The Raptor 2322 was a sleek machine no matter what the build was called. It had a bit more slope in its lines than the image Mr Matt had shown her, but likely that and other modifications were for it to be both more planet and space friendly. In space, of course, aerodynamics didn?t count for much, but want to take the ship into gravity bound, air current riddled planet atmosphere, better have a good design.
It was the largest vessel Lirssa had ever helmed, and the first since her academy days that had weaponry. When she arrived at the bay in Stars End late that night after duels, Inferno had been waiting for her. On a table next to him was a muddy green flight suit, a helmet that he said ?Will have to do, no time to size it properly,? and a blaster.
?No thanks,? Lirssa said with a nod to the blaster. ?Can?t believe you have me riding transport protection instead of helming the transport.?
?Pay is pay.? He countered and gave a nod to the locker rooms at the back of the docking bay. ?Get changed.?
Inferno had his full business demeanor on; curt and with a keen sense of where he was in the timeline of the mission. The challenge, of course, was to keep her own tendency to try and break through that attitude under wraps. There was a time and place, and if Inferno was offering a sidearm as part of the deal? This was not the time nor the place.
In the locker room, Lirssa put the flight suit on, rolling the sleeves to quarter length. For a helmet that had not been fitted to her, it was snug in the right places. That was when the memories hit, of course. The years ago at the academy. Every sound, smell, hearing Coach snap at her through the com to stop taking risks. Stop going where people could not follow.
The sensation crawled along her spine and up her scalp. A reminder of how the edge truly felt. Her heart skipped a beat and sped up. Tugging the helmet off, she ran her fingers through the length of her hair. She really should cut it. Just chop it all off. It was in the way.
Out from the locker room, Inferno stood with the sidearm in its holster out to her. ?No," she repeated and brushed aside. ?I?m doing the job, but I won?t carry that.?
It was just a milk run. Port side of a ship carrying ambassadors to some treaty signing. Wasn?t even deep space. RhyDin's star would still be casting light on them. That meant Inferno was keeping something from her. ?What aren?t you telling me?? She asked as they approached their Falcons. Engines were warmed. The glow faint, the thrusters all that were needed to break atmosphere. The big pulsers wouldn?t be fired up until they broke free into the black.
At the side of the Falcon meant to be hers, Inferno reached down to take one leg and boost her up to the side holds. There was no permission asked. Military precision to the task at hand: get her in the ship. ?You have all the information in that transmission you received last night.?
?Right, last night,? she glowered down at him. ?When this was supposed to happen, but got bumped to tonight. Why??
?One of the ambassadors wasn?t ready.? When he looked at her, there was no smile. ?Are you??
?Milk run, right??
?Yeah, sure. Let?s get it done. So I can, as you say, get paid.?
That got a smirk as he turned for his own ship, shooting back to her over his shoulder. ?Paid already.?
There?s always a feeling in the gut. One people are supposed to listen to, but they second guess. Surely not going to happen to me. I?m being paranoid. What made me this way? How fast that line of thought goes until you start analyzing something that happened in your childhood to make you distrust everyone.
Lirssa?s list was far too long to go through the whole thing. Too many moments; too many ways people left. Or said one thing when they didn?t mean it, just to get what they wanted. Everything in trade, you see. Best way to keep things simple and no sticky attachments.
For all that Bubber was harsh on her, training her with little pity or tenderness, he was honest. He had told her everyone leaves. He had told her that he trained her so they could both eat -- both survive. He had told her to trust no one, not even him.
But now she had a family. She had people that counted on her. Sure, no one really needed her, exactly. Someone could and would fill her place. But still, she couldn?t die today. The list of things she had to do in her daily diary, well, as ever it had ended with ?Can?t die today.? She figured it was a good enough mantra.
Over the com, Inferno broke into her thoughts. ?Let?s get into the black. Meet you at the coordinates.?
Lirssa ran her fingers over the instrument panel to the helm -- little more than a stick with a triangular grip. A few switches turned and she felt the stomach turning lift of the ship from the docking bay floor. The ship answered her gentlest touch, and she was glad she made it out of the bay doors without smashing her tail on the framework.
The thrill of power as she shot to the dark beyond zipped through her. She smiled. The cold and sterile glow of the city at night fell behind and was exchanged for the warm twinkle of the stars in a deeper black to welcome her home. Etoile, her parents had called her. They had known, like they had known so many things, that she needed to break free of gravity. She had too much of her own, and could crush people around her with it if they got too close.
At the coordinates, a dump ship that looked more like a steel and glass building set on its side with cigar-like tapering ends, waited. Inferno took up the starboard side. Two more ships were at the aft. Lirssa watched the commands come through the screen, the countdown to the jump. Jumps were not routine for Lirssa, and she took in a deep breath when that countdown went to zero. She pushed the button.
If anyone asked her to describe the feeling, she would have had difficulty -- though words were her play things to do with as she wanted. It was like being peanut butter between two slices of bread. For one moment, you felt both sides, and then it was done. Your momentum and your brain met up. It was an instant, of course. Less than a breath or a blink of an eye. Then the countdown to the end of the jump. Coordinates confirming orientation and destination. Peanut butter and bread once more, and then there.
There. Where two dozen ships opened fire. ?Damn you, Inferno.?