The Fae Worlds

The Stowaway

“We have a stowaway.”
Holly stared at the stars through the canopy. They were six hours out, and the ship should have found any stowaways long before. “What happened?”
“I believe there’s some sort of cloaking device hiding them from pretty much all sensors. Had I not been me I probably wouldn’t have found them until it was too late.”
“Okay.” Holly shook her head. Unfortunately she only had one option. Pretending the stowaway wasn’t there simply wasn’t going to work. Not if she wanted to keep her license. For far too long the board had been looking to take it from her. “I’m going to need you to watch my back.”
“Be careful.”
“Always am.”
Giving herself a moment to prepare Holly checked her favourite gun was in her leg holster, her bow was charged, and she had enough rope to be able to tie whoever it was up. Dealing with a stowaway wasn’t something she’d had to do before. Breathing deeply, in an attempt to calm herself, she made her way down to the hold. Her ship, although technologically advanced, was tiny, because it was all she could afford. Space hadn’t been a priority. The tech was, and anyone with a cloaker able to keep them out of sight of the ship was going to have tech at least as good. Long before she was ready Holly found herself at the door.
“You ready for this?”
“I am.”
Nodding, Holly opened the door. She stepped into the hold, feeling her heart start to race, and held her bow up ready. “Come out with your hands up.” There as a long silence. “I know you’re there. If I have to come and find you I’m really not going to be at all happy.”
“You shouldn’t have known I was here.” A female voice. That was definitely better than a male one. “I paid a lot of money for this cloaking device.”
“Sorry, but my ship is just a little better.”
When the stowaway stood Holly stared at her. It was impossible not to. The bright red, obviously unnatural, hair would draw anyone’s attention. “The red is a bit much, but it means very few people notice me. If someone is looking for me the only thing they know for certain is that I have red hair.”
That was a problem on top of a problem. “Why, exactly, would people be looking for you?”
“Are you certain you want an answer?”
“Right now I’m not certain of anything.” Holly sighed. “What are you doing on my ship?”
“You’re going to the world I need to be on. I didn’t think for a moment a ship looking the way you one does could possibly have the sort of tech I’d need to be worried about.” She shrugged. “Obviously I was wrong.”
“Looks can be deceiving. I made certain no one would want to steal my ship, by making it look like an old junker, when really I spent a lot of money on it. I’m grateful for that. Had I not you’d still be hiding in my hold, and I would end up losing my license.” Holly shrugged. “Are you going to make things difficult?”
Laughing, the stowaway nodded. “Of course I am. The last thing I need is for you to hand me over to the authorities. I’m sure we can work something mutually beneficial out.”
“We probably could. My ship, however, is another matter. It can’t lie to the authorities. Were I to do something incredibly stupid I would lose my license.”
“Your license seems important to you.”
“Merchant ships can’t trade without them.”
“There are other options.” Their eyes met. “You’ve always been a good girl, haven’t you?” The stowaway grinned. “I haven’t. I’ve never been a good girl, but then I wasn’t brought up to be.”
“None of those other options would work for me, because I was brought up to follow the rules, and that’s not going to change now. Especially not for someone who made the decision to hide on my ship.” Holly raised an eyebrow, waiting for the moment the stowaway made her move. “The only logical thing I can do is hand you over to the people who are looking for you.”
“Which means the only logical thing I can do is stop you.” Shrugging, the stowaway took a step closer to Holly. “That leaves us at a stalemate. I don’t really want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. Protecting myself is the most important thing, if you really aren’t open to look at the other options, even though I think you should be. I can understand your misgivings. I would be wary of someone like me too. However, I believe we could become allies.”
“Allies?” Holly laughed. “I don’t think so. Not when you won’t even tell me why the authorities would be interested in you.”
“I’m a thief. I travel from world to world stealing for the people who pay me. There are numerous ships I’ve travelled on, much like yours, and the reason I choose junkers is because I don’t like to cause problems.” The stowaway brushed a hand through her hair. “Had I known your ship was as technologically advanced as it is I never would have set foot on it.”
“Unfortunately you have.” Holly sighed. “There is no way around the fact this is a problem. I, personally, don’t have an issue with you, or the choices you’ve made for your life. Due to my ship, however, I am going to have to hand you over to the authorities when we reach our destination. Bypassing that is impossible.”
“How would you know?”
“When I purchased the ship it was because I wanted it to be impossible. I was protecting myself.” Holly wanted to say she was protecting herself from people like the stowaway thief, but that wasn’t fair. “Like you that is the most important thing. If I were to lose my license I’d lose everything.”
“Not necessarily. There are always ways around that.” The stowaway studied Holly. “Look, I don’t want to cause you any trouble. I’m sorry for assuming your ship was like all the other junkers I’ve found. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to do what I have to. Are we going to work together to find a way around your ship being unable to lie to the authorities about me being here, or am I going to have to find another way to deal with it all?”
“There is no way around it.”
“Yes, there is. There’s always a way around it. You just have to find it, which I will do with or without your help.”
“I’m not going to let you touch my ship.” Holly was very protective of the West Sun Rising. She lifted her bow and prepared to fire it if she had to. “Kneel.”
For a long moment they just stared at each other. Then the stowaway moved. It wasn’t a surprise. Holly fired off a shot, which hit to stowaway right on target, and she dropped to the ground, clutching at her leg. Slowly, knowing it would be easy enough for her to fake the pain, Holly stepped towards her. When the stowaway looked at Holly there was a gleam in her eyes Holly really didn’t like. Getting closer would be a mistake. Instead Holly made the decision there was only one thing she could do. She turned the dial on her bow, setting it to stun, and fired another arrow at the stowaway. For a second she grinned. Then the arrow hit her, and the grin faded into nothing. Sighing, Holly closed the distance between her and the stowaway. Before the stowaway could wake up Holly tied her up, trying to make certain the bindings were tight but not painful, before setting up a space in the hold that would work as a holding cell.
“You should have stunned her first.”
“I don’t like stunning people.”
“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”
Arguing with the ship wasn’t getting Holly anywhere, and it wasn’t as though they hadn’t had the same argument before. She just hadn’t told the ship why she was so against stunning. That was something she didn’t talk about to anyone, for any reason, because if she did it would bring up bad memories she really didn’t want to have to deal with. Pushing them away again she focused on dealing with the stowaway. Getting her somewhere safe was the most important thing. Once it was done, once Holly was certain the stowaway wasn’t going to be able to do anything to her, she could argue with the ship. It would be another three days before they reached their destination, and three days with someone tied up in the hold was going to be far longer than three days normally would be. Biting hard on her lip she glanced over at the stowaway, who, fortunately, was still out cold. Hopefully she’d stay like it for a while.