Small Acts of Kindness

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Drake Winters opened his eyes to a vision of thin, gray sunlight and rainy gloom.

For a moment, he was dislocated, detached from the reality that surrounded him. Something had woken him. Where was he? On the window in front of his face, rain beaded and ran. All around him, a thrumming, subtle, no more than a vibration. He grunted, shifted, sat up. The view changed and he remembered at once.

He was in transit, aboard a vessel, a commercial one.

Destination: a rainy little colony world, well, a terraformed moon actually. Looking into the history of the place, (they called it Wulf), he'd found out that the only real interesting thing about it was the fact that they'd screwed up the terraforming a bit and now it rained more than it should have. There were just a dozen scattered colonies spread out across the surface of the moon, mining and factory colonies.

Drake had a clear view of the place now and it was like looking into the past, looking on a landscape of old pain. It reminded him of the miserable, dreary shitheap of a colony he and Trent had grown up in, spending their first sixteen years there, most of it together, looking for a way out. They'd finally found it...

And they'd never looked back.

Turning away from the window, Drake rolled his neck, popping it. He'd been asleep for a few hours, he surmised. The shuttle was coming in for a landing. He'd been adrift in his life for three weeks now. It had taken the Dauntless a day to touch port somewhere after they'd dealt with Enzo and the Necro Virus one more time, and Drake had been true to his word: he'd stepped out the airlock and went for the nearest shuttle going anywhere.

Didn't even pack a bag.

Brought nothing but his pistol and the clothes on his back. His bank account was linked to his thumbprint, pretty much everything was, and what wasn't was linked to his retina. He'd bought a ticket on the first shuttle going anywhere and that turned out to be down to the planet below, since they'd docked with a space station. The planet was mostly forests and mountains and he'd wound up on a little tourist resort colony.

It was boring, but Drake didn't care.

He wanted to shut off, vacate his own mind, run on autopilot for awhile. And that's what he'd done. Going straight from the local starport with its sad collection of banal fast food shops and tourist traps, he'd walked the streets of the nameless colony, hands shoved into his pockets until he came to a hotel that had a bar in it. He'd gone in, rented the best room and ordered up a prostitute. He couldn't even remember what the guy looked like, only that he'd slept with him for two nights in a drunken haze that ate holes in his memories.

He woke with a hangover and suddenly didn't want to be on the planet anymore because it was raining and when he rolled over and looked out the window, for a second, he thought he was waking up from an overnight drunk, a victory night with Trent, and he'd started mentally planning the day, the first part of that day being waking up Trent from whatever room he was staying in and figuring out what to do next.

Except Trent was dead, he'd never wake up again.

So he'd dressed, threw down some painkillers and taken a taxi back to the starport, getting on the next shuttle out, going anywhere.

As if he could outrun his pain.

The next few weeks were like that, lost in a blurred confusion of hotels, drinks, fist fights, and one night stands.

Then, suddenly, one day, he had a message.

It was from Hawkins.

At first, Drake was confused, then he was somehow angry, though the anger was distant. He thought he'd made it clear: he needed to be alone, isolated, for awhile. But then, vaguely, he recalled sending off a message into the ether to Hawkins. For a moment, he'd simply laid there in the crappy single-wide bed he'd woken up in, alone, listening to the rain. It seemed to rain everywhere he went, as if a manifestation of his gloomy misery was haunting him, tormenting him. He couldn't recall the message, only that it had been a question.

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