Ray of Light

How You Get There's the Worthier Part

Six days had been more than enough time for Niamh to earn some money. She wasn’t exactly the ugliest girl in the ’Verse, and the men who frequented the bar weren’t exactly the prettiest. But she flirted with them all the same, making them feel like they were worth every bit as much as the rich men from the Core worlds. By the end of the week, they were all sorry to see her go. “You sure ya can’t stay, Little One?” Dex handed her her jacket.

“You said six days,” she argued.

“I know what I said, but shoot, I done more business in the past five than I got all last month. For that, I can afford ta keep that room open for ya.”

“Well, as much as I’d love ta tell ya I’ll stay, I need ta get goin’.”

“Goin’ where?”

“Wherever the Alliance ain’t,” she laughed.

“You find a place like that, Baby, you come and get me.” He kissed her on the cheek and walked her to the door. She nodded solemnly and gave him one last smile before turning and heading down the street. “Come back anytime ya like, Little One.” She spun around to see him waving and lifted her hand in return. She’d love to be able to stay in one place, but staying in one place was dangerous. She didn’t know exactly where to go, but she knew she had to move. Working at the cantina had given her a couple of contacts who told her where she might find a ship she could ride with for cheap.

A ten minute walk brought her to the docks where a group of about seven transport ships sat loading up to head out again. She reveled in the sight of that many people in one area. It meant she could disappear more easily. Her tall brown boots took her to an odd looking ship. It stood straight up in the air like an unfortunate phallic symbol. “Where ya headed, Honey?” A man with greasy, shaggy blond hair and a tattoo under his left eye asked her.

“Depends,” she answered, squinting up at the aircraft. “Where ya headed?”

“Well,” the man smiled slyly, “our first stop is Shadow but we’re endin’ up on Persephone.”

“How much?” she asked, turning her attention back to him.

“Thirty to Shadow, Forty if you wanna stick around until Persephone.”

“What’s the ship’s name?”

“What?”

“What’s ’er name?” she repeated.

“His,” he corrected. “His name is Brutus.” Niamh sighed. That was a terrible name for a ship. Although, it did seem to fit; it was a terrible looking ship. “I’ll overlook putting you in the roster,” he offered.

“Alright.” She pulled some money out of her pocket and looked at it. Now the question was, where did she want to go? Would it be safe again on Shadow? Could she really go home? Or should she head out to Persephone and really disappear for a while?

“Honey?” She met his gaze and narrowed her eyes at him. “We’re headin’ off in fifteen minutes. You wanna come, or d’you got a reason to stay?”

“Shadow,” she said handing him the money. “And if you call me ‘Honey’ again, your ship’ll have a new mechanic.” She walked past him, allowing the corner of her mouth to curl up at his surprised look.

“How’d she know I was the mechanic?” he mumbled to himself.

She headed up to the kitchen area where all the rest of the passengers and crew were gathered. The group nodded to her as she approached. “Is that it?” the captain asked as the mechanic joined them.

“Yessir.”

“Alright.” He addressed the group. “We’ve got eight passenger rooms, which means a few of you are going to have to double up. I hope you don’t mind. It should take us about two days to get to Shadow, and three more for Persephone. You’re welcome to anything we have in the kitchen or the lounge, but we’d prefer it if you stayed away from the bridge area. Unfortunately, our pilot is new.”

“What happened to the last one?” A woman asked innocently.

The captain shot her a look, but didn’t say anything. He simply turned and walked away. “Well,” Niamh exclaimed quietly, “he’s just a ray ’a sunshine i’n’t ’e?”

A young man to her right laughed a little. “You can share a room with me if ya like.” Niamh turned to look at him, eyebrow raised. “I won’t try anyfin’ I promise. I just don’t wanna get stuck wif one ’a these arrogant poofs, y’know?”

“Niamh Conner.” She held out her hand to him.

“Brian Farrow,” he responded, placing his hand in hers. “But m’ friends call me ‘Badger’.” He turned, threw his bag over his shoulder, offered her his other arm, and the pair headed down the hall toward the rooms.

“Friends, huh?”

“Yeah,” he laughed. “Even poorly dressed scants from Dyton Colony ’ave friends. Though, I do ’ave to admit, mine ah more like ‘associates’.”

“Associates or accomplices?” she asked with a coy smile. Without noticing, she let her true accent slip out on the last word.

“Well, what about you then?” he jokingly accused. “What sort of mischief did someone as gohgeous as you get into, huh?”

“M’ ma was a bit of a loose cannon actually. Spent most ‘a m’ life hiding.” His Dyton accent was bringing out her Gaelic one whether she wanted it to or not.

He opened the door to the room and held it for her. “Now, dat is a shame.” She laughed a little as he followed her through the door. He dropped his bag and watched her pull out the chair and sit down. “Oh, um . . .” He’d just noticed that there was only one bed. Niamh followed his eyes and shrugged.

“That’s fine; I’ll sleep on the floor,” she offered, pulling at one of her boots.

“What? And let you go out ’ere and complain to everyone else that I’m a lousy wanker ’oo made you sleep on the floah?” He took another step toward her and reached for her foot. She raised her eyebrow at him but didn’t resist when he pulled her boot off for her. “We can’t ’ave that then, can we?” He gave her a sly smile as he removed her other boot and sat down on the bed to take off his own shoes.

“So what’s your story then, Badger?”

“Ya seemed ta have me pegged earliah; what d’youfink?” Her eyes weren’t convinced. He heaved a big sigh. “’Ow much time ya got?” he laughed.

“Two days,” she replied, entirely serious. His brow furrowed a bit; he wasn’t used to people being interested in him. She hopped up from her chair and sat down next to him. “So tell me about you.”

“Well, for star’ers, you can call me Brian if ya like,” he offered. “I’m twen’y . . . off Dyton Colony . . . just gettin’ outta Lock Down.”

After a couple hours, Brian was almost tired of talking about himself. They’d inadvertently migrated to a horizontal position. Now they harmlessly laid looking at the ceiling, rambling on and on. “You’ve gotta be older’n fifteen,” he insisted.

“Nope,” she yawned. “Just grew up earlier’n I should’ve.” Her head rested against his shoulder, and she closed her eyes.

“You gettin’ tiyad, Love?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright, I’ll head ta the floor then.” He started to sit up, but she grabbed at his sleeve.

“I’m comfortable,” she objected.

“You’re not worried I’m gonna . . .”

“A, Thiarna,” she exclaimed.

“Where’d you learn that?”

“Where’d you learn ’at?” she shot back.

“Home . . . I fought Dyton was the only place Gaels still existed.”

“Nah, most of the Scottish Gaels ended up on Shadow.”

“Shadow? Really?” He paused for a minute, thinking. “So you’re gettin’ off there then?”

“That’s the notion.” She sighed. “Not really sure if I’ll be welcome there, but I feel like I need ta try, y’know?”

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