MISC: Star Crossed I: The Metarese Parrot: ch 1
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Thu Jan 25 22:47:25 PST 2018
STAR CROSSED: THE METARESE PARROT
by Jeanne Morningstar
The starport in Metare was like many Alyx had seen since she'd set out
on her journey--the abstract ornamentation on the walls were tarnished.
An allegorical fountain statue of black stone which had seen better days
stood by the exit, a woman holding a water jar with the constellations
painted on her body in gold, probably made long after the starport was
originally built. It might have been created simply for decoration, but
now was a sacred object, with prayers and offerings left at its feet.
This was a much more prestigious place, once, before the collapse of the
Centauripop conglomerate and the centuries-long corporate hot and cold
wars that led to the formation of the Neutral Zone.
Alyx saw what seemed as many different varieties of human being as there
were in all the universe, and felt them jostling around in her thoughts.
In her home world, most had stuck closer to the classical human
template; here there were people with iridescent blue skin or tentacles
or translucent wings, some barely recognizable as human. There were a
good many cyborgs--something she still had trouble with sometimes, as
the Order of the Unclosing Eye had always looked down on cybernetics.
The most extreme example were the silver-bodied preachers of the Mechan
Unity, third eyes glinting on their foreheads. They were speaking in
chorus, proclaiming the advantages of giving up one's individuality to
join the collective. While the war with the Mechans had officially ended
200 years ago, it was still technically illegal for collective machine
intelligences to recruit humans in Rubicon space, and illegal almost
everywhere to replace more than 10% of one's body with cybernetics other
than for work or military purposes. Out here, on the borders of
corporate space, many things were possible.
She turned away from the Mechans, and her gaze darted around the room to
see if anyone was watching them. She was wearing dark sunglasses she had
to wear to conceal her purple eyes, which mark her as a telepath. They
didn't exactly make her inconspicuous, but it was better that people
would be suspicious than know for sure--there were more than a few
people who'd pay good money for a psi's body parts. She did regret that
they clashed with with her robe. She could no longer wear the regalia of
her order but wore a simple white robe with purple trim instead. The
rest of the clothing that Kel had was far too ostentatious or immodest
for her. Kel cut quite a contrast to Alyx, with her rakish short
haircut, dashing red jacket, and conspicuous gun belt.
"Guess we'll do the usual," said Kel, as they made their way along the
concourse past the food court. "Check to see if anyone here has any
leads for either of us, and then head out to somewhere more interesting."
"I've had enough interesting for quite a while, myself," said Alyx.
Before they could go down the staircase to the first floor, they saw
someone walking toward them, wearing sunglasses that were significantly
larger than Alyx's, a black shawl wrapped around their head and
shoulders, and black leather pants. A strand of dark blonde hair peeked
out from the shawl. Alyx had a feeling that this was their idea of being
inconspicuous--which made her feel a little better about herself by
comparison--and what she could catch of the stranger's thoughts in the
chaos around them showed fear and anxiety of being spotted.
The stranger saw Kel and gasped in recognition. "Kel? Is that you?"
"Huh? I--oh. Ooooooh." Kel's face lit up. A brief flash of her memory
sparked in her mind, so vivid Alyx couldn't help but pick it up--the
gawky teenage Kel performing As You Like It in a border world defined by
ostentatious fashion and ceremony to make up for its lack of real
importance. This would have been when she was part of a small and
disreputable travelling Shakespeare troupe, Lord Nonesuch's Men, before
she learned the identity of her father and set out on her quest as a
freelance space adventurer of sorts. The memory focused in on a plump
girl with golden hair in the audience who was looking at her with
adoring eyes. The memory then flashed to the girl pulling herself out of
her over-ruffled dress, Kel kissing the freckles on her shoulder, the
two of them fumbling around in the wine cellar and beating a hasty
retreat when someone knocked on the door. The heat, desire, longing she
felt made her face flush. Alyx was careful not to retain too much of
this memory--while she was no longer part of the Order now and would be
killed on sight as a murderer and a heretic unless her name was cleared,
she had every intention of maintaining her vow of celibacy.
"Emeliane! It's been a while, huh." Kel embraced her and kissed her on
"It certainly has." Emeliane relaxed her posture slightly. "And what's
changed with you?" She didn't ask about the cybernetic hand Kel now
bore, and Alyx could sense a small ripple of relief from Kel.
"I'm Captain Kel Starjak now, of the Star Crossed. Been traveling around
the universe, taking on a few odd jobs here and there," said Kel. Alyx
smirked a little.
<<What was so funny, anyway?>> thought Kel. Alyx was always a little
startled at how well she was picking up telepathic communication.
<<I still feel it's a little presumptuous to call yourself captain of a
ship that has all of two people.>> thought Alyx.
<<Well, maybe, but has that ever stopped me before? No.>> thought Kel.
<<That's true.>> thought Alyx. <<So who is this woman, exactly?>>
"Oh, I guess you don't know each other, huh," said Kel. "Alyx, this is
Lady Emeliane Sentros, of Keshdan. Eme, this is Alyx Lyranae, my, uh,
"Oh, I see." Lady Emeliane tilted her head.
"Ah, no, it's not like that," said Kel, throwing up her hands.
"It's always complicated with you, isn't it," said Lady Emeliane.
"So, ah, what brings you here?" said Kel.
Lady Emeliane took a deep breath."My life is in danger," she said.
"I need your help. I--" she held out the black box in her hand. "The
person I was supposed to deliver this to--she was shot. You have to take
this to Jeren Velnar at Idyan Street, he's a watchmaker."
It was a dense-looking, oblong black box with a polished sheen--Alyx
couldn't quite tell what it was supposed to be, probably a stasis box
for holding something extremely delicate.
"OK..." said Kel. "So what is this? Who are you working for? Who wants
"It's a long story," said Emeliane. "I--"
Just then, of course, there was a gunshot. The fight started and ended
before Alyx could fully process it. The air shimmered as three soldiers
decloaked, wearing shiny, well-crafted black power armor with
shoulder-mounted guns--obviously professionals. Before Alyx could move,
Emeliane slipped off into the crowd, leaving Kel holding the black box.
Kel drew her old-fashioned, elegant laser-pistol swifter than the eye
could see, blasting at the the soldiers. One of them she hit in the
shoulder cannon and it exploded in a shower of sparks, sending them to
the floor, the other she grazed and missed. Normally security guards
would come swarming out right about now, but this was a place where
security was notoriously lax. A few other passengers took out guns and
start shooting at the soldiers, while others started haphazardly
shooting at each other.The Mechan preachers just chanted on. Alyx had
the sense that this was not an uncommon occurrence here.
The remaining two soldiers charged at Kel and Alyx, barrelling through
the crowd. Kel shot the window, sending a shower of glass out into the
streets, and, grabbing Alyx in one arm and the box in another, leaped
through it onto the rooftop. As Kel leaped through the window, Alyx
could hear clapping behind her.
The two remaining soldiers roared after them on jet-wings. Alyx fought
down her urge to throw up as best she could. Combat situations were not
her forte; she often felt sick and hopless in the midst of them. She'd
been trained in psychic self-defense but not combat. Nonetheless, she
closed her eyes and began meditating, practicing the mantra she had
learned from the Order, focusing her thoughts onto a tight beam. She
tried to break into the minds of the soldiers but they were behind
psi-shields, and it would take time to break through them.
Kel struck one of the soldiers,and he plummeted to the ground. Since
there were now just two people around her, Alyx could focus. She felt
herself slip out of her own body, fully inhabiting the soldier's. He was
a young man who had taken the job to pay off family debt, and felt
awkward crammed into the armor. She almost felt sorry for him. She
yanked into his mind and put a wall between him and the part that knew
how to pilot the suit. The man was hit by a wave of panic and, thrashing
around, fell to the street below. Alyx sank back into her own body and
felt herself pass into unconsciousness.
She came to somewhere in the warren of alleys in the (even more)
disreputable part of the city, as Kel gently set her body down. "That
was a bit much," said Alyx, panting, as she gradually awoke. "It's
customary to leave through the door."
"Well, dramatic exits are what I'm good at," said Kel. She wiped the
sweat from her forehead. "Besides, I didn't want to have to deal with
security on top of everything else. So, what are we gonna do about this
thing?" She slowly turned the black case over in her hands, caressing it
with her cybernetic hand to scan it.
"I don't think we should expend too much energy on it. As I recall, we
have two objectives--recovering your father's lost journals and the
information that will allow me to clear my name. I fail to see how this
is related to either of them."
"Wellll," said Kel, "I mean, we haven't made a lot of progress, true,
but it's kind of like when you lose your keys and then look over for
them and they're not there and so you have to put that aside and do
something else and then they turn up..." Alyx stared unimpressedly at
her. "Besides, we're in too deep now, I guess. We've got this thing, and
obviously people are willing to kill for it, so we should figure out
what to do with it, before they come after us again."
"That's probably true," said Alyx. She rewarded Kel with a small smile.
"And I will admit a certain curiosity about what exactly is in that box.
I couldn't pick up any of Lady Emeliane's thoughts beyond the surface
"Well," said Kel, cautiously opening the case. "We'll figure out what to
do with this--"
The case exploded into a flutter of green wings. "Arawk! Fifty men on a
I decided to take a page from Felix's book and just go ahead and write a
short ("short") chapter in a series I'd had in mind for a while without
worrying whether or not I'd finish it.
These characters have both been around in my head for a while, though
I'd seldom had a chance to write about them. Alyx is actually one of my
oldest characters, dating from before LNH; she was the companion of a
possible future Doctor in a Doctor Who round robin fanfic. Later on I
made her part of a superhero team concept that didn't quite work out,
but the character stuck with me. Kel was part of a Guardians of the
Galaxy team in one of those elaborate series proposals I'll never write
that I periodically come up with; she was the long-lost daughter of
Peter Quill. (As for who her other parent is, I won't say here since I
might use some version of that reveal later down the line.) I paired
those two characters for yet another superhero story that didn't work
out, but they worked well enough together I decided to give them their
own story, and used the title of yet another unfinished project. I write
a lot of things that never get finished, but it all adds up to
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