This article originally appeared in Freelance Traveller’s March 2012 issue.
Bam Ashish 3B9B63 Age 34 (Other, Ex-scout) 6 terms
Air/Raft-2, Vacc Suit-2, Body Pistol-2, Jack’o’T-1, Pilot-1, Electronic-1
Body Pistol, Small ceramic dagger (as dagger-1), Military Standard Vacc Suit, Extensive wardrobe packable in 3 1m3 “small cubes”, Cr. 50,000
Bam does not like people. She is 149 cm tall and 41 kg, making the truly petite look large in comparison. She has lithe movements, and a strange disregard for personal space, which is especially disturbing to many coming from one of apparently pure Vilani stock. Her hair is dyed jet black today, but she may be a strawberry blonde tomorrow. She has a rather extensive wardrobe, which she approaches as tournament fisherman does his tackle box. She wears her body pistol and a small ceramic blade everywhere, in a very discrete rig inside her thigh. She has no interest in flirting per se, and will never encourage any. She will set herself up to look vulnerable and enticing, and wait for someone to get that look and cross the line. Groups are, of course, more fun. The numerous hopefuls who take “no” to mean “no,” however, are as safe as they can hope to be, and Bam even has a soft spot for those who grovel; not soft enough to ever acquiesce, of course, but enough to inspire something almost like kindness in letting them down easily.
Aboard ship she will wear her military standard vacc suit with an IISS coverall, (insignia roughly removed) on top. Ship is not a place for play, but Bam’s intensity will wane after a few weeks.
Bam doesn’t like people. She will tolerate them to get what she wants, and easily slides into a disposition, sweet, sultry, or aloof, as fits her circumstances. She doesn’t like people because they are stupid, or the IISS, (the Imperial Intellectually Stunted Service) because, well, they’re stupid and they almost killed her a few times. She didn’t like her ex-shipmate, because he was stupid and missed too much. Then he died. Of course, that was the best day of her life, the day it all started.
She did like the pirates, though, because they came so close before they died. One was even cute, in a puppyish sort of way. They blew in the inner airlock door, and barged in, losing two and killing the stupid Stan by the inner airlock door in that ham-fisted firefight. They burst in the stateroom then, felt her terror, slowed, and got that look in their eyes.
When they got that look they suddenly got stupid, while Bam’s terror crystallized and the world slowed to a glacial crawl. They got more stupid, and Bam’s body pistol made no sound as it slowly fired. The impact of the round, though, made a two part sound: the thump of the impact muffled by the eye socket, and the discernibly later crack of the exit. Eye-skull, then a pregnant silence as the pistol started its gradual recoil, pushing slowly back, as the orange flower bloomed, as Bam scanned to the second pirate’s eye, hazel and stupid with that look, as the pistol slowly rose, as her arm moved like cooling lava so slightly towards the left.
In crystal clarity, Bam could see it: pistol rising, trigger slacking, pistol stopping, trigger tensing, pistol settling, hammer falling, all in time to catch that hazel eye. Three stupid pirates, three stupid eyes, with that look, now shifted so slightly as six knees softened, and Bam shifted, twisting, diving under the hazel-eyed pirate before he fell. He was the biggest, and his bulk knocked the breath out of Bam when he fell on her. She knew there would be more, and hazel-eye provided blessed cover and a bit of camouflage as he lay on top of her. For the next three, she did not even need hazel-eye’s bulk, so stupid were they. After eons, though, struggling for breath under hazel-eye, she saw the next two approach, announced by the lazy arc of their calling card, a flash-bang, sailing through the wrecked stateroom door. Stupid! They would not come in until it detonated, but then they would dash in immediately.
The fear returned, buoyed by a joy like she’d never known. Bam closed her eyes, rolled her head slowly behind hazel-eye’s melon-sized cranium, and raised the pistol. It was pointed straight at the door by the time the flash-bang’s report started to quicken the passing of time. The impacts of the shotgun on hazel-eyes played a harmony with his continuing death throes. Bam did not feel the impact of the bullets on her leg, but she could see that the second shooter’s head and torso were screened from her by his partner’s already dead form, which he blindly but not ineffectively shot around. The waiting, beneath hazel-eyes’ twitching, for the seventh pirate to fall was sheer ecstatic terror. By the time the fall came, the heaving of Bam’s petite torso was raising hazel-eye’s bulk like it were her bunk sheet.
She had never lived like that day, those few long seconds after stupid Stan had died. Purging the eight heads from the ventral air lock had been fun, but it was markedly anticlimactic in comparison with those few, terrifying seconds in the stateroom with hazel-eye and company. The IISS took their time finding her, and she almost lost her leg. It was a long, cold wait for a rescue that should have taken 18 days, but stretched to 43. They did not cashier her out, because they called her a hero. Then after a while it changed, that stupid song of theirs. She had gone looking for that place again, and they said she had a death wish. Stupid Scouts! She had not even lost a ship. She had no death wish: If she died then she couldn’t feel it anymore. She knew, though, that she could not cause it, create it, or control it. All she could do is to go to dangerous places and let it find her.
Bam has spent four years looking for it. She has worked as a grav-cab driver, in the seediest parts of sprawling startowns. These jobs provided her some occasions to find it, though the scenes left behind were usually enough to raise suspicions. She would move on after the inquiries. She was always cleared, but the authorities suspected all was not being told. She was willing to work as a reserve pilot, bodyguard, and even shipboard security. These jobs were emotional deserts for her, though. Every time she would sign on, she was looking forward to when she could leave. She dreams of transforming her macabre hobby into a professional endeavor, but has no idea how this could come to pass.
Bam does seek some variety, though, in how she looks for that fix of terror and violence. She has taken hunting trips for dangerous game when she could afford them, but has burned her bridges with some by ignoring the guide, laying down the laser carbine, and drawing the body pistol from no one knew where at the most inopportune moment. She has done vacc suit reentries outside of all applicable safety protocols, and occasionally swims with dangerous carnivores. All of these have proven teasing disappointments; she could feel it approaching, but never arrive. She felt a need to return to the familiar. The body pistol gets slippery in her hand some nights with only 34 notches.
Bam is driving a ground car taxi, with a sign indicating that passengers are hereby notified, according to local ordinance, that the surveillance camera and radio are not functioning. The plastic divider has a large panel missing, and she is dressed as a caricature of a school girl. She catches your eye in the rear view mirror, and you feel a brief piercing, as if you have been read, then she scans the traffic ahead again.