Warp Riders – Chapter 44

After they had coaxed her back into the makeshift infirmary for a proper walking splint and some ice for her fist, she said, “Find the Stowaway.”

And then she was reclining with her leg up on a chair in the galley, staring at a very sullen, utterly beat up looking kid.

They’d managed to convince the Navigatrix to join them. She still cradled the new Orb in the crook of her arm, but she looked attentive.

The Captain addressed the kid:

“You are going to have to explain yourself really, really well, because I normally toss assassins out the airlock.”

The Stowaway smirked, an expression they had definitely picked up from the Bosun.

“Great, that’s gonna go real fucking well for me.”

Then their eyes widened. And everyone leaned in just a little, and the Captain exhaled, like she had been betting on exactly this.

“You assholes can understand me now.”

“We sure can.”

And they stared at her, silent, for a full minute; and then shrugged, laughed, and told them everything.

They told the crew about the Witches, and their curse, and the time catalyst arrow they’d carved from that statue; and the prophecies, all eight of them, how they knew the way to unlock their ship, and the exact moment to pull it out of time and down to the moon. About the Chronomancer, and the Orbs, and the galactic rain of fire they’d been sent to prevent.

And the Bosun had her own questions, and so they told her about their life before, being angry, being a hired gun for the worst people they could find, never really hoping for anything, not even thinking about getting off planet. And even before that, their exile, the petty theft that had started it all.

After all of it, the Captain had more questions.

“Do these Witches want us dead?”

They shook their head. “They said one of you would get the Orb away from the Chronomancer; they didn’t say anyone would die.” 

“But you figured someone might.”

“Seemed possible.”

The Engineer was watching them carefully, chewing her lip, clearly conflicted.

“Are they going to send any more child assassins after us?”

The Stowaway snarled at the accusation. “I’m not a child.” The Bosun snorted. “They just wanted you to deal with the Chronomancer. That’s all I know.”

The Captain looked over at the Navigatrix, who had put one protective hand on her new Orb.

“Are they likely to decide they need someone to deal with our time wizard, too?”

The Stowaway turned to the Navigatrix.

“You saw what he was like. That moon was his tomb! They showed me – he raised a whole civilization to build it for him, and let them starve while he slept.” Their eyes were haunted. “You want to turn into that?”

The Navigatrix looked a question at the Captain.

“Yeah, I think we’ll notice if she starts talking about crushing civilizations under her heel. We’re gonna be rationing Orb use a little better, going forward.” The Captain leaned in towards the Stowaway, an elbow on her good knee. “So, knowing what we all know about each other now, should we toss you out the airlock?”

“No! I’m finally free!” Their eyes were wide. “Fuck, just drop me in a city somewhere, I don’t care. I’ll start over; change my name, no one will find me – and I won’t tell anyone where you went.”

“Those’re the magic words, kid. I might even believe them.” The Captain remembered the calm with which they’d hauled her out of the tower rubble. “You know what, why not. We’re missing our fifth; you seem competent. How do you feel about a little space piracy?”

The Stowaway looked a little stunned, and that was enough to let the Captain know she’d made the right call. Everyone else also looked stunned, but they’d come around.

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