Got another piece of Tyche’s Flight for you today. In last week’s piece you saw a glimmer of Hope; this week, you get full and unfiltered Hope. She’s the Tyche’s Engineer, and she’s the best there is — even with the price on her head. Yeah yeah, first draft, but let me know what you think.
“Nate, you said two weeks—”
“I said a week, maybe two—”
“It’s been two days!” She jerked an angry arm at the exposed machinery on one of the fusion drives, the cowl stacked up against the opposite wall. Wires. Pipes. A little smoke — now where the hell was that coming from, that wasn’t supposed to happen — and above it all, the status panel. Not enough lights green, too many red. “I took her apart because I had two weeks!”
“It’s been two days!” She crossed her arms, glaring at him. “I don’t understand what’s so urgent.”
“Got a cargo,” he said.
“A cargo,” said Hope, “can wait another hour.”
“Got in some trouble, too,” he said.
She tensed. “Republic trouble?”
“Could be,” he said. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know,” she said, “or you don’t want to say?”
Nate crossed his own arms, blew out a lungful of air, and looked at his feet. Nice boots, planted strong on the decking like he owned the place. Which he did, just not here. Not in Engineering. This was her space. “Does it matter? Really. Either way. If it’s trouble, one way or another it’ll end up being Republic trouble.” He frowned, scuffed one of those nice boots across the metal decking, then looked at her. “Will she fly?”
What he’d said was true enough. There wasn’t any trouble that the Republic didn’t make their business. Not at the Core, not here at the slippery edge, and not anywhere in between. “She’ll fly true,” said Hope.
“Then what’s this problem with the lockdown?” Nate was still frowning at her.
“I wanted an hour,” she said. “One hour. Just one.”
“You can’t have an hour,” he said. He caught her expression, held up a hand. “Not because I’m trying to be an asshole. It’s because the city is, at this moment, on fire. There are people with weapons shooting each other. In an hour, there will be soldiers crawling all over everything that can climb up that gravity well,” and here, he pointed up, “because they’re after something. Someone.”
“Me?” said Hope.
“Hell no,” said Nate. “No.” He frowned again. His face looked better when it was smiling; like it was born to be happy, but had learned the hard way how to do unpleasant work. “Probably not.”
“Well, which is it?” she said. “Yes or no?”
“No,” he said, but like he didn’t mean it. “Look, Hope, you owe money. Hell, we probably all owe a little money—”
“Not like this,” she said.
“I’ll grant that’s a true story,” he said. “But you do not shoot up a bar where good Republic Citizens are going about their lawful business to call in a debt.”
“Spacer bar?” she said.
“Hardly lawful,” she said.
“Also a true story,” he said, “but the spirit of the conversation remains the same. I’ve never seen anything like it. Or, not since, you know, the war.”
“Okay,” said Hope. “Okay.”
“Okay you’ll get my ship in the air, or okay we’re all going to jail?” He had his Captain Face on, impassive, waiting for the bad news, but she’d known him the longest of anyone on this ship, and she could see the hope there. Hope that they’d made it out of this one. Hope, probably, that he wouldn’t let her down, because he was kind of stupid that way.
“I’ll get my ship in the air,” she said.
“Wait,” he said. “Whose ship is this?”
“And,” said Hope, ignoring the question and pointing at the drive cowling, “I need you to move that.”
“Because it’s heavy,” she said.