Part Two - 18 - Allan

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"Captain Allan Roy's log, entry 401. (deep breath) I recruited the seventh member of our crew. She will be our cook. Finally, someone that can make edible dishes on board. Her name is Min-Hee. I doubt it's even her real name, but I don't care. She came to us during negotiations with clients. She needed a safe and discreet passage to go as far as possible. She worked a dangerous job, I figured that much, and she didn't contradict me. I won't say more on that recording...But something happened to her, something terrible. Sometimes her mind wanders, and she loses touch with reality. She gets confused. But most of the time, she is lucid. Min-Hee is smart, and she has certain knowledge about the universe that could be very useful. I asked her if she wanted to become part of my crew. She had her conditions, but she said yes. Log entry over."

"Okay guys, back on board. NOW!" said the captain.

They all obeyed without hesitation, and in less than seconds the cargo hold door was closing, all his crew safely inside. Allan spared a last glance to all the goods they had managed to gather in the last two days on this shitty planet, still on the sand outside. Such a waste. But they had bigger problems at the moment. Like the incoming vessels from different nations and bounty hunters gangs, all heading straight there to get his head.

He turned and ran up to the cockpit.

Jessie, as usual, was already flying the ship. As soon as Allan appeared in the cockpit and jumped in his co-pilot chair, she said, "We have tons of messages. They are spamming us."

She slid the virtual screens toward him. He groaned but started browsing the different video and audio warnings. It varied between petty threats from small bounty hunters to ominous ultimatums from the three nations' ships. After opening 20 of them, who all asked for their surrender without delay, the captain pushed away the virtual screens and put two fingers on his eyes in an annoyed gesture. "What a mess," he said.

"Yup," said Jessie. "Are you going to answer?"

"Nope. Let's keep them wondering if we accepted anyone's surrender offer. Might keep them busy with suspicion and infighting."

Kala, the smart kid, was already in position, controlling the ship's weaponry.

As soon as they took to the sky, the first enemies appeared. Judging by the different ships, all coming in different sizes and shapes, the bounty hunters were the first ones to make their move.

"Look like the small players entered the game first," said Allan.

"I wouldn't call an army of more than 100 ships with all their guns on us small players," said Jessie.

"Oh, but that's where you're wrong, deary. They aren't an army. They all serve different masters, and that might play in our favor." He pointed to the sky above, through the windshield, and indeed, the hunters were already shooting each other in their race to get to their prey. "Let's enter the dance," he said with a wicked smile.

Jessie nodded, put her hair behind her ears, and launched them straight into the fray.

The following minutes got as crazy as any spaceships battle could be. Kala took advantage of any skirmish between the bounty hunters to help them shoot each other. Vessels were falling from the sky like flies. The explosions and flames were like beacons in the twilight as night was slowly falling, and between all that, the Capricieuse always came out unscathed, thanks to Jessie's skills.

Allan kept thinking he really built the best scavengers crew ever, and that they might make it out of the atmosphere when the big players entered the game.

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