(( The following is on my SWTOR smuggler, Captain Jacqueline “Jackie” Rees. ))
He left, the blast door hissing closed. She hurled one last insult at him, the words echoing off the pristine steel panels and angular walls. The Sith was gone, and though he struck no physical blow, detonated no blast in his wake, Jacqueline Rees shook.
The captain was dimly aware of somehow returning to her quarters, the distant clang of the door signaling she was alone. Alone, save for the holocameras constantly overhead. Watching. Her feet moved over a floor without touching it, or at least tread without conscious feeling of the metal beneath it. The holocameras waited. She could nearly feel the anticipating dripping from their digital gaze, breath bated, waiting, listening. An audience awaiting the performance on stage. Briefly, Jacqueline entertained the idea of denying her captor the image, taking away the prize that he so clearly sought in their bruising conversation moments earlier. But the idea was just that: A fleeting thought, unable to take root in the oncoming storm. It was ripped away, along with the buckling pillars of control she propped herself up with for so long. Though the room was silent, unsettlingly so, Jacqueline felt a distinct prickle on her skin, like the unsettled sensation the body knows but the mind denies before both hear the first unmistakable rumble of thunder. Steel buckled. Pillars tumbled. Her mind opened in a torrent, threatening to finally let loose the dams of memory, of terrible moments locked away safely, so tightly through the passage of years. They threatened to spill forth, nights of hiding and screaming, of blows that came without warning, of the terror of a door that burst against its hinges, her tormentor the shape of her father, his pungent scent the lurid smell of alcohol, his fists unrelenting, his cussing words falling as supplementary blows. Both left their marks, both deep and lasting, the second far deeper, leaving deep, depthless cuts in its wake.
You must have been very young when the abuse started. Brembal’s unexpected words, his momentary kindness, feigned or not, stung deep.
She fell to her knees first. Her legs cut out from under her, the body too overcome to hold her up properly. Her heartbeat thudded in her ears, her vision crawled with blackness at its edges. Skin flushed hot and prickling with needles, Jacqueline gasped, feeling her air abruptly caught off. She gasped again and again, trying to regain the breath the memories snatched away so suddenly. The effort failed. She crumpled to her side, slumping against the wall, curled and small against the ungiving steel mesh hallway that was as coddling as ice.
It felt like hours before she regained herself, before her vision cleared of the darkened haze, before her breath was slowly returned to her. Like ground too swollen from a torrent of rain, she felt nothing. The sensation of the metal dock under her, the smooth steel wall she pressed again, neither touch registered in soles of her feet or palms of her hands. Her mind simply� existed, spent like kindling consumed by gluttonous flame. The only touch she could feel was a tightness on her face, a shallow pull over the skin of her cheeks as her mouth moved. Blinking, she felt the tightness soften anew, feel warm. Tears. Dried tears remoistened over her cheeks. She let them come. They dripped onto the deck, one by one, at times coming in pairs. Slowly, she stood, her hands braced against the wall, head slumped downward as she spilled a denied vintage of tears.
Countless minutes passed before the well choked, finally holding back the remainder of its reserves. The feeling of steel beneath her hands returned. Her feet again felt planted on the metal deck. Returning to where she stood, where walls held her, where holocameras sneered and watched, Jacqueline felt herself crave that absence of emotion. The absence of sensation that so violently overtook her, smothered her in its presence, occupied her, denied her breath was itself absent, allowing an unwelcome, almost abhorrent normalcy take its place. A rank fear attempted to rise, an overladen, overused anger tried to rekindle flames that burned tired pyres for years.
Feeling those emotions attempt to take hold again, to reclaim their veteran posts, Jacqueline moved. She left her quarters, her feet completing an arduous march without thinking. She knew where it was. She knew where the crew stored it. Crossing into the shared quarters, she plunged her hand into the cabinet she knew the crew smuggled its liquor. It was a putrid brand, unkempt in the sweltering temperatures it was stored and by the negligent corking of the crew. But it was still the same color, still the same sound as it swirled in the bottle. The captain stared. Two months sober and the trace vapors of the whiskey rising from the bottle was hotly familiar. Her skin prickled, the anxiety returning. Her knuckles whitened from clenching the bottle as she did, staring at a liquid that commanded an incontrovertible span of years. She felt its stare in return, along with another breathless stare of distant holocameras. Everything seemed to hold its breath, waiting, silent.
She took the bottle to her quarters. Her feet moved over the deck swiftly, hindered only by the lingering weakness in one leg her weeks-old injury left behind. The door drew shut behind her. Silence and darkness within the room greeted her. She was misleadingly left alone, save the eyes that watched from cameras up above. She knew they were there. Nothing left in her cared for it.
She uncorked the bottle. Set it on the floor. Curled her legs beneath her as she sat beside it. One, maybe two swigs to remember the taste. Three to stop the prickling feeling. Four to stop the rest of the sensations. Five to dare what would happen next. Six to deny herself knowing whether this day could end. Seven to…
She stared, the untapped bottle returning an eyeless gaze, waiting for her.
The door hissed open. Taking up the bottle, Jacqueline raised it in defense, some of its contents spilling to the floor through its uncorked top. She cussed, anger swiftly rising, quick to return to its years-long post:
�Back for more, you sick sonuvabi — �
Wide brown eyes stared back at her. Jacqueline stopped. Stopped moving, breathing, yelling. Her wide brown eyes stared back. Back at the tiny, wide-eyed figure that stood in the doorway. It was Vanessa.
(( Next: . ))