The Crystal Viper shuttered as Darries put her into a dive, expertly avoiding the lasers that were flying passed us. Our attacker had appeared out of nowhere and started shooting at us without as much as a hello.
“Who have you annoyed now?” Darries snapped at me, “Didn’t I tell you that your flirty ways are going to get us in trouble one of these days.”
“Oh, shut up and drive.” I snapped back, pushing the button for the transmitter again, “For the second time, this is Captain Aurora North and the Crystal Viper. Stop firing on my ship and identify yourself.”
The only response was another volley of lasers firing at us. I couldn’t recall upsetting anyone, recently anyway. I charged up our own weapons and tried again to hail our attacker. I didn’t feel like blowing him up unless I really needed too. “Crystal Viper to offending ship. Last chance to explain yourself.”
To my surprise, we finally got a response. “Don’t think you can fool us by having your little girlfriend hail us, Zell. We want our cargo back, and we want it now!”
Not this again. I swore loudly to Darries. “You are looking for the Black Viper, there, my friend. This ship is the Crystal Viper.” I swear that when I got my hands on Zell, I would make him pay for every scorch mark that had ever been put on my hull due to him. It seemed like every other day, someone was mixing up our vessels and trying to blow us out of the solar waves because of something that he did.
There was a long pause, and they must have been checking for our transponder. The attacker could look all they wanted, but like most of the ships in the area, ours was modified not to give off a reading unless we wanted it too. People didn’t need to know who we are unless we wanted them to know. I nodded at Darries to turn it on.
Finally, there was another response. “How do we know this transponder signal is real?”
“Listen, I couldn’t give a flying frag if you believe me or not. I just would rather not take the time blowing you out of the stars if I don’t have to.”
“We…apologize for the confusion.” The voice still sounded like he didn’t believe me, but he could also tell that my weapons were stronger, and that fact did tend to settle disagreements with other ships. We kept our arms powered up until the other vessel had fired up their engines and left our area in space.
There was a ding on our console, and Darries swore when he looked down. “Yaffa is getting impatient. He says that if we don’t get to Maia Station soon, that he will give the job to any other ship that happens to be around.”
“Onward, Jeeves.” I grinned at him. Darries rolled his eyes, and he gunned our engines. It was a short hop to Maia Station. We should be there in plenty of time.
I was whistling to myself as I finished docking my ship at Maia Station. The Black Viper was squeezed between two other ships that made her look small. She might be small, but she had a big bite. Anyone who dared cross us soon learned why we are called the Viper.
My co-pilot and I were at the station to sell some cargo that we had acquired on another job. Mikell was already down on the station, settling up payment with our broker.
I exited my ship, hoping to have time to wet my whistle before we had to head back out. Maybe I would also have time to get a gift for my wife, it has been far too long since I saw her last.
As I walked across the ship bay, I was confronted by a smaller man in a sharp suit. He had an annoyed look on his face and was tapping his foot impatiently.
“It is about time that you are here! We have been waiting for the Viper for hours! You know Yaffa is not a patient man. Now, sign this manifest, and we will get the cargo loaded up.” The man did not wait for my response but turned and barked some orders at some waiting droids.
I smothered a smile, this was perfection. This little man must have been waiting for the Crystal Viper. That ship and her captain had stolen a few jobs from me last month. I could get payback and get paid at the same time.
“So sorry, we are late.” I took the manifest and signed my name, I needed Captain Aurora North to know who stole her stuff. “We will take off as soon as we are loaded.”
I messaged Mikell that we needed to take off ASAP. Her response cannot be repeated in polite company. At least she got further than ten feet from the ship. I would not be able to get my drink.
In short order, we had unloaded one set of cargo and loaded the other cargo. Mikell was back with our money. She glared at me from under her mop of short purple hair as she flopped into her pilots’ chair.
“Five more minutes, Zell, five more minutes, and I would have had our broker wrapped around my finger. I would have doubled our money off this score too. Who did you steal this new cargo from?”
“A man on deck thought we were the Crystal Viper here to pick up some cargo. Now, who am I to correct his error?” I smirked at her “Now, let’s get out of here before the real Crystal Viper gets here.” With that, I fired up our engines and headed off. We really would need to find a place to sell this newly acquired cargo. My wife would need to wait for her gift.
I signaled Yaffa as soon as we were in orbit around the station. It had taken us longer then I would have liked to get here. Our attacker had been lurking and trying to follow us, so we had to lose him before we could get to the station.
Yaffa’s confused face was soon on our viewport. “Aurora? Why are you back? Is there something wrong?”
I blinked at him, “Back? What are you talking about? We just got here.”
Yaffa turned and barked at his one aid, “Didn’t you tell me that the Crystal Viper had arrived and picked up my cargo?”
“Yes, yes, master. The Viper and her Captain West. They left just a few minutes ago.”
I let out a loud groan, “You moron. That was the Black Viper and the frustrating Zell West. “
Yaffa let out a string of swears in his native language. “Are you telling me that my cargo was stolen?” He leveled a glare at his aid that promised a lot of pain later. Then he switched that glare to me, “This would never have happened if you were here on time!”
“Don’t blame me for your aids stupidity.” I met his glare with one of my own. Then I turned to Darries, “Can you find any trace of where the Black Viper went?”
He tapped on his console for what felt like forever. Then he grinned and looked up at me, “It’s faint, but I have a lock on what way they went.”
I sat back in my chair, “Let’s go get our cargo.” I swear that Zell goes out of his way to annoy me most of the time. How dare he take my stuff.
“Will you stopped that never-ending whistling?!” Mikell’s green eyes were aflame, glaring at me. “I will throw you out of the nearest airlock if you don’t!”
I held up my hands in submission. Mikell looked back down at her own console, muttering in her native language. I enjoyed the view of stars passing the viewport when a ship dropped out of hyperspace next to us. Our transmitter buzzed, whoever this is wanted to talk.
Mikell opened a channel, and before I could say anything, a sappy love song came over the line.
Whoever was singing, it was horribly off-key. The singing went on for a painfully long time. My fingers itched to fire some laser at the ship just to stop the noise.
A very nasally voice came over the line when the singing finally stopped. “Aurora, my princess, please return to me.”
Mikell was silently laughing in the seat next to me, I rolled my eyes and toggled the transmitter.
“Hey, lover boy, you have the wrong Viper. This is the Black Viper. You are looking for the Crystal Viper.”
“Please put my princess on the line.” The voice was somehow even more annoying than the singing. “I need to hear the crystal tones of my princess.”
“No princess here. And you better get some singing lessons before you try this again. Now, skedaddle before I really get annoyed.” I powered up my weapons to get my point across.
The other vessel fell back but was still following us. Maybe he thought I was hiding his ‘princess.’ I swore under my breath. Typical Aurora. She probably flirted with this guy while that co-pilot of hers robbed him blind. And this shmuck was so lovesick, he couldn’t even tell that she had anything do with it. We got at least one broken-hearted buffoon thinking we were the Crystal Viper a week. Well, as long as he stayed out of my way, he could follow us like a lovesick puppy, all he wanted.
At least, that’s how I felt. Mikell took offense to our tail and fired some torpedoes in his direction. That seemed to finally deter the moron, and he went back into hyperspace.
Darries gave me a devilish grin, “We have the Black Viper on our scanners. It is just a few hyper yards ahead.”
I grinned back, “Let’s go say hello, shall we?”
We popped out of hyperspace right behind the Black Viper and fired a few lasers that grazed its hull. It didn’t take long for our viewport to light up with the picture of Zell. His crystal blue eyes were shining with amusement. “Is that how you say hello?”
“Why should I say, hello? You stole my cargo, and all the people you piss off keep putting dings in my hull!
Somehow I was not surprised when the Crystal Viper popped up on our radar and fired on us as soon as they dropped out of hyperspace. Aurora was pissed. Her long black hair flowed over her shoulders as she yelled at me. I really should be listening to what she is saying.
“….all the people you piss off keep putting dings in my hull!”
“At least you don’t have lovesick morons singing love songs at you all of the time!” I shot back, “The last one was in serious need of singing lessons!”
Almost as one, our co-pilots looked up at us and nodded. There were no other ships in the area.
“And I wouldn’t have stolen your cargo if I didn’t miss you.”
“You could have just sent a message.” I glared at the man on the viewport, but then I relaxed, “But I missed you too, husband. “
His crystal blue eyes, the ones my ship was named after were shining, “What do you say we deliver your cargo,” He held up his hand, to stop the objection he could see coming “To your buyers. Then go home and take some time off?”
My wife had finally softened, she brushed that black hair that I loved so much back behind her ear and nodded. We didn’t get to see each other much. Too much of a risk for people to know we were connected. We gave out plenty of hints and loved to drive each other crazy with pranks. Most of the universe, however, thought we were mortal enemies trying to destroy each other. They would never know that just a few years ago, we were married on a no-name planet, under the twin viper constellation.