This week’s #RichardWrites brings us another snippet from Tyche’s Flight. Here, we have Nate and Grace, uh, I guess you could say, “Getting to know each other better.” It’s not all full sales over smooth seas when the Republic is on your heels. Usual disclaimers apply: first draft and all that.
“Captain, I’m going to change your definition of ‘smooth.’” Grace let a little anger into her voice. Not a lot, but enough, just enough to salt the water, let it boil at a lower temperature. “This is about trust.”
“I haven’t finished,” she said. “Trust, it’s a two-way street. Where have I given you cause to think I can’t be trusted?”
“That’s right,” she said, walking closer to him. Face to face. “Never. Here’s the thing. I’ve saved your ass twice now. Once, when a soldier was about to turn you into a smoking ruin, and the second when I dragged your crew’s ass out of a Republic fire. Look. I don’t know what Hope’s problems are, and I don’t really care. When she trusts me, she’ll tell me. That’ll be enough. Not the point. The point? Two for two, Captain. And you haven’t even given me an advance. Two good reasons to trust me, and nothing coming back the other way. I’ve got to ask, why should I keep sticking my neck out for you?”
She didn’t say, that soldier wasn’t going to kill you, he was going to kill me. She didn’t say, if the Navy had looked too closely at me, I’d be dead. Those were both true, and truth wouldn’t help her here. What would help was this man getting over this whole situation. And if he was too blind to see what was true, that was on him. Grace only told people what they wanted to hear.
It wasn’t really lying.
“I guess,” said Nate, then stopped. “I guess I owe you an apology.”
“And why’s that?” said Grace.
“Because,” said Nate. “I thought you were too good to be true.”
Too good to be true. She felt sick and wanted to pull back, but held herself still through force of will born of long practice. It didn’t matter what she felt. It mattered that she got to where she was going. And then the next place after that. And the next. She wanted to say, maybe I’m just what you need. Because she wanted it to be true.
And she wasn’t sure why.
Instead, she said, “Sometimes, good things happen to good people.”
“No,” said Nate. “I’ve never known that to be true.” She saw his metal hand flex and felt something like remembered anger come off him. “But you, Grace? You’re right. And I’m sorry.” He held out his hand — the flesh and blood one. She grasped it, finding his hand warm as they shook. “Welcome to the Tyche. Welcome to our family.”
She watched as he left the cargo bay, and shivered again. The Tyche was breathing for both ships for the moment, but the air still felt stale, false, canned. Just like her. She put a hand on her stomach, willing that sick feeling away. It had to be this way. Had to be.
Of course it did. She couldn’t trust these people. Not really. Because of what she was. And she couldn’t change that. In a couple more jumps she’d be off the Tyche and free on a new world where no-one knew her. That was the best thing for everybody.