“See, Marina, he remembers you!” Cotto beamed.
Motor jumped up from his desk. Though his appearance didn’t seem to bother Cotto, I’d always thought he was gross. He was from some alien planet on the edge of the empire. His skin was tinted a sickly green, and his face was a collection of scaly spikes. Instead of regular hands, he had claws.
“Been a long time since this one was around.” He squinted at me. “How much did I sell her for again?”
Cotto seemed caught off guard, but Halon wasn’t. “We don’t encourage slavery, and she didn’t belong to you. She chose to join my crew.”
“You a spaceship captain?” Motor didn’t sound pleased. He wasn’t the kind of guy who took criticism well.
“Yes.” Halon answered curtly.
Motor paused, as if considering something. “Well, good to have you back.” He spread his arms. “I’m a bit busy right now, but why don’t you come back later? We could all have a nice dinner and catch up. I know a good place.”
“Of course!” Cotto responded instantly.
Halon and I stared at her in disbelief. “Uh, Cotto, I think we’ve got something planned.” Halon cleared his throat.
She shook her head. “Come on, Halon, be polite for once.” Cotto nodded at Motor. “Wonderful. What time does this shop close up?”
“Seven thirty. What kind of spaceship have you got?”
Realizing that Cotto and Motor probably wouldn’t be shutting up anytime soon, Halon motioned toward the exit. “Hey Cotto, Marina and I are going to…do stuff.” He shrugged, deciding he didn’t need an excuse.
I followed Halon from the shop, relieved to find myself back outside. “I guess we might as well hit up that gaming tower.”
“I’m not old enough to gamble.” I replied without thinking.
Halon snorted. “I didn’t know you were going to let an age limit stop you.”
“You haven’t given me my lay yet, either.”
“Well, you got me out of that ship, so I guess I owe you a bit. I’ll pay for your first few games. But don’t lose.”
No one tried to check my ID to see if I was actually old enough. Instead, Halon and I were able to walk right in.
As exciting as the title may have sounded, being the head mechanic (although I was the only mechanic) of the transport starship Radiance wasn't a thrilling job most of the time, so Halon had long ago taught me how to play cards. We played round after round of poker. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but Halon had won almost every hand.
At some point, I bothered to look up at the clock. Almost four hours had past, yet it had only felt like minutes. “Captain,” I poked his arm. “It’s been four hours and Cotto isn’t here yet.”
“Probably still talking to that alien freak.”
“Something doesn’t seem right.” I bit my lip. “We shouldn’t have left her alone with Motor.”
Halon set his cards face down and put a hand on my shoulder. “Marina, Cotto could beat up that fat alien any day. He invited us to dinner, after all. You know she went with him. She’s probably at some restaurant with him right now, and then she’ll show up here in another hour or so looking for us.”
“But something isn’t right about this.” I protested.
He sighed dramatically. “Would it make you feel better if we checked on her?”
Halon shoved his cards toward the dealer. “I’m out, but I’ll be back.”
We checked the mechanics shop first. As expected, there was no sign of either of them. None of the mechanics working seemed to know where they’d gone, either. “They’re not here. What restaurant would he have taken her to?”
“There’s only one nice restaurant in this whole port. It’s not a long walk from here.” I insisted eagerly. Maybe it was pointless worry, but I couldn’t stop it nonetheless.
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