And now, on Space Pirates:
Kristoff scooped up his radio and the wafers.
Finney called to him on his way out the door, “If you’re passing by the galley, ask Sahir to send up Haldis with some lunch.”
“Will do. And you make sure your gun’s oiled and loaded.”
Haldis was dispatched to deliver sandwiches and a drink to Finney. Sahir waved a knife at the teapot on the back burner—the chandimay tea was ready—and Ezra reported that the guests were quiet in their cabins. In the engine room, Alerio didn’t look up from his magnifying glass when Kristoff tossed the two wafers and a handful of spiders on the table along with the other devices already piled there.
Kristoff needed to check in with Mercedes—he could use some painkillers for the headache, constant since yesterday—but Wyatt’s suspicions repeated in the back of his brain, and so Kristoff went first to the passenger cabins. This part of the ship was less utilitarian, with soft lighting and warm colors, a thick rug running the length of the corridor, and little glass trays of scented oils warmed by the lamps so that the quarters smelled like a sunlit garden. The cabins, too, were more luxurious and colorful than the crew berths. The decorating had been the doctor’s idea. “Comfortable passengers make calm passengers,” she’d said when she first approached Kristoff for the funds, “and no ship needs happier passengers more than a pirate freighter.”
If Kristoff could have had his way, there’d be no passengers, but taking on guests was necessary; the Martina Vega needed the illusion of having nothing to hide.
He hadn’t started out to sail on the other side of the law. Back in the academy, he’d been one of the best, a straight-up kid, ready to serve God, government, and the granny next door. He was so intent on service that at first he didn’t see the shadow, didn’t hear the subtext of the politicians’ speeches. Only after he made captain did he begin to understand. By then, government changed, demanding tribute like a greedy child in a sandbox, taking its own toys and everyone else’s, too, and then declaring everyone equal, now that they had nothing in common.
Nothing in common. Yeah, it was a bad pun, but it was true.
Out here, in the expanse, even an old tub and ancient tech were valuable. They meant freedom.
Being pursued by a merchant constable wasn’t exactly living in liberty, but one of these days he’d take the Vega beyond traveled space, beyond the known. With enough fuel and rations, maybe the crew could survive long enough to be forgotten. Maybe they could return to a space that had buried their list of misdeeds under those of newer and more urgent crimes. Maybe they could live in peace.
The rebels in the Riva Mountains—maybe they would win. Yeah, and maybe angels with flaming swords would appear, or a meteor would land smack on top of the government troops, or all of their guns would jam at the same time, or—
The door to one of the passenger cabins whispered open.
c. 2008, Keanan Brand