Connlynn Ranvier hated no day so much as she hated her birthday. Her seventeenth was no different, not for the bar fight, which was not even her first birthday bar fight let alone bar fight in general. It wasn’t different for her injurgies, a jagged cut down her cheek which would scar. It wasn’t even different for the sympathy directed at her from those who recognized her, which in these parts was most folks. She had long since come to terms with the fact that her birthday would never be a day to celebrate. It would always be the anniversary of her fathers death.
No, the things that made this birthday special was that it was her first day earth-side in exactly four years. Having left this same bar on her 13 birthday and never looking back since. Until now. Seems people aren’t as forgetful as she’d like them to be.
Which lead to the second reason her seventeenth birthday was made memorable: The bar had, in the intervening years, become frequented by alliance cadets. This, in turn, brought her face to face, for the first time in those four years, with her once time best friend turned enemy, Luxcian.
With a soldier at her side holding her still, she smiled despite the blood dripping into her mouth at Luxcian. Though she was out of practice with false pleasantries and she was sure it seemed more a grimace. But after all he’d done, he deserved nothing but her public mask, despite his once time adaptness at seeing right through it.
“Long time no see” she said brightly. Like they weren’t enemies. Like they didn’t know each other better than anyone. Like there wasn’t a four year gap in their history. Like it wasn’t her 17th birthday and this wasn’t her first time back home since that night four years ago when he joined the alliance and sent her away without another word.
He smiled back, but it didn’t reach the rest of his face. “Didn’t think you’d come back here” he said his tone conversational, despite his words. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again”, he sifted at these words, voice becoming something softer, betraying him of his youth: A mere 3 years older than herself. Either he truly missed her or he was playing her for a fool and she honestly couldn’t have said which scenario she disliked more.
Connie settled for scowling. They were under no illusions for what would follow. He’d been promoted, perhaps for his own merit, perhaps for his insight into her mind. Either way, the night would go as most birthdays with the alliance went. The general would go on some spiel about her legacy or destiny or how her father died to save her and she should follow in his footsteps while trying not to make it sound like he wanted to make a martyr of her despite those exact intentions.
She’d be put in front of cameras commemorating her father.
If she plays along she’s a dutiful daughter living up to her fathers sacrifice.
If she doesn’t, she an example for how aweful a tradgey his death was, that without her father his daughter grew up poorly and that is why we need more people to join up so we can end the fight.
No matter what she does she’s stuck as a martyr for their cause. And now they want to draw her back in, with the customary thinly veiled threats that if she doesn’t join willingly, they will forcefully conscript her when she turns 18, though if she escaped their radar for four years she has no doubt she could do it again.
“You know me” she replied, “I’m good at finding where the trouble is.” Four years ago, he would have laughed, half entertained by her and half scared for her safety. Now, the words rang truer than either of them would have liked to admit.
He cut the civilities then. “Look” he started, paused looking unsure , and plowed ahead saying “we both know you could take any of my men, hell you could take all of them and get out of here without us being able to do a damned thing about it. But I think you came back her for a reason, even if that reason is just you being bored and looking for what is possibly the only challenge left in the universe for you after four years away. So, why don’t you come back and humor us.”
So he was going with a mix of honesty and avoiding the conversation they should, but really don’t want, to have. She’d leave in frustration but if she’s going to follow his take of honesty, she is bored.
“Fine” she agreed. Lightly dancing out of the grip of the cadets holding her despite each of them being three times her size easily. The others looked at her in awed confusion and Luxcian smiled ruefully and amusedly.
“Just like that?” he asked.
“Just like that” she confirmed. “On one condition, two to be exact.”
“Which are…?” he prodded when she paused.
“First, I get a clean slate” At his confused look she clarified. “I don’t know you and you don’t know me. No history. We don’t speak about that night. Agreed?”
“Agreed” he told her uneasily, looking for the first time, not not exactly scared of her the way the guards were, certainly weary, “and the second thing?”
Here she looked him dead in the eye and stayed straight faced as she said, “once I’ve helped with whatever problem is so bad that you were desperate enough to ask instead of tricking or blackmailing me into fixing, you let me go. For good. No birthdays, no speeches, no martyrdom. You let me get away without joining up, and you don’t use my name for causes I don’t believe in just because you can. You let me rest in peace the way you can’t seem to to let my dad. We have a deal?”
He stared her down. Of course he broke first. He was out of practice and she hasn’t had anything but practice these last few years. She wasn’t the same girl he remembered her being when she left. He blinked and conceded. “Fine” he said. Not an edge of emotion leaking into his tone. A perfect robot. A perfect soldier. A perfect Kesnian.
A perfect stranger.
“Well then” she thought ruefully as she followed. “All is right in the world when Luxcian doesn’t show emotion.”
Still, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed at this despite being the reason for it, Lucian, like most of his species reserves his emotions, or at least their expression for his family.
And these days, she is anything but.