Sera was doing just fine. This was all perfectly all right with her: nodding to Flowers in the hallway like he was a part of the team now, talking about work with Mirelle like she hadn’t hurled the Benevolence impossibly through time and space, listening without objecting as the captain detailed her plan to buy a bunch of supplies on Mars and just give them away. This was going to be the new normal now. This was fine. She could be fine with this.
She’d gotten through worse and weirder situations, she told herself. Her life had never been particularly safe or predictable. The nice little routine she’d settled into on the Benevolence couldn’t have lasted anyway.
And then one day the captain sat down next to her at dinner and said, as casually as if she were asking for a repair, “I’ll need your measurements.”
“My what?” Sera asked. It was just the two of them in the converted meeting space that served as the ship’s dining room. Dinner was a pile of ground beef patties between green slabs that almost, if you didn’t think about it too carefully, tasted like bread.
“I need to make sure I’m ordering you a uniform that fits,” said Captain Dysart. “We’ll have to fudge it on your rank, but that doesn’t matter so much at the moment.”
“Why are you ordering me a uniform?”
“Everyone’s getting one. We’re not going to be able to convince anyone we’re working for the Coalition if we’re not showing up in uniform,” she said. Sera realized that the captain was already wearing her purple uniform shirt, and her dark trousers had a strangely boxy cut that she recognized from her brief days with the Coalition. “Unless you kept your original uniform, then we can modify what you’ve already got.”
“I didn’t hang onto it,” said Sera.
“No problem. Just send me your measurements, and I’ll get it sorted out on Mars.”
Captain Dysart took a bite of her sandwich. She looked calm. No–she looked downright content, like she was finally in her element. Sera swallowed thickly, the lump of meat sticking in her throat. “You don’t have to get me a uniform. Maybe I could just… hang out in the background, you know?”
“We’ll need everyone on the crew to look the part,” the captain said. “What’s the matter? Do you get nervous in front of cameras?”
“Yeah, something like that,” said Sera.
“It’s funny, Weyland said exactly the same thing. You won’t have to do any interviews, I’ll handle that.”
“Okay,” Sera said. “I’ll send you those measurements.”
She picked at her food and listened to Captain Dysart spinning grand plans. When the captain left, she loaded a plate and took it to Jianyu’s room. Jianyu was blasting music again, in English this time. He sat up when Sera came in and turned the volume down. “What’s bothering you?”
Sera passed him the plate and flopped down on the end of his bed. “Did you know the captain’s going to make us wear uniforms?”
“Yeah, she said she was going to find a new shirt for me,” Jianyu said. “I’m not sure how she’s going to get one in my size, but she said she’d manage.”
“That doesn’t bother you?”
“No, why should it?”
Sera rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. Jianyu’s bed was hideously uncomfortable, just a thin layer of padding over an old steel tabletop. He said he liked it that way. “Do you really want to work for the Coalition again?”
“More than anything,” Jianyu said. “I know this is just–pretending, I guess, it’s not the real deal. But it feels like the right thing to do right now, you know? It feels like coming home.”
“Huh.” Home was a subject Sera had been trying not to think about too much lately. “You don’t think it’s going to be weird, seeing me in a uniform? Like I’m really a part of the Coalition?”
“You said you trained with the Coalition,” said Jianyu.
“Yeah, but–that was a long time ago. A lot’s changed since then. I’ve changed.”
“Think of it this way,” said Jianyu. “If the Coalition did still exist today, would you join it?”
Sera frowned up at the ceiling. She tried to imagine herself–the woman she was now, not the girl she’d been–marching up to a recruitment station and enlisting. The Coalition had always been lax about background checks; she wouldn’t have been able to get in the first time without their willingness to look the other way. Maybe she’d even pass the psychological tests, if she was willing to lie. Maybe she’d even want to lie again, for the chance to be a part of an organization that felt like it meant something.
“I wouldn’t go back to the way things were at the end,” she said. “When everything was breaking down, and people started fighting, and you didn’t know who you could trust. But for a while… maybe it wasn’t all that bad.”
“By the way,” Jianyu said, “I’m technically your superior officer now.”
Sera stretched her foot out and kicked him lightly in the thigh. He laughed. “If you try to discipline me, I’m going to rewire your sound system so it only plays Falacerian synth-punk.”“Joke’s on you,” Jianyu told her, “I love synth-punk.”