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Author Topic: Portraits of a Lost Child  (Read 2734 times)

Jennifer Starfall

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Portraits of a Lost Child
« on: 21 Jan 2015, 13:04 »

The Baku

The dreams are always the same.

I awake in a capsule, the fluid already filling mouth with the taste of blood and my nose with the stink of fear. My own fear; I know what will happen next. No matter how much I beg and plead, the voice always comes; that cold, distant, analytic Voice.

"Standby for Gallente integration test."

The part me observing these events screams voicelessly. No, wait! It won't work. I'm flawed. I'll be a failure! Please!

The part of me in the capsule just floats there, unaware of what's about to happen to her. She always just floats there, just once I wish she'd hear me. Just once, I'd wish she'd fight back and escape. But the dream is always the same.

"Initiate."

The pain starts at my spine and snakes through my nervous system like tendrils of plasma. The twisted perception of the dream slows allowing me to track in detail the spread of the pain through my body. The Voice would be pleased if I could give such details.

"Starfall, are you experiencing anything unusual?"

All the me in the capsule can do is make a strangled noise, neither a gasp, nor a cry. Something more primal.

The part of me that observes can only beg for mercy. Please, make it stop. She can't. She's a failure. She'll try harder. Stop. Please.

But the Voice doesn't stop. There are measurements to be made, data to be gathered.

"Starfall, tell us what you're experiencing."

The me in the capsule can't answer the Voice. The only world that she can sense is the pain coursing through her body, roaring in her ears and stabbing into her eyes. She's reduced the barest of animal instincts, a lizard brain as it were.

And just as some lizards are able to eject their tail to evade danger, she instinctively reacts and the Atron-class frigate enclosing her capsule explodes, cracking the hangar it's in and send the capsule hurtling across the hangar. As the capsule impacts the far wall, the destruction charge on it triggers. The capsule and the me inside it are engulf in the fire of its destruction. A fire that washes away the pain.

And then, I awake twisted in the sheets, soaked with stinking sweat. My pulse hammers in my ears. My breath coming in ragged sobs. I flail about, desperate to find him. Finding him, I clutch him to me, willing him to be more than the stuffed cloth he is. To devour the dream like the mythical creature that is his namesake.

This dream was different.

This dream was one of trees and lakes. The air filled with sunlight, the sounds of gentle winds, and the scents of pine and earth. And the voice was reassuring and strong.

And I awake, momentarily, to be lulled back to sleep by the warmth and gentle breathing beside me.
« Last Edit: 25 Apr 2015, 18:23 by Jennifer Starfall »
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Vizage

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Re: The Baku
« Reply #1 on: 22 Jan 2015, 11:56 »

An awesomely fun little read. I think I enjoy these "Short works" format the most! Well done Jenn. :)
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Jennifer Starfall

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Re: The Baku
« Reply #2 on: 22 Jan 2015, 12:34 »

An awesomely fun little read. I think I enjoy these "Short works" format the most! Well done Jenn. :)

Thank you. :) I don't have the discipline to write longer works. I'm also a big fan of short works that end on a twist or some kind of stinger.

One tragedy that's come out of the closing of Veto is the disappearance of the Veto forum where there were some other pieces that I wrote (and I don't have copies of otherwise).
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Nicoletta Mithra

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Re: The Baku
« Reply #3 on: 22 Jan 2015, 13:40 »

Just chiming in to say I really like the post as well.  :cube:
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Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a List Child
« Reply #4 on: 23 Jan 2015, 15:57 »

This is a rewrite of a story that I wrote back in my Veto days. It's not a perfect recreation, but it tells the same tale.
The Call

"...summit was supposed to bring hope to Gallente-Caldari relations, but the Federation escort, a Nyx mothership..."

"Turn it it off! Off! Turn it off, damn you!"

Jennifer curled into a tighter ball in the corner of her quarters as the voice UI finally registered a valid command and the news broadcast cut off abruptly. The chaos of the report on the disaster fell silent, leaving only the whir of the air recirculation system and Jennifer's ragged breathing.

She levered herself up and stumbled to sink. She ran water into her hands and splashed it on her face. The cool water mingled with the tears streaking face and washed them away. She stared at herself in the mirror, noting her puffy eyes with their glint with desperation.

"You've left the State. You owe them nothing. Your home is with Ghost Festival now."

She tried to sound firm, confident, but she her voice sounded desperate. And her face starting back at her seemed to sneer at her. With a grunt of disgust she turned away from the sink to find something to occupy her... to keep her from acknowledging the urge, the need, insider to run to the State's aid.

Your home is with the State.

Jennifer froze. "No, it's not."

Jennifer picked up the stack of crew dossiers for her purchased Cerberus-class cruiser and started methodically feeding the pages into waste disposer.

You can feel the State calling to you. You can't ignore it like you do your crew.

She angrily shoved the remaining stack of documents into the disposer opening, her fingers stopping just short of the field.

"I don't ignore them. I'm doing them a favor. I'm helping them live longer!"

Well, ignoring the State won't help it. The State needs you, Jenna. It's part of you.

She froze, knowing the truth of the words. She could feel the urge to fill the emptiness inside her.

"Ghost Festival's my home now. The State can burn for all I care!"

The last was yelled as she gripped the counter, with her knuckles going white.

The State loves you, Jenna. You know that, with every cell of your body.

She started shaking, her expression became desperate.

"They tortured me! They threw me away!"

Her tone changed from pleading to one filled with anger.

You suffered for your love of the State, Jennifer.

Jennifer was beyond words and with primal scream of rage turned and hurled herself at her tormentor. She lashed out with her bare fists, striking the face that was a mockery of her own, again and again.

When her rage was spent, her arms and fists torn and bleeding, she collapsed exhausted on the pieces of the shattered mirror.

"I hate you. I hate you," she sobbed.

As the sobs racked her body, her own face, distorted by the shattered mirror, shook with laughter as it bathed in blood.
« Last Edit: 11 Jul 2015, 12:35 by Jennifer Starfall »
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Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #5 on: 23 Jan 2015, 16:00 »

I renamed this thread so I can collect the short pieces I'm inclined to write in one thread.

Jennifer has been many things and has been called many more, but underneath it all, she's still nothing more than a lost child.
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Halcyon

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #6 on: 23 Jan 2015, 19:14 »

\o/

Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #7 on: 27 Jan 2015, 14:37 »

Distance
** 1st Place - New Eden Capsuleer's Writing Contest - YC 117 - Prose Category **

"Captain! Captain Starfall!"

Jennifer suppressed a cringe as a young, enthusiastic voice called after her as she made her way through the corridor in the Federal Navy assembly plant orbiting above Sortet V's first moon. Jennifer turned and gave a flat look at the tall, young Amarr pushing his way through the crowd towards her. Among the stylishly dressed Gallente comprising the majority of the station's occupants, he stood out like stalk of wheat waving in a sea of tulips.

"Yes, Mr..."

"Domirus, Elijah Domirus, Junior Tac Officer on the Hard Rain," the Amarr youth answered enthusiastically. "Captain Starfall, I just wanted to thank you for hiring me. This means so much to me and my parents. My parents made this scarf for you as a thank you." The baserliner held out a brightly colored, folded square of cloth.

Jennifer nodded stiffly and didn't look at the proffered cloth. "Your time working for me has been appreciated. You're fired. See Mr. Graff for your severance."

Jennifer turned on her heel and continued the way she had been walking before being interrupted. The crowd flowed around the Amarr youth, as heedless of his shock as they were of the delicate silk scarf that had slipped through his fingers to be trampled underfoot.

--/--

"Jennifer!"

Jennifer gave an exasperated sigh as she looked up from the datapad she was reading. "Don't you knock?"

The tall, dark-haired Deteis standing in the door to her day office brandished a datapad. "Another one? That's two since we've redeployed here!"

"What if I was naked... what if I had company?" Jennifer allowed herself a small, private smile at the thought.

Stephen Graff glared down at his long-time friend like a parent chastising a recalcitrant child. "Do you realize how hard it is to find Amarr-qualified baseliner officers in the Federation?"

Jennifer sighed. "He broke the rules, Stephen. They all agree to them when they sign on. It's your job to make sure they do. You did, didn't you?" Jennifer countered, going on the offensive.

Stephen stared flatly at Jennifer. Jennifer returned his look with an accusatory glare.

"Jenna, the boy sends most of his pay back home to his parents. They have a better life because you hired their son. They just wanted to show you their appreciation."

"Yeah. Exactly."

Stephen sighed and tossed the datapad onto the desk before sinking into a chair. "It's what people do. They do things for each other; they form bonds. It's what normal people do." Despite the well-worn words of this debate, Stephen took no enjoyment in it.

"You know that's the problem. You know what happens."

--/--

"Jenna? Jenn!" Stephen pounded on the door to his friend's quarters. A friend no one had seen in several days, ever since she'd lost her frigate to a Guristas ambush.

Not hearing any response, he activated the code panel and entered a backdoor code. Fortunately the SWA student quarters were easily entered by anyone willing to be sociable and pay for a couple pints of the local brew for one of the many backdoor codes existing in the security system.

The door opened and Stephen could immediately hear crying from inside. Stephen hurried into the room not quite certain what to expect.

Stephen stopped and stared. Lined up on the wall of her desk were a half dozen pictures. Not just of her crew, but of Jenna's memories with her crew. Minado toasting the commissioning of the ship; his first, and last, commission. Kenaeda trying to steal a kiss from his captain; not out of any interest, but just to get a rise out of her. All good memories. Memories which, by all appearances, had returned from the dead to haunt her.

Jenna sat against the opposite wall, her knees drawn up to hide her face from the soulless gaze of the pictures. Periodic sobs racked her body.

Stephen picked up one of the crumpled pieces of paper littering the floor between Jenna and her desk. "Dear Kenaeda-Haani, I regret to inform you that your son is dead. Despite our friendship, I was unable to save him...."

"Oh, Jenna." Stephen moved to Jenna's side and placed a hand gently on her shoulder.

Jenna looked up, tears streaking her face. "I couldn't save them, Stephen. I just frozen. All I could think about was how my friends were going to die."

"You did the best you could," Stephen soothed and patted her shoulder.

Jenna beat his hand away. "No, I didn't. I froze! All I could think about was they were about to die. And no matter how horribly they died, I would live! If I had fought my ship like I'd been trained, the probably would've lived!"

Jenna looked at Stephen, and he saw in her eyes that she would remember the deaths of her friends as only a immortal capsuleer could: until the stars burned cold.

--/--

Stephen sighed. He knew better than to force the issue. He learned years ago that compassion for her crew was something his friend and employer couldn't afford.

"You want me to give him the standard severance package and letter of recommendation?"

Jennifer looked up, lost in a memory. "Mmm? What? Yes... No..." Jennifer stared at the small case that contained those few things precious to her. "Give him the standard package, and make sure his parents are taken care of."

Stephen grunted in surprise and smiled. "Yes, ma'am."

Jennifer picked up Stephen's datapad and threw it at him. "Stop that. Now, get out of here. I have things to do."

Stephen raised his hands in surrender and to catch his datapad, "I'm going. I'm going."

As Stephen left to go arrange for the severance of yet another baseliner, Stephen wondered, as he always did, if there was a better way that Jennifer could manage her compulsion to protect those close to her. He certainly didn't begrudge it of her. He'd certainly benefited from it more than once when faced by Guristas and Angels wanting to pointedly question their loyalties.

As the door closed behind Stephen, Jennifer opened the box of her memories and took out the pictures her friends, her crew, that had taught her an important lesson of being a capsuleer: the importance of distance.
« Last Edit: 17 Jan 2016, 18:17 by Jennifer Starfall »
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Halcyon

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #8 on: 28 Jan 2015, 04:19 »

Sortet \o/
I like this story

Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #9 on: 30 Jan 2015, 12:51 »

Different

Starfall, Starfall 12-2 as she was properly called, sat huddled in one corner of the creche playroom. She watched the other children running, screeching and giggling with delight. They were currently playing a game of Red Gate, Green Gate. She didn't bother to ask if she could join. She didn't ask if she could join any of their games, not anymore at least. It was easier that way; less painful than to suffer their ridicule directly. Since her first joining the creche playgroup, she had reached a detente of sorts with the other children. They no longer took advantage of her, and she no longer bit or kicked them.

It was easy for them to take advantage. Because she was so different from them, it was easy for them to not look at her like another human. Without anyone to protect her, to take up her defense, or to comfort when the other children's cruelty became too much to hear, she was an easy mark in the competitive environment that was hallmark of the creches.

So, she went to the creche playgroups as she was required to. And she sat balled up in a corner, away from whatever game was being played that day. She kept to herself, and the other children did not torment her with their pranks and jeers. And their pity. Well, mostly, except when they grew bored.

But today, Red Gate, Green Gate kept them sufficiently entertained that they did not feel a need to torment her for the one thing that made her completely alien and pitiable in the eyes of the other tube children: she was alone. Whether she was a survivor of a failed line or an accident, or if thrown from the nest of another creche, did not matter. And that made her different.
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Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #10 on: 02 Feb 2015, 12:39 »

Elation

The fluid flowed into capsule, turning the armored shell into a womb. Jennifer tried to relax into its warm embrace, but her nerves made that impossible. She was too tense. The years of fear and nightmares that had filled her with hatred for herself came crowding back. By a shear act of will, she held the memories at bay.

As the fluid flowed over her head, she forced herself to relax. Letting the fluid fill her lungs, she concentrated on the process of interfacing with her pod.

"Relax, Ms. Starfall. Your heart rate is very elevated. You'll just make it more difficult."

Jennifer diverted a fragment of her attention to the external communications systems. "That's easy for you to say. How about I do your next performance review drunk and armed with a railgun?"

There was a hesitation on the other end. The technician was probably regaining her composure after such an overt threat. "Uh... point taken, Ms. Starfall."

Jennifer chided herself internally. The technician was only trying to help. Elevated stress levels would only make the interface process harder.

Soon, she didn't so much feel as sense her capsule being moved into position.

"Standby for integration."

Time froze for Jennifer as the technician unwittingly mimicked the voice from her nightmares. Her breath quickened and the walls of the capsule around her, normally invisible to interfaced senses, came into harsh reality and seemed to close in around like like a tomb. Jennifer stifled the urge to cry out "No, wait! It won't work," the words she screamed unheeded in those same nightmares. A whimper did escape her lips; whether from fear, or from the pain of biting her lip, she was uncertain.

"Ms. Starfall, are you okay? Do you want to continue?"

All she could do was nod, but the heuristics of the interface system transmitted her assent.

Jennifer's entire universe stood still, balanced on a knife's edge, a quantum particle the instance before it's observed, balanced between eternity and oblivion.

"Initiate."

Data propagating at the speed of light rushed into her brain. She could feel the foreign data lance into her brain, like a white-hot spike penetrating her cerebral cortex. She felt her stomach knot and convulse at the sudden shock. She fought down the bile rising in her throat. A part of her started to frantically search for escape.

A denial fueled of equal parts desperation and determination forced a guttural "No!" from between her clenched teeth. And in a last clash of will with herself, she reached out into the depths of the alien systems forcing their way into her consciousness, and acted.

--/--

Hasateem VI-12, Thukker Mix Factory, Surveillance Drone 5

The space around the station was quiet, devoid of any traffic. Not many people chose to travel this backwater system. The lack of regular patrols by CONCORD and the Minmatar Republic caused most people to consider the system a dangerous place.

A flash of light and a cloud of crystallized gas near one of the station's docking bays silently signaled that a docking bay's doors had been blown in an emergency. A flash of gold and white streaked from the docking bay and arced up and over the station. Shaped like a sleek, predatory fish, the Vengeance-class assault frigate danced and pirouetted around the station, its pilot obviously flying out pure, unadulterated joy. A deadly angel of death embracing for a brief time the sheer glory of its existence.

--/--

Jennifer pushed frantically at the capsule's hatch as it opened far too slowly. Forcing her way free, she collapsed to her hands and knees, the remaining fluid from the capsule flowing around her. Her body, no longer able to contain the toxins accumulated from the stress, anxiety and pain of the last hour, voided the contents of her stomach onto the floor of the hangar. It did not bother her, as her entire being vibrated with the joy and elation she had just experienced.

She recoiled as an unseen presence touched her. "Ms. Starfall, are you okay?"

She recognized the voice of the technician who had been a constant virtual companion for the last hour.

The disembodied voice asked "Ms. Starfall, I need you to tell me how you feel? Are you experiencing anything unusual?"

Jennifer's elation turned to horror as the realization struck home. She reached out and felt the technician's arm, and clung to it like a drowning person clinging to a float. "I... I think I'm blind."

« Last Edit: 09 Feb 2015, 21:49 by Jennifer Starfall »
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Zenariae

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #11 on: 03 Feb 2015, 04:55 »

These stories are great! I enjoy how you capture Jennifer's emotional state; it's very palpable in your writing. Keep it up!
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Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #12 on: 03 Feb 2015, 12:49 »

These stories are great! I enjoy how you capture Jennifer's emotional state; it's very palpable in your writing. Keep it up!

Thank you. I enjoy writing them. Jennifer's emotions are a key part of her story and why I enjoy playing her. Her self-hatred, her fears, the love she feels for whoever her current surrogate family is, all combine together to make interacting with other characters interesting.
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Kyoko Sakoda

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #13 on: 05 Feb 2015, 01:26 »

 :cube:
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Jennifer Starfall

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Re: Portraits of a Lost Child
« Reply #14 on: 23 Feb 2015, 12:18 »

Outsider

The doors of the shuttle closed behind Jennifer, the interlocks providing a punctuation to the evening. She flinched when she heard the faint Amarrian accent of the InterBus pilot over the intercomm.

"Where to, ma'am?"

"I just want to go home... Sortet V... FedNAP." She hoped the pilot didn't need any further clarification; she just wanted to be alone.

"Very good, ma'am."

Moments later, the tremor of the shuttle launch shook free the last of Jennifer's composure. She got up from the acceleration couch she was buckled into and collapsed, curling up against the bulkhead as the emotions of the evening rushed in at her.

She found herself looking at her feet, sticking out from under the layers of yellow silk that made up the dress she'd worn for the occaission. Knowing that an effort was being made to see her, the least she could do was make an effort to be more presentable.

She kicked off the white, heeled shoes that she'd not even been able to wear during dinner. She stared at her feet and remembered the strong but gentle hands that had carressed them as her host washed them. A Sarumite tradition that had taken her completely by surprise. A ritual at the same time intimately welcoming and altogether alien to her fractured upbringing.

The meal had been exquisite as it was exotic. Her host was gracious and genuinely interested in her enjoying the meal and the company. If the meal had any flaw it was that it had to end. The fatigue was apparent in her host's face, but so was the regret at having to cut their time short.

Jennifer realized then that there were sacrifices made for their time. And for that, she loved her host. It gave her what she'd craved most then: to feel special, to feel important to someone. It reminded her of how caring and nurturing the Amarrian people could be, a far cry from cold and loneliness of her own upbringing.

So, it was only natural that she wouldn't want the evening to end. So, she'd gone to the Holy Grape. The first decision that evening she truly regretted. Not that she had any doubts at the time, but in hindsight. She hadn't thought that she'd cause jealousy among those she considered friend. Maybe if she'd understood Amarrian culture better, she would've understood the tones and nuances of her conversation. Instead she had just flaunted her good fortune of being the one her host had chosen to spend her meager time with.

And then, the blow that brought everything crashing down was the scorn of the Brutor sommolier. A simple expression of courtesy that would've been considered polite amongst Caldari was met with scorn and derision by one whose lot it is to serve without question.

The response shouldn't have affected her so; Jennifer was tougher than that. But the sneer with which the word "Caldari" was uttered was both a condemnation and a dismissal. It drove home that no matter how much time she spent among them, not matter how many she counted as friends, she was not an Amarrian. There would always be things like slavery that she could not fully accept.

And as if to confirm it all, she spoke the words that confirmed herself as an outsider: sometimes I really hate your culture.

Jennifer immediately recognized her mistake, but she could not then take back the words that a part of knew were fundamentally true.

So, she fled. She ceded the field and ran "home". To home where, if she was honest with herself, she was even an outsider. A home in a foreign nation, on a foreign station where they still regarded her with suspicion as she entered.

Jennifer looked at her feet again. The dust of countless planets had covered them. All of them alien. On all of them, she had been, and always would be, an outsider. With this stark realization, Jennifer began to cry.
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