Exit Strategy, a possibly beginning to a story/novella/thing

“The thing is, I’m cheating.” The guts of the Heinlein sat in front of them, not all that different from the commercial space shuttles being developed in other parts of the country.

Chloe Rogers was perched there with the brightest mind in space flight, apologizing her ass off and hoping it would be enough. “What we want to do — what we need to do to make this trip worth it — it’s not possible yet. The science isn’t there.”

Dave Krueger looked down at his hands. He was clenching and unclenching his fists, as if the movement helped him think. As if he was trying not to break things. “I thought you’d had a breakthrough. I thought you’d really, truly figured out FTL travel.”

“The thing is, I have.” Chloe couldn’t have felt worse about this if she’d run over Dave’s puppy on the way to lying to him about the drive — fibbing, bending the truth a little, about the drive. But she needed him. “The problem is, I figured it out with magic, not with science.”

He looked up, his eyes widening, his eyebrows lifting. “So when you said you’d made a trip to Mars to test it—”

“I was being one hundred percent honest. I can fly this ship at FTL speeds. It’s just…” She held her hands open and shrugged.

“I thought the whole point of this ship was to get away from the magic people.” He twisted his mouth and spat out the words. “Magic people. ‘Gods’ It’s ridiculous. It shouldn’t exist.

“I know. But we do. And we’ve been here a lot longer than these so-called ‘gods.” And the things is… you remember talking in college, about how the adults were ruining everything before we could get old enough to even start fixing it properly?”

She had a long history with Dave. Even if he hadn’t been the brightest mind in space flight, she would have wanted him on this trip.

“I remember.” The admission came slowly. “We were drinking pretty heavily at the time.”

“This is like that, Dave. It’s exactly like that. These old fae, the ones that were here already and the ones that think they’re gods, they’re going to ruin this planet. I’m not entirely certain they won’t utterly destroy it, just trying to claim a piece of it as their own.”

“So we have to get out, just like we always said.” Dave looked up slowly. “But I’m superfluous then. You’ve got your drive. It’s just… magic.”

“I’ve got me. I’ve got me, and there might be three other people on the planet who can do this, and I don’t trust two of them and the third one… has their own problems. Which means we need to keep working on proper, scientific FTL. So that when we’re ready, we can return, or keep exploring. Even if I’m dead, or lost, or just don’t want to come.”

“But everything we need, everything takes an industrial base. We can’t build any of this stuff on a raw planet, especially not with the equipment you can fit in the Heinlein. IT’s impossible, Chloe.”

Chloe stood up. “Let me introduce you to Boris.”

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