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[M] Chaotic Neutral

Five days in the ‘Omniverse.’ She still hadn’t eaten a thing.

Was this how it felt to be a sewer rat in Rapture? Her stomach growled and her mouth watered, but she didn’t die. She’d taken up residence in a damp corner of a dark alleyway, adopting rats and one creepy hobo for roommates. In her spare time—of which she had plenty—she basked in the opulence of Coruscant’s Tier Two and envied the fancy clothes of the people who passed, usually on their way to the top tier for their impressive job or some other sort of extravagant event.

Poverty wasn’t that bad. Relaxing, almost.

“Yo, cutie, you change your mind about that roll in the hay yet?”


Eleanor’s expression remained stoic. She stared, as she had become wont to do, at the storefront across the street, and the beautiful emerald dress hanging on a mannequin behind the window. Against her better judgment, the sight of it brought a smile to her face.

Roger, the alleyway’s other tenant, waited politely and patiently for an answer he’d never get. His scraggly, graying beard dripped with gasoline, which for whatever reason he drank copious amounts of, and some too-big clothes limply drooped on his dangerously thin body. He slapped a hand to his balding forehead and struggled to his feet, staggering toward Eleanor.

“C’mon, I been lettin’ you live here for days, now, girl, ya owe me one—”

He stopped short when he felt a painful poking in the gap between two of his ribs. Eleanor held the point of her syringe against his abdomen, gently nudging him away with the tip. The blade was old and rusty, but she kept it sharp, and Roger wasn’t ignorant of the damage a weapon like that could pull off. “Got yer bayonet all whetted, I see,” he observed, taking a step back. “Well—you’ll be gettin’ nowhere with manners like that, little lady.”

“Hmph,” Eleanor grunted. She removed the blade from his torso and returned her focus to Theresa’s Threads across the way.

Something told her today was the day she was going to get that dress.

“Oh, she speaks, sorta,” Roger said, feigning amazement, “Speak again, angel. Is that the only noise we’ll be gettin’ today, cutie, or do you have more for me?”

“Hate to disappoint, Roger, but I think I’m moving out,” Eleanor spat, standing and charging out of the alleyway at a brisk pace. She walked across the street and pushed open the door to the shop, never taking her eyes off that dress. As she entered, a series of little bells jingled and a salesgirl perked up behind the counter.

“Welcome to Theresa’s Threads! Let me know if you need—”

“May I try it on?” Eleanor said in a small voice. The salesgirl eyed her nervously, but slipped out from behind the counter nevertheless.

“…I mean, if you’re sure it’s your style,” she replied, glancing over Eleanor’s armored body, “then I can go grab you one from the rack, absolutely.”

“No, I would like this one,” Eleanor clarified. She pointed at the dress on the mannequin. “It looks to be the right fit for me. May I try it on? May I try that one on, please?” The armored girl’s eyes swelled with desire. The salesgirl paused.

“Um,” she started, “I… suppose that’s fine.”

It took a few minutes, but she climbed up onto the window display and unzipped the emerald dress, shimmying it off the mannequin, and handed it to Eleanor, who hurried to an open stall in the dressing room. In a blast, the girl had shed her old, rusted Big Sister armor and stepped into the knee-length garment. It fit snugly and warmly, like an old, trusty pair of shoes still in the prime of their life. She stepped out of the stall and observed herself in the mirror.

The sight brought a smile to her face. She’d missed so many things while her mother kept her in captivity, locked away to be experimented on and not to meet other children or attend formal events or wear pretty dresses in public. The person standing before her in the mirror—she was a personification of the girl Eleanor had always imagined she’d be, if not for Sofia Lamb’s cold, choking death grip.

She’d rarely felt more beautiful.

“It fits impeccably.”

Eleanor jumped a little. The unfamiliar voice’s owner sauntered up behind her. She was a young woman, with dark skin, curly black hair pulled into a tight bun, and one of those smiles that curled up just a tad extra on one side. She wore a gray uniform—one Eleanor had come to recognize belonged to Imperial officers—perfectly pressed, every button spit-shined and every medal perfectly straight. “Just delightful looking, my dear.”

The big sister’s face scrunched up. She did not remember asking for the opinion of a strange woman, nor did she especially appreciate it, right now.

“I would say buy it, but I don’t suspect you can afford it,” she shrugged, “nor do you really need to. You’re a prime, after all.”

‘Prime’; that was an unfamiliar word that still somehow fit like a glove when she used it to describe her. What did that mean? She locked eyes with the officer. “Do I know you?”

“I see you outside my window every night,” she smirked, nodding his head toward the alleyway across the street. “That’s my apartment complex you’re squatting under, young lady.”

Eleanor’s chin dipped and her cheeks flushed.

The woman reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. “No need to be embarrassed, girl,” the officer assured her, “Times are hard. Though you’ll draw the attention of the troopers if you don’t relocate soon; I’d have called them on you myself if I hadn’t found you so… intriguing.”

“You don’t even know me,” Lamb responded.

“Never said I did,” the woman replied with a chuckle. “Just that I see you. I’m apartment 305. Come knock on my door tonight if you’d like a warm meal. Au revoir.”

And she swept out of the shop, leaving a curious Eleanor in her wake.

Later that night, Eleanor scarfed down that warm meal like a ravenous wolf ripping apart her prey. The gray-uniformed officer of apartment 305 presented her with a simple yet elegant meal: a few chicken legs, some roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes, and a glass of warm red wine to top it all off. The meal sat heavily in the young girl’s stomach, and when she finished, she sank into her seat.

“Someone was hungry,” the woman observed, sliding into the seat across from Eleanor. The homeless sister chuckled a bit.

“I’m new here,” she shrugged. “Not exactly sure how to go about getting fed.”

The officer nodded. “It’s much easier than you’d probably expect, especially for a prime like you.”

Eleanor raised an eyebrow. There was that word again—‘prime.’ She still didn’t understand it, but something about it felt wholly familiar. She supposed that was a good thing, since she… was one?

Was she understanding that correctly?

“I don’t think I caught your name,” the woman said, leaning onto the table. For a few moments, Eleanor tracked the officer’s eyes as they traced her entire form. Within her sparkling blue-green irises, curiosities about the young homeless girl she’d taken in off the street abounded; for her part, the girl was having trouble deciding how much she could reveal. Yes, this woman had given her food, and a warm place to sit for the moment, but was that enough to trust her?

She’d trusted Subject Delta almost unequivocally, but he’d been programmed to love her. Somehow, she doubted the same was true of the residents of the Omniverse.

Names were power, and so far, power was scarce for the big sister in this brand new universe. Could she give something so dear up so easily?

“I don’t think I caught yours, either,” she responded curtly. The two women’s eyes met, and they held each other’s gaze for what felt like eons. Eleanor picked up a napkin and wiped some mashed potato off her lip, not breaking eye contact.

The officer smirked. “Lieutenant Artemis Atreya, an officer in the Charlie Company. I’m an Imperial Navy brat.” Eleanor’s puzzled expression contorted further the more Lieutenant Atreya threw out words she’d never heard. First ‘prime’—now ‘Imperial Navy’? ‘Charlie Company’? The officer must’ve noticed her confusion, because she let out a hearty giggle. “My, my, my,” she chuckled, “You really must be very new here, eh, girl?”

“Something like that,” Eleanor muttered.

“Well, good thing you’ve found a friend,” Atreya smirked. “You’re in Coruscant now, pretty one. It’s a verse under the control of the Empire.”

The Empire. Creative name.

“The Empire’s under the control of a man named Emperor Palpatine,” she continued. “Nice guy, takes care of his people. You’d do well not to piss him off, needless to say, but he—and the whole Empire—are very generous to those who prove themselves, especially primes. Like you.”

“You keep saying that,” Eleanor interjected, “but I’m not sure what it means.”

Atreya smiled, leaning back in her chair. “Primes,” she started, “are the bread and butter here in the Omniverse. The most powerful beings we’ve got here—naturally, anyway. I’ve met some strong secondaries but they had to work their asses off. Like myself, for instance.”

Eleanor scowled—if she was supposed to be so powerful, why had she felt so helpless the entire five days she’d spent here? And what were ‘secondaries’? The lieutenant seemed to sense the girl’s doubts and confusions, and switched tactics.

“Hold out your hand and close your eyes,” she instructed. The big sister looked tentatively at her benefactor, but then reluctantly followed the instructions. “Good,” she nodded, reaching out and touching Eleanor’s palm, “now think about that green dress. Think about it long and hard, until you’re focusing on nothing else but that. And will it into being.”

Will it into being? Ridiculous. The girl was reminded of the quote scrawled on banners around Rapture: ‘No Gods or Kings. Only Man.’

And at that moment, she felt the soft, silken fabric of the dress she’d been admiring earlier fall softly into her hand. Her eyes flickered open and, like magic, there it was: conjured out of thin air.

By her?

“…impossible,” she murmured.

“Nothing is impossible for primes like you,” Atreya whispered intently. “Didn’t you listen to a word Omni said when he brought you into this world?”

Eleanor blinked. She could barely remember anything the little smiling man said to her. Those memories seemed nothing more than a blur.

“Now,” the officer pressed, “Your name.”

“Eleanor,” the girl offered, this time without hesitation, “Eleanor Lamb.”

Atreya grinned. “Pretty.”

From the kitchen, a radio sputtered to life. “Attention Charlie, Dog, and Fox Companies—requesting backup in the northwestern sector of Tier 2. We’ve got a threatcon delta at the fundraiser, repeat, we’ve got a threatcon delta at the fundraiser.”

Atreya glanced over at the radio. “Duty calls, I suppose,” she sighed. The lieutenant got up from her seat and grabbed some weapons hanging off the walls.

Without so much as a word, she jogged out the door. Eleanor stood and sprinted after her, following her down the stairs and out into the alleyway where the sister normally made her home. Roger sat scraggly and drunk against the opposite wall, and together, the two homeless alley denizens watched as Lieutenant Atreya disappeared around the corner to go respond to whatever threat required her attention.

Roger pushed himself off the ground and shambled over to where Eleanor stood. “So… did the good ol’ lieutenant loosen you up a bit, hot stuff, or—”

The creep couldn’t even finish his sentence before Eleanor’s syringe had plunged into his abdomen. She glanced down at the puncture wound. To her surprise, no blood leaked out. She jerked her weapon out of his body.

From the new-made hole, a bunch of sparks flew, and wires protruded everywhere. Roger’s voice faded away, dropping several octaves before cutting out completely, and then he collapsed on the floor with a mechanical thud. The girl knelt down, tracing the hole with her finger and finding that, indeed, her longtime neighbor and tormentor wasn’t quite as human as she’d first thought.

Eleanor dragged Roger’s clunking mechanical corpse deeper into the alleyway, gasoline dripping from every joint. Some of the shit he drank, no doubt. The girl supposed she’d solved at least one mystery when she’d stabbed the poor bot.

Though several persisted. What was a robot skinned up like a hobo doing trolling the alleyways between some apartment buildings on the second tier? How had his programming been twisted into something so overtly creepy and sexualized? And, most importantly, where the hell was she going to hide his body?

Her eyes scanned the danker corners of the alley, searching for a spot dark enough to shield the robotic corpse from curious eyes. Plenty of options presented themselves, but they all still seemed a tad too out-in-the-open for Eleanor. She bit her lip.

“Where’s Roger?”

Eleanor whipped around at the sound of a man’s voice coming from the street. Roger’s body hit the ground with a clang as she dropped it and sprinted further into the darkness, taking cover behind a large, black dumpster.

The smell made her nose wriggle with discomfort, but she remained frozen in her spot as footsteps click-clacked down the backstreet. They came slowly, carefully.

“Roger, honey,” the man squeaked. His voice had an interesting lilt to it, similar to some of the upper-class gentlemen in Rapture. When the dark times came, those men fell along with the fancy ladies - obsessed with looks and fashion, beholden to their material possessions, their sight unable to focus on what truly mattered: survival; escape; freedom.

“Who’s out there? I know someone is,” the mysterious man called.

Eleanor held her breath. In her home world, she knew she’d have been able to trash the intruder with her Big Sister armor on. In this ‘Omniverse,’ however - things were more unclear. Was he another prime? If so, chances were he was much stronger than she. Besides that, her armor had lost all of its weaponry, all of the plasmids attached to it, and she felt much weaker in general than she remembered being seconds before she’d spilled out onto the alabaster floor of the place people here called ‘the Nexus.’ All she had was the syringe strapped to her left arm. She wouldn’t engage unless the man left her no choice.

Rrrragh!” he roared, and from her post behind the dumpster, Eleanor Lamb heard the guy pick up Roger’s body and toss it against the wall. It smashed against the brick, presumably breaking into a bunch of tiny pieces, and then clanked against the ground for several seconds until, finally, an eerie silence overtook the alleyway.

Moments passed with no noise, and Eleanor felt a chill creep up her spine as she realized she couldn’t discern her new house-guest’s location. Tentatively, she decided to peek around the corner of the dumpster.

What she saw puzzled her; the man had taken to staring at the wall.

Upon closer inspection, the girl noticed the bricks shifting, switching places with one another, traveling up and down, side to side. They began to separate, opening what seemed to be a secret door leading into a place that - somehow - was even darker than the alleyway she now shared with this intruder. Roger lay in several pieces at the foot of the wall, sparking and whirring with the sounds of a machine slowly dying for good. Eleanor supposed his impact must’ve activated some sort of switch, leading to the opening of this passageway.

For the first time, she got a good look at the intruder, too. Dressed in a long, red velvet coat and with slicked-back black hair, the flamboyant man clunked forward in overpriced leather boots, his upper half disappearing into the shadows of the new cavern as he took a gander inside. “Well, Roger,” he muttered to himself, “you’ve not died in vain, it seems.”

Those words had no sooner left the man’s mouse than he slipped into the darkness, disappearing into the lower reaches of Lieutenant Atreya’s apartment building.

Eleanor’s moment was upon her - she sprinted toward the edge of the alleyway, but as she neared the open streets and escape, something made her pause. She glanced over her shoulder at the freshly opened hidden corridor.

No, no, no - get out of here. Wait for Atreya to come back. Report what she’d seen.

She didn’t listen to herself. Against her better judgment, she moved back to the entrance, gazing inside. The entirety of the corridor adjacent to the backstreet was too dark to see anything in, and seemed to be a nice long leap down. If she went in, it’d be hell to get back. So, of course, she did.

Armored feet landed on the ground with a metallic clink. She swirled her fingers, and utilizing the technique Atreya had taught her before, summoned a replica of the original helmet to her Big Sister armor, fastening it on her chest piece and popping open the gills that allowed her to breathe. She could never be too safe here, in this strange new world - and this way, the mysterious intruder wouldn’t know her identity if he somehow made her. She took a long, deep breath, feeling around in the darkness for some kind of door, which she eventually stumbled upon.

It was open. He wasn’t far.

She entered.

She entered, and almost immediately the contents of her stomach bubbled up into her throat.

The girl clasped a hand to her mouth, steadying herself against a nearby wall. Don’t throw up, she thought, but the churning of Lieutenant Atreya’s chicken legs and mashed potatoes almost overcame her strongest convictions.

Rapture, her home before this Omniverse, had also played host to many unspeakable atrocities. The people there had become twisted shadows of their former selves, marred by relentless experimentation in their quests to become the types of gods normal society would never allow them to be. That’s why they had descended to the underwater utopia in the first place -- for the shot at greatness they believed the outside world had denied them.

Eleanor herself had been a subject of these brutal tests. The crucibles her own mother put her through desensitized her to the death throes of humanity the other citizens of Rapture put themselves through willingly. Now, in the face of what stood before her, inside this hidden underground chamber beneath her would-be benefactor’s apartment, all of that seemed especially tame.

Humanoid creatures of all different shapes and shades hung by their wrists or ankles from chains, splattered with their own blood and guts and shit. Young men and women, ripped to shreds by something terrible, swayed back and forth, stripped of their clothes and of their lives. By Eleanor’s count, at least eight or nine such specimen dangled from the ceiling of this cramped chamber, strung up so close together that their naked bodies bounced off one another as hints of air conditioning blew into the room.

The man in the red velvet coat was nowhere to be found. At the other side of the room, another metallic door lay open. He must not be far away. Did more of these destroyed bodies lie in wait beyond that threshold, too?

Eleanor crept through the maze of hanging corpses, making her way across the room and trying her best not to disturb the cadavers’ eternal sleep. In death, she hoped the people of the world around her would leave her be; she didn’t know these people’s struggles, but she knew now they rested, and she would not be the one to interrupt their newfound peace.

But not all slept.

As Eleanor moved closer to the door, a low groan escaped the lips of a girl a few meters behind her. She spun on her heel, watching as the eyes of a young, beautiful woman, scarred with rips and tears all across her abdomen and arms, slowly flickered open. The girl hung by her ankles from the ceiling, her fingers scraping the floor as she began to take in her surroundings.

“Fuck,” the sister muttered. She watched helplessly as awareness slowly flooded into the living girl’s eyes, and fear dripped into her face.

“Ohhhhh,” she let out another groan, her breath beginning to quicken. Through the door to the next room, Eleanor heard shuffling.

No, she thought, he can hear her.

Eleanor Lamb darted toward the dangling girl, whose eyes trained on the sudden noise. She let out a scream as the armored sister rushed at her, and from the other room, the shuffling turned into full on clatter.

“Shhhhh,” the sister whispered, “I’m here to help you.”

“Stay away,” the broken girl shouted, pushing Eleanor away with her arm.

The former experiment scowled. This girl may not have wanted her help, but she would save her, nonetheless. She swung her syringe up toward the chains, smashing it into them. They buckled under the hit and the torn apart victim crumpled to the ground with a grunt. Eleanor knelt down to scoop her up when the high-pitched whirr of an energy pistol sounded behind her.

Sharp, searing pain erupted from a spot in her back, and she collapsed in a heap on top of the girl she’d been attempting to save. She tried to let out a scream, but in its place, the vomit she’d been holding in erupted from her mouth and filled the inside of her spherical helmet. Choking on her own puke, she scrambled with one hand for the clasps, and accompanied by the sound of an airlock releasing itself, the helmet unattached from her armor, rolling down the mysterious girl’s body and clanging against the floor.

It rolled through the first doorway back into the entryway of the small chamber, and Eleanor felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder, jerking her around till she was face to face with the man in the red velvet coat. A single tear struck a path down her vomit-covered face.

“Got ya, bitch,” the man lisped. He stomped a patent leather boot into her face and she quickly abandoned consciousness.

Eleanor Lamb awoke to the melodic but all too familiar beeps, buzzes, and boops of a laboratory. Before she could even take in her surroundings, memories of her time strapped to tables in Rapture inundated her mind. Her mother, standing over her, watching with decided apathy as the scientists she’d hired pumped ADAM into her bloodstream. What types of advancements could they make in her biology, since her little sister conditioning had fucked up her DNA?

The piercing pain of a blaster wound re-emerged in the small of her back, and she arched away from her bed only to find she’d been strapped in here, as well, by her ankles. She jerked, wrinkling the hospital gown she now sported, and a sharp burning sensation shot up her arm, driving her attention to the needle stuck deep within it.

She blinked. At first, she thought perhaps whoever had captured her had begun to pump more ADAM into her system, but that wasn’t the case—whatever fed through the tube was heading in the opposite direction.

Out, not in.

With a grunt she slapped a hand to the needle and gave it a forceful tug, ripping it out of her forearm. Blood spurted from the wound—it was a large needle—and threw herself over the side of her bed. Her ankles caught her and she swung back, slamming her head into the frame of the bed.

“F-fuck,” she muttered to herself, hanging limply off the side of the bed frame. She wrapped her fingers around the posts and pulled, hard, until her ankles broke through the restraints and her whole body rolled off the bed and onto the ground.

Seconds later, she’d pulled herself up onto her knees. She wouldn’t be kept down.

But where was she?

For the first time, she took in her surroundings, memories of Rapture finally beginning to fade away. As opposed to her mother’s experimentation chambers, this one wasn’t ratty and decrepit, filled with architecture that might’ve seemed steampunk if it wasn’t so dilapidated. This one was pristine, kept perfectly clean, and every inch of it was blanketed in monochromes—white, grays, and the spit-shine of stainless steel. She’d somehow gotten herself in some deep shit with people who had deep pockets.

She scrambled toward the door, fumbling for the handle and jerking it down. The door swung open, and she crawled quickly into the hallway.

Blinding fluorescent lights welcomed her, as well as a contingency of doctors and nurses shuffling down the corridor. Upon seeing the black-haired girl’s limp form ooze out of her room, they all paused for a moment.

They then immediately rushed her.

“Excuse me, miss, you need to get back to your room!”

“Miss, what are you doing out here?”

“Could someone call Bastien and let him know the girl’s awake?”

Lab coats and scrubs converged on her and almost immediately were swatted aside. Eleanor broke upward, shoving through their grabby hands and emerging on the other side of the doctor orgy, shambling down the hallway. She turned a corner and ducked into a slightly ajar door, out of sight of the gaggle of medical professionals.

Doctors, nurses—not guards, not soldiers. What was going on?

She turned into the room and there, sitting wide-eyed on the bed, was the girl from the underground chamber, wrapped up in a robe that looked more comfortable than something a prison or something equally nefarious might bestow.

“It’s you!” the girl said, hopping up. She seemed slightly peppier than the last time Eleanor had run into her.

“It’s you,” Eleanor replied, stepping back. “And you’re not chained up.”

The girl’s eyebrow quirked. “Chained up?” she asked, “but I’ve been rescued.”

Rescued? By who? She rescued her. The man in the red velvet coat had been there to… well, now that she thought about it, Eleanor wasn’t exactly sure what the man in the red velvet coat had been there to do.

“Well, Roger - you’ve not died in vain, it seems.”

Eleanor’s face flushed with realization. The man had never seen the underground chambers before. He wasn’t the one holding those boys and girls hostage—or, well, held. This one, it seemed, was the only survivor.

“I’m Jiang Shen,” the girl introduced herself, breaking the former experiment’s thought process. “Thanks for trying to save me.”

“Yeah,” the same lisp-filled voice came from behind her. Eleanor spun around and instinctively backed up toward Jiang Shen, holding out one arm to shield the girl and pressing the other hand to her abdomen, the blaster wound beginning to burn from too much movement. “No need to be alarmed,” he pursed his lips, “I’m Sergeant Bastien of the Empire Peace Division—people call me Bassy, though—and I’m not here to hurt you. Anymore. Sorry about that.” He gestured to the wound and contorted his face into a reticent frown. Eleanor flinched.

“Empire… Peace… Division?” the big sister stammered. Jiang reached out and grabbed her, leading her to the bed and sitting her down.

“Did you not put her through bacta treatment?” the robed girl asked.

“She’s a prime,” Sergeant Bassy shrugged, “the higher ups said we needed to run some tests first. And also were worried that she may have been involved in some way, despite your testimonies.”

Eleanor looked up at Jiang Shen, wordlessly asking her a question. “I told them about how you said you wanted to help me,” she smiled weakly. The girl seemed brighter, but not altogether luminous.

What had happened to her? And what was happening now?

Thick blue goop coalesced around her naked body. For all intents and purposes, the former experiment was asleep—but within the bacta tank, her consciousness lingered.

She felt the gaping wound on the small of her back begin to sew itself up. Her muscles were repacked inside her body, and any dried blood stains were washed away. The nerves on her back regrew, dancing with the blobs of goop and air pockets that caressed her skin.

Jiang Shen had been taken advantage of by the very woman Eleanor had been conferring with earlier. Lieutenant Atreya was a predator, reeling in young men and women with faux kindness and sold them to the highest bidder. And she’d almost fallen victim to it. The woman had almost gotten her, too, and with the simple promise of a warm meal and a place to stay. How could she have been so stupid?

Her Father has taught her that everyone deserved a chance, and perhaps they did—but what should happen to them if that chance was squandered?

Her Mother had always taught her the world was irredeemable.

Was that the ugly truth?

The mechanized rumblings of the bacta tank assaulted her ears as the blue liquid began to drain. Her limp form sunk with it until she crumpled against the bottom, forehead pressed to the glass. Her body had healed, but she felt… exhausted by the thoughts she’d been left with. What a strange sensation. A simple, near unconscious bath that healed all her physical wounds and exacerbated all her mental ones.

The tank’s door slid open, and so did Eleanor’s eyes. Nurses approached quickly and helped her out of the tank, leading to a private room where her clothes lay folded on a table, freshly laundered. She slipped on her undergarments in silence, then froze as the door behind her opened with a clink.

“Feeling better?” Sergeant Bastien’s voice echoed throughout the small chamber.

“Do you mind?” Eleanor snapped, “I’m changing.”

“You’re not exactly my type,” Bastien giggled, but the girl wasn’t amused.

“Perhaps not, but I am the type that enjoys privacy,” she pursed her lips sarcastically, glancing down at the ratty jumpsuit she’d worn in here. No amount of laundering could fix that thing, and she didn’t want to wear it.

“I’m simply here to make an offer,” the sergeant raised his hands. “You’re a prime with pluck, my dear. The Empire could use a girl like you. Do some odd jobs for us down here in the EPD and I can put in a good word for you.”

Eleanor turned away from Bastien. Silence lingered between them for several seconds.

“It could be very good for you,” he said.

“I’ll decide what’s good for me,” the former experiment scowled. “And right now I think I’m better off alone.”

Bastien’s expression contorted into a frown. “Suit yourself,” he snarled, “but we’ve got your OM signature now. If we find the need to call upon you to do your duty as a citizen of the Empire, we’ll know where to find you. And we’ll be in touch.”

The Sergeant turned to leave, but Eleanor’s words stopped him.

“What happens to Atreya?”

Bastien chuckled. “Need to know info, sweetheart,” he shrugged, “and you just took yourself off the list.”

The door whirred as it slid open and closed, and suddenly she was alone.

Citizen of the Empire. What did that even mean?

Her fingers danced amidst a kaleidoscope of rainbow energy, and the newborn prime slid on a replica of the emerald green dress she’d been eyeing the night before. She slid her hands down the soft fabric, then tied her jet black hair in a tight bun.

She left the EPD headquarters without another word to anyone, stepping out into the incandescent aura of Coruscant’s first tier.

A free agent.

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