As they crossed the Oup Hind, Theo showed Martine around his ship. She walked slowly behind him, making a careful study of his things. He spoke nervously, explaining the lithe ship’s workings.  She wasn't listening. Finally he fell silent.

“You are one of us, Mr. Theo, even if you do not yet know it," Martine said, finally. "I know my kind. Chasing bounties is not enough for a man like you.”

He was flabbergasted.  “It was good enough for my father.”

“Then you are more of a man than he was,” she said firmly.  She walked with the air of a woman who has made a decision and will not change her mind: elegant fingers tracing cabinetry, narrow hips tracing patterns in the air. “You waste your talent on frivolities. You must join us. We will open entire galaxies to mankind. Think of it. The adventure. The endless possibilities.” She moved closer to him. “It is wrong what her people have done to ours. Boxing us as if we were mere creatures. People must be free, Theo. The galaxy does not belong to the Phyrnosians.  It does not belong to anyone but those who would explore it.”

He paused.  “Isela isn't like other Phyrnosians.”

“Can you be sure?" She stared at him.  He stepped back and bumped into the wall.

"Thank you, just the same, Mr. Theo, for returning me to my people," she said. "When we arrive on Phyrnos, you will speak to Howl. He will change your mind about what it means to be a man.”

He was angry but in spite of himself, he felt himself stir. He wanted to grab her hips, to stroke that clean, glossy hair. “Somehow, I-”

“Wait and see. Goodnight, Mr. Theo.”

He flopped down in the cockpit beside Isela, pulling his hair in frustration.

“These people!” he said.

“I know,” she said. She was quiet. He looked at her.

“Did one of them say something to you?”

“It’s the way they look at me. They’ve seen the worst side of my people. Why should they believe I am any different?”

So she’d heard them talking.  He touched her cheek. "You are different, Isela. We know each other, remember? Okay?"


He looked behind them at the piles of supplies Martine's men had heaped behind the cockpit. “What is all this! 68 cases of Atmo sardines? Candles, medicine, liquor ... ” He popped the cork and took a swig. “Brandy! Reminds me of my grandfather.  He used to give us a thimbleful on special days."

He moved the tins to one side and opened a burlap sack.

"Teddy," Isela said. "Come on. That's their stuff."

"You're telling me you aren't curious? I don't buy that for a second." He pulled out swaths of fabric, ribbons, tribal knives, maps-  “A compass. My dad had one of these tattooed onto his hand. Never seen a real one before.”

She laughed. "What a peculiar object. What does it do?"

He gave it to her, and she played with it, letting it slide from one hand to the other.

“So they looked at you funny, huh? Funny how?” he said.

"Askance. You know.” She looked down and the Evok jumped into her lap. “It’ll be nice to see Phyrnos again.”

“You have so much to show me,” he said.

She gave him a tiny smile. "Yes, I do, don't I?"

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