Sela wrapped her good hand around her tea mug and took a careful sip.
The salon was crackling with noise and activity; passengers readying themselves for the charge down the iron gangway and the resulting jostle for primacy in the luggage line, the customs line and the cab line. Mother of the Deep, I hate traveling. She tucked her feet further under the bench as a cluster of children galloped past, each declaring primacy at the curved viewing windows.
“Scuse me, miss. Spare some change for a fellow cripple?”
Sela looked up into a pair of stunningly blue eyes sunk deep in an otherwise unremarkable face. “Cripple?” She straightened. “Fellow?”
The young man, barely old enough to be called a man but too tall to be a boy any longer, shrugged. “Not sympathetic, eh? Can I interest you in some flowers?” He opened his coat, revealing three pence posies, each threaded through a hole cut in the lining of his jacket.
The 'ship bobbled and there was a vague roar as the steam-thrusters kicked in. Over the heads of the milling children, Sela could just make out the curve of the planet below.
“Come on. Just five pence and these lovely flowers are yours.”
“Just five pence. For three-penny flowers?”
He grinned. “Hard work for me, hobblin' around. And I've been told my charm's worth the extra tuppence.”
“Hardly.” She dug in her pocket and produced a five-pence. “Better not to call strangers cripple and expect them to give you something for it.”
“Sorry 'bout that. I saw your hand and thought we had summat in common.” He slapped the brace around his leg with one hand and held out a drooping posey with the other.
She looked down, almost unwilling. The black leather brace covered her right hand from the first joint on each finger to the midpoint between wrist and elbow. That part was hidden under the sleeve of her coat and the long cuff on her shirt was meant to hide as much of the gold wires and tiny gears that meshed across the back of the leather glove. She guessed it didn't do that as well as she had hoped.
The flower seller was already limping away, smily and bright-eyed.
Sela tucked the flowers into the top buttonhole on her coat, knowing full well they would be dead and colorless by the time she got where she was going. The viewing windows turned milky red as the 'ship descended through the atmosphere. She flexed her hand and the wires glinted, pinkily, in the eerie light.
Summat in common. Clenching her fist so tight the brace pinged in complaint, she took another swallow of tea. I doubt that.
-- Outbound Screnzy project in development