigns, lots of them, smuggling people from the incursion zone into the core, amateurs don't know the Navy patrols here and are running scared.  She manages to disable the engines going in blasters only and a cruiser comes out to tow it to a port.  She ended up in a disciplinary hearing and almost lost her wings, only kept them due to 'extenuating circumstance'.  She signed up for hte scout corps a week later.


We need more places to put people not more guns.  

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Ashley listened without interruption as the story came in, forgetting her cocoa so long that it was lukewarm by the time she took another sip. I'm glad that's not a normal day at the office, she said first, then decided that was inadequate. That's awesome. It's a damn good thing you were there for those people - and you did the right thing transferring.


She wished, very badly, that Fa'Rua was there sitting on the couch with her, telling her that story in her great voice. Any time you want to talk to me about what happened during the Incursion, you can. That's your business and I'm not gonna pry. She'd served with enough veterans to know that stories came when they needed to come, and if they never needed to come it wasn't her place to pry. 


When no immediate response came, she wrote back Let me tell you about that Blue Lives Matter thing. Before I worked for our national government, I was a city law enforcer, a cop. I wore a blue uniform, a badge, and carried a gun. I'm still proud of it. She considered her words for a moment, then said, The BLM is a big social movement right now, they act like cops are untouchable warriors protecting the people from the criminal element. And a lot of them would really like to make it with a lady cop. I'm all about standing up for cops, but if you tell people they're untouchable, they're gonna act like it - which is a real shi_show if they've got lethal force and law enforcement powers. I had people who were supposed to be on my side who acted like soldiers in a conquering army. Psychos. That's one reason I transferred out. 


She thought for a moment, then said That's the nice thing about what I do. I don't have to worry that I'm surrounded by unaccountable losers with guns, and I don't have to worry I'm going to be busting somebody's head open who doesn't deserve it. I'm protecting a kid who needs protecting. And flirting with a sexy alien in my downtime. She added a wink. 



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I can't say I really regret any of it.  But they're not wrong nine out ten times that'd get some rookie spaced and cost the republic a gunship.  We just disagreed on the value of that one in ten.  Realistically it was probably much higher than one in ten, number crunchers at command doubtless had exact numbers across scenarios and had built out policy and order of battle according to the dictates of said dispassionate analysis.


I know.  Fa'Rua responded after an exceptionally long period of typing for such a short post.  I wasn't even really in the service for it, emergency volunteer corps, they called it.  She explained slowly, Most of us were not ready for combat.  The Lor left it at that, she'd been lucky to be ready for what limited action she did see, even then it wasn't in the big battles.


She was glad to have the distraction of a story of Earth law enforcement, I get that, guys in my unit loved it, action in every port of call and all that.  But it comes with expectations, I was all for a fling with the hot thing at the end of the bar, but when they were more interested in the uniform then me it was just weird, also they were usually real bad at it, unlike certain Terrans that are total naturals :D  


Yea your team seemed real solid, I guess for a VIP like Ju'Deth, they get the best of the best.   I feel alot the same about the Scout Corps, we all have to be able to handle it on our own so we get good or get dead.  That was morose.  


I think it might also make us a bit dark about the job and dangers...

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Ugh. I made it get heavy. 


Well they couldn't all be conversations about what the other was wearing. Though Ashley was curious. She bit her lip, and remembered telling Fa'Rua that she'd never actually done anything like this before, and how much she'd enjoyed that. Pleasantly warmed by the memory, she wrote back: 


Lots of stuff out in the dark can eat you if you turn your back on it. Just gotta be ready with a rock. It wasn't universally applicable advice, she supposed, but it had certainly worked for her in the past. Then there's the multiverse, and don't get me started on that #)($. Universe where everyone's a cannibal, universe where the Terminus got everyone, it's the worst. 


How long do you think you'll be in the Scout Corps? 

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Fa'Rue was worried she'd been too much of a downer when Ashleys reply scrolled across her terminal pad.  Just gotta find the light to guide you home.  


Jolan and his order navel gaze on the infinities of the multiverse, You make it sound WAY cooler  :D   


She smirked down at the question, I used to think till I was too slow or got kicked out.  I'm finding myself distracted by thoughts of retiring to some backwater with cute secret agents more and more often lately though ?  


The Lor grinned down at her pad, that was more like it.  Not that I'm ready to be put out to pasture but recent events do tempt one.

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There's lots of Earth I'd like to show you. Food that's better than bar snacks, music that's better than Old Town Road. Places where you can actually enjoy the scenery and not worry somebody's gonna blow it up. She talked more - telling her about the Vietnamese neighborhoods in New Orleans East, where the food was always good and the streets were familiar, and dragon parades and fireworks for Tet. Ashley had loved her home neighborhood intensely, and had been bitterly disappointed when her mother and sisters had moved away when she was about Ju'Deth's age. I haven't been back there in ages. More fun with a date. 


She thought about that for a minute, reaching down to absently scratch behind the ears of a passing German Shepard, who responded by whumfing down next to the couch.


My mom doesn't know I have a girlfriend. 



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You'll have to give me a heads up the next time they let you off the leash for weekend then.  It sounded exotic and even better clearly meant alot Ashley.  I'm just a moment away ;)   


Reading the addendum Fa'Rua bit her lip with uncertainty, she's learned much of the social norms on Earth in her recent studies.  And knew this likely was not just because of the newness of the relationship.


Lucky for you neither does mine, she'd be all up in your business about grandbabies.  She paused a moment hoping the elvity would help cut the tension some at least, Uhm?  Do you want her to know? Should I write her a letter requesting to court her daughter :D   She'd picked up on enough of the southern culture in her studies to at least find the image funny.  

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Sounds exactly like my mom. ;)


She considered a lot of things about her mom and how she herself had grown up, first in a conservative immigrant neighborhood, then in a conservative part of the Cajun South. 


I honestly don't know how my mom would react if I said "I'm dating an Amazon from space." 


She'd explained what an Amazon was when they were actually together, under better circumstances. 


I envy you. she admitted. If you want to be with someone, you can just do it, and not worry about who they are, or what people will think about it. Speaking of which, how far _are_ you from Earth, exactly? 

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Hopefully with a dinner invite you've been talking up her cooking for weeks :D   The Lor scout responded quickly, I know it can be hard.  She added carefully knowing that terran morals on the subject were varied and sometimes extreme, When you're ready, if you're ready, I'm here whatever the response, or if you're never ready.  Though that last seemed unlikely to be sustainable for the Terran who so valued her family.


Now?  Fa'rua barely missed a beat before replying,  1296.6960471080342487 Parsecs.  But Orbital inclinations are actually bringing that in closer.  She offered with a degree of precision even Lor star maps probably lacked, though it was unlikely Ashley would pick up on that unless she ran a conversion on it.  It's easy to be open when you run into species with five genders or none, but if I brought home a free grue or Khanate refugee it'd not be overlooked so easy.  Fa'Rua answered honestly, I think most sentients find reasons to mistrust what they don't share, better to focus on what they do.  

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There was a notable pause as Ashley took a moment on her phone to try and work out exactly how far that was. She wasn't really sure of her math when she was done, just that it was 'really f$(#ing far'. 


I guess people like to have tribes. I still have cousins on both sides who don't like that my sisters and I are Eurasian. Personally, I believe in reaching out to new people and new places


She bit her lip and looked around, reminding herself that even if somebody did come into the living room, they weren't going to look at her phone. 




Are you in uniform, Scout? 


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And I enjoy taking full advantage of that outreach.  Came the flirty reply 


I'm in parts of it ...  the Lor answered biting her lip mischievously, 


You going to report me Agent?   she asked, 


Life support must be miscalibrated, it's just so hot in my bunk, I needed to cool off ...  I throw myself on your mercy, how could I convince you not to turn me in?

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