I've been a busy bee. Here's yet another chapter today.
Talon was a talker, and I really didn’t mind. I didn’t completely trust him, so I wasn’t going to share much about myself anyway.
“That’s how the ship got its name.” He concluded, finishing the longest ship-naming story I’d ever heard. “How did yours get named?”
“That’s what it was called when I joined the crew.”
“Oh.” He replied disappointedly. “Well, here’s the coffee shop I was telling you about.” It was a cute little thing, tucked between two larger stores. Its walls were a faded brown, and a dusty white-and-green striped awning shaded the area outside the glass door. “It might be a coffee place, but the best thing they sell is hot chocolate.”
He ordered two hot chocolates at the counter as I claimed a table in the far corner. It was probably best to stay away from the windows anyway.
Talon returned with two steaming cups of hot chocolate, and handed one to me. I sipped it slowly, almost expecting it to be laced with poison. “So if you didn’t want to be a raider, why did you join them in the first place?”
“It pays good money, and I needed some. What about you? What made you want to be a mechanic?”
“It just sort of happened.” I mumbled. “Mom was an artist and never home. Dad was a mechanic and only cared about teaching me mechanics. He died of a heart attack when I was pretty young, so I got a job at a mechanics shop to make some money. The Radiance stopped in for some repairs, needed a mechanic, and somehow I ended up as part of the crew.”
“Why do you care so much about finding your crew, anyway? I’d praise every god I’d ever heard of if someone took mine away.”
I picked at the label on my hot chocolate. “I guess it’s just a different situation.”
We sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, before Talon finally broke it by standing up. “Well, I said I would help you find your crew. We should probably get a head start on that now.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Why are you helping me?”
“Maybe I need some good karma.”
It wasn’t much of a reason to me, but I wouldn’t be nitpicky. If I could get some help, I would gladly accept it. “Then where do we start looking?”
“We should probably ask around. The raiders are lazy, and they’ll stop searching for you pretty soon. None of them got a good look anyway.” He approached an older man reading a newspaper. “Excuse me, sir,” He drawled in an unfamiliar accent. The man looked up tiredly. “Did you see that raider ship dock?”
“What about it?” The old man grumbled.
“Did they happen to sell off a crew?”
“Think they just loaded them onto a different ship.” The man concealed his face with the newspaper, shutting Talon out.
Talon turned back to me, a smile crossing his face. “See…” He trailed off. “I never caught your name.”
“Oh, like the Marines?”
“I don’t think there was that much thought put into my name. Knowing my parents, it was probably just the first one they heard.” I held open the coffee shop door. “So, which ship are they getting transferred to? I really don’t want to have to chase a raider ship to another planet.”
“I’ll show you.”
We strode back to the port, where a new ship had docked. It was significantly smaller than both the Radiance and the raiders’ ship, and it had obviously taken some abuse. “That’s the ship.”
Soldiers stood guard outside as their crew loaded boxes onto the craft. “Why is the army here? That’s a raider ship, isn’t it?”
Talon nodded. “Of course, the army always provides security at the port.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “Don’t they know that they’re guarding criminals?”
He snickered. “Of course they know.”
“I don’t understand.” I stated simply. The army paid us to move their dangerous weapons, and yet they were defending the raiders, who had stolen our cargo? Didn’t they realize that everything being loaded onto the ship belonged to them?
“The army pays the raiders. Everyone knows that.”
“The raiders are illegal! The army wouldn’t pay them to do anything! They’ve got rewards posted for anyone who can capture a raider ship and its crew! They’re indirectly just hurting themselves.”
He appraised me. “You really didn’t know that the army pays off the raiders?”
“They must not realize that the raiders are taking down ships like the Radiance! Our ship was full of army weapons. We were supposed to drop them at some outpost about a month from here. They wouldn’t pay raiders to steal cargo from private companies the army has already hired. Isn’t that just a waste of money?” Was he lying to me? There could be no other explanation, I decided.
“The army’s smart, Marina. They realized that they can either pay private companies a fortune, or they can pay raiders half that to obtain the ship’s cargo and bring it to them.” Talon pointed to the ship. “Looks like it’s about to take off. Listen, I don’t know if your crew is on there or not, but we’re going to have to do something about it. Do you want to stay here and look or follow that ship?”
“Obviously we’re going to follow the ship!”
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