The Fae Worlds

Freed

The Stowaway

“We aren’t throwing her out the airlock.”
The captain’s frustration was obvious. Carefully testing the bindings Ginger tried not to let either her or the ship know she was conscious. Most would still be stunned, and it was her chance to be able to do something, although she had no idea what. Taking over a ship with the tech it must have wasn’t a simple process. Most over any attempt didn’t work, leading to more problems than it solved.
“Sometimes you’re too human for your own good.” The ship sighed. “I understand why you believe you should take her to the authorities, but it’s likely to be harder than you’re planning on it being, especially as it will be a good excuse for them to take your license.”
Opening one eye carefully Ginger looked for the captain. From the looks of things she was creating a makeshift cell, for the thief on her ship, doing her best to be the good person she’d always been before. Her back was tense, the words the ship spoke hitting her hard. Not even good people always had it easy.
“It wasn’t as though we let her on the ship.” The captain shook her head. “Not that they’re going to see the difference.” She leaned against one of the boxes. “Even if I throw her out the airlock, which isn’t going to happen, they’re going to see this as a good excuse to take my license. This was me not being careful enough.”
“Nothing I say will help, will it?”
Slowly, as though she didn’t quite believe it was possible, the captain looked over at Ginger. “No, it won’t.” She sighed. “You throw off a stun quickly.”
“For someone in my position being able to throw off a stun is important.” Ginger shrugged. “Would you be willing to help me sit up? This isn’t exactly comfortable.”
Most didn’t help. They kept their distance from her if they caught her, not willing to put themselves at risk, but it seemed this captain was different. Gently, she helped Ginger into the most comfortable position possible with the bindings still on. Then she slumped down beside her.
“I’m sorry.” Ginger looked at the captain. “Like I said I pick junkers for a reason. I’ve never wanted to put anyone in this position, where they have to weigh up losing their license against making what they believe to be an immoral choice. Technically the ship is right. All you need to do is send me out the airlock, and I’m no longer a problem you have to deal with, as you made the decision to punish a self confessed thief.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not happening, because I’m not the kind of person who kills someone for no reason.” She raked a hand though her hair. “You’re a thief, not a murderer.” She glanced at Ginger. “At least I assume you aren’t.”
“What would you prefer the answer to be?”
“Even if you were I wouldn’t throw you out the airlock. It doesn’t change anything, other than how careful I need to be.”
Ginger smiled. “Fortunately for you I am purely a thief. Harming people isn’t something I’m willing to do, any more than you are. I’ve knocked a few people out through the years, but never killed them, and even then it was because I didn’t have any other option.”
“Sun’s right. Taking you to the authorities isn’t going to have an effect on how the Guild sees me, because they didn’t like me to begin with. I…” Biting down on her bottom lip the captain stared at the boxes in front of them. “Not that my history matters.”
“Three days is more than enough time for us to work something out. Your ship can’t lie about me being here, but do we have any other options. If I was to knock you out before you land, make it seem like I’d had control the whole time, would it be enough for the Guild to give you the benefit of the doubt?”
“No, because they’ll see it as a weakness. You shouldn’t have been on the ship in the first place.”
“Holding you to a higher standard than any of the others.”
“For what they see as good reasons.”
“Reasons you don’t agree with?”
“It’s complicated.”
“Maybe it is, but we have three days. You might as well tell me.”
Eyes still on the boxes in front of them the captain nodded. “It’s not like it’s going top change anything. I’m Holly.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Holly, even if circumstances leave a bit to be desired. I’m Ginger.”
“Been a thief for long?”
“Family business. How long have you been a merchant?”
“Family business.” Holly grinned. “One of the main reasons I’m always closely watched.”
Blinking, Ginger stared at Holly. “Black market?”
“Yes, and more. I have family who once, before the Guild and their licenses, sold slaves. Who I am doesn’t matter. After hundreds of legal journeys I should have proved myself, only I don’t think it will ever be enough.”
“Guilds holding a grudge isn’t exactly unusual.”
“No, it’s not, but I believe in the Merchant’s Guild. I thought they were better than the others.” Holly shook her head. “I was mistaken, and this…” She gestured. “Stowaways aren’t unheard of. Most aren’t viewed as the problem of the captain of the ship, because they can happen to anyone, even someone with a ship like Sun. The tech was expensive, and I believe it was the right investment. Only it means there are those who are jealous of me.”
“Where did you get the money to buy Sun from?”
“Hustling, for a couple of years, as I was lucky enough to have a parent who was willing to let me live with them for a pittance to make this possible. Mum knew what I wanted. I’d talked about it for years.” Holly looked at Ginger. “Dad wasn’t around. He’s the main reason the Guild doesn’t trust me, although my family past doesn’t help.”
“You miss him?”
“I do, and I don’t. He’s the reason I travelled in space for the first time. Being able to see the stars up close was the reason I’d never be happy trapped on one planet for the rest of my life. I wanted to explore the galaxy, the way he said he did, journeying from one planet to the next.
“Of course I was a little girl then. It was easy to be my hero, even though he was barely around. He’d come back every so often to give me gifts from his journeys, until the time came when I didn’t see him again, and it wasn’t until I was sixteen Mum told me the whole truth. The Guild, and several of the planets he’d been on, had a warrant out for his arrest, so he didn’t dare return. Even now I have no idea where he is.
“Sometimes I think about going out there to find him. I half want to turn him in, see if that will make the Guild trust me. With how things are, the people who are in charge, I can’t see it happening. Clinging to my license… I don’t know what I’m doing any more, Ginger. This… it’s hard.”
Nodding, Ginger ran her tongue over her bottom lip. “I can’t imagine what it’s like, Holly, but I am truly sorry I made things harder than they already were.”
“Don’t be. There was always going to be something.” Holly turned, knife in hand, and cut the ropes. “What will be will be.” She stood. “There’s a second bunk. You can use that”
“Holly…”
“Keeping you in the hold was never going to work. This makes things a little simpler while we’re travelling together. I’ll work something out.”
“We’ll work something out.” Ginger rubbed her ankles to get the blood flowing once more. “I’m not going to leave you to deal with my stupidity alone.” She gestured at the boxes. “What have you got?”
“Metals, mostly.”
“Got anywhere else it can be sold?”
“Yes, but I’m on a specific route, and the Guild won’t be best pleased if I suddenly change things.”
“From what you said I think maybe the time has come for you to think about whether or not you really want to be dealing with the Guild.” Ginger’s eyes met with Holly’s. “You aren’t happy, and I think life is a much more enjoyable experience if you make choices which make you truly happy. Fighting to prove to morons you’re not your father isn’t something you should have to do.”
“No, it’s not, but it’s how things are. If I want to be a merchant I have to deal with the Guild.”
“In this galaxy, yes.” Ginger smiled. “There’s a whole lot of space out there, Holly, and you said before you wanted to explore. Who’s to say the time hasn’t come to see if you can find something better, something which truly fulfils you, rather than clinging to who you think you should be.”