TW: Unsolicited relationship advice and swearing.
“Living within your means isn’t really living at all is it? By that I mean, you’re about to be boarded, raise your hands and play nice.” That transmission gave Captain John Brown and First Mate Jane Door just long enough to exchange raised eyebrows before their freighter’s lights went out.
“I love you, gorgeous,” said Jackie Lope Robber of the goodish ship Codependent-Codefendent.
“I love you more, sexy. Let’s fill our pockets.” Mattie Real Robber hit the reset button, restarting all of the systems on their own ship disabled by their EMP.
Hydraulics on a led sarcophagus hissed as their droid, Roger Jolly, emerged. “Work time?”
“Damn right. Take us in, Rog. I want to see the booty,” said Matt.
“Then you’ll have to wait until we’re done working,” said Jackie with a flirtatious wink. “Captain bluebeard.” She rubbed the electric blue hair on her husband’s chin for luck. He closed his blue eyes with the serenity of a cat purring. They kissed, touching their foreheads together afterward. Her brown eyes were drunk on adrenaline and lust.
“Equipment check, lovebirds.” Roger prompted them.
“I have a flare for violence,” Jackie said, holding up her loaded flare gun. She holstered it on her red belt. The belt matched her boots, her hair, mascara and lipstick.
“Then I’d better keep the piece with this revolver,” Matt said, checking the safety on his beloved antique.
“We’re docked,” Roger told them. It plugged in assault rifle attachments that could swivel independently on its shoulders.
“Let’s show some rock hoppers we mean business.” Jackie’s smile was hungry, vicious, and in Mattie’s opinion very sexy.
Husband and wife waltzed to the hatch that joined their tiny ship to its prey, MossGo Mule0125. Roger picked up two huge shields, creating a bullet proof wall between itself and any defense the disabled ship might attempt.
Ducked behind the shields and their iron warrior, Jackie and Matt kissed with closed eyes. Their ear to ear smiles went with pupils dilated by anticipation.
External doors of the MossGo Mule0125 opened with the usual hiss. Bullets hit the shields held in Roger’s steely grip.
“Oh, I love it when they’ve got some bite,” Jackie squealed gleefully. “Show them we mean business, Roger.”
“You got it, Jackie.” The bot sent two bursts of rubber bullets at the pair behind a crate at the end of the corridor. Grunts rewarded the droid’s mercy.
“Put your hands up,” Matt yelled. “We’re not here to kill you, we’re here to take stuff. It’s not even your stuff.”
“It’s our job, our livelihood-” began a gruff voice, too serious for its own good.
“Or your life? Can’t work if you’re dead? Am I wrong? Hands up.” Mattie’s voice was warm, as if coaxing a child out of a hiding place.
“Just a moment,” said a woman’s voice. There was more reason in it than the man’s.
“What’s your name, my dear?” Mattie Real Robber asked. “It was the casual question of someone who would be a fast friend. His accent overflowed with charisma that told of a warm smile.
“First Mate Jane Door. I’m coming out.”
Empty hands poked out from cover, a head followed. The buzz cut she sported contrasted subtle makeup.
“You made the right call, Jane.” Mattie stepped out from behind Roger with a smile to melt the coldest heart. “My goodness, is that your uniform?”
Jackie stuck her red head above the safety of Roger’s shields. “Poor girl, a boiler suit? Do they think you’re an animal?” Looking from her husband’s shimmering blue shirt to the faded one-size-fits-all uniform, she felt for the young woman whose sceptical gaze met hers with hatred.
“Don’t act like you’re our friends. Don’t pretend you’re here doing us a favour.” Jane’s voice had an angry I’m-better-than-you undertone to go with the I’m-better-than-this-job resentment.
“Fine, honey. You want a bitch, I’ll be a bitch.” Jackie pulled out her flare gun from the holster. Speaking to the man in hiding she said, “in three seconds I’m firing a flare. Come out or I’ll burn you out.
The clatter of mettle hitting the floor was followed by two lily-white hands. “I surrender. Just don’t hurt us.”
“We don’t want to hurt anyone,” Matt assured him. “We’re pirates, not killers. What’s your name young man?”
“CAPTAIN John Brown,” said the man in the green MossGo boiler suit with captains lapels. He threw a lot of emphasis behind the first word.
“Alright, cap. Hands on your head. Step towards us slowly. Jane, weapon down. Don’t do anything you won’t live long enough to regret.” Matt’s every word was spoken with fatherly patience and respect.
Jane dropped her gun and put her hands up.
“Wise move, dears. Come forward, slowly.” Jackie waved her flare gun. “Roger. Cuff ‘em.”
The black and white displays that covered the robot’s chest and heat flickered. They always showed a skull and crossbones. The skull winked back at the lady in red.
John and Jane’s shoulders slumped as the bot clamped their wrists.
“It’s only temporary,” Matt assured them. “Once we have what we want we’ll go. No harm done. Show us to the hold. What are you hauling?”
“Moss,” said Jane, giving them a look at her canine teeth.
“Very good dear. That was almost witty.” Jackie patted the first mate’s back. “Don’t draw this out being heroic and sarcastic. We want to go as much as you want us gone.” Jackie pulled down the collar of Jane’s boiler suit. “This thing’s older than you are. Do you have other clothes?”
Jane looked away.
“We’ll have to remedy that,” Jackie clicked her fingers, “Rog, size this woman for me.”
“Done,” said the machine, passing a red light over the captive.
“Get her something from my collection, and make
Sure there’s a bra for her, that wrap she’s wearing is doing nothing for her.” Jackie flashed a benevolent grin at Jane. “Jane, Jackie, and John,” the pirate laughed. “Don’t we sound like a bunch of boring bastards?” The lady in red noted Jane’s lingering glance at her captain. The pirate’s smile widened.
Roger Jolly stomped back the way they’d come, heavy footsteps echoing off the metal hallway walls.
“Here it is,” said John. “The cargo bay.” He stood straight. A hint of a smile showed in the upward curve of his lip.
Boring hulk of shit that he is, Jackie thought, he’s got a good jawline. Stubble isn’t a bad look for him either. “Something funny? John-boy?” she asked. He shook his head, grin widening. “Open the fucking door then.”
“Can’t,” Captain Brown replied, winking at First Mate Door.
“What’s the problem, big man?” Matt asked.
“There’s no problem,” said John with his millimeter perfect buzz cut to match Jane’s. Standing straight showed the breadth of his shoulders in the green jumpsuit.
The problem is I’m not in the J-name club, thought Mattie. “Open the door then, please.”
“I can’t. I’m not authorised.” John looked straight ahead.
“I give you authorisation,” Jackie said, pulling out her flare gun again. She pressed it to the tall man’s wooden stomach.
“That door will only open when we get to our destination. We’re not allowed or able to open it,” said Jane, glowering at the pirate.
“Your own company doesn’t trust you enough to let you in there?” Matt asked.
“I guess there’s a risk that if we had access, of someone storming the ship and using us to get inside.” Jane’s sarcasm lit Jackie’s short fuse.
“This isn’t a fucking game!” The red lady took her gun from the captain’s chest and pressed it into the first mate’s chin. “I don’t want to kill you, but I’m not going to lose any sleep if I have to.”
“You said you wouldn’t hurt us,” John said in anger and fear for Jane.
“No,” Jackie waved the index finger of her free hand. “Hubby there said he wouldn’t. I didn’t make any such promises.”
“We can’t open the door,” Jane said flatly. She slapped her palm on the reader by the door, John did the same. Nothing happened.
“Her body language shows no signs of dishonesty.” Roger gave a thumbs up. It held an outfit folded over one arm. Jane’s eyes were drawn to the peacock worthy pearlescent green of the dress.
“I dunno,” said Jackie, smiling a vibrant red smile. “She’s been lying to someone, possibly herself.”
“What are you talking about?” Captain John asked.
“Does he know?” asked the red pirate.
“Know what?” John asked.
“Yeah, what?” Jane asked.
“Wow. Denial is a powerful force.” Eyebrows raised, Jackie revealed the sparkling white of her dental implants. “She loves you, Captain. And apparently she’s too repressed to know it.”
“Who are you calling repressed?” Jane yelled.
“Kitten, if I shoved a lump of coal up your ass, I’d have a shitty diamond in no time.” Jackie smiled at the horror on the first mate’s face. “Roger, open the door for me.” The red pirate took the dress from the robot, frisked Jane and handed her the dress. “Call that a little consolation prize from me. Maybe he’ll look at you differently. Who knows,” Jackie winked, “maybe he already does.”
“What are your intentions towards this young woman?” Matt asked jovially, keen to join the conversation. He tweaked the collar of his vibrant shirt upwards for a menacing effect it didn’t have.
Roger turned on a cutting torch in one of its fingers and began drawing a glowing line down the heavy door between them and the cargo.
“What’s going on here?” John asked. “Am I dreaming?”
“A wet dream about, Jane?” Jackie cackled. “Perhaps. Let it play out honey. You dreamt up two outrageously sexy pirates,” Matt bowed to his wife, “to give you the advice you need.”
“I can’t get through this door?” Roger said, turning off the cutting torch. “This metal is heat resistant. It’s doing nothing.” The robot held up its torch finger, then shrugged.
“Is there another door, by any chance?” Matt asked. Jane shook her head. “A service duct?” She shook her head again. “An external hatch.” She nodded. “Phew.”
“The external hatch is thicker than this one.” Jane looked at the bot.
“That’s the truth, or she believes it at least.” Jolly Roger said, the image of the skull on its head frowned. “Take us to the bridge. I need access to the ship’s controls.”
“The door is time locked. It’s not going to open for another year or until someone with managerial access opens the door.” Jane looked from Roger, to Jackie, to Matt.
John walked in cuffs to the bridge of the hauler. His palm opened the door, the reader turning green beneath his hand.
“This is it?” Matt asked, “where is the rest of it?”
“What do you mean?” Jane asked, sounding defensive.
“Where’s the flight stick? Where are the controls?” He ran his hands over a panel that had more in common with a writing desk than the nerve center of a powerful ship.
“We aren’t allowed to steer,” said Captain John Brown.
“How are you in any sense a captain then?” Jackie asked incredulously.
“It’s a job title.” John shrugged. “I’m responsible for the ship. I communicate the ongoing safety and functionality of the MossGo Mule125.”
Matt buried his head in his hands. “What is the universe coming to? Why isn’t a robot doing this?”
“They cost too much,” Jane replied in a sarcastic tone. “How old are you?”
“Relatively speaking,” Roger said, “very.”
“Shooting these two would be a mercy killing,” Jackie said to her husband, who was exhaling with his grey eyebrows raised.
“You don’t have to be so cruel. We do our best with what we’ve got here.” John’s pained voice was a kicked puppies whine for mercy.
“Gods, you have to. You’ve got nothing.” Jackie gave Matt a soul searching look. “I’ve never taking candy from a baby before.” She looked at the man and woman in their cheap uniforms. Guarding a tin can floating between the stars for years at a time. Alone. Unable to steer. Not trusted to see their cargo.
“Both of you deserve better than this.” Matt said, voice shaking with guilt.
“Better?” Jane asked. “You really are old. There isn’t anything better than this. This is a good job. We’ve got space, free air. All the food we need.”
“What are you transporting?” Matt asked.
John shrugged. “We weren’t told. MossGo does plant stuff. Bioengineering.”
“How fucked are things if we’re the good guys?” Jackie asked. “They gave you guns? What if you’d killed yourselves?”
“They don’t work on us.”
“Which just means you can’t even use them as a way out of this.” Jackie’s eyes glistened. “Roger, how can we get that door open. I want to see what’s on the other side.”
“I need to do some maintenance here.” The bot pointed to the lack-of-control panel. Another finger became a screwdriver. Pings accompanied each screw hitting the floor. Wires and drives rested beneath the panels where buttons and levers should have been. Roger Jolly plugged itself in. A circle of arrows rotated on its face as the data loaded. “Good news and bad news.”
“What’s the good news,” Jackie asked.
“I have a way to open the door,” said the robot with a skull for a face.
“What’s the bad news?” Matt asked.
“MossGo and its colonies are as fucked up as Jack and Jill said they are. This is legitimately considered a good job in their part of the verse.”
“We need to point them in a better direction then.”
“First we need to open the door.”
“To do that I need to take everyone aboard the Codependent Codefendant.”
“Let’s go then,” said the pirates in unison. They herded their prisoners at gunpoint.
“I’m captain, I can’t leave,” John protested.
“You’re not even a janitor. Come on.” Jackie harassed him onto the pirate ship.
“This is tiny.” Jane looked at the kitchen, dining room area then the living room and bedroom.
“Cozy,” said Matt. We spend most of our time in the pods if we’re aboard. He nodded to two suspended animation pods for cryosleep.
“So, things are going to get even more claustrophobic.” Roger switched to an apologetic emoji and shrugged.
“You must be joking,” Jane said as the cryopod opened. “We can’t both fit in there.” She blushed as she looked at John.
“Get in,” Jackie demanded, nudging them in with her flare gun. “Sweet dreams.”
Crammed in far tighter than any manufacturer had ever intended, the two held each other. Breathing in Jane’s hair, John tried to stifle the involuntary rush of blood to his groin. Blushing and trying to ignore his own blood rush, Jane didn’t notice until they felt the gas forcing their minds to sleep.
“Welcome sleepyheads,” Roger smiled. “I used relativity to bypass the time lock on the door of your ship.”
“Wha-” Jane asked, using her fullest thought as she woke from the drug induced sleep. “But.” Jane lost her thought as her eyes met John’s. Flushed, she fell out of the pod to be away from him. Roger caught her and settled her on the rich carpet outside the pod. John was blinking next to her a moment later, with morning wood.
“Easy soldier,” Roger said, “gun away please.”
Seeing the involuntary bulge in his jumpsuit, John rushed to hide it any way possible. Jane smiled as he fell over, hands still cuffed like hers.
“Good nap?” Jackie asked. The crimson corsair stretched, pecking Matt on the cheek as he emerged from cryo sleep with his own trouser tent. Turning his back, he fixed it, smiling lustily at his lady.
“Are you going to let us go?” Jane asked with venom.
“Ease up Thornikate, that’s your new name by the way.” Jackie nudged Matt for a reaction but found him wiping sleep out of his eyes. “Monkeys hitting keyboards for a thousand years could never describe how bitchy you are. Flinging their shit at the wall would sum it up pretty nicely though.”
“If you can get in the door and go then do it,” Jane said impatiently.
“Want us to leave you with Captain Coitus? Mister Morning Glory?” Jackie’s grin was manic. She was a morning person.
“Come on, time won’t wait for us.” Roger picked up MossGo’s cheapest crew and threw them over its broad shoulders. Without the guns that had been there there was ample space on either shoulder for any adult.
“I suppose I’ll carry the dress then?” Jackie asked, picking up the green dress and bra for Jane. “Get Bernard Boner something decent to wear, something with buttons down the front.” She pointed a red nailed finger to Matt. Who nodded. He’d fit in your stuff.
Opening the MossGo Mule’s hold revealed a stash of plants fit to start a new colony, fruit and vegetable plants growing beneath ultraviolet lights. Weeping at the overwhelming proof of MossGo’s contempt for their health and happiness, Jane began to rip up her uniform. Roger unlocked the cuffs of the two. They had realised they were prisoners long before the pirates arrived.
Jumpsuit in tatters, Jane ripped an apple from a branch and bit with a juicy crunch. Eyes closed, she savored the bite with tears running down her face. Offering the apple to John, she was naked a moment later. Dressing in the clothes given to her she ran her hands over the soft fabric with the smile of a child holding its first stuffed toy.
“What now?” Jackie asked, holding Matt’s hand. She turned as she heard him sniff and found him sobbing with a fatherly smile on his face. “Softy,” she said, squeezing his hand tighter.
Garbed in green, John and Jane kissed as if no one was watching.