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The Pilot – Episode 1

Ardene had always loved machines. From a young age a fascination with how things worked lead to doodled devices and intricate sketches in their notebooks in lieu of the tutelage their parents had paid for. While their background wasn’t as privileged as some, Ardene’s parents were sure to put in extra work to help afford every advantage they could. Good schooling, first-hand lessons and even an apprenticeship beneath the surface of Syntonisma, where Ardene learned how the ship’s complicated climate controls functioned.

But every step up can be thwarted with a tumble. Ardene, now in their early 20s had grown self assured and cocky in their ability both as an engineer and pilot, but also in the realm of love. With their father’s rugged good looks and their mother’s wry intelligence it was rare that somebody could resist the roguish pilot’s advances. Night after night Ardene could pull some unsuspecting person from the assembled throng of their favoured bar and show them the time of their lives. A holding pattern emerged, with Ardene deeper in their cups each time. They felt invincible..

Her name was Margot, and Ardene was under the impression that they had wooed her entirely. Sitting in the back of a smokey room they both spoke intimately of the future and what each of them wanted, all while coquettishly trading compliments back and forth. That very night Ardene brought her to the nearby shipyard to show off their skimmer. A little braggadocios, but Ardene had just paid for her in full, and was particularly proud of the detailing they’d done on the once-beaten wing membranes.

A week-long whirlwind romance drug the two of them from play, to dance, to bar only to spin around and do it all over. It was such that one morning when Ardene awoke to find a letter from Margot, it had been expected. In it she professed her love and waxed poetic about Ardene’s beauty, but the bittersweet ending had her leaving to return to Nexus, the ship in the center of the Flotilla.

With the letter still in the pocket of their lined flight vest Ardene set out the very next day to the shipyard. Offhanded hellos and the assignment of routine tasks fell to the background of their mind as their days with Margot played again and again in their head. Distracted with wistful remembrance of her, Ardene nearly missed something important. Luckily the splintered edge of a bolt was picked up on the heads-up display of Ardene’s goggles which they had invented to assist with repairs.

Outlined in red by the device, Ardene carefully moved their fingers over the bolt’s surface, and then another and another, all damaged nearby. It was too uniform to be damage from wear and tear; it had to be sabotage. The bolts weren’t holding down a panel though, they were sealing the interior. Somebody intended for there to be a breach in Ardene’s hull, leaving them open to possession. Their heart dropped in their chest as they replaced the bolts; who, and why?

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