All Them Bright Stars


Liana Mir

Series Listing

02. The Good Heart - Case 27

All Them Bright Stars

03. Elysia - Shel 05

Best Friends

03. Elysia - Shel 05

Since When

04. Kailin University - Shel 16

Poetry is Fire

04. Kailin University - Shel 16

Scarred

04. Kailin University - Shel 16

Square Root

Story Within a Story

A Traditional Love Poem

All Them Bright Stars

Kade is one of a crewful of scrappy orphans taken in by the captain of The Good Heart, a spaceship barely holding itself together. Anyone would want to leave, right?

02. The Good Heart - Case 27
Alliance Science Fiction
Short Story

Her name was Case, short for Casey, even though Kade had told her a hundred times that Casey shouldn’t have a nickname.

“You know, scruffy, you can just shut up now.” She eyed him balefully, blue eyes bright through a badly cropped fall of shiny brown bangs. Her blue catsuit was dark as the backdrop to the stars glimmering through the viewer beside them and she had slung one of her oversized wrenches over one shoulder.

Kade handed her another bolt.

Case plucked it from his fingers and plugged it into one corner of the patch she was using for the hole in their carbon dioxide duct. “Thank you.” She pursed her lips, concentrating and went back to wrenching the thing into place.

The Good Heart was a Class C crew and cargo ship, hefty-sized, but frankly, a bucket of bolts. Their Captain Myers was a good man who took in any scrappy orphan that smiled sideways at him or cast him the big browns, and thus, he always had too many mouths to feed, too many hands to train, and not enough credits in the entire twenty-two star systems to keep his ship in good repair. And that’s where Case came in. She kept the bucket running at least and their persons inside the hull instead of vacuumed out by space.

She held out her hand and Kade dropped a nut into her palm.

“You’re crazy, you know,” he muttered.

She glared at him. Shut up, shut up, shut up! she was thinking. He had known her too long to believe otherwise.

And then, the worst thing that could possibly happen at that moment happened. Their wizened old kitchen former-genius (let’s not discuss what it would take to restore him to his former glory) poked his head in the airways, screwed up his nose, and waved his hand at the sharp, acidic smell of the carbon dioxide. “You got that hole patched up yet, huh?” the old fellow demanded, a slow grin creeping up his face.

“Scroggs,” Case greeted.

Kade felt the niggles of impending doom—why had he told him what he was planning? why?—and started to edge away, but another baleful, blue-eyed glare froze him in place.

“Bolt.”

He obeyed and handed one over. He had made a mistake telling Scroggs. So much for trust, for confidences, for making a life for himse—

“Should just screw in that patch,” Scroggs advised, nodding to himself. “Yep.” His semi-blind eyes missed the look Case gave him and the pleading look Kade sent him to just keep his mouth shut. “Did you know, Case, that this here orphan’s abandoning ship?” he asked.

Kade’s flinched at the bluntness at the same time that Case’s dropped wrench banged loudly on her thumb and the patch and she started swearing loudly in Sarhelan, a mining group’s language that Kade had always thought seemed made for cussing.

“You. are. what?” she demanded icily once the pain settled a bit.

Kade wanted to back up out of her range, but he still held her toolkit in one hand and the fasteners jar in his other. No help for it. He wrangled with thought and emotion long enough to fish something smoother out of his bag of tricks. “Just getting some schooling before coming back to fix this ship up proper.”

She snorted, disbelief etched in the line of her mouth.

Scroggs harumphed soundly himself. “Taught this boy everything I know, and is he grateful? Grateful, no. They don’t raise rascals right no more.” He shook his head mournfully.

“If you did the raising, you can take the blame.” Case picked up her wrench again as Scroggs started back-pedaling. No one, and that meant no one, was exempt from the girl’s temper, not even the cap.

Kade rolled his eyes. “Seriously. I’m going to school.”

“You can learn everything you need right here,” Case retorted viciously. “I taught you to fight, didn’t I?”

He ducked her frustrated swing of the wrench, then held out the fasteners jar placatingly. “You did.”

“And I taught the rascal to cook, now ain’t that so?” Scroggs added. “And he just leaves us. For nobody worth teaching a thing.”

“Scroggs, please.” He ducked the wrench again. “I’m going to teach too. Cooking and stuff.” He chose the only thing that might get the old man off his back, seeing as Scroggs was the cook before he caught Kade by the collar as a young thing and the captain reassigned the duty with relief. “Your knowledge needs to be taught, passed on for the good of humanity.”

Scroggs harumphed, somewhat consoled, while Case gave Kade that look she always sent his way whenever she knew he was talking a bunch of crock. “And you’re going to teach mechanics too?” she asked acidly.

Kade realized suddenly her arms were crossed and she was worse than angry. She wasn’t angry. Case could talk her own bunch of crock whenever she felt like it, just hers came out swinging.

“You going to miss me?” he asked quietly.

“What’s that?” Scroggs asked, putting a hand to his ear.

Case glared at him. “No, you good for nothing.” She uncoiled an arm and took a swing at him, half-heartedly. He let her cuff him and didn’t comment that it barely hurt. “You’re coming back, are you?”

He grinned at her, his crazy grin. She had never shown him even the slightest tidbit of affection, and somehow his heart kept expanding with the realization she would miss him. “With whatever you want, chére.”

“Oh, please. Spare me the French. Yours is atrocious.” She held out her hand.

He handed her a bolt. “It’s not my native language,” he reminded her with exasperation. “Girls like it.” He’d encountered a surprising number of females who thought Earth languages showed intelligence and French and Spanish in particular were romantic. He had tried learning Spanish first—before Case actually taped his mouth closed to shut him up, it was that bad.

She snorted in disbelief.

“I still can’t hear you two muttering rascals.” Scroggs muttered and stuck his arms through the opening to better pull himself into the airways.

She waved at the tiny glass viewer and the distant stars. “Bring me back some of that.”

“And what do you be meaning by all them bright stars?” Scroggs interrupted as he settled down beside them.

But Kade was just blinking at her, then grinning, remembering old Earth stories, that old meaning of the stars. “Yeah. I’ll do that.”

Hope.

#


Alliance Science Fiction

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