This document is reposted here from a now defunct Galnet Fora. It will be followed, in time, by continuations.
Consider it an exploration of the self, posted publicly primarily for transparency and possibly entertainment purposes.
What is the measure of a woman? How can you judge a human being when it’s quite demonstrably impossible to actually know them more than superficially? Can you even know yourself enough to make a judgment on the subject? Difficult questions to answer, but in the end we do exactly these things every time we see someone else or even look into a mirror, to one degree or another.
I certainly take someone’s measure and voice my findings on a regular basis, both unbidden and – to my considerable surprise – quite often at their request. Even more regularly, I take stock of myself and shine a light upon the stains upon my own spirit. An unpleasant task, but something of a requirement if there is to be any improvement.
Still, can any such judgment be made accurately? I don’t know, but it’d certainly require a lot of data on the person being measured, and getting enough is certainly often close to impossible. So, in order to make that task a bit easier on the rest of New Eden, perhaps it’s time for me to give it the data set I use, and perhaps see what measurements others find from it. For someone as irrelevant as I am in the larger scheme of things, I certainly seem to hear quite often what people think of me, so I might as well give them the whole picture, no?
Do feel free to ignore this and go about your business, I’m sure this isn’t going to be of interest to any but a very small number of you. Still, it costs me nothing and takes little effort, so I guess I’ll be taking a little time to be introspective, if I can. This will be spanning quite a few posts, but it’ll probably take some time between each as these memories aren’t always… pleasant to dredge up.
The first debt.
Did you know it’s apparently quite difficult to ascertain with certainty how old someone is without records of their birth? The closest my physicians have gotten is “probably about thirty-four years old” when they try to figure it out. So probably about thirty-four years ago, a Sebiestor slave woman gave birth to a bouncing baby girl, to everyone’s delight. Where this occurred is somewhat uncertain, as the trail back to this girl’s time in slavery ends when an un-named capsuleer (his name is not mine to give out) extracted his people from seven different locations in the Empire without the courtesy of keeping detailed records.
As the woman was asked to name the child by the father, her exhausted words were “Zhara mine”. My Zhara. There were no family trees or clans under that Holder, and no need for surnames, so Mizhara it was for the first half of my life partly out of a dialect confusion and partly because Zhara was too common to be useful.
Isn’t it interesting how qualities inherent to a person are judged differently depending on their age? For the first years of someone’s life, they’re encouraged and cheered on when learning to speak, to walk, to run and question the world… before the priority becomes to teach them to sit still and be quiet, and simply accept what they’re told by their elders.
Ah, what a great potential this child had! So curious and bright. Surely destined for great things. Oh, what a wicked child this is. Questioning the teachings and speaking out of turn. Surely destined for drudgery. It probably comes as no surprise to those that know me that I inherently fit rather poorly in an authoritative society underneath the boots of a theocratic tyranny that didn’t tolerate an… inquisitive mind that seemed to find incomplete answers insufficient. Still, a child has little strength of will when faced with such a society, and it almost did manage to make me one of them. I was obedient, a believer – because what else could possibly be the alternative, when nothing else was known? – and a hard worker. Well, at least appearing to be so. There’s no denying that there was always a quiet little voice within asking uncomfortable questions about what she was taught.
Unfortunately, she was… I was… also somewhat attractive. Attractive enough to attract the attention of a hormonal young third son of the Holder. There’s no reason to really provide much in the way of details. A young woman cornered and having little choice but to obey her betters. Unfortunately, while she had the wits about her to be quiet, he did not, and the two were discovered. More unfortunately, it happened while the Holder was under a character assassination attempt by a rival, and his offspring having questionable moral or ethical values simply would not do.
Clearly this was the fault of the temptress barbarian who had corrupted this fine upstanding young man, intentionally and willfully trying to destroy this virtuous family from within. Fortunately for them, the girl’s family were devout and obedient, and knew the Holder knew best in such things. They would be forgiven for spawning such a creature, if they agreed the punishment had to be severe. Scripture after all said that if your hand causes offense against the divine, it must be removed.
And it was, at the shoulder, while the screaming young woman was held down by her father. The mother watched with approval as the sinful limb that had touched what it should not was removed. Of course, this meant that this bloodline was a failure and would not be allowed to continue, so the minor afterthought of ensuring the young woman could never bear children was barely even considered before it was approved.
So it came to pass that a young woman first learned to put on the Horned Mask and start keeping a tally of the debts she was owed. Meek as a necessity, but the sparks that had always been carried wtihin, had now been fanned to a burning flame. The suspicion that this was not how humans were meant to live and be treated had been confirmed. It would still take some time before she would be able to claim repayment on those debts, and the parts will have to wait for another day.
So, a young woman learned a few lessons about life in New Eden, particularly the Empire. How many of those holds true to this day is another question. A few certainly do, like the fact that ‘noble birth’ means nothing and thus neither does ‘of low birth’. She’d learned without a doubt that where there’s power, there will eventually be abuse of it. She’d learned that obedience and adherence to the law of the land does not in any way protect you from unjust punishment and suffering. Most importantly, she’d learned that she most certainly was no slave in anything but name. Not after what had been done to her.
She’d learned she was powerless.
This is something I’ve pondered throughout my life. What is the difference between that girl and so many others in the same position? Some find that they are powerless and take that to heart. Some find that they are powerless and rage against that fact, until it’s no longer true. What inherent quality is there that determines whether they submit or not in the face of the brutality of the Empire? I still don’t really have an answer to that, that isn’t some cliche and trite “unbreakable will” or “rebel at heart” and so on. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of the spirit.
She’d learn more, and more debts would be tallied.
Of course, in that culture there’s no erasing of guilt even when punishment has been handed out. The punishment itself, the removal of an arm, merely marked the girl forever more as guilty of… well, in this case of being fuckable, but on paper as ‘sinful’. Every eye was on her, so she carefully donned the mask that hid the flames burning within and portrayed herself as a meek thing that had learned her lesson. She worked as hard as she could, and dutifully absorbed every lesson she was taught.
Of course, the faith was fraying at this point. She’d come to the conclusion that if cruelty and evil existed and was visited upon those who had done nothing to earn it, this meant that God was either powerless to stop it or chose not to stop it, either of which meant God was certainly not worthy of worship. If anything, it was a being you were supposed to strive to surpass rather than obey. Still, all of this was hidden underneath the mask she’d donned. She didn’t yet know of the Voluval she’d one day earn, but it already served her well.
It was – fortunately – not a perfect mask. Those with the eyes to recognize it saw the yearning for a free life in her, even if she didn’t know those eyes even existed. Even in such isolated communities, you can’t truly keep the rest of New Eden from filtering in occasionally. The existence of a nation of free Minmatar and even resistance against the Empire’s enslavement of men and women was known to the population. The existence of agents of those free Minmatar was fortunately not known to most.
To this day I regret what I did when the chance came to become free of the Empire. The details are of course not for public consumption, but suffice it to say agents had identified that community as one where a stealthy extraction of the willing was the best option, and I had been identified as one of them. I was approached, told where to meet at night in order to be extracted and not to let anyone else know.
Of course I still hadn’t learned one of the most important lessons. In spite of what they had done, they were my parents, so I left them a note explaining why I’d disappeared. That they’d find the note before we’d even reached the extraction point was unforeseen, by this idiot child. That they’d be so concerned with the child’s immortal soul that they immediately got the attention of the Holder’s armed forces who promptly took up chase with the intent of killing these runaways – for the sake of their spiritual enlightenment and well-being of course – was certainly unforeseen.
Again, I’ll spare you the details but in the end about half the escapees ended up on the shuttle blasting off to be picked up by a capsuleer of the Tribes. On the way there, the girl’s left leg had been somewhat crudely removed without the most surgical precision, but at least most of the blood vessels had been cauterized by the energy weapons used. At the time, she wasn’t lucid enough to consider it clearly, but it has since become clear that it while forcibly taken it was a worthwhile price to pay to leave the Empire behind. To this day, however… I really wish those dead left behind had not been forced to pay that price.
That they undoubtedly would have volunteered it does not make it any better, really.
So, the tally had come to quite literally an arm and a leg, which has since become a matter of some amusement. It also included a list of dead, which is less amusing. Of course, there would still be a while before she’d be in a position to start calling in those debts, and many lessons to learn in that time, but we’ll come to that later.
So, what can be taken from this part of my life? Well, there’s the obvious bits about the evils of slavery but that’s not really worth lingering over right now. What strikes me in retrospect is how quickly I delved into dishonesty and subterfuge. What I’d learned from the Empire was to lie and hide what I truly thought and felt, in order to avoid any further cruelty and abuse.
They’d successfully gotten me to suppress myself, and I wonder what would have happened if that had lasted much longer than it did. At which point would the mask become reality? How long would it take before the spirit would be chained and imprisoned within, inside the shell of a woman pretending to be something she wasn’t? An impossible question to answer, but one very relevant even today, given how many we see who have ended up exactly like that.
A few things are certain however. I’d indirectly caused the deaths of men and women both, and that left its mark on a young woman. A less visible one than the missing limbs, but a mark nonetheless.
A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ash in your mouth. Then you will know, the debt has been paid.