Topic: Norah's Stories

((Posted with permission. From the stories section of TM's homepage - Darkhawk))

((some thoughts-like thing. Not really a journal. but like it in a way. Doesn't belong in the histories section anyway. It's going to be an ongoing thing, but it's not going to be a continuous story with any kind of plot))

She was upset. By many things. Some physical, maybe, but it was much more likely the lion’s share of it had psychological origins.

There was the issue with the footprints, for one. Had someone really jumped? For a few hours she’d been literally sick with fear that she might spot a dead and maimed body the next time the elevator went by. But there hadn’t been one, anywhere. Which doesn’t necessarily mean no one jumped, of course. It made it more unlikely, though.

Then there were all the people who were falling ill. No one had died… yet. But some sure looked ill enough that they might. And the cause, if only they knew! It might be the fungus… then again it might be something else entirely. It might be related to those stains – actually, she thought that very likely – which in turn might or might not be tied to the fungus…

The spreading stains… and the cracks. It had started in Labspace, the lower regions of it. But now, it was everywhere. She always felt worse in Labspace than anywhere else in the Tower. That might be psychological too, though. She felt like the Tower could really fall apart, any moment now. What would they do if that happened?

Her memory was no longer as near-perfect as she’d always thought it to be, had always experienced it to be. She was forgetting some things. Minor things, yes, and all safely written down, but still. They were things she should be remembering easily.
         And some of her memories were slowly turning out… wrong. There was no other word to describe it. They must be starting out right, as she wrote everything down immediately, and reading back what she wrote, everything on the paper fit in with reality just fine. But after a while, in her head, memories became wrong. Some locations, for instance.
         Her head told her, with absolute certainty, that certain footprints could be found in Gallery Alpha. Nothing was there though. Her writings told her they were located in Gallery Beta. And there they were. At first she’d thought someone was pulling a grotesque prank, to manipulate her. But she’d written the correct place down herself, with her own hands.
         She’d been peering at those stains more than the average Seedling, as research for so many things. It seemed most likely that something about the stains was the culprit. Then again, there were broken hatches nearly everywhere. It might have been the fumes. She always wore her BC headgear near hatches, though. She hadn’t always worn it near the stains. Not at first.
         What if this… condition, was not reversible?

All of this would have been enough to make her worry and doubt aplenty to wear her out entirely.

The other worries weren’t even necessary for that. Yet here they were.
Why was she thinking of other things than the mission sometimes? Why was working at that - and all that went with it, research, rumours as well as repairing - no longer the only thing on her mind? Was this normal?

What was it, exactly, that was bothering her? She didn’t even know. She’d not had feelings like this in the floatbed at all. Working together towards a goal, yes. Camaraderie, yes. But this? She hadn’t expected that she would ever even consider that certain people might be more important to her than completing her TAU-given mission. That they would be on her mind, intruding upon thoughts of the Tower situation. Yes, taking them over even, replacing them. And here they were. She couldn’t even recall the Earth language word for feelings like this.

And how would she express this to them? Would she, even? Would they find it abnormal to have feelings like this? Or would they instead find her abnormal for not having had these feelings all along? Would it be better to just leave it lie? After all, how important could it be?

But then why was it bothering her?

Even her floatbed rests weren’t as restful now as they should be.
She just wished the tenseness, the stress, would ease soon.


((part the second))

She was… in water. It was warm. There was a lot of steam. She could hear others talking far off, small groups of people in conversation. She felt very relaxed.
This had to be the steambaths. Couldn’t be anywhere else. Someone was with her. Right there, next to her, she could feel it. Pretty close next to her too. She turned her head. Oh. It was him. That was ok. She liked him. She smiled. So did he.
     She was about to tell him, how glad she was that they finally had access to the steambaths, and wasn’t this marvellously relaxing? But instead, he reached out to her, and touched the side of her face. Fingers trailed down her cheek, to the tip of her chin. Then he dropped his hand. He smiled again.
     She felt strange. It was nice when he touched her. But they’d touched before, during daily Tower life. She’d felt nothing special then. This felt different somehow. She didn’t quite know how, though. She just looked at him.
     He took her hand. “You look nice. I like the shape of your eyes.” He pulled on her arm. He wanted her to move closer, to sit with her back against his chest. She decided that would be… good. Strangely good, this close contact with another.

     His arms were around her now, folding over her stomach, over her own arms. They were leaning back in the warm water. He was whispering something in her ear, but she had a hard time making it out. Her thoughts were wandering; the water was so warm and relaxing. And there would be the drugs in the steam, of course… She let her head lean back against his shoulder.
     She felt… something… on her neck. It was soft. It felt good, like so many things did right now. This was something she’d not felt before, though. There it was again. She tried to turn her head a bit. She saw his eyes, he looked back at her. It was his mouth she felt. This must be a kiss. She’d read of that.

      “Kisses. Exchange of affection. Used between family members and acquaintances as a greeting or affirmation of love. Used between lovers as an affirmation of love, and an expression of sexuality.”

     Sexuality. Was that what she was feeling now, for him? Or love maybe? But of course she loved him. He was a friend. She was fairly sure she had friends now. There was a special love though, so she’d read. Maybe this was it. Or maybe not, maybe just sexuality… She turned her head towards him, and his mouth touched hers.

“You are fully rested, Seedling. As you requested, I have woken you so you can go back to your duties in the Tower.”

What!? Floatbed... Oh, for the love of DaVinci, she’d been dreaming. And what a dream too! She felt so strange now. Still felt strange. To have a dream like that about him…
She wouldn’t tell him, of course.
What if he could see it from her face next time she saw him?
It was just a silly dream. It meant nothing. She’d only just developed friendships, this was just absurd. It must just have been because of that.


((part the third))

Resources were getting scarce. Granted, there had always been a shortage. Now, there was hardly enough to make anything anymore. TAU was becoming increasingly unresponsive. Most terminals were no longer functional. The few that were, only partly.
Not that anyone could check anymore, of course. Recspace was the only area left to everyone. It was getting severely cramped.
And still more Seedlings were being awoken each day. Though some that went into the floatbed never came out again.

*time passes*

No more floatbed time for everyone left here. They’d barricaded the floatbed chambers as best they could. It had been a desperate attempt. The seedlings TAU was releasing lately were… hardly human. It had started with seeds being released with limited brain functionality. Not too smart, so to speak. Later, physical deformities too. Now, hardly viable… things… A lot of them were dying mere hours after awaking.
It had made them sick to watch. There was no way of cleaning it all up. So they had closed it off.

*time passes*

All factories had stopped working completely.
With no more floatbed-time, people were severely ill and undernourished. Some were dead. They’d tried eating the garden plants. Drinking the water. It hadn’t even killed them because it was toxic to humans. Seedlings can’t eat.
The lights were getting dimmer.

*time passes*

Locked in darkness
Nothing to do but wait and waste away…
This is what dying feels like…

“Greetings, Seedling. TAU speaking. As you requested, you have been woken up after sufficient rest, to continue your duties within the Tower.”


She got out and quickly got going. Time to keep busy and stop herself from thinking.


((part the fourth))

The void and empty Ring channel made her feel like she was alone in the Tower. Of course, there were people everywhere. New ones mostly, here in Recspace. What had happened to all her Ring members? Were they all taking a floatbed day at the same time, by coincidence? Or was something more sinister going on?

Sinister really just meant ‘left’ like in ‘left-handed’ in an old Earth language. She liked languages, she’d been looking things up in TAU, sporadically, and without any real direction or order to it. It felt more exciting and entertaining that way.
     She had no idea why a word with that meaning had grown into a word with such a negative load to it. Most likely she would never find out. It was the kind of side-issue that was hard to find in TAU’s database, if it was there at all.

She’d been in and out of the floatbed a few times now, coming out to see if anyone was there this time. Somehow, when no one else of the Mission was out, she didn’t feel much like being out and about in the Tower. She didn’t understand why she felt that way. It didn’t make much sense, wasn’t logical or reasonable. It wasn’t anything TAU had ever spoken about. Sure, it had taught her right from wrong, and all kinds of useful things, but it seemed to have left out just as many useful things. She would have liked to have known more about human behaviour and feelings before she started out. It would have made, would still make, life a lot easier. And she wouldn’t have been so puzzled about her own behaviour right now.

What if it was not coincidence that they weren’t out of the floatbed, all of them at the same time? Had something happened? There were those rumours of course, that TAU was processing people for biomatter in the floatbeds, that people never came out again. She hated to think of it. TSR had so much knowledge of TAU. What if they found out TM had not been honest with them, and was trying to spy on them and gather information? That Xander was crazy enough to do anything, from what she’d heard. Had they made TAU keep them in the floatbeds? Or even to process them for biomatter?

She was just going to go back in the floatbed and try again later. These thoughts were ridiculous. One day with no people was no conspiracy. Just a coincidence. She’d try again in 3 hours.

*time passes*

“Hello? Is anyone here this time?”

There they were, Mehken, Kaylee, a few others that she didn’t know very well. She’d been imagining things, like she’d been telling herself, the whole time. Where were these thoughts coming from? Fear, of course, but logic should be overruling that. Humans were humans because their reason could overcome their emotion; they need not be ruled by it. But she hadn’t been ruled by it, had she? She’d done nothing crazy, had raised no alarm, had not gone around frantically clutching at other Seedlings, asking if they’d seen her Ring members. She’d left no emotional messages on TAU, had not gone around accusing anyone of anything, had just waited reasonably.

Except, of course, that she hadn’t just gone about her usual business either.  She’d crept back to the floatbed to let TAU soothe her mind with lessons and history and relaxing dreams.

Perhaps it was the middle way. Humans would not be ruled purely by emotion, but neither could they live purely by reason. Looking in TAU’s database, that was what she saw, mostly. Even, often, those who seemed to be ruled purely by one of the two, turned out to be what whatever society at the time had thought of as criminals. People who did not fit in, broke rules often, harmed other beings, or themselves…
      Perhaps this was the way it should be. The thought actually made a lot of sense. She just wished TAU would just have told her that earlier. It would have been much easier.


((part the fifth))

Murder. Could it be possible?
Or were these the ravings of a Seedling gone insane? Hmmpf, even if it were true, this Seedling could still very well be raving mad.

Was someone just trying to distract them from what was really important?

If a murder had been committed they had to solve it as soon as possible. Time was of the essence here, they could not afford weeks lost on the development of a new tool, or waiting until someone showed up who could give them more info. If this was a madman at work there was no telling when and how he would do something like this again. If it was a calculated action to remove someone who was in another’s way, then it had to all be revealed before the perpetrator(s) had any more time to cover things up.

Things like these made her literally sick to her stomach. She was running around frantically now, already having searched Labspace and the Canyon front to back and top to bottom. And TSR, the ones who were supposed to know most, were supposed to look out for the Tower and know so much about TAU, they hadn’t even known this had happened until they’d told them. Or they were pretending not to have known. For all she cared they were still good candidates to be murderers. Some of them anyway.

If only that stupid, panicking Seedling witness had given them some concrete info to work with! A big man in green and a petite girl. Yeah, that was going to do them so much good.

Too many theories of what could have happened to count. She’d checked them all as best she could, but without tools to scan for the right substances, this was going nowhere, and they just didn’t have time to wait for those. Their only chance right now would be to find the witness. But he was hidden, and would not respond to her necklink calls.

Horrible though it might seem, by now she was actually hoping to just stumble on to the body of that girl. At least then they’d have something to work with.

If this was all some joke or diversion, she’d personally stone the top off the ones behind it.


((part the sixth))

She saw Polly today. For so long she’d wanted to meet her, maybe talk to her, who knows? But Miko spotted her and dived in like a hawk. It was all they could do not to let her be shipped off with only TSR members as her escort to meet with Felman and have who-knows-what done to her. At least now Arash was with her, and hopefully he convince her he honestly wanted to be her friend and make sure her life was as pleasant as it could be, and keep her from TSR’s manipulations.

Polly joining the Mission was probably too much to hope. But she would have liked that to happen so much… they would take good care of her and she'd have friends available.

She distracted Miko for as long as she could. That woman could twist words like nothing else. She could make you out to be the bad guy even if what you said was holy scripture for real. Who knows how she could poison a young mind.
      When it was no longer possible to hold her in Beta bay, she left and joined Mehken in the Canyon. She could even hear snatches of conversation because of the echoes.

Felman never showed up. She had her chance to see Polly at last. Polly took her picture. It wasn’t the normal kind of necklink shot, this one seemed to be all inside out, with inverted colours and all kinds of other effects.
       But by that time she was only sad and anxious about all the things going on, especially this latest possible murder. Even Polly’s light-heartedness could not cheer her up.


((part the seventh))

She was in Beta Bay. She had to run around the walkway as the elevator was going up and down if she wanted to see anything on it. They could not access the elevator for now. This was the only way to search it. She wasn’t expecting to find anything. She hadn’t the two or three times before that she’d searched it.

Wait... was that...? She ran a bit further so she could see around a box.

Her eyes grew wide. She staggered backwards.
A... leg... or part of it. Then, more body parts. Most still more or less attached, but... Mangled. Maimed.

It was real. This was happening. She turned and loosened her facemask quickly. Her body was trying to do something... Her stomach and throat felt ill and somehow insubstantial. The reaction was a reflex. It served no purpose. There was nothing in her stomach that could have come out. Some acid burned her throat. She passed out.

These boxes all had to be opened. If someone HAD been killed, the body would most likely be in one of them. She rammed the wrench underneath another lid. Lifted the lid.

The smell was overpowering. Got pretty warm in these boxes, most likely. It was just sort of stuffed in there. All the limbs seemed all messed up. The head was tilted slightly upwards. At least he’d closed the eyes.

She gagged. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She bent over the box a bit more. The body would have to come out. She reached out.
One of the eyes opened and looked at her.

She screamed.

All of these boxes had to be opened. Any one of them could contain a body. She set to work, pried her wrench under the lid.
Wait... what? She thought she’d heard a... noise. Quickly, quickly opened the lid.

The body was all maimed and broken, but... Was the girl still alive? It was sickening to see. The mewling noises coming softly out of that bloody face. She turned aside and tried to retch. Of course, nothing in her stomach but acid.
She had to help, but how to take out a body so broken? She bent closer over the box.
No! Kitty!

Her eyes widened. She flung her hands to her mouth. Staggered backwards, something hit her head.

So many boxes to be opened. But any of them could contain the body. She wasn’t looking forward to finding it. She set to opening the box with all her strength, shoved her wrench under the lid.
Wait... what? Noises were coming from this box? She nearly flung the lid off, urgency powering her.

Wh..what was it? What was it? The thing... oh by the Core, it was moving around in there.

She stared in horror, frozen in place. Hands clutched over her mouth. Nails drew blood.
It wasn’t even human, couldn’t be.
The sounds it was making...

She threw up blood.

Warmth. She was soaking in water. For some reason she felt this was such a nice change from some undefined previous sense of stress.

She felt arms around her. He must be here with her. Hadn't they done this before? She smiled, turned her head to look at him.

She screamed, wanted to retch, fought against its grip, all at the same time. The thing staring back at her moved a little. It made sick, nonsensical sounds. Humanity deformed, mind and body.

Its horrible eyes looked at her.

     She felt ill, wanted to wash off the lingering sensation of its touch. She backed away, scratching at her own body.

She heard continuous, panicked screaming. It was her.

.... What was this sense of recognition? Where had she seen this before?

The thing reached up, somehow, drew itself up.

She screamed, screamed her lungs out. Something burst.


Her head hit something, her body was thrashing about.

Suddenly, calm.

“Seedling, the levels of hormones and these panicked reactions are a danger to your general health. Tranquilizers administered.”

*I thought I’d told you no drugs to treat fears and emotions. Who serves who here anyway. Flushi... ... can’t even be bothered to care about anything now, see.*

*can’t use these things to keep problems.......need to solve instead of......*

Dreamless sleep.


((part the eighth (spelling?)))

Hmm, finally some steps were being taken towards exploration of and finding out what was going on in the Lower Cluster.

Looking at all the phases of building a Chimbot, she felt pretty useless. There was not much she could contribute to when it came to building robots and such mechanical stuff. She did feel she could come up with a pretty good coating layer and gel to waterproof the 'bot and anything it carried, and at the same time provide at least an initial defence against biological hazards. According to what she found in SharePoints, the waterproofing and protective layers could well be combined.
      She already had a basic plan set up for it, and was now starting to buy the materials she thought would be needed, to do some tests with them.
If it looked like it would work in some way, she would write up a plan and present it to Arash and the rest of the Mission. Hopefully it would then be presented along with the rest of their ideas to the greater community, and TSR.
      She also had some ideas about bags or cases to be carried by the Chimbot, though those were less defined, as she knew less about the materials and the making of such things.

All in all, she was most excited about what they might find down there. They may finally find decent labs for all the currently hardly useful scientists in the Mission. They could find that the Lower Cluster really was where the fungus spread from, or the opposite. They could find people still alive!
     She could hardly wait until the day arrived that the ‘bot was done and built, and they would watch it set out.

Heh, when looking at the area codes for each area on the TAU terminal, she noticed something mildly interesting, in a trivial kind of way. The code for the Tubecentral area (TBC), or, she thought it was the code for that area, could just as well have meant ‘the Bottom Cluster’


((part the ninth))

She was at the Window. She liked to come there and look outside, at their world. Their planet. The view was different now than before. No more near-permanent snow storms. There were small patches of green in between the snow now. The first small, very simple plants that they had made. They seemed to be doing well. Careful and well-thought out steps towards a terraformed planet. So much research before they released even these small shrubs.

Footsteps behind her. She turned around. He was standing at her shoulder. She smiled.

Standing at the Window with him felt… right. Comforting? She didn’t quite know how to describe it. Did not know why standing at the Window with him was so much better than with any other of her friends, or alone… It made her heart beat faster. And there was a strange tightness in her chest and throat, like something was going to burst out.
      They stood on the very edge of the platform. Bending over the fencing, they watched the giant catfish that swam around in the algae sea on the bottom of the canyon the Tower was built in. She had both her hands on the fence. He moved to put one arm around her, his hand closing over hers.

He spoke close to her ear. “Those labs in the Dug-out came in handy. Look at all that green outside now. Now I have renewed hope for all of us.” His breath was warm on her face.  His voice sounded pleasant to her. “Turn around. I want to kiss you. We’ve had so little free time lately.”

Startled, she turned around. “What, right here? But is… mmph!” He interrupted her in mid-sentence. No use in protesting, it seemed. She gave in. Felt his arms fold around her back. His hands fumbling with her suit on the back.

He broke away from the kiss. “Times like this I wish there were private areas in the Tower. Or maybe that I could take a friend with me into the floatbed…” It was but a whisper in her ear.

“Time to rise, Seedling. Your mind and body are rested fully.”

Flush! Another dream. She had to stop having dreams like this about him, it felt strangely embarrassing. Like people somehow knew what she dreamt of. Maybe that they would see it just from looking at her. For a moment, she let an idle thought roam through her head, about what it would be like if he ever really acted like he did in her dreams. Then she banished it hard and deep, and covered it in thoughts of Tower issues.

At least this time it had not been a nightmare.

Reluctantly, she got out of the floatbed, and went back to the many duties of Tower Life.


((part the tenth))

((events not in the exact same order as they happened in game, but I thought it looked better this way, and they DID happen all in the same period, and anyway, the insight into the character’s mind is more important in this thread thing than noting down actual happenings in game))

She took one of the new suits out of the Garden Sharepoint. So far nothing had happened to her yet during her work with hatches and machines, but if it did, hopefully the new suit would be able to keep any damage to a minimum.
        She should go back to repairs now that she had the new suit. For now, she still had to wait for the materials needed for the CHP gel and coating to become available, so she could test them. But for some reason, a piece of conversation about people dying in mechanical accidents that they had had with Esme in the Garden today, clung to her mind - something Esme had said:

“I guess we’ll just have to accept that we will sustain losses in the future”

And she had thought, and said, that that was probably easier to say now, now that it had not actually happened yet, than actually doing so when it did. It had made her wonder how she would actually react, if anyone of their Ring, any friends she’d made, did die. It probably would happen, sometime or another. Fooling herself into thinking it was something that was unlikely to happen, lulling herself to sleep on the notion, would do no good.
       She tried to imagine what it would be like. The thought only made her feel sick. Physical nausea actually almost overcame her. There were tears in her eyes. Possibly... no. Or was it? She didn’t really want to think of it. But here it was, and now it couldn’t be so easily stamped down… Would it be worse to her if he was the one to die? Was he different to her than the others, apart from physical attraction? She didn’t really want to go into this. Better to ignore it? It could only give unnecessary complications in Tower life? Maybe… Or maybe she was just running away from something she feared, or feared to think on… again. But just maybe, she would be hurt worse if that happened…
       The realisation that just thinking of it would be nothing like actually experiencing it, made her feel even worse.

Should she have kept people at a distance? Felt nothing for them at all, except for a sense of their usefulness or harmfulness? She had been like that, in the beginning. It had changed, almost unconsciously. She didn’t think she could have kept it from happening even if she’d wanted to. And after some thought, she knew she wouldn’t have wanted that. Life was… better… somehow, with people to care about.


((part the eleventh))

She was in the Garden. A lot of her Ringmates were there too. Including him. They were all talking, sometimes serious, sometimes laughing. He and she especially seemed to have a nice flow going between them.
       Then she came in. All eyes went to her immediately. They always seemed to.

“Oh so glad to see you.”
“You look so happy today!”
“How are you?”

Smiles and smiles. All for her, coming from her. His attention was immediately gone. She seemed not even to exist when that girl was around. It wasn’t like she had to be the shining centre, like that girl was, even. She just didn’t want to feel that she was less important to the others, to him, than her.

“Wake up time, seedling. Time to get going, the Tower needs you.”

*Flood the Tower!*

She even dreamed of it. It was awful. Childish. Sick to even dream of it. It didn’t matter at all! It was childish to feel this way. She only hoped they didn’t notice from her behaviour.
       That girl was so immature! All giggles and innocence and helplessness… cluelessness. And then the next moment such stress, verge of tears. And people just stream to help her, run after her. How could she compete with that? Giggling, airiness, always talking about people’s looks, sooooo tiny and cute. Agh! Why was she even considering it? It wasn’t worth it! Not the time, not the emotions. It shouldn’t matter this much. Jealousy was not an admirable trait. That had been stated clearly enough in the growth phase.


((part the twelfth (spelling?) ))

These hatches were a nightmare. Always broken. You repair one, turn your back, face it again, and it’s like you never touched it at all.

She wanted to know why, now. It had gone on long enough. She would find out why, and then they could fix it, so they didn’t break down all the time. She used her ETK on one of the hatches. All readings normal. But what was that? She thought she’d noticed something odd.
       Bending over the hatch, she pushed some of the wiring aside with her wrench. Oh. That would indeed explain it all. Miniature giant catfishes were swimming everywhere. Someone must have filled the hatches with water and put them in. For decoration. No thought at all for the safety of the Tower. She sighed.
       It must have been Kitty; she’d been talking about catfishes for ages. How were they ever going to clean this up?

Flooding levels, but this loading bay was in a mess. Footprints everywhere. They gathered as many people as they could, with spill kits, and set to work. She looked around. All of TM seemed to be there. Good. She smiled and got going again.
       She got up and took a look at the ele…va…t……basin of giant catfish. Wow, that was in a mess too. Seemed to be some kind of moss growing on the sides. The fishes were eating it. Oh, that must be the algae. That was what the giant catfish were for.
       She got a little closer to the basin, and splashed her hand in it. A fish came up. It poked its head out of the water.

“Hello Norah. How is your day going? I have some tracer goggles ready for you. I just need to pick them up from Alpha Lab.”

“Oh, tracer goggles! I’ve been waiting for those. Great!”

She felt like something here was a little odd. A little off. But she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
       They went down to Alpha Lab. Catfish rummaged around in a factory a bit, and then handed her her goggles.

“I have to hit the floatbed now. I’ve been up for far too long already. See you later, Norah. By the way, it’s time to wake up now, you’re fully rested.”


“Time to wake up now, Seedling. You are fully rested.”

She left her ‘bed, bewildered.


((part the thirteenth. Ignore that I also posted it as a reply to another thread here. 7 AM here with a night of no sleep: errors happen. accidentally replied to another thread instead of editing my own big_smile ))

She couldn’t believe it… She’d only just admitted to herself that she really felt this way. And then… all hopes dashed. Floods, she had to stop being so stupid. It was not like she had ever planned on acting on it. Having those feelings, accepting them, fine. Acting on them, such luxury in the Tower as it was now? She thought not. And she knew he would never even consider it, never consider anyone. Duty first, always. But then…
       He had accepted that girl’s offer. He said it’d been a mistake… But didn’t break it off… Didn’t want to hurt the girl’s feelings? He’d just go on and on, to her, and Mehken, about that. How he cared for her a lot, would never want to hurt the girl’s feelings. It was like someone took a wrench to her gut. And she knew that when she told him to tell the girl, break it off while it hadn’t started yet, the advice was based on self-interest. But she didn’t care. Better no one if it wasn’t her.
       Accepting that there was no chance when her rival had been their ideal, the mission, that had not been so hard. But when it was another person… suddenly it had hurt so much. Like… like... something ripped through her chest. Hot, and painful, and… tight, and tearing… And she’d overheard him actually considering giving it a try with the girl, seeing if he could feel… And it had been too much. If this was how it was going to be, him with that girl, then she wanted to at least let him know… how she felt. Especially if she had to play this convincingly for Xanders, she needed to get this out with. So she’d sent him a letter. Face to face, she just couldn’t. Too hard…

So now he knew. And that was that. She felt like crying, but held it back. She’d wake up, and it would be business as usual. That was all she was going to accept. And then to focus everything on Xanders…

That was before she’d seen the letter anyway. Afterwards… She didn’t know what to think or feel. She’d thought it was over with. That he’d ignore she’d ever sent her letter, like she wrote. She’d already settled it all for herself, imagined how it would go. A period of some hurt, and then… it would fade, as was said.
      Then he’d written he would try after all, not just for the girl, but for her too… Nothing might come of it after all, but this glimmer of hope was very hard to bear. Cold machine… not just to her, but any other as well, that would have been easier to deal with. Now, she had to stop herself searching for some clue, some hidden meaning, behind his every word, in that letter. She knew that would lead to nothing.
      And he would tell the girl the same…

He might still end up with the girl. Or with neither of them. The other possibility, she hardly dared think of it… She couldn’t let herself think of it... The chances were just too slim, there was only disappointment there. She had to think that the worst would happen…

He didn’t know what they saw in him? Maybe he really didn’t… Maybe they did not even see the same things.
Not very rewarding? It was not like this was a conscious choice one makes… No…


And now, she could only hope her outward appearance would show nothing… But it was incredibly hard. When he stood close to the girl -and that girl would stand so very, very close- it was all she could do not to just… scream… or cry, maybe. A hand clenching her heart, going *squeeze*… She had cried, goggles were a wonderful thing.


((part the fourteenth))

Cool air. Smell of plants and wet earth. Wind in leaves and branches, rustling. She liked this sound of rustling leaves. She was walking just straight ahead. No direction in mind, just exploring randomly. The forest was all around her. Its colours were beautiful. She imagined it looked a lot like forests on Earth, though she’d never seen them.
The ground was soft beneath her feet and sort of bounced along where she walked on it, where it wasn’t rocky. Nothing at all like man-made floors, like in the Tower…
       There were all sorts of trees. Some were very tall, some not tall at all. The leaves came in so many different shapes. There were also other plants, smaller. Surviving between the trees, on the little light they let through. There were also huge rocks, and rock formations. Moss and small plants grew on them, and in cracks. The rocks had pleasant colours too. Greys, ranging from almost black to almost white. The structure of the rock felt nice. So different from things that human beings could make.

She came upon a small stream, with something almost like a pond attached to it, a spot where the water collected and did not run very fast. She looked at the sky, what she could see of it through the trees. Late afternoon. She would stop here. She took out the tent, and pressed the button for it to unfold and set itself up. Its colour was silvery blue. Stark contrast to all the natural colours and surfaces around her. But it was ok. It would not harm this nature. And human beings needed their shelter.
       She set up a small and cosy camp for the night. Then went for a short swim in the stream.

She navigated a path through nature. Constantly she looked around her, admiring it all. Breathing freely, freshness. She had set out a week before, from Victory. She carried all she needed for a fairly long journey on foot. From the sun, she knew she was going approximately in the right direction to get to Haven, a small town. He would be there when she arrived. She looked forward to that.
Their being apart was the only thing she disliked about this journey.

“Time to rise, Seedling.”
“Time to rise, Seedling.”
“Time to..”

*Yes! Yes, I heard already.*

Right now, the human-like, yet artificial, not male, not female voice annoyed her to her core. That had been an extremely good dream. She hadn’t wanted to wake up. Especially since now, her memory came flooding back, and she remembered he wouldn’t be there today. Or tomorrow. Or the day after… Extended floatbed rest. Now she felt sad…


((part the fifteenth))

This was new. Yet another worry… but one of an unexpected kind. Not at all like most of her worries. She’d heard them talking about it, Starr, Esme, Sargon. Dislike him she may, but what they said had made her wonder.
       What WAS she going to do when this planet was actually terraformed? Suddenly it had hit her: she had no idea what she wanted, after that. After things were complete, what was there for her to do? Would there be a place for her? She couldn’t even imagine what it would be like… What would it look like? What kind of society would there be? What jobs WOULD there be for her to fulfil?
       At least here in the Tower, she knew her place. She knew what she could do, what was needed… She belonged. And when they were done here… then what? Somewhere… she couldn’t help but feel that, by fulfilling her purpose, she would make herself obsolete…


Her again… she’d just been kind of glad that that girl had seemed to be spending extended time in her floatbed. She’d just been feeling like she was getting used to this situation now, and then… there she had been… hugging him. And then… that kiss.

And he’d been so unresponsive afterwards. She hadn’t been able to take all that. She’d run, and cried. It made her angry; she didn’t like to show weakness like that, so obviously… And there had been work to do, that she hadn’t been able to do… Useless, this. She’d almost decided that that would be the end of it. She’d try to forget him, he’d not talk to her again in any personal way, and they’d get on with… business. Like people in one Ring would. But in the end she’d given in anyway. They had talked, a lot. She just liked him too much.

She would look at him and it would feel so good, and hurt so much at the same time. He’d smile at her or laugh at something funny she’d said, and she could almost pretend they were together, and this was just banter between lovers… She kept hoping for… silly fantasy things to happen. Things that would never happen in real life. They would be talking, and suddenly he would see the light, kiss her maybe… Or he’d wake up one day and know it was her, and they’d embrace and live happily ever after. And a few more variations on that theme.

This was wearing her down, so much… The highs, the lows… seeing him with other girls he liked… especially that girl, so spontaneous, so impulsive, special, small and thin, fair… just about everything she was not. She knew she was too jealous, but she couldn’t help it much. It just hurt.
       Sooner rather than later, it had to just end. One way or the other. She knew what way she preferred, but of course it was not up to her. And in case the worst happened, she at least had a place prepared for herself… A place to go, when she couldn’t stand to be around him anymore. And she knew, if he ended up with that girl, with any other girl, she would not be able to stand it for very long.