[BE] The shuttle (flashback), 6 [Alvega, Sheva, Iberis, Tek]

edited July 2018 in burning-empires
The small shuttle shook and rumbled as the fusion reactor expelled gases at high velocities to give them the necessary lift. Biting into her tongue to keep her teeth from rattling Alvega reordered her mental list of things she detested the most about Xuria, placing its inability to support grav tech at the top. She hated flying, or feared it, or hated the fear itself, she wasn't sure, and frankly she didn't care.

But the journey might be worth it, Lady Corinne - or the merchant Grey as she called herself now after having withdrawn from court after the death of her husband ten years prior - had returned from a trading expedition. Perhaps she would have news of the war against Gonzagin, perhaps even words of the Coscan Kingdom. The latter was nigh on impossible, her home was deep into 'enemy territory', far away from the front lines of a war that had ground to a halt when both sides had run out of steam and will to fight, but were still to proud to consider the option of a peace.

But the lady was a dear friend, seeing her again would make the trip worth the effort, unless some mechanical issue caused their shuttle to explode in a glorious fireball before then. They needed to discuss the future of Iberis, lady Corinne's daughter and her companion. The girl was no longer a girl, she was turning into a independent minded woman before her eyes. She couldn't remain a companion forever.

A small group of soldiers shared the shuttle with them, presumably also heading for the station that orbited the planet, the center point of almost all trade between Xuria and the outside world. Having seen them Iberis had insisted on sitting with them rather than with her, eager for stories about a life of adventure and danger. She had allowed it, but had sent her bodyguard Leon with the girl, just in case. Leon followed her were she went, and said very little. She suspected that the man's real task was to make sure that she didn't desert her position as baroness Gorey for the dream of once again becoming princess Alvega of Coscade.

Still he was a comfort to have around, after launching an orbital strike onto the planet to quell a rebellion her husband had risen to the unenviable position of the most hated man on the planet, at least if one considered the opinions of the huge serf and working class. Some of that had reflected on her, but Leon's practical mind had kept her out of any real trouble this far.

The reactor wound down. The shaking and rumbling ceased, and the shuttle drifted soundlessly through space. She felt light, her braids rose like snakes from her head for a couple of moments before the grav generator engaged and the cabin's floor became the direction of the perceived gravitational pull.

Now less concerned about the risk of sudden fiery death she again looked towards the man sitting opposite her. She had first seen him at Lord Tarrak's funeral, captain Sheva. Half brother of Iberis, at least if one didn't listen to rumors. Also one of her husband's most outspoken political opponents, a trait that sorted him into the side of progress in the model of the Xurian courtly intrigue that she maintained in her mind.

"Captain Sheva." She nodded and offered the slightest hint of a smile in greeting.


  • I clutch the grab bars of my chair tightly as the ship rattles and shakes itself from the planet's atmosphere — a habit I picked up during drops to keep from getting jostled around in turbulence. I hate flying, and I hate space. I joined the Anvil forces specifically to avoid flying and space, and now I'm stuck in a tin can with the devil's own wife. Perhaps worst of all, I'm trapped in a tin can with the devil's own wife destined for a space-station run by a woman who I'm quite certain hates me more than any man in the galaxy.

    My life is fantastic right now.

    When we've finally punched through the last of the upper atmosphere, the tension leaves my body, and I forget where I am for a moment — at least until Baroness Alvega addresses me by my former title. I look across the shuttle at her, and smile. What was she before she came to this rock? A princess? I resist the urge to address her in kind, but only just. If my daughter wasn't lady-in-waiting to her, I may not be so restrained. I promised a number of my clients I would give Baron Gorey several unkind words at my earliest convenience, and I'm nothing if not a man true to my word.

    "Baroness Alvega," I answer, "what brings you to the lap of luxury?" I motion to the modest accommodations keeping the vacuum of space at bay. See? I can be civil.
  • His tone betrays him even if he thinks he masks it well. He is upset. Upset with her, with the baron, with the world.

    He's a soldier, not a politician. Which was why he ended up in command of the defense forces. All thanks to her husband, but he's a soldier, not a politician, so he harbors his grudge still.

    Hadn't baron Gorey acted so rashly, lord steward Vought hadn't been forced from his post, the separation of the stewardship from the command over the planet's defense would never have happened - and the need for a man who is a soldier but not a politician - would never have arisen.

    All he has is thanks to baron Gorey - her trigger happy husband who's also more of a soldier than a politician. Had the circumstances been different they could have been friends.

    "We are visiting Lady Gray for a couple of days. Her ship has just returned, and your sister hasn't seen her mother in a long time." It must pain him that her friendship with Corinne has left Iberis in the care of the Gorey household while her mother finds a new foothold outside the ruins of Tarrak's estate.
  • My "sister". It's second nature for me not to react to that now, but it still hurts every time I hear it. Still, it is a kindness that she considers Iberis in her actions... Despite her husband's failures, Baroness Alvega has been nothing but kind to my daughter. I was against Iberis' service to the Baroness from the outset — Gorey and I have never exactly seen eye to eye, and the thought of my daughter being influenced by his wanton disregard for those beneath him makes me ill. Perhaps the only saving grace is that Iberis has always been her own woman — it would be naive of me to think that I, or anyone else, could shape her worldview.

    Lord Tarrak would have been disappointed with my tone... I shouldn't blame her for her husband's actions. My face softens, and I scratch at my chin. "Forgive me Baroness — I've been barking orders at new recruits for far too long. I was too harsh. How is Iberis? You have a son her age, don't you? How is he?"
  • edited July 2018
    "Hardin, yes, five years junior to Iberis. He's cæptir with Lord Muskham's house now."

    Muskham, also of the reclaimant party, the family has strong influence in the mining industry. Ruthless man, you can imagine what sort of man Hardin will become under his influence.

    "He is doing well, though I miss having him close."

    "Iberis is growing into a fine woman, Captain, and a strong one. When she marries her husband better give her room or be crushed under the weight of her will." Alvega laughs, allowing the otherwise so closed face break into a wide smile. "Don't worry."

    "What brings you into space? Can you speak of it?"
  • I'm not naive enough to think I hide the judgment on my face – not of her or her son, but of Muskham's reputation. I nod in agreement when she mentions missing having him close — that I can relate to. I laugh with her when she jokes about Iberis' character — she really is my daughter. When she asks what brings me into space, I shrug.

    "The Green Rose Company is diversifying, and I've been invited to discuss a few open-ended contracts with Lady Grey. These contract negotiations tend to drag on with ample downtime between meetings. I suspect I'll be making close friends with a bartender while I'm here — if only to take my mind off of being in a vacuum." I chuckle, "I promise I won't keep Corinne for too long — I know how boring stays in space can be. Have you any other business on the station, or is this just for pleasure?".
  • edited July 2018
    "Oh, nothing for me. This is for Iberis, though I am looking forward to seeing Lady Gray again, she's a remarkable woman."

    Through the viewport she gazed into the distance. The elongated shape of the Justified Wrath came into view over the horizon, glistening like a diamond in the sky. "You can't see the damage at this distance ..."

    Gorey kept a small detachment aboard, officially for the purpose of doing repairs of the extensive damage she sustained during the campaign. But in actuality their presence mainly served the purpose of keeping the card 'orbital bombardment' on the baron's hand as he played the game of politics.

    Her life this far could be divided into three periods of nearly equal size. Growing up as a Gonzagin princess, the long period of captivity on the Justified Wrath, and now baroness - mother of a son she saw but a few days every year and wife of a man who for the most part had no further need of her.

    Even as a captive she had filled a need by stepping into the still smoldering sickbay and bringing it into action again after the ship had sustained frightful damage in an ambush. And there she then had stayed for the rest of their journey.

    Each stage had been better than the one that followed and there was something in the air that told her that another change was coming.

    "As we'll be in space for many days, and have time on our hands, you should rob the bartender of your presence for at least one evening, and see your sister instead. I'm sure she'd be more than delighted to spend some time with her brother." After a moment she added "The opportunity seldom presents itself." Leaving the conflict between him and her husband unmentioned.
  • "She's a remarkable woman..." — that she is. I seem to surround myself with remarkable women. When the Baroness suggests I spend time with Iberis, I smile and nod. "I'd be a dead man if I didn't spend time with her," and I mean that in more ways than one. "Between that, and negotiating with Lady Grey for a few field doctors, I suppose my friend the bartender will come to miss me."
  • (End.)
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