Starflight

Starflight by Melissa Landers Read Free Book Online

Book: Starflight by Melissa Landers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Melissa Landers
“Our first mate.”
    “Call me Renny,” the man told her. He pointed at his charts. “I was just plotting a course to the Obsidian Beaches. The captain said your final destination is the fringe, but he didn’t specify where.”
    “Vega,” she said, and leaned in to look at his charts. She recognized the Solar Territories from interstellar geography class. The Milky Way was divided like a dartboard into four sectors with Earth as the bull’s-eye and five rings moving out from it. The tourist rings were the closest, then came the colony planets, ore mines, and prison settlements, in that order. The Solar League headquarters were on Earth, along with most of the galaxy’s industry and wealth, so the farther away you traveled, the more rustic the surroundings. The fifth ring was the fringe, or the outer realm, which the government hadn’t annexed yet. She tapped a spot on the chart and told him, “Vega’s in the same sector as Obsidian, but a few rungs out.”
    “Good. That shouldn’t be too—”
    “Kane!” interrupted a shrill feminine voice that carried up the stairs so loudly it rattled a loose bolt in the floor. “You scum-eating son of a crotch smuggler!” Footsteps clattered up the metal planks, but Kane didn’t seem concerned. He crossed one foot over the other and studied his fingernails. “I’ll have your guts for bootlaces!”
    “Go ahead!” he shouted. “But you’ll have to reach up my ass to get them!”
    Solara retreated a pace until her back met the wall. She braced herself, waiting for the owner of that enormous voice to appear, but a tiny young woman stepped onto the bridge, wearing a bathrobe that dragged on the ground. No taller than Kane’s shoulder, the girl craned her neck to glower at him. Her tawny complexion and long blond dreadlocks were nearly identical to his, but dripping water onto the floor. Solara wondered if the two were siblings.
    “You took my laser blade again,” the girl shouted. “My only day for a shower, and now I can’t shave!”
    “I didn’t touch your blade.”
    “Really?” The girl stood on tiptoe and scrutinized his jaw. “Then where’s the dandelion fuzz that usually grows on your chin?”
    Kane sighed. “Fine. I used it yesterday.”
    “I knew it!”
    “But I put it back in your shower caddy.” Kane gripped his hips. “I didn’t bother asking, because I knew you’d never let me have it.”
    The girl curled one hand into a fist and shook it menacingly. “I’ll
let you have it
.”
    “Check your caddy, you lunatic!”
    “I told you, it’s not there! The only other person—”
    Suddenly the argument came to a halt and all eyes shifted to Lawrence, who blushed and dropped his gaze to the floor.
    “Renny,” the girl said. “Turn out your pockets.”
    The first mate dug into his pockets and emptied two handfuls of odds and ends onto the table—casino chips, a wristwatch, mismatched earrings, key fobs, dice, folded pieces of paper, and a pink laser blade.
    He offered a sheepish grin. “Sorry. You know I can’t help it.”
    The girl stomped forward and snatched her blade off the table. Then she flung her wet dreadlocks behind her and set off down the stairs.
    “Hey,” Kane called after her. “You owe me an apology!” When she didn’t respond, he jutted his chin at the pile of knickknacks on the table. “Is that my watch?”
    “I don’t know.” Renny handed it over. “Probably.”
    Kane raised the item for show and told Solara, “There’s a lockbox in your quarters. I suggest you use it, because Renny’s got sticky fingers.” He pointed down the stairs. “And that delightful girl is Cassia, the other ship hand.”
    “Is she your sister?” Solara asked.
    He barked a laugh. “God, no. I’d hang myself.”
    Renny lifted an object from the table and inspected it beneath the light. Inky black and flawlessly round, it might resemble a marble to someone who hadn’t trained for several years as a mechanic. But Solara knew what

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