Previous: The Sagittarius, now captained by the grudge-bearing, foul-tempered Gennaji, has been boarded. The adversary? A former crewmate…
“Dammit, Ildico, you have no right being here!”
Opposite Gennaji, facing him with laser rifle drawn, his former crewmate stared him down with a no-nonsense visage. She still wore the drab grey-green outfit of a geist, he noted. Kept her hair short. Built like a block of granite.
Standing in a rough triangle formation behind her, the other six Pleiades crew members similarly sported weapons of various types. All deadly. All nearly identical.
And all foolish to shoot inside a spaceship, Gennaji thought. Likely Ildico also thought. But standard procedure when boarding another hunter’s ship. Particularly given their personal history.
“Captain Gennaji,” she said in a loud voice. “Surrender your vessel to me, and there will be no reprimanding or punishment. I swear.”
Gennaji paused. This was by the book dialogue, as according to the Rules of the Ceres Mining Council and Mining Privateer Regiments. Pirate-brothers-in-arms, he thought sourly. Or Sisters.
“And why should I just give the Sagittarius to you?” he demanded. Next to him, pistols drawn and levelled along sizeable forearms, Karel and Andrzej waited patiently. Silent. Waiting for the appropriate response.
Ildici kept her composure as long as she could. But her face twisted, she burst into laughter, and shouldered her weapon.
“Gennaji! You xitruga old devil, how are you?” she shouted in a booming voice. She threw her arms open and strode forward. Gennaji pocketed his pistol as Ildico grabbed him in a bear hug.
“I’m…uff…fine, Ildi. Yourself?”
She laughed and slapped him on both shoulders. “You are even bigger than I remember. Too many deep space rations, not enough exercise, tak?”
“Ah. Ildi…would you mind?” he nodded at her crew. The Pleiades Sisters were still in formation, weapons pointed; the Sagittarius crew likewise hadn’t budged.
“You first, Gen,” she snorted. “We’re your guests, after all.”
He motioned for his men to lower their pistols; they did so slowly, eyes never leaving the Sisters. “Now, Ildico?”
“Captain,” she said.
“Call me ‘Captain Ildico,’ Gen.” A smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.
Something was up, he thought. Better play it safe and lose face now rather than lose Sagittarius.
“Captain Ildico,” he said pleasantly. “Welcome to the Sagittarius. Please do us the honor of disarming your escort and inviting them to join us.”
She laughed again and gestured. The Sisters lowered their rifles and shouldered them, approaching like a troop of soldiers.
“Well trained,” Gen commented. “Some I don’t know. New military-grade?”
She shook her head. “Only the first one. The rest are on loan as a favor.”
He looked more closely at the six women. Not women, he silently corrected. Ildico was right; the tallest and most muscular one was obviously military design. She carried herself with officer-like bearing. The remaining five looked more civilian-issue. One was even smaller than his pilot, if that were possible.
“The Seven Sisters,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
“Too long,” Ildico said coyly. Yes, but not long enough, Gennaji thought. He was in no mood for a repeat of their last encounter.
“You didn’t come all the way out here for a nice chat,” he said to her. “What is it you really want? A rematch?”
“A drink,” she replied. She looked him up and down. “Looks like you got a couple bumps and bruises from the Corvus. Better get that fixed up.”
He snarled. “Corvus. What were you doing with that bunch of infants?”
She smiled again. “Just happened to be in the neighborhood. They were eager to find out what you did with the rock.”
“Look around you,” he said, gesturing. “We don’t have any rocks. It’s been a complete waste of time and money.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “After all, the Pleiades are not here for your rocks.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, eyes narrowing. He wasn’t sure so he liked this game.
“I know the way to the galley,” she said, pushing him aside. “Come on, girls. Let’s take five.”
The Sisters brushed past the three Sagittarius men and disappeared one by one into the main corridor. Karel and Andrzej both put away their pistols, standing side by side and looking into the corridor.
“Clones?” Karel asked, scratching his beard. “The biggest, it looks like someone I once dated.”
“You?” Gennaji laughed. “Dated?”
Karel growled. “I need a drink, too,” he said, and went into the corridor.
Gennaji ran a hand over his shaved head. A bump, just like she said. Damn.
“She seemed…manly,” Andrzej commented. “Impressive woman.”
“Yes,” Gennaji reflected. In all honesty, he did respect her. “But also incredibly dangerous.”
“And only clones for crew,” Andrzej continued. “So she values loyalty above all else.”
“Loyalty,” Gennaji said. “Or obedience. Unquestioning. The only one she trusts completely is herself.”
For good reason, he thought. Which is why he had to be very, very careful while she and her “Sisters” were anywhere near his crew.
Next: Ildico makes Gennaji an offer he can’t refuse: the chance for revenge. In Bringer of Light, Chapter 22: The Sagittarius (Part 2), dropping on May 8th.