by P. R. Zed

Previously published in Deadlier than the Male

Veron Kasabi thought, for the thousandth time that day, that she really hated space stations.

She'd spent all morning hauling cargo into the hold of the small scoutship, maintaining her slightly disreputable cover as a freetrader. She'd just maneuvred a bulky box of delicate electronic components into place when the artificial gravity had given a slight hiccup. She'd nearly killed herself to keep the cargo from smashing itself to pieces. Anyone who thought the life of a revolutionary hero was all glamour could have it.

Somehow, she hadn't seen herself lugging cargo when Blake had asked her to take this assignment.

Blake had come to her when he'd heard about a possible rebel group working on Space City. At least, they seemed to be rebels: their chief target thus far had been the Terra Nostra, not the Feds. That target had rung bells for Blake, however, reminding him of a young man he'd encouraged perhaps a year back. That information had been merely interesting until they'd tumbled to a rumour that the Terra Nostra were out to destroy the fledgling rebels. Blake, as usual, felt responsible, and wanted someone to warn the group, and to help them, if possible. For some reason, Blake thought she would be the perfect one to investigate.

Veron had been flattered--she was seldom given a solo assignment--but now she was wondering if she had been utterly daft to accept. She'd spent the last two days hanging around crowded bars, breathing badly filtered air and having absolutely no luck finding this Bek person. Even the year old holo Blake had managed to find hadn't helped. Then again, Veron wasn't sure she'd recognize the rather pale faced young man in the fuzzy image herself, and she'd been staring at it for days. The whole thing was looking to have been a waste of time.

She balanced another box, cursing the smallness of the hold that prohibited the use of anti-grav units. After nearly dropping another box, this time without the help of a grav flux, she'd had it.

"Bugger this for a lark," she muttered under her breath, not that there was anyone who could have overheard.

She made her decision. She would contact Monako base, and request permission to leave today. She didn't think another two days here would help, and it might just give the Terra Nostra time to figure out who she was. Mind made up, she smiled, gave one of the less fragile crates a solid kick, and headed off to the flight deck.

Bek stopped to adjust the makeshift bandage on his leg, before resuming his flight down the hall at the best speed he could manage. He had too much adrenaline and endorphins in his system to feel much more than a dull ache now, but he knew it was going to hurt like hell later.

And things had been going so well.

Since he'd encountered Blake, he had started his own annoyance campaign against the Terra Nostra. At first, he just disrupted their routine, waylaying the odd courier. He’d gotten more ambitious as other people joined him. Some of them were just kids, thinking a little anarchy might be fun, but there were others, like him, who'd lost people to the Terra Nostra and Feds. As the number of serious recruits grew, their plans became more elaborate: hacking into communication protocols; sabotaging transports.

And now they had tried for something substantial, something that would really hurt those murdering bastards and make other rebel groups notice them. They had decided to bomb Terra Nostra headquarters.

They’d planned everything down to the last second. Security had been breached, guards schedules exactly mapped out, the explosive device had been designed and built. They'd planned their point of entry, and the team had trained until they could do everything in their sleep. But in spite of all their precautions, somehow they'd been found out, and the bastards had been waiting for them.

Now he was the only one of the team still alive.

The Terra Nostra footsoldiers had opened fire as soon as they were in range. Half the team had gone down immediately; the rest had scattered. Bek had ended up separated from the others, and that had saved him. The remainder of the team had been surrounded. Bek had watched from the alcove where he'd taken shelter as his people had laid down their arms and the footsoldiers advanced on them.

He'd waited for the inevitable massacre, but Nik had taken matters into his own hands. Nik, who'd been the first to join him, his best friend for more than a year, had looked straight at the Terra Nostra soldiers, and pressed the detonation control at his belt. The Terra Nostra had died in the blast with his own. Bek had been thrown into a heap, but had somehow avoided the worst of the schrapnel. Before he'd known it, he was up and running.

He'd encountered a patrol sometime between now and then, and had caught part of a blast in the leg. His own nerves were strung so tight, though, that he'd he'd killed the lot of them before he'd registered that he'd been shot himself.

Now he had to do something.

He reckoned the only chance he had was to get to the landing bay and try to find a way off this station. And the only way he could do that was hijack a ship, and a pilot, 'cause there was no way he could fly even the smallest suborbital craft.

No problem.

Yeah, right.

He was off and running again before he had time to consider how bloody simple he was if he thought he was actually going to get out of this mess alive.

Veron was outside the ship making a visual check of the landing gear, when she felt the muzzle of a gun pressed into her back. She schooled the impulse to lash out at whoever had pulled a weapon on her, and instead merely froze and waited. After all, she was supposed to be a freetrader, not a trained fighter.

"Put your hands where I can see them, and turn around." The voice was male, young, and, if she was any judge, scared. She followed his directions, and came face to face with the very person she'd been searching the wretched station for. She nearly laughed at the improbability of it, but the look on this one's face made it clear that he wouldn't appreciate the joke.

She looked closer at Bek, for Bek it was, and her brow contracted in concern. She'd been right about scared. What little colour his face might have had was completely drained away, leaving his skin a ghastly grey. His clothes looked as though they'd been through several wars, all on the losing side, and his gun hand shook slightly. Looking down further, she saw a scrap of cloth inexpertly tied around a wound on his calf. Blood had already started to seep through the bandage.

She opened her mouth to say something, but quickly closed it again. He wouldn't be expecting sympathy from someone he'd just pulled a gun on. She would stay silent, and see how this developed.

"Now, get in the ship, slowly." Bek gestured with his gun.

Veron turn and climbed the ladder into the ship. She waited well back from the entry hatch as Bek followed behind her, and watched him complete the last few steps into the ship. Automatically, she calculated methods of disarming her guest, but he looked to be in such a fragile condition that she didn't want to rush it. Yet. Instead she simply waited for the next order. It wasn't long coming.

"Flight deck." Another motion of the gun.

Once on the flight deck, Bek turned to her again.

"Now, all I want is to get out of here, just like you. Fly me off this heap, and I'll let you go; you can even keep your ship."

Veron nodded. She moved towards the pilot's station, picking up her comm headset on the way.

"May I?" She nodded at the headset.

"Go ahead. Just put it on the speaker and don't mention I'm here."

Veron acknowledged his order, and made contact with flight control to request departure clearance. She was surprised by the response, but shouldn't have been, given the circumstances.

"Negative, Starfire. We have a station emergency. All ships to be searched before lift off. Stand by, and we'll have you off before you know it."

Veron quickly thumbed of the comm set.

"Damn, damn, damn." Bek exploded behind her as soon as the channel was off. "Fuck!"

They didn't have very long. She had to gain his trust. Immediately.


The use of his name brought him up short.

"How did you. . ."

"We don't have time, so just shut up and listen. Blake sent me here to find you. I was to bring you back to our base. If you believe me, I can still get you out. If you don't, you might want to start running now." She stared straight at him, willing him to see that she was telling the truth. He hesitated. Too long.

"Look, do you trust me?" She was nearly shouting, but there was no more time for manners.

He nodded.

"Right, then." She got down on her knees and started ripping up a seemingly solid floor plate. "This is a smuggler's hold. Something Jenna taught us. I don't know if you met her." She looked up as Bek nodded. "Anyway, it's blocked from scans. We usually use them to hide contraband goods, but occasionally we put people in them too. If you're in here, they won't find you. I assume it's you they're looking for?" She saw him nod out of the corner of her eye.

She finally got the plate free and flung it up, revealing a space big enough to carry a small amount of cargo, or one person who wasn't claustrophobic. She hoped Bek wasn't. She stood and moved over to his side.

"You can keep the gun," she grabbed the headset from the co-pilot's station, "and take this. Don't turn on the set unless you absolutely have to. The hold is mostly soundproofed, but you'll want to be as quiet as possible."

She looked at Bek, and found he looked even more frightened than before, if that were possible. His eyes had gone black, the pupils were so large, and he was taking shallow, rapid breaths. She wished they had time, but they didn't.

"You have to do this." She held out her hand.

Bek stared down at the offered hand, and it was like he'd woken from a deep sleep. She could see him slough off the fear as he put the comm set on and holstered his gun. He looked right at her before taking her hand in a firm grip.

"All right," he said, and his voice was steady. "Let's do it."

The time Bek spent waiting in the hold was one of the longest periods he could remember. He cursed himself for a fool a dozen times over for trusting the pilot of this ship. It seemed too impossible that he had actually stumbled onto some good luck. More likely, the pilot was simply going to turn him over to whatever goons appeared. But some rogue piece of optimism kept telling him it was going to be fine, that he could trust her.

My god, she was young, though. Maybe eighteen. Maybe. He supposed he wasn't that much older himself, but right now he felt like an old man. But she had to be good at what she did, or Blake wouldn't have trusted her. If she really were working for Blake . . .

No, he had to assume she was telling the truth.

He went back and forth, seemingly for hours, convinced one minute that he was safe, and the next, that he was seconds from capture. When he finally heard the hatch being opened above him, he had his gun out and ready before the thought formed consciously.

The hatch was thrown open, and he blinked in the glare of the flight deck after the near total darkness of the hold.

The pilot's face peered down at him, all fine bones and golden hair.

"It's safe to come out, now. The soldiers have gone, and I've taken us off the station."

Her eyes flicked down and she noticed the gun trained on her. He was astonished as her face broke into a brilliant grin. "And you can put the gun away. I'm not that much of a threat, surely."

Bek looked down at the gun, and found himself smiling as well. He re-holstered the gun, feeling slightly foolish as he did so. Then he clambered out of the hold, the girl helping him part way.

"Sit over there." She gestured at the co-pilot's chair, as she reached donw to pull a large case up on the console. "I got the med kit. Thought I'd take a look at that leg."

Bek suddenly realized he could feel a warm trickle of blood down his leg. He reached down to touch it, only to have his hand batted away.

"Don't muck aboout with it. It's probably infected enough as it is." She started cutting away the bandage and his pant leg.

"Yes, your majesty."

She snorted in amusement.

"The name's Veron Kasabi. You can take the 'your majesty' stuff and sod off." He blinked in surprise as her accent switched from posh to lower class, and back again.

"Veron, then. My name's Bek. But then you know that."

"Yeah. You have no idea how long I was looking for you. And then you just come wandering up, trying to hijack my ship." She laughed, a light, airy sound, matching her voice. "I think the gods were having us on."

Bek gasped as she pulled the bandage off his wound.

"Sorry about that." She pulled out a regen pad and fresh bandages. "It looks ugly, but I don't think it's serious. You were just caught by the edge of the blast nimbus." She set the regen pad in place. "Let that work for a bit, then we can bandage it up again."

Bek leaned back as he could feel the slight itch of the regen field kick in. He looked at the pilot--Veron, he corrected himself--and was amazed at how comfortable he felt around her. He must still be in shock. He tried to fight as his eyes drifted closed, but soon, he was fast asleep.

Veron watched as the boy in the co-pilot's chair drifted off. Well, hardly a boy--he had to be at least five years older than she was, after all--but he still looked young, slumped in an exhausted sleep.

She was glad he'd decided to trust her. She'd been determined to save his scrawny hide, with or without his permission, but she hadn't been looking forward to having to tackle him to do it. His wound wasn't serious, but she didn't want to be responsible for making it worse.

She busied herself on the flight deck, running sensor sweeps, making sure the navigation program was running smoothly, until she thought it would be safe to check Bek's leg. She reached over, and put a hand on his shoulder.

The light touch wakened him immediately. His eyes flew open, and it was clear he wasn't sure where he was.

"Steady on." She pitched her voice low, as if she were quieting a wild thing. Which she was, really. "You're still safe."

His eyes cleared of the fog of sleep, and he looked at her and smiled. That expression hit her somewhere in her gut, though she wasn't sure why.

"I thought you were one of them, for a second." There was no need for him to explain what "them" he was talking about.

"Not likely. I just wanted to take off the regen pad, and finish what I started." She reached down to turn off the small unit. "Then you can have a proper lie down in one of the cabins."

"I don't need to sl. . ."

"Bollocks," she cut him off.

Bek raised an eyebrow at her.

"Language . . ."

She didn't acknowledge the criticism, but merely smiled.

"Listen, you're exhausted and you know it. If you stay here, you're just going to get a nasty crick in your neck from sleeping in that chair, and then I'll have to listen to you complain all the way back to Monako. Not to mention, our med officer will have my head. So, don't even try to argue."

She could see him start to protest, think about it, then abandon the attempt before it was more than half-formed.

"Yeah, all right. But you have to promise you'll get me up if you need help. I'm not an invalid, after all."

"I won't have any need, since no one ever comes out here, but I'll promise anyway."

She felt him relax under her touch as she started to dress the wound. She completed the operation in an easy silence. Any tension remaining between them had bled off, and she was left feeling more comfortable in his presence than with anyone she knew.

She helped Bek back to one of the cabins. He was asleep before she had finished easing him down onto the narrow bunk. Veron pulled off his boots and covered him with a blanket, smoothing his hair down before leaving.

"Sleep well, space hero."

She wasn't sure he'd heard her or not, but there was a smile on his lips as she left the cabin.

Veron spent the remainder of the trip to Monako at the controls of the scoutship, placing it on automatic only when she had to rest. She let Bek sleep nearly a full day--he'd obviously needed it--and tried to get him to relax as much as possible afterward. Neither said much. Veron could see something weighing heavily upon him, but she wasn't going to force anything out of anyone. She was quite content to let him spend time on the flight deck, learning what he could of communications and sensor systems. He seemed to take a certain comfort just from being in her company, and she was more than willing to supply it.

Two days after they’d left the station, he’d finally told her what had happened to turn him into a fugitive. It sounded ghastly. She was shocked to learn that there were people who’d had at least as rough a time of it as she had herself.

After five days, they arrived at Monako. Veron got clearance, and flew the craft into the landing bay, with as perfect a landing as she'd ever made. She shut down the systems, and looked over to Bek, who'd gone even quieter on the approach to Monako than he'd been the whole trip. What little colour he had had drained away again, and he was nervously biting his lip. At least she'd been able to find him some clothes to replace the torn and stained outfit he'd been wearing when he'd found her. He still looked like an underfed ragamuffin, but at least he was a neat underfed ragamuffin.

"Come on. Blake and company can't wait to meet you."

Bek looked up and stopped biting his lip. He let a wan smile slide across his face, but didn't move. She went over, and took his arm.

"Move you. You don't keep heroes of the revolution waiting, you know."

That earned a warmer smile, and Bek got to his feet. She kept her grip on his arm as they maneuvred through the ship, briefly surrendering it only when they descended the ladder to the deck of the bay. Four figures were waiting underneath the ship.

Veron could feel Bek tremble under her touch, but she urged him forward with a smile.

Blake was the first to come forward, friendly as always. He greeted Bek like lost family. The others--Jenna, Avalon and Deva--were less effusive, slightly suspicious, but unfailingly polite. Veron didn't blame them for their suspicion: it was their job to maintain security and keep Blake from falling victim to his own generous nature.

Bek held up to the welcome well enough, but as soon as she could see the strain beginning to show on his face, she stepped in.

"I think I should take Bek to the med centre. He's just recovering from an injury, and I'm sure Kalon will want to see him."

Blake looked contrite.

"Of course. Forgive us, Bek. And welcome aboard." He looked to Veron. "You'll join us in the meeting chamber, after?" He phrased it as a question, but Veron knew she had no choice in the matter. She nodded.

They were well away from the landing bay before Bek said any more.

"He hasn't changed much."

"Blake? No, I don't expect he has. Or ever will."

"Are Avon and the others here as well?"

Veron paused before answering.

"No. Blake and Jenna were separated from the Liberator after the war. At first they couldn't find her. Now I think they're a little afraid to. Blake won't say much about it. Except for going on about Avon, of course."

"Of course?"

"You just catch Blake in his cups and see who he starts talking about. It irks Jenna no end. Ah, here we are."

They arrived outside the med centre, a large complex in the middle of the base. It was usually bustling with activity, but they had come during a lull. They found Kalon Devries, the med chief, at the cluttered desk she'd claimed as her own, catching up on her paper work.

Veron introduced Bek to Kalon, and told her why they were there, then released her hold on Bek's arm. She was surprised when his hand was suddenly grasping hers. She looked in his eyes, and found a silent appeal for her to stay.

"I'll be back as soon as I've talked with Blake," she assured him. He swallowed once, and released his grip on her hand. She put an arm around his shoulders. "Don't worry so much." With a final squeeze, she was gone.

Bek had been surprised at how much he'd come to depend on Veron in the few days he'd known her. He'd never really depended on anyone in his life. He'd always been the one the others depended on. Hanna and Petey. Nik, and the others. But now, all of them were dead, and he'd found he'd lost the taste for leadership.

He supposed that was why he panicked when Veron had left him here, but he needn't have worried. Kalon Devries was a small energetic woman in her late forties who talked more than anyone he'd ever met, and put him at ease immediately.

She clucked and tisked as she ran various scans over him, checking out the wound he'd received courtesy of the Terra Nostra. When the examination was finished, she shooed him into a treatment bed.

"Now, you stay still, and I won't have to tie you down. The wound on your leg was well dressed--and it should have been; I trained Veron myself--but I can do a better job here. On top of that, you're slightly malnourished, and your immune system is depressed. I want you to stay here so I can repair the damage, and make certain there's nothing I'm missing. You should be finished in six hours, and don't you dare complain."

Bek wouldn't have dreamed of complaining. Kalon may have been more than a head shorter than him, but he got the impression he'd have no chance at all if he tried to defy her. And besides, he liked her.

So, he just shut up and let Kalon run her tests and treatments. As he found himself drifting, and slight freeze bleed through his veins, he reckoned she must have slipped him something to put him out. He was momentarily gripped by panic, but instinct told him that Veron would do nothing to harm him, and Veron trusted Kalon. He allowed himself to drift under, and the black tide took him.

When Veron arrived at the meeting room, the discussion as to what to do with their guest had already begun. It didn't seem to be going well. She could feel the tension as soon as she entered the room.

Blake looked up as she walked in, and motioned her to a chair across from his. She quietly sat down to listen.

"We've gone to all the trouble of searching for the boy. We can't just abandon him now." Veron could hear the frayed edges of Blake's voice. This sounded like an argument that had been going on for several days.

"Face it, Blake. You're feeling responsible for him. But that doesn't mean you should trust him." Avalon's strength was always her hardheaded ability to eliminate emotion when making a decision. It was what made her and Blake such a good team.

"Jenna, what do you think? You've met Bek before."

"I think we can probably trust him." She stopped as she saw Blake's face brighten. "But we still need to investigate him. We can't afford to be wrong."

"But you feel he'll probably work out in the end."

"We will need to run further checks on him. Use our own sources to make certain he isn't a Federation operative." That was Deva all over, Veron reflected, always depending on his intelligence networks.

She didn't say anything, merely listened as the argument chased itself around the table. She was as patient as she could be, until there was finally a lull.

"Bloody hell, did you argue this much when I joined you?"

Blake turned a mild expression on her.

"Oh, no. We argued much more when you turned up." Veron could see the laughter behind his expression, or she would have seriously considered hitting him.

"Yeah, you would, wouldn't you."

"Veron, what's your opinion of Bek. You've spent the most time with him."

She sat back and thought about Blake's question. She looked at the other people around the table. Avalon, as always, was completely impassive. Deva had his back up about something. Jenna seemed oddly amused. And Blake was supremely confident that his way would prevail.

"I trust him totally." She crossed her arms in front of her. "From what he's told me, he was caught in a Terra Nostra trap, which would match our information. He stumbled onto my location by the sort of coincidence even the best psychostrategist couldn't hope to produce. He has as much reason as any of us for hating the Federation; maybe more. I'd trust him with my life."

Veron knew she was going to support Bek, but she hadn't known how much until now. Suddenly, it was very important that these people, her colleagues, accept Bek as one of them.

Around the table, Blake was beaming, and Jenna was trying to suppress a chuckle. Deva was beginning to look a bit calmer. Only Avalon still looked the same, but then, she always could outdo the Sphinx.

"I'd say that was a positive endorsement." Blake smiled even wider. "I vote that we trust Bek, pending results of Deva's investigation."

"If that's settled, do you mind if I go back to the med centre?"

"That's fine."

Veron got up and left the room, leaving, no doubt, more squabbling about other pressing matters on the base. There were times when she was glad that they considered her to young to even run for a place on the Council until next year, when even this small a subcommittee couldn't agree on anything.

"Veron, wait a minute." Jenna's voice followed her out into the hall. She turned to face the older woman.

"You really trust Bek?" It was a question, and it wasn't.

"Yeah, I do. I think he would be a good team member. I was going to ask you if I could start training him on ship communications and navigation, when he's ready. I’ve already started him on the basics."

"You want him as a partner."

"What makes you think that?"

"I saw the two of you together, Veron. You looked like you'd fight tigers, or Servalan herself, if anyone laid a finger on him."

"It's not what you think." Suddenly, however, she wasn't herself sure exactly what it was.

"Maybe yes and maybe no. If he's what he seems, I think it's wonderful. But I want you to be careful, girl. You're still only eighteen."

"I may be eighteen, but I haven't been a child for a long time. And you're not my mother." Veron felt her cheeks growing hot.

"I'm not trying to be your mother; no one could replace her. I am, however, concerned . . . and your friend."

Veron eased off her anger when she realized how defensive she sounded.

"I'm sorry, Jenna. I'm not sure I can promise to be careful, but I will promise not to be reckless. Will that satisfy you?"

"Promise that, and I'll help you train him myself. As long as you don't leave off your flight training. You're my best student."

"Not a chance. I love piloting too much."

"Right, then. You go down to the med centre and watch over him. I hope he's worth it."

"Oh, he'll be worth it, Jenna. Just you wait and see." Veron was off. It was all she could do not to run all the way to the med centre.

Bek drifted up slowly through a warm comforting darkness. He felt safe--he had the feeling that Hanna and Petey were here somewhere, if only he could find them--but he knew it was time to leave.

He approached the surface of the darkness and broke through, opening his eyes. He couldn’t focus at first, and wasn’t sure where he was, but there was a woman’s voice, telling him he was safe, he was on Monako base, and he was all right. With intense concentration, he focussed his eyes, and found Kalon standing beside him.

“Kalon,” he gasped out, finding his voice rough.

“Hang on. I’ll get you some water.”

She disappeared from his sight, then returned with the promised liquid. After downing it, he spoke again.

“You knocked me out.” He felt a little betrayed.

“Yeah. You needed more than a few hours sleep, and I suspected you wouldn’t be sensible, so I convinced you. Chemically.”

“Nice. That your idea of medical ethics, then?”

“Don’t complain. You must feel better. Admit it.”

“Yeah. All right, then.” He shifted and sat up. The world swam in front of him for a moment, but the feeling passed, and he began to feel sharper. “So, when can I get out of this dump?”

“Anytime, as far as I’m concerned. But why don’t you ask her?”

Kalon motioned to the other side of the bed, where Veron was sleeping in a chair, her feet propped up on the bed, her head fallen slightly forward, arms crossed in front of her. She somehow managed to look both content and stern at the same time. Bek had to smile. That was her all over.

“How long has she been there.”

“Since she got back from the committee meeting.” Kalon consulted her watch. “Maybe nineteen hours.”

“Nineteen hours?”

“You’ve been out for nearly twenty. I’d say you needed every minute of it.” She nodded in Veron’s direction. “The sleep hasn’t come amiss for her, either. Though I dare say she’s not going to be comfortable after sleeping in that chair.”

“Time she got up, then.” Bek shifted, throwing off the covers. “Veron.” No answer. “Hey, Veron.” There was no sign that the young woman had heard him. In fact, she seemed even more deeply asleep than before. “She can sleep through a war, can’t she.”

“She had to learn to do just that.” At Bek’s puzzled expression, she went on. “Her mother brought her everywhere, including on campaigns. She learned to sleep through a barrage before she could walk.”

“Bloody hell. And I thought I’d had an awful childhood.” Bek swung around so he was sitting facing Veron. He reached over and pushed her feet off the bed.


She was on her feet, eyes open, hands up in fists, before she was really awake. Then she saw where she was, and smiled.

“Don’t do that.”

“How else am I supposed to wake you up?”

“It’s your funeral.” She stretched out the kinks, and paced the room, yawning.

Bek waited as long as he could, but finally could be patient no longer.

“Well,” he burst out.

“Well what.” He couldn’t decide if the innocent expression on Veron’s face was genuine, or if she was having him on.

“Well, what did Blake say? That’s well what.”

“Oh that.” She yawned again. “They wanted to throw you back to the wide world, but I told them that you were strong, courageous, loyal, brave . . .”

Now Bek knew she was having him on.
“You make me sound like a pet dog.”

“You don’t have a wet nose.”

“So, I’m in, then.”

“Yeah.” She paused. “Deva does want to run checks on you first. Before you see anything sensitive. I told them they wouldn’t find anything.”

“Not unless they’re interested in a string of juvenile arrests, no.”

“Then, I give you a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we can start some basic training. And find you space in the dorms.”

“Dorms. Is that where you live?”

“I’ve got a small room to myself. But you have to earn that, boyo.”

“No worries, then. I’ll have my own room in no time.” He stood up. “Can we get out of here now?”

The two turned to Kalon, who was watching them both, a bemused expression on her face.

“Get out of here, the two of you. You’re taking up space I can use. Veron, you find the boy some decent clothes. And I’m holding you directly responsible if he relapses.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Bek could see the laughter lurking behind the eyes of both Veron and Kalon. It was good to feel that he could laugh again. He took Veron’s arm as they left the medical centre to find him a new kit. Holding her arm, walking through the halls of a friendly base, he felt that he’d finally found a home.


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