The Job Interview

More Tyche’s Flight (?) today — this one’s a little farther on from last week’s sample. Standard disclaimers of doom apply: first draft, looks like a jar of pickled sphincters, but I’d still love to know what you think.

He kept up his saunter. No need to spoil the effect as he approached the finish line. He ducked into the doorway next to her. “Hi.”

“Let’s go,” she said.

“Let’s not,” he said. He leaned into the alcove, a crook that felt like it was tailor-made for just this kind of conversation. “We haven’t discussed terms. We haven’t discussed where we’re going. The most important thing we haven’t discussed,” and here he paused as a particularly loud fusillade of plasma fire from down the street cut him off, “how on Earth, her mighty heavens, the stars we travel across, and the senate of our true and beloved Republic, you knew me, those Navy boys, or where they want us go. And all of those things are of interest to me before we keep walking down this fine, tree-lined boulevard.”

He was watching her face as she spoke, saw the emotions chase each other in quick succession. First there was irritation, then there was anger, and that was followed by something he’d call incredulousness for want of a better stake in the quicksand. Finally, a kind of astonishment mixed with something that might become, in just a few moments, acceptance. She licked her lips, pushed her scabbard behind her on its shoulder strap, and said, “I need a ride.”

Probably not a lie. “Okay,” he said.

“And,” she said, “there are people after me.” She touched his arm, just a gentle touch, but he knew the drill and ignored it.

Still. What she’d said probably wasn’t a lie either, hand on his arm or not. “Okay,” he said again.

“I can help you,” she said.

That there was one motherfucking lie. It wasn’t that what she said was untrue: it’s that what she said was about two percent of the truth, and that made Nate generally uncomfortable. He didn’t like people lying to him, but he was used to it. What he couldn’t tolerate was people lying to him about his ship. “Thing is,” said Nate, “we don’t need help. The Tyche, you see, well. We’ve got ourselves a crew, and that there’s—”

“They’re going to kill me,” said Grace, “if I stay here.”

Nate licked his lips. Okay. That didn’t feel like a lie at all. He felt like she’d just pushed his sucker button and fought the urge to white knight this all the way. Because that sword behind her, and the way she walked, said that she wasn’t after a white knight, despite pushing the sucker button pretty hard. “You,” he said, “are trying to play me. Find your own ride.” And he turned to see a soldier, dressed in black standing in front of them. Blaster pointed at Nate. Faceless black visor. And here he was, flat-footed, his own weapon still in its holster because of his stupid damn rules about not drawing attention.

Grace moved, steel hissing out of the scabbard. He drawing strike brought the blade out from behind her and around, slicing through the side of the soldier’s armor. Her second strike left the cold whisper of air next to Nate’s face as her sword reversed direction, moving back up through the other side of the soldier’s armor, the front piece falling away. Her third stroke cut the soldier’s gun in half, and then she was moving out from the alcove, the blade moving up the man’s chest, cutting through clothing and flesh like neither of them were any bother at all. The sword’s edge made the man’s neck as she made the street, and then she was behind him, spinning in place, her sword an arc of white and red. She stopped, facing away from Nate, back to back with the soldier. The moment held, then the soldier’s head toppled from his body, gun halves clattering to the ground, the body slumping a half second after.

She spun the sword through the air twice, blood sluicing from the blade, before slipping it in the scabbard behind her.

Nate’s own sword was back on the Tyche, but he hadn’t drawn a blade in the five years since the Empire fell, and really doubted he’d be able to swing it like that even it was resting comfortable by his side. “That,” he said, “was some impressive shit.”

She turned and looked at the fallen soldier, then at Nate. “I still need that ride, flyboy.” Her look said and you owe me one.

“You,” he said, “are fucking hired. But from here on out? It’s Captain.”

“Copy that, Captain,” said Grace Gushiken, reaching her hand out.

He shook it, then opened his communicator again. “El?”

“There’s a city-wide state of emergency,” said his Helm’s voice from the comm. “What did you do?” Then, “Captain.”

I didn’t do anything,” said Nate. “Clean out the spare room. We’re taking on one more.”

There was a pause, before El said, “Okay. What did she do?”

“Nothing,” said Nate before pocketing the comm. He wished he’d known he was lying to himself.

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