Sometimes, when she was tired, Phaedra could convince herself that the thrum of the systems which maintained Port Wander's position and gravity were in fact the altogether different mechanical resonance of a warp drive core vibrating the air below her. She could imagine the constant electrical noise in her chambers was the faint presence of a geller field hugging her ship - almost her flesh. And on those nights she could rest peacefully - the pit in her stomach would fade away that. She slept on those rare, sweet nights without the illness and terror of being grounded.
Her days had blurred into a hazy sort of oneness, it was hard to motivate herself out of her chambers. For those toiling away in the industrial sectors around her - it would be hard for them to pity her. Even grounded and denied many of the resources of House Belisarius, her chambers were near enough to a palace for the common working man of the Imperium - especially here on a tightly quartered space station. But for her all the trappings were like ashes in her mouth before her.
This day was ever so slightly different. A tiny breeze amidst the doldrums that she was cast into. As the klaxon-like alarm roared in her chambers to wake her from her fitful slumber, she actually smiled. How many weeks had it been since such an act occurred? The contortion of muscles dawned on her a moment later through the haze of chemicals fleeing her brain and was quickly remedied.
She dressed slowly, carefully covering her extensive tattoos. Today she would pretend that the man watching her door did not know what she was. That she had not realized she was 'made' by the spy from a rival house. She would travel the decks, and the young rake would approach her. She would look at him with sad eyes again and he would enquire what was wrong. The dance was already planned. Phaedra had been setting up the stage for four days. Having anything to think of, anything at all, was a kind change.
There was a definite charm in the reliability of agents. That was why they were agents and not just scum after all, but after being plied with platitudes as they stared out at the stars, the lady was ready to advance the game. Her voice was carefully affected in a wistful sense, "Once I was not a caged bird and flew among the stars, can you believe it?"
"I could believe anything of you beautiful," the man responded easily. Practiced. Phaedra had to fight to keep from rolling her eyes. She hoped her houses enemies didn't truly think her that enfeebled.
"You've never told me how you came to be here Dieter. What brought you to Port Wander? Are you a dashing rogue trader? A pirate?" she asked - a teasing tone carrying through. Her words sobered, "Or - are you a spy on an important mission."
The cocky half-smile the man wore faded a bit as the game was wearing down. "I wouldn't say that important - killing a bird with a broken wing is more of a mercy killing. I'm not sure your house won't thank me as well as my employers."
"We both know you aren't that lucky," she said. Four days of planning and she realized she would miss the man even as her third eye opened to the vast void. While men who chose their own fortune liked to say that there untold possibilities, she knew better. Her eye watched the half-dozen ways the next few moments might play out, the shadows, the reflections. Like a broken mirror, but each slowly faded as she drew her concealed pistol.
The man leapt for cover - only for her single shot to find him in the middle of his trajectory. Predicatble, reliable, but she would still miss him.
What would her father say if he saw her carrying heavy pallets down the tether of a docked ship simply to feel the ionized vents of a proper vessels engines near her skin? It had been three months and her memories of Dieter were fading faster than she would have liked. Even the rigorous labor under the skeptical eye of a few voidsmen was over much too fast. Every month the agitation was growing worse - in the past few days she had even considered marrying her toad of a cousin.
A glance at the boxes and she turned to one of the voidsmen. "Is that it? A ship that large and this is all your cargo?" She offered a small confidential wink. "I know how to keep my mouth shut if there's more work to be done."
"Would that there was, Skink," he answered with a shrug. The fake name raised far less eyebrows than a noblewoman's on the docks. It wasn't hard to hear the tone of desperation in the man's voice. "I'm not sure we'll be making many more voyages at this rate. The crew grumbles and the fates have abandoned us."
"There is only the guidance of the Emperor," she intones - too many sailors were suspicious to the point where they invited heresy. Something Phaedra saw no need to add to her list of crimes in her father's eyes.
"No guidance if our Navigator does not improve," the man counters, bitter and done with the young woman. Had he remained - he would have seen her second smile in the past year. Perhaps the Emperor provided after all. Her eyes scanned the nearest terminal - the registry of the ship - to the Umber Dynasty. Just maybe she could solve two people's problems at once.
Casual wealth was something one must have to understand - just as one must live through poverty to truly know it. Phaedra easily bribed her way into all the information she needed. It was a routine exercise, in truth, old hat. The area the Rogue Trader was meeting in was an open air.
She listened to the words within, waiting for desperation, waiting for someone to say - ah there it was, "We cannot travel without a Navigator."
Her steps were crisp, and the smile on her face genuine. "Captain Umber - allow me to introduce myself," she offered. "Lady Phaedra Belisarius. Yes, that Belisarius." After all - one did not forget their manners.