In the Wrong Grass

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Erin

The Crow

Erin was exhausted, but her body wouldn't rest. She sat in the co-pilot's chair, her limbs jittering with nerves. Daedalus had already confiscated her knife to stop her slicing herself.

'It'll take a while for the jitters to stop. Just try to relax, will you?'

His words still scurried about in her head. Fear had retreated, and boredom had taken hold, but she didn't fancy the idea of wandering around an unfamiliar ship and breaking something. And while Erin wasn't afraid of the captain, she didn't feel particularly safe after his stunt back on the station.

Erin tried to trust people, as a rule. She figured most people were pretty decent when you got down to it, and you only stood to lose out if you spent your life waiting for the next betrayal, or spent relationships waiting for people to let you down. That said, people did keep betraying her and letting her down, but she considered herself unlucky rather than wrong.

She stared ahead, listening to the noises of the ship.

Looking outside made her feel sick. Countless pinpricks of light slid past each other in all directions, ship exhausts and glinting solar accumulators indistinguishable from the stars behind them. The Cloud didn't seem to have any planets or suns of its own, so there was nothing to judge their speed against. She'd spent most of the last six months in windowless rooms on people-carriers. She wasn't used to the view.

Erin loved the stars, but right now all she wanted to do was sleep. The captain was bustling about somewhere behind her in the cramped little corridors of the Crow, the sound travelling loud and clear with nowhere outside for it to go. She was cold, still in the frayed grey rags she'd been given when they caught her. The bruised side of her face was a throbbing mass of pain, and even her neck was stinging. It hadn't hurt for weeks; the excitement must have woken it up.

Daedalus finally stumbled noisily back into the cockpit. He grunted, and dumped a heavy load of clothes onto the pilot's chair. Erin jumped.

'There isn't a great selection, I'm afraid,' he said, 'but the heater's still a bit dodgy. You'll be needing something a bit warmer than that stylish onesie of yours or you'll freeze.' He rummaged in the pile with both hands. 'Huh.' He pulled out a heavy black jacket that squeaked and clinked as he shook it out. 'Thought I'd got rid of this one.' He held it in front of Erin's face. 'What do you think?'

Erin peered through the giant hole in the back to see the rest of the pile.

'Is this all yours?' She looked up at him. His grizzled stubble and unkempt hair didn't suggest a man who spent much time buying clothes.

'Well, it is now,' he said. 'Sometimes shipments break open, or demand suddenly vanishes. I get left with the bits and bobs.' He picked out what appeared to be a leather sock and held it up for inspection. 'Let no-one say that courier work doesn't have its perks.'

'Thanks, I guess.' Erin shivered. 'Is there a changing room on board?'

'Third door on your right,' Daedalus waved her out and bent over the controls. 'If you see the swimming pool you've gone too far.'

Erin stood up from her chair, heaving the top half of the pile onto her lower set of arms and picking up the rest with her upper set. Teetering slightly, she stepped out of the cockpit and started down the corridor.

The ship wasn't dark, unlike the last few she'd had the pleasure of staying on, but the fluorescent strip-lights overhead weren't friendly, either. Their harsh brightness hurt her eyes, so she kept her gaze low. The walls were off-white, a plastic coating over the semi-flexible metal structure beneath; and the décor was notable only by its absence. The pirate ships she'd been on had been very different; all rust-brown paint with stencilled graffiti on the walls and posters stuck everywhere advertising strange station entertainments. Daedalus apparently didn't go in for entertainment. Everything was just blank white walls, interrupted only at ankle height by an occasional half-cleaned coffee spill or power outlet.

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