I told you about the villain of the first book in Samuel, but skipped the main character, a decision I will now correct. If you haven’t delved into the Seeds Among the Stars, or even if you have, here’s a glimpse of the underpinnings of Trina.
When you look at my main characters in Seeds and The Steamship Chronicles, they have certain things in common, such as a focus on family and strong convictions/determination. In other ways, they are not the least bit alike. Sam is a sheltered Victorian girl despite her both terrifying and wondrous gift. In contrast, Trina is a street rat. She preys on the wealthy, sneaking into houses, picking pockets, and fighting for her life whenever she has to.
She is skilled both with her knives and cat burglary, but unlike Sam, the only special thing about Trina is her dreams.
Coming from a culture with strict social divisions, she refuses to accept her place as fixed. Her high-born father broke the lines when he fell in love with her shafter mother. The fairytale books he left behind raised Trina to a moral code from times before the colony founders left Earth. Even her very name sets her apart from her mother’s people. Shafters will have many names in their lifetimes, but never a meaningless one like Katrina. They are named for their skills, like her friend Piper who protects himself with a short length of steel pipe pulled from the walls. She never knew the name his mother gave him, and suspects he no longer remembers it either.
Before you get the sense of Trina as a noble thief with a heart of gold, though, understand she’s a product of her environment. She grew up in the shafts beneath the colony, and her people are considered less than vermin. She knows the value of what she steals and expects a less than fair price from the one man willing to traffic in the property of polits (catch a glimpse here). Trina understands everything comes at a cost. Nothing is free, and if you want something badly enough, it makes you vulnerable to exploitation so best never to want anything, or if you do, best to hide it.
There’s little that’s heroic about her actions, but the reasons behind her tough, “dare me” attitude reveal her soft heart. Whether it’s getting medicine for her mother or protecting two laborers from drunken polits, she has a strong sense of duty and honor. It’s the laws she scoffs. They exist to crush those like her, and she can find little respect for polits who preach the doctrine of “work of your hands” while benefiting from the labor of others. A shafter thief might not have been what the founders had in mind when they set down the doctrine, but Trina works hard for the necessary things in life and never expects anyone else to labor for her.
Like the story of Aladdin, she refuses to accept this life, but unlike him, she neither expects, nor believes in some magical solution to her situation. Her mother dreams of when their father will return and raise her family out of the shafts. Trina knows he would have come by now if he ever planned to. No, Trina will solve her own problem, even if she hasn’t quite figured out how.
Knowing the dangers of dreaming doesn’t stop her from risking too much and trusting where she shouldn’t. Some dreams are bigger than self-preservation. Sometimes, the risk is worth even a chance at the reward, especially when the alternative is staying trapped in the restrictions of Ceric colony where her mother was used in medical testing and her sister chances slavery or worse every time she goes to the underground market for food.
You can hear what you want to when it’s the only path you can follow. Sometimes, you don’t know enough to understand what questions to ask.
Trina takes a leap of faith when everything in her life has told her to doubt and be suspicious. She takes it because the only other choices left to her are worse. She’s not willing to give in to what everyone expects of her. She’s not willing to live a life on the edge with nothing better to look forward to than a careless polit leaving something valuable out for her to snatch.
In this, she and Sam are more like twins than Trina’s sister Katie. Sam dreams of a safe haven, a place where she can use her gift without fearing a misstep will bring the law down on her family. Trina’s dreams are different, but they’re equally pressing. She wants to escape both her shafter life and the colony of her birth.
In both cases, they are driven to take potentially fatal risks to bring their dreams about. Neither are the type to sit back and expect something to be given to them, nor are they willing to let the chance, no matter how slim, slip by them.