Kodeyne pulled the beanbag out of the storage locker and plumped it up, against the edge of the rear bridge level. She settled into its yielding softness, and let out a contented sigh. She took a sip of chilled sherry (she had banned herself from spirits for the time being), struck the wooden match and let it burn for a few moments before carefully lighting the Kamitra cigar. One per month, she allowed herself. Or special occasions, like this. She exhaled fragrant smoke, and snuggled deeper into the beanbag. Gazing around the bridge of her new ship...it seemed vast, even compared to her beloved Asp Explorer.
Falling Angel. A Faulcon DeLacy Python. The proceeds from her last trip out into the black had secured her enough funds to buy it, fitted it out for trading, and she knew she would never really have any money worries again.
That wasn't the special occasion though. She picked up the data tab, and accessed her mail. It had been...months since she had flown her close friend Alison out of Mars High and Federation space to seek sanctuary in the Empire. And now, a message from Ali...
I cannot thank you enough for saving me. From despair to a new life...wow! As a Federation citizen, one is led to believe only the worst about the Empire...and when you dropped me off here, I assumed the worst, despite your reassurances. That I would be instantly be made an outcast, or sold into slavery. How wrong could I be?
The charitable institution you took me to, one of Princess Aisling's projects, could not have been kinder. I was welcomed and comforted and given a new start. People in the Empire are still humans...they just do things differently, that's all. I didn't even have to have the child aborted - at a suitable time, they transferred it to a host-mother who couldn't have children of her own, and I was compensated generously for giving it up. The child will have a family and a life, far away from and free of the shitbag who fathered it.
And now? I have stayed at the institution, but working for them and it is far more rewarding than I could imagine. I'm told the Princess herself took a personal interest in my situation - all the more humbling when you consider what she has just been through.
So that's me, I hope all is well with you, my dearest friend and my guardian angel. Sorry if that's a bit too cloying for you, Ophelia, but how could I be here if it wasn't for you?
Please keep in touch and while I know you move around a lot because of what you do, you know where I am if you ever want to stop by for a coffee!
All my love,
Kodeyne put the data tab down and emptied the glass. A tear ran down her face.
"Oh, Ali," she sighed, "I'm so happy for you. I wish I could be happy too..."
How could she reply to that? Would Ali really want to know about all the booze she drank, all the people she had slept with? Or how it felt to drive an SRV on the surface of a world no-one had seen before? How lonely it felt when you were five thousand light years away from the nearest human? How, in spite of everything, she loathed herself and still felt utterly isolated and detached from other people?
She took one last drag from the cigar and stubbed it out. She shook herself and clambered out of the embrace of the beanbag.
There was still some sherry left in the bottle. Time to rectify that.