The Minor Adventures of Av'lee Sendii
Chapter 1


 
 
     Yawning she stood up and moved into a long stretch. Leaning her head from side to side to get the kings out of her neck from her bed, at least… that’s what she called it. Her few friends on the ship, and a few not so, had dubbed it the “rock garden.” Understandably once one sees it. The bed was a worn down slab of limestone with intricate carvings all along the outside boarder. It was 4 feet wide, and 7 feet long with its rounded impression plain stone “pillow” on top it certainly did make one think of a rock garden.

     Hoping over her standard issue boots, Av’lee Sendii walked over to the plain, utilitarian sink and the burnished metal plate that served as a mirror. Squishing some of the Corps standard toothpaste onto her finger and shoved it in her mouth and began to brush her teeth. Humming “Happy Birthday” to herself in Rassarian, she spat out the remains of her toothpaste and spittle. Rinsing off her finger she brought a cupped handful of the lukewarm water to her mouth and rinsed. Hands still wet Av’lee ran her hands through her short red hair and made her way tiredly over to her closet where her pressed dress uniform, boot shine kit, standard Corps manual and small field med kit lay.

     All standard. One glance at the room would make one think someone had yet to reside more than a night in it, save for the “rock garden” in the corner, the boots sprawled on the ground and the standard duty uniform hung on the back of the stiff metal chair in front of the empty metal desk, shiny from disuse. Swallowing yet another yawn, Av’lee glowered at her dress uniform before beginning the process of struggling into it. Glancing at the chronometer on the wall, her eyes widen. Quickly shoving her feet into the calf high boots she kicked up her heels and dashed out of her quarters. Ricocheting off the opposite wall and in true superhero fashion, Av’lee “flew” down the corridor towards the ladder bellowing “clear!” Bouncing slightly against he wall as she landed Av’lee grinned, her red hair, short though it maybe, flailing like a halo around her as she began to climb upwards to the upper decks.

     Many on the vessel detested the lower gravity inherent with working on an older vessel and preferred to use their gravity soles inside their shoes. Av’lee had no reservations against it. Many of the older officers have been known to explain to the green young ensigns that it was due to her being born in space.

     Av’lee’s birth in space was purely accidental. No one in their right mind, no matter the species, would ever reside on a space ship or station during their pregnancy after the 2nd month, let alone give birth. The Medical Division had made it quite clear of the dangers of space to fetuses.

     Unfortunately, Av’lee’s mother did not have a choice in the matter. After discovering she was 6 weeks pregnant, Adela had put in a request for an immediate transfer to a planetary post for the duration of the pregnancy, too bad that the feline Rass’ark had chosen that month to start the Great War. Adela was only 8 weeks along when her military transport carrying her, another pregnant officer, some phased torpedoes, and of course the transport crew, when it was attacked by Rass’ark intent upon the torpedoes for their weapons stockpiling. Originally it was only a simple pirate run for weapons, but with the War having been declared days before by the destruction of the CSS Melnic, the Rass’ark were now taking prisoners on their attack runs.

     While the Corps Space Service’s rumor mills had given both civilians and their own officers the impression that the Rass’ark were warlike, barbarians with no decency at all. Certainly the Rass’ark were more than a tad wild, those who had been captured and returned to tell the tale to the Corps Intelligence bureau reported that he Feline enemy were actually kind, although in a harsh way. Although the latest Intel reports were leaning towards the theory that they were not exactly kind, but simply thought of their prisoners as children and treated them as such, trying to toughen them up.

     Being a female dominate society, the Captain of the Rass’ark vessel, the Rrr’alk, that captured the transport acknowledged the dangers of being pregnant on a space vessel with weak gravitational pull and its effects on the unborn. Thus she sent the two pregnant women to a dismal, swampy, unnamed planet the Rass’ark were utilizing as a POW camp. Adela and the other pregnant woman were there for 5 long, grueling months. As per the Rassarian ideals of “raising” their POWs into adults, the prisoners were forced to fee d, house and clothe themselves. When they arrived at the planet they had only what they wore and a metallic collar device. The collars were sophisticated and demeaning form of tracking technology.

     For 5 months Adela and the other woman were doing their best to survive and help new prisoners when they arrived, when word filtered down to the female rulers of the planate and their mates that there was need for 3 prisoners for an exchange.

     As the story goes, the females allowed their mates to each go out and pick one prisoner to be returned to the Corps. The males, being the less educated of the species, selected the two pregnant women and Lieutenant Edward Chamberlign and shoved them uncaring into the windowless compartment of the transport.

     Being only able to go at sub light speeds it took the Rass’ark transport ship just under 2 months to reach the exchange location. Thanks to a misinterpretation of a vital word instead of being transported to the CSS ship days before they gave birth, Av’lee and Malkia were born in less than desirable circumstances, hours apart. Since the agreement stipulated 3 for 3, what with the death of Malkia’s mother, that still gave the Rass’ark one extra prisoner to deal with and the Captain of the vessel transporting them a dilemma: who stays?

     Officially, no one knows why the vessel’s Captain chose to keep Malkia. Unofficially there was any number of rumors going around the Corps Intel department. Some said it was because the Captain was infertile or that she was planning medical experiments, or just wanted to torture the small infant.

     The transfer had taken place in the Freya System. Back then to transfer personnel between ships in space who were unwilling to directly connect via a sky bridge, took nearly an hour and a half due to prep time, time to depressurize the bays, cross the vast distance, let everyone out, and repeat the whole process again.

     Baby Av’lee, her mother Adela, and Edward Chamberlign were escorted to the small transfer vessel with their Rassarian pilot, Frrr’lk. As it was told to her by Chamberlign, a rogue Corps warship came barreling out of the sun’s shadow, weapons hot. Seeing their sister ship was under attack, another Rass’ark ship came out of the moon’s shadow and let loose on the Corps ship Av’lee’s transport was heading towards, and since that ship was under strict orders not to fire unless fired upon, it too started firing.

     Thinking quickly, Frrr’lk got up and released Chamberlign and Adela from their restraints before sliding herself back into the pilot’s seat with Chamberlign taking over engineering. Luckily the 4th planet in the Freya system was a habitual jungle planet with no sentient life or claims by any other species. With its limited thrusters and shield power, the small transport had nearly made it unscathed to the planet and was beginning to descend into the atmosphere when the first Corps ship’s engine blew, destroying 2 and critically damaging the 3rd ship. The ensuing shockwave spread out and struck the transport, radically altering its trajectory into the atmosphere, throwing them off their intended landing zone by several thousand miles. The location of their crash landing was halfway into a rock, the impact killing Adela immediately and was harsher than their intended landing zone.

     Some would say it was divine will, others would say it was pure luck that Frrr’lk happen to be a nursing female. Due to the unfortunate circumstances of Adela’s death, Av’lee didn’t die thanks to Frrr’lk.

     For seven years Chamberlign, Av’lee and Frrr’lk lived on Freya IV as best they could with the limited items salvaged from the small transport and what they knew of survival techniques. Both Edward and Frrr’lk raised Av’lee in the culture and knowledge of the Corps and the Rass’ark. Almost exactly to the day they crash-landed on Freya IV a Corps exploration vessel detoured through the system. Picking up the short-range distress call being blasted from a Rass’ark transmitter with a corps frequency, the vessel sent down an exploration pod, whereupon they discovered only young Av’lee and Edward. To the present day, Chamberlign, now a Captain, refused to tell Lieutenant Av’lee Sendii or the Corps what happened to Frrr’lk.

     Bouncing lightly off the hull after hopping off the ladder, Av’lee activated her G-soles in her boots. As her feet made solid contact with the ground she tugged at her uniform jacket. She quickly ran her hands through her hair and took a deep breath before walking into the briefing room. Snapping off a perfect salute a split second after she recognized the flash of an Admiral’s bars.

     “At ease Lieutenant Sendii.”
 

     Her eyes flickered to Captain Sunspark, her commanding officer, before sliding into parade rest. The Admiral, who had yet to give his name, continued.

     “I understand you were well acquainted with the Rass’ark pilot Frrr’lk.”

     Av’lee felt a stirring of excitement and fear within her but schooled her face as best she could.

     “Yes Sir. I knew a Rass’ark pilot named Frrr’lk”

     Another Captain, obviously the Admiral’s aid, walked around the desk towards her, pure menace in his eyes that made Av’lee want to take an instinctive step back. “And were you not trained to be an assassin and spy for the Rass’ark?”

     There was a split second of shocked silence in the room before it burst into shouts.

     “How dare you! Lieutenant Sendii…”
     “You dare scorn Frrr’lk and my name?!”
     “You overstep your bounds Captain!”

     The Admiral let this yelling match go on between his aid, Av’lee, Sunspark and Captain Chamberlign who Av’lee had not seen when stepping inside the briefing room, before bellowing out himself.
     “ENOUGH”

     All four quickly closed their mouths and looked over duly chastised. The Admiral looked to his aid.
     “That will be all Captain. Sit down”

     The aid opened his mouth to retort before realizing of whom he was speaking too. Quickly shutting it at the Admiral’s withering look he sat down. “Now Lieutenant Sendii, will you freely admit that Frrr’lk did raise you in the culture and knowledge of her people?”

     Nervous, feeling as if she was being maneuvered into something she did not like, Av’lee replied hesitantly. “Sir, I admit that she raised me as much as Captain Chamberlign did in the culture and knowledge of the Corps.”

     “But you know the Rass’ark people well?”

     “As well as I can considering I was 7 last time I saw Frrr’lk and that was 19 years ago.”

     Taking a step forward he stared at her in eyes and said very still, almost dangerously. “Lieu…. Av’lee can you still speak and understand Rass’arian?”

     Av’lee felt her already on edge internal warning system take off at that one. Her instincts screamed at her to say “no.” Glancing minutely at Chamberlign and Sunspark and seeing their worried look the dreading instinct grew greater. Shifting her gaze back to the Admiral’s aid’s feral gaze before looking back to the Admiral himself she took a deep breath and spoke truthfully.

     “Yes….sir.”

     The aid’s grin grew broader, Chamberlign and Sunspark’s frown grew deeper and Av’lee felt a sinking sensation at the pit of her stomach. Not turning to address his aid, but keeping his eyes glued on her the Admiral spoke again. “Go and fill out the appropriate paperwork. Have the guards come into the room in 30 minutes to escort the retired Lieutenant Sendii to her quarters to collect her things.”

     Like an eager school child, his aid jumped up, shot off a salute and practically dashed out in his eagerness to dismiss what he obviously thought of as a Rass’arian conspirator.

     “Sir? May I speak freely?”

     Before he could respond, Av’lee continued almost frantic.

     “I realize this war has been going off and on for nearly 3 decades, but I have never done anything to betray the trust the Corps have placed on me. There are others…”

     “Lieutenant, calm down.”

     Her eyes widen a bit, draw dropping slightly, flabbergasted.

     “Calm?! How can you say that when you’ve basically just signed away my career to the pleasure of that jackal of an aid?!”

     She trailed off at the sound of amused chuckle. Whipping her head around she stared at Chamberlign even more baffled and hurt.

     “You…. Are laughing??”

     From behind her: “of course he laughs Ms. Sendii. He knows why I just “signed away your career” as you so eloquently put it.”

     Frowning, feeling as if the three men in the room were getting way to big of a kick out of the situation she shifted her stance to look at the Admiral who nodded slightly to Sunspark who came forward with a set of pips, Lt. Commander’s rank, set in black. Reaching up, he removed Av’lee’s Lieutenant jg pair, set in cream and handed her the other set. Staring quietly into her eyes as he spoke.

     “I know you know what these pips mean Av’lee, so I won’t explain to you why the Black Corps needs you. With your gifts and unique upbringing you are an vital asset to stopping this war and… I’m sorry to see you go. With the black mark upon your official record or no, you were a helluva officer.”

     Stepping back from Av’lee he passed the old rank bar over to the Admiral while Av’lee stood there awe struck. No one under the rank of Captain, and even some captains too, knew how the Black Corps recruited its numbers. The Black Corps was the elite intelligent and the Black ops of the Corps. Those in the Black Corps were the best of the best. Their ranks had more clout than those in regular service. In less than five minutes Av’lee had been drummed out of service and then be reinstated into the Black Corps with a rank 2 steps higher than her previous one. Lifting her eyes from her hand clenched tightly around the bars she stared questionly at the Admiral.
 Nodding somberly. “Yes Ms. Sendii, you’ve just been drafted to the Black Corps. As soon as my aid comes back you will be escorted to your quarters under guard and be allowed to pack up your personal belongings. You will remain in dress uniform. Technically you are not being court marshaled but given early retirement.” He paused and checked the clock.

     “You have time for one question before my aid returns.”

     Her mind scrambled, only one question at this juncture was hard. “Sir? My… bed isn’t exactly up to regs. May I transport it with me?”

     She winced intuitively when the imposing Admiral visibly blinked. “Your… first question is about your… rock bed?” He managed to hold back his laughter so that the only thing that came out was an undignified snort. “Yes Commander. That shall be taken care of you.”

     He nodded to Sunspark who returned the gesture and slipped out of the briefing room. Shifting his gaze to Chamberlign, Av’lee followed his look and raised an eyebrow as he opened up the simplistic file case that he had kept with him the entire time. Stepping forward he passed her a file flimsie and a pressuer, nodding for her to sign the flimsie. Taking the pressuer, reminisant of Old Earth pens, and made her mark, passing it back. Checking quickly the signature he passed back a thumb print identifier scanner. Impressing her thumb into the gel, laser saturated scanner, she waited the few seconds as her thumb was scanned. Upon the quite, light confirmation tone she passed it back to Chamberlign who glanced briefly at it before replacing it back into the case and nodded an affirmative to the Admiral. Opening his mouth to speak the Admiral was interrupted at the arrival of his aid reentering the room with 2 of Ship’s security. Undaunted at the inopportune arrival the Admiral continued.

     “Upon your arrival at the transport you will be taken down to Atheena III where your early discharge papers will be processed. Your paycheck for the remainder of the year will be paid to you. You’ll be given exactly one night in a Corps paid hotel and access to a Corps paid storage container for one week. Anything left behind after the week shall be confiscated.”

     As he was speaking, Captain Sunspark returned with a bar of Lieutenant jg pips set in blue and clipped them onto Av’lee’s collar. The blue setting would clue anyone in that she was retired from the Corps with civilian privileges just a tad higher than the average civilian.
 Gesturing to the guards, they stepped up and just behind Av’lee. Presuming greatly as to her current official status, Av’lee slipped into a salute and held it awaiting the Admiral’s return and dismissal salute…. And waited. He held her eyes and waited until the very last possible moment while it was just barely on this side of polite before returning the salute. Releasing hers, she turned on her heel and walked out of the door between the somber looking Chamberlign and Sunspark, ignoring the feral look on the aid, flanked by her guards.
     Walking, not quite marching, down the hall her “escorts” at her heels Av’lee could feel her former crewmates pause what they were doing as they passed them and stare. The whispers that were exchanged after they had passed stung. Arriving at her quarters, her frazzled shocked mind barely noticed that her name and number were already off the door, acknowledging that as far as the ship was concerned, she was no longer an member of the crew.
     Stepping inside, she gestured to the guards to wait outside the door. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, Av’lee looked about her Spartan quarters. Tears fell lightly as she stepped over to her closet to pull out her duffle. Lifting her hand to wipe her eyes, she remembered her guards and paused. Fighting it would be best for people to think she was heat broken, of which she was, but it’d also throw them off about her new position in the Black Corps. Sniffling, she opened up the drawers within her closet and pulled out her only shore-leave wear: her form fitting leather jacket, her work out gear. Walking over to where her rock bed used to be and a standard metal frame was she passed it and moved to her desk. Moving the desk chair aside, she stuck her hand under it and pulled out a slightly warm pair of knee high boots. Shoving them into the duffle she clambered to her feet and settled into the uncomfortable chair. Pulling open the top drawer she withdrew a small stationary box given to her by her sparing partner, Major Joshua Choi, the Marines pilot. Pulling out a piece of paper she sprawled hurriedly the official story and a brief supposition as to where she was going and signed it. Hurriedly shoving it into a small envelope she stuck it up her sleeve and moved towards the sink. Running her fingers alongside the edge of the mirror until she felt the paper envelop. Pulling it out she removed the two wafer credits, worth a thousand denarii each. Shoving them inside her uniform she put the envelope into the duffle when she heard the door open. Spinning around to yell at the intruder she nearly collided with Major Choi as he burst in hurriedly.

     With a relived sigh, “Av’lee! Ya havena left fer da dirt!”

     “Nay Josh, but I was just leaving for land side.”

     Taking in a shuddering breath she stuck out her hand, the one with the letter up her sleeve. As he gripped her hand she pulled him into a hug, passing off the note she whispered under her breath: “Black” and stepped back. Hefting her duffle, she whipped her eyes and nodded to the note in his hand and spoke in a normal tone of voice so that the bugs most likely already in the room would hear.

     “That explains what has happened in the last hour and where you can contact me… hopefully.”

     Rubbing her eyes she stepped out between the two guards, duffle slung over her shoulder. Before Choic would say something to give herself away before the danger that she was in by even being in the Black Corps sunk in  she schooled her face as best she could and made her way towards the shuttle bay, guards flanking her.
     Walking up the ramp she stowed her bag in the back. Settling herself into one of the empty passenger seats. Before she could strap herself in a young voice piped up.

     “Your soles ma’am?”

     Av’lee glanced up startled at the red-faced, very green young ensign. She repeated herself, nodding to Av’lee’s military issue shoes. Av’lee blinked as it slowly came to her. Whereas the dress uniform could “retire” with a person, the gravity soles for shoes were very expensive and thus stayed in the Corps. Slowly she leaned down and slipped off the short boots she wore. Pushing either side of her boot’s heel she heard the soft click as the compartment slid open, revealing an compartment in the boot’s heel. Withdrawing both of the gravity soles she handed them over to the ensign. Biting back a frustrated growl she nodded angrily to herself and slipped her boots back on and strapped herself into the seat.
 
 



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Image by Terry Frost