“Are you seriously going to make me do this? I didn’t sign up for this! I said I’d help you test weapons, not–” Alissa clipped the dictation device to Sylvia’s strap. Sylvia’s eyes grew cold. “If you ever touch me without warning again, I’ll encase you in the ice-stroids.”
“It’s on.” Alissa waved over her shoulder with a smile on her way back to her quarters.
A groan escaped Sylvia. She began to reach for the dictation device. Instead, she leaned against the rail, looking up at the ship in her for-now personal hangar. “I’d like to start this whatever-session with: My new boss is torturing me by forcing me to do this. I’m a warmonger, not a politician! Fair warning on the record: If this is some kind of trick-therapy, someone’s getting floated!”
A long pause was interrupted by an agitated sigh. “She said I have to talk about my life, whether present or past. You get the gist of the present, so let’s try a happier moment in the past, shall we?” She folded her legs on the hangar and rested an elbow against it, looking up at the ship. “Let’s talk about my first time in a Kestrel.”
Sylvia drew the Caldari logo in the air with a finger. “I’d been in the Caldari State War Academy for two years. I was the best pilot, but most people didn’t like me. The staff said I was too tough for my own good. The recruits avoided me.
“To this day, I’m not sure what kept them from kicking me out. I had four warnings for what they called ‘excessive violence’ and another three for supposed ‘unnecessary threats.’
“If I was such a menace, why was I permitted to stay? Besides, what’s an ‘unnecessary threat?’ If I had the presence of mind, I would have launched a heavy missile their way and been done with it!” A soft chuckle interrupted her thought. “I guess they’d say that was unnecessary, too.”
“One day, I was required to visit a Caldari Military outpost, but my ship from the Academy was still undergoing maintenance from the day before, so it wasn’t ready for flight. Turned out this girl at the Academy was going to the same place, and she had access to a Shuttle that her parents owned.” Sylvia smiled. “That thing was a beauty. Mmm. My first time in a high-speed shuttle. It was even painted like camouflage! The inside was spotless, even. You could tell her parents took good care of it.”
Her head tilted to glance at the Kestrel in the hangar. “The only thing more beautiful than that Shuttle was what came next. Well– what came later, then. See, we had to stop because it was too cramped. While we were readjusting, pirates decided it would be a good time to scramble our systems.” Silence followed her explanation, extended several minutes.
She folded her arms, a slight waver in her voice. “We were lucky. There was a military outpost just below us, and a space suit in the shuttle. I’d managed to be ignored by the pirates when I left the ship and crashed onto the outpost.
“The outpost was displaying a new Kestrel prototype, which, despite all the attention focused on it, made it easy to lift. After loading the missiles, which they clearly hadn’t tested yet, I locked the pirates. The lock didn’t scare them enough to pull them away from the shuttle, so I had no choice but to take my shot.”
A deep exhale echoed through the device. “I remember so many things going through my head right then, and so many more when it was all over. Had anything been off, things would have ended far worse.”
Sylvia looked down the hall to her quarters. “I refused to admit it before, but there truly isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret harming that girl. She was unconscious for three days, and it took a few more before the shock wore off enough for her to speak to anyone. No long-term damage from what anyone can tell, but–”
With a shake of her head, she walked toward her quarters. “Piloting that Kestrel was the best and most frightening moment in my life. I even learned a life lesson from it: I’m no heroine. Holding someone’s life in the palm of my hands — or at the tip of my trigger-finger — isn’t a place I want to be all that often, unless that life is an enemy’s.”
A huff escaped. “I played it cool when Caldari security arrested me and took the Kestrel back inside. They paid more attention to my being a mere recruit and the fact another recruit was injured than anything else.
“It conveniently slipped their sights that all the debris might be from the pirates I just blew out of existence. I was treated and even tried as a criminal, both in the eyes of the Caldari Military and then the Academy. Fortunately, because I was a recruit, the Academy determined my fate.”
Sylvia stared at the Academy emblem on the table. “My mind raced, heart sank, and I couldn’t breathe when I heard their decision. No; no, not just their decision. Their unanimous decision. I would be expelled from the Academy indefinitely, and all piloting privileges of any ship would be revoked instantly.”
She rubbed her neck during a gasp for air to keep composure. “I lived with their decision for a few days. I can’t say a life of piracy didn’t sound tempting, if it meant I could keep flying. I’d even drawn up blueprints for certain military outposts and the Academy to figure out what I’d need to collect the resources necessary to go out on my own.
“That girl, the one that was flying me to the outpost. I hadn’t gone to see her in the medical wing. To that point, she hadn’t crossed my mind with all the accusations against me. All of this made it strange that she came to visit, especially since she and I never saw eye-to-eye on anything.
“She said she’d heard about the Academy’s decision to kick me out. It was too soon to talk about that, so I did what I felt a normal person would do. I told her I was glad she was okay. She visited for a few hours that evening and we just talked between long silences. For once, we didn’t get into disagreements. Admittedly, it was a quiet night, which likely helped.”
She picked up a small tablet from the table and began tapping different parts of a picture of a Kestrel, glancing at a series of numbers determining the status of each part on her ship. “The following day, her parents — who turned out to be highly influential in the Academy — gathered the staff so she could explain the situation to them. This without my knowing.
“When my — what I called executioner — walked into my quarters at the Academy, which was where I’d be isolated until it was time for me to leave the grounds, I wasn’t keen to talk. The more that was said, the more angry I became. During some spiel about how I need to control my anger, I remember insisting everyone stay out of my room until it was time to leave, and even then I didn’t want to hear a word.
“I could have signed my own death right there, had anyone else been the reason they changed their minds. During the refusal to leave the room, I was edging close to throttling that fool. Until I heard the words: ‘You’re not expelled.’
“Never have three simple words meant so much to me. I wasn’t thrilled about what came next: I’d be required to attend a Business course for ten weeks, during which I wouldn’t be allowed to pilot combat ships, nor attend the Academy.”
With a chuckle, Sylvia walked back out to the hangar, admiring her ship. “They called the Business course a means of therapy for me. Anger Management, they said.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through a Business course, but let me tell you, it’s more cutthroat than any number of years in the War Academy. They may as well have given me a handheld laser pistol and told me to never pull the trigger.
“I think that message was quite clear when I doubled the number of warnings received within my first week back from their ten-week experiment.
“Fortunately, I’m a proud graduate of the Caldari State War Academy. I became a pilot in the Caldari fleet, and now, I’m– … recording my emotional history in some weird gadget because someone I don’t know told me to.
“Excuse me, I have to go kill someone now. Um, CONCORD and Caldari State, and… any other authorities such as Gallente that might get involved, this is not a confession.” She slipped the dictation device off, stormed into Alissa’s quarters and threw it at her. “I never want to hear a word about anything I said today!”
Alissa smiled. “Thank you for participating.” She switched the device off and placed it on her table.