Snippet #2628150

located in Laurea, New York, a part of Laurel, one of the many universes on RPG.

Laurea, New York

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Daniel Ahn Character Portrait: Rebecca Sayre Character Portrait: Lane Blackwell Character Portrait: Nina Nikolayevna Romanov Character Portrait: Keevan Brennan
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      XXXIt seems everybody has something to say to her. A complaint they must propose to the sovereign, tepidly disguised as a speech based on entirely neutral subjects. She must wonder if Mrs Jefferson is not as she seems. Is she an illusionist, or a Seer? The topics seem unnervingly close to home. Alas, everyone has similar concerns, and the topics are smoke and mirrors. The "science" of astrology and fortune telling. Humans are gullible things, and even more predictable.
      XXXShe plasters a bored expression on her face, unwavering even as Keevan tosses her a wink. It is somewhat bizarre, as the writer and her have had little to do with each other. He is a trout to a lion. They do not inhabit the same environment. She raises an eyebrow at Becky as the speech rolls along.
      XXXShe does not miss the stares - filled with meaning and if she dare say, longing - Keevan directs at her, or the hand he brushes along the edge of her wooden desk. What she'd glimpsed on Breadbowl this morning - the first she's read of the peasant paper in a long while - combined with what she sees now leaves little room for the imagination. She curses her inability to recall much of last night.
      XXXNina glances at her phone, seeing a message from Becky this morning. They are frivolous words, as always. An artificial concern for an artificial friendship. Becky wouldn't spit on Nina if she was on fire. She is certain the beauty will be the first to snatch the crown, whether she need to wrench it from her head or lift it from her corpse.

      To: Rebecca Sayre
      Only if you aren't busy with Googly Eyes over there. We'll talk later.
      Btw, good speech. If I ever wake up up dead with a dagger lodged in my spine, I'll know who did it.


      To: Rebecca Sayre
      Jk.


      XXXDaniel is the next to speak. He carries himself with a graceful finesse and confidence that eclipses all others before him. She's heard him speak to large audiences before and it would not be an exaggeration to say that everybody, including the unflappable, apathetic Romanov, was impressed. She sits quietly through his speech.
      XXX"It is the fact of living: some are more precious than others," Daniel finishes. The room echoes with applause as he moves away from the podium. After a moment, Nina joins them. She doesn't spare Daniel a glance as he returns to his seat. The gap between them might as well be the abyssal crevice between two glaciers.
      XXX"Those in our school worth billions," he'd intoned. As if that is all that an Influential, Talented or or Gifted is worth. The sum of what is in their bank and the wealth of the families to which they belong, or in the case of those arguably more worthy like Keevan, the execution of one's practical ability. It is a silly thing to ponder and a sillier thing to be wounded by, but Nina cannot help but think that that must be all she is to him. If ever she were to become "penniless," or be deposed, Daniel would likely leave her.
      XXXIt seems there is truth in the words she divulged to Sterling. She is, forevermore, alone.
      XXXIt is fitting, she supposes, considering that she is a Romanov. Her ancestors were executed by their serfs. It is a marvel that the inhabitants of Laurel have bowed to her for so long. The power she wields is mighty but tenuous. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, seems a fitting analogy in this respect. The loss of control is a vice that grips her, pains her. She must never lose, never waver. She must sleep with one eye open.
      XXXIf sleep ever comes at all.
      XXX"Nina, you are next," Mrs Jefferson supplies.
      XXXNina takes the sheet from her grip, standing before the podium before unfolding the paper. The title of her topic is short. Just two words. Arguments pour from every corner of her mind. She snatches the best, organises them into neat structures - thesis, evaluation, counter-arguments, signposts - before setting the paper down.
      XXX"Psy Ops, psychological warfare, the decimation of 'hearts and minds.' Mere epithets for what is essentially the objectification of human beings, the deconstruction of them, if you will, into a sum of tangible structures and politically malleable ideals."
      XXXShock radiates throughout the room. It is a common misconception that the Romanov Princess and Laureli Queen is a pretty face but an empty head. Even Sterling seems rather stunned, although he's always known Nina, or rather the his Nina, to be rather vigorous in her pursuit of intellectual conquest. She was the only person he knew who enjoyed the academic aspect of schools, who read sesquipedalian textbooks for fun.
      XXXHe simply imagined that her intelligence had simply disappeared along with her empathy and sense of basic morality. It unnerves him, somewhat, to know that someone really could be evil and a mastermind. Or perhaps she simply has a vast vocabulary. Or bribed Mrs Jefferson to give her the topic early and threatened a poor Talented to write her speech for her. That's what he tells himself, anyway.
      XXX"We wish to believe that we are free." Her fingers flutter against the edge of the podium, almost unconsciously. As if her hands are wandering into another space in her mind, wherever the words might come from. "But we are slaves, be it to propaganda or the discursive powers that perpetuate social norms. Psychological operations are often viewed only through the lens of war, but governments are not the only organisations that can instil a belief system that we endeavour and fail to resist. It is not the bomb that kills a civilisation and its ideas, but the horrors experienced by the survivors left in its wake. Crush a house, and it can be rebuilt. Crush a home" - her hand clenches into a fist - "and you destroy the very life an individual holds dear. It is the loss of a nation's morale that raises its white flag. It is when there is no hope left, that you know that you have won."
      XXXFor a moment she says nothing until her voice returns, quietly. Almost gently, as if uncovering a horrible truth to a child yet to realise the monsters are not under his bed, but standing in the light, disguised as something good.
      XXX"Do you know what is the most terrifying thing about torture?" A tremor runs through her hands. "It is not the pain of the moment, because even that will pass. It is certainly not the possibility of death because non-existence is the only freedom we can be granted, and even that..." A mirthless laugh escapes her. "Only if you do it right.
      XXX"The most terrifying thing about torture is its capacity to strip an individual of her humanity. To render her a thing. An object to be used, so that her body is no longer her own, not even to kill. To free. The tortured subject is not the sovereign of..." She clears her throat. Blinks. "Of his or her own body. The she becomes an it. An object to be vandalised, humiliated and discarded.
      XXX"It is not enough to kill the body of the enemy, because soldiers can be bred, they can be replaced. Ideas will prevail even when their instigators do not. This is why a tactic of war is..."
      XXXThere is a long pause until Mrs Jefferson prods. "Go on, Nina. You're doing well."
      XXX"A tactic of war..."
      XXX"You're looking pale, Nina. Take a deep breath. It's alright. Everybody gets a little shaken by public speaking but this is a supportive environ-"
      XXX"Is rape," Nina blurts, cutting Mrs Jefferson off. She stares at nothing and no one, though her eyes - darker than usual, pupils fully dilated - say she's looking at the back of the room. Her hand flutter against the edge of the podium, but her knuckles are white, clenching the timbre so fiercely the tips of her fingers are turning blue. "Rape, which mutilates both the body and the mind. It renders not only the individual vulnerable and subject to persecution, but tarnishes the family and society to which the body belongs. Soldiers will risk death, for to perish in battle is to die a hero, but they will not risk the perverse desecration of a sister, a daughter or a wife. Or a brother, or a son. There is no glory for the victim of sexual violence. They are dirty. Broken. A shell stripped of its pearl." She exhales. "Empty."
      XXXThe screech of the bell jerks Nina away from the podium and her reverie. She flexes her fingers, eyes flitting quickly around a speechless room. Nina tears her gaze away, ignoring Mrs Jefferson's voice as she races towards her bag. She slings it over her shoulder and darts out of the room.