The pain was always a little different. That was one of the things Trig liked about it.
She’d read that Human beings couldn’t actually ‘remember’ pain—they could know they’d experienced pain, but they couldn’t feel it again by focusing on the memory. Not like Humans could kind of remember a smell or something they’d seen. They knew it happened—the couldn’t replay it.
But that wasn’t true of Trig—maybe somewhere in her genetic history, a non-Human was involved. She remembered pain with perfect recall. All of it.
Trig had a small collection of metal loops she bought after the first mission she did with the Blood Letters. It was an escort mission—get the client from planet A to planet B without injury or death. It bored Trig to her core—until the very end of the mission, when an assassin had appeared on the landing platform of the destination city. Closest to the attacker, Trig drew one of her pistols faster than she’d thought herself capable and put a hole in the would-be-killer’s head.
It was the first time in her life someone had told her she’d done a good job. The client actually hugged her, thanking her for saving his life.
As a reward to herself, Trig used a portion of her cut to buy the silver loops, an antiseptic laser, and a piercing needle. She gave herself a new ear piercing every time she went on a mission with the Blood Letters. She’d nearly filled the cartilage of her left ear—she found the right more difficult to do to herself.
The pain was always a little different.
She always enjoyed the piercing process—it hurt, but she was in control at all times. If she didn’t want to do it, she didn’t have to. No one could make her.
The only thing Trig didn’t like about the piercing process was staring into her bunk room mirror while she did it. Trig didn’t like looking into mirrors in general—because then she had to look at the capital ’T’ burned into her face.
The top of the letter started on the right side of her nose and stretched across her cheekbone, stopping just short of the temple. The downstroke went all the way to her jawline.
A sickening reminder of the torment sentients could inflict on each other. A reminder of her past.
Trig was born on Ronden—a backwater planet if ever there were one. Her parents were both dead before she was twelve—she didn’t really remember them. She fell in with a group of other orphans living by stealing on the street—the authorities of Ronden didn’t care enough to do anything about them as long as they didn’t cause too much trouble.
Trig was bolder than most of the kids. When she spotted a Galactic Coalition police officer with his wallet hanging out of his uniform’s back pocket, she had to take a crack at it.
But she messed up: tripped just as she was passing to make the grab. The GC cop snatched her arm so hard she was lifted off the ground. She could the micro-fractures of her arm as they spread like cracks in ice.
“Look at this—a little street wench thinks she can steal from the law?”
The cop and his partner had taken her back to the local local GC garrison. Ronden had only recently joined the Galactic Coalition, so they didn’t yet have a permanent station. The garrison was a glorified tent.
The walls were thin. But that hadn’t stopped them from doing what they did. They stuffed a rag so far into Trig’s throat she hadn’t been able to talk for a week.
She thought she was going to die.
Afterwards, she’d wished she had.
The memories never left.
But her present was a lot better. For the two years after being branded and ‘punished’ by those cops, Trig put all of her energy into terrorizing the GC of Ronden.
She used to steal food to keep herself from going hungry. Now she stole chemicals to turn into explosives.
She used to carry a small knife for protection. Now she stole guns and killed Galactic Coalition officers stupid enough to go around town on their own.
Those two police officers, acting outside of both the statutes of the Galactic Coalition and the tenants of basic sentient decency, had effectively turned a simple street kid into a domestic terrorist.
The memories of what they’d done to her behind those thin tent walls, the pain she still felt when she tried to sleep at night and her mind stumbled across those moments—it was the fuel for a fire that wasn’t going to go out until Trig had literally run the GC off of Ronden or they killed her.
Of course, the latter was the more likely. Trig was smart—she recruited from the older street kids—some of them joined. They would plant bombs at GC garrisons and hold up munitions deliveries—but almost every attack suffer some kind of casualties.
After the first year, every urchin who’d joined up with Trig died or abandoned her. That didn’t stop her—but it did slow her down. Without comrades in arms, she had to be more cautious.
She’d thought she was being cautious when she’d snuck aboard a medium-sized ship docked in the Ronden shipyard. They’d secured their loading ramp, but Trig traded a box of GC munitions to a local security expert in exchange for lessons in cracking these kinds of locks.
She was a quick study.
Trig was in the ship in under three minutes and went quickly to looking for ammo and food.
All of the stories Trig had ever heard about war bots had involved them storming across battlefields, firing round after round, taking damage and continuing until they’d killed or destroyed their target.
She’d never heard about how war bots could be practically silent if the situation required.
T-12’s arms wrapped around Trig, rendering her completely immobile before she was even aware of his presence.
When the Blood Letters returned, they found her held three feet off of the ground, still kicking and cursing as T-12 calmly told her that fighting would only result in her hurting herself.
None of the crew were particularly inclined to turn her into the local GC—they’d only been on Ronden to pick up some supplies and they’d seen how the local police wielded their authority like a club.
It was Jek who pointed out how impressive the young Human’s skills must have been—to be able to crack their loading ramp’s lock so quickly. T-12 confirmed that he hadn’t known Trig was coming even though his systems were linked to the Downed Horizon’s security system.
And Reese liked Trig’s spunk.
The Blood Letters offered her a position with the strict understanding that if she ever tried to pull a stunt on them—or stole anything she wasn’t ordered to for the sake of a mission—she would immediately be turned into whatever local GC forces were around.
She knew a good deal when she saw one. And the GC were on her tail anyway—it was only a matter of time before they caught her on Ronden.
These memories were always a mixed experience for Trig—they started with the pain of what was done to her by those two GC cops—but it ended with her joining the Blood Letters and finding a home.
It seemed to Trig that her life was always focused on trying to go from a state of oppressive darkness to freedom.
She’d battled starvation and the elements in her youth. After she was branded, she fought against the Galactic Coalition and their tyranny. And now? The first year she spent with the Blood Letters, she’d struggled with her self-imposed isolation in favor of joining this odd family of misfits.
She mostly overcame that conflict on her own. She considered the Blood Letters a kind of family—the closest she’d ever had, certainly.
So what’s the next battle?
She pushed that question away—it felt too much like begging misfortune to come.
Trig didn’t wince when the needle pierced the cartilage. She took pain with the best of them now.
There was a knock at the door.
Trig saw the metal door open in her mirror’s reflection, but didn’t see anyone’s head enter the room.
“Yeah, little one, it’s me—just wanted to let you know that Reese has called an all-hands briefing.”
“Cress, I’ve told you—you don’t get to call me little when I’m two feet taller than you.”
The amphibian-faced Chig smiled widely, his toothless grin forcing the usually sullen Trig to smile back.
“But I’m still older than you, tadpole.”
“You’re only ten years old!”
“In Human years, sure—but that makes me over thirty in Chig years.”
“Ugh—I can’t keep up with all of the species aging rates.”
“They aren’t rates to us, Trig—they’re just how old we are. You Humans are the ones continually comparing everything to how you do thing. Either way—Reese and Rab sent me to get you.”
“Just let me zap this with my antiseptic laser and I’ll be there.”
“Sounds good…little one.”
Trig wasn’t fast enough to hit the Chig with the balled up shirt next to her desk that she threw—Cress boomed in his toadish bellow as he scampered down the hallway, heading for the meeting.
She shook her head, unable to refrain from grinning, as she picked up the laser and carefully cleaned the fresh piercing with the purple light specifically designed to burn out the kinds of microscopic lifeforms that could cause infection in a Human wound.