People often threw around the term, driven, without actually thinking about what it meant. They thought it was just a descriptive little word you used for someone who was sort of generally energetic and positive about things, maybe – occasionally – just the teensiest bit obsessive.
They’d never met Aurelius.
If they had, they’d know what driven really looked like, and that almost everyone else they’d called driven up to that point were just a brisk, bright-eyed step above the absolute zero of catatonic apathy.
To be driven was to carry an invisible monster on your back, and to shovel food into its mouth every minute of every day because as soon as it ran out of food, it would start gnawing on you. To be driven was to lie awake and exhausted, shaping the fumes on which you were running into foodlike blocks for the monster to eat because otherwise it wouldn’t let you sleep – and sometimes it still wouldn’t, because it knew fumes when it was fed them. To be driven was to look out at the world and wonder if anyone could see the monster’s claws in your face, puppeteering your expressions into a semblance of normality. To talk to people and feel your throat contract around what the monster really wanted you to say. Words you weren’t entirely certain of yourself, but you knew would be impossible to unspeak.
Aurelius never knew, growing up, what it was she wanted to be. Or she did know, but she never knew what it was called. This is true of many people, of course, but when you have a monster and you don’t know what to feed it, you spend an awful lot of time and energy just flinging stuff at it and hoping it will be satisfied. And for a time, it was. More or less.
For a while, she was a bodyguard. This veered into occasional hired-muscle and hired-gun work, but as satisfying as it could be to demolish bad guys Aurelius found it needed to stay incidental to the job rather than integral. The monster couldn’t live on punching arseholes in the face, although it was an enjoyable snack.
She worked as a transporter, a convoy security chief, a sometime sitter for difficult clients. She did stints as a private detective, bounty hunter, and fixer. At every single one of them, she excelled. And at none of them did she find true and lasting peace.
Only later – far later – did she learn that all of these things were encompassed in a single venerable role. All of the jobs she had taken, and more, and with just that perfect interpretive shift that gave the work the precise meaning and significance she had been missing.
The role – the career, the calling – only had a Xidh name: góli.
It was an ancient and at one time deeply honoured Molran title. A góli was a kind of body servant to Fleet commanders and other highly respected Fleet personnel. The caste had gone out of vogue in the time of the Wild Empire, because … well, to be brutally honest, because it was an exciting and colourful part of a rich and complex cultural tapestry and Molren simply couldn’t be having with that sort of shooey.
Still, the dignified sombrely-clad góli was a figure of sociocultural folklore, for spacefarers and rock-hoppers alike. When a Worldship Captain couldn’t get her hands dirty, her góli would make arrangements. When a group of dignitaries needed to be extracted from a hostile situation, a góli would be sent in. When a promising young Molran found himself in an impossible situation and was facing the very real possibility of ending the day as a Blaran, his góli could be depended on to find a solution.
Aurelius finally knew what she was. She was a góli. She was a fully-armed interplanetary valet. A licensed pilot, tactician, trader, diplomat, soldier, and advisor. And at need, she was a hundred other things.
Aurelius Böss was a space butler, and her monster was sated.
I should probably clarify that Böss is a human. I’ve found I have a weird anthrocentric habit of describing humans in terms of what they do and how they feel, but my non-human characters strictly according to their species and species characteristics. I’m a space racist.