DIVA/WISP: Pureheart and the Shadow Queen #2

deucexm deucexm at gmail.com
Fri Nov 23 17:26:17 PST 2018

In which a certain Captain finally appears in all her glory.  Also, more
friends!  The characters have practically badgered me to write them into
SOMETHING, and so I cannot help but comply - gladly, in this case.


Pureheart and the Shadow Queen: A DiVerse Alpha Chronicle 
by Felix 



The interior of the cruiser was every bit as remarkable as the outside,
Pureheart noted as she followed Myriad and Laurel through the spacious
passageways.  Form had been meshed with function, the smooth lines and curves of
the interior walls punctuated with colorful accents indicating bulkheads,
compartments, passageways, stairwells - there was a clearly defined flow to
everything that she could follow even though nothing was written at all.

The Thunder Launcher was a far cry from the brutally angular construction of
Imperial vessels with a stenciled label on every flat surface, and still far
enough from the more pleasant Viverdean designs that it gave her pause. 
Everything about this ship spoke - /sang/ - that it was a custom hull, that it
was a work of art, and that it was a /home/; and it called to her like a siren
to a weary sailor.

Laurel let her enjoy the walk at her leisure, not interrupting her exploration
with any unnecessary words, simply keeping a steady, measured pace with that
smile of theirs, white heels clicking softly on the deck wherever the bare metal
wasn't covered by insulation or cabling.  The ship's halls murmured the same
sweet notes of home and hearth to their ears, and it set them at ease every
time.  Perhaps there would be a moment to spare for some tea...

All too soon, it seemed, the trio arrived at a more fortified door - not only
built more solidly, but with subtly disguised armament as well, small curves
here and there the only signs of the turreted defense system hidden just beneath
the surface.  Myriad raised one hand, then turned briefly, the golden orb fixing
upon Pureheart as the panels softly hissed open.

   My Captain can... intimidate, I think.
   Be not alarm'd, I pray thee, but respect
   that ship and shipmates all owe life itself -
   and more - to our commanding officer.

Pureheart blinked, feeling a sudden nervousness grip her chest and stomach.  "I-
ah, I'll bear that in mind then.  Thanks for the warning."

Laurel laughed softly.  "The Captain /can/ be a little intense, I suppose.  But
you're a guest on my invitation, and not only that, we're on a capital-M
Mission!"  They placed a hand lightly on Pureheart's shoulder.  "You'll do fine;
no one here is unreasonable, and I'll be by your side the entire time.  Just
like I promised - don't forget that, okay?"

Brightening at that, though still nervous, she nodded.  "Thanks, Laurel."  And
with that, she stepped forward and onto the bridge of the Thunder Launcher.

She couldn't have imagined what to expect, never having set foot on any cruiser
before; all the Viverdean ships that ferried her about had been fast and very
lightly armed corvettes, the government not trusting her abilities to leave
anything undamaged.  Each one had a skeleton crew of three - pilot, navigator,
and engineer (gunner in a pinch) - and though she had ridden inside on occasion,
she always found the Celeris-pattern bridge in particular uncomfortably cramped,
and the others only marginally better.

This was nothing like that.

The moment Pureheart stepped inside, the room's spherical expanse impressed her
- not unlike her old stasis chamber, but larger and so much livelier!  Massive
viewsceens took up the fore, and no less than eight system terminals lay on
either side of the main walkway; some were occupied, though none of the
silhouettes in front of them held her interest just yet.  Neither did the soft
bluish glow from above and behind, painting everything in a mysterious,
pulsating light.

No, her attention was solely fixed on the master of the ship, standing
statuesque before a ceremonial captain's wheel meshed with a more conventional
terminal.  "Make ready for departure," came the clear voice of command -
feminine, Pureheart noted - as the captain turned with an almost military
precision.  "Report in five."  Among the return chorus of 'aye aye, sir', their
eyes met for the first time; but naturally, it was the captain who spoke first.

"I bid you welcome, friend of Laurel," she began, her quieter voice cutting
through the bridge's background noise just as easily.  "I am Captain Aile
Calamity, of the Lost Order irregular cruiser Thunder Launcher."

Pureheart tried not to let her surprise show on her face.  The Calamity name was
well-known throughout independent worlds, especially those near Imperial space,
as a catalyst for all sorts of societal change; mostly revolution, but
occasionally the more peaceful varieties as well.  And even if she'd been
utterly unaware of the woman's reputation, her commanding presence alone could
surely bring /anyone/ to their knees.

Bright steel shone in the captain's gray eyes, set in a serene, lightly tanned
face crowned with shoulder-length wavy brown hair.  Her uniform - it had the cut
of one, at least - was a dark charcoal gray, almost but not quite black;
trousers and a high-collared longcoat reminiscent of an Imperial officer, but
worn with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows and unbuttoned to display the
royal purple blouse underneath.  Fingerless black gloves covered her hands,
small devices attached to each one, and a well-worn pistol hung from the dull
silver belt encircling her waist.  Slim but sturdy-looking armored boots
completed the ensemble, their shine equally subdued.

There was also the matter of the captain's Third Eye, to be sure: a vertical
slit in her forehead (at the moment) surrounded by what looked like a circular
tattoo of some sort.  Pureheart wasn't too familiar with augmentations, but she
knew enough to at least be cautious.

"I thank you, Captain Calamity," she eventually returned, after a few nervous
breaths.  "I am Celia Ermine, /formerly/ Critical Eye of the Viverde Vanguard;
now known as... Pureheart."

There was a brief pause, and then the captain smiled.  "Be at ease, Pureheart. 
You'll find no enemies here unless you make them on your own; and with my crew,
you'll find that no easy task."  She turned briefly and manipulated her
terminal, and the center viewscreen flickered, changing from a readout of
parameters to a view of the planet below.  It wasn't quite as breathtaking as it
was in person, but Viverde's beauty was undeniable.  "Once we're underway, I'd
like you to meet my crew; but until then, I'm afraid I must attend to my

"I'll look forward to it then, Captain," Pureheart replied evenly, finding
herself quite comforted by the familiar aura of authority and especially
experience; here was a leader who knew precisely what she was doing, for she had
done it countless times before.

Captain Calamity nodded, and turned fully to her terminal, fingertips coming to
rest lightly on the gunmetal ship's wheel.  "Report."

"Reactors are stable enough," came a... meaty voice, Pureheart couldn't have
described it any other way, from above and behind.  She turned to look, and saw
a veritable mountain of a man suspended in a glowing blue capsule with a mass of
wires plugged into him all over; of course they have a Core on board, she
thought, there's no other way a ship this size would operate without a massive
crew.  "Number Two is showing the same little flickers we've been seeing this
trip, but she'll perform well within standards.  The couplers are fixed, too;
all is well."

"Quite so," came the captain's reply, with the weight of a familiar

"Normal engines green, no issues."  Pureheart turned toward the terminals on the
right to see a serious-looking bronze-skinned woman, the owner of the crisply
synthesized voice she'd just heard, with a bold patch of silver on her throat
that might explain it.  She was dressed in a simple olive green tank top and
khaki cargo pants with tan combat boots, and had her black hair in a neat and
undecorated bun; everything about her spoke of efficiency and order.  "Aether
ripper in standby, ready to spool up.  K-Dash offline, obviously.  Gate codes
prepared for immediate broadcast."  She folded her arms.  "I have been unable to
solve the generator puzzle as of yet.  Otherwise, all is well."

Captain Calamity nodded, her gaze still fixed on the main screen.  "I look
forward to your eventual success, Ms. Dinistrio.  So it goes."

Pondering the 'generator puzzle' and what it might refer to, Pureheart glanced
over to the other side to see a tall, pale man in a labcoat, bald with a neatly
trimmed silver goatee.  She blinked, and confirmed what she'd seen the first
time - his right arm was missing, the sleeve of the coat empty.  "Defense, all
green," he began in a gruff and gravelly voice, like someone who'd been woken
too early.  "Passive systems showing a few hits, nothing unexpected.  All
actives still standing by for now.  I'd like to keep them that way, but not much
chance of that, I think."  He let out a long-suffering sigh.  "All is well."

"Quite so," the captain returned, with a mild joviality in her voice.  "I
wouldn't worry overmuch, my dear doctor."  She paused briefly, then half-turned.
"Laurel?"  It was something of an interruption to the usual flow, it seemed.

Laurel was of course right there to keep things moving along.  "Nothing of
consequence, Captain.  All friends accounted for and none left behind."  They
smiled cheerily.  "All is well!"

Captain Calamity nodded firmly, with what to Pureheart's eyes looked like
approval.  "Quite so."  She turned back to the main screen.

   (smiling) But one remains; our Goldenheart, report!

Pureheart looked behind her to see that Myriad had slipped into one of the
stations close to the door and started working - probably when their party had
first entered, she realized.  The golden orb lifted, the posture of that silvery
body straightening to something quite martial, and despite any distinguishable
features she could tell Myriad was looking directly at the captain.

   All systems green, my Captain; naught amiss.
   Thy chariot awaits thy guiding hand.

   (nods, clenches fist) Then fly we to the heart of all this strife,
   and /shatter/ it!  In one strike, swift and sure!

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