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NaNoWriMo 2009
Adverse Camber
Robots and aliens and monsters, oh my!

“We are not what we are made of, but what we choose to make of ourselves.”
                                             ~ Wen

     Starts with flashback – “both of you take care” sort of sentiments. Interrupted by Seem asking if this is the right world. Intros to these 2 and Firewire.
     Trace leads to a more built-up area. Decide it’s not a good idea to try and make some sort of full-frontal approach, instead elect to land outside and make their way up on foot. Magnetic storm forces them further south than they’d have liked,
     Mirii – visiting the natives while Sei does some sort of diplomatic work up on the “moon”/sister planet. Ordinarily wouldn’t mingle with an underdeveloped species, but their development has already been affected by the colonists.

     Get to the desert – Seem has flashback and won’t cross it, and the natives won’t help them because the volcanic area is associated with bad luck and a lot of superstitions – “Mouth of the World Monster”. Have to go around by the coast – Fred not happy with the dry conditions! Luckily it gives them the first clues as to what they’re going to be up against as they come up to the first city on the coast. Looks impregnable – towers way up above them, ringed by power and desalination plants etc. (Not to stop people getting in/out, that’s just where they’ve been built – for convenience?)
     Travelling through the “Undercity” – sewers, drains, low-level maintenance walkways etc. Only the main drain/sewers are big enough for Lara and Seem. Seem objects, but Lara explains it’s not harmful, they can’t catch disease off it, can’t even smell it, so they can just put up with it until they get out and can rinse themselves off. Carry Mirii and Fred, as the water level is quite high sometimes and Fred can’t swim.
     Followed by feral creatures – shadowy, dark skin, cold, hard to make out. The travellers make the connection between the hazard signs and the creatures and elect to get out of the drains asap just in case. Get a short distance before realising they’re being actively followed by a large group of them – unnerved.
     Lara tells the others to go on ahead, she’ll handle the new creatures, but doesn’t realise they have a powerful capacity for generating electricity. Is quickly overwhelmed and abandoned for dead – the creatures continue chase, but the others have already got far enough ahead to lose them.
     After ensuring they’re safe and have avoided their pursuers, Seem realises he can’t contact Lara. Decides they need to retrace their footsteps and find her, but by the time they get there, she’s gone. Mirii counsels that they have to continue on (could be walking in circles down here for days, and those things are still in the locality!) and hope she’s just taken a wrong turn.
     Flashback? Cleaning crew find what they think is a doll – “pretty blinding large doll” “pssh, you know the ladies topside like everything oversized” – and take it back to the city dump, saying “well if someone lost it they’ll come along and find it, right?”
     “ND Merchandise” based at the dump to act as “reclaimers” (why pay for expensive components when you can recycle and get them for free?) find her. Notify the Boss (needs a name) who instructs “it” be shipped back to the Pit for analysis. The Pit is in the next city over, though – heavy haulage needed.
     Lara finally wakes in “the Pit” – big, very deep hole in the ground in which “the Merchandise” (mostly biological beings, genetically engineered and biochemically / technologically augmented, to be sold as slaves) is stored. Senses she’s further north than she was before.
     First meeting of “Madame Pabishka” – who is very unimpressed. “Why did you call me here?” “We wondered if you might know who it belonged to.” “Don’t lie. Brought me here because it’s some pathetic new specimen you want to try and sell. Filthy, disgusting thing. Get it cleaned up and prettied up – and remove those Godawful colours! – and I might come back.”
     Seem and the others are still travelling through the Undercity – Seem upset at knowledge Lara is lost. Concerned that she’s dead, because he can’t get a response off her automatic pinger (later find out it’s been disconnected at ND), but reassured by lack of body. Mirii finds a feral “horse” that reminds her of one of her people’s creatures of myth – sees it as a good sign. Seem contacts home and has to explain Lara is missing. V emotional about it. Firewire – who has only just been ahead of them the whole time – overhears, and feels guilty. Gives self up; some blah about only did it cuz he wanted her to love him. Seem angry at it, doesn’t believe him, gives him a good kicking but (finally?) accepts his “surrender”. “My sister you tore to pieces and left unable to function normally. The only reason I’m not going to kill you is because once we’ve fixed her, she might want to. >:( ”
     Back to Lara – washed clean, and sanded back to silver in preparation for repainting. Has spoken to some of the Merchandise and worked out what the place is – not happy! Elects to attempt to escape – climbs the sides of the Pit (which the other smaller people can’t do anyway), but is stopped by a security field. (Only way out is usually via a crane/lift in the centre of the Pit.) Boss arrives to see her, not happy, scolds her for “stupidity”. Explains will be going to a shareholder meeting, which she will be going to also – secretly, to see if anyone owns her, but otherwise as an example of “new product”.
     Described by all as unattractive, unappealing, unwanted. Boss is peeved, says he’s sorry she’s so unattractive, they’ll try fix that back at the depot – overheard. Lara tries to run again, but brought down with EM pulse. Shipped back to ND depot, dumped off in the Pit, abandoned. Self-worth has taken quite a knock. Wen tries to comfort – explains she’s been here all her life, never knew her family etc, but lives in hope of some day getting back, to just see her homeworld.
     Seem’s group continue on until they meet “the Denizens” – people that object to the excesses of Overcity life, making their existence in the Underworld. (Hackers, thieves, and the “Old Ones” – failed, reject Merchandise that are more like monsters, “gone feral”.) Make a tentative friendship, agree to help each other.
     After a little more jostling – what can you give us in return for our help? >:( - they begin to look for Lara, as rumours have begun to surface. Realise they have to head further north to the capital city (name?). Set off over land – no flying machines, and Seem doesn’t like heights anyway. Firewire snarks a bit, but Seem maintains the moral high ground.
     A few days later, back in capital; Lara has undergone the first few alterations – smoother lines, less hard corners. Boss is grudgingly pleased – “not pretty, exactly, but not so damn ugly. It’ll do – and allows Pabishka to take her away to another “briefing”; not so “stilted” as the last one, not so much like a motor show but more of a high end party, very luxurious, opulent outfits and surroundings etc. Wen helps Lara keep her head, makes a good impression.
     Pabishka (finally) happy at her performance, allows her home. Sends three of her personal harem to “tend to her” as a reward – a good bath (to start with) and a polish, which Lara feels uncomfortable about. Enjoys the attention, but is anxious about the context. The “humming”/purring of her attendants reminds her of home, however. “All right. Just this once…”
     Wen arrives back with the rest of the merchandise, is worried by Lara’s emotional state. Not sure how deeply she’s comprehending at the moment, whether she’s retreated back to somewhere more comfortable to avoid looking at where she is. Elects not to mention just yet how someone she met at a previous evening has now proposed to her…
     (Bit here, not sure what just yet)
     Wen explains her “bad news” – she’s going to be leaving, because she’s got engaged. Lara tries to be happy for her, but (when forced) admits to being a bit jealous. “You’re my friend, not something to be passed around like a trophy. :( Want you to stay with me!” Luckily Wen understands – invites her along. (“We may be able to smuggle you away from Pabishka’s clutches, as well!”)
     Pabishka initially objects, refuses to let her go – “bad enough I’m losing one, losing two?” – but finally Wen convinces her; her husband-to-be is the son of an important company director and might be encouraged to take his wealth elsewhere if his daughter-in-law says so.
     Wedding (yeah, already!) is to be held on a small island some way from the main continent – traditional, all husband’s people did this on their homeworld. The island is not small small, only small by comparison – has a smallish capital town and a population of about a hundred thousand inhabitants. Hospital, school, airport, good infrastructure etc. Going to be held fairly soon after proposal to get Wen out from under Pabishka’s grip.
     Day goes fairly well to start with – until Wen starts looking unwell – finally collapses, and Lara realises (?how) she’s probably been poisoned. Wants to take her to hospital, but is blocked by the Boss. Finally loses patience and tells him she’s going, he can punish her when she returns.
     ( Again this bit needs a lot of work. Essentially, needs to work out who did it, etc. )
     Wen makes a fair recovery – will need long-term biotherapy to finally get over the neurological damage, can’t walk without a stick – but survived because was taken to hospital just in time. Confirms that she still plans to try and help get Lara out.
     Pabishka throws a spanner into the works. Informs Lara that she’s being moved out of the Pit. Lara is disappointed – explains that she hoped if she proved she wasn’t just a dumb machine/slave, she’d let her go. Pabishka acknowledges this, but explains that she did such a good job catching the perpetrator, she’s going to move her to her own personal security fleet.
     “If you do well, you will be rewarded. If you do particularly well, I may reconsider your need to be here. Continually argue with me, and I will revise that decision. Not above putting you back in the Pit with all the other merchandising, and your next owner might not be so forgiving. Understood?”
     Lara backs down, disappointed, but also stuck for options. Knows Wen is working in the background to try and get her released, but recognises there’s not a lot she can do for herself.
     (work needed here – essentially, Wen meets up with Seem’s group, elect to work together to affect a rescue. Wen can’t do it by herself –new husband is rich, but not rich enough. “She won’t let her go just because you threaten her, I can’t afford it, and Daddy won’t buy her just to let her go. I’m sorry, love. :( ” )
     Mirii confronts Pabishka (on Seem’s behalf, because he’s acting as her bodyguard) – this is kidnap/slavery! Let her go. Pabishka refuses – using a machine for its intended purpose is not slavery. And since she was abandoned, this is a better option than rusting in the sewers. Finally Mirii challenges Pabishka (their society likes betting and sports, although it’s usually slaves participating, as the sports are usually very dangerous) – I win, you let his Aunt go. You win, we stay. Deal? Pabishka agrees – provided she gets to call the shots. Long-distance race, out across the grasslands to the East of the city, south through the hills, then back through the forest. Race will be in a days time, after the routemarkers are set up; the little group is put up in one of Pabishka’s better (i.e. less brothel-like) hotels.
     Firewire (looking after Mirii and Fred while Seem preps for the race) has been snooping, notices that Pabishka’s cheating. Pings Seem, but he’s still angry and ignoring him. Race begins – Firewire pursues them, has to get message across. He’s not as fast, left v much in the dust, but takes short-cut.
     Mountains are where Pabishka’s trap has been laid. Seem is making good time – ahead of everyone else by a good couple of hours, but when he reaches the mountain, triggers a landslide which blocks the route and leaves him trapped.
     Luckily! Firewire is a demolitions expert. Lays charges in just the right places to blow the rockfall out and away so he can get in to help get the rubble off Seem.
     Seem wins by a body-length or two. Pabishka is blazing mad – but can’t argue too hard because she knows if it gets out she cheated, it’ll be harder on her. Seem uses it as leverage – he knows she cheated too, but won’t actively mention it unless he has to. She can’t complain because he’s not “slandering” her name with accusations.
     Blah blah endy bit. Get home, fix Lucy, all good, hurrah!

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