Skylar stood in line with Jillian as they waited for their food. They moved forward as a robot handed out plates to everyone in line.

“Still missing your sister?” Skylar said.

“Yeah. I mean, it was such a shock to see her again. And now, just like that she’s gone. I think it wouldn’t be so bad if she were somewhere I could get to, but I can’t really go to any League planet, you know?”

“War sucks.”

Jillian nodded. She could not argue with that sentiment.

She said, “So, you’re spending a lot of time with our new recruit.”

“Yeah. Dillon is . . . different.”

“I’ll say. Does he always talk to himself? I passed him in the corridor earlier and he was mumbling away about something.”

“Pretty much. Yesterday he was looking at me and pretending he was a narrator in a movie. He was saying, ‘Hear she comes . . . the most beautiful woman in the galaxy . . . She’s looking at the boy. He gives her his best James Dean impression. She smiles. She’s amused. She doesn’t know his heart started beating faster when she entered the room.’”

“Aw. That’s sweet.”

“I know, right? He doesn’t treat me like every other guy I’ve ever known. For the first time in my life I’ve found somebody who isn’t completely put off by my abilities. He just thinks they’re ‘cool.’ It doesn’t freak him out.”

“And it doesn’t bother you he’s younger?”

Skylar shrugged. She said, “He’s not that much younger.”

They each took a plate of food from the serving bot. Jillian held hers up and sniffed.

“Mmm. Roast beef and carrots.”

Together they walked into the mess to find a table. They found an open one and sat down with their trays.

Jillian said, “So, have you dated a lot? You haven’t, have you?”

Skylar shook her head. “No. After Raton Five and all the experiments, Samuel and I just focused on getting away. Then we made it to Lute and we joined the company, and that’s pretty much been my life.”

Skylar smiled but her face looked grim. She said, “I’ve killed more men than I’ve ever kissed in life. Far more.”

Jillian’s fork paused half way to her mouth.

She said, “Huh. That’s a disturbing thought. So, in all this time you’ve never dated? Nobody in the company ever caught your eye?”

“Well, sure, there were guys who interested me. And if they’d asked I would have gone out with them. But they never asked. The whole Intangible thing pretty much kept guys out of the picture. That, and the fact Samuel would have killed anyone who mistreated me.”

Both women smiled.

Jillian said, “You would have killed anyone who mistreated you. You didn’t need Samuel to do it for you.”

“Yeah, and everybody knew it, too. That didn’t help my dating life, either. Now I’ve got a young whippersnapper who is too foolish to know better than be afraid of me.”

“Well, I say never look a gift horse in the mouth. You’re still young. Date him. Live a little. Find out what it’s like to enjoy a little romance in your life for a change.”

Skylar gave her a mock salute. She said, “Yes, ma’am!”


“Captain, PLAIR has requested we divert course to Halcyon. Apparently the Fifth Fleet attacked the Seychar system, and her forces devastated them. However, there is one surviving ship, and PLAIR predicts with a high degree of confidence that the damaged vessel will head toward Halcyon.”

Raleigh said, “Sounds like a wild goose chase, Lootie.”

“That’s from Shakespeare!” Dillon said, with a grin.

Raleigh gave him a flat stare, at the same time wondering what he was doing up here on the bridge. Granny frowned at him, too.

LuteNet said, “PLAIR will make it worth your time, Captain. She believes this might be the Excelsior. It was an Eagle-class destroyer that showed up late at Gotha Mu.”

“Hm. Yeah that sounds like Excelsior. Always lucky like that. Does the one million credit bounty still stand for her capture or destruction?”

“It does, Captain. PLAIR tells me she will compensate the company at least a quarter million credits for this diversion, even if the ship is not Excelsior.”

“Alright. Change our course and divert us to Halcyon. Any planetary forces present that you know of?”

“No, Captain. Halcyon is a frontier planet, and StarCen has mostly ignored it since the start of hostilities.”

“A frontier planet?” Dillon said. “Awesome. Do they have, like, cowboys and horses and stuff?”

“Remind me again why you’re up here?” Raleigh said.

“Oh, yeah. So, I’ve been going through the flight training modules. I’m your new pilot!”

Granny smirked. She said, “We don’t need a pilot.”

Dillon said, “Well, hey, it’s true your AI drives this thing. But there are times when a pilot is useful. And if I’m going to be part of your crew, I need a job, don’t I?”

“You can scrub floors,” Granny said.

Dillon tilted his head with a perplexed look. He said, “Don’t you have bots for that?”

“We do,” Raleigh said, coming to a decision. “If Lootie checks out your progress on the training modules and certifies you as ready to fly, I’m willing to let you fill that role. You may as well learn how to operate the transport while you’re at it. Many times, that takes a human.

“Okay, that’s settled. I’m headed for lunch.”

He turned and walked to the elevator.

Dillon gave Granny a wide grin.

She said, “Hmph! You’d be more useful mopping the floors.”


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