Author : John Carroll

I wondered if the pain in my ribs had woken me up, or if it was the sterile stench of the gelatin. It was probably a combination of both. The pirate standing in front of me noticed that I was awake. She didn’t look any older than 24 standard.

“Good morning,” she said. Her hair was long and black, spilling over the shoulders of her extravehicular combat armor. “Welcome aboard the Petrichor.”

I was suspended in a tank of inhibitive gelatin with my head sticking out, stripped of my own EVC armor. Just enough wiggle room for shallow breathing.

“I’m Captain Lorelei Van Buren ” she said.

I didn’t reply or react. I was trying to regulate my breath. Inhibitive gel turns everyone into a claustrophobe. But I recognized the name, and I knew that I was most likely a goner. Captain Van Buren was the most dangerous criminal in the Orion Arm. Her ship, the Petrichor, stalked hyperspace and subspace shipping lanes at the speed of thought, brutally and effortlessly raiding heavily armed convoys. The Petrichor’s shipboard AI was rumored to be sentient and infested with cursed code, slowly turning her crew into soulless, obedient automatons by constantly scanning their most private thoughts and broadcasting them aloud for the entire ship to hear. I never believed that part, even when I was a kid.

“I’ll get right down to it, I suppose. When we engage vessels crewed by human beings, our policy is to give no quarter. However, as of…” she checked the time, “… fifty standard minutes ago, we’ve had a job open up. We’re looking for someone to fill the position, so I arranged this interview.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I’m talking about fifty standard minutes ago when my negotiations with the captain of your own pirate vessel, the Ninth Disc, turned sour and spiraled into… well, it would be generous to call it a “space battle.” I think “massacre” would be more appropriate. However, you managed to slay one of our crewmen before we dispatched your crew and slagged your ship to vapor. When one of our crewmen is killed in battle, we always interview his killer for the position. Your skill in zero-g combat is virtuosic. I think you would excel on the Petrichor.”

“What happens if I don’t care to join?” I asked.

“I think you know,” she said.

I did indeed. She would run a lethal electrical current through the gelatin and kill my ass.

“I’ll join,” I said. I didn’t have any good buddies back on the Ninth Disc. No hard feelings.

“I didn’t have any good buddies back on the Ninth Disc. No hard feelings,” said an electric cello voice that seemed to come from the walls.

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