“Alright, kittens! Get dressed! You’re gonna be coming onboard my ship!” The man with the icy-blue eyes growled. As I got up, there were looks from some of the men surrounding us. I felt very naked, in my underwear, with steam still rising from my body. Lucas was scared to death. We went over to the lockers. One of them pinched my ass on the way over! I was too scared to do anything. As I got closer to Luc, he just gave me a look. I could read it – be strong. We got dressed. Very carefully, I slipped Angie’s necklace into my pocket. Having gotten our shoes on, we looked back over at the man with the icy-blue eyes. This lot, they were very much the pirate look. Dressed in black, with their attire being dirty. They were all armed. A big, imposing lot. My ocular interface came online. I was able to get a scan. They had cybernetic augmentation, and lots of it. But this wasn’t the kind we got. This was very underground, messy. This crew couldn’t have looked more like monsters if they tried. The augments were all for a purpose. I’m guessing for what they did as crew.
“Now, move!” the man snarled. We did as bidden. They didn’t restrain us. I guess they figured that we are smart enough to know not to try anything with a bunch of armed cyborgs. We were escorted out of the shuttle. It was then we got our first look at the ship this lot belonged to. It was big. Not as big as some of the Service’s vessels that I had seen, but reasonably sized. The shuttle was docked inside, along with several other craft. While the crew might be rag-tag, their vessel was in good shape. It wasn’t as squeaky-clean as the one to Atlantis, but it was still kept in working order.
Most of the group broke off from the ones escorting us. I guess they had jobs to get back to. We were taken to an elevator and thus began the long ride. My hands were shaking. Every second of sitting there was another moment in terror. I could feel the eyes of a couple of them, peeling off my clothes. Then there was the Captain of this ship, which I think was a fair guess as to who this fella was. He wasn’t that way. In fact he actually managed to surprise me.
When the elevator got to the floor it was heading to, we got out. Walking down the hall, one of the crew slapped my ass.
In a flash, the Captain was on him. “That’ll be quite enough of that! I mean to deliver these little birds to the mines on TJ. I won’t be having you all fucking them up and making them useless. Got it?!”
The man backed off. “Yes sir!”
“That goes for the rest of your sorry fucks. No touching the future prospectors here! Consider that a standing order.”
So that’s what was going to happen to us. We were going to be delivered to an asteroid mine. My guts instantly started turning. We would be left in the mine, to work until we died. Again, we were totally and completely fucked.
The two of us ended up in some sort of brig. The bars were electrified, and I wasn’t about to get electrocuted to death. Once they left, all the strength inside me left. I started to bawl. Heaving sobs that came out, over and over again. Lucas walked over next to me, putting his arms around me. We leaned up against the cold steel wall, and I cried into him. Things had gone from hopeful to now having an utter absence of it. My heart ached in a way I couldn’t describe. This was the worst day of my entire life.
“Don’t go losing your head yet, Elle. We’re not out of this game!”
I looked up at him, angry. “How?! How are we not out?! For real, I am just DYING to know how we are not totally fucked?! They’re going to deliver us to the mines! There, I have this strong suspicion that I’m going to be raped and murdered, while you are going to be worked to death. Did I get that right?!”
His face got more serious. “For the most part. But we aren’t done yet! There is still a chance! If we give in to despair now, then we really are fucked. Come on! We just got out of certain death once. All we have to do is be smart, and we can do it again!” There was hope, the real kind, in his eyes.
My heart started to beat again. I felt life returning to my veins. As I looked up at him, something inside me was pulling me. I reached up and kissed him. It was a slow and passionate kiss. He wasn’t the boy I got on the shuttle with anymore. He was someone new now. He returned my embrace, but then stopped, pulling back. his breathing was heavy.
“You’re with someone, last I checked! And I’m not about to fuck with that! You’ve just had an emotional moment. We’re caught up in things. Remember whose necklace you have in your pocket.”
In that moment, I felt Angie’s necklace, and it hurt again. What had I done?! So many emotions, I couldn’t process it all. Lucas got up, eager to break the moment. His eyes were moving around. I could tell that his interface was working. Mine came on as well. My subconscious was trying to tell me something – sort all this out later. We got bigger problems now. This place was not a fortress. Indeed, scans shows that it looked a lot better than it was. The lock on this door was remotely controlled from a console down the way. That would have been a problem, for someone without my interface. There were cameras all throughout the cell block. All I had to do was hack in to one and then go through the network, to find a way to get a solid view of the console. Then, we’re out of here! But a thought occurred to me.
“Even if we escape from this cell, we’re still trapped on their ship!”
Lucas winked at me. “I’ve got an idea about that. We’re close to a military base in the asteroid field! I saw the navigation screen before we were taken off the shuttle. We hack in to their communications array and send a site-to-site transmission to the base, giving them this ship’s location and signature. These pirates are using a damper to keep their signature from being detected. We get them past that, then the military will come running! After that, we just sit in our cell and wait it out!”
That made me feel loads better. Lucas kept on things. He didn’t let his fear get to him. I could learn a lot from that. Still, time to get to work. Why wasn’t someone watching this place? My answer came in the form of some crew member who looked bored, walking through the corridor. It was clear that his job was to check in us once in a while. Dude looked miserable. Oh well, our victory. I sat on the floor, my eyes on the camera. It was time to get to work.
Something cool happened – I could see through the camera! Cyborg power! It was mounted on a moving pedestal, so I was able to make it turn to the other cameras. Man was security lax, here. I guess they only ever had preyed on weak vessels, never anyone who was able to fight back. Kind of cowardly, if you think about it. But then, pirates have never been the bravest lot. Hence their job title.
From camera to camera I went, eventually getting to a vantage point here I could zoom in on the control console and get to work. Their security was strange. Really strange. Maybe I had just gotten used to how things worked back on Atlantis, but here it was all codes and back-up codes. The codes changed periodically, on the whims of the person in charge. How did this work?! If I was in the system, and he changed the codes, then alarms would go off and they would know. Maybe I could make myself silent. A fly on the wall. This was going to take time. Thankfully, time was in good supply. I knew that the ship wasn’t moving. They were probably worried about that signal we were broadcasting. If anyone else picked it up, then they would come looking. Couldn’t have that. The Captain of this ship was a smart man. A very, very smart man.
Half an hour passed. Finally, I perfected it! My greatest hacking device ever. A little machine that would be able to slip in and out of the system. Once I understood how it worked, I was able to make my helper just so. Still, it was tricky. I would have to chill each time a code change was done. Each member of the crew had an implant that would let them know the code when it changed. Anyone in the system who didn’t know it would be immediately flagged. This was so risky!
Once I was inside the system, it was like navigating a maze. Why was everything this complicated?! Who set up this system?! Each time the system changed, I saw it like a wall of red coming. I had to stop all actions. The deeper I got into the system, the harder it got. My ocular interface showed it like navigating pipes. Pipes with a ton of different corridors, with plenty going to dead ends. Had this guy actually anticipated someone coming into the system? That was interesting. Each time the guard would pass by Lucas’ and I’s cell, he would tell me to close my eyes. They were almost glowing. I pretended to be sleeping against the wall. Not too hard to believe. My fetal position was convincing, and those cots were like granite.
Another hour passed. Damn this system! I guess the crew knew all the access places well enough to not have problems. That’s when it hit me – this wasn’t for people inside. It was for people outside. If this ship ever got into a fight, this system was designed to eff with a cyber-warfare system. He didn’t have all the advanced firewalls that the space forces did. So he made due with keeping the system unbelievably complicated. This Captain was clever, and now I was too deep in the system to pull back.
Finally, I was in! Communications. Now that my program was out of the maze, I didn’t have to worry about the changing codes. You know, now that I thought about it, I bet he didn’t even change the codes. I bet an automated system did, every 10 minutes to a few hours, depending on the situation. Man, the future at work. I found a subroutine that would let me send a message and go undetected. A little finesse here, some delicate work there, and it was done! Just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“People coming! Get back to the real world!”
Inside the system, I just unplugged. Being back in the real world was kinda strange. A little off-putting. According to Lucas, my eyes had been like red display screens, with text constantly moving. Crazy, right?!
The two of us look up, and there’s the Captain. He has an entourage but dismisses them. Now it’s just him and us.
“So, you two must be pretty scared.”
Neither of us talks. What’s the point? We know what’s going to happen to us. I get the feeling that this guy isn’t about to change his mind. Why bother trying?
“Tell me a bit about yourselves. What are two kids doing on a shuttle in the middle of nowhere? You weren’t coming back from an asteroid. Given your trajectory, you were long outside of the Belt. So, where did you come from?”
Another long pause.
“Tell you what, we got a long ride together. It’s gonna take a lot of convincing to keep these fellas off her. Most of us haven’t seen a real woman in years. I have, but then, I can afford the rates on TJ. They keep going up.”
There was a kind of contained rage in his voice. A dark, cold, confident power that scared me to death.
“We came from Europa,” Lucas said, finally.
The man gave us a look. “Europa? Why? What’s down there? It’s nothing but ice.”
“We were part of a science mission,” I said, barely able to make it more than a whisper.
“Well now, that’s interesting. You lot must have been on that ship that was headed out. Had itself an escort, for a while. A little armed. Enough for us to know not to go after it. Not worth the effort. Especially for a ship that clean. What could have been worth it?” He took out a cigar, lighting it. “Now that I think about it, there were a fair amount of shuttles leaving that place too, not too long ago. They got themselves an escort as well. Those shuttles appeared to be leaving in a hurry. Did something happen?” His eyes never left me.
Lucas sat down next to me. “You could say that.”
“I see.” A slow drag, then a long let. “So, you two some rich kids, with mommy and daddy buying your tickets? Get to go on some exciting field trip to the other side of the Sol System?”
“Why do you want to know?!” There was fear in Luc’s voice.
“Well, if you two are worth something, then maybe I won’t drop you off on a mining asteroid. Maybe I’ll ransom you for a pretty penny. If it can make me more money, I’m down.”
My mind worked fast. It had to. “Yeah, we’re worth a ‘pretty penny.’ My mom’s one of the biggest brokers on Mars. His dad’s a CEO, worth half a billion. There was a kind of insurance, for if anything happened to us. I bet that kidnapping would be covered under ‘happened.'”
With the cigar in his mouth, he smiled. “Well, then, that’s different! That means that you might just get to live. After all, I drop you two on TJ, your little lady-friend is going to get her ass pounded until she can’t sit right.”
A sob escaped me.
“What the fuck do you want from us?!” Lucas snarled.
“To know if there’s a way that I can save you from the mines and her from a bordello where she lives what’s left of her life. And there might just be. I’ll have to think on it. After all, all this, it’s nothing personal. I just want money.” The man got up and started to walk away.
The moment the door shut, I broke out in sobs again. What if the message didn’t reach its destination?! What if they didn’t come?! What if we got to this “TJ” place, and I ended up looking like one of those girls on the Colonies of Earth, beaten and bruised, found with a collar and an “owner?” The thoughts were too terrible. But what else could I do now? If I opened the door, we had nowhere to go. Nowhere at all. We power up the shuttle, they just grab us again. There was no way we could outrun this ship. I couldn’t pilot, and I doubt that auto-pilot would know what to do. Everything was so fucked. After all the hope I had gotten when we got off Europa, now I was left thinking that what Mars had told my parents was true. That I was most likely dead. After all, if I ended up on “TJ,” would they ever know what happened to me? I somehow doubted it. Deep in my heart, a sense of terror was growing that let me understand how desperate my situation was. All I could do was cry into Lucas. Part of me wanted to kiss him. Part of me wanted to kiss Angie.
Part of me wanted to blow my brains out and deny them the satisfaction of getting anything for me. After all, if this Captain found out the truth – that we weren’t worth anything – then Lucas would have a long and miserable life in a mine, while I died like a common prostitute. More specifically – as a common prostitute.
Until next time, a quote,
“They dislike me, they like me. They hated me, and now they love me.” -Nick Dunne, Gone Girl