Year 353 A.E., Rotation 66: An Old Widow Rambling

The first thing Giana became aware of was the rumble of an engine. It was oddly comforting, a heartbeat that fell in time with hers. She strained to open her eyes, and when she finally wrenched the lids apart, she found herself staring at the infirmary aboard The Silver Falcon. She blinked, slowly, trying to remember why she was here. What time was it? What year was it? Then it all came crashing back on her–the blood, the pain, the last bit of light leaving Rell’s eyes. She screwed her own eyes shut again, willing it to be a nightmare, but instead of wisping themselves away into nonsense like dreams were want to do once examined, the experiences only sharpened themselves against the insides of her eyelids. A husband for a father. A gunshot. Her own screams.

“Are you awake, Captain?” She recognized the voice, but she had a hard time placing it. She had to open her eyes again and turn her head to face the speaker before she recognized him as Podie, the young Captain who’d taken her place after Dilly.

“It’s just Giana now,” she said. Her voice felt hoarser than it should.

“Come on, you know I can’t call you that.”

“I suppose it wouldn’t help my case if I said it was an order.”

Podie cracked a smile. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“I’m not.” Giana stared up at the ceiling. She wished she was alone. She was terrified of how alone she was now.

“I’m sorry, I…I was hoping the surgeon would be here when you woke to fill you in on the medical details, but long story short, we made you new hands.”

For the first time, Giana raised herself onto her elbows and looked down at herself. Sure enough, her wrists now ended in two gleaming metal hands. She tried to move them, and though it took more effort than it should have, she managed to curl her left fingers into a fist. The seam between flesh and metal ached, and it was strange to watch her own fingers touch the pad of her own palm without the feeling of fingertips against skin. But it worked. Letting out a little gasp of pain, she opened her fist and lay her arm back down against the bed to rest.

“I’d…I’d be careful about using them too much before the doctor gives you more direction, but…I hope you like them. The boys say they can engrave some little falcons into them if you want but we didn’t have time before…”

“I wasn’t worried about my hands.” Giana sank back into her pillows.

Podie shifted on the stool beside her, clearly having a hard time meeting her eyes. “My condolences for your loss. We tried to save him, but he was already gone. We were afraid you were too.” She wished he would square his shoulders more. A captain should be able to deal with the grief of his men. But then again, he wasn’t her captain and she wasn’t his crew. 

“How did you find me?” said Giana, focussing on the part that didn’t hurt.

“Largely chance.” Podie scowled. “We’ve had people stationed on that island for some time now. It’s been strange. A lot of attacks on Swift’s goons, even innocent first tiers wearing maroon. Always bullet and knife wounds but never a culprit. It isn’t us, but we’re getting the blame, so we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of it. When our lookouts heard gunshots at Swift’s safehouse they went to investigate and found you. And her.” He fiddled with the cuffs of his jacket, his leg bouncing against his knee.

“There’s something you want to ask me,” said Giana. 

“I just wanted to make sure you were alright.” Giana didn’t need magic to tell her he was lying.

“I didn’t see who it was, if that’s what you want to know.” There was no way she was selling out an aeomancer who’d saved her life, even if they hadn’t been in time to save his…

Podie’s face fell, but only slightly. The bouncing continued. “That’s a shame. The mystery remains, I suppose…”

“So that’s not what’s on your mind.”

“May I speak frankly with you, Captain?”

“As long as you don’t call me Captain,” said Giana.

“She didn’t leave an heir.”


“Swift. She never had children. She didn’t have a clear plan for succession. And she’s dead now.”

Giana tried to feel anything at all about that statement, but she couldn’t.

If Podie wasn’t careful he was going to completely unravel the thread around his buttonhole. “Our people on the inside say it’s chaos. Word’s spreading, well, swiftly, about her death, and there’s several contenders for her role. There’s been some infighting already. I’m…I’m afraid the whole damn thing’s about to unravel.”

“Let it,” said Giana.

“And then what?” Podie snapped. There was something on his face very close to panic. It was funny to think that, not that long ago, she would have reacted the same way. “I know this ship existed before it’s rivalry with Swift, but this is all I’ve ever known, and frankly, without the income from those antidotes, I don’t know if I can afford to keep our operations running as they are. Please, just, tell me what to do…”

“That’s not my place, Captain,” said Giana.

“Everyone knows you’re the real Captain.”

“And look how much that’s fucking cost me!” Giana sat up. Her head swam from the sudden motion but she willed herself not to show it on her face. “You are the real Captain now, and if everyone doesn’t know that, then it’s your failing, not mine.”

“I…” Podie pulled back from her, his fingers finally falling away from his cuff.

“Move bootleg essence. Run silver. Find new cures and hand them out for free. I don’t give a damn.”

“I didn’t mean any offense.” Podie desperately tried to regain his composure. It wasn’t a good look on him. “I was simply hoping for some advice from one Captain to another.”

“You want advice?” said Giana. “Here it is: don’t take any more advice from people like me.”

She swung her legs over the side of the bed where he wasn’t and made her way over to the little window Larune had insisted she install to try to bring recovering patients some cheer. It was dark outside, except for the glow of passing cities drifting through the void. She watched them for a little while, trying not to think of Podie standing awkwardly behind her or Rell’s body slowly decomposing in a coffin somewhere in the hold or her son lost somewhere in that vast expanse of sky, exiled forever, as good as dead.

“Podie,” she said finally. “Do you think there’s such a thing as stars?”

“Ma’am?” he said.

“Stars,” said Giana. “Vinny collected paintings of them. He liked to pretend they were out there somewhere. I wonder if he ever found them.”

“I don’t understand what this has to do with the current situation,” said Podie.

“It doesn’t,” said Giana. She flexed her new hands again, getting used to the ache. “I’m just an old widow rambling about the past.”

“I should let you rest,” said Podie.

“I suppose I should thank you for the hands first,” said Giana. “And for saving me. I’m sorry I can’t repay the favor.”

“There’s nothing to repay,” said Podie. “This is as much your ship as it is mine…Giana. I’ll see about getting you proper quarters for while you get back on your feet.”

“That won’t be necessary. Just drop me off at your next stop.”

“I may be Captain,” said Podie, finally puffing out his chest, “but you will always have a place here.”

Giana smiled, more to her own reflection in the dark glass than at him. “I assure you, there is no place left for me here.” She looked out at all the nothing passing by the window, the cities and the void feeling equally empty. Eventually she heard Podie’s footsteps echoing away from her and out the door, but she stayed by the window, looking out. If she stared at the city lights long enough, then shifted her gaze to the night, she could trick herself into seeing stars. But she would have traded a thousand real stars to spend one more night in Rellion’s arms, or one more evening staring at imagined nebulas with Vinny, dreaming about some vague but beautiful future that now seemed thoroughly out of reach.


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