Pellan and the silent woman had been shown the mess and were offered a meal that would normally seem unappetizing, yet they consumed it so quickly you’d think it was truly delicious. Pellan, a larger man in his mid-forties with a cleanly shaven head, studied the woman carefully as he ate. She was very small and had black hair that was cut at her jawline. Her skin was pale whereas his was olive. They were both human, unlike the crew member that stood in the doorway of the mess. He was tall and had skin that looked like ice and blue tentacles for hair. He had four black eyes that kept watch over the feasting pair.
Jeath had declined the offer for sustenance and was settling into his new room; all four of them had been given a small six foot by six foot closet of sorts with a blanket on the grated floor. Jeath hadn’t noticed the symbol on Pellan’s forehead, indicating he was a priest of the Trennu, when he had first seen him. He had no desire to spend time with anyone who believed the alien species called the Trennu were gods. He was a short, slender man in his thirties with tanned skin and long blonde hair tied back into a knot.
Nax, who had smooth brown skin and short curly black hair, was sitting with Husk on the bridge. Nax was extremely fit and of medium height in his late twenties, whereas the captain was at least fifty and had thick red hair and a long beard. The captain had given Nax a drink that was opaque and blue and had invited him to sit down around a small circular table near the entrance on the bridge.
“So, Husk,” started Nax, “what kind of job have you got lined up for us?”
“A good one. But I usually don’t share the intel with my crew.”
“And I usually know the intel.”
“I take it you’re a hustler yourself, heh?” smirked Husk. “You never did tell me what you got imprisoned for.”
“Tirandi’s not my homeworld, I was just there doing a job. It went a little south when I got arrested.”
“Aye, well now that’s behind you. I’ve got to tell you something, Nax. This job is important and if I catch a whiff of you trying anything funny: you’re dead.”
Nax put his hands in the air and smiled. “You rescued me, Cap’n! I won’t pull anything.”
“I know you won’t. ‘Cause if you jeopardize this job: you’re dead. If you run: you’re dead. If you disobey: you’re dead. If you take more than your cut: you’re dead. If you take my blaster again: you’re dead!”
“Right! Of course, cap’n Husk!” Nax smiled wide and looked over at the green-skinned crew member who had been watching their conversation closely. “I’m sorry about the blaster thing back there. I was only being a businessman.”
The two of them laughed together in an awkward, villainous, ‘I could slit your throat’ kind of laugh.
“Now cap’n,” Nax began.
“Right, cap’n. I heard you mention something about me taking more of my cut. I gather, then, that I get a cut of this score?”
“Aye. We all get a piece,” Husk said. “That’s how I run my ops.”
“What kind of cut?” asked Nax as he swallowed the last of his blue drink. He swirled the bottom of the glass on the table and looked up with a smile.
“Well, there are eleven crew members. So it’s only fair we split it fifty-fifty.”
“Fifty-fifty?” questioned Nax.
“As in I get fifty,” said Husk, “and the ten of you split the rest.
“You get fifty, I get five?”
“Hey look, convict! I pay my crew half upfront. The blasters, the fuel, the tech; all that capital comes from my pocket. So it’s only natural I get a larger slice than you.” Husk leaned back on his chair and pulled on his red beard.
Nax looked at him blankly for a moment and then leaned forward with a smile. “Heh! Sounds fair to me! But you did mention blasters; when will I be getting mine?”
“When we get to the job site, Nax. When we get to the job site.” Husk stood and gestured for Nax to follow the green-skinned crew member. “Now if you please; I’ve got to plot our course. Jinkin here will show you around. Make yourself at home! Just remember you’re on my ship. Never forget that.”
“You got it cap’n.” Nax stood up and walked to the door. “Speaking of which: this fine piece of pure ditallium gold got a name?”
“Nah… she’s a class eight cargo shuttle. Other than the gravity simulator, a few capacitors and a plasma cannon, she’s nothing special.”
“Class eight? You know they just released the sixtieth right? No name for this relic, eh? I’ll change that before you know it.” Nax turned and walked alongside Jinkin. “Say Jinkin,” he said as the continued down the hall. “You wouldn’t know where my pal Jeath is hiding, would you?”
Jinkin spoke with a soft voice that had a natural echo, almost sounding mechanical. “This way.”
After going through a few corridors and passing rooms filled with hauling crates of all sizes, they turned into a hall where Jeath’s room was. After seeing him, Nax turned and put his hand on Jinkin’s shoulder. “Would you mind snatching a quick meal for me from the mess?” Nax was such a convincing scoundrel of a man that he was hard to refuse. Jinkin reluctantly made his way to the mess.
Nax turned to Jeath. “What did I tell you?” he said as he spread his hands wide, with an even wider smile and gleefully stepped toward the small man.
“Yeah, real great work, Nacadolius,” Jeath began. “We’re stuck on this poor excuse for a starship, got ourselves into a who-knows-what kind of job, with criminals for a crew and I have to constantly breathe the same air as that blasted priest!”
“Tell me how you really feel,” jested Nax. “I know it ain’t the greatest of accommodations but my plan’s not over yet. Trust me!” He closed in on Jeath and put his arm around the man’s back. “You were saying something about the electromagnetic tech you built. Think you could do it again?”
“Depends on the supplies at hand. I had months to design the devices I placed inside those toys. And besides, I never got around to testing them. Like I was saying: enthusiasts got word of my invention and tried to bring me on. ‘Twas simply the wrong day for me, Nax. A spy amongst their ranks ratted me out and I was arrested the next day.”
“The electromagnetism, Jeath, my man, can rig a pulse to go off when we might need it? Let’s say, to disable the ship and Husk’s weapons?”
“I doubt it Nax. I haven’t got enough supplies aboard this rust bucket.” Jeath turned around and ventured down the hall, away from Nax.
Just then, Jinkin returned with a dehydrated green square for Nax. Feeling slightly discouraged, Nax walked past him, didn’t take the food, and patted him on the shoulder. “Good eats, Jinkin.”
Jeath found himself in a tight corridor of the cargo shuttle. He felt slightly lost but continued forward, knowing he’d find a familiar hall soon. Suddenly, Pellan rounded a corner and entered his view.
“Hello,” said Pellan plainly.
Jeath kept his eyes forward and passed the thicker man without acknowledging him.
“If you’re not a believer that’s fine by me. I could use a tip on how my day should look now that I’m not a priest.”
Pellan tried his best at starting a conversation with Jeath. This only served to enrage him all the more. Jeath turned around and struck Pellan’s face with a solid fist. He leapt on top of the downed man and clasped his hand around Pellan’s neck.
“The Trennu are not gods and all who worship them deserve death!” Jeath shouted.
Only a moment later, the silent woman rounded the corner, sprinted to the scene and struck the back of Jeath’s head with her elbow. She then turned him onto his back and pressed her knee on his throat. She struck his nose with her fist placing him unconscious. Pellan gasped for air and held onto the silent woman’s hand while she helped him to her feet. The two of them hurried out of the narrow corridor and found their way to the main stretch of halls. Each walkway looked similar as they were all adorned with sheet metal walls and black grates for flooring. The two of them reached the bridge and saw Husk sitting in his chair, looking out the window into space.
“Captain Husk,” said Pellan in a now raspy voice. “I’ve been assaulted.”
“Clarify,” replied Husk as kept staring into the immeasurable distance.
“It was Jeath! He attacked me and tried to strangle me.”
“Yes, Yes,” said Husk. “That’s been known to happen. Many men can’t handle the confinement of a ship. Don’t let it get to you.”
“Get to me? But captain!”
“That’s enough!” Husk turned around and looked at Pellan and the silent woman. “It won’t be me doing anything about it. Stay alive, do the job, and then I’ll drop you off at the next trading post.”
Pellan huffed and turned on his heel. He and the silent woman stormed out of the bridge and to their quarters.
Husk leaned back in his chair and sighed. “This might get interesting.”