It’s rare to find a post written by a single player that truly stands-out. In a Fleet of sims, almost all writing is done by two writers with their characters sharing the scene.
This Post Spotlight highlights a posting equivalent of a solliloquay; a single writer with a single character – musing to themselves over the stresses of work and relationship while exploring the quarters of a man she has never met. A man killed in action over a year ago. She plays backgammon with him. Shares a drink with him.
Calliope’s writer takes the reader on a journey through the different emotions she is feeling in a unique way, taking her time to set the scene and play the thought process out as a conversation between her and her own mental image of what this man might have been. The result is a melancholy but beautiful character piece well worth reading even without the full background context and leaves the reader wanting more.
Posted on 13 Jan 2021 @ 12:35am by Commander Calliope Zahn
Mission: M1 – Emergence
Location: Quinn and Zahn’s Quarters-to-be
Timeline: MD 06 0130
1288 words – 2.6 OF Standard Post Measure
Calliope had just enough presence of mind to make for the showers aboard the Caelian where it remained docked as it continued assisting with the station’s repairs and supply. There were others in the locker rooms of the ship’s gymnasium, a mix of ship and station personnel. Calliope kept to herself and felt numb as she showered, unable as she was to process any of her feelings right there.
They kept whirling in an angry, despairing holding pattern in her head. She leaned her weight on the wall and bowed her head, watching the desert grit being beat off her by the sonic emitters and form into eclectic geometric patterns on the floor; her hair she let out of its wrap and massaged with her hands to help free everything from the woolen locks. She continued until the texture softened and her scalp felt fresh. Although she was finished she stood there after, her forehead against the sonic wall as it powered off, and just listened distractedly to the comings and goings of the other personnel beyond her stall. She closed her eyes against unwanted memories of other locker rooms. Memories she’d long since told herself were well behind her. None-the-less, she waited until there was a lull in the sound of traffic beyond the stall until she wrapped in a robe and stepped out to replicate a fresh uniform and hurriedly duck into a changing room.
She had to replicate night clothes and a toothbrush and a lantern and everything else she wanted in a little kit. She wasn’t sure how many nights she’d spend alone in the future apartment, but she had a feeling it was going to be more than one. With everything she needed, Calliope was out of the locker room like a shot.
John’s apartment— that was how she’d come to think of it while packing it up— was still without power. After changing into nightclothes, she set the lantern on the bar of the kitchenette and pulled up one of the stools. On the counter were various piles of things that she had organized and now set to winding up and taping into labeled sets. She wondered if he even had family to receive it all. Parents? A nephew? Would they care about John’s rock collection or his backgammon set?
“It *is* a nice set,” she said out loud. “Is it a handcrafted leather case, too? Beautiful.”
There came no answer, of course. But Calliope pulled up a second stool to the counter, as if to invite him to stay. “You don’t have to talk. It’s better that way, actually.” She told him. Calliope pulled some of his whiskey up from under the counter and poured two glasses, then set the remainder of the bottle in one of the shipping crates. She took a swig from one and set the other out in front of the empty seat. “Why, thank you John. I don’t mind if I do.”
Nursing the glass, she set up the chips on the board.”Five… three…five… two. I always forget, is it on this space or, oh right this one. I see you have a betting cube too. Corvus taught me this game back in the Academy.” She frowned, still frustrated with Corvus. “We got on famously, then. I didn’t think this was going to be so difficult. This whole thing was so rushed! There wasn’t really time to consider the pros and cons of working under a friend like that. Captain Winters…. he’s so sage, so experienced, so patient. But it was rare that he’d ever lean in and make a joke or take any interest in my personal life. And when he did, it was like … I don’t know. Like I had a father. He was my Captain. It’s really hard to think of Corvus the same way. I thought I might see out the rest of my career with Winters. It’s unlikely he’d have ever retired.”
She took her moves first, rolling the dice and counting out her jumps. “I forget all of the tricks. It’ll come back to me. She spun the board around half way. “Your turn, she muttered as she rolled for him and played the black chips. “I like these, they’re glossy and heavy. Are they carved from stones?”
Rotating the board back, Calliope rolled again. “Well, they’re nice. And the board felt is worn in some. You must have played more than a few times with someone. Do I move here and here… or here and here. No this way is better. Doesn’t get me as far along, but covers my man.” She spun the board and played out John’s turn again, then turned it back around. “We’re pretty evenly matched, I think,” Calliope said with a smirk and another sip of whiskey. “I can’t play games like this with Lancelot. He’s The mensa of mensas. I mean, I always know I’ll lose, and it shouldn’t bother me, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Mostly because he gets bored playing with me. On the off chance he’s having fun, he gloats and I just can’t take that. It’s no good. We have to play games with more of a random element to them to level the playing field. Or ones where we’re on the same side.” She smiled at a memory. “On one trip, we got kicked out of a really classy casino on account of Lancelot being too good at math. ‘Counting cards’. He said it was—” Here she lovingly adopted Lance’s British accent, “—hardly fair, being discriminated against on the basis of a sound grasp of numerical probabilities!”
Calliope chuckled and rolled for John. “Ooh, double sixes. Lucky stinker.” She moved the additional spaces and picked up the dice again. “You roll again. ah. Lookit. Heh, good thing I covered that space.”
She played out a few more moves silently as she descended into her sadness again. “I really screwed up, John. I didn’t see it, but now that I do, I don’t know how to roll it back. Still…” she rubbed her neck. “I think if I had a dose, I’d take it. Without it? I probably can’t do this—” She motioned to the game in progress with her empty glass. “—With half of the living breathing people I like. It’s more tempting for them and… more tempting for me. Even Lance says I’ve made a fool out of him already. I don’t know. Maybe… maybe I was taking advantage. I didn’t think he’d mind. Well, he minds. I really don’t know how I’m going to do this, any of this. He doesn’t want me ‘destroying’ myself, but I’m afraid he won’t like who I am with out the drugs either. Hell, his feelings about it all are probably intensified by overnight exposure to my pheromones. And they’re only getting stronger— the pheromones, I mean. It’s so complicated.”
Calliope looked at her glass and then back at John’s, still full.
“If you’re not going to drink it…” She exchanged glasses, slugged it back, and then regarded the board. She was clearly losing to John. That was certainly embarrassing, but maybe he’d spare her the loss and take a draw. “Let’s call it a tie. Mind if I crash here? I’ll just take the sofa.” It would be too weird to assume the dead man’s bed. She put the glass back down on the counter. “Thanks, John. For letting me talk.”
Calliope gathered up a few blankets, took a pillow out of one of the storage crates, and made herself comfortable on the sofa. Comfortable was relative. Her arms ached. Everything smelled like a stranger and she cried into his pillow.