The Amity-4 space station was built with far more optimism than it encouraged in later days. It had been designed as one of six neutral zones, a collaborative project that would encourage tourism, travel and shared experiences in this section of the galaxy. These days, only half of the stations were in use, with the rest abandoned to squatters or (in one case) knocked out of orbit and picked apart for scrap. Even the three remaining stations no longer resembled the clean, functional buildings they once were, their shared ownership meaning that no one government felt compelled to take care of them.
But people still called them home: markets, hotels, houses and businesses jostled for space on every floor, some of them built hastily and tacked onto the other structures to keep up with demand. Amity-3 drifted in the middle of a nebula, warmed by its internal power station and surrounded by crimson, magenta, violet and newborn stars. Amity-6 was in a strange orbit around two identical planets, forever spinning around some central point, the gravitational pull of each causing tides of magma on the other, the surfaces a constant dance of fire and islands of solid rock.
Based on location alone, Amity-4 was less impressive: it was in orbit around Sentinel's Mourn, a dreary planet of vast oceans and tall, cliff-sided islands, cities of metal and glass, and a constant rain that turned the windows and domes into waterfalls and bathed everything in shimmering light. It was a place which attracted romantics, the kind who sat misty-eyed in the cafés or covered terraces and gazed out at the rain as the shadows of its droplets fell across their faces.
The view from the station was nothing more than a swirl of grey, but Amity-4 itself was more alive than either of its remaining sisters. The jump gates had better connections, and so it saw a constant flow of visitors who were willing to dock their ships or depart from the public transport shuttle, buying overpriced tat and staying in hotel rooms which had no right to cost as much as they did. The main deck was always a stink of travellers and foods from every culture, mixed with a cacophony of shouts: advertising, haggling, accusing, gambling, arguing and welcoming.
It was a good place to start again.
"Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life." -H.G. Wells, "The Time Machine"
Location: Amity-4 space station
When the Amity-4 space station had first been built it had been a perfect copy of its sisters, right down to the scuffed, aged look that had only grown more pronounced over the years. As with most neutral-territory stations, no single government felt obliged to keep it presentable, and it inevitably turned into a jumble of prefabricated pieces held together with what may as well be sticky tape and string.
In short, in far more of a shambles than Mansard's ship. But the Eskeit wardens at the docking bay seemed to see things differently.
"This vessel has no record," one of them said, database in hand.
"When was it last verified to fly?" asked the other, making notes on a tablet.
"Look, it's fine," he told them. "I just flew here all the way from Gauss."
"So, entirely unverified? A clear risk."
"It could damage the bay mechanisms," agreed her partner. "We'll need to seize it—"
"—unless you pay the fine and arrange for the verification, now."
"Five thousand credits."
"And the cost of the inspection."
"Why don't you..." Mansard began, then managed to stop himself. People were already stopping to look, at the lone human about to throw a tantrum against a pair of Eskeits with expressions that could only be described as smug.
So his ship had missed a few inspections. All of them, in fact, since he'd bought it from a dealer with a funny handshake on Gant-Tau half a year back. But it flew, and by this point the warning lights in the cockpit were no longer accompanied by little insistent alarms, which meant he finally felt comfortable. He'd not yet stopped thinking of the ship as "it", or bothered to give it a name, but faced with the prospect of it being dismantled for scrap he suddenly felt fiercely protective.
But he couldn't lose his temper. That was why the wardens were so pleased to see him with an unverified ship: it wasn't that these Eskeits cared about protocol or money. If anything, they were probably frustrated to be stuck with such a menial job. No, they just wanted him to rant and rage for their entertainment. And legally he didn't have a leg to stand on, not in this sector of space. He'd known that before he came here, before he opted out of the mandatory and expensive vehicle checks. He'd just hoped that he might get away with it for as long as every other pilot did.
"Do I at least get back the docking fee?" he asked.
"Of course not."
"You've already docked."
"Great! Good to know! Thanks! Fine!" He threw his hands up. "You are... this is... This is terrible customer service!"
"How would you like to pay the fine?"
"Or should we take the ship now?"
He looked around: at the vast space of the docking bay, with its neatly arranged individual lots and airlocks; at the haphazard walkways leading deeper into the station, many of them held up by ugly metal supports jammed beneath; at the mixture of alien faces staring down with mild curiosity, many of them already bored and turning away; at the jumble of shops and food stalls and hotels that he was about to have to get comfortable with, very soon.
"Just let me get my things," Mansard told them.
There hadn't been much room aboard, which luckily meant that all his worldly possessions fit in one bag, easily slung over his shoulder. He supposed that, technically, he could start the engine and fly away again, but they'd probably shut the airlock before he could escape, and anyway, he was running low enough on fuel for the idea to make him nervous. Instead, he looked under an instrument board, pulled out the neuroelectric disruptor he'd stashed there, and wrapped it in an old shirt in his bag. Then he reached back in and pulled out the wire he thought connected the fuel cell to the engine. Whatever the sabotage had done, it at least sparked pleasingly, and another flashing light joined the tumult above the control panel.
Then he turned and walked away before they could scan him for anything, as briskly as he could manage without running.
It'd been nearly eight standard years since he'd left Earth, which was the polite way to describe it, and not long after being taken he'd found himself loose in the universe. For someone whose life had been mostly lived within a triangle of the same three towns and a circle of maybe twenty faces, the whole thing was almost too much, and he'd more stumbled into his grand escape than planned it. The first thing he'd wanted was a smoke and a drink, but it turned out that in most of the galaxy, setting fire to a plant and inhaling the cancerous fumes was not a regular pastime. Thankfully, alcohol seemed to be a universal constant, regardless of the details.
After the first year, Mansard had realised how lucky he was to get out fast. He'd also finally accepted that to live out here was to be in a state of permanent culture shock. Places like Amity-4, however, were similarly chaotic enough that they almost felt familiar. And some of the sights he'd seen had been incredible, as had finding out that the world was so much bigger and stranger than he ever would have guessed. Once he'd lost everything, being lost in everything else had been a kind of freedom he hadn't known he needed.
And yet... he still wanted to go home. He needed a real anchor to somewhere comfortable, more than he could get from a generic hovel, a broken ship or a scattered group of barely-trusted tinkerers. He'd tried once, right at the start: he'd worked out the route on the jump map and made it as far as one gate away from what they called the New Earth Project. Of course they'd stopped him, and he'd yelled and made a fool out of himself while they looked at him with fake sympathy and genuine scorn. He'd been politely but firmly turned back around, and that had been it.
"Are you paying for that?" asked the Mysan behind the bar, suspicious: this human had dragged himself into the Happy Starfarer and just about inhaled the first drink he'd ordered before the glass could touch the counter. Mansard swirled the second one; it smelled somewhat heavily of engine oil, though that could be because the docking bay was directly above, and something was probably leaking through.
In response, he slapped his hand down on the payment screen in front of him, which beeped cheerfully as it deducted the credits from the wallet chip in his palm. "I've made a saving of five thousand today," he told the bartender, whose calloused face looked, if anything, less reassured. "I'll have another one of these horrible grey things. Not you." He laughed, and the Mysan stared expressionlessly at him, as though wondering if it was worth throwing him out. But Mansard at least had money, and the place was nearly empty. Not surprising really: it was one of those establishments that tried to make itself look as unappealing as possible to discourage casual tourists as well as law enforcement.
Ace’s inspection papers worked wonders on the Eskeit guards. Though by the state of the space station, she couldn’t imagine there was enough going on here to warrant an especially alert security force. Actually, she’d gotten lucky with the papers, as the previous owner (some Hume chump) had kept them easily accessible. Apparently, he was used to getting questioned about his vessel’s space-worthiness. Unfortunately (for him), he was also terminally addicted to gambling. Ace had won it off him in a darts game, and Ace wasn’t even that good at darts.
The Eskeit had forced her to leave her blaster on board the ship after she docked, which stung. Ace felt a bit naked and twitchy without it. Really, though, she was only here to refuel and stock up, so it was unlikely she would get into any altercation. (You would think.)
Maybe she should have been worried about leaving her ship behind. She’d just met with her supplier on a shady dwarf planet just on the edge of Earth’s planetary system. (Recently Ace had found out that humans called it the “solar system” after their star, Sol, which she personally thought was pretty damn cute.) The transaction had required what felt like eons of negotiation, and though Ace had tried to talk her client into something smaller and more reasonable, they had been insistent. When she’d finally laid eyes on the bounty, she was less than impressed, but the deed was done and Ace was going to make a buttload of credits on delivery. Anyway, she left the big dumb human artifact along with her ship in the docking area, confident it would still be there when she returned. Even if her ship was searched, she doubted security would even know what they were looking at.
Well, thought Ace, pressing her hands to her hips and stretching out her back and shoulders, it had been a long day and no one would blame her for taking a minute to relax and maybe get something to drink. She reached for her briefcase (you never knew when you’d meet a potential client), which she had been allowed to bring with her after she was able to convince the guards that the curious human devices were not, in fact, small explosive devices.
The closest bar, which had a rather optimistic name compared to the reality of its appearance, wasn’t all that busy. Ace shot finger guns at the Mysan bartender, who just rolled their eyes. Spoilsport. She grinned at them anyway. “Gimme your most expensive, fruitiest cocktail. I’m about to become a very wealthy woman.” The bartender only grunted and started making her drink.
Ace scanned the room and her eyes lit up when she noticed the figure only a few barstools down. Just her luck! If that guy wasn’t a human he was a very humanish looking Hume, and in either case, likely to be interested in her wares. (He was a bit rugged looking, which might have put off someone less experienced than her, but she’d learned that you couldn’t necessarily judge someone’s wealth by their appearance.)
“Hey you! Guy! Psst!” She made a show of looking around to make sure no one was watching. No one was, but mostly because the bar was half-empty and whoever was there knew immediately that Ace was a salesman and steadily avoided eye contact. She opened up her briefcase covertly. “I know what will cheer you up,” she said, pulling out the tiny gaming system. “It’s a human gum-bee*! I’ll give you a discount, just ‘cause you look so sad. If that’s not to your fancy, I’ve also got a sleek human tabler**. Incredibly fashionable on Earth nowadays, I assure you. Whaddaya say?” Ace grinned at him as widely as she could and did her best approximation of a human wink. (She’d been practicing.)
Location: Amity-4 space station
Mansard had been about to tell this new, overfamiliar arrival to get lost, but at that exact moment she seemed to have some full-facial seizure and he just ended up just staring at her in bewilderment.
On top of that, he was caught off-guard by seeing Earth artefacts, out-of-place and almost primitive amongst the offensively alien technology and customs he'd never quite grown used to. Of course it wasn't the first time he'd seen things like it out here, or even the first time someone had tried to sell him one, but every time his mind struggled to fit it into things he now only half-remembered. Nostalgia battled with disappointment at just how uninspired and quaint human technology really was.
Then he caught himself: Artefacts? It was just a bunch of tat. The Mysan woman probably snuck onto the planet herself, swiped anything that looked good, and smuggled it back here to profit off the first homesick-looking human she could find. He'd drunk enough to let the thought of that annoy him, and, well, he'd accidentally met her eyes by now anyway, which meant there was no point in ignoring her.
So he answered, with some bitterness: "Been somewhere you shouldn't?"
The bartender interrupted by silently pushing an incredibly ridiculous-looking drink across the bar, a gaudy rainbow of fruit topped with a dusting of bioluminescent algae. The sight of it made Mansard a bit ill, unless there was oil in his own drink after all.
The alien race of pride, wisdom, and battle prowess.
Not known for their conversational skills.
If the Eskeit were a species known for smiling, Epathra and Medrath would have when their eight eyes rested on familiar wardens. The pair approached and placed their two hands across their chest, and the Eskeit wardens reciprocated.
“Chareth of Murska,” The dark skinned Eskeit said. Murska, a designation of Esk's sister planet, one occupied during the warring era. This Eskeit traveled far from their home world to reside on Amity-4.
“Lurath of Lux,” the shimmering Eskeit said, his copper spots along his arms far less vibrant than the rest of him. “We welcome you.” His dark eyes rested on Epathra’s guns before reaching Medrath’s. “Those must remain on your vessel.” Chareth of Murska and Lurath of Lux eyed the Brute, the corner of their lips twitched with joyous recognition of such a ship. The Bellator class were favoured among the Eskeit.
Without another spoken word, Medrath took Epathra’s weapons and retreated to the Brute, the large Bellator class starship often looked undaunting at first glance. Like all Eskeit ships, it held extensive firepower, but it was designed to look less like a warship and more like a luxury vessel made for leisure travels. The sleek design hid massive artillery. Along the front of the wing, it had small darker brown circles that, to the untrained eye, looked like paint job opposed to lasers. Before leaving Esk, Medrath and Epathra specially chose this type of ship for its versatility. It could be manned by a single pilot but could also withstand a family of Eskeits. Above all, the tall ship ensured Medrath would never need to duck. He would never purchase a vessel from another species. None had the capabilities of Eskeit tech.
Chareth tapped the database. “It has been verified.”
“We recommend the Happy Starfarer,” Lurath said.
“Despite the detestable appearance.”
“It is the least occupied,” Lurath finished.
Medrath returned and placed two hands across his chest once more, which the pair reciprocated before moving off.
“Least occupied,” Were Epathra’s thoughts, the elation she felt about not mingling made Medrath’s chest swirl with glee. He felt her emotions stronger than his own. The plan was to refuel, but the pair did enjoy observing and trading from places such as Amity-4.
Regardless, neither would occupy this place long. They yearned for the next planet, the next true trading post, and other things that didn’t require mulling about a tattered space station. Neither wished to keep their feet stuffed in shoes nor engage with any quibbling from those they designated as the native space station species. Which, like them, often had temperaments shorter than a Mysan stayed in one place or told the truth.
Neither Epathra nor Medrath fancied trading with a Mysan, though Medrath was far more likely to hear them out. Epathra would rather cut their tongues out and keep them as souvenirs.
The pair moved confidently toward their destination. The guns the Eskeit saw were merely four of the eight weapons they often kept on them. Unlike Medrath, Epratha was inclined to keep more than eight. If she had her way, she’d cart their entire arsenal with them wherever they chose to go.
Epathra stopped in front of the bar, the elation she felt drained into disgust. This place deserved the Plag, if it didn’t have any already. Medrath stared at her, he wished the scourge of Plag on no one. Those invasive creatures consumed the unassuming. Their teachers on Esk compared the Plag to rats, a rodent species of Earth. Epathra and Medrath had never seen a rat, but if they were like the Plag, then they were hideous vermin designed to be killed by the higher species.
“Chareth of Murska and Lurath of Lux gave us their word,” Medrath tried. Convincing Epathra of something was akin to convincing an Archivist not to learn. Impossible. After several minutes, Epathra lowly growled but ceded to Medrath.
The dank building stunk of oil and gas. Epathra surveyed the bar. The customers didn’t look up from their drinks or meals – if one could call that food. She doubted most knew about hygiene, the scent leading her away from the stench of oil and toward more bodily smells.
Medrath brushed his hand down her arm before taking a seat next to the chunnering Mysan. At the foreign words the female beside him spoke, he decided to peek over.
A human sat a few more seats down. The hair on his face made him look dirty, and his expression made Medrath question the man’s mental capabilities. Did all men look as stupid? Epathra let out a short laugh as she took a seat beside her partner.
Amity 4 was the galactic nexus - From Latin, (“connection, nexus; act of binding, tying or fastening together; something which binds, binding, bond, fastening, joint; legal obligation”), from nectāre + -tus (suffix forming verbal nouns), nectāre is the second-person singular present passive subjunctive of nectō (“to attach, bind, connect, fasten, tie; to interweave; to relate; to unite; to bind by obligation, make liable, oblige; to compose, contrive, devise, produce”), from Proto-Indo-European *gned-, *gnod- (“to bind”), yes, thank you, very cool - that Katach found the least bothersome to visit more than a few times year, as they inevitably had to when making multi-gate jumps from one sector to the next, refueling as needed.
The joint was held together with half-assed soldering and goodwill alone, but it was in constant flux, as population levels waxed and waned like the tides on the planet below whenever new mining ventures were opened up on the edge of some far-off sector, or an economic collapse somewhere spat hopefuls and desperates out into the void. Two things about it would never change, though; cheap food joints everywhere (score), and docking was a blasting headache.
Katach rhythmically bashed their faceplate into the steering column of the *Scopomaline* (rustbucket didn’t even have haptic controls, but Katach liked twiddly bits better anyway) as the long queue of freighters on the forward viewscreen inched closer to the station. Having a freight-dock-only ship was a pain in the exhaust port sometimes, not to mention stupid expensive to keep parked, but no bodylugger was going to fit all the toys, so they made do.
To keep sane Katach unarchived some quick reels from the two other Archivists currently within the station; Mama Fats’ on level 21 was, despite all safety regulations, still open for business (score), and a Human had been witnessed coming out of personnel carrier bay 9 looking disgruntled. That last note piqued Katach’s interest even more than the promise of Mama’s grease-dripping takeaway sandwiches. It had been, what, three months since they’d last come into contact with a human?
Since the installment of the New Earth Project eons ago, its isolation and sovereignty had been well maintained for all this time; cloaked research vessels, EM shielding against outside frequencies, well-patrolled Lagrange borders. Still, of course, some would always slip the net. Early on, some idiot would land and install themselves as the local deity before they inevitably got caught. Now, kidnapping was the name of the game. It was common enough that it had become a cultural phenomenon amongst the Humans, even if unconfirmed.
A live Human could fetch a pretty price for a collector of exotics- both an antiquity, a view into thousands upon thousands of years past, and a piece of the greatest current *zeitgeist* undertaking the Assemblage had ever made. What Katach was interested in, though, was their unique “outside” perspective of galactic society. Only a Human could be considered to simultaneously be and not be a part of it.
So, Katach would talk to them. If they didn’t want to talk, they’d buy the Human a drink. That always worked.
One exorbitant docking fee paid in full up front later (good thing they sold that nickel-plated automaton to that Mysean curioso for an exorbitant surcharge not long ago) Katach found themselves in the great, tubular, commercial ring of Amity-4. The metallic, de-carbonized air mixed in with the smell of hydroponic grease travelled through the air filters into their still-organic nasal receptors, and it was sweet. There would be time for exploration later - perhaps even for a meditative group reflection with the other Archivists, one resident, one transient- but now, the machinations under the faceplate could do with lubing. And Katach knew just where to go.
The Happy Starfarer encapsulated the experience Amnity 4 with beautiful succinctness; shoddy, cheap, and mixing so many cultures yet having none of its own. Not that Katach was a snob about it. They could fit in anywhere- animalskin huts on arid plains, stilthouses in swampy mangroves, yes, even shitty space station bars. From the entrance, the Human wasn’t hard to find. The poor buggers stuck out like a sore grasping digit wherever they went. Currently, the male was being harassed by a russet, heavily-tatted Mysan holding some tat.
Katach hopped up onto a seat on the Human’s other side, leaving only one seat between them- close, but not uncomfortably so. When they caught the bartender’s eye, they made the most common Mysan hand gesture for water, at which the man nodded. Katach waited until the bartender had left their earshot again after serving a tall glass of fresh recycled water, listening to the Human and tatseller deliberate. “I don’t need to tell you not to listen to a Mysan, right?” Katach said to the Human. “Either you don’t need what they’re selling but they’ll still overcharge you, or sell something you do need and overcharge even more.” They raised their glass and half of their luminescent faceplate went dark for a moment, in what could theoretically function as a wink on an eyeless facade.
Human [x] Location: Amity-4 space station, the Happy Starfarer bar
Business was picking up. Mansard had no grasp of whether the Amity station even had an official time, let alone what the hour might be, but it felt like it ought to be late afternoon: leisure time. The ceiling rumbled with new starships that little bit more often, and their occupants gradually spread through the station, some of them even making it to a dive like this. By the looks of it, they were here because it was a dive this, and he felt a little put out that he'd pigeonholed himself so neatly by being here too.
Before his new Mysan friend could answer Mansard's incredibly cutting and ingenious remark, another voice spoke up, and it was one which would sound obnoxiously out of place anywhere. Maybe he was drunk already, but the Archivist seemed to be giving him advice.
He didn't dislike Archivists. True, he hadn't encountered that many of them, but their weird cultishness was so obvious that, by now, he somewhat knew what to expect from them. Or so he thought: usually they lurked and watched, or asked sudden, blunt questions. This one seemed almost jovial, and it made him suspicious. The kind of suspicion which had, up until now, kept him alive and relatively free.
"Not for nothing," he found himself replying, "but there's more chance of me chatting with Posh and Becks over there." He pointed at the Eskeits sitting on the other side of the trader, and immediately realised he was making a mistake. The memory of the wardens seizing his ship was still fresh, and apparently Mansard was more bitter about it than he thought: enough to start drawing completely unnecessary attention to himself.
He raised his hands to the metallic-skinned pair, palms out. "I'm joking. Let me just keep talking to... my two friends here."
“Been somewhere you shouldn’t?” the human asked bitterly.
“Always!” Ace replied cheerily, her grin not receding. In fact, it grew as she noticed her drink had been delivered to her. She saluted the bartender who promptly ignored her. After taking a long loud slurp of the beverage she determined that it was the worst and most favorite thing she had ever consumed. So enamored with it, she didn’t notice the little Archivist that had pulled up on the other side of the human. When she did, her drink sat a little heavier in her stomach.
It wasn’t that Ace didn’t like Archivists--- wait, scratch that. That was exactly it. Ace didn’t like Archivists.
The little weirdos creeped her out, that’s all. Not to mention, being in one’s presence wasn’t exactly conducive to retaining anonymity. Ace wasn’t necessarily worried they were going to nark her out, but the problem was that once one of them knew who she was, all of them did. At least, that’s how she understood it, never having bothered to ask. In any case, she liked her secrets, and in particular liked to be in control of how others perceived her, and that would be a bit difficult if she was already uploaded onto some wacko psychic database.
Aaaand the little shit just insulted her. Wasn’t like anyone else in her position wouldn’t be trying to sell for the best price. Not to mention there wasn’t exactly a going rate for her products either, so she couldn’t even say whether she was overcharging or not.
Ace scowled at the new arrival. She had half a mind to chuck one of her artifacts at them. The tabler, maybe. That seemed like it could do some damage. “You got an awful big mouth on you for someone so small,” she grumbled. “Lucky for you I’m in a good mood, or I might have kicked your little cyborg ass. As it is, I’m willing to offer you a discount on gum-bee. It flashes and beeps and a bunch of other dumb human stuff. No offense,” she added to the human next to her. “Itty bitty robot pet for you. Seems like you probably don’t have a lot of friends, so you could use the company.”
When an Archivists took a seat beside the human, Epathra’s disdain grew. To be seated so near a Mysan was bad enough, but to add a prodding Archivist only fueled her anger. Though she did not look over once, she knew what was transpiring. Medrath, on the other hand, allowed his curiosity to linger on the trio. At the Archivists words, he felt Epathra’s fury swirl to a moment delight before allowing her frustration to swell once more. It pleased him that she allowed herself to enjoy the Archivists words.
Epathra dismissed the bartender, she had no interest in consuming anything in this joint, but she knew Medrath would feel differently. He had always been more…open to other things, food, and, most distastefully, other being. Medrath’s eyes narrowed on the human as he pointed to Epathra and him.
That was all it took. Epathra stood and moved behind the Mysan to look down on the human. Her hand twitched, readying herself to unsheathe one of her hidden blades.
Whatever a Posh and Becks were was beneath them. They were Eskeit. Their presence should demand respect. “How dare a mere Plag speak to us so plainly.” She growled at the man. “Rat,” she spoke aloud, opting for something he might understand. “Silence, Mysan.” She turned her gaze on the shorter creature, allowing insults to dance on her tongue. The Mysan’s unkempt short Plag coloured hair reminded Epathra of an Avar nest, full of feces to ward off intruders.
Her gaze returned to the man before she felt Medrath’s hands grab her left wrists. “He is foolish. Not worth a moment of your time,” he implored, but his trickery only increased Epathra’s frustration.
“Joking?” Her voice high as she spoke. Medrath’s annoyance at the human’s words faded, which brought confusion to Epathra. Despite interacting with all of the same beings, Epathra’s understanding of humor was akin to a tube. Fluid moved through it and only a fraction of the liquid remained after it allowed the fluid to pass. In essence, she possessed a small portion of understanding compared to Medrath.
Medrath stood, his frame towering over those before him. “We do not enjoy mortal humor, human,” Medrath said, and it was mostly because he didn’t understand what a Posh and Becks were. Had he some semblance of understanding, he may have been willing to jest back with the man, but the mere thought of conversing with others made Epathra scowl.
“You’re quite foolish,” Epathra said, agreeing with her bond’s words. “Tis what made you extinct in the first place, was it not?” Humans foolishly exploring that which they did not understand. Yet, even as the words came out of her mouth, there was a moment of doubt in her. Medrath grabbed at those feelings, refusing to allow her to overshadow them with frustration.