Chapter One: Paila

“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, men were deceivers ever.”

I paused for effect as I looked around the room. My pose held steady so that I could slip back into the reading without breaking character, not that it seemed to matter much to those gathered. “One foot in sea, and one on shore, to one thing constant never.”

Silence met me as I turned to my “audience” once more.

I could see the confusion etched into the fine lines of their faces, my words nothing but a slight annoyance to them as they tried to enjoy their evening. It didn’t really bother me that they thought me strange, or that the words I spoke meant little to them, it was simply a way for me to flex my acting muscles once more.

For some their passion lay in captaining a ship… or say, leading a rebellion… but for others among our group, it was about navigating life’s struggles beyond the battles.

Unperturbed by the echoing of awkwardly cleared throats, I pressed onwards. “Then sigh not so, but let them go, and be you blithe and bonny, converting all your sounds of woe into hey nonny, nonny.”

My delivery was as clear as ever, my voice carrying all about the mess hall so that everyone, no matter how much they tried to cover their ears, could hear me. In truth, I could have recited any old rubbish at them and they’d have reacted in the same way — this night was about coming together, through whatever means, to make Friday night a little less dull.

I was cheating with my Much Ado About Nothing piece in truth, seeing as it wasn’t my own to improvise with in the first place. But my thinking was that William Shakespeare wouldn’t be giving my stealing of his work much thought, what with being dead and all. He hailed from the same town that I had lived in for much of my life, and from an early age I had fancied myself living in the wrong era.

A small giggle broke through my lips and escaped, its tittering sound hanging in the air between myself and the others, all their faces a tapestry of bewilderment. They couldn’t tell if I was laughing because what I’d said was funny or if I’d decided to go mad halfway through my reading; their uncertainty made me giggle all the more.

With my mind struggling to place the next few lines — something about ditties and the fraud of men, or words to that effect — I skipped ahead to one of the other characters. To better suit the next set of lines, I altered my speech so as to sound more noble, just as a fictional prince should when addressing those in his company.

“By my troth, a good song.” No sooner had I spoken my lines than I was flitting back to my original character, his voice much deeper and gruff. “And an ill singer, my lord.” I went back and forth like this for several verses, a lot of those who’d gathered to watch laughing as I switched from one to the other. They were slowly coming to expect outlandish when it came to me.

The mood was light, it was cheerful, it was exactly what we needed with such an arduous task ahead of us.

Waving my hand in the air while giving a curtsey, my pressed locks stiff in their movement as I lapped up the cheers and clapping, I felt the picture perfect. Just like the stars of old.

None of them knew what they were clapping for, however it was good of them to feign being as pleased with my performance as I truly was. Giving one final wave, I sashayed away to rejoin the audience, the next “performer” already taking to the head of the room to begin their act.

I longed to already be back up there in front of them all, the star of the show, everybody’s attention focused on me. But I knew it was greedy ambition that made me crave it, the same way my cravings had me pining for the life of celebrity.

It wasn’t even the title of celebrity that had me so enamored with that lifestyle, it was the good I could do with it. Far too many today used their fame for nothing more than a way to pitch themselves to the public — they primped and preened, but they never tried to help the little people to see what was truly going on behind the closed doors of government. It was easier to pretend all was well.

This was what needed to change. And I had wanted to be the one to do it.

Everyone aboard had already done so much to get us into such a prime position, the Dominion desperate to stay our tongues for fear of what we might say next, and still it wasn’t enough.

There was more we could do, that we needed to do, that I wanted to do.

I was a chameleon, able to be part of a scene, undetectable because of how effortlessly I blended in. Then, within an instant, I could strike, revealing myself to be more than I what I’d appeared. It was a gift, one I’d begun fine tuning the moment I’d decided my passion project for life would be acting. As cliche as it sounded, the world truly was my stage no matter where I found myself, even in times like this when hurling about through space, our destinations always decided upon by more than the whims of fancy. A metal bird though the Rogue Star might be, it was one I’d use as a platform to get myself to where I wanted to be, my ambition unable to be sated by anything less than my desired end goal.

A deep sigh ran through me.

Maybe I overthought everything. Maybe my accent was different from the Common Dialect tones and words used by the rest of the crew. I was Shakespearean. I was British. And one day I would get my chance to be an actress.

My role currently was a small one, hardly anything worthy of note if you were skimming through the credits; my life had been changed, and the ones who had saved me had made waves all throughout the universe, for good or ill, but it wasn’t me who people remembered. When I’d spoken in front of the cameras with Jial, my testimony being sent out to cast a blinding light of truth upon the heinous acts of what our so-called benevolent leaders were doing, it had felt incredible.

There’d been no glitz and glamour, nobody running around making me up like a starlet of Old Hollywood, there had just been my words between Jial, myself, and the camera. Connected to hundreds of thousands of viewers.

In that moment I’d touched the lives of everyone watching, had been able to give my two cents about what the Dominion should be doing compared to what they were actually doing.

Within that small window of time, I’d been in control of my life instead of an unbending authority unwilling to hear the pleas of their people — I’d been so very free.

I’d give anything to be back in that position again.

Realizing that another performance had finished, my hands absentmindedly clapped in praise, although I had no clue for what or who I was clapping. It had sounded wordy, much like my own, it had been delivered gracefully, though not as polished as mine, and they’d plucked up the courage to do it in the first place. They deserved to be applauded.

Before long we’d be thrown into chaos again, and while done in a bid to liberate us from the bondage of the Dominion, to give us a regime dedicated to truth and not sinister secrecy, it would be a hard, grueling task. Not all us would make it. I was willing to take that risk, as were all others aboard the Rogue Star, even if they weren’t aware of their dedication; where some directly shape the tides, others indirectly propel us forwards. Such is the nature of life, and, unfortunately, of war.

The commotion of the mess hall began to fill my head too much, the pressure it was exerting only adding to the growing boredom I felt. Similar to a niggling headache, the way certain sounds rose and fell in my ears only worsened how I felt the longer I sat there.

It was fun when I’d been captivated by the shows alongside everyone else, but now that my interest was waning, I felt the room was too lifeless. My soul longed for more tangible pleasures. I wanted to be adorned with colors so vivid that my eyes couldn’t be torn away from the image…

I smiled.

I knew what I had to do.

Bowing out of the mess hall quietly, so as not to disturb the slapstick comedy underway — awfully executed, might I add — I headed to my own personal hideaway, one of the few this ship offered. It wasn’t that the vessel was small, there were a lot of us craving out an existence on it after all, but it was more that so many of the rooms failed to give you enough privacy. Despite my love of being in the public eye, so overjoyed to be the center of attention, I also savored the moments when I could tuck away and be alone with myself.

Slipping through the crack in the door, so that from the outside it looked undisturbed, I went about unpacking the stacked boxes of pots, their glass chinking as I handled them. It was a soft sound, one that already started to soothe me back to my normal self, the boredom ebbing away as I busied myself with all sorts of whimsical ideas.

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