Chapter 15: Scolding
Rynah fumed as she stared out the small hole of a window in a cramped nook of her sleeping quarters. How could Brie be so stupid? she thought. Rynah could not believe that Brie had allowed Klanor’s men to steal the crystal from her. She did not understand why Solaris had brought the girl to the ship. She’s completely inept. A useless coward. Releasing an exasperated cry, Rynah threw her legs out and stood up, her toned muscles flexing with every movement.
“You should apologize,” said Solaris. Though a ship, she always had a way of acting more human than the one who created her.
“So you say,” spat Rynah.
“So the universe says,” replied Solaris.
“I’ll not apologize for stating the truth,” said Rynah. “She is a cowardly girl. Afraid of her shadow even.”
“She misses her home.”
“Then maybe she should go back there!”
“I cannot send her back.”
Rynah’s head popped up. Can’t? That wasn’t like Solaris, admitting that there was something she couldn’t do. “You don’t want to send her back.”
Solaris said nothing.
“Answer me, Solaris. You are refusing to send her home, aren’t you?”
“She is needed here.”
“So you say,” said Rynah.
“To coin a phrase I have heard, ‘My heart tells me there is more to Brie than you have seen.’”
“Your heart?” Rynah shook her head. How could a ship have a heart? “You’re a ship, a piece of machinery made from metal and scraps. How could you have faith in anything?”
Steam burst from the vents into Rynah’s room. She had struck a nerve. “At least one of us has faith! The only thing you believe in is your laser pistol.”
“I still think you made a mistake in bringing Brie here,” said Rynah. “It’s a good thing her skin is white, so that way, people won’t notice when she is scared. It’s as though she always sees a gryol.”
Bangs echoed around Rynah as a huge plume of steam burst from the ventilation shaft, forcing the grate to fling open and slam back into place with a tremendous bang.
“Now you listen to me you ungrateful little gahola! Your grandfather may have left me to your care, but you have no business speaking about others in such a way, and I will not allow such language in my presence.”
Rynah shrank under Solaris’ fury. She had never seen the ship so angry and regretted her outburst.
“I scanned the old tales and searched through all of Earth’s history for one who matched such traits. I watched as Brie grew up, in a way, and knew that she was one of the four. You asked me to bring them here and that is what I did.”
“More like you insisted.”
“You trusted my judgment, so trust it now. Yes, she’s frightened. She has been pulled from her home and thrust into a world that she thought only existed in stories. Now she is being asked to help you save what is left of your people. She is trying. Could you have fared any better against Stein? You, who failed to stop Klanor in the first place? You, who was closest to him and never even knew what he planned? Do not take all of your frustrations against yourself, and your failings, out on her.
“Brie has a strength within her. One that even she does not know she possesses.”
“How do you know?” asked Rynah, watching the tone of her voice.
Her holoscreen flickered on, and a video of a man playing with his daughters filled the room, making Rynah feel as though she was there. She watched as the two girls tackled their father. The youngest wandered over to a set of green bushes with blueberries on them. Suddenly, the other girl ran to her sister and yanked her back. Rynah peered closer. She saw it: a tiny snake hidden within the greenery. The man ran to his daughters, checking them to make certain they were unhurt. The video disappeared. Thrust back into her own world, Rynah pondered over what she had been shown.
“Where did you get that?” she asked.
“From Brie’s blog. It’s an online journal, very popular among the people of her time. She posted that home video as part of a memoriam for her late father.”
“Her father is dead?” The remembered pain of losing her own parents stung Rynah’s heart.
“Yes,” replied Solaris,
“I did not know.” Rynah settled on the chair in her room, her voice taking on a somber tone.
“You never bothered to ask,” said Solaris. “In fact, you have not bothered to get to know any of the four people you have brought here. How can you expect them to help you when you take no interest in them?”
Rynah hadn’t thought about that. “I never—”
“Of course not,” scolded Solaris.
“I will keep that in mind,” Rynah’s voice had been reduced to a whisper.
“I can send her back.”
Rynah’s head jerked up. “What?”
“If that is what you wish, I can return her to her home, but know this: once I do, I will not be able to bring her back here. Traveling through time and space is not easy. I managed to pull her from her world, but once I return her, that door will be closed, permanently. The same holds true for the others.”
“Have you told her this?”
“Because I believe that she would elect to return home, which she would regret soon after.”
“How do you know?”
“I took the time to talk with her.”
Rynah pursed her lips as Solaris scolded her again for not bothering to get to know the ones she kidnapped to her ship. “So you can send her back at any moment.”
“Yes,” said Solaris, “but before you decide, make certain that it is a wise choice.”
Another warning. “Solaris, did you ever scold my grandfather like this?”
“All the time.”
Figures, thought Rynah. Her grandfather had warned her that the ship could be a bit temperamental. If only she had known what that had meant. Temperamental didn’t even begin to describe Solaris.
Alone and isolated from everyone on the ship, Brie hid in the engine room among the coiled pipes and steam. She didn’t wish to see anyone. She had let them down. She knew it. Filled with immense disappointment in herself, Brie wished to return home—even though a part of her didn’t want to go—to save everyone from her inability to summon her courage.
Footsteps sounded outside the door to the corridor. Scrunching up even more, she hoped the person would go away.
“We know you are in here,” Alfric’s voice echoed off the inner workings of the ship.
Brie buried her head in her knees.
“There is no point in hiding,” said Alfric. “We will find you.”
Knowing she was not about to be left alone, Brie answered them. “Over here.”
Alfric and Solon appeared around the corner.
“Hiding is no way to confront your mistakes,” said Solon.
“I screwed up, okay?” wailed Brie. “Rynah is right. I am useless.”
“Rynah does not know everything.”
“You’d say that about a god?” mocked Brie.
“A mortal being cannot be a god,” said Solon, “and why would you ask me such a question?”
“I just assumed, you being from Ancient Greece and all, that, you’d think she was a god with all of her technology.”
“Assumptions only lead to foolishness,” said Solon. “Though I’ll admit that I had first thought she might have been from the heavens, I soon realized that this is nothing more than a mere vessel. Technology, as you would put it.”
“She may be from the skies, but I agree with the soothsayer here,” said Alfric, “Rynah does not know everything.”
“But it was my fault for losing the crystal,” said Brie.
“Did you release it in fear?” asked Alfric.
Brie thought back to the fight in the water. She had tried to hang onto the crystal for as long as she could. “No.”
“Then you have nothing for which to be ashamed of. It was taken from you by force.”
“The question is,” said Solon, “what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” Brie turned away. “Just go away.”
Alfric snatched the gold watch from her arm; it had been her father’s. When he had been killed, the Army sent her mother his effects; Brie had taken his watch and had worn it each day since.
“Give that back!” she screamed.
“No,” said Alfric, holding it above her head.
Brie jumped for it, but the Viking stood two heads above her. “It’s mine, now give it back!”
Alfric remained stoic.
Disgruntled, Brie just stood there, staring at him with a hopeless expression on her face.
“I took something of yours,” said Alfric, “something which I have no right to. What are you going to do about it?’”
Brie didn’t move.
“Very well. Then I will toss it away.”
In a rage, Brie snatched one of Alfric’s knives from around his belt and pointed it at him. “Give me back my father’s watch!”
“Do you know how to use that?” asked Solon.
“No,” said Brie, “but I’ll figure it out. The watch!”
Smiling, Alfric held the watch out to her. “The man who took the crystal made a fool of you. Humiliated you because he thought you were weak. What are you going to do about it?”
Brie lowered the knife, taking the watch. “Revenge isn’t always the answer.”
“No,” said Solon, “but are the man’s plans for the crystal the answer?”
“No,” said Brie, “but I don’t know how to be brave.”
“Bravery is not an emotion,” said Solon. “It is merely a choice. You can choose to give into your fear, or you can challenge it.”
“Will you teach me?” asked Brie.
“I can teach you the sword,” said Alfric, “but only you can make the choice in the end.”
“Then we will learn the sword together,” said Solon. “Being a scribe is little use in a fight to the death.”
Alfric frowned. He had counted on having one student, not two, but he agreed with the young soothsayer, books were of little use in battle. Alfric picked up two metal pipes as big as both of Brie’s arms combined and handed one each to them.
“You will carry these to the other end of the ship and back. If you are weary upon your return, then you will do it again and again until you weary no more.”
Brie looked at the metal in her arms as she struggled to hold it. “Not one for wasting time, are you?”
Together, she and Solon ran off with their pipes, each breathing hard after seven steps. Fumbling, they managed to reach the end of the hall before turning back. By then, Brie had slowed to a crawl. Her rubber arms refused to work and she hadn’t even completed the first lap. When she and Solon returned, Alfric’s phlegmatic gaze dampened their enthusiasm.
They ran off a second time, and a third, until both collapsed from exhaustion. Alfric picked up the two pipes. “Tomorrow, we will resume this lesson. I suggest you rest tonight.”
Heaving, both Brie and Solon looked at each other, wondering what they had gotten themselves into. Somewhere, deep within the ship, Solaris watched them in a way that only a ship could. If she had a face and a mouth, she would have grinned with joy.
“I’ve not let you down, Marlow,” she said to the memory of Rynah’s grandfather.