“Jumpin’ Jehosophat!” Granny said. “The Tetrarch’s daughter? This could shape the outcome of the war!”

Raleigh reached out to LuteNet over the neural network.

“Is she really the Tetrarch’s daughter, Lootie?”

“The bio records match. I see now the ones on the passenger manifest are indeed fake. She is who she says she is.”

Jillian, oblivious to this exchange, replied to Granny’s statement. She held both her hands out palms up and said, “Yes it could, but only if I were to be used as a bargaining chip of some sort. I don’t want that, not at all. I’m running away from home and trying to escape my father, not go back to him. If I understand your rules correctly, you have to at least consider my request before using me for other purposes, like political imprisonment or holding me for ransom.”

Raleigh’s brows furrowed. He was intrigued now, despite himself.

He said, “Running away? Why are you running away? It seems to me you had the ultimate life. Tetrarch Thrall is one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the galaxy. You could have whatever you wanted. Literally.”

She crossed her arms again (under those perfect breasts, he noticed) and sighed, looking up into the vast artificial sky above them.

“It’s a long story.”

Raleigh thought he and Granny should stop sharing glances. The Quartermaster stared back at him wide-eyed now, utterly amazed at this twist of fate, her dropped cigar momentarily forgotten.

Out loud Raleigh said, “Well, since you have officially requested consideration, we will port you over to our ship. In light of your family and lineage, I think you will understand if we keep you confined for the time being.”

The look of irritation crossing her face made him add, “You can have my cabin. I’m sure it’s not up to your usual standards, but it’s the best we can do.”

She frowned at that and said, “I’m not some princess, expecting to be waited on hand and foot.”

Behind them another female passenger lounging at the lagoon shouted out, “Porter! Oh, Porter! Where did that man go? You there, Robot! Bring me another drink!”

Granny smirked and Raleigh raised an eyebrow.

Jillian said, “Okay, you do realize this is first class, right? They treat us well here. No, I don’t expect first class service on a pirate ship. I’ll pull my own weight.”

Granny gave her a skeptical look that said, “We’ll see.”

Raleigh said, “Lootie, port myself and Ms. Thrall over to the Mule, to my cabin.”

Jillian and the Captain popped out of existence.

Granny watched as a humanoid serving bot walked by, carrying a tray with a drink for the passenger requesting it.

She nabbed the concoction off the tray as the robot passed and took a long sip.

She smacked her lips and said, “Not bad. I always wanted to travel first class.”

The robot showed up at the lady’s chair, bending down with the empty tray.

“Where’s my drink?”

The robot turned to look at the tray and its electronic irises widened. It straightened and walked back toward the bar.

Granny knocked back the rest of the drink and tossed the cup on the floor. She headed toward the corridor and said, “Lootie, make a note of all present on this level and elsewhere in the passenger zone. Let me know if there are any other surprise VIPs on board. Like this one, who you assured us did not exist but actually does.”

LuteNet ignored the jab. She said, “Will do, Quartermaster Wilcox.”

The elevator door opened and Granny stepped inside.

“Take me to the indents, Lootie.”

The door closed and the capsule whisked her away.


Raleigh scooped up the clothes he slept in off the bed and tossed them in a laundry chute. The cabin seemed small, especially in comparison to the luxury liner’s first class accommodations they had so recently been enjoying.

“Sorry about the clutter,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting company.”

“That’s okay.” She spread her arms and said, “You realize these are the only clothes I have?”

He couldn’t help himself, and glanced appreciatively at her perfect body in the white bikini. But he made it a quick glance.

He said, “We’ll have somebody bring you a uniform. If you ask Lootie, she’ll make sure it gets done. As for your stuff on the other ship, probably best to just leave it there for now. You can retrieve it after we make Port Ryan at Lute.”

She nodded and glanced around the cabin. She decided it was not bad, really. Besides the bed there was a desk, a small bar and sink, a door to a closet, and another to a bathroom. One wall was devoted to a holovision center, currently showing the disabled Aquamarine floating nearby.

It seemed very cozy, and she suspected that since it was the Captain’s cabin, all the other quarters on the ship were probably a lot smaller.

Raleigh said, “Okay? Just stay put for a while until we get everything sorted out. I’ve got to go back over there.”

She nodded. As he turned away she caught his arm. He looked back, eyebrows up.

“Captain? I’m not just doing this to get out of my family paying ransom or anything. I really do want to . . . avoid going home.”

He smiled. “And to do that, you’d even be willing to become a pirate?”

“Yes. I think so. I mean, how hard can it be, right?”

“It can get you killed, for one thing.”

She shrugged. Even her shoulders were shapely, he thought. He quickly brought his eyes back up.

She said, “Lots of things can get you killed.”

He said, “We’ll talk more.”

With that, he popped away as Lootie ported him back to the Aquamarine.

Jillian looked around the cabin’s interior once more.

She sat down on the edge of the bed and noticed the sheets smelled like him. She pulled back the top blanket and tucked herself in, pulling the covers up to her neck.

Her head on his pillow, she stared up at the ceiling and took a deep breath, filling her lungs with his scent.

She smiled.


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