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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, '15, 9:18 pm
Disclaimer: This story has lots of swearing. Mainly because I do it a lot and because people tend to do it when they get riled up. This means I've had to replace all the swears with cleaner words, so if something doesn't read right, that's why. On that note, this is a story about one of my own characters and how she got from factory worker to cyborg soldier. Simples, albeit missing out most of the latter. That's a longer story.

Blackwater was one of Vamár's smaller cities. Home to over a million souls, it had been the site of one of the planet's first terraforming stations and, indeed, one of the first established settlements. Named so for the murky quality of the water drawn from the vast underground springs discovered in the area, the station's researchers dedicated their efforts to planting the first self-sustaining forests on the planet, providing a large source of oxygen for the new world humanity was creating. Surrounded by forests for as far as the eye could see, the citizens had some of the cleanest air on the planet, something they continued to enjoy even after two thousand years.

In a drab utilitarian tower block at the city's edge, Althea stared from the window of her dreary apartment at the world outside. For though Blackwater was a large city with a history of large-scale terraforming operations, the city was not known for being particularly vibrant, especially when held next to the vast metropolises of Elysion and its neighbours on the main continent.
It had been just over a year since she had moved in, but the apartment was almost as bare as when she had been shown in, furnished with only the necessities she needed, most of which belonged to the landlord anyway. A couch to laze on in the lounge, a bed to sleep in - though it had been a bare mattress for her first three months - and a kitchen stocked with enough food for a couple of weeks. Though the austerity was partly due to her lack of money, her minimalist nature was one of the main reasons behind it and, indeed, her job. For five days a week she worked in one of the waste disposal plants that serviced the terraforming station. It was simple labour that kept her occupied and paid her rent, and she didn't happen to mind the physical nature of the role. It was a life the residents of the grand, more prosperous cities would find difficult and undesirable.

But for Althea simplicity had been her life ever since her mother had died, leaving it to her father to raise her. She had been only six or seven at the time, she couldn't quite remember. Since that day her father had worked hard to set her along the best path for her, often referring to her mother and how it was what she would want for her. Though what that was exactly, she had never understood.
But his fatherly stoicism had been a facade he maintained until one day not long after she had turned sixteen. Her childish innocence had made her blind to his pain until he finally snapped and suffered a series of nervous breakdowns over the course of the next year before sinking into a great depression. She didn't know what had caused it, be it something she had said, the years of pining for his dead wife finally catching up to him, or if his will to keep going had finally run out.
She had watched as a once proud man deteriorated, in mind and body, shunning friends, family and even her. After a while of being unable to get through to him, she gave up, afraid she may make him more unstable than he already was. Several days would often go by before they spoke to each other. Eventually his life boiled down to the basic routine of eating, sleeping and working. He no longer spoke of her mother the way he once had and said little of anything else. And though it was of little consolation, Althea felt relieved that he had at least not turned to alcohol or drug abuse. What little remained of his pride was still there, for what good it did.

When she finally reached eighteen she made up her mind to leave him. His reaction to her news had been flat and emotionless. He didn't question her motives or argue her decision, let alone ask where she was going or how to contact her.
She had never been in contact since, unsure if he would want to hear from her. Part of her regretted not trying to do more for him rather than running away, but deep down she knew she had done all she could over the last two years and had been shunned everytime. As time had worn on, she found herself growing to resent him, to think about him with nothing but disdain. The weak shadow of a man he had once been was no longer her father.

But thinking about it was pointless unless she intended to do something about it, which she did not. She consoled herself with the knowledge that his condition was none of her doing. She drew in a deep breath and pushed the dreary thoughts of her father aside.
It was the end of another busy week. The sun was setting on the city and before long the nightlife would be in full swing. With what few friends she had now scattered across the world, seeking opportunities in the more prosperous cities and having fallen out of touch with her, Althea felt little desire to mix and mingle with people, never having seen any point in idle conversation or cared for things most people talked about. So what am I going to do? Just sit here and brood about the outside world? It's not as if I can't enjoy myself.
Remembering there was one club she had frequented for its cheap drinks and loud music from time-to-time, she sighed and trudged to the bedroom to get changed.

After a short wait in the growing queue outside and begrudgingly paying the extortionate entry fee, Althea finally found her way inside the club, put on a smile and wasted no time making a beeline for the bar. A small crowd was already forming and getting at the bar itself was getting tricky. She found herself competing with squealing gaggles of young women doing all they could to get served first and their male counterparts eyeing them up while trying not to be crushed between each other for fear of provoking a fight as they vied for attention. She paid them no mind as she forced her way to the bar, leaning right over the counter and waving to the beleaguered servers until she caught their attention. With drink in hand she eased her way through the press of bodies and made for a clear area next to the dance floor, setting the glass down on a shelf mounted on the railing while she checked to make sure nobody had stolen her keys or wallet out of her pockets.

It wasn’t long before she had attracted someone’s attention, a young man with an obscenely tight-fitting t-shirt and shaved head. From the corner of her eye she could see he was looking in her direction as discretely as possible so as not to be seen gawking at her but so that on the off chance she looked his way they could make eye contact and give him an opening to speak. She often liked to toy with such people, sometimes scowling at them, sometimes acknowledging them with a nod and sometimes even smiling. On a few rare occasions she actually got a good conversation out of them but, more often than not, found they were more interested in carting her off like some manner of trophy. And from her impression of her present company, the latter was what it was all about. Shaved head and holding his drink so his arm’s constantly flexed. Sorry pal. Why can’t people just ask for a roll instead of this awkward nonsense?

Althea continued to ignore the stranger, but he refused to leave. In the growing press around them she felt someone brush against her as they squeezed past a crowd. Her neighbour, she noticed, was forced to move aside for them as she had been and took the opportunity to move closer to her. She ignored him and lifted her glass only to find it empty. Darn. Now I have to fight my way back to the bar.
In the middle of checking how much money she had on hand, she jumped, her surprised yelp drowned out by the loud music when she felt a hand grabbing her. She whirled on the stranger, snapping his hand back from her and flashing her a goofy grin. He shook his glass at her. “Want another drink?”
Althea glared at him, making the smug look on his face evaporate. But rather than apologise he just shrugged and shook his head sadly as if Althea had just rejected the opportunity of a lifetime. She felt her blood begin to boil and drew in a breath to quell her shuddering anger and humiliation. She looked away from him before setting her glass down and looking back at him. She inched closer to him, a move that drew an approving smile from him. “How about it then?”

Althea laid a hand on his shoulder and couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face as she looked him in the eye. Nope. Forget it. Her anger won over and she drove her knee into his groin, the man’s face twisting in pain as he doubled over. He looked back up at her with a look of surprise on his face, tears of pain glittering in his eyes. She waited until he had pulled himself taller before answering his confused look with a shrug and shake of the head that imitated his own.

“Screw you, moron!”

Althea grabbed a handful of his shirt and pulled him closer. “Maybe you should’ve asked me that instead. And don’t call me ‘moron’!” She drew her head back and smashed it against his face, causing him to reel back and fall on his backside, clutching his nose. A trickle of blood could be seen running from beneath his hand.
By now the commotion had attracted attention from everyone around them. Althea tensed in expectation of his comeback when a trio of people she presumed were his friends rushed to his aid. Two saw to their friend while the third placed himself between them. She balled her hands into fists, half-expecting a fight, when he held his hands up, urging for calm. “Whoa! Whoa! Steady on!”

“Maybe you should’ve told him that sooner.”

The newcomer looked at the others and made a chopping motion over his neck. They helped their injured friend to his feet and led him away, undoubtedly to clean up his face. “Look, I’m sorry for what happened. He can be a bit of a jerk at times.”

Althea felt herself relax slightly, though her mood was no less hostile. “I noticed. Maybe now he’ll be more careful who he flirts with.”

“If it means anything to you, how about I buy you another drink as a peace offering? Anything you like.”

The crowd’s interest in events had already waned, their thoughts immediately turning back to their own pursuits. Althea’s inner cynic chimed in right on cue. Probably just looking for an opening. “You want to make up for it? Clear off.” She gave him the finger and pushed her way back to the bar, her body beginning to tremble from the adrenaline rush. Better make this one a double. Maybe triple.
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