Background: Genique just wanted to go on a nice cruise. She never anticipated being kidnapped by pirates… and when that happened, she never really expected to become their accountant. Now that she is, though, she’s going to do a good job as a matter of course.
Genique had been working all day on a particularly tricky set of paperwork, pausing for a ration bar at noon but not really tasting it. It was well into the evening, but she wasn’t sure, still, about this contracted husband she’d ended up with, the problems were particularly thorny–pirates might be awful at accounting but they were far too good at hiding money–and, besides, she was having fun.
“We don’t actually pay overtime, you know.”
Genique looked up to see First Mate Cleonorayen Clyd standing in the door of the closet Genique was using as an office. “You should,” she answered absently. “Maybe then three-quarters of your crew wouldn’t be embezzling.”
“We don’t have time cards,” came a voice from behind Clyd. From the accent, it had to be Quatermaster Marist Irio. “They’d just embezzle time, then. I mean, if we had paychecks.”
“I don’t quite understand how this place works as a business.” Genique stared at the tablet in front of her. “That is, by all rights, it ought to. I mean, according to most of your books, you haven’t repaired the ship in twenty-five years.”
“Come on, we’re going out for a beer.” Clyd stepped into the small room and took Genique by the arm. “Before your poor husband comes to claim you again.”
“We’re not talking about him, not yet.” The Quartermaster shook her head. “We want to talk about the books, first.”
Genique let herself be led out. “I thought I didn’t get paid for overtime.”
“Oh, but this isn’t work.” Clyd was smiling with too many sharp edges. “This is… well, gossip.”
“Gossip,” Irio agreed. “And some explanations that will probably make you want to pull your hair out.”
“So also we brought you a new cap,” Clyd offered. “And we’re going to buy you some beer.”
“And a pair of shipsocks,” Irio added. “You don’t look like you have any yet, and you really need them.”
Genique looked between the two of them. “How badly am I going to regret this conversation?”
“Wellll,” Irio offered slowly, “Donnye the ship-boarder and engineer owes me a really good haircut…”
“Okay, so you really do want to talk to me,” Genique twisted her lips thoughtfully. “All right, beer and a conversation. And those shipsocks.” Her hand went to her hair. “We’ll hold the haircut in reserve, mmm, because if it’s important for you to tell me, chances are it’s important for me to know, too.”
“I told you she was a smart one,” Clyd commented.
“Who told whom, mmm? She’s a bright bulb, best thing Basi’s done so far.”
“Standing right here,” Genique reminded them.
“Well, why are you doing that?” Clyd mock-scolded with no shame. “The beer’s this way.”
“Ma’am, yes, ma’am.” Genique let herself be steered, listening but not paying too much heed as Clyd and Irio discussed various crewmates.
It wasn’t ‘till the beer was poured, they’d sat down, and Clyd and Irio had both gotten halfway through their mugs that they looked over the edge of those mugs at Genique.
“You’re brilliant at paperwork. You find missing numbers nobody even knew were missing.” Clyd took another swig of her beer. “That’s good. We need that. Problem is…”
“Well, two, maybe three problems. First problem,” Irio picked up, “is that you’re going to find numbers someone did know were missing. It’s some junior officer who’s skimming the till, yeah, we want to know. But, uh…”
Clyd picked up. “If it’s the Captain, you don’t want to know and neither do we.”
Genique considered that. “All right. So there are lies in the numbers. And some of those lies, I need to find. Some of them, it’s okay if I find. Right so far?”
“Right so far. I mean, we do need the ship to run, and we need it to keep running. And, well, you found our first lie right off — the ‘wages’” she explained to Irio. “She figured out first thing that if you work the way we hire on new captives, you’ll never be free.”
“Some people take years to get that one.” Irio smiled. “Well done. But,” and her smile vanished, “that’s the problem. You’ve got your lies and your damned lies. And the damned ones can kill you.”
Genique frowned. “Right, so, I want to be careful what I ‘find’ and where I find it. And then there’s stuff I need to be very sure nobody finds…” she sipped her beer and found herself smiling. “Well, that part’s easy. I mean, once I don’t find it, then it’s damn simple. I’ll just hide the numbers.”
“You can do that?”
Genique smiled broadly. “Of course I can do that. Text summaries, statistical analysis, double booking… I’m an accountant.” She lifted her chin. “And, it appears, a pirate. Of course I can hide a little booty.”
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