Hans froze, his finger on the trigger, but he didn’t shoot. If she squeezed that trigger both him and Duke would be dead. He recognized he weapon as a scatter gun. It was a messy weapon, but it never missed – at least not at this range. Hans raised his hands carefully and showed her that his finger was off the trigger of his own gun.
“Hans Beaulieu, pilot for the Phoenix. We’re responding to your mayday request.” Hans smiled as he tried to assess the situation.“Shit, Honora. What in the world are you doing on this wreck?” Hans turned to face Duke who was smiling at the woman. She blinked and lowered her gun.
“Duke!” Her voice went up a couple octaves as she said it. She jumped and threw her arms around the much taller man. “I can’t believe it’s really you. How long has it been?”Duke had her in a bear-like grip as he lifted her up. “Years Honey, it’s been years.”
Hans watched the reunion and couldn’t help, but feel a little left out. He had gone for gun point to witnessing some odd sort of reunion. He waited until Duke had put the girl back down before interrupting them.“Someone want to explain what’s going on here?” Hans looked into the cockpit to check for anyone else before glancing back at the two people in front of him. “And maybe tell us why you’re the only person who appears to be aboard this vessel?”
Duke glanced past Honora into the cockpit to see that it was empty and frowned at her. “Yeah, Honey. What is going on here?”She sighed and took a step back from them both as she holstered her weapon. “We were having issues, but the first ship to respond wasn’t a friendly. Pirates, opportunistic ones, but still pirates. Not sure where the other four crew is. Dead or taken would be my guess. I managed to get to the cockpit and lock myself in here before anyone saw me.”
“Hard to believe you were hiding from pirates.” Duke laughed and turned to Hans. “Honey here used to be a pirate once upon a time. She was young and stupid on those days.”“Hey!” Honora kicked half-heartedly at Duke who easily missed the swing.
“A pirate, really?” Hans looked her up and down, but he would never have guessed that of her.“Yeah, as Duke says I was young and stupid, but thankfully I had a guardian angel looking after me.” She smiled up at Duke who smiled back.
“What can I say, I’m a sucker for pretty face.” Duke brushed off the compliment and walked past Honora into the cockpit. “Now, let’s see if we can get this boat up and running before we’re missed back on our ship.”Hans followed Duke in to take a look at the console. They each took a different spot and began running diagnostics. After a few minutes of working with the computer Hans stepped back and cursed. “We’re not going to get anywhere with thing. It’s too badly damaged.”
“I think you’re right. This ship needs more work than we can do out here.” Duke turned to look back at Honora. “You’re gonna have to put a marker on her and get someone to tow it back to Cantun, that’ll have the nearest facilities to be able to deal with the kind of problems that you’ve got here.”“I can’t just abandon it. Someone might come across it and take it. I mean, I’m sure we’ve probably lost a good amount of our cargo to the pirates, but I’ll be in deep shit with the company if I lose everything.” Honora frowned and walked over to the console. “Can you at least get the stupid mayday to quit playing? I don’t need to attract any more attention than I already have.”
“You still working for those sharks?” Duke frowned down at the Honora. “Cause if you are, you’re better off just getting lost rather than going back with missing cargo and crew. They are not the nicest people when it comes to failure.”
“You don’t have to tell me that.” Honora kicked at the console and brushed away a tear. “I’m gonna be in big trouble no matter what I do, but it’ll be nominally less if I at least come back with something.”
“Come back with us then. Just abandon the ship. I’ll get in touch with a few people and we’ll get you all set up back on Cantun. It’s a frontier planet, but I’ve still got some connections there and I don’t think your sharks do.” Duke placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “I can even get you a new job with a good company, an honest one.”
“Whoa. Wait a second there. What in the world is going on here?” Hans had been trying to figure out what they were talking about, but even though he didn’t know the details he had understood enough that he wanted to be sure that Duke was saying what he thought he was saying.“Honora is an old friend. She’s in a sticky spot and I am giving her some help out of it.” Duke shrugged as though it was an ordinary occurrence.
“And I’m guessing that her tricky spot is because her employers are somewhat illegal and immoral.” Hans crossed his arms and shook his head. “I am not having someone like that working for us.”“You told me to hire a pilot and she’s a decent pilot.” Duke responded.
“Look, we can give her a lift out of here because that is protocol, but we are not hiring some criminal just because she happens to be a friend of yours.” Hans stepped towards Duke and attempted to stare down the bigger man.Duke matched his stance. “Look, it’s not going to be a problem and besides, I think she could help out with our little discussion earlier.”
“No.” Hans frowned. “I only told you because I had no other choice, you are not bringing in some random third person that I know nothing about.”“I know her and that should be good enough for you.” Duke glared at Hans as if he was trying to bend Hans to his will with thoughts. Hans matched the stare, unwilling to back down.
“Hey testosterone fuelled idiots.” Honora shoved her way between them and placed a hand on each chest. “I think I have a say in this decision as well. I have no idea what the deal between you two is, but I am not going to be a piece of rope in your tug-o-war game.”It was enough to get them both to take a step back from her. She looked from one guy to the other before deciding to take on Duke first. “I’m guessing he’s your boss since he’s trying to veto your decision and I’m not going to be hired on somewhere that I won’t be wanted. That is final. If your boss says no you have to respect that decision. You taught me that.”
“But-” Duke started to argue, but one look from her and he shut his mouth quickly. Hans tried not smile, but he couldn’t stop the smirk that spread on his face until she turned to look at him. Her eyes burned with a fire and it was easy to forget how small she was. It was the sort of look his mother had given him when he was big trouble.“And you, I don’t know you, but you need to show a little more restraint and respect to your employees. If you want them to behave properly than you’ve got to set the right example and not shout back at them like you were. I know Duke is thick headed, stubborn oaf a lot of the time, but if you treat him right than he’ll take the time to listen to you.” Honora relaxed a little and smiled. “And if it makes a difference, my name Honora Li-Macklin. I’ve been a commercial pilot for the last four years.”
“Hans Beaulieu, I’m in charge of operations for Global Space Tech on Cantun.” Hans held out his hand towards Honora who took it firmly in her own and gave it a good shake. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve got my company’s interest to protect and I can’t have shady people coming around and making things hard. We’ve got a good reputation and I mean to keep it that way.”“And you should keep it that way.” Honora smiled. “If it makes any difference I didn’t exactly know who I was working for before I got hired. I thought it was an honest job, but I quickly learned different. Worst part is, once you’re in, you’re in and there really is no way out.”
“She’s right you know. Someone like you might not understand, but I know what it can be like out there. I try to help the good ones out when I can, but it’s not a clean galaxy. There are more shady deals going on out there than you can shake a stick at.” Duke stepped forward and placed a hand on Honora’s shoulder like he had before. His voice was quieter and more respectful this time.Hans looked from Duke to Honora and back to Duke again. “Fine, I’ll take it under consideration, but I won’t promise anything. And I am only considering this because she seems to be able to make you shut up and listen. I could use someone with that talent around the office.”
“Great. Honey, you got a suit in this tin bucket?” Duke was smiling like he had just won the lottery.“Yeah, I’ll suit up.” Honora opened up a closet and found the smallest suit she could get. It wasn’t long before all three of them were back aboard the Phoenix. It wasn’t until then that Honora even thought to ask where they were headed.