Most people called her Phoenix. Her former crew used “Captain” before that and “Sir” afterward. Her hair was silver – not white, but genuine, metallic silver, a long fall against her pale blue skin, the color of a shadow on a piece of willow ware, that made her seems ageless despite the century that lay upon her, and all those decades of pirating.
They said she had been the best slideboard rider of her time, and perhaps the best battleship pilot of all time, back before her parents and lover were killed and she turned rogue.
They said she had done terrible things in her pirate days.
They said she’d been ruthless in her rise to power, moving up the chain from god knows where, an origin she’d never, ever spoken of to anyone, not even her own daughter. She’d killed some captains, slept with others, called in favors and maneuvered and betrayed and seized power with a brutal efficiency that still underlay what now seemed a calm and orderly, rules-bound government.
They said she had killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, or people — sometimes at a distance, sometimes up close, with knife or fist. They said she’d killed a crew member when the shuttle she was in needed its mass reduced and the man hadn’t even argued, just nodded and stepped into the airlock, never said a word as the door closed and the lock cycled, just stared in at his captain as she stared back.
They said time had mellowed her.
They said working with Mukopadhyay, even though he was crazy as a spiral comet, had mellowed her.
They said helping colonize a whole planet, setting up its government, the rich and intricate system that now encompassed the whole solar system called Shiva, had mellowed her.
Not to mention motherhood, they said, a change which no woman escapes going through during pregnancy. It alters the hormones in your system. Softens you. Makes you less rash, less harsh. Takes away even the sharpest edge, not to mention the hormonal craziness, which some women never recover from, after all.
Sure, changes you in a good way, they were quick to say.
But softer, definitely softer.
She’d never do those sorts of things now.