Everyone chosen for the corps was taught at young ages never to feel bored, and never to be lonely. He could spend years alone in his craft without anything to do or anyone to talk to. And still, here he was, chatting with a prisoner from a planet so remote most people had forgotten about it.
Giving the young woman a thoughtful glance, he decided he knew all he needed to, more than he had ever wanted to, and it was time to go. He rose up agilely and was surprised to hear her voice call out, "No, wait, please don't leave me alone!"
It was surprisingly tempting to look back, but he didn't; he marched out into the corridor with its endless rows of cells. A voice from his memory echoed in his head. It was his commanding officer snarling, "Such a pathetic little creature."
He heard a woman's scream, one of many imprints in his brain that would never go away, and his commander's quiet laugh. Through the commotion in his mind, he could also hear the real but muffled sound of Patricia crying on the other side of the wall. Shaking his head made the imagined noises go away, but the weeping was still there. He turned abruptly and entered the cell again. "Don't do that."
Patricia lifted her face up and sniffled, "Don't do what?"
He felt a frown forming, "The thing with your eyes."
She was trying to shout at him, but her voice cracked, and he felt an unfamiliar twinge of sympathy when he heard the forlorn, "I'll stop if you take me home. I didn't do anything."
Shrugging slightly, he answered amiably, "I know. You're really useless, aren't you?"
He looked down at his gloved hand, flexing it, but couldn't help seeing she was trying to dry her eyes, evidently too afraid not to obey. "Maybe I should just kill you. Since you're useless."
The threat didn't seem to faze her and he crouched down to be able to look into her eyes. "I can't take you back. I've already reported in I'm bringing you. They'd kill us both."
"So what? Now they'll only kill me? Unless you do it first?"
Her feistiness was admirable, and he tried to tell her the truth. "No. You're young and strong. You'll be sent to some colony as labor. It could be worse."
He rose up again and headed towards the door, and when he heard her voice call out for him this time, he did glance back over his shoulder. She said, "Can I have some more water?"
He surprised himself with flashing a quick smile. "Figure out how to get it."