Space, Pirates & Other Nonsense
by Buffi BeCraft
If the pirates don’t get you—The insanity will!
Sasha's Tran's horoscope has gone horribly wrong.
Between pirates tossing her off her own ship, being possessed by a three thousand year old spy on a mission, and waking up to a sexy ex from the distant past, she’s in for one hell of a ride this Valentine's day. That's if the planet doesn't get blown to the corners of the galaxy first!
Content Advisory: Bondage
Space, Pirates, & Other Nonsense -- Excerpt
Julian Horoscope day forty-two:
Career opportunities sometimes fall out of the sky. Keep your head up so that you do not miss your next big break.
Lucky in love. Valentine’s Day is on course. Look for a new interest on the horizon.
‚Hobbs! Don’t do this!‛ Sasha Tran fought the slim, steel restraint, damning the creator of the near indestructible programmable rope to hell. The engine exhaust blasted her cropped hair into her face, coloring the world through red ribbons of betrayal. Cliché perhaps, but she’d never suspected her second in command of mutiny.
Hobbs shoved her to the edge of the loading ramp, which had never been intended to be used as an old-fashioned ‘pirate-walk-the-plank’. Her ship, the Fortune, cruised along several kilometers above the surface of a backwater, no-name planet. Hobbs knew better than to break the strict Allied Worlds First Contact regulations. Its new, sleek form would no doubt cause a lot of stir among the primitive locals and bring down fines on the Northern Star Trading Company.
A hulk of a man, Hobbs was bred and born on the farming moon colony of Ludd. She knew he’d been raised to smith metal by hand, so Hobbs could have easily tossed her off the deployed ramp. But no, the traitor was trying to salve the shreds of his conscience. That much was written in the nervous sweat gleaming on the thick folds of his furrowed forehead.
Sasha stupidly glanced down, then dragged her gaze from the forest and tried to quell the stark mental image of being impaled. She tried once more to reach through Hobb’s butt-ugly, dispassionate expression to the decency she’d always credited him for. ‚C’mon. This isn’t you. You’ve been at Northern Star for over twenty years. Selling out to a rogue pirate when you’ve always talked about retirement?‛ A flicker behind the sickly yellow rings of her second’s irises filled her with hope. His gun wavered a bit as the survival pack slid from his shoulder to his big, meaty hand.
Naïve, stupid, hope.
He shook his head. The thin wisps of hair covering the sloping forehead stood straight up in the furnace-like exhaust. Behind him, the fucking pirates stealing her ship snickered. Hales, the slime she thought she’d kicked off at dock almost three weeks ago, saluted. Fucking snake. Sasha’s eyes narrowed. She’d scream at them, but they wouldn’t hear anyway. She could barely make out what Hobbs was muttering.
‚Sorry, Cap’n. It’s either you or me, an’ I need the money.‛ He tossed her the pack, barely waiting for her to clutch the bundle with her restrained arms, then gestured to the edge of the open ramp. Below, trees whizzed by in a green blur. ‚You’re too honorable for the likes of their captain. You’ll fuck up the sale.‛
‚What sale? What are you into, Hobbs?‛ He didn’t answer her question, but she thought she glimpsed a bit of guilt. Guilt was good. Guilt was real good when asshole in question was about to throw her off the ship.
‚Remember that online course on the classics last year?‛ Sasha leaned forward, her voice loud and hoarse from the fury burning in her chest. She’d only taken the damn thing because Hobbs wanted a study partner. Who actually studied Dante’s Inferno?
‚I hope in hell, you’re frozen ass-upwards. And I hope that Satan himself takes you up on the offer. Ninth Circle of Hell, traitor.” The stout, brutish man paled. The course had appealed to Hobbs at his foundation. Ludds were inherently superstitious. “Because that’s where you’re headed. Can’t get any lower than that, you bastard.‛
She glanced at Hales who leaned with loose-limbed negligence against her freight as he exchanged money with the feline that had aroused her suspicions enough to seek out Hobbs. She had no idea what the species or planet the cat-person originated from, but understood the speculative gleam in all the pirates’ stares.
Replacement co-pilot, indeed. The crew replacements while scouting the two habitable planets were hinky enough. But when Soder, her co-pilot, abruptly resigned and skipped ship by stealing a precious lifepod, Sasha wanted answers. The miraculous arrival of the furry co-pilot this far out of civilized space was too coincidental.
The cat-person curled a lip, showing white fangs at Hales. It flattened its ears and commandeered a stack of freight to sit on. Silk and spices she’d worked a deal for in the Abaassanian market. Colonists and citizens alike paid out the ass for the aphrodisiacs and romantic shit from ‘The Planet of Love.’
There were other expensive items on the route she’d cultivated for the Northern Star Trading Company, but the planet Abassan was her prize. It was the jewel that got her the Fortune and bumped her pay grade to a primo level. Sleek and efficient, it was a hard blow to know pirate ilk were now in charge of her ship.
The buck-toothed pirate beside Hales grabbed his crotch, his leering face telling her how he’d help her stay on board. She focused on his short, unmoving dreadlocks instead of the hand working his crotch or the disgusting tongue flicking at her. Bastard. As if, she thought.
Sasha’s arms may have been tied, but her hands were free. She sent him a full-middle-finger salute, barely choking down her anger as the pirates cheered. Buck-tooth flung out his arms, in the universal ‘anytime’ motion while his horny pirate buddies yukked it up with cat-calls and a round of, ‚Oh, you want it baby.‛
‚Jump and you have a chance, Cap’n,‛ Hobbs told her. The thick line of his jowl was unyielding. ‚You won’t with the crew.‛
‚They’re not my crew.‛ She spat, silently berating herself for not noticing the transition of real crew for Hobbs’ pirate support, for being too caught up in her exploration. Then, with as much dignity left her, Sasha jumped.
The trees rushed toward her.
She was going to die. A scream ripped from her throat, terror and fear foremost, until the rope around her torso loosened and flew up and away. Then, she yelled a triumphant hurrah. She was falling straight down. Terror struck again. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck! God the ground was coming up fast.
Twisting around mid-air, Sasha dragged the survival pack onto her shoulders. The wind ripped at her hair, her clothes, threatened to steal the pack as she fumbled with the cinch. She wasn’t military. She had no experience jumping from a ship with an emergency pack save the mandatory four-year safety seminar that Northern Star required of its captains. She pulled the cord and prayed for the best.
The parachute exploded behind her. Watching in awe as the chute unfurled into a silvery cloud above her, her descent suddenly stopped, jerked into the drifting pace of the parachute. Sparing only a brief thought for the Fortune as it shrank into a speck as it left the atmosphere; Sasha twisted and tried in vain to direct her descent into a pretty but bare-limbed cove of trees surrounding a small body of water.
She could practically weep at the irony of her mother’s email this morning telling her about the manager opening at the Orion Shipyard back home in the middle-of-nowhere, Earth. Normally, the idea of watching welders piece together ships she’d never fly held all the appeal of jumping out of her ship onto a primitive planet with less than the minimum of survival gear. Watching the sharp spear-like branches get closer and closer made that manager job pretty appealing.
* * * * *
People falling from space. Appears to be the prophecy day after all. Kiev-Dirrel leaned on his spear, watching the figure fall from the spaceship instead of dwelling on the disturbing underground rumblings plaguing his home. The wind whipped the fabric of his knee-length hip-wrap around his lower thighs. But the fabric was belted tight at his waist and wouldn’t impede the sword, which engendered confidence in the citizens, or access to the pouches on his belt, the contents of which made him feel more secure. For a few heartbeats, he’d thought the unfortunate alien would be splattered all over Shepherd Valley, but no—the alien managed to deploy a large section of fabric to slow its descent.
‚Kiev! Kiev!‛ Radan skidded to a halt, nearly toppling over Kiev’s cliff-side watch station. Arms flailing, the boy wind-milled as his sandals threw gravel every which way. Kiev snatched the shoulder of Radan’s robe. The kid’s wooden play sword
waved under Kiev’s nose. A barely felt mini-quake shook more pebbles from the mountainside for a heart-stopping moment.
‚Slow down before you fall off my cliff.‛ He set his nephew down with a good-natured chuckle to mask the unreasonable paranoia Kiev had developed for the small disturbances. His imagination supplied images of the ground opening up and swallowing the entire city. No one, not even a single flying squirren could escape the type of earthquakes that destroyed Dirrel’s world so long ago. Kiev’s face hurt with the force of his smile. ‚And breathe. A warrior knows to pace himself. Excitement and fear can destroy your focus if you let it.‛ The reminder was a good one. Randan was an orphan because Kiev had let his guard down
Kiev liked watching the youngsters at this age. They were bright and amusing. Radan was no different. He nodded, sucking in a lungful of air into his small bony chest. The boy was a beautiful blend of both parents. He possessed his mother’s vivid imagination and his father’s sense of adventure. Randan was only six, too young for formal schooling, but innocent enough to find everything new and exciting.
The time for new and exciting had passed Kiev by years ago. Kiev’s heart lurched every time the child escaped his guardians and tutor. So he supposed that was adventure enough. He was old, if not in body, then in soul. For a moment the babble of eons threatened to press down.
‚Did you see the alien?‛ Radan’s high voice pulled him from his memories. The part of him that was Dirrel snorted. See what? The skewered alien that will soon be polluting the squirren’s watering hole? Niiice. Radan’s finger followed the ill-fated alien’s descent and sure enough, Kiev wanted to wince at the sight of the nettle tree tree’s limbs piercing the body. His nephew turned, excitement lighting his wide, blue eyes. ‚Will you take me with the search party? Do you think it has three heads or scales?‛ Radan sucked in a breath as another image popped into his head. ‚Maybe it has slimy tentacles and feathers for hair? What do you think, Kiev?‛
Easing them both away from the image of the alien, Kiev tried to find the same joy bubbling in his nephew. What joy is there in the death of another? A knife in your gut, searing laser fire cauterizing your heart, poison seizing your veins, best yet—the grinding of the drago-lizard as it eats you alive.
Kiev’s alter ego, Dirrel had been a peace-loving scientist a couple of thousand years ago during the pinnacle of Aros’s age of crystal technology, and all of the wonders thereof. Dirrel, or Dirrellen as he’d been known then, helped develop the consciousness transmogrification process. They’d been so excited to discover how to use the unique crystal’s electromagnetic properties to capture and store a human’s psyche before death swept away the energy.
That breakthrough preserved the intellect of Aros’s brightest and greatest when the tectonic plates suddenly shifted, causing the greatest redistribution of landmass ever experienced. The event destroyed their world, throwing Aros into a primitive state.
When the end of the world killed most of the population, Dirrel’s transmogrification program yanked back the consciousness of those scanned into the system. On the bright side, their people’s knowledge was kept safe inside the crystal computer’s data banks. On the downside, the collected consciousnesses were alive and awake. They remembered as well.
‚Why don’t we go see what Lala, the wise-woman, has to say.‛ The suggestion sparked a round of giggles from Radan as they made their way down the path to the city. His brief respite from duty was officially at an end.
Smiling faces and respectful bows greeted him at the city gate. ‚Did you see the alien fall from the sky?‛ Kiev ignored the undue attention. He was a warrior now and had been in many previous lives.
‚Kiev, come by tonight,‛ breathed an overly endowed woman. She was vaguely familiar, reminding him of the carousing he’d been fond of before acquiring Dirrel’s reserve. She bit her bottom lip in invitation. ‚I remember what you like.‛
You shouldn’t wait so long between women. Big breasts and probably a willing—he cut off the thought, shoving Radan through Lala’s shaded courtyard and into her receiving room. None of the wild women had interested him in a long time, not since he remembered the difference between love and lust. The latter left him unsatisfied and wanting more, like a no-nonsense woman who laughed at danger and secretly teared up at the beauty in a sunset.
Warm, feminine laughter soothed Kiev. As the one who prophesied the alien’s coming two summers ago, Lala should have the bulk of the fanfare. A swirling flower and spice scented dervish descended on Radan, picking the boy up before dancing away again. ‚And how is my fine grandson today?‛ Lala pecked a kiss on Radan’s cheek and set him down, sending the boy off to the kitchen in search of a snack.
Lala turned the force of her lovely smile on Kiev. ‚And how is my favorite son this fine day.‛ He could tell the repressed need to sweep her affection all over him about killed her. His lips twitched at the mental image of her having to bottle up all that motherly love.
‚I am your only son, Lala, and head of your House Guard.‛ Relieved, but still on edge, he strode to the window. Beyond the house’s wall, people would already be gathering for the wise-woman’s word on their skewered visitor from the stars. ‚The day wasn’t so fine for the alien. It used a sheet to float from the sky and into the nettle tree grove.‛ Inside he sneered at the alien’s lack of technology. A species with space-faring technology and the alien had to leap with what amounted to bed linins to break its fall? Depsite his people’s lack of faith in machinery, Kiev made sure to outfit his men with useful gadgets pertinent to protecting the city’s most prominent lady.
Lala’s hand crept to her mouth, no doubt remembering Keiv’s similar death. It hadn’t been a bad death in either Kiev’s or Dirrel’s opinion. The assassin never had a
Space, Pirates, & Other Nonsense -- Excerpt
chance to touch Lala. Her skin paled. She swallowed, gathering up the long layers of her scarf-dress. ‚Then we must hurry to her. Fate offers a second chance to only a few. ‛
‚The alien is dead.‛ Softening his harsh tone, Keiv sighed. Lala took her visions seriously, and so did the people, for good reason. While the scientist in him balked, he’d still done a study and calculated her at ninety-six percent on visions being accurate. The other four could be a margin error for faulty interpretation of the vision. ‚I do not know whether it is even human, much less your woman from the stars. It might even have scales and tentacles instead of arms.‛ He shook his head, frustrated with his own thoughts. Visions, psychic ability, and conferring with the gods had no real basis in science. The words, now spoken, couldn’t be taken back.
He tensed, waiting for the expressions of old friends and family that said he’d revealed too much of what he had become. The host. Guardian of the Past. The representative of the technology that failed their planet long ago. His people both feared and revered him.
Kiev could have laughed. If only they really knew the truth of it.
‚I would pray for human, my son.‛ Lala brushed by him, taking a cloak from its hook by the door. She slanted a long glance over her shoulder. Her expression said that she knew who and what he was. And accepted him. ‚Because it would be unfortunate for my future grandchildren to have to slither about like garden snakes.‛