The Rosa Project
When Max enters the room he sees Rosa sat reading the user manual for several ships that he had managed to sneak in for her. He also sees around her some drawing of parts of ships as she tries to untangle the complicated nature of what she is reading.
As soon as she enters she smiles her winning smile again and presents him with a drawing of what she thinks his dream ship would be. It is a sleek design for speed but has an awesome mural on the side of lots of ships racing each other. Their ship winning at the front.
After asking quite a few questions about why you have to press that switch at that point and what really makes a ship aerodynamic? She moves onto the night out.
Oh Duckie, you simply have to go and come back and tell me everything. The look on Nadiya’s face when she enters the club. Oooh what will she wear? I really can’t imagine her dressing down. Ha! Maybe get suggest that Acid dress her down like she dressed her up?! Can you take pictures? I want to know how Acid dances. I have never seen her dance. Oooh will she dance with Amon? I wonder how many people Ash will get with? Do you think she would get with Hannat again? Do you think Sarge will go? If so, you better prepare yourself for a night of drinking and fighting. Maybe get some ghastly boots he has?! Joking aside maybe you should stick with Nadiya as she will truly hate it there. I would normally try to help but you know if I did go out it would be a date with a demon and all that.
Do you think anyone has noticed I have gone? Should we ask Drake to make up a mission I have been sent on? That way we can have the same lie. Cause you know you aren’t that good a liar.
Max smiles back at her, though it's a normal lopsided Max smile rather than some radiant beam. He genuinely loves the picture and promises to give it some prime real estate on his notice board (which he later sends a picture to prove he has). The few questions go on for 45 minutes at least as he nerds out on you about thrust, the difference between space worthy and non-space worthy ships and how the reason you push that first on this ship is actually a quirk of the design because... Bla Bla Bla. He checks, double checks and triple checks that you'll be fine on your own, promising that'll he'll come back if things get squiffy. He says he'll spam you with pictures all night if you want. "I can keep Nads company if you want, but honestly being stuck with me might run her night further! Look, look, look, I promise, I PROMISE if Acid and Amon get within spitting distance of each other I'll let you know! Acid can actually move when you get her in club, but I can't imagine Amon dancing for the life of me. Maybe the big man will surprise me, eh? There's no way Drake would let Nads out out in her normal stuff, but even if he did, I'm sure Ash will have everyone covered on clothes front. Better see if I can find something mesh! I'm always prepared for every eventuality when Sarge is on the lash. I've started carrying med kits and foreign currency, just in case. Anyway, I'm sure it won't be nearly as eventful as your last night out! Didn't you end up copping off with one of the skandies? 😉😉😉 And I'll have you know I'm excellent liar, because I don't really do it. You just say the closest thing you can to the truth. In this case, you just say you're doing something for Drake but you can't go into the details. Bosh. If starts getting too complicated you'll trip yourself up'.
She listens attentively to you geeking out. She lets you ramble on, going on lots of different tangents because she enjoys hearing how passionate you are about it all.
She will be fine in here. She is going to watch Masher Marle again.
You see a mixture of emotions cross Rosa’s face until she can’t control it and burst into a fit of giggles. It takes her a good few minutes to regain her composure. You haven’t seen her laugh so freely before.
Mesh top? Surely not mesh trousers? Both?
She laughs until tears start to fall from her eyes. When she can finally breath she says...
Oh Max. You can’t possible wear that! Do you wear underwear or do you let it all hang out? Like the sporanges we get off the agri-world in their mesh bags?
Seriously though my dear duckie. You simply can’t. You should wear something that’s not entirely made of holes. As much as I am sure the world would love to see your body it should perhaps be in smaller doses? Women like a bit of mystery. The don’t want to see your low hanging fruit so to speak at first glance. Maybe something that is a dark green or dark blue to go with your hair and eyes? You would look very handsome in that.
When he mentions her getting with the skandies she goes bright red.
It meant nothing. He put his face on my face and that was all. Ash was encouraging me to do it which was nice of her. So I didn’t want to be rude. He gave me his number but I haven’t been in touch. It didn’t mean anything. I don’t think I am the one night stand kind of girl. I had a conversation with Nadyia where she says she wants someone she has something in common with. You know someone posh and cultured. She wants a connection more than just the physical. Someone to share things with, to learn with, to grow together and someone to love. I don’t know being in here, having time to think, I reckon she might be right.
+++TO: Inquisitor Kovach;
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael;
+++SUBJECT: Agent Richter;
I just got a message from Winnie. Apparently Agent Richeter has not been seen for a while, and she sent Winnie a message where she mentioned being off on a message. So far so good. But Winnie said the message came from inside the Obelisk. If I have understood correctly, messages contain extra data that does not normally get displayed to users but is used by the cogitators to route the messages correctly. In this case the source was a portable terminal connected to the Obelisk aethernet.
Apparently it’s not that hard to fake it, and we have plenty of systems set up to make sure our secure communications do not appear to be coming to and from the Obelisk, but there’s nothing in place to make messages sources externally appear to have been sent from inside the Obelisk. Winnie thought it unlikely that Agent Richter would know how to set something like this up herself and would have very little reason to.
Hopefully you’re aware of this and it’s all in hand. I just wanted to flag it to you just in case. Let me know if you need more information. I’ve asked Winnie not to mention it to anyone else.
+++TO: Inquisitor Michael
+++FROM: Inquisitor Kovach
+++SUBJECT: Agent Richter
Whilst I can respect the level of paranoia needed for both Agent Dietersmann and yourself to both notice and report this to me, rest assured that all is in hand.
Agent Richter requested advanced training in malleus psy-resilience training following Drake's lecture. As our only fully-fledged battle psyker, she wished to get out ahead of any potential threat she might face on Samalut and further afield. The training requires a heightened degree of meditative seclusion, although clearly she's spending more time than she should in exchanging frivolous gossip. I will take that up with her.
It was thought simpler to tell everyone she was away on assignment so that they wouldn't be tempted to visit her in her psy-shielded cell here in the Obelisk, although we allowed her to secretly pick one agent to visit her - secretly, that is, because we didn't want people being tempted to visit her ad nauseam and asking questions that have answers they're not prepared for. I'm sure you understand.
The door to Rosa’s cell opens, and Kovach enters carrying a large book. Unusually, he starts talking before she’s even had time to greet him.
“As your patron I am of course aware when you contact your fellow agents. While I haven’t felt the need to read the contents of those messages, I note that you seem to be sending a number of messages to others in the team at the moment.
“Are you aware that, should anyone happen to glance at the metadata stored in the message, they’ll know you’re currently in the Obelisk?”
It seems to be a rhetorical question. As Rosa’s mouth opens to offer an answer, Kovach continues, “Fairly inevitably this is exactly what just happened. I’ve received a message from Inquisitor Michael. It seemed beyond his remit for me to provide the full details of your current… assignment, so I told him you’re working on malleus-sanctioned psy-defence techniques. Which, of course, is true. To a point.
“I suggest, if you don’t wish to be on the receiving end of some very awkward questions upon emergence from your cell, that you confine yourself to communicating with myself, Drake, and Maximus.
“I feel some small regret at being forced to choose between total transparency with my ex-interrogator and protecting your privacy, particularly knowing Michael’s approach to the malefic. It’s not his field, and trying to explain the situation with complete transparency is a risky move given his track record with the malefic.
“Now, since I’ve extended my neck in your defence, you can do me the service of learning something akin to what I told Michael you were doing.”
Kovach places the large book on the floor by the door. “This is a restricted text. Do not show it to Maximus. It’s from Drake’s library on the Trojan, so please return it to him when you leave this place.”
Abruptly, Kovach turns. The door closes, leaving the book sitting on the floor. Its leather cover is embossed with the words Contra Diabolus: Ars Provectus Defensionem, a treatise by Koios, Knight Errant, by order of Malcador the Sigilite.
Rosa stands there dumbfounded for a bit. Taking in the things she has learnt;
1. Didn’t even say hello. She really is in big trouble. 2. She is a fool. Of course there would be a data stamp on her messages. 3. She only sent one message and that was to Acid. So she must have been the one who told Michael about it. Typical. She should have seen that coming. 4. Her suspicions are confirmed about Michael. That he would have treated her very differently and that she would probably not be alive right now. He is what she fears about the Inquisition. 5. Kovach lied to Michael to protect her. Bloody hell. Kovach and Drake really are different from what she expected. That they would go to all this trouble to protect her is really something. She really needs to prove herself. 6. Of course Drake has a secret library. 7. Kovach knows how to make a dramatic exit!
She starts to notice the book in her hand. She reads the title and gasps. She plonks herself down onto her bed and starts to read.
At around 10pm, just before Rosa pushes in the third Masher Marle film of the evening, she receives a pict of Sarge wearing dark trousers and a pink satin shirt adorned with rhinestones. In the background she can see a bit of what appears to be Nadiya in something tight and latex, with pink shot through her hair. She is looking at Sarge with utter exasperation. Off to the left Rosa can just about see a bit of bulging bicep covered in what appears to be… mesh?!? A follow up selfie 6 minutes later prove it to be Amon looking absolutely gorgeous is his mesh shirt. The caption simply states ‘Photogenic wanker’. She can see that these have been sent to both herself, and Ash. That’s the last message that comes through for the rest of the evening.
The hours roll by and even roughly around the time when she would expect them home, there is not a peep.
Radio silence continues until about 8am the next day when she gets a text. "Hey! I've just had the morning Ash dash, but I'm knackered so I'm going back to bed for a bit. Make sure someone brings you some food, yeah? Were you OK last night? Our night got a bit… wavy.
I'll give you the proper goss' later, but the gist is that we got into a street brawl with some metal eyed motherfucker from the gang that USED TO OWN ACID?!?. It was mad. He brought back up, there was an alleyway shootout, Mira took on like 7 guys on her own! She is fucking something! Obviously we fucked them up and managed to keep two out of the ones that scattered. Sarge suggested we hand them over to the Maj and Acid ran with it (ugh, Maj).
I'll drop by later and tell you everything proper once I feel even slightly more human. Night! "
+++TO: Inquisitor Drake
+++FROM: Rosamund Richter
+++SUBJECT: Thank You
I realise this is slightly overdue but it has taken me awhile to get to grips with what has happened over the last few days. I have been overwhelmed by the actions of yourself and Kovach.
I won’t go into detail as I an swiftly learning that I should be more careful with messages even within the Obelisk. I just wanted to say thank you. I am indebted to you sir. I am have been given a second chance and will not waste it. I am already setting out to improve myself.
On that note I wondered if you were at liberty today if you would be available for a conversation about the book you have so kindly lent me. I would value your opinion on which chapter/s to focus my attentions on. I have a few in mind but am being a bit indecisive. If so, could you bring some provisions. My usual food delivery service seems to be a bit worse for wear.
I will understand of course if you have more pressing matters to attend too.
Max finally shows up around lunchtime, dressed (which is unusual for a hangover day) and carrying a tray of food. “Alright Boom?” he grins. He looks tired. “I’m sorry it’s so late in the day, mate, you must have been goin’ doolally! I know I missed breakfast, did anyone bring you anything? Hopefully this will make up for it”. The tray is piled with all the jam pastries he convince Amon to give him (and a couple more that he snuck out). He'd ask how your night went, and and how you've been since he last saw you. He'd show you all the pictures he took on the way to and in the club, including everyone's outfits ("Look at Hannat's suit! It's honestly the sickest thing I've ever seen that wasn't pilotable! I might have to see he'll take me shopping! Boys go clothes shopping, right?")
He tells you awesome the club looks inside, and how Acid has done a great job with music ("It was banging!"). He tells you about how Nadiya compelled some random to watch their stuff for them, how they all danced, how Amon noticed the guy, Hannat scouted him out and then Acid realised who he was.
"Apparently he was proper staring Acid down, so we decided to set a trap! Amon and Acid left, the goons followed and the rest of us went out the back so we could corner them".
The plan went off without a hitch ("The backdoor had a biometric scanner that let me straight through!") and they crept up on the metal eyed mook and his mate just as he was saying that Acid (but presumably Michael) had killed all of his family and friends… The guy starts getting really aggressive then, so they made their presence known. Then it kicked off.
"So the guy turns an automatic on us! His mate did a runner, Nads forced him back, then the main guy got shot and shanked into submission. By the time this finishes shots start firing behind us from where we left Mira! Everyone legs it over there and we left Amon and Acid with the mooks (You were definitely right about them being into each other. I tried to get it out of them subtly in the club and they denied it, but as soon as those shots went off Amon was straight on Acid to get her in cover. It was weapons grade adorable) and after some light return fire they scattered. Turns out Mira shot one of them in the head and used his dead body as a meat shield!
After that it all got a bit more straightforward. They interrogated the lesser mook, turns out they were small fry gangers. We decided it was on Acid to choose what to do with them, and she went with the Maj. I think it was good for her, closure or something? Mira and I cleaned up the leftover guns, we all got Amethyst Rat whilst we waited for the filth to show, I got a date, we went to the Maj House and got them booked in, came home and went to bed. The end.
You gonna eat that last pastry? ".
Rosa looks slightly guilty as you enter. This is because she was up until that point he entered completely captivated with studying the book. She just about heard you coming so was quickly able to hide the book in her pillow case.
She notices that you are dressed and as far as she can tell that you don’t look that hungover. This is not like you.
She fills him in her telling off from Kovach. She says that she should have guessed that Acid would figure out where she was the computer geek she is and that she went running off to tell Michael. She said that Kovach managed to smooth things over and that we should never mention any of this to Michael. She doesn’t mention the book as she has strict orders not too.
Rosa comments on everyone’s outfits including Max and says that Nadiya looks incredible with the pink stripe in her hair. She is amused by the thought of the boys shopping trip.
Rosa is wide-eyed when you tell her about the encounter with the gangers. She says she doesn’t know much about Acid’s past so asks lots of questions about the gang, it’s history and about Michael’s actions. Her eye’s get wider and wider the more you tell her. She didn’t realise how truly awful it was for Acid.
She congratulates you on the success of the plan. How brave you all were!
‘I am not surprised Mira used a human body as a meat shield. She seems a bit mental if you ask me. Not sure if I would want to get on the wrong side of her. You know how Sarge would just go for it? She is like that but I don’t think she cares about the Sarge’s number 1 rule. We all know what that is. [She smiles at you]. Isn’t she the one Drake had a go at in the meeting for picking up the corrupted medallion on the battlefield because it looked good? I know I am not one to talk being locked in here but that seems pretty stupid to me. I guess it’s good to have someone who will literally do anything in a fight though. How big was the body? She must be bloody strong!’
She lets you continue your story.
‘Told you so! Of course they like each other. Anyone with eyes could see that. That’s so heroic of Amon though. He is such a gentle giant. A gentle giant that bakes! Did he make these? [She takes a big bite out of her jam pastry]They are amazing! Seriously though, Acid deserves someone who will look out for her after all the rubbish she as been through. I know she isn’t what you would call a beauty but she is really nice. That counts for a lot. I am glad she got to have some closure with those bastards.’
Rosa pulls a face when you mention rat burgers and then takes a bite of her second jam pastry. She promptly sprays this everywhere when you say date.
‘Date? What? When? With who? I thought you had your undying, will never love another, she is the only one for me, though the emperor is the one for her, huge crush on the Sister of Battle?!’
Max fakes the worst nonchalant shrug Rosa has ever seen.
"Honestly, I stopped going to the cathedral a while ago. The Purple Shroud is still on crusade anyways, but that's not the point. Well it is, but it's not. A while back Nad's made a comment on mission when the whole thing came up, she said that; I had no idea who this Sister was, what she liked, anything about her at all and that I had no intention of telling her either, so what was the point? It felt mean at the time, but it's Nads and she was obviously right. I really did like that Sister, and she was amazing, but I was just kind of liking at her, you know?".
He shifts uncomfortably and picks at the pastry.
"I don't have an amazing track record with women, and I guess if you just kind of put all your feelings on someone far away the feelings never really become anything so they can never come back and bite you when it all goes wrong? Maybe? Does that make sense? Anyways, it's, um... it's with Mira. The date. Well, I think it's a date. It might not be, but I feel like asking for clarification is a surefire way to make it a not date. A few people mentioned that she might be into me in the club, and I didn't really see it, but when we were collecting all the guns up after the Boltheads scarpered she asked for a shag, so, er, in retrospect, they might have been on to something.
I did say no, that I wasn't really into that whole smash and dash scene, and she said she could go for drinks instead. It might not be a date, but kinda sounds like something date-like? I've never been asked out, and she is pretty terrifying, and grabby, and quite possibly mental [he smiles to himself] but she's also kind of interesting as fuck. And she could have just got on someone else when I said no, but she didn't. And that's interesting too. Like, maybe there's a bit more than just the power attitude? I'm not saying I'm in love with her or anything, which compared to last girl I liked is fucking monumental, but I do kinda' just want to see what happens. I mean it's only a drink, right?".
He keeps shredding at the pastry, half smiling to himself.
Rosa just stares at him as he shreds the pastry. Max would have noticed if he hadn’t been in his own fantasy land that she has gone extremely pale and her hands are clenched into fists. The last bit of her pastry crumbling to the floor.
Rosa gets up and turns her back to Max. She closes her eyes and tries to breath in, she is trying to hold it together, she can’t quite hold back the jealous anger that is swelling inside her.
‘Mira? Emperor help me you are half in love with her already. Of course it’s a date. Of course she is going along the drinks route. She seems like the kind of girl who will go along with it to get what she wants. Even Ash has been on dates with Michael to try and get him in the sack! You know her she is all about the smash and dash. What Mira wants is probably a good fight (which she has just had) and a good fuck. She has set her sight on you and probably likes the challenge. Once she has won you over she will use you for her own pleasure, until you all out and then discard you like an empty tube of toothpaste. All used up. Then move onto the next hit. Like the junkie she is. Leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces’
If Max has come out of dream land he will realise how angry Rosa is. She can’t quite keep still.
‘Interesting? You find terrifying, grabby and quite possibly mental interesting? Miss ‘I’m going to use a dead man’s body as a human shield’ is the perfect date? Argh, it’s your funeral.’
She grabs the practice staffs and hands one to you. She pushes the remaining pastry’s to the side.
‘You have had your run. Time for a bit of staff practice. I feel like hitting something.’
I am sure Max would protest at this but short of him running out of the room she would not accept no for an answer.
She allows you enough time to get up and into position before she starts to attack. You realise how much Rosa had been holding back.
Rosa virtually doesn’t see Max anymore.
‘Of course, you would like her, of course you wouldn’t know if someone likes you, you are such an idiot, I mean what do they have to do tell you they love you and sweep you off your bloody feet’
She goes to hit but moves low, swinging her staff as she goes and promptly does just that sweep you off your feet. She rests her staff against your chest.
‘You better go and get cleaned up. Wouldn’t want to miss that date of yours. I need to get washed and changed anyway. Inquisitor Drake is due to be here any moment to talk a few things over. Best your not here for that.’
Max collapses to the floor as the pain sets in. A beat passes, and the door chimes. From the vox grille comes Drake's voice: "Rosa? Is this a convenient moment?"
Max cries out in pain.
Rosa suddenly realise the extent of what she has done. She drops the staff, the anger dissipating the moment she heard him cry and rushes to Max’s side. She can see that she has really damaged his ankle.
Drake’s message echoes around the room.
Rosa goes to the door and pushes the vox button.
‘Drake, yes, well, slight incident, you better come in.’
Rosa leaves the door and rushes back to Max’s side. As Drake enters she says over Max’s cries...
‘I think I have broken his ankle. Can you help me move him to my bed so I can probably look at it? I know a bit of first aid’
Standing in the threshold, Drake raises an eyebrow, leans to one side, keys something into the door terminal, then speaks into the vox grille, "medical staff and stretcher to cell block 1, room 3."
Drake steps into the room. Before he has time to close the door, Rosa hears a familiar voice from somewhere at the back of her mind.
You seem upset, Rosa. Is that why you've been hid--?
The door closes behind Drake, and the voice is cut off.
"I'm impressed you even managed to swing a staff in this little room," Drake says. He scrutinises Rosa for a moment as Max groans on the floor. "You're well trained enough to know how to pull your blows when sparring without pads. What's going on?"
Rosa looks truly ashamed of herself.
‘I, I’ she looks down at the Max and then back to Drake. He can see that she is holding back the tears by sheer will power alone. ‘I have no excuse. I am well trained enough. I shouldn’t have let this happen. I let my emotions get the best of me. I won’t lie to you, Sir. I let jealousy get the better of me. What Max and Mira choose to do is up to them. I just can’t help the way I feel. I have been trying to be a better, stronger person. I want to do right by you and Kovach. I, I just can’t, can’t, seem to do anything right.’
Her lip begins to wobble and a few tears escape which she quickly wipes away.
‘I am sorry Max. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I really didn’t. I just wanted to sweep you off your feet not break them. I will make it up to you. Whatever you want’
Drake blinks. "Míra? And Max? First I've heard of it. So to be clear, you broke Max's leg because you're feeling jealous and decided that the best coping strategy was to engage in weapon-based sparring with no pads whilst upset? With the person you were sparring with?"
Drake paces about the room for a moment while Rosa's lip continues to wobble. He opens his mouth to speak when there's a chime at the door. "Enter," Drake says. The door opens, and two medicae orderlies rush in and lay a stretcher down next to Max, leaving the door open behind them.
'There you are, a familiar voice says. You seem lonely. These people don't understand how things are for you, do they? A pity. You deserve better, with everything you've been through. They think they're helping, but the more time you spend with them, the worse your lot seems to get.
Drake looks down at her for a moment, clearly weighing something up in his mind. "Rosa, you have incredible potential, but I worry that we're expecting too much of you too soon. You're ever so young. Perhaps this is my fault. Nikolai and I... perhaps we're asking for more than you can give at the moment."
Max is on the stretcher now, and the orderlies stand up. Drake moves aside for them. Through the pain, Max looks like he's about to say something, but they're already carrying him out.
Would you like to leave? I can help.
As the door starts to close behind the stretcher bearers, Rosa feels a presence rush closer.