The Poseidon was a beauty. It was a new model, but it had an authentic feel to it. Jessie fell in love with it as soon as the captain took her on board. He’d pretty much walked her on and told her to look around, and then he vanished. As she walked into the engine room, pondering the logic behind naming a spaceship after a sea god, she could hear the voices of the three guys through the wall. She couldn’t stop her curiosity, and put her ear up against it, listening. The conversation went something like this.
Short Hair: “I don’t know, can we trust her?”
Curly Hair: “If nothing else, she’s only fourteen.”
Captain: “Says the fifteen-year-old.”
Curly Hair: “Well, she’s still young.”
Captain: “I know that, but she’s good. I’ve seen her fly. And kids growing up on a planet like that are probably going to mature faster. You’ve seen her; she doesn’t look fourteen, does she? I think she’s plenty mature enough.”
Short Hair: “All that’s fine and good. But back to my original question, can we trust her, and can she keep a secret?”
Captain: “Well, I haven’t done a psych analysis of her, if that’s what you’re asking. But I’m hiring her, all right?”
Hearing their footsteps approach on the metal grating, she quickly pushed away from the wall and pretended she’d been looking at the engine.
The Captain entered first, and the other two followed. “It looks like this is your lucky day,” he said to her. He was probably only nineteen or twenty himself and had long black dreadlocks falling to his shoulders. He wore what looked like it could have been a rebel coat, but all the insignias and anything setting it apart had been ripped off. “So, what do you think?” he asked her.
“It’s great,” Jessie replied.
“Now, you’re still good about the rules I told you, right? No picking sides. On this ship, it doesn’t matter who wins this war, as long as we get paid. Got it?”
“Now, we don’t use our real names, for a lot of safety reasons. So I don’t even want to know yours. Don’t tell any of us. Come up with something you like, and that’ll be your name from now on.”
She nodded again. “So you’re taking me on?” stretching out a hand, she said, “You can call me Jessie Falcon, Sir.”
“Well, Jessie, I’m Hank Lackey,” he returned the gesture, giving her a firm handshake. “This is Phil Taylor,” he pointed to Curly Hair, “and this is Fritz Sherly.” He indicated Short Hair at that.
Both of them nodded, obviously not as sure about her as their captain. That was okay, Jessie would show them.
“All right, all you have to do is wait here and act casual. If anybody talks to you be civil, you know. You don’t want to be making enemies, but don’t go making friends, either.” Lackey instructed Jessie about a week later as she was about to go on her first job with them. “If anyone asks what you’re doing sitting outside the ship, just say, your crew went to get supplies and left you to man the ship. And when we get back be ready to take off nice and easy, like we’ve finished stocking up and are leaving. So no fast flying unless we’re being chased.”
Jessie nodded along, knowing this was pretty much her test to see if they would keep her on or not. She couldn’t screw it up. She had to show them she had the right stuff. “Okay got it,” she said.
They’d landed in Freemont, a government-run trading port. She lowered the exit ramp for them, and as they were walking down it, Lackey turned one last time. “Remember, act casual. You’re the pilot of a merchant ship waiting for her crew to come back. Simple.”
When they were out of sight, Jessie grabbed her box of comic books from inside and sat down on the ramp, deciding to get some reading done while she waited for them to come back. It didn’t matter how often she read through those stories of Carter Falcon and his ship, The Sweet Jessie, they never got old to her. Yes, she knew it was a bit childish to still be reading comic books, but they were what made her decide to join up with Lackey. She wanted to be a hero like that. And yes, she was also aware that Lackey was a smuggler, or thief, or whatever, which was almost as far from being a hero as possible. But you had to start somewhere, right? She hadn’t been doing a great job where she’d come from.
As she read, she was vaguely aware that two people approached, and stood a few paces away talking about something. She didn’t pay them any attention until she heard, “Let’s see what she thinks.”
Jessie looked up, and her eyes widened to see a guy and a girl wearing the uniforms of government patrollers.
“Hey,” the girl spoke as they approached her. “We need your opinion on something.”
She was supposed to be friendly and casual, right? So, swallowing, Jessie stood up. “Yeah, sure.”
“Bobby says the best blasters come from Armania, but I think they jam too easy. I think the best come from Tornuke.”
“But what Jayden doesn’t realize is Tornuke blasters only hold like three charges. That’s no good in a firefight,” The guy, apparently Bobby, said.
“Anyway, what’s your opinion?”
Jessie looked back and forth between them, trying not to act too nervous. But this was something she had an opinion on, actually. “Um…” she said, wetting her lips before continuing. “Well I honestly think you’re both wrong. You um… want a blaster from Sarston. They’re a little big, but they’re reliable, you can hold them steady and get a more precise shot, they don’t overheat on you, but yeah anyway.”
The two patrollers looked at each other and then back to her. “I’ve never heard of a Sarston blaster,” Jayden said.
“Really? Well I guess they’re not very popular. I’ve actually got one; it’s on board if you want to see it.” Jessie froze immediately. Did she really just say that? Did she really just invite the people they were stealing from on board the ship? Lackey was going to kill her. But it was too late to fix it now.
“Yeah that’d be great! You’ve got me interested, now.” They both headed up the hatch inside the ship.
Well, there was nothing Jessie could do except pick up her box of books and lead them inside. Act casual, she told herself.
“I’ll go get it if you guys wanna wait here at the table,” she directed them towards the small kitchen on the ship. They sat down on the benches while Jessie went to her cabin. There wasn’t anything incriminating on the ship, right? She hoped there wasn’t. It’s not like she could go in there and say, “Hey, do you guys mind leaving? We need to make a quick getaway.” No, she’d just have to hope they’d leave soon on their own.
After getting the blaster out of the space between her bunk and the floor of the ship, she returned to the kitchen and was relieved to see they hadn’t been snooping around.
“So, here it is,” she said. “As you can see, it’s a little big, so it doesn’t do well for concealed carry, but it’s the best blaster I’ve come across.”
“Huh. Do you mind?” Bobby asked, and it’s not like Jessie could refuse, she was supposed to be nice, right? So, she handed over the blaster. After he examined it, it was passed to Jayden, and then sat down on the table.
“You’re right, that’s nice. I think I’m going to get one. Where’d you get yours?” Jayden asked.
“Um… I actually-” Jessie started, but heard boots stomping up the ramp and into the ship.
“All right, Falcon, let’s get-” Lackey swung around the corner and cut off what he was saying immediately. She could still hear Fritz and Phil stomping around in the cargo hold, probably putting away their catch. The only way to describe the look on his face was pure shock.
Trying to fix the situation, Jessie said, “Guys, this is Captain Lackey, and um… this is Bobby and Jayden…”
The patrollers stood up and went over to shake hands with him. “Hello, Captain Lackey.”
Lackey didn’t say anything, and Jessie chewed her lip nervously.
No sooner than they’d shaken hands, Jessie almost jumped out of her skin to the sound of alarms going off in the port. Lackey’s eyes swung toward the hatch, but Jayden and Bobby didn’t seem fazed.
“Should you guys… go check that out?” Jessie asked hesitantly.
Bobby shrugged. “We’ve got three minutes left off duty. So, anyway, Captain Lackey, are you and your crew merchants?”
Lackey spoke for the first time, and his voice was surprisingly calm despite the loud sirens outside. “Yeah, we ferry food to the factory planets.”
“I bet you guys get to see some cool places then,” Jayden added, and glanced over to Jessie, who nodded with a forced grin.
Jessie jumped again when she heard a voice over a loudspeaker outside.
“All ships have been grounded for inspection!”
“Ugh, I swear, they’re paranoid. It’s probably all a false alarm, anyway.” Jayden rolled her eyes. “Well, we should probably go now, though.”
Jessie and Lackey walked them out, but ran face to face with two more patrollers on their way in.
Jayden turned and gave Jessie a wink before saying to them, “These guys are clean, we just checked them. Let them go.”
“But…” One of the new ones started, but Bobby interrupted.
“The longer you stick around here, the more likely the real thieves are getting away. Go on.”
That seemed to be enough, and the other patrollers moved on.
“There’s no way you guys are the thief types,” Jayden laughed as she shook her head. “Anyway, it was nice talking to you, Jessie. And nice meeting you, Captain Lackey.”
“Um… yeah,” Jessie said, almost too shocked to respond.
Lackey didn’t reply.
“See you around?” Bobby asked.
“Yeah maybe,” Jessie said.
And with that, they were gone.
Jessie turned to Lackey with huge eyes. “I am so so sorry… it just sort of… happened…”
Lackey stared at her for a few seconds before shaking his head and laughing. “Well, I think that’s a first. Let’s get this thing in the air, Falcon, before they change their minds.”
“Yes Sir.” Jessie replied.