Shore Leave

Not everything in Tyche’s Journey is about death insects. Sometimes there’s a little R&R; time on a crust to unwind. When you’re the best goddamn Helm in the universe, shore leave needs to be a little more … special. This week’s #RichardWrites nets us a scene from Tyche’s Crown. Enjoy!

When El woke, it was with a man’s warm arms around her. Warm, strong arms. Connected to a chest that, even in sleep, looked purpose-built. The smell of sweat and sex and after alcohol was around her, holding her tighter than his embrace.

What the fuck was his name again?

Johnson. Davison. Mendleson. Something-son. She was sure of it.

El gave a lazy blink, taking in the room. Nice enough as far as these things went. Rented by the night rather than by the hour. Not attached to a bar — that was up the street a ways. They’d navigated here like sailors of old, using the light of the stars to guide them in. Enia Alpha didn’t have crickets like Earth, but it had something that chirped out in the trees or weeds or whatever crust-huggers called ‘em, and that was just fine as far as El was concerned. She and the strong-arms-attached-to-the-chest had rented a room. Two floors up in a short-rise hotel. Cosy, done in an old style. Red roses on the table as they entered, like the proprietor knew the kind of customers he’d be getting.

Coins on the counter. Not hers. He’d paid, right? She was sure of it. She’d giggled, drunk, and happy about it. No need to fly tonight, leastways not in the sky. But she went to heaven anyway.

Smithson. That was it. David Smithson, not John Davison or some other bullshit combination. David Smithson, a strong name to go with those strong arms and chest. He was a little younger than her, but not by a lot. Kept him self in good trim, not a sheet or a rope stowed out of place. She lifted the covers, catching a glimpse of that torso, the abs you could play checkers on, the inviting V leading to his groin. El realized she wanted another round, but she’d been raised polite: let him sleep a little. She could snare them both some breakfast. Be back before he woke, surprise him with kisses and cake. She knew the path to a man’s heart; any decent Helm knew how to fly those skies.

She slipped from the covers, something in her back giving a small pop. Then something in her neck. El knew she wasn’t getting any younger. The only thing keeping her lean and trim was constant stress … although last night had removed that nagging itch she’d been carrying for days.

Weeks. Months.

Might have been a year.

Bare feet padded her over to the mixed pile of clothes on the floor by the door. They really hadn’t made it far at all before the action started. She pulled on her pants, tucked her shirt in a little half-heartedly (she was only going out for breakfast supplies, for crying out loud, not a masquerade ball), tugged a jacket on over the top, and then checked her sidearm. Good to go. A-grade and ready to fly. Not even a hangover.

Not that she’d admit it either way. If Kohl didn’t get hangovers, neither did she.

The door cycled open with a quiet hum, Smithson not even moving a muscle in bed. Out to it. At least he didn’t snore. Maybe he’d be a keeper for a while longer. A dalliance while on shore leave. She kept that thought close, trying it on for size as she tugged hair into a ponytail that wouldn’t past muster on a Navy ship, but would get her by just fine on a colony world. She hit the lobby at a brisk walk, putting a little more saunter in it as she gated the main doors and into the bright light of Enia Alpha’s yellow star.

Who’d have thought paradise would also be the home of the Resistance?

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