The giant mantis stood before them in the darkness.

“What’s your purpose in visiting the Powhatan Shipyards?” The insect’s voice was a deep bass.

“We wish to hire a ship,” said Diotima Gearheart.

“Planetary or Extraplanetary?”


“There are none available.”

“We’re prepared to wait.”


Jeanette stood in the shadow between the barrels and the tall figure. Her first reaction was to run, but there wasn’t a clear way out. She could pull out a weapon from beyond the sixth wall, but the figure would be on her before that could happen? Act like a really little girl?

“My name is Jeanette. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong, I’m sorry.”


“You know why she did that, don’t you?” Said Diotima Gearheart as she accompanied Jeanette to the cabin assigned to them. Jeanette’s face was burning, and not just just from the slap the Captain had given her.

The lynx didn’t force her to answer. “It was to see what the rest of us would do. Particularly your father and Lord Elphinstone. I’m reasonably sure she thinks you’re a princess and we’re all your servants, instead of you just being spoiled.”

“Spoiled!” Jeanette nearly shouted.


There was something about sailing through space on an open deck of a sailing ship that made thinking about science hard. The ship had to be encased in a force shield of some kind, didn’t it? And whatever kind of stardrive it was, it was doing something to regular space-time that made the stars stream by like that, right?

Given that, there had to be somebody to explain all that to her, shouldn’t there?


Jeanette could scarcely believe her eyes: There was a study desk and chair in a nook by the door, and beyond were bookstacks, floor to ceiling--and the ceiling was higher than the cabin she’d been in a moment ago. Just to make sure, she ran down to the end of the passage, and, sure enough, there was a corner and more shelves down the way.


Everyone clambered down below decks on the Paradox Swan, except for Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone. He stood there, arms crossed, looking at the Captain.

“Do you choose to reject my recommendation, then? It’s sincerely meant,” said Ngozi Makena Odile.

“I’m going to stand her and watch how you attack at least three ships with a crew of three little girls.”

“Then watch,” The Pirate Queen of the Night grinned.


Jeanette thought is was very weird and kind of wrong to be half-sitting, half-lying in her bunk, tied down with belts, watching Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone fighting his way through the alien starship alongside a bunch of ghosts.


“Now just hold on a minute…!” Said Dr. Ransom.

Lord Elphinstone stepped forward. “What Dr. Ransom meant to say is ‘NO.’”

Ngozi Makena Odile leaned back to look at the irate pair. “It’s not like I’m actually going to ask her to do anything. Let me explain the strategy--”

“Nothing except walk into a dangerous situation which, if you were to do it, would get you vaporized,” said Dr. Ransom.

The Captain’s face assumed a set that was the same as an admission of guilt.


It hurt so much, Jeanette couldn’t stand it. It felt like her body was made of fabric and it was being torn into strips. Her joints were screaming that they were being bent the wrong way.

Was that it? Was the Court of Miracles going to kill her to see if she would come back--again? That wasn’t ‘you won’t have to do anything but look cool,” as the captain said.

But she couldn’t show it. She was being tested and she had to stand it. She couldn’t so much as cry.

Damn it, she shouldn’t have thought about crying…

And. It. Was. Getting. Worse.


Everybody jumped at Jeanette’s outburst. They looked around quick and hard: they had just escaped chaos and advancing troops on the Mall of Orion, so everyone was still primed.

But: “There’s nobody here. Just us,” said Senhor Capoeira Capybara with reluctance.

“Someone--someone additional--touched me as we went through. And I just felt its breath on the back of my neck.” Jeanette asserted.

The Captain had already fingered one of her many necklaces. “No sensor pickup.”