Raleigh crossed his arms and stared at the cold green eyes glinting back at him from the hologram. The family resemblance was obvious. Jillian shared some facial features with her father.

The orders concerning death and destruction, the raping, the killing of children . . . these were all very disturbing, Raleigh thought. Especially the part about biocollars.

Out loud he said, “And, uh, this was not faked somehow?”

Jillian said, “No. It is one of the few pieces of evidence I could find to bring with me. I smuggled it out via a memory implant, and was able to avoid cranial inspection when boarding thanks to my status. Being one of the Tetrarch’s daughters does have its advantages.”

“There are more of you? How many can I expect to sign on from the Thrall family?”

“Just my sister. I’m not sure where she is at the moment, so I’m all you get for right now.”

He noticed the lines of concern in her face and the edge in her voice when saying this, despite the attempt at humor. He made a mental note to inquire after Jillian’s sister later.

Raleigh said, “I just can’t believe that StarCen would allow that kind of activity, even during wartime. It goes completely against all the rules. If I understood him right, he’s even suggesting the illegal use of biocollars on people without their agreement. He can’t do that. Nobody can. The AIs won’t allow it.”

“I know. But I have reason to believe he has found a way to use biocollars on people without their permission and against their will.

“Fomalhaut is not fully controlled by any AI system, although nominally they’re with the League. StarCen was not present for that massacre. There were rumors Fomalhaut was going to shift and align with the Republic. The force my father led to deal with them did whatever they wanted without repercussions. And I’ve seen other things he has done, too. StarCen is allowing more and more injustices to occur under the justification of war. I just don’t have any evidence to prove it. The only reason I got this holo was my sister found it while going through the records of that mission. She handed it to me when she found out I was going on this trip. I was told to deliver it to a contact of hers on Epsilon Prime. She thought I’d be a perfect candidate for smuggling it out. I agreed because I want to actually do something, for a change.”

Jillian sighed and said, “This is what I was running from, and this is my proof to whoever will listen that our father is completely evil. He’s using this war as an excuse to double down on terror and tighten his control. If the League wins, these techniques will spread to the Republic. I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to stop my father, and keep this evil from spreading. So if I can become a pirate and strike a blow against StarCen and him, I’ll do it. And I don’t really care if PLAIR considers me an enemy when the shooting stops.”


Raleigh put his palms up to stop her. She was breathing hard with the emotion, and she had fire in her eyes.

He said, “I’m convinced of your sincerity. And if you don’t mind letting Lootie examine a copy of your recording, she can ascertain its authenticity and maybe help get an idea of any value it may have to the war effort. She can also store a copy somewhere that both sides will have trouble erasing.

“But there are still some other ramifications of joining us that you need to be aware of, so let’s go over them.”

She nodded and made a swiping motion with her fingers on the side of her head, causing the hologram to wink out.

He said, “First and foremost is money. As you might be aware, with the war going on the AIs do not allow the transfer of funds between systems. You can move stuff between LuteNet and PLAIR, but I don’t think you have anything in PLAIR-controlled territory do you?”

She shook her head and said, “I don’t really have any money of my own. All I had back home was access to a credit line my father took care of.”

“Good, because anything you might have had, any accounts at all in StarCen-controlled areas are out of reach now, and probably will be forever if you join us.”

“How are people going to pay their ransoms? If there’s no exchange between the systems, how will they get money to you?”

“The banks on Petra Roe act as a go-between. They charge a healthy fee, of course. We, ah, pass that fee along to those paying the notes.”

He smiled at her, and she returned it.

He said, “Moving on, typically new recruits do not share in the earnings from the ship on which they are captured. This is primarily to keep current crewmembers happy. You can imagine how upset they’d be if their shares were suddenly diluted by a bunch of new people.

“There are exceptions, however. If several crewmembers die in the taking of an objective, the Captain may allow new recruits to share in the loot. Especially if they were cooperative. All exceptions are solely up to the Captain’s discretion. But since we did not lose anyone in capturing Aquamarine, I don’t really have grounds for giving you a share.”

“That’s okay. How are shares usually divided?”

“It varies, depending on the final take. Each share is worth one out of a hundred. Backers of a venture may receive 35 to 50 percent. The Captain may get up to 15 shares, depending. Officers maybe up to five. Crewmembers usually get one to three shares each, contingent on how many crew there are, among other things.”

“Sounds lucrative.”

“It can be very lucrative. If all goes well in the process of bringing in this ship and selling the cargo, most of our people won’t quite be millionaires. But they’ll easily be hundred-thousandaires.”

Jillian nodded distractedly, and rubbed her nose. He watched her quietly.

She noticed him looking and said, “What?”

“You really have no idea how much money that is, do you?”

“Yes I do! Well, not really. I’ve never dealt much with money.”

“I figured as much. Because if you did, the sum would impress you. Consider 12,000 credits is the typical annual salary for most people. Granted, many make more and many make less. But just go with it for a minute. Now figure that in this one haul, our people with three shares should bring in somewhere around half a million credits. Each.”

“Hm. Okay.”

He chuckled and said, “Well, at least you won’t appreciate how much you’re missing out by not getting a share. That’s something, I guess.”


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