There are some things worth fighting for, even if you think you won’t win. There are some people worth trying to save, even from themselves— and even if they fight you every scrap of the way.
Lorelea Lastas reminded herself of this as she walked through the chilly concourse of the small-freighter zone of the spaceport, her travelling bag on her shoulder. She needed to hold onto what had brought her here and make sure it still mattered as much as it had when she was safe at home, surrounded by people she knew, cared for and could trust.
Here she was alone.
She couldn’t even link home. That was a big scary first.
It had started with the thirty-eight adult members of Clan Lastas, sitting in the bar of The Last Hope. A Clan council trying to decide what they should do about the recent visit from a Coalition Security Force investigator to their home, the domed settlement on the planetoid of Hell’s Breath.
Having the CSF throwing threats around had shaken Vel more than Lorelea had ever seen her affected by anything. Velia might be her cousin but wasn’t her generation, more a mother to Lorelea than anything and grandmother to the child Lorelea had named after her. She was also the matriarch of Clan Lastas.
“Jaz don’t care about you, presh. Walked out on you twice. He’s not even Clan by blood,” Vel said.
“You never called him an outsider to his face, or thought of him as one when he lived here,” Lorelea retorted. “He belonged.”
And he had. They had all felt it. But not anymore. Because now they believed he had abandoned her and that somehow, his presence had brought the CSF to their door and endangered them all. They were wrong. She wanted to tell them how wrong, but even if she did, they weren’t going to listen. Not now. From being their star of hope, Jaz had become the bringer of their destruction.
It made her see red. “You can’t blame him for what happened. It wasn’t his fault.”
She could see from their frowning faces that they gave her words no weight. But then they hadn’t been there that last night. She couldn’t tell them about that. Even if she did it would only make things worse. They wouldn’t understand.
Dom cleared his throat.
“He upped and left you. We could find him, make him pay. Like we made your little one’s father pay.”
They had made that bastard— the father of her daughter— pay alright. A man who had sold her a thousand promises and betrayed them all. The Clan had chased him down when they heard what happened and made sure he understood he could either part with much of his wealth or with all of his life. The money had paid for her share in the ship with which she now made her living.
But Jaz was different. He was nothing like Lia’s father and Lorelea opened her mouth to say as much. To remind them all of exactly who he was and what he had done for them. Vel beat her to it, but not in the way Lorelea would have chosen.
“Don’t be stupid. This isn’t anything like that was. And no matter the rights and wrongs of it, he’d kill whoever we sent and not even break a sweat. This is Jaz Baldrik, not some corrupt corporate slime like little Lia’s father was.”
That was met with silence.
No one could argue Vel’s words and not just because she was their matriarch. They all knew what she said was the truth. It was completely the wrong reason to leave Jaz alone, but at least it would keep them from trying, so Lorelea said nothing too.
“We’d not know where to find him anyway,” Dom muttered as if that was the one thing stopping him carrying out his threat.
“He’s ‘City,” Vel said, her tone dismissive. “He’s ‘City the way we’re Clan. So he’ll always go back there. It’s in his blood.”
There was another silence, this one even less comfortable. Starcity, Thuringen. The place they called the criminal capital of the galaxy. Where Jaz had grown up not even knowing who his parents might be. An orphaned child, alone on the streets. Lorelea, knowing all her life the strong familial bonds of Clan, could never think of that without a tug of grief.”We have a bigger problem than that man,” Vanda, Dom’s aunt, put in, her words heavy. “We all know it, just no one wanting to say it. And the best solution is the obvious one. We need to be moving on. We been here so long some of us have clean forgot who we are. What we are. We’re Clan. We’re travellers. It’s been good times here, but this— this is too dangerous. It’s past time we shifted.”
Someone had been bound to suggest it. Halkom Dugsdall, the CSF investigator who called himself ‘Grim’, had single-handedly seen to that. His visit had left everyone unsettled, Lorelea included. He had made threats that had grown bigger with each retelling until, Lorelea was sure, half the Clan expected a cohort of the dreaded Special Legion convict troops to turn up on Hell’s Breath any day.
There were rumbles of agreement with Vanda’s words. Mostly from the Olders. Those who had spent half their lives lots of places elsewhere before settling on Hell’s Breath, an abandoned rock twirling through space. Lorelea herself had early childhood memories of that way of life, the transient faces of playmates on other worlds. Playmates who she had never stayed long enough to get to know, but had stayed plenty long enough to miss when the Clan moved on.
“I think we should stay,” she said. “I don’t see as how shifting’ll help us any. If they want us, they’ll find us.” But it was not heard. Too many other voices were being raised, some for and some against. People were more interested in saying what they felt than listening to other opinions. She sat back and sighed. It made no odds in the end what the Clan decided to do. None of it would change anything that really mattered in her own life and her daughter’s life. She had a simple choice, to accept that or to take action.
It was with that thought a realisation came to her. Not in bits and pieces or hints, but suddenly there in her mind, fully formed. If something mattered enough you had to fight for it. Whatever the cost.
The Clan were still arguing about the way things should be and not thinking much of the way things actually were when she slipped out of the bar.