Today’s #RichardWrites is a slice of Tyche’s Flight. This is the first time you meet the Tyche’s Helm, Elspeth Roussel. Best starship pilot you’ve ever met, and she’ll tell you that straight. You know the music: first draft, but let me know what you think.
Elspeth Roussel sat in the Helm’s chair — her chair — on the Tyche’s bridge. It wasn’t much of a bridge, not like what she was used to from her days flying frigates for the Empire, but the captain had given her a paying job and didn’t mind that she’d flown for the losing side. And she was still Helm of something.
Even a small lifter like the Tyche. She reached out a hand to the console in front of her, kept clean despite the age of it. “My good girl,” she said.
“What was that?” Hope’s voice came from behind and below, where the Engineer was working on something below the deck grating. There was a shower of sparks, the crack of electricity, and the Tyche’s console went dark.
“What,” said El, “did you do?”
“I thought you said something.” Hope’s head came up from where she was crouched, the rig strapped to her making her look like an insect. Articulator arms reached out from behind her back, smoke still trailing from the end of an arc welder. Her face was hidden behind the blank metal of the rig’s faceplate before it flipped up, revealing a face El had always thought far too young to be the Engineer of a ship, even like their little Tyche. Still, you couldn’t argue with results, and Hope got those results. The Captain seemed to have a way with picking up strays that were useful. It was hard to admit: strays like El herself.
“I thought you were fixing the ship,” said El.
“I am fixing the ship,” said Hope. “It is literally what I am doing down in this cramped compartment.”
“Hope, Captain says we need to be in the air. Will she fly?” She patted the console again. “Will my baby fly?”
“She’ll fly,” said Hope. “You worry about the cargo. I’ll worry about getting the magic smoke back inside these components.” The rig’s faceplate slid shut, and Hope vanished back below the deck. The crackle of arc welding started back up.
“Copy that,” said El, feeling herself smile. She wasn’t worried about Hope getting the Tyche back online; that girl knew the ship better than she knew herself. El was more worried about where their cargo was, and where their deck hand was, because the captain didn’t pay her to lift heavy things. He paid her to fly the ship. She turned back to the console, lights already coming back on. She tapped in Dock Control, flicked the comm switch on, and said, “Dock Control, this is Tyche. Seeking confirmation of cargo delivery and launch clearance. Please advise, over.”
The communicator sat silent for a second before a man’s voice spoke. “Tyche, we have you on lockdown. No ships, in or out. Over.”
El sighed. One of those assholes. “Dock Control, this is Tyche. Please repeat your last. I thought I heard you say we were on lockdown. We have Republic clearance to launch. Repeat, Republic clearance. Over.”
“Tyche, I don’t care if you’ve got clearance from the Senate themselves. Your ship is on lockdown.” Then, after a pause, “Over.”
El drummed her fingers against the comm for a second. “Dock Control, let’s park that for a moment. Do you have a status on our cargo? Over.”
“Tyche, your cargo is waiting lifting of the lockdown. Over.”
“Dock Control, I’d like to understand what the relationship between lawful cargo being loaded onto my ship and your unlawful lockdown is. Please advise. Over.” El looked at the comm, waiting.
She didn’t have to wait long. “We feel you might try and escape lockdown, Tyche. Over.”
El laughed, keeping the comm on. “Dock Control, your feelings don’t really come into it. We have lawful, I repeat lawful Navy cargo to come on board our vessel. Do not bring us into your family counseling session with the Navy.”
“Did I fucking say ‘over,’ Dock Control? No, I didn’t. What I said was, give us our fucking cargo, or by God the heavens will open up and shell you and your miserable tower with the unholy vengeance of the Navy’s best and brightest lawyers.” She tapped the comm again, then said, “Over.”
There was a long pause. “Copy that, Tyche. Cargo has been released for your receipt. Over.”
“Thank you, Dock Control. Over and out.” El flicked off the comm, feeling the warm rose glow that could only come from putting a minor bureaucrat in their place. The Tyche seemed to share her feelings, the console coming alive under her hands. “My good girl,” she said, again.