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Generated: Oct 16, 2019 2:45 PM
Post last updated: Oct 16, 2019 2:45 PM
the stars are free
Foresight and Cherish in the Honor Harrington universe
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Margaret is on her way to work, walking instead of flying today so she can drink her coffee without spilling it, when she sees the cryptid. She's a truly far-out one, no limbs to speak of, just a long snaky body with a mirror for a face. Margaret smiles at her and goes to walk on by, but the cryptid slithers right at her all of a sudden and--hits?--Margaret with the giant mirror. Except she doesn't experience getting whacked with a sheet of glass.

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And she's quite thoroughly elsewhere. The place is crowded, noisy, and smells industrial. Like heat and oil and exhaust. There's a metal grating beneath her feet, and there's several people turning to look at her. Their words are hard to catch, but either they have thick accents or a weird dialect or are only speaking something in English's general family.

And as someone reaches for their belt, this place is quite dangerous.

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"Woah!" How on Earth does a mirror-headed snake count as pretty enough to do that? Also, aaaaa, she's gonna be attacked!

The people turning to look at her see: a horned woman with metallic silvery scales instead of skin, blue slit-pupiled eyes, and wide silver wings. Her white lace dress and copious jewelry look like a team of brilliant but old-fashioned seamstresses got handed the entire budget of a small country and told they could do anything except exercise restraint. Both her clothing and her body are covered in opals too perfect not to be manufactured. 

She puts her hands in front of her, open-palmed, and says in a clear but frightened voice, "Hello! I'm very lost, I didn't mean to be here!" (Unspoken but obvious subtext: so please don't shoot me for trespassing.)

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A couple of people mutter at that.

One person calls out something. It might include the word 'what'.

People are backing away from her a bit, eyeing something behind her, and there's a small commotion.

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Oh no, what's behind her? She turns around, stepping away from whatever it is.

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Several people, in what look like uniforms, two with what're probably handguns unsheathed, though there's something distinctly odd about the design. The front is a woman, her expression harsh, who barks something to her people when Margaret turns.

The street people are steering well clear of the uniforms.

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Oh great, she's been dropped in a foreign country and right on top of cops or soldiers or something. Margaret joins in the general steering-clear and backing-away while also looking all around to see if she can figure out what sort of building she's in.

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Apparently not one - 'industrial district' might be more likely, since that's possibly a smoggy sky over her head.

And those soldiers are distinctly heading towards her, the one in front barking out what sounds like an order.

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"Sorry, I don't speak the language! Do you speak English?" Hopefully this is one of those utterances which will convey its meaning by not being comprehensible.

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A pause, and, slowly and heavily accented, the woman says, "You are trespassing. Daija does not permit Edeneras."

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Oh, thank goodness. Slowly and carefully enunciated: "I am sorry. I am here by mistake. If I should not be here I will leave. Where should I go?" She can find out where Daija is and whether Edeneras means magical girls when she isn't disturbing people.

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"You are to come with us."

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Nod. Nervous following? Her danger sense is still very much active but at least they don't appear to be attacking her right this minute. And to be fair, she doesn't know how well she'd react if someone spontaneously appeared at her.

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They fall into a loose formation around her. She's led out of the industrial district, towards a large brick building set on a small hill. Smog lingers over the city, hiding any stars, but as they leave the taller buildings it becomes apparent this place has an active airport of some kind - there's large craft coming and going, and a trail of light like a meteor or descending shuttle blazes near the horizon.

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Those don't look like the airplanes she's used to. She tries to read any of the signage, or at least recognize an alphabet or a flag or something.

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They seem to have similar aesthetics in flags as many she'd be used to - broad stripes with stars, though these have stripes of what're probably greens and blues, and only three large stars. 

The alphabet is... She could probably sound things out and even get most of them. It's definitely Latin-derived, including mostly familiar numbers, and if she sounds anything out it sounds vaguely like a romance language, maybe influenced heavily by Japanese or vice-versa. Though, there seems to be symbols that look a lot like Chinese or Japanese on some signs - if she's familiar with either language she'll be able to piece together some of the phrases, even with most of the symbols being simplified. The industrial district contains a lot of shops, most advertising repair work, or pawn, or cheap parts. The building she's being led to is marked as some kind of center.

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She can't read Chinese or Japanese, but she's starting to expect she may have been sent forward in time. Hopefully this is a place and era with American consulates in it. She heads into the some sort of center.

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It's bland inside. Harshly lit. Solid concrete, painted an off-white. Their footsteps echo.

There's a security guard, who looks bored and eyes her with poorly concealed disdain. He has a short conversation with the lead person before letting them in.

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Margaret still doesn't have anything to say until she finds someone who looks interested in either asking questions or answering them, so she just tries to pick up as many words of the local language as she can manage.

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The lead guard takes her to what seems to be a rather bare questioning room. She sits, and gestures Margaret to a chair across from her. "How did you get where you were?" she demands after a moment.

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"One minute I was walking down the street in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States. Then a cryptid that looked like a snake with a mirror for a face--I can give you a picture if you want--hit me with its mirror, and suddenly I was standing where you found me." Is this plausible? Not really! But it's the only truth she's got.

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"United States?" She pauses. "That is - old. Your language is old."

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"Yes. I--I think I might be lost in time. It was the 2030s, this morning." Her voice shakes as she confronts the thought that everyone she knows might be dead of old age.

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"- Wormholes do not do that?" she says, questioningly. A pause. "Engineered beings do not do that. I do not know what a cryptid is."

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"I've only heard of wormholes in fiction. A cryptid is--do you still have magical girls?"

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" - The fiction?"

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Oh dear. "No, the reality. Would you like to see a small, harmless demonstration of my magical powers, as proof that I'm not just completely insane and wearing a lot of makeup?"

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Skeptically raised eyebrow. "Sure."

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She turns her horns purple, then radically changes their shape (in a way that doesn't disrupt the jewelry hanging off them), then puts them back. "I can do something else if you know a way to fake that."

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The woman's silent for several long moments. "Holograms, maybe," she says, slowly. "But you are - changed? From - first human."

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"If you mean, did I start out as an ordinary human and then modify myself, yes. Should I just explain from the beginning, or do you want more proof?"

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"I mean... There are ways, to make a baby not like parents. Edeneras."

"Our leader will want a - fuller explanation. They are very interested. But basics are good now."

She seems vaguely uncomfortable, still.

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"I don't know what Edeneras are, but I'll explain my thing first. In the time and place I'm from, a small fraction of girls get the option to do magic sometime between the ages of eight and sixteen. It starts out as just the shapeshifting ability. If you use it to get far enough from human, you get the ability to shapeshift your clothes and some other powers unique to you. If you go too far from human, it scrambles your brain. We also have swarms, which are these little black bugs that appear out of nowhere and combine into monsters and attack people."

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"We do not have that." Her eyes go unfocused for a few seconds - "There is no quick search for that in history. Edeneras have changed DNA, are less human."

Her accent's getting less, whatever translation software she's referencing getting better, or her getting more used to the pronunciation. 

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"If you don't have any records, that suggests I'm in some sort of parallel future, rather than my own. But either way I don't know how to get back. I should probably assume I'm stuck here and get a job and things, and then if I snap back to my own time or something it can be a pleasant surprise."

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"Our leader will provide for your needs."

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That's the most ominous offer of free stuff she's ever heard. Possibly the translation's fault. "That's very nice of you. Still, I'd like to help out where I can rather than freeloading. Is there somewhere I should talk to about getting a legal identity?"

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"You will be provided one, yes."

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"Okay, good. Any reason I shouldn't go do that now? Or I can just wander around a bit if I need to wait for something. Oh, maybe you could give me directions to a library?"

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"You are not free to go."

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"Huh? Why not?" And who are you, anyway, when you were just a random person dealing with a stranded time traveller it wasn't important but now that you're claiming authority it is.

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"Our leader has expressed interest in you, and all modified humans must be in service to the nation."

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"Who is your leader? Are you part of the government?" What sort of messed-up future has she wound up in?

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"Our leader is Premier Marian Yashagoro. I am the chief of police of district eighty-seven."

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So the criminals are the government, or at least think they can convince her of such. Figures.

"What do you want? In the short term and the long term."

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"Personally? I'd like to follow my orders without resorting to violence, and retire eventually to somewhere nice. As a state? We seek the flourishing of our human population. Premier Yashagoro also seeks to know all things."

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"Those are good things to want," she says in a conciliatory voice. "Can you tell me more about what you expect my future to look like?" (It looks like learning a lot and then running off to somewhere else at the first opportunity, if she can manage it.)

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"We will test to see how your talents are best turned towards the common good, and then you will use them in service of that good."

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"That sounds good." And she's going to want to know what her comparative advantage is when she runs away to somewhere not run by kidnappers. Though she should probably pretend to be worse at things than she is, just for the sake of knowing things they don't. Relatedly, "Can I get something to eat first, though? I hadn't had breakfast when I had the magical accident."

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"Of course. We take care of our assets."

And food and water - fairly plain, tasting off compared to the food Margaret's used to - can be brought.

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She wasn't expecting future food to taste familiar, but she was sort of expecting it to taste better than this. Hopefully this is just her captors failing to make an effort, rather than extreme stagnation in food technology. But it's free food and she can tell it isn't drugged, so she eats it.

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The police chief leaves for a time, and when she returns - after Margaret has finished eating - she commands Margaret to follow her.

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She follows. They aren't treating her like they've realized the full implications of her powers for self-defense, which is good, because she wants to keep those possibilities theoretical as long as possible.

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The possibilities do, indeed, remain theoretical for quite a while - though their leader despite apparent curiosity does avoid directly meeting with her. There's intense curiosity about the limits of her powers, when they activate, how dangerous is 'danger', if they have a person involved administering a test that the administrator is convinced is dangerous but isn't actually will it trigger for instance...

And they put her to work. Mostly, they find, she's really good at keeping ships doing high-risk maneuvers from blowing up. Which means they can push the envelope on experimental hyperspace travel, and move 'workers' around faster - they're having trouble with raiders, is the rumor, though the supervisors are fairly good at keeping 'workers' from talking to each other.

But Margaret, if she's patient and watchful and diligent, will get a sliver of an opportunity, during one of the larger and more complicated movements of 'workers' (they're barely even pretending to not be slavers with this particular spaceship) to seize control. She's on the bridge near-constantly after all, and the captain's worked with her enough that he's forgotten he can't trust her...

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Margaret plays along, outwardly, but all her attention is focused getting ready to run. She sees how they treat the people they find less interesting or less useful, and resolves to make some trouble on the way out if she gets half a chance. Maybe she can give someone else an opening too.

She lets the experimenters see how good she is at detecting physical danger, but conceals most of her ability to detect hostile intent. No matter what the experimenters believe while running the tests, she's always detecting the presence or absence of a real threat.

Guiding ships through hyperspace would be an amazing job if not for who she was working for. Between the danger sense and the advance perception, she always knows just which way to jink to reduce the stresses of the higher hyper bands. She gets prophecies too, more days than not; some of them are advice for ship captains (recommending slower and safer routes, and perhaps ignored); others are for her ears only. She manages to filch a couple things that might be useful: an extra ration bar here, a roll of duct tape there. It's easy to hide things in pockets that can seal themselves shut. She looks like a harmless, cooperative little navigator. And she waits.

Until the day when the bridge is just her and the captain and the first officer, and they make the mistake of standing too close too each other where she can come up behind them. Suddenly her hands hold the ends of rubber straps, wrapping around their eyes and noses and filling their mouths so they can neither give alarm nor draw a breath. 

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They go down quite easily, being entirely unenhanced humans with no real training in hand-to-hand.

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Margaret has no training either, just a lot of pent-up anger and the power of accessories. 

She also doesn't have training in flying the ship by herself. Once she's made sure her opponents are unconscious and tied them up with the duct tape, she heads to the internal control board. If she can seal off the engine room from the rest of the ship, then a majority of the local ability to do things will belong to people with a reason to support this hijacking. (In the back of her mind, she remembers The Martian and wonders if this technically makes her a space pirate.)

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Sealing the engine room off works, though it'll take her a few minutes and perhaps a check of the manual.

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The ship isn't in danger and the officers went down without giving the alarm; she can spare the time to check the manual and be sure she's doing this right. 

Once the engine room is sealed, though, it's only a matter of time (and not much time) before someone there notices it. She needs to secure control of the rest of the ship by then.

Margaret flips on the main intercom, the one used to warn all aboard to brace for takeoff of hyper transition. "Prisoners!" she declares. "This ship has been hijacked by one of your own! Rise up, take down your guards, and we can all be free within the hour! They can't stop all of us! Guards, surrender if you value your lives above your masters' profit!" Then she leaps to stand to one side of the door, shield on one arm and the other ready to take out anyone bursting in.

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There's a pause - and Margaret won't be able to hear any mundane sounds of a struggle through all the metal - 

And then three people burst in, all wielding assorted guns.

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Margaret feels their hostility while they're still outside, sees them enter a few seconds ahead. If they think they have the element of surprise, that mistake might just save her despite her own lack of a gun. Cables materialize in her hand, trying to entangle her opponents and especially their weapons.

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They're not expecting that; one gets entangled, one loses their gun, and one gets off a shot that goes wide in the chaos. 

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The dropped gun gets kicked into a corner while she keeps getting in the way of their eyes and hands. It's three against one, but she knows every move they're about to make. Changing what's in her hands requires a moment in starscape, so she leaves the entangled guy as is and focuses on the one who managed to fire.

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He's not used to this kind of combat, especially not against a precog, so she'll be able to anticipate his shots -

The one she disarmed pulls a smaller gun off his waist. They're not bullets, at least, more like really fancy tasers, but getting hit by one will hurt.

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Electricity doesn't damage her as much as it would a baseline, thanks to her highly conductive outer layer, but if anything that actually makes it more painful. The injuries aren't visible enough to heal quickly, either. She shrieks, repairs the burns on her clothes and makes a knife to slash at the hand holding the new weapon, fights on unbalanced by the burns between her scales and her flesh.

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They press the attack more, sensing her weakness - 

And one goes down with a crack as a tall, burly woman bursts through the door and brings a wrench down on his head.

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Oh thank goodness the inspiring speech worked

Margaret is both less surprised and more encouraged by wrench woman than her opponents are; she finds the strength and speed to rip the taser away from its wielder and send it spinning across the floor.

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Wrench woman isn't her only backup. A slighter boy - who looks grown into his features, though is still quite a bit more short and slender than most teenagers - slips in behind her, apparently having appropriated some jumper cables or similar as a weapon.

Between the three of them and surprise, the guards are going to go down quickly.

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Then when they are no longer all actively engaged in combat, Margaret will heal herself more thoroughly and say, "H-hello. Thank you both; you have excellent timing."

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"Thank you," says the woman. Her voice is deep and accented. "We thought you might need more help than others, and we were close, though the guards were not easy to get past. But they do not think much about how strong high-grav mods make you."

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Oh crap there's the adrenaline crash. Now Margaret is sagging against the doorframe. Come on, she tells herself, not time to fall over yet. "Who else needs help? Also I can't fly the ship."

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"Probably someone can. And there's problems all over. Can you heal others?" the woman asks.

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"Just myself, sorry. Should we stash these guards somewhere and go looking for trouble, then?"

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The woman grins, a bit terrifyingly. "Let's."

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Apparently when you decide violence is the answer you have to keep doing violence until there's no more question. That thought didn't make a ton of sense. Whatever. She will follow the scary competent person into More Trouble.

"I can tell when hostile people are nearby," she says, as they presumably head out the door.

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"That'll be helpful. Someone's taken the security center, so they don't have cameras anymore," the woman says. "What else can you do?"

They pass a very still guard sprawled at the side of the hallway with their helmet pointing the wrong way.

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"I can see what people are about to do before they do it, and I can make things but they disappear when I stop holding them," she summarizes. 

 She looks at the downed guard, then away. Not thinking about it, what she's trying to stop is worse, just keep going.

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"If I showed you a ranged weapon, could you make something like that?" she asks.

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"Probably not. I could make something that looked like it, but any parts I couldn't see I couldn't get right. I have to know a lot about what I'm doing. Though maybe something that looks like a gun but isn't could still be useful."

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"Damn. Their guns are fingerprint locked. They probably won't believe we've gotten one we can fire."

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"Darn. Though, uh, I could have someone else's fingerprint if I got a look at their finger." Having fingerprints at all would be super weird, but it's better than melee combat."

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"We'll loot the next guard, then."

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"Alright." Once she gets within a few hundred feet of danger, she can steer them either toward or away from it. Probably toward, since they aren't pushing for anywhere in particular beyond "secure more of the ship".

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Indeed, this really isn't a very organized rebellion.

Still, they can pick up a few others, including people who know anything at all about strategy.

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More people: good. People who know anything about strategy: great. Margaret isn't thinking of herself as anything like the leader of this rebellion; she'll happily take direction from anyone who seems to know what they're doing.

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People give her sort of first pick at leadership, but when it's clear she doesn't want the position, someone else takes over smoothly. The woman with the wrench who first rescued her is in charge of a major segment, in fact.

Slowly, violently, they take the ship, until the last guards are starting to surrender.

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She knew this was going to be violent when she started it. It's still more injury and death than she's seen in the entire rest of her life combined. She's relieved when guards start to surrender, and even more relieved when it turns out a ship like this has enough places to confine people that they can respect those surrenders. 

They're still all dead if they don't find anyone who can fly the ship.

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...It's possible the people who know how to fly the ship are, themselves, already dead. They can manage sublight propulsion - that's practically automated - but they're floating far from any stars.

It's fortunate, someone mutters, they weren't in hyperspace during the revolution.

What, so they can die slow instead of fast, someone else mutters back.

(There's a creeping thrum of danger permeating the air, humming along the lines of the ship, swirling around everyone with a shortening temper and rising fear - )

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Looks like "start things off and hope someone else takes over from there" wasn't a complete plan. She straightens up to her full height, spreads her wings a bit, and speaks over the muttering, trying to sound calm and authoritative.

"There is no need to panic. We don't need one person who knows how to fly the ship; we just need to be able to figure it out collectively. I watched it being done; some of the rest of you probably know important things about it. I'm going to the bridge; anyone who thinks they might be able to help should come with me, and together we can figure it out. Trouble will come and we will not end here."

This last is spoken in a voice no human can speak with; the words linger and echo in the air in a way that makes it obvious that they are magic.

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That startles some people - enough they grow silent.

And, slowly, a handful start to volunteer to follow her, while others start to organize the rest to find food and medical supplies.

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Back to the bridge, then. Hopefully someone cleaned up the variously taken-out people. 

Margaret attempts to decipher the control panels enough to determine where they are. Are they close enough to a civilized star system to reach it without hyper, or do they need to figure that out too? Probably the latter.

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There's some blood smears but it looks like the clean-up has gotten here at least.

They're five light-years away from a civilized star system, which is their original destination.

The next non-hostile star system is another twenty light-years away.

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Okay, so even if you don't constrain "civilized" to mean "won't just re-enslave them all" they still have to learn to work the hyper drive. They could also try activating the emergency distress beacon, but between their location and their ship's ID she doesn't like their odds on who would show up to help. So, looks like it's down to their combined knowledge and any manuals they can pull up.

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Manuals: exist, but assume a lot of prior knowledge and schooling.

One person on the ship has ever been part of the piloting crew of a hyper-capable ship, but that was twenty years ago and the way they organize controls has changed somewhat dramatically.

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Fortunately, control panel configurations are one of the things the manuals have the most detail on. Unfortunately, that still leaves a lot of gaps. They debate options for many minutes. Margaret explains that her danger sense is uninformative about which actions will increase or decrease the danger she's in, so she can't just contemplate pressing a button and learn how it will go. 

Eventually, they agree that a particular series of actions has about an 80% get them safely into hyper, and a 20% chance of splattering their atoms across a multi-light-second radius. Someone suggests telling the rest of the ship before they try it; someone else suggests definitely not telling. Margaret stands by the panel that would be her part of the sequence, twisting the rings on her fingers until someone with skin would have scraped it raw.

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- There's a ding from the console.

Margaret would recognize it; she's been on this bridge often enough.

It's an incoming hail. 

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Everyone with their hands poised above consoles is glad enough to stop when she says, "Wait".

Can she figure out who's hailing before she opens a call? There's no time to steal a guard's uniform, but she can at least gesture at someone more human-looking to get in front of the video pickup.

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Someone more human-looking steps forward.

The mystery ship's identification is as a merchant liner.

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It's a better chance than the one they were about to take. She picks up.

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A woman appears, dressed formally, but not in a recognizably military style.

"This is Captain Cherish Uccelo of the merchant liner Pinion. We're in need of medical aid and engineering assistance."

(Scans don't seem to indicate anything wrong with their ship, but, well, this is tricky equipment.)

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"Ah," says Designated Talking Guy, "We may be able to help, but we're rather in need of help ourselves. We have medical supplies aboard, and some amount of engineering capacity, but our pilot was incapacitated and we can't go anywhere."

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"Is that related to why you're out of uniform?"

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". . . Yes. Can you describe what help you need?"

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Margaret wishes they had had time to find the best available liar and get them a uniform. Or that she could detect hostile intent over video.

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She describes some very plausible sounding needed help! That, to be addressed properly, will require them letting her injured onto their ship to use their medical facilities.

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There is a hasty debate over the medium of significant glances, which Margaret wins by dint of being able to hold up a sign with words on it ("Say yes and steal a uniform before they get here!").

"We can provide medical facilities," says the spokesperson, "though possibly not medical personnel, so if you have your own medic you should send them too." He glanced at some maps and tells her where her shuttle can dock.

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"I wouldn't mind more of a brief on what's happened to your ship. Maybe we can help each other."

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The spokesperson takes too long to come up with a good lie, or even a bad one. It's obvious that the other captain is getting suspicious, and if she figures out what's up while they have a medical bay full of her wounded that will go even worse than whatever will happen if they put their cards on the table now. 

Margaret steps into view of the camera, horns, wings, decidedly non-uniform gown and all. "We are not this ship's original crew."

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"Then who are you?"

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She hopes she looks more "desperado" than "desperate", and bets everything on the morals of the stranger on the screen. "We're escaped slaves. We hijacked the ship transporting us."

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"Good for you."

"In that case, I am Captain Treasure X, of the Audubon Ballroom's Trouble."

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Margaret almost collapses in relief at "good for you" and has to steady herself on the console. "I'm glad to hear it," she says, "but I'm afraid I don't actually know what the Audobon Ballroom is." She looks around at the others, hoping to at least find out if they're all confused too or if this is an obvious thing she's missed learning since she got to this time.

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A few look confused, a few have a dawning look of disbelieving hope.

"We're an anti-slavery organization," says Captain X, "Though some call us terrorists. We had been going to a planet we heard was using slave labor - I suspect the same you were destined for. It's fortunate we ran into you here."

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"Confused" and "disbelieving hope" just about sum it up, yeah.

"It really is! We don't have anyone who knows how to get into hyper safely."

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"We can send you some of our pilots, and provide an escort back somewhere safe, then."

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"Great. Ah, do you in fact need medical help?"

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"No; that's usually an effective lie for getting us on a ship, though."

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"I can see how it would be, yes." She's hardly going to blame Captain Treasure for lying, since that makes all of them. And now they can coordinate getting someone who knows what they're doing over here to fly the ship.

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That's easy enough; the Trouble has more pilots and navigators than they strictly need, and plenty of small, swift craft to go between ships.

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And presumably Treasure, or really any of the people who grew up in this universe, knows of a solidly anti-slavery planet with a social safety net and a willingness to take refugees. There's loads of planets, right, surely one of them is Space Canada.

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"I'm curious about you specifically - the one with the scales. I haven't seen genetic modifications like that, or heard about contact with a new alien species," Captain X addresses to Margaret. "Are you needed on your ship, or do you mind coming over to talk with me more? Some representatives from your people wouldn't hurt, either way, so we can figure out where to go from here."

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"I can definitely come over and explain the scales, but someone else should come too, I'm kind of a bad representative. It's a long story." She looks around the bridge. "Now that we have a moment to actually think about it, who wants to be the representative? And someone should get on the intercom and tell the rest of the ship what's up, I can do that bit." She goes off a little ways and concisely informs everyone not on the bridge of recent developments while the people who are here figure out who's going.

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There seems to be a debate between leaving them with competent leadership in case something goes wrong and sending someone actually representative.

Eventually they decide to send the tall woman who originally rescued Margaret along.

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Seems like a good pick. "I never got your name," she says on their way over. "I'm Margaret."

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Small smile. "I'm Alet. Good to meet you, Margaret."

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"It's good to meet you too. Thanks for all your help back there."

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"Thank you. You've done a lot."

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"It worked out a lot better than I was afraid it would."

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"We got lucky, in many ways. But a lot of us have been planning on our own - we just never got an opening."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, that's what I was betting on. If I hadn't gotten lucky someone else probably would have."

Permalink Eye

"Might not have been in time, or while we were out of hyperspace, though."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Well, no need to worry about it now."

Permalink Eye

Alet nods, silent, and the shuttle begins to approach for docking at the Trouble.

Permalink Eye

Margaret watches the docking with interest; the interstellar future is still cool even if it happens to be accompanied by a surplus of shenanigans. Presumably someone on the Trouble will tell them where to go from here.

Permalink Eye

Someone does, and they're escorted to a conference room with Captain X. It's understated, but not uncomfortable, and the table is small-ish and round.

Permalink Eye

She takes a seat and fiddles with one of her several bracelets. "Hello. Do you want to ask questions, or do you just want the whole weird story from the beginning?"

Permalink Eye

"From the beginning, please."

Permalink Eye

"So, I think I'm from a parallel universe, where it's the twenty-first century and magic exists . . . " She gives an overview of magical girls and swarms, with illustrative minor shapeshifting, and explains about the mirror snake and subsequent events. "And then we all took out the guards, and tried to get the ship moving again, and that's when you arrived," she concludes. "I know it sounds rather implausible."

Permalink Eye

"I've heard odder, but not much. Still, I also haven't heard of genetic engineering that can do - well, this."

Permalink Eye

"I doubt it could be done with genetic engineering alone--for one thing, I violate conservation of energy."

Permalink Eye

"That does sound like it'd be a thorny problem."

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Nod. "So, I've pretty much given up on ever getting home, or at least on being able to do make progress on it from this end. So I'm looking for somewhere I can, you know, be part of society and do good in the world and stuff."

Permalink Eye

"Well, the Audubon Ballroom is always recruiting, or we can try to get you set up somewhere with good anti-slavery laws."

Permalink Eye

"Are you recruiting for jobs that don't involve much violence? Because today was my first time being in a fight between humans and. I don't want. More of that." 

Today was not the first time she's heard someone break a bone. It was the first time she heard it and thought good, one more down.

Permalink Eye

"Yes. We actually have a lot of need for intelligence agents, for lobbyists, for medical personnel and social workers, and for administrative positions. Not as exciting as being an anti-slavery pirate, but."

Permalink Eye

"Less exciting sounds nice. I was a data analyst back home, I could probably learn to do the analysis side of intelligence work if not the part that requires passing for human."

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"That'd be helpful, yeah, though it might take a bit of finagling - this cell mostly does the exciting space piracy part, but we can get you background checked and transferred."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks! I don't mind waiting until it's convenient. I guess the first priority is finding somewhere to send the other ship."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. And getting everyone sorted, integrated where they want to be with whatever supplies they need - and this is a bigger ship than we usually hit."

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"Yeah. I can run errands if you're short-handed and think I wouldn't just be in the way. Hopefully the ship has some supplies we can use; I'm not sure how long a trip it was prepped for."

Permalink Eye

"We weren't short handed, but we likely will be with both ships to look after."

"And most ships prep for longer trips than they're taking, since hyper-travel's a bit unpredictable. Still, figuring that out's going to be one of our bigger preparation tasks."

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense. What's the immediate next thing?" 

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"How about we have you help inventory supplies, while I talk logistics with the ship rep?"

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"Sounds good! I'll head over there and get started."

Permalink Eye

"Alright."

And a shuttle back can be provided.