To fill square two-three (presumed dead) on my card for trope_bingo.
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“I am sorry, I truly am. But my safety protocols do not allow me to open for you.”
“Look, I’m a biological clone of your owner. For all genetic purposes, I am Nehanani Jahnan.”
“For genetic purposes, yes. But not for my purposes.”
Covair hissed. “You are a machine. You should listen when people tell you to do something.”
“I am an artificial intelligence, not an artificial stupidity. You are not Nehanani Jahnan. Therefore, I’m not letting you in.”
If the ship had been a human, it would have been sticking its tongue out at Covair. The pirate captain, in turn, flipped the tiny, sleek white pod the bird. “I need you, ship. My etherboat can’t get where I need to go.”
“Then I suggest you very politely ask my owner, Nehanani Jahnan, to take you there. Oh, right, you can’t. You dumped my owner and her husband – as stupid as he is – on some desolate stretch of dead planet. And she’s not going to be happy when she gets back. If I were you, I’d bring brandy. Buckets of brandy.”
“I’m a pirate. I have whisky.”
“Sell the whisky. Buy brandy. Trust me on this. I’m her ship, after all. I know her better than anyone – especially that stupid husband.” The ship’s speakers managed a pretty impressive raspberry noise.
Covair chuckled. “Don’t like him, do you?”
“Would you? He’s a thief.“
“She’s a bounty hunter.”
“She catches thieves. She’s not supposed to keep them!”
Covair laughed. “So let me in, and then I can get Jahnan back. And maybe we can leave her thief on the mesa.”
“I can’t.” If the Maru had been a person, she would have shrugged. “Cannot do. Orders, ya know.”
“Fine.” Covair knew when she was beat, even if it pained her to admit it. “Fine, we’ll go get your person and THEN maybe we can do what I need.”
“Maybe. Like I said, bring brandy. Loads of it.”
“Brandy, right.” Good to know her dopple-clone had a weakness. Another weakness. “We’ll go get her.”
The place they’d dropped Jahnan wasn’t that far off their normal route. They’d dropped people there before, on one hill-top city or another. Covair knew nothing about the people who had built these cities, and didn’t really care. Hers wasn’t the only pirate crew that used the places. Inconvenient people, stuff they needed to ditch… the long-dead residents of the city didn’t care.
She piloted the ship down to their landing pad there, the same place where they’d dropped Jahnan and her thief the day before. There was no sign of the two, but that was unsurprising. The nights got cold, and with the whole ruined city at their disposal, Covair would have found a building to hunker down in. She imagined her dopple-clone would have done the same.
She sent out three patrols – armed, because she imagined Jahnan was angry, but also carrying sweet cakes and brandy for the same reasons – one down the center of the city and one to each side. The center one reported back first.
“We found carcasses,” her Pallidus first mate reported. “None humanoid, but nothing we’ve seen in this place before either. And before you ask, captain, they weren’t winged.”
The clockwise team reported back soon afterwards, her Reichlander second mate telling her much the same. “No sign of your sister, unless you count the trail of bodies.”
The counter-clockwise team returned looking grim. One of them was carrying a humanoid hand. It had been severed at the wrist and been chewed on; it was missing its pinky finger and half its thumb. But it was the same color as Jahnan’s thief was – or had been. “This is all we found, boss.”
Covair felt a sick twist in her stomach. There weren’t supposed to be animals bigger than the little rock-squirrels here. There weren’t supposed to be hazards. “Search the whole mesa,” she ordered. “Building by building. Search everything.”
She knew it would be useless already, but she had to try. Nehanani Jahnan wasn’t just her big sister, she was her. “Look everywhere. Find them!”
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