“Do you ever wonder, Sister?”
Blanchard didn’t take her eyes off of the dusty distance. She held her breath, not wanting her vision to jump, watching the faint dust cloud. If movement, dark figures, were visible inside…
The cloud blew past, leaving no residue behind, and she sighed. Her hand, tight on the heavy rifle, loosened enough for the sight to drop down. She glanced over at the nun who stood beside her, hands folded into voluminous sleeves.
“Wonder about what?” she asked.
The other nun took a respectful step back, watching as Sister Blanchard ejected the rifle’s magazine, checked the rounds, brushed her hands over the other half-dozen pistols on her person to ensure that they sat loosely in their holsters. “Your life, Sister. How you came to dwell among us.”
The nun wasn’t sure how Blanchard might respond. Although she’d taken up the habit years before, Blanchard still conversed little with the other Sisters, sat in the back during Meditation and rarely raised her voice with the others in song. A part of her feared what Blanchard might respond, even though she knew this fear was silly, unfounded.
For a moment, Blanchard looked unsure. Her legs creaked a little as she stepped back from the monastery’s battlement, the pistons and servos moving to compensate for her shifting weight.
“If I wasn’t here, you lot would be in a lot more trouble,” she finally pointed out.
The other nun inclined her head, recognizing this truth. “Indeed. You have done much to preserve our order.”
Blanchard snorted. “Done much, you say. Bloody well did the whole thing myself. You lot would be overrun, just skulls on the walls, if I weren’t here to save your asses.”
The other nun fought the urge to sigh. The order didn’t specifically forbid swearing, but most of the others looked down on it. Blanchard, however… well, she was different.
“Yes, our order had the fortune of your arrival to preserve us,” she tried again patiently, “but what about you?”
Again, that look of uneasiness passed across Sister Blanchard’s face. “What about me? I’m here, saving your asses. Protecting the holy order, all that. I’ve got skills, and they’re needed here.”
Perhaps a more direct approach. “And what, not to put too fine a point on it,” the nun pressed, “do you get out of it?”
This scored a hit. She saw Blanchard’s mouth snap shut, her jaw muscles working back and forth like she was trying to chew a particularly disagreeable bit of gristle. Her hands dropped back to her weapons, as if she could shoot the question down.
The nun waited, uneasy. Perhaps she should not have pushed Sister Blanchard so hard. After all, the woman was their godsend, although most of the others would never admit such a truth out loud. Their order had not known what challenges faced them on this planet – but along with horrors, the planet had sent them Sister Blanchard. More machine than human, a killer – but one who bowed her knee and took up the habit, walking and living among them. A wolf among sheep.
Finally, Blanchard sighed, fidgeting and adjusting her hold on the big rifle. “What I get,” she admitted softly, “is knowing that I’m doing the right thing.”
The nun waited another minute, but Blanchard seemed to have said everything she intended. “Very well,” she acknowledged with a nod, and turned to head back inside the thick walls of their order. The dust was blowing, in her eyes.
The big woman, cyborg, killer, outcast – she lifted the gun back up to her shoulder, nestling the stock in against her and once again scanning the horizon. “And maybe, someday,” she murmured, too soft for anyone else to hear, “it will be enough.”