Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“You stabbed me with a corkscrew.”
Gabby turns with a look of wide-eyed innocence.
“You told me to do a convincing betrayal thing if they came for us.”
I take the clean pad she offers and switch it for the blood-soaked one I peel away from the gouge in my left shoulder.
“I meant take a swing with something.”
“How would that have been safer?”
“Easier to turn into a move that toppled us off the balcony. The taser-induced spasm I faked was pushing credibility.”
“It worked, didn’t it? We got away.”
I sigh.
“Yes. I suppose this trench dug in me is a cheap tariff.”
She lightly punches my other shoulder.
“It’s a good thing. You need toughening up.”
“Topping up, you mean. I’m running about a litre light.”
“Yeah, you’re quite the bleeder. I bet witnesses were fainting and hurling all over the place.”
“Try it yourself next time. All you did was get-”
I grab her wrist.
“I got shot. If it hadn’t been for you making us jig about, I reckon it’d have done me in. As is, it only skinned my ribs.”
They went for her instead of me… Why? Oh yes: because the disavowed fifth daughter of a disgraced baron is still elite, and noble kills get a bounty from the Exiled Court.
“Then thanks for saving my life. I expected to get gunned down tonight. Even had my rear plate on, ready for a sneaky one in the back.”
Gabby nods.
“Shot came from behind you, sure enough.”
That’s a relief. The problem with cunning plans is there are usually a lot of moving parts, and many of them are supposedly sentient beings. Anticipating what greed, stupidity or madness may add to each scenario is a dangerously inaccurate art.
I look about.
“This is not the spaceship we paid a fortune for.”
“They robbed us.”
“Bastards. But we’re not on the intercontinental express, either.”
“The same bastards ratted us out, collected the reward, and left.”
“Rich, but still bastards. We need to go and kill them. But first: where are we?”
“Inside a precious livestock container on its way to Glockenspiel. Officially, we’re prize heifers.”
“Moo. How did you-?”
“My family’s ruined, but the mechanisms we had in place to save ourselves – from everything except daddy becoming a serial killer – remain. We set it all up to be untraceable by the Interstellar Bureau of Enforcement, and planetary homicide investigators are nowhere near as good. After they found the concealed laboratory and that awful collection of acid-etched skulls, nobody gave a second thought to daddy possibly having more conventional hidden assets.”
I put a finger under her chin and gently raise her head.
“You aren’t disavowed, nor fifth daughter, are you?”
Gabby gestures to her dishevelment.
“This is who I should be.”
She grins.
“Quite honestly, I thought my addiction to artisan coffee would give me away. You’re right. I’m not Gabriella. I’m Gabija.”
“Heiress to the fallen house of Serrende. What’s on Glockenspiel, Gabby?”
“A Varangian-Class yacht. If that’s not available, there are more than enough stashed valuables to buy something else. We’ll have to kill to collect, but not always, and nobody essential.”
Varangian… Basically a compact space battle cruiser with every luxury built-in.
“I could be persuaded to go shopping anyway. We do need a new crew.”
“I knew I liked something about you.”
“My roguish charm?”
She bursts out laughing.
“No, idiot. You love violent fun. So do I.”
The lady isn’t wrong.
“That’s why we’re corsairs.”
“Mayhem, murder, and money.”
“With extra mayhem.”
“Oh yes.”