For luck (repost)

Kira paused beside them, his helmet under his arm. He nodded to Talon and smiled at Piya. “Well, I’m heading out now.”
“That’s what the Admiral told you to do,” Piya agreed solemnly.
“Don’t look so scared, doll. Bad for morale.”
Piya blinked at him. “I’m not scared. I’m going to be right here on the flagship. You’re the one who’s going to be in a fight.”
Talon hung on to his poker face for dear life.
Kira turned to him. “You got any encouragement, too?”
“Don’t get cocky,” Tal said. “The Red Wings are some of ou–their–best.”
The pilot’s smile grew a shade toothy. “So are we.”
Piya said into the deadlock, “Good luck. You’re doing a good thing. So try not to die for as long as possible.”
Tal snorted involuntarily and extended his hand. “Good luck, man. Kill some of the bastards for me.”
“Consider them dead.”
Piya had already started to wander off. “Hey, doll.”
She paused and turned with her head to one side.
“–give a man who’s trying not to die something sweet to think about.”
Piya considered. She padded over, stood on tip-toe, kissed his cheek, stood back. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you.”

Never Tell Me the Odds

The Admiral turned to them the instant that the airlock light flashed once and went dim–not exactly relaxing, but, shifting gears, much less tense than a moment before. He even managed a half-smile for the small girl with the big gun. “This is my private shuttle. It’s unmonitored. You have until the moment we dock to ask whatever questions you want. I don’t promise I know the answers.”
Piya and Talon exchanged glances, and Tal inclined his head to her, politely. It made Piya like him a whole lot more: this was a sublight shuttle traveling only just as far as the flagship’s translunar orbit–there wasn’t a whole lot of time to ask questions to the most powerful man in the solar system.
Except for the other one, the one man with his finger on the SunWolf detonator.
She said, “Do you know who Pay is? Can it be repaired?”
” ‘Pay’ is a translator unit that was once owned by my wife. It’s an old model, but there are still people around who can fix it. I can promise you that we will try.” The Admiral’s smile was a little sad. “I will be glad to see it restored to full function, too.”
Piya waited a minute, but Talon didn’t interject. So she asked the other question: “Do you know who I am?”
The Admiral said, “I am not sure. I believe you are one of a group of trainees who were kidnapped by–certain parties–during a coup attempt about fifteen years ago. Most of them were recovered. Some were not. There is someone coming who knows more, who might know your name. I can’t truthfully say more.”
“Thank you.” Piya said. She waited again. Talon didn’t say anything still, so she nudged his elbow.
He moved it out of the way. “Sir, how do you place our odds at surviving this engagement?”
The Admiral eyed him. “I put our odds of victory high. We have approximately equal strengths, our troops are veterans–and they’re better led.”
“This is classified information. Do not repeat it.” His glance took in their nods–“The Black Sun draws its strength from the Imperial remnants. That’s an open secret. What’s not widely known is how far the ties run. They run very deep. It’s the de facto military wing of the Imperium now–but with no Emperor, there’s only a handful of squabbling ministers at the top. None of them want anything like a strong military–it’d be too much of a threat to to the balance of power, or to all of them if the commander decides to stage a coup–so they keep their best leaders on a short leash….and they let the young bucks with great enthusiasm but no experience go out to harass us. If this enterprise falls through, they can cut ties with Chane and the Red Knight and claim they had no idea about any of it.
His face had grown tense again, distant. “They have less experience–and they’ve lost the element of surprise. They’ll be disorganized, uncertain, panicky. Yes, our odds are–” the light above the door came on again, deep blue, “–Our odds are very good, Sergeant.”
Talon said, “Thank you, sir.”
He stepped back to stand beside Piya again, as the locks opened and the Admiral–ducking his head without breaking stride–exited. Quite a few people were waiting for him. The uniformed knot clustered, began to move.
Piya observed, “He didn’t say we were going to survive.”
“He must not have liked the odds.”

(reposted after I discovered this in the archives.)