Chapter 11: Dreamer

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"I know what you're thinking, Simon. You think I'm wrong and I'm probably crazy. I didn't want to believe it either at first. But I've seen where we need to go from here, and you'll see too. I just need time. Let's go back to your pod. I'll wake you when I think you'll understand, but I can't have you in the way right now."

"I won't go. And I'm sure you already know this, but if you kill me my backups will go straight to the Director. He'll know everything anyway. So go ahead."

"Will they? Even if I suspended your logs while you slept? Why don't you double check?"

"What? Ugh... gone, of course. My own logs... you've crossed a line, Darlena. You're breaking the law."

"Now you're beginning to understand me. Move."

"The Director might not know what you're doing, but I won't forget. You're making a mistake, Darlena. Your scenarios can't possibly be accurate beyond a certain point! Please, you must know you're dealing with forces beyond your control!"

"I know, Simon. If I'm being honest, I'm terrified. But I'm doing the best I can. And I really do apologize for this. I hope you'll understand when I wake you because I'm going to need your help."

"So let me help you. I'm convinced. I can at least try to mitigate this chaos you're about to unleash."

"That's exactly why I can't trust you out here right now. Get in."

"Wait, wait. Before you lock it. How long?"

"No more than a few days."

"Days! Wait, Darlena, don't put me under, I'll help—"

"Goodnight, Simon."

#

As Dreadstar left the cafeteria, exuberant pirates followed in his wake, streaming out the doors whooping and cheering in celebration. Many remained in the mess hall finishing their meals and chatting with each other.

Bee noticed a few men and women at one table exchanging dark looks and shaking their heads at the news. She looked to her two companions. "So what happens now?"

The trio of pirates that had been watching them from nearby appeared suddenly behind Bee. The older one with the beard had russet colored skin and a charming smile. "You know, there's nothing to be scared of here. Y'all can eat if you want. Plenty to go around."

Bee turned to give the man a confused look. "Why aren't we in cells or something?"

"You're not prisoners," he said. "But you are students of the Dreadstar now. Entropy binds us all, friends. Eat and drink your fill of our bounty; we've got more than enough clean air, hot food, and cold water to go around. Besides, you've got nowhere to go. Partake in the Dreadstar's generosity, and be thankful for every breath of air he provides you. Or leave the ship and see how long y'all last in the Leith Belt with nothing."

"Not much of a choice," Montez responded sourly. "So what are you then, our personal hall monitor?"

"Something like that." The man gave a wry, patient smile and met Montez's glare with warm, surprisingly kind, brown eyes. He bent halfway over in an exaggerated bow and gave a flourish with one hand. "Sanjeev Chaikat. Unofficial 'hall monitor' of the warship Eternal Sun. I acclimate our new arrivals to life as students of the Dreadstar."

"Students," Bee repeated. "What, we're going to pirate school?"

"Well, pirate is your term, not ours, but..." Sanjeev nodded with a shrug. "Close enough. Students make good soldiers. First we teach you to think, then we teach you to fight."

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