“Why does doing the right thing never feel good?”
“I do not understand.” Basil’s voice was mild as always.
“Well, take us for example. We’ve been dating since I was seventeen, but until I was eighteen, we never went farther than kissing. Seventeen is legal throughout the Coalition of Aligned Worlds, so why did we wait? It made me antsy and worried you didn’t feel as much as I did. We waited because we were concerned your reputation would be…”
“… besmirched?” Basil interrupted, his tone amused.
“Yes, thank you.” I took a breath. “But it turned out no one cared. So why did we do it?”
“We did what we felt was right at the time,” he reminded me gently. “And we went farther than kissing, Zoe.”
“Well, yes… if you want to be technical.”
“I am technical,” he reminded me. It was an old joke, and one that he’d never cease making. “And you are using the fact that we did not ‘jump into bed’ as a deflection for your true concern. I cannot help you work through it if you do not tell me what it is.”
“See, you’re doing the right thing, and it doesn’t feel good.” I paused for a beat. “Well, it doesn’t feel good for me right now.”
“You are still deflecting.”
“Must you always be right?” I grumbled.
“Yes, even when being so doesn’t ‘feel good.'”
“Sometimes,” he agreed. “But you have yet to tell me what is troubling you. Dearest, whatever it is, it cannot be ‘that bad.'”
I paced back and forth in front of his console for a few minutes. Then I stopped, and said, “It’s the Kazoines.”
Basil’s last mission – the ship’s last mission – had been an attempt to relocate a colony of twenty-thousand people. The Kazoine sun was failing, and the Stellar Navy had been sent to rehome the colonists. Except they refused. Well, some of them. Some had come aboard the Cousteau and a few of the other ships in the fleet, but not enough.
“You believe we should have enacted a forced evacuation, pulling people from their homes, even though they understood the danger of remaining on Kazo Prime.” Basil wasn’t asking. He knew how I felt. He knew a good number of the officers and crew felt the same.
“But you know that those who chose to stay were honoring their faith, and their commitment to the homes they built on their planet. And you also know that the vast majority of those who remained behind were disproportionately aged and infirm. The rigors of space travel and resettlement may well have caused as much harm as staying on a planet that was losing its sun.”
“I know,” I said. “I know it was an informed choice. I know they would likely not have survived planting a new colony and all the work that entails. I know that even now the Kazoines who did come with us are complaining about lack of space and creature comforts.”
“Do you believe living on the Cousteau is a hardship?” Basil changed the subject, but I knew we’d go back to my issue.
“Well, no, but I share private quarters with you. And this is home to me now. The colonists have been ripped from their homes and are basically living in dorms.”
“That is true, but it will only be for two weeks, and they are aware the situation is temporary.”
“I still feel awful about it all,” I said. “But especially that we left those people to die.”
“It is alright to feel that way,” Basil assured me. “We had little choice in this mission because Coalition regulations do not permit us to supersede local authorities unless criminal acts are being committed. I, too, regret the loss of life and separation of families that will and has happened as a result. But we did rescue seventeen thousand people who will continue to live fruitful lives.”
“And you believe those seventeen thousand negate the three thousand who stayed?”
“Not at all, Zoe. But saving those who were willing to come was the right thing to do.”
“I know,” I said, collapsing onto the couch. “I know. But it still feels pretty awful. Why does doing the right thing always suck so much?”
“It does not,” Basil said, “always.”
And I had to accept that.
Written for Brief #23 of Like the Prose 2021: First line prompt.