In her quarters, Aina stood looking at her reflection in the mirror. Though it looked identical, she almost didn’t remember her original body anymore, if it felt the same, if it felt different. Now it was more than eight years ago since she had underwent the transformation to a capsuleer.
But it had been through necessity, rather than desire. A clone had proven to be the only solution for her illness that didn’t have any cure. Her wealthy parents had been the ones to found it.
To say that the process of obtaining the necessary, required approvals had gone through the correct, official and legal paths, would be twisting the truth.
Naturally, without the proper preparation, training and tests, normally having to be passed and verified beforehand, nearly inevitable side-effects had become apparent soon after the transformation. They had, however, been almost certain that she would make it through.
The many memories lost would never come back, deepest down she knew that. Photos and videos of her with her parents, family and friends, she knew she ought to be having recollections of these occasions. Maybe the worst was that feeling, like something that one cannot fully remember, touching at the edge of the mind, but never can quite grasp.
She guessed that one of the perks of being wealthy was that rules in most cases didn’t have to be adhered to, perhaps often for good but sometimes for worse.
But she knew she wouldn’t have been here, hadn’t it been for this opportunity.
Having had her in the beginning of their senior years, her parents had passed away only a few years after she had underwent the transformation eight and a half years ago, when she had been nineteen.
Now she lived off her inheritence of their wealth, not being not cleared fit to pilot anything above her capsule or shuttle class vessels, and be able to make a living on her own.
Walking over to her bed, she laid down staring at the ceiling, a myriad of thoughts going through her mind. Not feeling like engaging in them, she gestured with her hand for the lights to turn off, a sensor recognizing the motion.
Waking up the following day, she sat up in her bed. It had been a good night’s sleep. Raising and slightly opening her hand, the lights dimmed on.
She checked herself over in front of the mirror before leaving for the station hall, one that had been sanctioned safe for capsuleer air atmosphere, so she would not need a suit, like she would in the other common areas of the station. But something else was necessary. She pushed her hair behind her ears and shoulders, and placed the small, flat and circular monitoring modules on her temples.
In order to enter the exclusive areas where both capsuleers, and those who weren’t, were able to meet, the protocols on the station required capsuleers to wear the monitoring modules, or monmods as they were commonly called.
The modules had to cover the temples on both sides, but could be enclosed in a design of choice. Monitoring the person wearing them, the revealing of an action to harm someone, led to signals being sent back from the modules, stunning the wearer for a moment though with no lasting ill effect. This led to the person appear absent for a moment and unable to do anything.
It was to prevent capsuleers from doing attack operations towards non-capsuleers, particularly government leaders and other upper echelons of the society, before committing suicide and just carry on in a soft clone, avoiding consequence. Not that she had such plans. It also meant that no one would do harm to her.
The monmods could not be removed while being in these areas, trying to remove them there would make them stun the wearer unconscious.
More than just a necessity, some, like her, chose to wear them more as an exlusive accessory by enclosing them in a designed cover as opposed to wearing them plain or attempting to hide them.
Flat, elongated triangles, clear blue with black edges, they laid flat against the head, starting from the temples, sharpening gradually into pointy ends that ended just above and behind her ears. Made from extremely rare metals, their value equaled that of a large cruiser.
She entered the concourse that lead to the large hall having colorful lights and holo signs, with on each side a bustling mix of shops, activities, schools and health related businesses. A selection that was always changing, the people coming there seemed to be the only constant.
As she was walking through the hall, she ran into Juro, a manager from the centre administration. Having lived in the station for more than six years, she had gotten to know many of the personnel, and he was one of her closer acquaintances. He had a lot of knowledge about the station, offered advice when needed and knew a lot of what went on there. And he was handsome.
“Hey Aina!” he called out as she passed.
She stopped and turned towards the voice. “Hi Juro.”
“Are you okay? You seem distracted and distant.”
She paused and looked at him for a moment from the unexpected remark.
“What do you mean?” she smiled, shaking her head unknowingly.
“Well, you were looking warily around you, lost in your thoughts as you were walking, although everything is as usual here, busy but casual.”
Subtle hallucinations and corresponding unease was another side-effect of the transformation. She had felt disconcerted and unnerved for as long as she could remember since it, sometimes making her spontaneously and unwarily look around her for no reason.
Pretending not to know what he meant and not wanting to discuss it further, she replied, “I’m sure it’s nothing,” forcing a smile. She had tried to keep the side-effects to herself, but he was well aware something had always not been right with her, she suspected.
“Will you be coming to Club Evolution tonight?” he asked.
“Mmm… Maybe.” She shrugged her shoulders with a smile.
“Ok, be well. See you Aina, maybe tonight,” he said with a handsome smile.
She walked on, hugging her arms in front of her as if she was freezing.
Distracted and distant? Looking warily around me? Hope it isn’t getting any worse… , she thought as she was walking, focused on her thoughts and not noticing any of those around her.
Halting to a standstill, she took a deep breath and spoke quietly to herself. “I need to calm down for a moment.”
Approaching a bench, she sat down.
Leaning her head back, she looked up at the virtual cloud dotted blue sky in the large and tall ceiling, the slow movement of the clouds surprisingly offering a sense of calmness in her.
Yes. I’ll go there tonight , she thought.
Like the hall, the club had been sanctioned safe to breathe inside for capsuleers. External non-capsuleers who wanted to enter, would have to be screened for any diseases and pass through decontamination zones.
Despite being unaccessible for a majority of the station’s residents due to the entry fee, the club was one of the biggest and most sought after places. Featuring a large ground floor for bars and dancing, it had four floors in ten glass covered circular towers rising from the floor, each floor gradually getting smaller in size, and exclusivity, up to the fourth and top level, which only held place for one person or group, whereas the one below for three, then five and ten at the second level.
Between the different towers there were bridging pathways having glass balustrades. The entire place was situated beneath a large domed ceiling, showing light effects and virtual skies.
Though she enjoyed going there, it was usually on her own. She also went there for something she would not admit to anyone, to be looked up to and admired.
She would usually reserve a place at the top level and ventured down to the ground level only to dance. If she wanted to be with someone, she instead invited them up to her level.
Though she was wealthy, many company executives and other capsuleers were far more so than her. But usually they had either home stations or citadels they owned, so on this particular station she was among the most benefitted.
She wore a white, nearly floor length, draped dress. In addition to the monmod covers, she had silver earrings and had set her hair up, except for a few locks which she had curled, hanging down on either side of her face. Dark eye shadow surrounded her eyes.
An attendant welcomed her via a separate entrance and led her to her place.
After she had settled into the large plush recliner, Juro, who was also the manager of the club, came by soon after to welcome her. He wore a well-tailored suit that matched the sharp features of his face and styled hair.
“A pleasure to welcome you again, miss Aideron,” he emphasized with a slight bow, even though he knew her better than the politeness would imply.
“Allow me to bring you a cocktail.”
“Thank you,” she smiled as she looked up at him.
When he returned a moment later with the drink, she at the same time placed the order for the next one.
At the three top levels, the bars were hidden from view, accessible by the staff through doors in the wall of the dome. Instead, orders were taken at the tables.
She leaned back into the chair, letting the lights, music and soft touch of the drink relax her.
I will stay here all night, she thought, closing her eyes and smiling.
Juro stopped by later when having the opportunity, to chat her up, sitting down on the armrest on the recliner opposite her. He had a good eye for her, but then she also had for him.
An hour later, her wrist comm lit up. “Let’s come together,” the message said. The sender was anonymous but it had to be among her contacts and she had a suspicion.
She stood up and walked to the edge of her platform, pressing her hands against the glass wall and looking down, scanning the crowd for the secret sender until her eyes locked on the culprit. She smiled. It was her friend Rebecca, who didn’t live on this station but now was here.
She stood up and lifted her dress up to change into a pair of shoes more adept to that of the coming purpose, and asked the attendant to call the elevator for her.
Her smile and that of her friend reflected eachother, as she exited the elevator.
No talking was necessary as they headed directly out on the dance floor. Facing eachother, they wrapped their arms around eachother, dancing close.
“How did you know I was here?” Aina asked.
“Part educated guess, hunch and reliable sources,” Rebecca replied.
“I think you may have special abilities.”
Having taken her leave with Rebecca and Juro, she was walking back to her quarters through the now dimly lit hall only brightened by shifting neon colours. The world swayed pleasantly around her, but more from the exhaustion from all the dancing than the drinks, it felt like. She enjoyed dancing, but Rebecca was in better shape than she was and had wanted to dance most of the night.
At her door, she leant against the wall beside it, fumbling a moment to place her hand correctly in front of the access panel.
Only just managing to hang her dress up and putting on her nightdress, she let herself fall onto the bed and rolled onto her back, spreading her arms to each side, looking up at the ceiling.
“Play stars,” she spoke, smiling as she thought back on the fun night. The ceiling above immediately turned into a sky of stars, turning around her.
Feeling like she was drifting through them, she soon fell asleep.