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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Pirates 1

Lannetay and Carnifor walked out of the customs office into the bright orange morning sunlight of Inglep. Standard time indicated mid-afternoon, but a sun’s position had little to do with time of day on most planets.

Carnifor’s voice climbed two octaves as he said, “You could have told me this place had those kinds of rules about approach procedures.”

“It’s only a few thousand credits.” Lannetay fought her own anger. That fine for a descent well above the limits could bankrupt a lot of traders. “We’ll be okay.” At least she hoped so. On top of the admiral’s fine, Inglep’s penalty put them back into the cash-strapped category.

“You turned off the com!”

“You needed to break out of your shell of regulations!” Descent without contacting the controlling agency doubled the “too fast” penalty. And it gave the commander a reputation among the trading community. A “rep” like that would go a long way to deflecting any suspicions that might come up later.

Pedestrians edged away from the arguing couple, creating a bubble of isolation. Lannetay and Carnifor could pretend they were alone, but anyone within thirty meters could hear them.

Carnifor’s voice shook with frustration. “We have an hour to load cargo and lift off before they hit us with another five thousand credits in fines.”

“Child’s play.” Lannetay prayed that statement was true. “I have Bill looking for a good consignment heading to Wrantiban. We should be there inside a couple of weeks.”

Uh, Lannetay? Bill sent. Nobody is taking us up on that. As soon as they find out the name and registration of the ship, the contract gets pulled. Nobody with a cargo heading to the capitol planet wants to use a ship with our violations.

Carnifor must have been included in the conversation. Just lovely. Trapped on the best planet I’ve set foot on since leaving Earth. If we stay we’ll be broke in a few hours, leave and we have no cargo to take with us.

“We could take a spec payload.” Lannetay didn’t like the idea, but it might be the best option.

Carnifor froze. “A spec?”

Lannetay took two more steps before noticing Carnifor had stopped. She turned back to him. “We pay for the cargo outright, and keep the money at the end of the trip.”

“I know what ‘spec’ means.”

Lannetay growled low in her throat. “Then what did you mean?”

“Wrantiban doesn’t accept spec imports, not since the war started. They’ll turn us away at the edge of the system if we don’t have a contract with an established import company.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to take a spec somewhere else.” Lannetay turned on her heel and marched toward the nearest slidewalk. Bill, set something up. We’re lifting in an hour. Alert the crew.

***

Two days later Lannetay’s patience ran out about Marc’s sulking for being forced to leave Inglep earlier than planned. In that time he’d been out of his room twice, according to Bill, and Lannetay had been sleeping both times.

She paced back and forth in front of the door leading to Marc’s room. “You have to come out sometime, hon.” Lannetay projected her voice to carry through the pressure hatch.

He’s reading again. Bill chuckled. At least he’s trying.

Lannetay nodded at the AI’s comment. “Marc? Are you okay?”

“Go away!” Her adopted son’s voice filtered through the hatch.

“Marc, we had to leave. Don’t you understand that?” Lannetay’s frustration resurfaced.

Do you like being on that emotional roller coaster, Lannetay? AIs don’t do that.

No, Bill, you’re annoying at all times.

I could open the door for you, if you asked.

Lannetay pondered, then replied in low tones. “I don’t want to violate what little privacy he has.”

“He’s nine!” Bill’s voice was also quiet, though emphatic. “You’re his guardian.”

“That won’t matter if I push too hard. He’d never forgive me.”

Bill made a rude noise.

“Marc! I’ll give you until the count of thr–” The hatch slid open and Bill laughed in Lannetay’s mind.

“You wanted something, Mother?” Marc waved a hand and the virtual book he’d been reading vanished. From his chair he turned a bored gaze toward his mom.

Lannetay’s glance took in the room she hadn’t seen in months. Seven posters from the epic “Brotherhood” series graced the walls – all from the limited release collection. If Marc could acquire the eighth his set would be complete. Lannetay had offered to buy the general release poster for number eight, but Marc had refused, saying it wouldn’t be the same.

Lannetay leaned against the hatchway. “We had to leave, hon. Our clearance had been granted and we’d have been fined if we overstayed.”

Marc sighed. “Another half-hour, Mom. That’s all I wanted.” He leaned forward in his chair and stared at the floor.

“I know, Marc. L-T told me about that girl.” Lannetay truly sympathized. She didn’t stay anywhere long enough to form attachments for herself, much less Marc. Maybe that would have to change. If not for her, then for the boy. The others aboard ship weren’t enough for social development.

“She liked the same things I do. She quoted the ‘Brotherhood’ movies. When she came back to see how we were doing, she noticed how I eat my fries and asked, ‘You eat fries with a fork?’ That’s one of the classic lines from the original movie. She said it just like Andy did.” Marc slumped even further forward as his shoulders drooped.

Lannetay had no idea what the movie quotes were, but understood the concept. “She was nearly twice your age.” She ordered Bill to produce another chair and sat next to Marc.

The boy shot Lannetay a scathing look as a flush crept up his neck. “I wasn’t going to ask her to get married.”

Lannetay chuckled. “You’re right. Sorry.”

Marc sighed again, but remained silent, staring at the room’s bulkhead where his movie posters hung.

Lannetay nodded to herself. “How about this, then. Next time we stop, I’ll give you more time. And if we come back to Inglep, I’ll take you to that same cafe.”

Marc’s mouth twisted as if he’d bitten a rotten lemon. “Take my mom to see her?”

“Okay, I’ll let L-T take you back.” Lannetay suppressed a chuckle.

“Deal.” Marc looked up at one corner of the room. “Bill, project space.” Suddenly the ship vanished, and stars appeared. Marc and Lannetay were alone, floating in space. Only the still-open hatch and artificial gravity ruined the effect.

“Nice!” Lannetay’s heart fluttered and her eyes widened. “I didn’t know Bill could do that.”

“I can do a lot more than you could ever know,” Bill said.

Marc grinned. “I learned this one last week. Olthan showed me.”

“Olthan?” That was a surprise to Lannetay. Perhaps she underestimated the Marine.

“He knows a lot more than people give him credit for.”


If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.



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