Mags studied the readout on the terminal, carefully tagging and prioritizing the debris fragments. Kel stood up at the front window, excitedly calling out what he was seeing.
The door to the bridge hissed open. With a quick glance back, Mags saw Trin perch up on the wall.
“Hey Trin, is Doc on his way up?” she asked while punching some tags.
“There! There!” Kel exclaimed, pointing out some debris. “Energy cells. Very minimal wear. Fresh. Very fresh.”
Trin glanced at the front window. The wrecked 300 was currently front and center outside.
“What’s going on?” she finally asked.
“We got ourselves a payday.” Mags could barely contain her excitement as she tagged some more fragments on her terminal. Trin glared at the back of her head. Ozzy moved over to the other side of the bridge, his pistol held loose at his side.
“Yeah? Anything like the last one?” Trin replied.
“Look, I apologized for that, okay?”
“Apologies don’t pad my account.”
“My fence swore he could move . . .” Mags spun the captain’s chair to face her as she spoke. Her sentence drifted off when she saw both Trin and Ozzy perched up. She looked back and forth between the two. Ozzy kept the pistol out of sight, but hiding his hand was just as obvious.
“What’s going on, Trin?”
“What’s it look like?” Trin fired back.
“It looks like you’re in the same place you stood right before we tossed Malcolm out of the airlock.”
“Great memory,” Trin said, chuckling. She scratched an itch on her lip with the hand holding Diplomacy.
“Guys, seriously. I’ve only been in charge, for what, like two months?” Mags settled back in the chair and casually glanced at a screen. Internally, her mind scrambled for some kind of out. Last thing she wanted to do was escalate this situation unnecessarily; she’d seen Dropshot waste too many people. Kel, unfortunately, was too preoccupied gaping out the window to be much help. “You gotta give me a chance.”
“Before Malcolm touched void, you said things’d be different.” Trin stepped forward as she spoke. “That’s what you told us. Lower profile, bigger score.”
“Run silent and smart was what she said, sis.” Ozzy finally decided to chime in.
“Thanks, Oz. You know how my memory goes when I’m upset.” She turned back to Mags. “Point is, shit ain’t changed.” There was a nasty, tense silence . . . except for:
“XT-20 fuselage. No. Bad condition. Look at the scorch. Unusable.” Kel droned in the background before finally turning around. “I wouldn’t . . .”
That’s when he finally realized what was up. Ozzy moved the pistol into sight, so the Banu didn’t get any ideas. Trin cleared her throat.
“Anyway, here we are, still scraping away with nothing to show for it.”
“Doc can’t even keep an honest high anymore,” Ozzy muttered. Trin shook her head, severely disappointed.
“Okay. Fair enough.” Mags slowly rose, her hands up. “We can work out your issues and move forward.”
“Yeah . . .” She stepped forward, raising her gun.
“Wait!” Kel shouted as he lurched forward, keeping his hands out as well. Trin stopped. Mags slowly opened her eyes and looked around, pleasantly surprised that the pair had actually listened to the Banu. Kel waited a few moments and carefully considered his words before speaking. Finally:
“I know I only the ship slave —”
“You’re not our slave, Kel,” she said with a sigh.
“Yes, yes,” Kel waved her off and continued. “Captain Mag much better than Old Captain. She want money like us. Old Captain like money too and we like money.”
“Huh?” Ozzy mumbled as he glanced at Trin.
“But Captain Mag listen to us. Old Captain never talk to us. Just yell.” Kel moved forward as he spoke, almost pleading with Trin. “Captain Mag help Trin Liska. Old Captain not go to hell world to get Ozzy Liska. Captain Mag did.”
Mags gave a little nod in agreement. She almost missed all of Kel’s little speech, trying to figure out if she still had a pistol stashed on the bridge. (Back when Malcolm was running the show, she never felt safe being more than three steps away from a weapon.)
“We need to trust Captain,” Kel said finally. He walked over to Mags. “We trust in her and good things will come.”
Then he patted her on the forehead. Mags wriggled out of the way. Three weeks ago, while docked up on a transfer station, Kel had seen a father gently pat his daughter on the head before letting her run off to play and had been doing it ever since.
It was sweet . . . but kinda annoying.
The important thing was that it seemed to be working on Trin. She hadn’t shot Mags, so that was already a victory. Ozzy glanced at Trin, looking for the go-ahead to start shooting. Trin glanced out the front window at the fractured 300.
“So that’s the big news? A fighter?”
Mags made a big show of keeping her hands in view while she reached over to the flight stick. She gently angled the ship down, revealing the sea of wreckage: the Retaliator, the Freelancer, and the rest of the fighters.
That sight gave Trin and Ozzy pause as they gaped at the vast destruction. They stared silently for a few moments, but didn’t lower their guns.
“So . . .” Mags finally said. “Can we get to work?”
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