(Please note this interview contains spoilers for Adrift!)
The canteen is small and rather empty. Only two other tables are occupied, and nobody pays us any attention as we settle down. The tabletop lights up, and we punch in our orders. I look over at the other man as the waitress brings his beer and my cocktail. He looks tired, but his green eyes are alert and intelligent, his auburn hair a bright smear of color against the gloomy background.
“So, Captain Spears,” I begin. “I understand that you’ve moved your base of operations due to some recent trouble. How is business going here, in the Elysium system?”
“Oh, you know,” he shrugs noncommittally. “It’s a small sector, not a lot of traffic coming through. But we manage to get by, picking up those short-distance hauls the big companies would charge you an arm and a leg for. There’s always work to be found if you’re looking hard enough.”
“And how about your personal life? Are things looking up there as well?”
Matt’s face transforms subtly. The world-weary look is gone, replaced by an almost self-conscious smile.
“Things are good,” he says cautiously, but I can see from his expression that it’s a vast understatement. “We’re getting along well. I mean, Ryce and I. Better than I expected, given…well, everything.”
I smile too. “So, have you two finally become physical? Inquiring minds want to know.”
Matt smirks and takes a long swig from the bottle. “A gentleman never kisses and tells.”
“But you aren’t a gentleman,” I point out.
“True, true. Well, let’s just say that neither of us has any complaints in that area.” His smirk deepens.
“That’s good to hear! But sexy times aside, aren’t you worried that Mr. Easom—Ryce—might feel discontent in his new capacity on Lady Lisa? After all, being a smuggler wasn’t what he’d dreamed of. After having such a brilliant start to his military career, finding himself scraping for a living must be disappointing.”
“We are not smugglers,” Matt says pointedly. “We are perfectly legitimate independent contractors. Now, of course there are nuances when working with such diverse clientele—“
“You’re dodging the question.”
Matt sighs and pushes away his beer. His smug smile is gone, replaced by a frown of worry mixed with annoyance.
“Don’t you think I know it’s not good enough for him? The man’s a freaking genius. That’s not the life he should be leading. Ryce deserves so much better than this. Than me.” He sighs. “To tell you the truth, I don’t know what he finds in me. I’m not…a lovable person.”
“Don’t you think you’re being too hard on yourself? Clearly, Ryce, Tony, and Val care a great deal about you.”
Matt shrugs uncomfortably. Under the veneer of snark and cynicism, his insecurities run deeper than he realizes.
“Okay, Captain Spears, the final question. What is your biggest fear?”
Matt takes a moment to think about it.
“Losing what I have,” he says with unexpected frankness. “I’ve lost everything I had before—my family’s graces, my career, my status—but it hadn’t felt like losing at the time. Then it had felt like breaking free. But now…it’s different. My ship, my crew, my…partner. It might not look like much from the outside, but they mean everything to me. Losing them would be like losing myself. Like dying.”
Matt falls silent, staring fixedly at his empty bottle. He must be regretting telling me this much, but I sense it’s something that weighs heavily on his heart, a tangible foreboding that haunts him. I recall there are still open wounds in his past, questions and threats that remain unresolved.
I thank him politely for his time and pay for our drinks. He nods absently, and I slip quietly away. There is one other person with whom I’d like to speak, and I don’t want to be late for our meeting.