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 Haley Ortega as Avery Crane

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PostSubject: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeWed May 06, 2009 10:43 am

I made the mistake of actually thinking it’d be smart for me to be at the Station early. Christ, why? Why did I think that was smart?

I was off the transport for five minutes before the first one came up to me. Nice girl, Private First Class, sparkling and crisp in her uniform. She saluted crisply, too. “Captain,” she greeted. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to say that you were my inspiration for joining the GAF.”

“Thank you, Private,” I answered. “You look sharp, capable and honest. I’d rather be an inspiration to young people like you than win a hundred medals in a campaign.”

She beamed, saluted again and dashed off.

Fooled you, didn’t I? You thought I would’ve muttered something about my joining the USAF, not the GAF. Or how firing a couple of rounds from your pistol into someone’s face would soon take care of that eagerness. Or that I’d just grunt, ignore her otherwise, and go find a bar.

That shows how little you know about me. You see, I’m sharp, capable and honest, too. Maybe not fresh-faced, not anymore, but I’m not a bitter person. At least, I haven’t reached that point quite yet. And I meant what I said – this new generation of soldiers are completely different from our breed. They’re joining an armed forces with no enemy. No potential enemy, even. What does that mean? It means they’re able to focus on something different – ideals. They’re able to take the time to be what soldiers really should be: defenders of our world. They get to be the sentinels, the knights of the realm. And they know it, too. If you could just see some of these kids…it’s incredible. They’re so noble, it’s scary.

The price for that, of course, is the generation before them. The ones who fought in the Campaign. Those folks are heartbreaking. I’ve seen a handful who came out of that upheaval sane and optimistic. Almost everyone had their souls crushed; not by the fighting, but by the shift in power. All they wanted to do was serve their country and, suddenly, not only did they have to stop…they didn’t have a country any more. The Global Administration told everyone ‘all right, now we’re all friends’, but that doesn’t hold water with someone who saw his best friend get shot by the guy who’s now part of his regiment. Or the woman who has to take her meals with someone who’s colony she bombed the week before. It was a disaster. People fell apart. Suicide rates were off the charts and more people went AWOL in that year than any other in the history of the world.

Christ. It was bad. I don’t know how I survived.

Well, I suppose I do. I had the ship.

The ship.

That’s why I’d come to Alhambra early, of course. I hadn’t seen her in years, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I didn’t even tell Tovar I was on the Station. He would’ve wanted me to stay at the annex, have dinner, get into a fight about something. I wasn’t about to let that be the precursor to my boarding the Valdosta again. I looked over the docking transcripts and saw that she’d come in only the day before. That was good; it meant Tovar wasn’t going to try and overhaul her again for my sake. He’s a thoughtful man, but he has no idea how humiliating it’d be for me to be on board with my crew and have flowers or a necklace or a chateaubriand waiting for me in there. Tovar. He has this preconceived notion about courting a woman that’s an umbrella for anything with two X chromosomes. It’s a shame, really, because he’s a very practical man and if he went after me with that sense of practicality, he’d do a lot better. Skip the jewelry and give me a new pair of really sturdy, well-made boots, Tovar. Something I can use. Something that doesn’t look ridiculous on me.

I ate dinner at Goodfellow Gio’s and went largely unnoticed. There’s only ever a small chance civilians recognize me and, even if they do, it’s nothing to gape over. It was when I’d checked into the hotel that a couple of older fellows decided to poke at me. They were the perfect Campaign Veteran stereotype – mid thirties, soured in looks, putting on some weight around the middle and bitter, bitter, bitter. They weren’t in uniform, but I knew the second I saw them that they’d fought in the Campaign. Poor bastards. Their lives were worthless now.

“Hey, Captain,” one called as I was walking away from the front desk of the hotel. “Guess you came t’see the Valdosta, huh?”

“Shit, man, you know she can’t go within a thousand feet of that ship. They put a restraining order on her. Ain’t that right, Captain?” his companion voiced, offering a wet guffaw after.

“’Zat so? Hey, Captain – ‘zat so? You can’t even look at the ship? Got a little too crazy about it? I bet that’s why your husband went fag – you had the hots for your ship.”

“Got court-martialed for humpin’ the hull.”

This sent them into paroxysms of snorting laughter.

Yes, I wanted to walk over and break their legs. No, of course I didn’t do it. Instead, I paused and turned to look at both of them.

“What’re your names and ranks?” I asked politely.

“Why?” the first asked sneeringly. “You gonna report us to our commanding officer?”

I could have. This sort of insubordination would’ve gotten them into a decent amount of trouble. But I knew they didn’t care. If they were punished, they’d love that the army was paying attention to them again. If they were discharged, they could say they gave the GAF the finger and leave patting each other on the back.

“No,” I answered. “I’d like to be able to send your families my condolences.”

“Huh! You gonna kill us, then?” the second snerked.

“You’re already dead,” I replied quietly. “Both of you have been dead a long, long time. Haven’t you?”

What was lovely about the whole thing was that it took them a while to understand. By then, I was on the elevator riding up to my floor, thinking about how that night, they’d both not be able to sleep.

It was a satisfying notion.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeThu Jul 09, 2009 9:14 pm

“What’s that?” Avery asked, and then stiffened in surprise as the way Tovar hastily closed down the computer screen. “I came in two minutes ago and you were so absorbed in whatever you were reading you didn’t even notice. That bad?”

Tovar waved a hand, trying to sound dismissive. “Documents. From an old project of Isely’s. It was done behind the backs of Corporate by very unscrupulous men. Terrible crimes were committed. It almost cost the company everything.”

“My God,” murmured Crane, moving to take a chair opposite Tovar’s desk. She sat with an ease few others could in the same seat. “What happened?”

“Julian Grant, who had the company before me, found out and shut it down. It was an extreme humiliation and shock to him – he very much believed that everyone at Isely was trustworthy. He also believed nothing could get past him, and he was wrong.”

“Why are you reading up on it?”

“One of your crewmates worked for Isely years ago, but the files citing the division don’t match with the skill set. I was wondering…” His brow furrowed. “But I don’t think it is possible.”

“Tovar,” Avery said, articulating carefully, “what kind of crimes?”

“I lose you again to the great blackness in one week,” Demine said, giving her a wan smile. “Can we celebrate your departure and my inevitable anguish?”

She could have pressed the issue; he didn’t fool her. But being reminded of the imminent expedition made her decide to forego this particular battle. “All right. What would you like to do?”

“Get married in the Côte d'Azur.”

Avery winced, and Tovar chuckled. “Anywhere you’d like. Cannes, Nice, Saint-Tropex, Monaco…”

“I don’t want to get married in the French Riviera, Tovar.”

He shrugged, leaning back in his leather chair. “Where, then?”

“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” she said practically. He shook his head slowly, all traces of jest vanishing from his expression. “You really think you’d be content with a woman who can’t keep out of deep space and who can kick your ass all the way across it?”

Nyet, milaya moya,” he replied. “I think I would be blissful.”

What am I doing? she thought. I’m almost thirty, no children, no husband. I’m not a spinster – I always did want to marry someday. Here’s one of the richest and most powerful men in the galaxy, and he loves me. Genuinely loves me. He doesn’t understand me, but he won’t ever try to take me away from the Valdosta or the GAF. He doesn’t understand, no, but he accepts me for who I am. What am I waiting for? The past to rest? It won’t. I’ve been hoping on someone who won’t ever take his eyes off yesterday and see the possibilities of tomorrow. Am I any better, blind to what’s right in front of me? I’m not in love with Tovar Demine, but I could be, if I finally let go of the past, too. If I decided to try. To make the most out of what I have and stop wanting what I don’t.

“Can it wait ‘til I get back?” she asked him quietly.

He straightened, regarded her a time, then nodded. “Of course.”

She smiled faintly, and he rose to gather her into his arms.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeWed Sep 02, 2009 9:04 am

“I can’t stand.” Pride was never an issue for her, thank God. She had no problem admitting it. “I’m sorry. I can’t stand.”

Her muscles were shot to hell. Her joints, every one of them, felt like they’d been cut apart, aching like strychnine poisoning. Her jaw was on fire from clenching so hard, her eyes sore from rolling so far back into her head. Between her legs, the runnels of that monster’s ejaculate were drying, and she was torn and ruined there. She was pitched forward in the chair to which she’d been tied. For a moment, she enjoyed the irony that the worst injuries she’d ever sustained, even including the war, could be healed so that not a physical vestige would remain. No scars to flaunt. None she’d ever want to show.

And it was Lincoln – Harlan Lincoln, the civilian of all people – who had saved them all and now approached her. He looked at her, heard what she said, and understood what to do as only a true Marine could understand. He handed the shotgun over, leaned down, and lifted her into his arms. “Captain,” he acknowledged with a nod, and then ignored everyone else as he carried her out of the room. He carried her – past the galley, past the medbay, onto the bridge. He set her down carefully, so carefully, in her chair, and straightened slowly. He knew. He knew she had to be where she belonged.


“Captain?”

Avery glanced up. The young shuttle attendant smiled at her. “We’ll be docking in Sacramento in just a few moments.”

“Thank you,” Crane said, and began to gather her things.

“You are loyal to Avery.” It was a statement, not a question, from Emerald.

Lincoln nodded. “I’d follow her anywhere. I’d do anything she ordered. I’ve served under eight captains besides Crane – three were terrible, two were incompetent, two were merely adequate, and one was good. Crane blows them all away. She’s the best there is.”

“If she was not a captain, if she was just Avery Crane, would she inspire the same absolute loyalty in you?” Emerald peered at him from Avery’s eyes, the captain herself having long since retreated, resting inside the weary body.

“I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive, Emerald,” Lincoln replied. “They can’t be separated.”

And the truth that Lincoln understood and Avery did not resonated so fully that, in the end, it offered amazing clarity. It allowed her to tell Tovar she couldn’t marry him, and to stop reaching for things unnecessary and unfitting for who she was.


She took a taxi to the Oubliette and was relieved to find that there was no-one waiting for her when she exited the cab. It would’ve been foolish to think Nova was not perfectly aware that Avery was here, but Nova also knew Avery well enough to understand why she’d come. Now, Crane was greeted with the stillness of the Oubliette, and it was a welcome thing, indeed.

“What the man did to you…It didn’t just happen to you, Captain,” Parr said quietly. “It happened to all of us. We all felt it with you.”

She deposited her duffel bag near a building and then just started walking. There were wide fields speckled with slender trees all around the Oubliette, and they were as quiet as the center of town. Avery knew she would not be approached or disturbed until she sought out the Ghosts herself. No-one in the galaxy respected privacy more, or understood so perfectly the times when solitude was necessary.

“We are being systematically destroyed,” Emerald said with that voice that was perfect sorrow and bewilderment. “We had hoped that, if another race was found, they might help us.”

“I’ll go.” Harlan’s declaration was quiet, but immediate. His expression was so determined and so resolute, Crane almost wondered if Emerald had told Lincoln f the Viridian’s plight hours ago. No-one could possibly agree to offer his life to a cause that quickly.

No, she amended to herself, that wasn’t true. Harlan Lincoln could. Jordan Macree would have, too, had he been present. Hazard had likely decided as well, but with a wife and a rank in the GAF, was going to tread more lightly. Those three, because they were soldiers who had seen war before. Because they were soldiers, the best humanity had to offer, and because they were born to be true soldiers – the kind that were created to defend the helpless. That was their purpose, and the difference between a warrior and a soldier. One could stand alone. The other could not.

And that’s why they had all felt it, when Avery was brutalized. They were one unit. They were soldiers.


She found a place of soft grass, well in the sun, and sat down. She remembered how, when she was young, she’d often complained that her parents never took her on enough shuttles. She wanted to be in space all the time, and she told her father that she wished she never had to be on crummy old Earth. She liked spaceships. She wanted to live on a spaceship.

And her father had asked her a silly question. He asked her where they were right then.

“Los Angeles,” she had answered sulkily. “Stupid Los Angeles.”

“And where is Los Angeles?” His voice was gentle.

“In Calivada.”

“And Calivada is where?”

“In the United States. Geez, Dad, come on. How dumb do you think I am?”

He smiled and pulled her onto his knee, cradling her as best he could, because she was very gangly. “And the United States is a part of…?”

“North America, and North America is a part of the Earth,” she said, hurrying things up.

“And where is this Earth?” His eyes were shining.

“In our solar system, in the Milky Way galaxy, in the Universe. Lemme go.” She was tired of this.

“What does the Earth do, out in the solar system?”

“It revolves around the Sun.” But, suddenly, something was dawning and she stopped wriggling.

“Is the solar system still? Is the galaxy stationary?” His smile was coming slowly.

She shook her head. “No. It’s moving. Very fast. Moving really fast through space.” And she blinked, looking up at her father’s face, his broad features and his twinkling blue eyes. “We’re all traveling in space right now, aren’t we?”

And he had nodded. “You are on a spaceship, Avery. The finest ever created. And you are traveling at great speed toward an unknown destination. Who knows what you will encounter someday? We are explorers, every one of us on this astounding planet. But you, I think, are an explorer destined to discover great things.”


So here, on the soft grass of a spaceship she loved almost as much as the Valdosta, the Captain contemplated war. She thought of the revelations she had witnessed, the discovery of two new intelligent species, first contact.

Her thoughts were weighty, just as a Captain’s thoughts should be on the precipice of war.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeWed Nov 18, 2009 8:44 am

Nine Years Ago

An Interview With Captain Avery Crane, by Nathan Denton


D: Congratulations, first off, on all the decorations. And the Sweep.

C: Thank you. They were high honors.

D: How does it feel to have an asteroid belt named after your signature maneuver?

C: Strange. There were talks, before the decision was made to name it after me, about calling it something that would remind people of the lives lost in the belt, but it was shot down fairly quickly.

D: Why?

C: I think because the Administration and the GAF would like to put the Campaign behind them as much as possible and they didn’t want the belt reminding people of the dead, but rather of something victorious.

D: Is that how you’ll remember it?

C: I’ll remember it as…Nathan, you were there. You know how those who survived will remember it – we were battered and limping along and there were twenty ships closing in against the Valdosta. Thirty seconds of engagement or one lucky shot would’ve been the end of us.

D: So, were you feeling pretty hopeless?

C: Hopelessness is not an emotion afforded officers in wartime. I don’t say that to sound brave or strong – I don’t consider it a character boon of mine that I can’t be that human during those situations. It’s a sacrifice you make; you give up the right to feel and understand certain things in exchange for being an officer of the armed forces with the ability to command.

D: Seems like a pretty shitty trade-off.

C: Sometimes. But the benefit is that everyone serving under you can look at you and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you are never going to utter a single useless order. May I give an example?

D: Sure.

C: We’re talking about what happened in the belt, so I want to tell you about the options we had right at that critical moment. We could have surrendered; we could have rammed one of the ships and took them out with us; we could have tried to run. All those things were viable options, but each of them had a high probability of us all dying. They also guaranteed our losing the battle. The Il Alvo was calling for our immediate surrender. My crew knew that wasn’t going to happen, and they were prepared to die. However, there was a chance to record last messages to family on the on-board comm. log – even if the Valdosta was destroyed, the log could be recovered. The navigator on board, Corporal Wylin, asked to leave his post on the bridge and walk ten feet over to Comm Ops and record his goodbyes to his wife and two sons. I told him to stay at his post. Three, maybe five seconds later the Huffington made for us to try and encourage the surrender. He got us out of the way just in time. No, I didn’t predict that a ship would try to ram us; I just knew that his leaving his post was useless. Right after that, I got the idea about the iron content in the asteroids and he was the one who did the research that allowed us to use the rocks to demolish the other ships.

D: But sending a goodbye to your family isn’t worthless.

C: I didn’t say worthless; I said useless. Of course it has value and worth, it just didn’t have a use in the situation. That’s the difference, and that’s why I’m the most-decorated officer at my age, why they named an asteroid belt after me, and why I spend every night alone. It’s also why Wylin spends his nights with his wife and two sons now instead of them visiting his memorial.

D: Are you lonely, then?

C: No. I am where I belong and that is fully satisfying to me. This is what I was born to do, and God saw fit to make sure that I didn’t long for things that aren’t part of this job.

D: Have you made mistakes as a Captain?

C: Dozens. But they were all mistakes that had non-military costs. Which just goes to show that I’m a good Captain, but still very, very human. If someone can juggle beautifully, it doesn’t mean they can sing.

D: Speaking of singing…

C: This interview is over, Mister Denton.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeThu Nov 19, 2009 10:04 am

She had looked like a child, and he had wanted to murder every single one them.

The steps outside the courthouse were packed and the moment she had walked out of the building, the press swarmed her. Vidcaps were shoved in her face, sense-o-scans and cameras crowding her and she had stood there, blinking in the light, looking like a child. A bewildered child.

It was to be the only time Denton would see her actually look vulnerable, and it would haunt him for the rest of his life. Even the brutality Vetrone had ordered on her hadn’t made her look like she did the day they took the ship away from her.

“Avery Stella Crane, rise.”

“This Court, in good standing with the Global Armed Forces, has determined that you are guilty on the charges of willful insubordination, conspiring to commit mutiny, criminal mischief and seventeen counts of negligent endangerment of Global Armed Forces servicemembers. You are hereby removed from your post as Captain aboard the GSS Valdosta, and will be put on temporary suspension from service with re-assessment and reassignment to follow. As per pretrial agreement, you will retain your current officer’s rank until re-assessment. Court dismissed.”


He remembered how the judge wouldn’t look at her, kept his eyes just slightly to the left of her face. No-one would look at her, save three men - her father, whose eyes were filled with tears, Demine, who was tense with anger, and Cotton Parr, who sat in the back of the courtroom, expressionless and remote. Later, Denton would interview a Private who said he’d tried to offer testimony in her defense and they wouldn’t let him.

The press had pushed in on her, asking the most insulting questions, demanding to know if she was a terrorist, if she had wanted the war to keep going, what cup size she was and what toppings she liked on her hamburgers. She looked stunned – the woman he’d watched shouting orders and priming the case of a rifle by propping its butt against her thigh, all the while dragging a wounded soldier with her free hand, with two ribs sticking out of her skin, gunfire and bombs booming around her…now standing, unable to speak or comprehend what was happening to her. He and Demine had worked her through the crowd and Nathan had kept the rest of his cohorts at bay until she was in a transport and away.

That night was also the first and only time he’d seen her lose her temper. Some soldier called her a traitor, a coward and a cunt-rag. She didn’t bat an eye. Then he told her he’d taken a piss on the outside hull of the Valdosta, and suddenly he was in the ICU getting facial reconstructive surgery for eighteen hours. Demine made sure she didn’t get hauled to jail.

And Nathan, himself, had written a piece about the trial. His editor ran it – on page 24 next to the ‘Pet Advice’ column with a huge disclaimer about it being an opinion piece only. He’d had direct quotes from the trial, hard facts and testimonials from her crew…but it was still an ‘opinion piece’.

For a while, everyone waited to hear that she’d been found in her home with an empty bottle of detricormithalzyne next to her.

Everyone didn’t know Avery Crane like he did, apparently.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeWed Apr 28, 2010 11:18 am

Am I finished?

It’s going to come down to my crew, or serving in the war. I can spend the rest of my military career on the Valdosta with my husband, a pregnant woman, an aging professor and a news reporter, or I can be reassigned and see battle again. Be Admiral of a fleet. Do what I was born to do. Fight.

These are not troops I need to marshal. These people are so good, there’s no challenge in leading them. We’re not a unit; we’re a family. I can’t look at them with the same eyes that looked at the hundreds, thousands of men and women I ordered into skirmishes and starside encounters, knowing I was ordering at least half of them to their deaths.

I can’t look at Nova and tell her to die. Tell her and her child to die.

I can’t command Jenks to take up a weapon and engage the enemy.

But that’s what I do. That’s exactly why I am an Admiral in the Global Armed Forces – because I was born to lead people into battle. Because I could detach myself from the soldiers I was inspiring. It’s not a boast…truth be told, I realize it’s something to perhaps be ashamed of…but it’s my calling.

I never hesitated. In the air, on the ground, I knew what had to be done and I did it to the very best of my capabilities.

…but I would hesitate now, with this crew. There would actually come a moment when I would pause, think about what I was telling them to do, and feel reticence about it.

That is not good.

That’s why we’re going on a milk-run again. And why I don’t know what my future will hold, when they call me to war and I have to consider leaving my crew, my ship, behind.

Oh, God. My ship…

It isn’t mine anymore. It’s ours. And I would surrender it to them, because they deserve to have her. Because they need her as much as I do.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeWed Apr 28, 2010 11:39 am

Cus you'd totally be able to stop any of them from following you to war. :snorts; riiiight.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeWed Apr 28, 2010 1:02 pm

What Nova said. Can't get rid of us THAT easy!
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeSun May 23, 2010 10:19 pm

“Never, never tell them, Avery.” Lincoln’s voice was dry with shock and horror. “Don’t ever tell them what you just told me.”

She nodded. He rose and left. She lay, still and leaden, in the bed in that ship which had been to Hell. The same Hell she’d visited and called home for a year of her life.

Everyone has a breaking point. Everyone. Somewhere deep inside is the one thread that, when cut, collapses everything in you. And the Crimson know just where that thread is. And they go right for it.

They had broken Avery Crane.

At the end, after three-hundred days of torture, after 8,760 hours of watching her ship be taken apart bolt by bolt, after being alone in a place she knew no-one could find and fighting so hard, so hard for so very, very long…after being in Hell longer than her mind could even conceive…she broke.

The Captain of the Valdosta began to beg.

She begged without dignity or pride. She buckled. She bowed. She pleaded for death. She offered to serve them. She offered to give them any of the crew. She offered whatever they wanted.

It took a year, but they did it. They broke her.

In the end, that was the real torture – to live the rest of her life knowing she had been defeated utterly. And they knew. They knew the year was nothing compared to what came after it. That’s how evil they were.

She told Lincoln because he was the only one who’d known that shame. That deep, all-encompassing shame of self. He had felt it after killing the Lieutenant, carried around like hard, rotten pebbles in his stomach, rolling around, foul-smelling and wet.

And when the rogue, the singular Red did it again…it wasn’t the torture, it was remembering, being forced to remember, the moment when she lost all of her nobility and decency.

She would not ever, ever let her crew know that feeling if she had breath left in her body.

That’s why there was no convincing Avery that the Crimson needed to be studied, needed to be understood, unless it was for the express purpose of wiping them out.

Humanity was capable of great evil, but its greatest evil was a tender kiss compared to what the Crimson could invoke inside themselves.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeMon May 24, 2010 11:06 am

The oubliette was always welcoming, and Avery was again amazed at how gracious the commune could be to someone who was practically the antithesis of their way of life. It was good to be among quiet people, and there was a distinct pleasure at being seen not as a celebrity, but as the guardian of one of their most beloved citizens. She was greeted and treated with respect, not deference, and that was fine by her.

Nova didn’t complain or reprimand her for being so late to meet the newest member of their extended family. Either she understood Avery’s need to let the others have their time first, or she assumed something had come up. Regardless, there was no chastising on the part of the counselor, a fact for which Crane was grateful.

But, at last, she came to see the baby and mother, and smiled lightly at the picture the pair made. She asked about the birthing, knowing the basics from her husband but wanting the story from Nova, and her eyes widened slightly at the tale of Orion’s debut aboard Alhambra. “You are,” the Admiral stated with absolute sincerity, “a stronger and braver woman than I.”

While Orion napped, the two talked. The nagging reminder, the elephant in the room, had nothing to do with prophecy and everything to do with Parr’s obvious desire for one of these for his own. Avery was certain she couldn’t do it. Not because she doubted her skill as a mother, but because…the answer eluded her for a time, but when she watched Nova’s spread hand make an instinctive seat for the baby’s little backside, the way she fitted him seamlessly against her, she understood. It was the exact same answer she’d given Lincoln when he asked why she hadn’t become a pilot.

“Because that would require my focus on one part of the ship, and I don’t do that. I need to be involved with everything that’s happening on board.”

She couldn’t narrow her life, her focus, into one singular thing. The place she occupied in the Universe was set back, far enough that she could see and watch over a broad horizon. And that place was small – there was only room for her there. The moment she bowed her head to look at a child, she’d lose sight of everything else. And that was not what should happen.

When the baby woke up, he was handed over. Avery liked children – they were bright, clear, noble things she respected deeply. She had never been averse to them being around, merely to herself bearing them. And this was a very special child, to be sure – the son of two people she loved tremendously. So, her arms received him eagerly and she brought him close to her to say ‘hello’. Her head bowed, her eyes met his.

And the world stopped and the void came.

She had never been a spiritual woman. Perhaps some faith in the cosmos, in the stars, in the idea of an order to things. But her soul had never transcended, nor did she believe in a Higher Being. So, at that moment, it was hard for her to absorb what was happening, even as her mind was locked, fixed on the blatant, arrant truth…

She was looking into the eyes of her nemesis.

The notion that each soul is matched to another, in the design of true love, supports the idea that each soul has a counterpart, an antipode. Avery had never believed either, but the eyes gazing guilelessly into hers made her atheism on that point vanish. Even at only a few days old, there was clarity there, perception enough to recognize her as his one absolute adversary.

These two beings were created to war with one another. This child was her soul’s antagonist. The Crimson, the brass, the enemy soldiers in the Campaign, everyone she’d fought against had been impersonal foes. This one…she had a flash, a premonition, a moment of the future, and she knew one day she would be looking into these eyes again when the two of them met and stood on opposite ground. This boy would be her equal and her antagonist for all the ages. The one person who could truly end her.

“Give him back,” Nova murmured.

Avery started and came back to herself. There was no animosity in the Ghost’s voice, but Crane would have been a fool to believe Nova hadn’t felt at least something. Orion whimpered faintly, and Avery turned to relinquish him back to his mother. She looked entreatingly at Nova, but there were no words adequate to express what she felt. There was nothing that could be done to tackle the situation, to bring it to bear. So, she did the only thing she could do…she pretended it didn’t happen.

“I think he’s wet,” Avery noted.

Nova felt the diaper and nodded. “Mm-hm. Get a fresh one from the bin over there?” she asked. Avery nodded and did so. There were a few more minutes of chit-chat, a time span of visiting pleasantries, but the Captain left as soon as it was polite to do so.

And on the transport back to Alhambra, she realized she’d been absolutely correct.

That child…was no-one’s pawn. He was born to make pawns out of everyone else.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeThu Jul 01, 2010 10:34 pm

What do you do, when you’re standing alone in your opinions, and have to be the counterpoint to the majority, especially when that majority is your crew?

They had taken the encounter with the Red Dragon too far. They’d let it change their opinions on the Crimson, let it color their experiences. They’d been too wrapped up in it, because it had honed in on them and made things personal. And humans, whether or not they’d admit it, always preferred things to be personal. ‘Personal’ gave it meaning.

“Sit down, Avery.” Harding ran a hand through his hair. “This is getting worse and worse.”

“I know, sir,” she replied, expression stoic.

“You’ve all got conflicting reports, and I don’t know whose to listen to. I can’t go out there and tell our soldiers something I can’t verify.”

Avery shrugged. “Pick the most frequently appearing aspects in the briefs and go with those.”

“That’d mean yours would be out, you know.”

“Look,” Crane said, leaning forward in her seat and resting her elbows on her knees. “Let me tell you about what happened last time. We encountered a Crimson who not only tolerated being inside one of our bodies, but seemed to enjoy it. He got off on it. The others we’ve encountered never did that, except once – when they went collectively into me to see what I was made of. Even their probes ripped through our insides and just ricocheted off our minds crazily.”

“Okay. What does that mean?”

“It means that whatever that thing was, it was a rogue. It was some sort of hiccup. An error. I don’t think the Crimson would deign to inhabit our bodies willingly, let alone take enjoyment from it, else they’d have done it all the other times we’d encountered them. It’d be like you saying ‘Gee wouldn’t it be fun to be an amoeba and swim around with the other amoeba?” Crane shook her head. “Not a chance.”

“But if they enjoy torturing humans emotionally and mentally, why not enjoy inhabiting their bodies if it meant more…sport?” Harding asked reasonably.

Avery shook her head again. “And that’s the crux. I’ve been thinking about it for two years, General. That was the very question I kept asking myself. If they thought we were so low, why did they stoop to our level? Why did they toy with us?”

“And?”

“And the answer is the they aren’t toying with us at all They’re employing a basic, very effective tactic. The first time we encountered them, I’m sure you’ve read, was a lot like the first time we encountered the Viridians – only the former was hostile and the latter was not. They experimented on us. They saw what provoked the most potentially destructive reactions and then they started fine-tuning it.”

“It’d be a lot more effective to just blast you out of space,” the General said.

“No. No, you’re not listening,” Avery said, starting to get a little worked up. “I didn’t say ‘kill’. I said ‘destroy’. That’s their entire nature. Destruction. Obliteration. Massacre. They’re a consciousness race; mental destruction’s just as important, if not more, than physical. Blowing us up wouldn’t be a victory for them. They have to decimate us mentally as well.”

“Wasn’t that what the Red Dragon was trying to do?” Harding sounded a little confused and slightly worn out.

“No. He admitted to curiosity, and we all saw how much fun he was having playing with us. I don’t think a normal Crimson would ever sit down and have dinner with us.” She thought back to that, to sitting at the table, watching them tapping the rhythm. She had refused to do it. Something wouldn’t let her. Something inside of her didn’t want any part of it. “The Crimson are detached from interest in us beyond their basic need to destroy. It’s like…” She thought for an analogy. “It’s like us using spoons to eat with, and then having someone use it to catapult things across the room. Their torture seems personal to us because it affects us mentally and emotionally, but to them it’s strictly utilitarian. They find what will break us, and they use it to get results.”

Harding sighed. “You seem awfully sure of this.”

Avery relaxed a little. “Because in the entire year I was their captive, nothing even remotely like the Red Dragon happened to me. They didn’t taunt me, or ask me questions, or goad me or try to talk to me at all. All they did was the thing they knew would destroy me and they just kept doing it. They weren’t in the least bit interested in what I was or who I was. They just wanted me demolished, mind and body.”

“And yet, you have the majority of your crew saying that camaraderie and unity and a strong emotional bond is one of the keys to defeating the Crimson.”

“I know,” sighed Crane. “I know they think that. I wish they didn’t. I wish they weren’t judging an entire species based on one encounter. And I wish I didn’t disagree with them so much.” She looked at the General, honestly pained. “But I do. I think sending troops in with their families is, first, absolutely cruel and inhumane – I never want to see the Crimson get a hold of a child. Second, I think it’s like handing the Crimson guns and bullets and then the GAF saying ‘It’s okay, we’ve got bullet-proof vests’. People are going be really surprised when they get shot through the head.”

Harding shifted in his seat. “So, what’s your proposal?”

“My proposal, sir, is that you pack as many nukes on those ships as you can, let my crew spell out exactly what the Crimson are capable of, and try to make those soldiers as bloodthirsty as possible. Look – my crew will say they survived because of our close bonds, and that may be very true. But we also suffered tremendously because of them, and the Crimson had no issue using that bond as a weapon. Over and over and over again. They made Jackson see Nova killed at Naughtshead, they brought Cotton’s dead wife to haunt him, they tore the Valdosta apart in front of me, they kidnapped Emerald to lure us away from the fleet – all those tactics employed by using the emotional ties we have with one another. Those soldiers are going to have a rough enough time out there without adding more risk on by trying to make them all best friends.

“I think the crew and I will argue this ‘til Doomsday, but the Red Dragon was not what you’ll be fighting out there. And seeing a Lieutenant die in front of you is a hell of a lot easier mentally and emotionally than seeing your good buddy Charles die in front of you. And that’s what’s going to happen, sir, if you make them bond emotionally. They’re going to see their friends, not their fellow soldiers, die around them, and it’s going to help the Crimson get a foothold in their psyches when they come unglued emotionally.

“I’m not saying you should isolate them and never let them look at one another. The drive to fight is encouraged by that fraternity, so to speak, that develops with the infantry. Just…just don’t make it so damn easy for the Crimson. Don’t give them more shiny red buttons they can push. They’ll push them. Believe me. They’ll exploit and use every single attachment, every single friendship, and the deeper the bond, the more they’ll focus their cruelties on it.”

Avery sat back, tired, drained. Harding looked at her for a little while, then exhaled very slowly. “We’ll take your report under advisement, Admiral,” he said, finally. “I appreciate you coming by.”

Crane stood, nodded, thanked him and left.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeFri Jul 02, 2010 9:08 am

I wasn’t possessed when I shot Nova. Not in the slightest. I was, maybe, a little stunned and a little overwhelmed, but I was in full control of myself. I didn’t shoot her because the Crimson were puppeting me.

I shot her because I knew that baby had to die.

I’m not a Ghost and I don’t know if I believe in God or fate or any other cosmic force. I won’t say now that I had a vision. But I came out of that bizarre synthesia in a panic, because I knew that if I didn’t get him first, he was going to get me, get all of us. It was my gut reaction; later when I couldn’t do it, that was because I’d had time to think. But my instinct, my base instinct took control in Eliza’s quarters and I knew I had to save us at any cost, right then.

Harlan asked Gull if Gull was willing to gamble everyone on Earth on the chance that the Crimson didn’t know where to find us and didn’t want to come after us. It made Gull think about things in a way he hadn’t before. And the answer seems simple – you don’t do it. You don’t risk everyone on the planet on a maybe. Maybe the Crimson won’t come after humanity when they’re done with the Viridians. Maybe they don’t know who we are. Maybe they’ll leave us alone.

Maybe, though, they won’t. And that’s why we’re going out there to fight. Because you can’t gamble with something like that.

But other times, this time, all you can do is gamble. Chance that Nova and Jackson will trump some loony Ghost’s screams, that it was only one of a thousand possible outcomes that he was ranting about. Bet on the idea that these instincts in me are the product of what is and that Orion can turn out completely different than what we think he will. Maybe his parents have the power to change the direction of his path.

I hope so.

I don’t ever want to wake up one morning regretting that I didn’t kill my closest friend’s child.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeSun Nov 07, 2010 11:33 pm

Her life is simple, good and unsettlingly peaceful. Like putting a champion racehorse to pasture.

The life she leads moves rhythmically. In just a few short weeks, she has settled down into a routine. There’s Fort Kolokola and helping with consultations, graduations, training. Here, she maintains her reputation as Cutthroat Crane, and enjoys the Hell out of it. She scares them enough so that they don’t dare to ask the questions they’d love to ask. - not just about her, but about the whole crew.

There’s the Drogheda, a sailboat she bought for recreation that already she’s learned to operate with unnatural ease. Cotton joins her aboard on occasion, but for the most part she uses the ship to provide moments of reclusiveness. She sails out to sea and anchors and looks up at the sky. It’s never seemed so distant before. So out of her grasp.

Her father visits; her mother does not. Cotton’s father-in-law loves him with the same quiet intensity he does his own daughter, and she is pleased to see how well the two get along. She knew they would – her father’s reserved, gentle ways are the perfect counterpart to Parr’s boisterousness.

When Cotton began having nightmares, her own stopped. In her usual, forthright way she told herself that both of them couldn’t be suffering from them, and so hers had to stop. And they did; just like that. As though even her own psyche recognized the authority in her and obeyed it. So, there were no more visions, no more time spent there in Crimson space while the ship was demolished. Instead, she kept a hand on her husband’s chest as he slept, and woke smoothly and without any grogginess the moment he twitched or shuddered.

It is, for the most part, an idyllic existence on the island. She is grateful to have so much. And she tries, very hard, not to think about the war that will rage without her, high above her head, in the far expanse of space.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeFri Jan 14, 2011 3:40 pm

She finally got the box open.

She looked down at its contents and read the engraving on the lid’s inside.

She felt, very briefly, violently ill.

“My God,” she whispered.

And then, she began to silently, calmly sort through the first thousand impulses as to what she could do with Tovar’s…gift.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeThu Feb 10, 2011 6:18 pm

Thousands of them. All in uniform.

A sea of faces down there in the darkness, staring up at her. Men and women, all crowded together at the bottom of the pit, their eyes upturned, their expressions blank.

Hello, LieuSarComCorCaptAdmiral.

The jumble of ranks – they had known her by many different titles. Thousands of them. Bluish, ephemeral, looking at her.

She stood on the edge of the cliff face, peering down at them. Wind whipped at her. It felt like a storm coming, but high above. Far up. The air was damp, clammy.

She knew who these soldiers were. They had all been under her command, at one time or another. She had sent every single one of them to their deaths.

“It was war,” she said, simply.

We don’t care, they all said, and so many of them speaking made the rock vibrate with volume. Not anymore. We understand now what a waste it was. We should not have had to die.

“You knew what the risk was. You signed up.”

So did you. Expression blank. Ghosts with corpse-like faces. Why didn’t you die? Why aren’t you down here with us?

“I almost did; many, many times. But I was a commanding officer and I wasn’t meant for the front lines.”

You killed us all.

It was true. She’d never shirked from that reality. It may have been enemy bullets, enemy fire, enemy bombs, but these were the ones she sent out into the battle. These were the ones she told to go out there, knowing few if any would come back.

She nodded, once. “Yes. I killed you all.”

Tell us you regret it.

She closed her eyes. “No. It would be a lie. I don’t regret it. I’m sorry you died – I’m sorry humanity still has a need for me, for my talents. I wish we were more evolved. But I don’t regret what I did. If I regretted that sort of thing, I would never have been able to become a Captain, an Admiral. But I was either gifted or cursed with the ability to stand here and look at you and not regret. I’m proud of you. Proud of what you sacrificed. But I don’t regret it.”

There was a stir. A chill. Biting cold as the dead became restless, agitated.

Tell ussss…you…regret it…

It wasn’t a request, or a command. It was a warning. Their faces contorted into masks of anger. They tensed – she could feel the tension, like a coiled spring.

She looked at them, and now it was her face that was without expression.

“No.”

They flew at her.

And the thousands she’d sent to die visited their own fate on their commanding officer.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeSun Feb 13, 2011 2:54 pm

It was the arguing the roused her.

“…wasn’t the point I was trying to make at all. I wasn’t questioning the decision.”

“It sounded to me like you were.”

She couldn’t focus. She couldn’t even tell if the voices were male or female. The words were clipped, poking at her brain.

“I just wanted to provide a perhaps neglected perspective. Something that may have been overlooked.”

“The Ionist doesn’t ‘overlook’ anything. Ever. You know that.”

“Then there’s something I’m not comprehending, and that’s entirely possible. But it’d be a nick on my integrity if I didn’t at least mention that giving this particular woman an arm that could theoretically punch through steel offers up at least a small risk. That’s all.”

“I am sure it’s been discussed.”

“And what about the rest of them? Granted, it’s not the same as turning an Admiral into a literal Amazon, but we’re…the better we make them, the worse they could be if things don’t work out as planned.”

“The Ionist knows all that. It has to’ve been gone over. Besides, this group is the definition of heroism. They couldn’t be more noble if they wore sets of gleaming armor. I seriously doubt they’re going to decide to start -…oh, God. Look.”

“She’s up! Christ, about time. We were all getting twitchy.”

“Let’s get prepped.”

A pinch, and drowsiness swept over her. She sank into the first peaceful sleep she’d had in what felt like eons.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeMon Mar 28, 2011 1:04 pm

They wanted to build her a new ship.

She had her choice of naming it after the lost Valdosta. It would be one of the very first in the new line of Isely ships, the first they would offer since releasing their technology patents. The line included a freighter, a yacht and a military frigate and it was to be called the Olympus Class. Ships named after Greek gods: the freighter – Atlas, the yacht – Apollo.

The frigate – Athena.

She had been flown out to Sydney to see the prototypes, and they were gorgeous. Proof positive that Isely wasn’t as magnanimous as it had appeared; although they’d released the technology, they’d kept the innovations for themselves and used them to unveil a new line that would, no doubt, outclass and ourstrip anything their competition might offer.

Good ol’ Isely. She’d admired the ship, thanked them, and told them she’d think about it.

More news came soon after: a new spaceport was in the works. A team of engineers and architects for every corner of the globe had been assembled and were already in preliminary planning phases. It was going to be called Alhambra again, but the station inside the port would be Heroes’ Hope, rather than Shakespeare Station. The docks would be named after humanity’s finest – MLK Jr., Ghandi, Queen Elizabeth, Socrates, etc. There was a rumor that a few docks were reserved for the names of a certain crew….

The question everyone was asking was ‘What now?’. Avery didn’t have an answer. She didn’t like where things were for her, or for her crew. There’d been time now to bask in humanity’s reception of their homecoming, time for families to reunite and reassure each other everything was all right. Now, she could feel a palpable ripple across the ten people whose experiences made their lives fall outside the parameters of every other human being. The world loved them, but they were not a part of the world anymore. And they wouldn’t be satisfied leading usual lives.

The curse of the extraordinary, compounded by their experiencing extraordinary things.

So, then, what to do with them? So far the Syndicate hadn’t offered any possibilities, save the invitation for them to do as they pleased.

She knew her crew. They didn’t want to gallivant. They didn’t want to do as they pleased. They wanted to do what they must. They wanted to be needed. And they needed a purpose.

She was on the verge of accepting Isely’s offer for a new Valdosta, when she received a visit from Harlan and Emerald and a comm. From Miles Haight.

Things shifted directions very quickly.
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PostSubject: Re: Haley Ortega as Avery Crane   Haley Ortega as Avery Crane Icon_minitimeTue Apr 12, 2011 7:57 am

Harding and Avery sat on the patio, overlooking the beach. Just a few evenings ago, she had sat here with her crew and listened, with half-fondness and half wry exasperation, as they argued, discussed, quantified and expressed. Two things could be said about them – they were never dull and they were never stupid. It was sometimes a bit daunting, having that degree of brilliance under her command.

For his part, Harding was not happy. “I get orders from General Hirakami – ask you what you want to do and then pretend I assigned it to you,” he said. “Christ, Avery, you get yourself into more shit…”

She was only half-listening. Her mind was on Miles, on Em, on the Syndicate. It suddenly occurred to her why she had such a problem with them – they reminded her of Lucille.

Before Avery had grown a pair large enough to tell her mother to go suck a popsicle (at age nine), she had undergone many an unpleasant ordeal in the name of beauty. From the minor things like painful hair-teasing and styling, to more sinister processes like corseting (corseting a six-year-old…unbelievable), all so that she could be beautiful, be a winner. It had been the moment when Lucille booked an appointment for Avery to have breast implants at nine years old that Avery had finally rebelled, with her father's immediate backing.

She was never asked if she wanted these things done to her. Like the Syndicate, Lucille employed the lofty I Know What’s Best For You mantra. With other parents, that line had meaning – with her mother, it was an excuse for abuse. And Avery now felt the same unease and rancor she had with Lucille, that gut feeling her child’s mind couldn’t articulate, but understood was wrong.

The Syndicate had saved their lives. Lucille had given life to Avery, and she often reminded Avery of that salient point whenever Avery complained about her treatment. When did that stop being a viable excuse?

Once again, she felt the keen separation between herself and the crew – the one that, for the most part, was necessary and good and actually helped her relationship with them as their Captain. Sometimes, however, it made things difficult. Of course they’d be more forgiving at this point – the Syndicate hadn’t come in and stolen something out of their bodies. Hell, she was fairly certain some of them didn’t even realize what she had said when she’d talked about it. Nova had, instantly. But she was a mother and she and Avery had a symbiosis. Harlan knew because Em had told him. And so, it was Harlan, Em, Nova and Avery who were looking at the shadows in the corner with more scrutiny.

And now the one ovary that had survived the explosion that took off her right side was in Emerald. They hadn’t asked her. They hadn’t even told her. They had just come in and taken it. She had no idea until Parr had examined her and let her know – neither could understand why they’d tamper with her left side when it was fine.

There could be an excuse for doing it. There could be an excuse for not asking her. But there was no excuse for not telling her what they’d done. And, more and more, she was starting to believe the reason was simple and terrible – they didn’t deem it necessary to ask or tell because she simply wasn’t important enough to ask or tell. And that put her below basic human rights to them.

The cattle who are fed every day, watered, provided for, given pasture to roam…they think the rancher’s a wonderful man, until he sends them to the slaughterhouse.
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