The pod docked in the pirate spaceship. It was run down and borderline derelict in comparison to the ship she left. Her opinion of the hull could be summarized as a miracle. A miracle it didn’t fall apart.
“Watch yer step,” said the medical pirate as he stepped through the airlock.
Jackie followed after Copper and got her first look at the interior. She was astounded at the sight.
In most space ships, there are two types of hallway. Maintenance and Crew. Crew hallways are supposedly clean, spacious and distinctly lacking piping, wires and electrical wiring. Maintenance hallways are narrow, cramped and contain all the important systems of a spaceship, from air filters, water and electricity to coolant and runoff.
This hallway was a mix between them. Pipes changed as extensions attached themselves and sneaked into the main hallway like a snake. A large segment of wall was missing, revealing a control pad for an electrical circuit.
Metal sheets where drilled into the floor to cover a missing segment of the hallway floor. A ladder was in the middle of the hall.
“How could you do this?” asked Jackie, offended deeply at the sight. A good crew is a clean ship, but this was a scrapyard in space. Everything was in complete and utter disarray.
“Easy,” joked the Captain. “We took some HP-7 valves here,” he pointed at the mess of piping on the ceiling “And used them to reroute the HP-6 steam exhaust piping for heating the lower storage quarters.”
Jackie blinked a couple of times in shock. Rerouteing HP-6 pipes was dangerous, especially since the steam would be at incredible pressures throughout the whole loop. Not only that, HP-7 valves would blow under half the pressure.
“That’s impossible,” she muttered in response. “Not without downgrading the engine so the exhaust gases don’t blow the piping.”
“Nuh-uh,” tutted the Captain. “We spread out the pressure with omni-connectors and reinforced the valves with magno-locks. No need to downgrade the exhaust.”
Jackie looked directly at the captain now. “Where does the excess go?”
He tapped his nose twice. “Secret,” he smiled warmly.
Jackie huffed and followed him as he lead the way.
The captain broke the brief calmness. “Name’s Esteban Rex, by the way. Call me Captain Rex, however. Not Rexie, only my wife gets that privilege.”
“Captain Rex,” Jackie echoed quietly. “Okay. Umm, Captain Rex?”
“Yes?” Captain Rex asked, stepping around a pipe.
“Where are we going?”
The Captain turned around and smiled. “To meet your new crew, of course!”
Jackie flashed a half-stare of confusion across her face before returning to the mildly curious and bemused expression that had been her default look since she was kidnapped. The fact that the Captain of the pirate crew who kidnapped her was treating her like a guest of honour was a major part of her confusion and the fact that she was somewhat okay with him was the reminder.
“You said I was an android,” Jackie mentioned. Rex stopped.
The question conveyed everything Jackie wanted to know. How did he know she was an Android? How was it that obvious to everyone but her? How did she not know?
Captain Rex put his hand in a pocket and pulled out a small device. Jackie took a step back.
“Relax, I’m not going to harm you,” he said. “Just listen.”
He pressed the device and it played an audio file.
“Capn’,” said the voice from the device, “Ah foon’ this wee thing.”
The recorder caught a gasp or two, footsteps. A Sob.
Jackie heard the voice of a small girl speaking in monotone, with a metallic echo behind her. “Don’t hurt me.”
“That’s…” she paused. She should be upset but she wasn’t. Even her parents confirmed it. The real Jackie died years ago. She was just a replacement, something to hold off the grieving.
“Your voice modulator’s busted,” Captain Rex explained. “We’ll get you a new one and you can start working for us after that.”
Jackie wasn’t listening, she was too busy trying to be sad, trying to cry. She was dead.
“I’m really dead,” she muttered. “Oh god.”
Her thoughts were distracted as Captain Rex gently brushed her cheek with his hook.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I can help.”
Jackie nodded softly and followed him to the crew.
The crew was all gathered at the ship’s console room, which was purposed with the same haphazard ‘repairs’ that accompanied everywhere else on the ship. How this crew didn’t poison themselves I don’t know.
“Meet the Redjaws,” said Captain Rex, his hook gently resting on Jackie’s back. He was pointing to each of the five other people. “That’s Copper, you know him. His real name is Cooper, don’t ask for his first.”
Copper turned in his chair and smiled, showing a missing tooth that was replaced by silver. His clothes were brown and rugged, like his hair. He swivelled back so that he was sitting at the console again, pressing a few buttons.
Captain Rex pointed at the pirate with the medical laser and battery pack. He grinned and waved at Jackie and Captain Rex in response.
“My first mate Joe Daniels. He’s a tricky one, but his heart’s in the right place.”
“Hey Capn’, hey Jackie,” he replied with a lot more genuine enthusiasm than last time she met him.
Rex pointed to the woman who was bandaged from head to toe underneath her clothes, with stray strips of cloth hanging out. She looked foreign and towered over most of the crew, even from her seated position on a bench in the corner of the room which she took up. “Susanna. Don’t expect any girl talk from her, she came from a Warrior tribe in Valmorra.”
Susanna grunted and flung a stray strip of cloth over her shoulder.
The man beside Susanna was short, and Susanna punctuated the fact. Jackie was taller than him. “Stanly Still. Cook.”
Stanly smiled a toothy grin and took off his hat in a bow. He had a mechanical hand, apparently. Not at all like Captain Rex’s hook.
“And finallyy,” Captain Rex said with emphasis on the last syllable, “We have Louise Castella.”
Louise was unlike the other pirates, wearing a dress that said ‘entertainer’ rather than ‘pirate’.
She walked up to Jackie and took her hands. Both of them.
“Nice to meet you,” she smiled weakly with courteous grace. “I’m sure you will fit in with the rest of us.”
Jackie was stuck trying to find words again. Or syllables.
All she did was crack out an “Ah,” before opening and closing her mouth again over and over.
Captain Rex moved out the way, telling his crew to move out back to their stations. Everyone but Copper, Louise and Jackie left the room. Louise was still holding Jackie’s hands long after that moment.
Jackie shook her head quickly and took a step back, breaking eye contact.
“No… I mean yes… I mean… what was that?”
Louise smiled and put her fingers to her lips slowly.
“A secret, my dear.”
And with that, she gracefully and slowly walked off, her body practically dripping off confidence and appeal with every step.
Jackie stood there dumbfounded for a moment. She didn’t seem like Captain Rex, Susanna, Copper, Stanly or even Joe.
She shook her head. Copper was busy at the controls of the ship. She figured she should talk to him first.
“Hey,” Jackie said. “What are you doing?”
“Plotting a course to Arma Dex spaceport, Jackie,” replied Copper, not looking away. The screen lit up red then green, and he swivelled around in his chair.
“Yeah,” Copper smiled. “It’s a nice big spaceport that usually brings in the stuff we need, like a new voice box for you.”
Jackie nodded. “Arma Dex.”