Grace was sitting in the Nefrit’s engine room, going through their equipment, taking stock.
“Grace, how’s everything going?” Lucy asked.
“There are some interesting differences between their tech and ours,” Grace answered. “Theirs seems to be built around immobilising their opponents. At first, I figured it was because they’re slavers. But it’s true for their defences too. They’re designed to guard against powerful EMPs & other disabling methods. They afford some protection against lethal force, but it’s clearly not their primary purpose. This sector may very well be one where employing lethal force is unusual.”
“Anything that you can adapt for the Cerberus?” Lucy asked.
“The EMP weapon is no good,” Grace answered. “It’s too short range and requires a lot of power. We’d minimally short circuit the shields & primary power using it. They manage with a multiple engine set up but their ship is also much bigger than ours. We couldn’t fit another engine, much less the four they have.”
Lucy whistled. “That is a lot of power.”
“Not as much as you’re probably thinking,” Grace said. “Their four engines would be worth about two and a half of ours. The shielding I may be able to use. I think I can modify our shielding array with a bit of phase modulation to grant us strong protection against lethal force & EMPs alike.”
“How much more of a power drain will they be?”
“The shields will still be operating within acceptable limits. We’ll just have to finish fights more quickly,” Grace gestured to a shell about the size of her hand. “these could come in handy too. They’re basically acid torpedoes. They’re designed to pierce a ship’s armour and melt segments of it to slag. One of them doesn’t have a whole lot of power, but pump about thirty to forty of these into a ship this size and you can seriously cripple it.”
Lucy’s eyes opened just a small amount. “If they all hit roughly the same area, yes?”
Grace nodded. “Yeah, they wouldn’t work as well without a really good gunner. But we’ve also got you. I know you’d use them effectively.”
“Flatterer,” Lucy said. She glanced out the view port towards the Cerberus. “I’ll let Ophelia know. But I wasn’t just asking about their technology.”
“I don’t catch your meaning,” Grace said.
Lucy reached up and flicked a finger against Grace’s forehead. “Don’t you lie to me. You know what I mean. You haven’t been able to see Farah in person since we split into separate ships & the way you left things with Paul was less than ideal.”
“Thanks for phrasing it politely,” Grace said. She leaned against the wall and looked up. “I don’t know. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much… To tell myself that I made the right call but I’m not so sure now. I could have lessened the amount I was putting into the atmosphere to non-lethal levels and then he could have saved all of them. But… Well, I guess hindsight is like that sometimes.”
And you wanted to kill them,” Lucy said. Her yellow eyes were fully open, seemingly staring into Grace’s soul. “you were disgusted by them. Not just because they’re insectoid but also because of what they do. Slavers, they’re the lowest scum, aren’t they? I bet a smart woman like you couldn’t help but imagine what Farah’s fate would be like if they had their way.” Grace visibly flinched. “Must’ve been hard, picturing the woman you love in that situation.”
“You’re right, okay?” Grace declared. “Is it really so wrong to not be able to forgive that type of trash? Is it really so wrong to protect your friends… your family with lethal force?”
Lucy’s eyes closed and she smiled reassuringly. “Well, maybe it isn’t. Then again, Paul is just as smart as you are. I’m sure he was well aware of the fate his own love would have suffered when he asked that you spare them. And yet he did make you vow to spare them. You and I aren’t so different. We don’t place a lot of value in the lives of those who would harm us, especially when they’re as vile as that.”
“But Paul’s different,” Grace said. “I know. He’s always been like that. I used to think it was just foolishness, but I’ve learned to respect it as I’ve gotten older.”
“It’s, in many ways, a more difficult path,” Lucy agreed. “Forgiving instead of hating. It’s part of why he’s such a superb doctor.” She sighed and reached a thin arm up to Grace’s shoulder. “The problems between you two aren’t my business, but I’d suggest that you put some thought into what you want to say when we’ve sold the Nefrit off and returned to the Cerberus.” She turned and began walking towards the bridge, pausing at the entryway. “I’d also keep in mind that he’s not the only one on the Cerberus with a gentle heart. There is one other but she’s got a more difficult job to maintain that with, doesn’t she?”
Aboard the Cerberus, Paul was checking on Gylin. The hivil woman was restrained, and starting to show signs of improvement. She’d be fit and ready to go just in time to turn her over to the authorities. Farah was keeping guard.
“Eat up,” Paul encouraged, speaking gently. “You need to recover your strength.”
“Why did you save me?” she asked.
“Because you’re a sentient being,” Paul answered. “And there was no reason for you to die.”
“That’s right!” Farah chimed in. “You should serve your time and then start a new, better life. You can always redeem yourself, right?”
“Redemption, huh?” Gylin asked. “And you really think they’ll ever let me out of prison alive?”
“Please don’t get worked up,” Paul said. “My colleague here is just suggesting that you can still find a purpose in life. A good, honest purpose. So just concentrate on getting better, okay? You can think of what to do with yourself later.”
Gylin smirked. “I think I liked your imperious attitude better, Mister ‘Baron’.” She made a raspy noise that vaguely resembled a chuckle. “I can’t believe we mistook a wimp like you for him.”