I silently follow the Nomad security guard through the dim corridor. After a lot of pleading, Gryffin finally agreed to a brief interview. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I’m not so sure.
Ares is on the surface for a few hours, so I was granted permission to board. Apart from a very select few, women are banned from stepping foot on the ship. My presence is causing a bit of a stir. I can nearly feel the tension vibrating through the metal walls.
I pick up my pace and hurry after the Nomad. He leads me down a flight of stairs and down a long corridor. The door ahead opens and he gestures for me to enter. I step inside and walk to the edge of the railing. The mezzanine level circles the walls of the room, acting as a viewing platform.
The sound of metal hitting metal comes from the room below so I hesitantly look over the edge. Gryffin is training with one of the drones. The robot is in a bad way and doesn’t have long left before it succumbs to Gryffin’s attacks. He strikes at it one final time with his metal fist, driving it back against the wall.
Gryffin wipes damp hair off his face and looks up at me. A minute of awkward silence follows before he decides to verbally acknowledge me. ‘You.’
Not exactly the welcome I was hoping for. ‘Are you free to have a quick interview?’
He grabs a bottle of water off the bench and takes a deep swallow. ‘If it’ll shut you up.’
It’s the nearest to a ‘yes’ I’m going to get. I hurry down the stairs and stand in front of him. He gestures to the bench so I sit down and take out my notes.
‘Who are you?’
He sits down on the next bench and looks at me; his eyebrow raised. ‘Seriously?’
‘Yes. It’s just so people reading this know exactly who you are.’
He shakes his head. ‘Gryffin, captain of the Nomad flagship, Ares and High Commander over the Nomad fleet.’
‘Do you want to know who I am?’
‘You Foundation, Hunter or Rogue?’
I shake my head.
‘Then I don’t care’
Right, charming. ‘So, what exactly do the Nomad do?’
‘Colonies pay us to keep Rogue attackers and Hunters away.’
‘How do you do that?’
He sighs with obvious irritation. ‘We put beacons in orbit. They mark the planet or colony as Nomad. That’s usually enough to keep attackers away.’
‘How would a beacon stop attackers?’
‘They don’t want a confrontation with me or the Nomad. Usually ends badly for the other side. When we’re not doing that, we do any other jobs they need us to take care of.’
He glances up at me and frowns. ‘I need to spell it out to you?’
I guess not. ‘So, you’re mercenaries – is that what you’re saying?’
He shrugs. ‘We’ve been called mercenaries and pirates. Survival is all that matters. If we’re offered a job, the money’s right and it’ll benefit the Nomad, I’ll do it.’
‘Are there many Nomad?’
He frowns at me. ‘That’s none of your business.’
‘Okay,’ I look back down at the list of questions, trying to ignore his purple eyes, which are worryingly focused on me. ‘What do you care about most in the world?’
‘Care?’ He snorts. ‘I told you what I do. That answers your question.’
‘But what about Terra? Do you not care about her? I mean, you saved her life on more than one occasion. You must care about her to have done that?
‘Like I said to Klay; I’m not a monster. You really expect me to just walk by and leave her with those men? Just because I helped her, it doesn’t mean anything.’
‘Of course it does. That may explain the first time, but not the subsequent ones.’
He looks like he’s about to kick me off the ship, but instead he stretches his long legs out in front of him and examines his boots. After a long wait, he finally speaks again. ‘Her initial reaction to me surprised me.’
‘When she shot you? That surprised you?’
‘That was a defensive move. I mean when she saw me, saw all the metal. She just made a stupid comment about cyborgs and that was it. She even argued with me. That’s never happened before.’
‘So she wasn’t scared of you.’
The faintest smile appears on his face, but he hides it again just as fast. ‘Most people are scared. Or intimidated. But not her. She’s never been scared of me.’
‘She clearly cares about you.’
He nods once.
‘It sounds like you care about her too.’
‘She distracts me. Whenever she’s around, I can’t focus on my job.’
‘That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to be with her, that’s a good thing.’
He focuses on the metal floor between his boots for a minute, and then looks up suddenly. ‘You’re as bad as Terra. It doesn’t matter what I want. Myself and Terra can never be together. The Foundation wants me back to finish the modifications. The Hunters and Rogues want to take me down. They’re not going to give a damn if Terra is in the way. They’ll just plough right through her. Add that to my faulty implants, and the safest place for her is far away from me.’
‘But you protect the colonies, surely you can protect her.’
‘Not from me.’ He taps a metal finger against the side of his head. ‘If that takes control when I’m with her, I could kill her. I’m the biggest threat to her life. That’s sure as hell not a good thing. Next question.’
I get the message, loud and clear. ‘What’s it like when you use the control implant in your head?’
‘You really want to know that?’
‘It depends on how much control I give it. I’m aware of what’s going on, but can’t always do anything about it.’
‘Is that what it’s like when the implant forces control?’
He takes a deep breath and shakes his head. ‘No. That’s different. I get the pain, but I can’t control it. That’s why I had the cage built. When I’m like that, there’s damn all I can do about it. Sometimes, I can force control again, but usually I just have to wait it out.
‘Does it hurt?’
He nods. ‘Like a drill being driven into my eye. It’s joined to my ocular implant. That’s why it affects my vision.’
‘So why use it if it hurts?’
‘It only hurts for a few minutes. After that, it blocks most of the pain. The added strength and speed is worth it – especially in combat.’
‘And the after-effects?’
‘Much the same with a big case of nausea mixed in. I feel like I’ve gone up against an army and lost. It lasts for hours – sometimes a day.’ He shrugs. ‘Worth it if it helps the Nomad.’
‘What really ticks you off?’
He looks up at me again. ‘Being interrogated.’
‘You think I’m interrogating you? This is an interview.’
‘Interview, interrogation, it’s the same thing.’
‘You really think that?’
‘Both are used to get information.’
He’s got a point. ‘If you could do one thing, and succeed at it, what would it be?’
‘Killing the people that did this to me,’ he replies, holding up his metal arm.
‘You think they should die? Why not let them have a trial and be detained?’
He clenches his metal fist and parts of his ocular implant glow red. ‘They did this to me. I will kill them – no other option.’ He gets to his feet and paces the training room. ‘They spent years cutting me open, modifying me. They didn’t give a damn about what the mods were doing to me. Why should I give a damn about them?’ He stops and turns to face me. ‘I’ll kill them my way.’
Enough said. I really don’t want to know what ‘his way’ refers to. The atmosphere in the room has taken a swift turn for the worse. His glowing purple eyes burn brightly in the dim room. He looks over at me and I know the interview is over. I’d rather not know what’s going through his mind right now.
Luckily, his radio sounds. ‘What!’ he growls at the person on the other end of the transmission. He listens for a second then closes the link. ‘Ares is leaving. Someone is waiting outside the door to take you back to the surface.’
I utter a silent ‘thank you’ and gather my things. I could never be scared of Gryffin, but that doesn’t mean I fancy being around when he loses control. ‘Well, thanks for talking to me.’
He glances over at me again and nods. ‘Didn’t have much choice, did I.’
It’s not a question so I don’t bother answering. I climb back up to the mezzanine level with him and meet with the Nomad security outside the door. ‘Take her back to the surface.’ He walks away from me without another word.