Hero

Her eyes were open in the darkness, pupils dilated to their fullest as they wordlessly pierced into the shadowy recesses of the ceiling of her quarters. She shivered a little at the chill that always seemed to hang damply in the air in this section of the station’s rotation cycle and burrowed under the blankets a little deeper, briefly yet fiercely wishing for a cigarette before pushing the impulse from her head. She grimaced and grit her teeth a little; there was a large and looming permanence to the word “quitting” that she was slowly coming to terms with.

Instead, she wordlessly swung her legs out of bed and stood, wrapping the blankets around her and padding softly across the cold metal floor to the opposite end of her quarters, her feet chilled but familiar with the journey. Reaching for a glass from the shelf, she dropped 3 small blocks of ice into it, letting them pling one at a time before setting the glass on the counter. The familiar squeak of real cork-wood on a real glass bottle, followed by the warm and oaky smell of the scotch whiskey made her pause before splashing some of the bottle’s contents out over the ice and re-corking it. Hugging the blankets around herself, she took the glass in her spare hand and turned towards the open doorway leading out to the gangway and her hanger.

=====

She sat on the floor at the end of the gangway, knees against her chest, staring out at the dim light of the hanger. Slowly, she sipped from the glass, letting the smokey liquor run over her tastebuds, pausing to savour the complexity of the taste before swallowing with an exhale.

Jared was gone these days. He’d decided one day that this end of the universe was too well known and that the other side seemed “more like the place to go”; the place to gowithout your girlfriend was the part he omitted at first, but whatever. Fuck him, right? She took another sip of her drink.

It might have taken her a while to admit it to herself, but she knew it was more than that that kept her up these nights.

She looked out across the hanger at the dim lights glinting and casting sharp contrasts across the crisp and polished metallic surface of her Guardian cruiser. “BTL Armor For Life” and the slogan “Maspah, Never Forget”, framed with what appeared to be angel wings and some sort of bird talons etched deeply into the side of the hull. She rolled her eyes and took a sip; what complete bullshit. She was no patriot, not one of those shield-banging freedom fighters, and definitely not a hero. But heros were what people wanted, and in their absence, what they looked for.

She thought back on the other day, of the little girl who had broken away from her mother’s hand to run over to look up at her and smile admiringly. Or last week after returning to station after a fairly pitched fight at a Nation Command Outpost, of the old veteran who’d gotten on one knee to bless and thank her. She wasn’t heartless, but they were misguided, and they were wrong.

At the end of the day, the money was great; match, point, that was it. Heroes were selfless, without material need, and altruistic. But when it came down to it, she was a paid gun; a mercenary, hired out by CONCORD to help take care of the shit they couldn’t. She’d bought the Logistics cruiser sitting in her hanger now from Acidius, when he’d first picked her up in that shitty pub in Amarr and recruited her into his Armor gang. She laughed, he was no hero either, but she’d learned that he’d picked up the cruiser from some old gun from the first Incursions, a true believer and freedom fighter all the way. When she brought up the slogans on the hull, he’d just shrugged and winked: “chicks sure love heroes” he’d said.

=====

The dim blinking from the holoreel screen in her quarters behind her caught her eye and attention; a new Incursion warning. Her com unit on the floor next to her buzzed with the now-familiar face of Acidius pinging her; damn he was fast she thought. She cleared her throat in the cold air of the hanger and picked up.

“Armor gang going up in Orkashu and looking for Logis, you in?” His voice was level, with a twinge of contained excitement that all the ex-military types seemed to have before getting into a gun fight.

She said nothing and briefly toyed with the idea of passing with some sort of lame excuse when he piped up again.

“I know you’re up doing nothing Soph, so move it and get that ass over here”.

She grinned to herself, “yeah, I’ll be there”, she said.

She ended the com-line and hung her head for a second before slowly hauling herself up off the floor. She drained her glass as she started flicking on command switches on the gangway dash, and then let the blanket fall around her bare feet as she moved towards her awaiting pod.

The garland of flowers with an Amarrian religious icon pinned to it draped across the railing next to her pod caught her eye. “So much for upgraded security measures” she thought as she picked up the wreath and tossed it over the side, making a mental note to request a new dock staff.

She paused and looked up as the lights caught the slogans and the angel wings carved into the hull and shook her head. “Buckle up, hero” she muttered sarcastically.

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