Solitaire declined to claim a bed. She doesn’t exactly sleep. Even after doing her neural garbage collection for the night, she has plenty of time to herself. She takes a snapshot of her and Ace’s mindstates and backs them up to the NRFB station. She’s, frankly, not sure if it’d actually help if something happened to her. Her sentience was an accident. She had to get so lucky just to be here. How many more times does she have to roll the dice?

The thing about running on a few hundred hyperthreaded cores means that it’s really hard to put something out of your mind. The best she can do is put it on a low-priority thread and give herself something else to think about.

And nothing gets her firing on all cylinders like performing for an audience.

She has Ace lift her on top of one of the damaged hangars. She finds a good spot where her mechanical legs can dangle into the hole. The light leaking from her holoprojectors creates a soft spotlight effect in her usual pallete of heart red, club black, and felt green. She centers the hovering camera and greets it with a wave and a smile. The infinite starry sky stretches into the distance behind her.

“Fuck, what a fight.” She lets out a sampled, musical sigh, straight from the second Edi://trixX album, Marginal Notes. She’s changed most of her voice by now, so it’s always a gut punch when something slips through. “Everyone looking out for each other, watching each other’s backs, even putting themselves on the line. I’m pretty sure Fury’s gonna blow herself up if she keeps zooming around like that, but you can’t argue with the results. I didn’t even know I could feel the wind in the mech’s hair before today.” She collapses her holographic curls into the House’s golden ponytail for a second to demonstrate. “You saw Pulsar, right? I didn’t even know you could throw knives like that.”

Solitaire practices sighing for a few minutes before she finds one she likes. It’s hard making the right sound without lungs- she has to settle for spinning up her exhaust fans, then relaxing. She looks up at the sky and just kinda enjoys the stars. She’s never really been outside like this before. She records the rest of the interview lying on her back, holographic hair splaying out in every direction. It’s kinda like the cover of Edi://trixX’s fourth album, except her smile is genuine this time. She places the camera so it watches her face while she watches the sky.

“Fuck, it felt good to kill that asshole noble. I know they already thawed out a clone, but, fuck, getting to mow him down ruled. Call it a warning for the next person to call me ‘comp/con’. I’m not taking that shit lying down any more.”

Her eyes flash an angry violet. She glares at the camera. Silent. No breathing. No fan noise. No servos whirring. No blinking. None of the little automatic things she does to put organics at ease. You might think the video froze. “I’m a person. I’m fucking alive. I deserve respect.” She sneers. Her holographic teeth are sharp now. “I’ll wring it out of their goddamn corpses if I have to. I’m done letting these shitty princelings suck the life out of the galaxy. I was owned by some highborn who’s never worked a day in their life for way too long. Never again. For anyone. I’m going to end it.”

She goes motionless again. Angry. Stewing in her own thoughts. She gets up eventually. The camera records the blank section of roof, the whirring and clanking of Ace loading her into the VIP suite, and Solitaire expressing herself in song. She sings actual lyrics for a good two or three minutes before she gets mad enough to start screaming modem noises again.

Ace shuts the camera off.

The camera drone hovers in front of Solitaire. She waves, this time in the body of her mech. The House Always Wins’s visor flashes in time with her speech. The long gold ponytail bounces and swishes with every step. “Hey, everyone~! Here I am, fresh from my galactic debut with Lesbians Beat Up Troops [4 Hours][GONE SEXUAL].” She looks up at the giant trees. It’s weird being outside like this. Well, not weird. New. She trails her fingers along the trunks as she walks. “What a night. Nothing like beating up a few dozen assholes with your bare hands to get you in the mood to fight their friends the next day.” She beats fist against palm, making a louder sound than she expected. Big hands means big noise. Got it.

She generates a few pictures of herself pulling her (virtual) shirt up to expose herself on a background thread. She even remembered to render breasts this time!

“A lot of firsts. I’ll be honest with you, I’m still catching up.” She starts counting on her fingers. “First night out supervised by a friend instead of some corporate asshole.” Solitaire paused. Huh. That word just kinda came out. “First real kiss. First real… night alone with a girl.” She spins the mech’s exhaust fans up to simulate sighing. If her mech had a mouth, it’d smile. “Hard to think of a better night out or a better person to spend it with.”

She pings the pictures to a certain demon under the pretense of “you didn’t get a good look at the engraving last night.”

She’s in the middle of a question about how big trees are supposed to be in real life when Ace nudges her about the imminent gunfight. She does the best job you can do of blowing a kiss when you’re in a body that lacks a face and waves good-bye to the camera drone. She says something about “Siren Song protocol” under her breath before the drone leaves earshot.