Flash Fiction: Jump (703 words)

“So, just tell me,” Harry said. Leaning back in his chair, he took a deep breath. “What do you need to be comfortable saying yes?”

Shereth looked up fast, like the question surprised her. She had her arms crossed on the table, shoulders hunched while she read the papers and tablets in front of her. She blinked at him, then looked right back at the papers and let out a heavy breath. “Gee, Harry,” she murmured. “I dunno.” And she flicked her eyes up to his one more time, mouth tipped in half a smile.

Harry signaled the waitress for another drink.

“You’re offering me a job,” Shereth said. She shifted the top page, sharply to the side and tilted her head at the page underneath. “Your job. Which for some reason you don’t want anymore. Probably something to do with your fiance being convinced it will get you killed one day.”

“Not killed…” Harry corrected.

Shereth shrugged her surrender. “You want me to pilot a ship, which, on its commission date, was a rough amalgamation of three different ships, and now it’s eight. And at least four of them regularly get into arguments with the engine.”

“On a good day, it’s only two,” Harry told her. “And you’re good enough – smart and violent enough – to deal with it.”

She looked at him again, smiling. She flicked her eyebrows up and ducked her head.

“It’s apparently, some sort of cargo hauler,” Shereth continued. “Which makes no sense looking at the design, maneuverability, or engine power of the ship. But you can’t actually confirm anything, or tell me what kind of cargo until I sign a contract. Which kind of brings me back around to the thought that your fiance wants you off that ship. Especially since the routes for the next few months wander through some dark parts of space.” Sliding one of the tablets between them, she tapped through a series of maps. She stopped on the star map with the straightest, most direct flight path. “At least they know not to stay in this neighborhood longer than they have to. I have friends who were lucky to walk out of that system with both their lungs.”

“It is a very lucky crew,” Harry said.

“Oh, yes,” Shereth said. She pulled a paper from the bottom of the stack. “Let’s talk about them. Nine crew members.” She tapped her finger against one on of the columns on the page. “One of them actually has a technical degree. The Captain’s ex-military. The med officer completed most of her degree. Your weapons technician spent five years in an off-world prison before being inexplicably pardoned and released. Although, really, the biggest concern about him is the fact that you have a weapons technician.”

Harry looked down.

“There are no weapons listed anywhere on these tech specs,” Shereth pointed out.

“I know. You need to sign for those too.”

“Bang down job, keeping those a secret,” she chided. “And then, of course, there’s the fact that I have a nice, steady job here, pays more than I need, and doesn’t have any lurking secrets that might bite.”

Harry’s drink arrived just in time. He nodded to the waitress, took a long sip and enjoyed the lime kick in the aftertaste before he looked at Shereth again. “So tell me,” he said.

Laughing, Shereth pushed herself back from the table as well. She leaned back in her chair, mirroring him, and crossed her arms. “There’s not a word you can dream up that would make any of this comfortable, Harry. I mean, unless I’m reading this wrong, there’s not even a real mattress in crew quarters, just a rough bunk.”

“So that’s a no,” Harry said.

Shereth glanced around the room, rubbed her cheek with two fingers, looked anywhere but at him for a minute. “It’s a risk,” she murmured, after she worked her gaze back around to him. “Dangerous by definition. Capable of stealing things from me, by definition. You never had to make it comfortable.”

He realized, a half-second too late, that she’d worked a grin onto her face somewhere between her sentences.

“You only had to make it exciting,” Shereth told him.

This post was written in response to today’s Daily Prompt, Might As Well Jump:

What’s the biggest risk you’d like to take — but haven’t been able to? What would have to happen to make you comfortable taking it?

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