Chapter One: For a Job Well Done

On the whole, our galaxy revolves like a disk and the stars move little relative to one another. A closer look reveals a more complex story. Each star orbits the galactic center in a different plane and at a slightly different speed than its neighbors.  The scales involved are so vast that maps depicting the relative positions of more than two stars change little in a human lifetime, but the motion affects gravity and energy density in the interstellar medium almost constantly. This means the points star vessels use to jump from system to system at super-light velocity are always on the move.

The star system G.S.C. 575303 was of little significance except that it contained two such jump points. One led to the powerful, human-inhabited world of Alpha Coma Berenices 3 and the other led to the resource-rich world known as Prospero, putting it on the trade routes for many freighters traveling between the worlds. Although it took several days for ships to move from one jump point to the other, it required less fuel than making multiple jumps. The only problem was the risk of pirates. 

The privateer Legacy hid in a cloud of ionized dust, watching for cargo-laden ships to make the crossing between the two jump points. Legacy's captain, Ellison Firebrandt, had a Letter of Marque—a privateer's license—from Earth and was under orders to raid ships bound for Alpha Coma and bring the earnings home.

On the Legacy's battle deck, Firebrandt and his first lieutenant, Carter Roberts, stood before the holographic tank at the bow and watched a ship emerge from Prospero's jump point. Tall and wiry, Firebrandt wore a mane of red hair, a matching beard and smiled as he considered the potential prey. Stocky and bald, Roberts scowled as he typed a command into his handcomp. A course projection appeared in the holo tank. "They're taking a parabolic course to the jump point for Alpha Coma, well away from our position. Do you think they suspect we're here?"

Firebrandt shook his head as he retrieved a pipe from his trousers' pocket and slowly packed it with tobacco. "We haven't been operating in the area long enough." He raised the pipe to his mouth and lit it. "More likely, they suspect law enforcement of some kind." He turned and looked at a pale, almost emaciated man sitting at a nearby console. "Computer, scan that ship."

The man known as Computer activated the ship's sensors via chips implanted in his brain. He stood and glided toward the hologram like a wraith. The view shifted to a close-up of the ship from Prospero. "It appears to be a freighter with a cargo capacity of 100 metric tons. However, it carries no markings and its locator beacon is only transmitting the minimum required information—no name, no corporate or government registry, just the destination: Alpha Coma Berenices."

"That's quite interesting," mused Firebrandt around the pipe stem. "I wonder if they're hauling something they don't want certain authorities to know about."

"If that's true," said Roberts, "and we fenced the cargo in the right market, it could prove a valuable haul for Earth … and us."

Firebrandt nodded. "Is that virus you've been working on ready to try?"

Roberts grinned, resembling the skull from a Jolly Roger flag. "It is. I'll piggyback the file onto their uploads from the galactic mapping net. It should confuse their computer systems, effectively clouding their sensors and keeping them from firing any weapons they might have."

"Very good. Let's give it a try." The captain turned and faced Kheir el-Din, the tall, muscular navigator at the wheel console with beads woven into his beard. "Plot an intercept course for that freighter."

The navigator gave a curt nod and set to work.

* * *

As hoped, Roberts' computer virus locked up the freighter's systems and the Legacy made the two-day crossing from the ion cloud to the other ship unchallenged. Legacy matched velocity and docked. In many cases, Firebrandt would order knockout gas pumped into a freighter once they locked on. This ship's cargo still proved a mystery and he didn't want to risk damage by exposing it to the gas. Instead, he decided to lead a frontal assault with hepler pistols and swords.

The Legacy's outer door opened, revealing the freighter's airlock. Roberts stood to the side, typing on his handcomp. When ready, he nodded to the captain. Firebrandt held his own sword high, then lowered it. At the signal, Roberts entered a command and the airlock opened. Several men knelt inside the freighter and fired hepler pistols into the Legacy. Firebrandt and his men deflected the high-energy beams with their swords and rushed in, firing their own hepler pistols.

The captain struck out at one of defenders. A gush of blood followed as his sword connected with the man's neck. Splattered with blood, the ship's defenders fell back. Firebrandt and his crew followed—killing where necessary, but disabling or stunning where they could. If captured and tried, it went easier on pirate and privateer crews who didn't kill at every opportunity.

It soon became apparent the freighter wasn't heavily manned and most of the defenders fled to the relative safety of their cabins. Firebrandt and Roberts strode forward to the ship's command deck. There, Firebrandt pointed his hepler pistol at the captain and mate, who both raised their hands. Three of Firebrandt's crew rushed in behind and took up strategic positions around the bridge.

"Well well well," said Firebrandt as he approached the ship's computer console. "It would appear that some kind of virus has disabled this vessel. I think we can help with that." He winked at Roberts, who placed a data chip into the appropriate slot. The anti-virus program executed and they examined the ship's manifest. It said they were hauling toilet paper.

Just then, Firebrandt's communicator beeped. He tapped the device on his belt. "Go ahead."

"This is Lowry down in the hold," came the disembodied voice of the Legacy's boatswain. "I think you should get down here."

"I take it you found more than toilet paper." The captain already turned to leave the command deck trusting his crew to guard the freighter's officers. Roberts followed close behind.

"There are indeed several palettes of toilet paper," reported Nicole Lowry. "It's what's tucked in the middle of the tubes that I think you'll find interesting. Pollens, seeds and other plant materials along with a whole pharmacy worth of chemicals."

"Ah, the poppies of Prospero are galaxy-famous." Firebrandt shut off the communicator and looked at Roberts. "I think we've found ourselves quite a haul."

"Sounds like we should load up our holds with toilet paper and go visit our friend, Chris, on Epsilon Indi 2," said Roberts.

"Yes, I've heard they have a shortage of toilet paper in the Epsilon Indi system," quipped the captain.

"Bad thing to be without," said Roberts as they entered the hold.

Firebrandt nodded to Lowry and then approached a palette containing several rolls of toilet paper. He grabbed a roll and drew out a brown leaf. "I do believe this is tobacco." Firebrandt's smile widened. "It would seem they're growing a good deal more than poppies on Prospero these days." The captain glanced around at the cargo hold, then turned to Roberts and Lowry. "Okay, I want a systematic scan of the cargo. Then organize a crew to take the most valuable items to Legacy. I think we'll be able to leave the captain of this ship with just enough to make a profit. It might be sufficient to keep any of his friends from hunting us down."

"Very good, Captain," said Roberts as Firebrandt grabbed a roll of toilet paper loaded with tobacco and returned to the Legacy.

* * *

One of the first planets colonized by humans, Epsilon Indi 2 had been inhabited for several hundred years. There were farms and ranches in remote parts of the planet, but most inhabitants lived in the large cities and worked in factories owned by Earth-based corporations. Those factories paid low wages and many city residents lived in discarded cargo pods on the city's outskirts. In spite of that, Epsilon Indi was only one jump away from Earth and proved a popular weekend destination. People could visit Epsilon Indi's largest city, Palomar, and buy cheap trinkets, alcohol and other entertainments not readily available on Earth. This led to a flourishing drug trade in Palomar and all around Epsilon Indi.

Before he became Legacy's captain, Ellison Firebrandt had been introduced to Chris Bowman—a simple trader according to the record books, yet one of the richest men in Palomar. As the Legacy approached Epsilon Indi, Firebrandt contacted Bowman and explained he had a cargo that might be of interest. Bowman told the captain he would have a hover car waiting at the spaceport when they arrived.

The next day, Firebrandt took a launch from the Legacy to the planet. Two young men, dressed in soft, black leather decorated with chains, met the captain. One drove him through Palomar's bustling streets while the other sat in silence beside him. They passed the plaza, where people in rags begged for cash next to ragtag booths where people who were slightly better off sold trinkets. The hover car continued into a tourist district with tidy shops and inviting restaurants. From there, the driver turned into a neighborhood of veritable mansions. They pulled up to a gate in a wall surrounding a beautiful garden with a large house in the center. The hover car's driver waved to the man in the guard tower next to the gate. The gate opened and Firebrandt noticed that the car waited until the dashboard computer indicated a force field had also been lowered.

The hover car continued up the driveway and the driver stopped at the bottom of the steps leading up to the house. Firebrandt stepped from the car and climbed up to the front door where Chris Bowman met him. The captain caught the sound of music and voices from within the house. "How nice of you to come," said Bowman. "You have something for me?"

Firebrandt passed a handcomp to Bowman and then looked around, noting several cars parked on the grounds near the one that delivered him. Bowman whistled as he scanned the information on the handcomp. "That's quite a load of … toilet paper," he said with a smile.

"I thought it would be safer here than at Alpha Coma." The captain nodded toward the house. "Did I interrupt a party?"

"Just a small gathering of friends." Bowman clenched the handcomp and beamed at the captain. "I am very impressed. I think there's someone here you should meet." With that, Bowman escorted Firebrandt into the house.

The loud music inside wasn't piped in from speakers, but rather came from a live band playing on a stage. People in colorful and expensive clothes stood around, sipping cocktails from fine crystal glasses. Firebrandt realized that any one of those glasses was likely worth a week's income to the vendors he had seen on the plaza. He grew conscious of people staring at him in his black trousers and long, black coat, which seemed out of place at the gathering.

Bowman grasped the elbow of a tall, but slightly plump, man with silvery hair and an elegant, silvery suit to match. "Ellison Firebrandt, I'd like you to meet Friedrich Baum. Mr. Baum is the senator for Epsilon Indi."

The captain bowed slightly, then held out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Senator Baum."

The senator briefly touched the captain's hand, while evaluating the man who stood in front of him. Bowman handed the senator the handcomp. "This is what the captain has brought us."

The senator scanned the list and then scowled at the captain. "What is your asking price?"

Firebrandt stepped around and typed a number into the handcomp.

Baum nodded approval. "That seems quite reasonable."

"Quite reasonable, indeed," echoed Bowman. "In fact, I think the captain deserves a bit of a bonus and I think he may just enjoy helping with the matter we were discussing before he arrived."

Firebrandt's eyebrows came together. "What matter is that? What kind of bonus?"

Baum's eyes traveled over Firebrandt again and fell to the captain's scabbard. He ignored the captain's questions and asked one of his own. "Why do you carry a sword, Captain Firebrandt?"

Firebrandt licked his lips and looked around at the people in the room. "It seemed it would help me blend in better at a social event of this caliber."

Baum's lips turned upward ever so slightly. "I've heard that certain space farers use swords when dealing with merchant ships." The senator's eyes narrowed. "The sight of a little blood can go a long way to making a merchant crew more amenable to … bargaining."

"I've heard that, too," said the captain.

Baum looked to Bowman. "I think you're right; the captain might be interested in helping us out. If the bonus is to his taste, perhaps there would be other work for him and his crew."

"To my taste?" asked the captain.

"You'll understand tomorrow," said Bowman. "I'll have my boys meet you at the spaceport, if you would be so kind as to return around noon. In the meantime, I'll give you the coordinates where you can deliver the cargo and receive payment."

"So, what exactly is this 'bonus' and why do I have to pick it up personally?" Firebrandt narrowed his gaze. "Is it a cash payment? That would certainly be to my taste."

Bowman led the captain to a table and handed him a glass. "It's more of an … entertainment … for a job well done."

Firebrandt scanned the room and noted the hospitality Bowman showed his guests. He nodded and lifted the glass. "Very well," said the captain. "I look forward to it."

Bowman also took a glass and the two drank together.

* * *

The next day, Firebrandt returned to the spaceport at the appointed time and the same two men met him. They drove by the plaza as they had before, but this time, instead of continuing into the district with the shops and restaurants, they turned and followed a road that passed several blank-faced factory buildings. They continued past the factories into a district filled with warehouses. At last, they stopped in front of a particularly dilapidated building. The guard who served as escort indicated they'd reached their destination.

The captain's eyebrows came together as he eyed the warehouse. "This doesn't seem like the kind of place I'd expect to be entertained."

The driver and guard looked at each other, confused. "This is quite a privilege," said the guard. "Mr. Bowman only lets his most honored guests spend time with the girls."

"The girls?" asked Firebrandt.

"Yes," said the guard, "real girls."

Not certain he understood, and more concerned about an ambush, Firebrandt allowed them to lead him inside the warehouse. His mind whirled, trying to comprehend what was happening. An ambush made little sense. After all, Bowman had been true to his word and had transferred payment as promised. There were far easier double-crosses than attacking the captain planetside. Besides, the guard had not disarmed Firebrandt.

By the same token, Firebrandt didn't really understand what they meant about real girls. There were plenty of real women and girls in the human colonies—even Epsilon Indi. The captain had seen many at the party the day before.

The guard opened a door and ushered the captain into a dark room, then turned on the lights. The driver remained outside. Sitting naked in a chair, but bound and gagged was a young woman. She shivered, even though the sterile room with bare walls and a stained concrete floor was quite warm.  The captain also shivered when he recognized the stains as dried blood.

"What's going on here?" asked Firebrandt.

"She's all yours," said the guard. "You can do with her what you want. She isn't a good girl at all. You can use your sword or your hepler. You can even have—" he caught his breath "—sex with her."

Ellison Firebrandt stood a little straighter. Sexual activity was a very real taboo among human populations throughout the galaxy. Sexually transmitted diseases had evolved in frightening ways over the centuries and the medical establishment had argued that controlled, laboratory breeding was the best way to counter those diseases as well as the propagation of genetic defects. Ultimately, the politics of marriage, sex, and birth had simply become more complicated than people wanted to deal with. Even so, the captain took in the sight of the young woman and long-suppressed instincts came to the surface. He could imagine running his fingers through her long, black hair. He wanted to touch her soft, velvety skin. Firebrandt took a step toward the woman. The young man used the word "sex" but the captain realized that wasn't the word he meant. He meant a far uglier word: rape.

"Yes, please go on," said the guard. "Mr. Bowman wants you to enjoy yourself. If you do, there will be more money and even better jobs for you."

Firebrandt drew his sword. The guard's breath grew fast and heavy in anticipation. With that, the captain whirled around and ran his sword through the guard's belly. As he screamed out, the captain drew his hepler, set to full power. The door opened and the driver's head evaporated the moment the captain's pulsed beam struck it.

The captain turned on his heel and went to the young woman. He knelt down beside her chair. "Your captors are dead. I want to untie you and remove your gag. If you don't scream, I'll do my best to get you to safety. Do you understand?"

The woman nodded and Firebrandt undid her gag first, then undid her blindfold. She looked over at the bodies on the ground and gasped as the captain worked on the ropes binding her wrists. "What's happening? What's going on? Who are you?" came the stream of questions.

Captain Ellison Firebrandt removed his coat, then helped her to her feet. She gratefully donned the coat and buttoned it as he introduced himself.

"Suki Mori," she said to the captain.

He took another look around the room, then cursed under his breath as he noticed a camera he hadn't seen before. "Hurry. We need to get out of here." He pointed to the dead guard, blood pooling around his still-twitching body. "It would appear that he wasn't the only one who liked to watch."

The two stepped over the bodies and made their way through the corridors until they were outside, next to the hover car. "I fear I need something from my coat pocket." He reached toward her and she shrank back, her eyes wide. He frowned. "There's a dataprobe in the left pocket and a … button about so big."

She reached into the pocket and handed him the probe, then dug for the other thing. "That's a scrambler drive, isn't it?"

He nodded, a little impressed and a little worried that she recognized the device for what it was. Opening the car's door, he climbed under the dashboard and examined it with the probe. Finally, he selected a place and pushed the button-like scrambler drive onto the underside of the dash, then climbed out.

"Let's get going," he said. "Bowman's men will be here before long."

"Thank you for rescuing me," said Suki as she climbed in, on the passenger side. "But I have to ask, what are you doing here?"

"I'm a … businessman … working with Bowman," Firebrandt activated the hover's controls. He smiled when it ascended, satisfied that he had disabled the keycodes and passwords. "He was very pleased with a shipment I brought him. Apparently he thought I'd enjoy the opportunity to … spend time with you."

She examined him, her eyes lingering on the sword at his waist. "Given Bowman's point of view, I can see how he might have made the assumption. I'm glad he was wrong in your case." Suki frowned deeply. "Women are being abducted all around the planet. When they're found, it's in mass graves, either in remote locations or near businesses or homes of people who oppose Mr. Bowman or that joke of a senator, Baum."

Firebrandt took a deep breath and let it out slowly as his fingers played across the hover car's computer console. He called up a map of the city and set a course back to the spaceport. "Why women?"

"Bowman is into power—power in all possible forms. He wants power over Epsilon Indi. He's one of those throwbacks who believes men should have power over women." Suki shuddered and pulled the coat tight around herself. "When the authorities find the women's bodies, they often find evidence that they've been raped, but the genetic material never matches men who live on Epsilon Indi. If the men involved are spacers, that explains why."

"So, why were you abducted?"

"Probably because I belonged to the party that opposed Senator Baum. I've been volunteering for a candidate who could seriously challenge him in the next election." She turned her head and looked out at the plaza. "Where are we going?"

"Back to the spaceport," explained Firebrandt, "so we can get back to my ship as fast as we can, before Bowman and his men hunt us down."

"I'd like to go home," said Suki.

"I understand." Firebrandt sighed. "However, I think that will cost us time and put both of us in danger … as well as your family."

"I don't have any family on Epsilon Indi," explained Suki. "My mother and father are mineralogists working in the asteroid belt back in the home system. I came here to teach at one of the computer schools."

"If you stay, I don't think Bowman will want you around. It would be very dangerous."

"Where would I go?" asked Suki. Silence fell between them as they approached the spaceport.

A moment later, Firebrandt's communicator beeped. He tapped the device on his belt. "This is the captain, go ahead."

"This is Roberts, sir. A Gaean Alliance battlecruiser has just jumped into the system and is approaching the planet. Orders?"

The captain cursed under his breath. He worked for the Gaean Alliance, but the battlecruiser's captain wouldn't know that. They could easily delay Legacy's departure from the system by demanding a search and then sorting out licenses and permits. "I'm returning to the ship. In the meantime, try to stay out of sight. We'll be out of here as soon as we can." The captain turned off the communicator.

"Stop the car!" called Suki.

The captain stomped his foot on the brake. A hover behind them applied thrusters and shot over their heads, honking its horn.

Suki pointed to a nondescript man standing idly near the port's entrance. "That's one of the men that abducted me."

"Damn!" growled the captain. "Are you certain?"

Suki nodded. "Positive."

Firebrandt gritted his teeth. Whether Suki was correct or not, Bowman probably had men stationed at the space port. That would explain the lack of pursuit. "I'll bet Bowman's men are guarding my launch." Firebrandt grabbed the controls, dropped altitude and turned back the way they'd come.

Suki fought to catch her breath. "Where are we going now?"

Firebrandt typed on the hover's computer keypad again. "We can't get off planet using my launch, so we have to find someone who has a private ship or a yacht we can use—something that's docked at their compound or nearby."

"The only people with that kind of money would be Bowman and Baum," said Suki.


"But trying to steal Bowman's yacht would be suicide."

"Which is why we're heading for the senator's compound," said Firebrandt.

Suki narrowed her gaze. "Baum's compound is also guarded."

"I imagine so, but, as you said, Baum is Bowman's puppet. He won't have as many guards." Firebrandt considered the sudden appearance of the battlecruiser and smacked the steering wheel. "Bowman must have ordered Baum to call in that Gaean battlecruiser to give my ship trouble." He grinned as another thought occurred to him. "Even if I'm wrong, he has the authority to order it away."

"Why would a Gaean battlecruiser give a cargo ship trouble?" asked Suki.

"Depends on the cargo, my dear." Firebrandt winked. "Thing is, we're on the same side, but battlecruisers don't always stop to ask about our Letter of Marque before they open fire."

"Ah," said Suki. "You're a privateer."

Firebrandt inclined his head and grinned. "That I am."

Continuing to follow the computer's directions, they soon found themselves in front of a compound, similar to but smaller than Bowman's. A guard approached from the booth next to the gate. Without waiting for him to speak, Firebrandt drew his hepler and shot him in the chest. He slammed back into the wall, then slumped to the ground.

Suki gasped. Ignoring her, Firebrandt leapt from the hover and entered the guard booth. Retrieving his dataprobe, he scanned the controls and soon opened the gate and lowered the force field. Returning to the hover, they sped to the house itself. Two guards ran across the porch, then crouched in front of the double doors and fired at the hover.

"Keep your head down," called the captain as he lowered his own head below the dashboard. He accelerated and sped between the two guards, then ran the hover car right through the mansion's front doors in a tremendous crash. The hover dropped to the marble floor and skidded to a stop in a shower of glass and wood splinters.

Once debris stopped pelting the car, he pushed the door open and rolled to the ground, drawing his own hepler pistol. As the guards ran around the corner, he cut them both down, then rose to his feet. Spinning around, he caught sight of Baum at the top of the stairs.

With a little shriek, the senator turned and started down the hall. Firebrandt jumped over debris and sprinted to the stairway. Once there, he ascended, taking the steps two at a time. At the top of the stairs, he quickly caught up to the senator and pushed his hepler to the man's head. "Did you order the Gaean ship into this system?"

"Only because Bowman ordered me to," The senator trembled.

"I want you to order it away and then direct me to your private yacht."

"If I do, Bowman will kill me," squeaked Baum.

A bit wobbly, Suki appeared at the top of the stairs.

"I'm the one holding the gun to your head," said Firebrandt.

The senator's eyes grew moist. "I'd rather you shoot me dead than face what Bowman will do to me if he finds out I helped you."

"He has a point," said Suki. "I think you'd be doing him a kindness just to kill him."

"If you promise to call off the battlecruiser and help me get off the planet, I'll find a way to keep you alive." Firebrandt lowered the hepler pistol a little.

The senator took a shuddering breath. "It can't look like I helped you willingly. Otherwise Bowman's syndicate will hunt me down."

"I'll do my best and I'll get you safely to Earth," said the captain. "After that, you'll be on your own."

The senator nodded. "This way." He led the captain and Suki down the hall and opened a door. Inside, a pair of technicians stood up from a console. With the hepler pistol, Firebrandt motioned them back into their seats while the senator told them the message he wanted sent to the Gaean battlecruiser.

"Is that wise?" asked one of the technicians. "What will the boss say?"

The senator rose up to his full height. "Who is the boss here?"

Firebrandt nodded approvingly as he adjusted his hepler pistol.

The technician swallowed and sent the message, saying that the request for a battlecruiser had been an unfortunate mistake. "We thought we'd seen a pirate ship," explained the tech. "It turns out they were a legitimate trading vessel."

"Earth central isn't going to be happy about this," complained the battlecruiser's comm officer. "You need to be more careful next time."

"We will." The technician turned around and Firebrandt fired. Suki put her hand to her mouth as the captain turned and fired on the other technician, who crumpled to the floor.

"Just stunned." Firebrandt looked at the senator. "Which way to your yacht?"

The senator gave directions and Firebrandt raised the hepler pistol again.

"Must you?" asked the senator.

Firebrandt pointed to a camera in the corner of the room. Undoubtedly it was one of the senator's own security cameras, but the captain knew all too well Bowman could retrieve the data. The senator sighed as Firebrandt fired the weapon.

The captain looked down at the senator's crumpled form, then up at Suki. "See if you can find an anti-graviton cart or something. I don't relish carrying this guy all the way to the yacht."

"So that's it?" Suki planted her hands on her hips. "We're just going to run away. What about the other women in this city? Bowman's going to be very angry. Who knows what he'll do after this."

Firebrandt blinked a few times. "We're only two people." He started to say more, but the withering look she shot him cut him short. Then he turned and looked at the console and smiled. "There should be a data chip in my coat pocket."

She reached in and held it out. "This?"

The captain nodded and took it from her.

"What are you doing?" asked Suki.

"This chip contains a computer virus. It will take a few minutes to propagate through the planetary network, but I can set it up to disable all their systems. It'll take several days, perhaps weeks for them to get rid of it. In the meantime, Bowman will have his hands full just trying to run things while the power grid and security systems are malfunctioning." He winked at her. "We're only two people. It may not stop Bowman completely, but it will slow him down. The resulting chaos may even give some of the people a fighting chance to do something. Now go, find something that will help carry the senator. He'll do more good back on Earth than here."

Suki gave the captain an appreciative nod and darted from the room. The captain set about his task. A few minutes later, Suki returned with a small hover sled. "Will this do?"

"That'll do nicely." Firebrandt touched a button on the console. A few minutes later, as they lifted the senator onto the sled, all the lights went out. "Right on schedule. You should find a flashlight in the coat pocket." She found it and turned it on while he activated the hover sled. Suki and Firebrandt followed the senator's directions and made their way down a back set of stairs and followed a hallway until they came to a back door. Outside, they found the senator's yacht waiting on a launch pad.

Stepping out into the light, the captain turned to Suki. "You have a choice," he said. "You can come with me or you can stay here and fight against the injustice." She started to say something and he held up his finger. "I'll warn you, Bowman will be very angry. He won't hesitate to kill you if he finds you."

"I know." Suki released the hover sled, letting it float on its own and stepped over to the captain. "But it seems you're pretty good at fighting injustice in your way. A privateer can be a force for good if he's not too tempted to be a pirate."

"Some would say that's a very fine line you're drawing there, lass," said Firebrandt.

"Perhaps," conceded Suki. "But the line is real nonetheless and I think I would like to get to know you better, Captain Ellison Firebrandt." She kissed him lightly on the cheek, then returned to the sled.

Firebrandt smiled and then opened the door to the yacht. They pushed the senator inside and secured him in one of the seats. Firebrandt sat down at the controls with Suki next to him. Once she strapped in, he activated the controls and they lifted off, bound for the Legacy.