Lynda is a Tyme setting story dealing with GLBT characters. This follows on from Ben, last week's post.
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz3D, Photoshop and Filterforge.
This is where it went wrong.
Lynda turned to look back at the docking ramp. The Lair had been a home, her home, for a time, but that was over and done with. She’d tried, failed and now it was time to move on. But in leaving the ship, she’d returned to the very port where she’d joined the crew in the first place.
“You can change your mind, they’d welcome you back among them and nothing would be said about it,” a warm voice, female, and very familiar.
“You know it won’t work for me… I just…” She sighed, pushed back her shoulders and turned to face the woman. Pressure built behind her eyes and, for a moment, her vision shifted, the color draining until she blinked and it returned to normal.
Mara Dacre stood on the ramp, her multi-colored hair caught back in a severe braid softened only by a handful of wisps that caressed the skin. Full lips twitched into a smile, light dancing in her eyes as she settled one hand on her hip. “You’re running but I understand why. I don’t agree with your choice, but I accept it.”
She doesn’t understand. Lynda rubbed the back of her neck unable to take her gaze away from the woman. “There’s a lot going on that I can’t explain. If I stayed this would be… I’d cause problems, even though I don’t want to.”
“No, you wouldn’t.” Mara walked down the ramp, a soft, sensual sway to her hips. It wasn’t something she forced, but a natural part of the way the woman moved. “I understand. I can see the problem. Like Fenris with Ben, I can’t offer you any hope of something because I love Fenris, and he isn’t a man who shares. So, I’ll respect who he is, all of who he is. That’s part of what you do when you find one you love.”
Fenris didn’t share, but Mara would? Was that what was being said here? “I… you’re poly minded?” She had to know, even if it wasn’t something she would be able to act upon. Why not, I could persuade him, couldn’t I? She shuddered at the thought. No. She wasn’t into men and even if she had been he was strong willed, not the type who might bend to the persuasion of another.
“Yes, such things aren’t uncommon in System One. Mars, especially, has a history of poly marriages and relationships.” Mara gave a one shoulder shrug.
“Oh…” did this change things? Was there… no, Mara had admitted that there wasn’t a chance because she wouldn’t betray Fenris nor would she force him to accept a third into their bed. “I didn’t know.”
“Why would you?” She stopped in front of Lynda. “You didn’t ask, and you’re not from System One, so unless you’d… well, next time ask.” She offered a warm smile and stepped off the end of the ramp, gesturing for Lynda to follow.
Gods, how she wanted to stay, to see if there was a chance to kiss those lips just once, to taste the woman in front of her, but that wasn’t going to happen. Mara was loyal - one of her traits that right now Lynda didn’t like. “Thank you, for telling me I mean.” The information didn’t do her any good though, but it eased some of her self doubts. “I thought I was imagining things, when I looked at you I mean. That there was nothing there but my own desire to…” she looked away, struggling to put the words into some form of order. “This is pointless. I need to leave, find a place to settle, or a ship to sign on with. Somewhere that I can start over again.” For what now, the tenth time? Maybe eleventh if she counted leaving her family home fifteen years ago. Still, that wasn’t such a bad number when you thought about it.
Mara slipped a piece of card from a hip pocket and offered it to her. “Captain Alys Diam has an opening that might work for you. Her ship, Black Wing, will dock tomorrow. She’s a good captain, experienced, she looks after her crew and I’ve sent her a recommendation.”
Lynda took the card before Mara had finished speaking. Shock rolled through her and she took a step back, still holding the card. “Why - why would you do this for me? I mean… a recommendation? That’s…” Such things were valuable, more so than credits as they carried you further in the long term.
“You’re skilled, and Alys needs reliable people. Just give me your word. If you take a berth there, you stay. For a year. Don’t jump ship at the first sign of trouble. Alys won’t thank you for it if you skip out on her and you’ll do yourself harm by running out on that ship.”
The ship or the captain - or were they one in the same?
“Don’t try and make sense of it now, not when you’d be better off focusing on Black Wing and your new berth.” Mara nodded toward the hustle and bustle of the landing zone. “Find yourself a room for the night, keep your head down and stay safe.”
Stay safe. Head down. Sure, she could do that. For a moment her throat tightened, tears blurring her vision before she blinked them away. “Thank you.” The temptation to reach out and touch Mara grew but she forced it back down and turned away. She didn’t have the right, wouldn’t push just because there would never be another chance, she’d leave with her dignity intact.
Keep walking, don’t look back. She won’t be there and even if she is, it won’t change things.
Her control threatened to slip but she kept her focus on the landing zone, on moving through the busy area with her head held high. A new berth, service with another captain, one she’d have to look up. Neither the ship nor the captain felt familiar to her. Not that she was an expert when it came to other ships. She remembered the ones she’d served on, and the ones they’d had conflicts with, but beyond that there were only a handful of other ships who’s names stood out.
That was a name she would never forget, especially after the brief meeting several months ago. Not that she’d had a chance to meet anyone from that crew. Only the Captain, Mara and a handful of others had mingled with the crew of Swan Song. It hadn’t mattered at the time, now she couldn’t help but wonder if meeting that crew, or just the captain, would have changed things for her? Perhaps she’d have attempted to transfer over at that point, perhaps not, either way the chance had been and gone.
Voices, music, the clang of metal against metal, all combined with the hum of nearby ships. She flinched and looked around, after so long on board various ships, the noise of a port was, at first, a little overwhelming. This wasn’t a safe place to build any shields in order to cut down the background noise, but once she found a room to rent and locked the door, it was something she’d take care of. She didn’t lower her gaze, quicken her steps or slump her shoulders. If anything she added an arrogant strut to her walk, meeting the gaze of anyone who looked her way. One of the many things she’d learned during her last visit to Haver’s Station, she’d witnessed more than one person make the mistake of acting like a victim. You gave off those vibes, the hint of weakness, the inability to look people in the eye, or scurry around like a rabbit, and you placed a neon sign over your head screaming victim here.
Not a mistake she was willing to make.
The pressure that she’d felt around Mara, eased. The further she moved away from The Lair the easier it became. For a moment she was tempted to turn around, return to the ship and ask to come back, to become a part of the crew again, but it wouldn’t work. The need for Mara would return and with it the itch, the pressure, the push to say something, to act upon it and she’d lose control.
Sooner or later she always lost control.
Food and lodging were both easy to find, but locating both that felt safe enough to use, to enjoy, was another matter entirely. She dismissed the first ten or twelve places she found, noting small things that added to the unease she experienced when she investigated them. It took two hours before she finally walked in and paid for a room some distance away from the docking area. The hotel, and she used that term in the loosest possible way, was clean enough. Little more than a basic boarding house run by a husband and wife team. The vibe she picked up from the couple spoke of a partnership that had been together for years, and had experience that took them beyond the planet.
Former crew members?
No, there was something else about them. Hunters perhaps? Well, even bounty hunters had to retire at some point. You either retired when you had enough money, a nest egg to fall back on, or you died on the job.
Would she have enough sense to retire when the time came? After all, the same rule of thumb applied to spacers, crew members who moved from ship to ship without any real connection to a captain. The thought sat ill with her. Hadn’t her original plan, when she’d fled her home, been to find a crew, a ship, a captain she could serve under and with until the end of her days?
Romantic notions, best laid to rest before she made one mistake too many.
Except she knew of people who had done just that, or at least had friends who had told her stories about such people. Hadn’t there been something about some of the crew of the Swan Song? Not that it mattered, that ship wasn’t an independent, she knew that now, and when the crew wanted to retire they would find a place on one of the five worlds of System One.
Perhaps that was what she needed to do? Find a ship that was a part of a larger fleet, one tied to a world, or a system?
She shook off that idea and flopped onto the bed, folding her arms behind her head as she looked up at the stained and worn ceiling. The place wasn’t dirty but it was rough, the walls flaking in places, chips and marks in the walls and ceiling, things that - if she had a little more time or money - would have put her off taking the room here. Except the couple who ran the place, the way they spoke to her, watched her, it spoke of people who didn’t allow trouble. She’d be safe here, for a time at least. Long enough to rest before she took her new place, if the captain of the Black Wing offered her a place.
Alys Diam wasn’t what Lynda had expected. Despite being confined to a hover chair, the middle-aged woman lacked nothing in the way a commanding presence or the ability to assess those around her. Dark eyes narrowed on Lynda as Alys looked up from the data pad to the woman standing in front of her. With an irritated flick of her fingers she indicated that Lynda should take a seat on the other side of the table even as a server moved over to take their orders.
“Caff,” Alys ordered. “Cream, sugar, the works.”
Lynda hesitated for a moment. “Same, please.” If it was real caff, she’d deal with the cost, if it was the standard fake fare, then the hit on her credits would be less but the drink wouldn’t be as enjoyable. Either way, she’d deal.
“Yes, ma’am.” Lynda sat on the edge of the chair, refusing to relax. She couldn’t, didn’t know if the captain would see that as a weakness or a form of insolence. Neither were things she could risk.
“Formally of The Lair under the command of Fenris MacTire.”
“Clean record with him, no problems and let you left the ship. Dacre sent me a file, with MacTire’s permission according to the notes here. You were a good crew member, no issues, did your job and they were sorry to see you go. Which makes me wonder,” Alys leaned back in her hover chair, her gaze fixed on Lynda, “why did you leave?”
“Personal reasons.” She didn’t look away.
“Uh huh. Let’s get something straight from the start. If I ask a question I expect an answer. A full answer. No bullshit. So, you can either accept that or stop wasting my time.”
Lynda swallowed hard and looked away. “I didn’t…”
“You can either explain or leave, those are your two choices. I’m not offering a third.”
Shit. She took a deep breath, rolled her shoulders to work out the tension and ran the tip of her tongue over her bottom lip before she finally met Alys’ gaze and forced herself to speak. “I fell in love.”
“With a fellow member of the crew?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She paused, hoping that would be enough but a narrowing of eyes made it clear she was to continue. “I’m gay.”
“And this matters why?”
“It’s… who I…” She paused and shook her head, shame burning across her cheeks. “I fell in love with Mara Dacre and she’s involved. The captain isn’t the type of man to share, so I didn’t make a move, but the longer I was there, the more I was around her, the more it hurt. Maybe running, leaving, was the wrong thing to do, but it was the only thing that made sense at the time.” She took a breath, struggling to put her thoughts into order as she continued, pausing again only long enough for the server to set down the two mugs of caff. “I know myself well enough to understand that, if I’d stayed and continued to see that, to feel the love between them, knowing that it was something I would never be a part of, I’d have said something that would have damaged my position on the ship.”
Alys looked down at her mug and pulled it to her, taking the time to inhale and then taste the caff. A full smile graced her face, adding a light to her otherwise dark eyes. She gestured to the mug in front of Lynda, giving them both a break from the conversation.
Uncertain at first Lynda took hold of her mug and sipped. She blinked and stared down at the mug. “This is…”
“Yes, and that’s why I chose this place to meet you.”
Real caff, fresh cream, and was that actual sugar in the mix? Lynda closed her eyes and sank into the rare bliss that was authentic caff. “Damn.”
“That’s one way of putting it.” Alys set her mug down, the soft sound enough to draw Lynda’s attention. “You’re a passionate woman, that much is obvious, but you’re still young. Emotionally young and there’d be some who would say that I’d be a fool to sign you up.”
Lynda’s throat tightened.
“Yet you also knew enough to leave before the situation got out of hand. I don’t believe that running was the right thing to do do. Running seldom is, but I might have done the same thing in your position.”
That caught her off guard. “I thought you said I was young?”
“And you are, as was I at one point.” Alys’ smile turned into a warped, quirky thing that softened her features. “I don’t let people run from my ship. That’s the first thing you need to understand. Those who sign on with me, stay with me, for at least six months - unless I boot them off.”
“A year,” Lynda murmured and set her mug down. “I promised Mara I’d see a year through with you.”
“Good, that would give you a chance to settle. To get your thoughts and emotions in order and maybe learn a little something about yourself.” Alys took another sip from her mug, her eyes half closing as she watched Lynda. “It won’t be easy to keep your temper at first, or to remain calm as you learn to work with the rest of the crew. That’s to be expected and you’ll have help.”
Why is she willing to help me? Lynda kept the words to herself as she curled her hands around the mug. Warmth and temptation climbed up from the mug in curls of steam. The caff, like the position with Alys, were both offers she could walk away from, should walk away from as they were both too rich for her, fraught with problems and laden with traps, but where else would she go?
Staying here wasn’t a real option. She’d be faced with a rapidly decreasing source of funds, reduced to taking on work that she wanted nothing to do with, and remained trapped until she finally bit the bullet and took the first possible passage elsewhere that came up. That wasn’t a plan, it was a reaction. She took a deep breath and met Alys’ gaze. “Why are you offering me this chance? Is it Mara? Are you doing this for her?”
“No, she asked me to take a look at your file, but that’s all.”
“Then what?” What was she missing? What piece of the puzzle?
“I see a lot of myself in you, Lynda. The arrogance, uncertainty and fear. The self doubt and the need to push yourself combined with the desire to run rather than face problems head on. I was you, once… someone gave me a chance and I’m offering you the same thing. You’ll sign on with me, follow my rules and listen. You’ll learn, find out who you really are - because that’s your biggest problem. You’ve no idea who you are.”
Her chest tightened. She knew who she was, had always known, what had she done to make Alys think otherwise? She nibbled on the inside of her bottom lip as cold sweat left a line down the length of her spin. “You’re wrong.”
“Am I?” Alys leaned forward. “Look me in the eyes and tell me that. Tell me you know who you are, what you’re capable of and that you have no doubts.”
She opened her mouth to speak only to close it again. This should be easy. The words were right there, on the tip of her tongue so why couldn’t she give them life? She looked away and then back again at the captain, forcing herself to meet the woman’s gaze.
Dark eyes held hers, locked them in place, a needle of knowledge piercing through to the core of Lynda’s thoughts. Doubt flickered into life, fear merging with it until she felt tears slipping down her cheeks. What was wrong with her? She never cried in public, rarely cried in private - tears were a weakness, a door another could use to dig into your soul and yet - yet she was crying.
Alys broke eye contact by leaning back in her hover chair and bringing the mug to her lips once more. “Denial can be a powerful and yet dangerous thing, Lynda.”
“I don’t understand,” her voice was weak, uncertain as she shook her head, trying to clear the fog of emotions away.
“Nor will you until you face who you are and learn to control yourself. There’s a power within you, a gift that’s been locked away, something that Mara felt and so did another member of your crew. One by the name of Ben.”
“What do you mean by power?”
The smile that claimed Alys lit up the older woman’s face. “You’re a psi - level two or three if I’m any judge, but it’s locked away. That’s why you have so many problems with your emotions. The power in you - it’s wild, untapped and struggling to get out. I can show you how to release it, how to use it and above all how to control it so it doesn’t push you into making more mistakes, ones there will be no coming back from.”
That wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true. No one in her family had the gift, any of the gifts and there was nothing of System One in her family background, so why would she have any of the abilities? Except she knew that psi gifts weren’t limited to System One, they were just more likely from those bloodlines. “Are you certain?”
“I can feel it, almost taste it around you. It flicker in and out, touching the edges of my own abilities but it’s there. I’d stake my life on it.”
A psi, gifted, the power locked away. Could that really be the reason why she had been so unsettled of late, why she had felt the connection to Ben and to Mara? No, not Mara. That had been something else. Love, lust, it didn’t matter right now, she’d felt something for Mara, something she hadn’t wanted to ignore. Mara had cared too, that was why she’d reached out, offering a connection, help in the form of Alys Diam.
Walk away or accept the help…
“Where do I sign?”