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The Wind at my Back, Stars at my feet Chapter (Cover Art)

Chapter 14 - The Wind at my Back, Stars at my feet[]

Vecca Cimbral wasn't her real name, but it was the name the Service agreed to use.

The Rockjacks of Kowloon were friends of the Folk, and she was on her walkabout, when she enlisted. It was partly a lark, and it was partly because being apart doesn't really mean being apart. Vecca was 'blind' to the flow of Hyperspace, she'd never be more than a crewer on a Guild ship, a disappointment to her parents and kin, one step up from being a wellwallah.

But her talents with data and data management? well now...there were lots of Dirtyfoot Captains who were blind to the flow, who didn't hear the Chorus during a jump.

She could make something of herself-but first, she had to change her name, because even if the Folk would always know, there are rules about revealing your ties, especially when you go out into the world of grounders and the system-bound.

Part of her felt a sting of Jealousy that her friend, Amanda, daughter of two dirtyfeet, one of them a Clannawallah, had the sight, the knack...but the rest of her was proud of her friend, and deeper, she knew it was the blood telling. After all, the legendary Li Duc Ngo of the Pathfinder service had been the man who took seven stolen jumpships through an intentional misjump to found Kowloon in the first place, and that kind of feat doesn't stay a secret among the Guild or the Folk.

It was an honor to be Amanda's friend, but it was an irritant that she couldn't share her berth-name and history with her.

"Hehah 'manda?"

"Go to sleep." Amanda muttered from her deck-sack.

"Can't. We're really doing it, ayeh?"

"Really doing it." Amanda said.

"Think they'll give us school credit for this?" Cimbral asked quietly.

"No." Amanda twisted under the straps to face her across the compartment. "Training creds maybe." she amended, "Rep probably. you're gonna be a celebrity when you make it back to Giap Island Residential."

"About that...are they really going to make us finish high school?"

"Can't hold rank without it." Amanda told her, "You're career, right? I mean, this isn't just 'sea cadets and off to be a housemom'?"

"Duh. If I get out, I want my stake-share of a cargo ship, the Service sponsors those, I can be a free merchanter before I'm an old lady if I finish a twenty year hitch, and I'll be thirty eight, still young!"

Amanda's grin was visible in the dim reflection from the status monitors. "Ship of your own, arguing with customers..."

"Making banknotes and bigger money, freedom to wander where I will!"

"Wish I had that." Amanda said. "Mom and Dad are grooming Pat to be the Duke, but you know, Mom sees me as the backup plan if he gets himself killed."

"What?? WHY??"

"Because she was third in line and wound up an activated backup." Amanda explained, "Mom's got this saying, 'if you can't afford to lose it, you can't afford to use it'-she always talks about how vital it is to have a backup ready in case things fail."

"Sounds like my mom." Cimbral agreed, "It's good thinking."

"It's inconvenient. We all gotta do service time, I'm making mine the Guard, it's the only chance I'll get to go anywhere new."

"What, do you want to be an explorer?" Cimbral scoffed.

"Yes." Amanda said, "I want to go where nobody's gone, be the first to see what nobody's seen, like in the old Pathfinder novels."

They're not really novels. Cimbral didn't correct her, just, "For real? you, a Pathfinder?"

"Since I was little." Amanda said, "Only I'm a fleeping finagled Noble, and believe me, back home not even Uncle Hank lets me forget it...not even a little bit."

"What's your bo-hunky brother think?"

"He..."

"Does he know?"

"Yeah." Amanda said, "He thinks it's silly, teases me about it...but he at least doesn't outright tell me that it's wrong the way Aunt Evelynn does...and he doesn't act like it's a fool's crusade like Uncle Henry."

"Your Uncle's a Falcon officer, Amanda, they have funny ideas sometimes."

"I know. I mean, I like him, and I've met a few of my cousins from the Sibko...but y'know, it's weird-they're weird."

"I'ma call you pathfinder, Amanda, that's gonna be your new handle on the channel." Cimbral half-teased her.

"Wha-please don't? what did I do to you??"

"Yup, Pathfinder." she doesn't know that's an honor yet, she's got the gift and she has the desire, the guild will find her sooner if they hear that name... Cimbral sighed, "Going to sleep now." and closed her eyes.

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