The Wayward Adventurer

I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.
Groucho Marx

        Hi. I'm Lita. Just Lita, nothing else. No surname, nickname, comic affectation, or anything like that. Those things are really nothing more than clutter, anyway, and my kind hate any and all unnecessary complications. Hm? My kind? Oh, right - you won't have heard of us, not all the way out here. I'm a Dust Bunny. That's our common name, anyway. Our true name is much more glamorous...or perhaps simply more elegant? I never was clear on that point. Anyway, I'm a Lupinian. I'm not from the Lupinian homeworld, but I am from its nearby moon colony. There's something about the environment there - or perhaps just the people that colonized it - that makes lunar natives more tan-furred than gray. We think it looks pretty. The mainlanders think it makes us freaks.

        Don't think too much of that, though. I'm not about to sing you a sob story of "my incredibly hard life and times" or anything. Oh, I'm sure you're all set to hear about how I was orphaned as a kid and had to scrape by on my own, eking out an existence of poverty before smuggling myself onto a pirate freighter. And then, of course, you'll no doubt be interested in hearing of my days as a swashbuckler-turned-freedom-fighter and rebel gunner, right?

        Well, tough cookies. It ain't like that. Not at all.

        First off, I'm not an orphan. Moreover, I'm not from a broken, abusive, or poverty-stricken family. I was the fourth child born into a family of eight. Five siblings is a bit less than normal - most Lupinian families consist of at least eight children - but, knowing my parents, that number's only increased during the years of my absence. They *were* still a rather young couple when I was born, and I think they wanted to spread their youngsters out so "empty nest" syndrome never kicked in. But young or not, they were good, loving parents. We weren't rich, but we weren't exactly poor, either. Middle class, I suppose you'd say. We lived in a middle-sized settlement, in a town-like area much like a watered-down version of this world's "suburbia." Statistically speaking, I suppose that made us average. Dad worked in a local shipping company - strictly town-to-town, no space stuff - and Mom was a ship mechanic and general engineer. She loved designing nifty gizmos and gadgets, and all our vehicles and appliances were super-efficient, souped up, tricked out, and vaguely futuristic-looking.

        Now, don't you go writing me off as a childhood outcast or anything. I had a lot of friends growing up. We lived in the type of area where everyone knew everyone else, and everyone was friendly and helpful. I always had someone to walk to and from school with, play with, gab with. I got fairly good marks in class, and I seldom played hooky. No juvenile delinquint here. No siree. I even had a job. I worked after school and during breaks as a store clerk, making good money for helping my neighbors bag their purchases. It was a peaceful, idyllic life, like something straight out of some of this world's old sitcoms.

        It was BORING.

        There really wasn't all that much to do in town - friends, class, and job included - so I spent a good bit of time reading. All of my novels were adventures. Mysteries. Fantasies. Action movies in print, basically - though we didn't have things like actors or movies, just books. And they were all so very exciting! Especially the space ones - life amongst the stars seemed like a never-ending stream of adventures. I had a hover-bike, and I took it out to the arena whenever I could to practice and attempt some ground-bound versions of the maneuvers I'd read about. It was great fun.

        At some point, however, I realized that it was also more fun that I was ever gonna have at home. I think this was shortly after my thirteenth birthday, when my father told me that no daughter of *his* was ever going to pilot "one of those dilapadated old pirate-baiters," as he called freighters. I loved the thought of spaceflight, and to be blatantly forbidden from ever even trying it seemed horribly unfair. I got mad, packed a bag, and went for a walk.

        Like most teenagers, I of course returned home a few hours later. However, unlike most teens, my outing had been a fact-finding mission, not some angst-ridden mope session. Later that night, still "on punishment" - or grounded, as people here seem to call it - I snuck out of my window, took my bike, and sped for the city. Once there, I sold the bike and booked myself as a crew member / light laborer on a random freighter. The work I would do on the freighter greatly reduced the cost of my ticket, and it also compensated the crew - if I didn't pay them at the end of the trip, they'd at least have gotten free labor out of me. Anyways, I was smart enough to register using a friend's name - an orphaned friend who had recently taken to freighter-hopping - to prevent myself from recognition. And to make it nearly impossible for my folks to track me down and drag me back home.

        To my delight, everything went according to plan. The ship docked a week later, run completed, and I set off in search of another captain, another crew. I repeated this formula time and time again - with one slight change: I was always part of the crew, never again a mere passenger. As such, I was reasonably well-paid for each job I did, and I hopped quite a few crews, doing my best to see the universe and avoid Mother's Wrath.

        It got old pretty fast, manual labor did, and after a few months I signed up with a larger crew for a more 'extensive' period of time. Up to that point, all my trips had been short ones - a few days or weeks in duration - and relatively local. The freighters I served on had all been regular runs, usually returning to the same port they came from, or completing a circuit of the local ports for a greater variety of goods. They never really left Lupinian territory, though, and their crews were mostly Lupinians. Oh, I'd seen a few aliens - long-distance travelers at heavily-trafficked ports, mostly - but that was about it. The local ports were getting old - and risky. My folks had started posting 'lost child' signs, and the last thing I wanted was to be recognized. So when I heard a deep-space trader was looking for a new communications monitor - basically the person who monitors for deep-space communications and keeps and ear out for emergency beacons, position buoys, and pirate chatter - to add to their crew, I leapt at the chance.

        Unlike local traders, deep-space traders - 'deep-spacers' - seldom visit the same port twice. Heavily-trafficked galactic hubs are of course exceptions to this - they're an excellent market full of potential buyers, sellers, and employers - but for the most part, your chances of returning to the same minor port you joined up on are pretty slim. Deep-spacers never expect to return to any specific port at all - indeed, if they are true deep-spacers, traveling the whole of known space, they probably never do. I'd finally get the chance to see the universe - but it could also mean I wouldn't see my home system again for years - if ever.

        But, then, I knew that when I signed on. It didn't really bother me all that much - I was caught up in the excitement of a new adventure, reveling in the presence of a completely alien crew. The Harbinger was an old Arellian freighter - a decommissioned military carrier - and as such most of her officers were Arellians. However, the chief of security was a Felid; the main gunner, a Corellian; Engineering, mostly Vulpines and Owlsla. The cook was a grizzled old Drachen, a scaly lizard with sharp talons and tattered wings, and the rest of the crew was a menagerie of species I'd never seen - or even heard of - before. I fit right in.

        I'd only done light communications work before, but that didn't bother the captain - it *was* an Arellian craft, after all, and Arellian ships do everything differently. Their military has a deep-seated love of technology and gizmos, and despite the freighter's age, it had rather sophisticated-looking equipment, and I learned my duties quickly. The Harbinger made a few local stops, then set out for Arellian territory - quite a distance away. We stopped at few ports along the way, and I began to see why deep-spacer crew turnover was so high - after a few weeks of nonstop flight, boredom sets in. The crew broke the monotony with various hobbies - I learned quite a few neat tricks that way, actually - which were pretty much all we could do during the trip aside from sleep and keep an eye out for pirates.

        Pirates are the biggest problem you'll ever run into in deep space - more so than raging wars and fake maps and mutinies combined. The Harbinger was targeted twice by them on my first run with her, but each time we managed to detect the pirates' energy signature fast enough to speed out of their reach. On my second cargo run with her, we stumbled into a pack of pirate fighters - and while we were running from them, a second pack ambushed us behind a moon. Fortunately, we were able to fight them off - Arellians are big fans of military overkill, and beneath her aged but thick shields, the Harbinger was fairly bristling with photon cannons, torpedoes, and other nasty surprises. Still, we spent a few weeks anchored at a quiet station, repairing everything from minor shield contusions to full-blown hull breaches, and we were all on edge when we set out again. The next few runs were relatively quiet - no pirates attacked us, but we did come across and salvage the drifting wreck of a freighter that hadn't been so lucky.

        As uneventful as those runs were, however, our fourteenth run was pure Hell. We were picking our way through an old Corellian mine-field - damned birds don't know how to pick up after themselves, but don't tell Gunny I said that - when the ambush came. The fighters had been running silent, hiding amongst the mines until we wandered within striking distance. They must have had the mine-field mapped out, they bore down on us so fast, expertly dodging the mines in spite of the confusion of the battle. We tried to fight them off - we couldn't run, not in the mine-field - but there were so many of the damned things, we took heavy damages nonetheless. As our shields began to falter, some idiot pilot tried to make a break for it, gunning the engines and darting straight ahead. The moron must've forgotten we were in the middle of a mine field, and by the time we managed to wrest the fool from the ship's controls, we had slammed into so many mines that it was a wonder our hull was still intact. Our remaining shields were nearly gone, however, and with our engines and guns failing, we were soon boarded.

        Now, all my novels spoke of pirates as glamorous, carousing swashbucklers, roaming the cosmos for rich plunder and reveling in riches and good-natured - if a bit rough - fun. I suppose it's just as well that I left those novels at home, because if I ever find those authors, I will beat them bloody senseless. Deep Space pirates - real pirates, not those romanticized poofs you read about in books - are nothing but bloodthirsty packs of murderers with ships. The ones that boarded our ship were caked in filth, and they stank something awful. They all carried phasers, blasting anything that moved, even in surrender. But most of them also carried a variety of knives, sabers, or other cruel blades, and it was these they preferred for close combat - probably because most of them were such poor shots, I'd wager, but then it could simply be for the increased agony you could subject your victims to with the aforementioned sharp objects. They cut a bloody swath through our crew, fanning our through the ship, ignoring plunder as long as live creatures were available.

        I was one of the group that fled to Security and took refuge there, holing up with phasers and blasters and photon cannons and anything else we could get our hands on. Because there were only two entrances to the cramped room, we managed to hold the pirates at bay, killing enough of them that most of them simply decided that they were better off plundering our cargo than trying to expunge the few remaining crewmembers aboard. But they didn't stop there - no, 15 tons of gold-pressed latinum wasn't enough of a catch for them - they set up the self-destruct sequence on their way out. Our Chief of Security, bloodied but coherent, managed to abort it, thankfully - but in retaliation for this tiny victory, the pirates tossed our beloved captain out an airlock. And then they sped off, leaving us and our pillaged freighter to drift about helplessly until our bleeding life support systems went beyond our few remaining engineers' reparative abilities and fizzed out.

        Fortunately, a Corellian scavenger-ship intercepted our emergency beacon's transmission before we froze to death. It had been nearly a week since the attack, and while the air-purification system was still working, the food replicators and environmental controls had failed. We hailed the Corellian scavenger as a savior, and it obligingly towed us to the nearest port. It then presented us with an absolutely outrageous bill for services rendered. (Did I mention that Corellians are, without a doubt, the most greedy, unscruple-ous, and conceited race in creation? Well, they are. They're like an entire civilization of sadistic spoiled brats, and if you tell Gunny I said that, I'll kill you before she kills me.) Given the fact that every last object of value had been stripped from the freighter in the attack, and the fact that in addition to the #^%$@(&^ ridiculous bill we *also* had to pay for our lost cargo, we had no choice but to sell the ship. However, that barely made a dent in our debt, so the Corellian authorities, damn them, made us indentured servants. We were contracted out to anyone that was willing to pay the authorities the pathetically small wages they billed for our services, and we slaved away on government ships between contracts. We were split up, of course, and I haven't seen any of my old shipmates since. But that was the least of our worries. Our primary worry was, of course, the fact that - even split seventeen ways - a 38-million credit debt is rather difficult to work off.

        I was down to about a million-credit personal debt when the Corellians contracted me - and several dozen other Lupinians - out to one Felicia Galactian. Though she passed herself off as an upper-class Corellian businesswoman, 'Felicia' was, in actuality, none other than the infamous spy, Galaxia Kiwi. Back then, she liked to use some form of the word 'galaxy' in her aliases - during the first few weeks I spent on her crew, she posed as a Galaxandria, Lex Galia, Ms. K. Galexin, and a handful of other equally ridiculous names that local authorities never seemed to figure out until it was too late.

        Needless to say, I never saw Corellian space again. Galaxia 'rented' us for what she told the Corellians was a week-long trip, but it was immediately obvious that she had absolutely no intention of returning us. And even if we had wished to return to the Corellians, we had no means of doing it - we could not abandon ship at port, or we would be arrested and tried as both deserters and escaped servants, and we had no money with which to buy our freedom. We had no choice but to do as she told us. Galaxia never paid the Corellians for any of us, and I'm sure that, tucked away in some government office, the official that contracted me out is still sobbing at the thought of a one million credit profit, lost. I suppose they still intend to hold me to that debt, if they ever find me again - although I'd like to think I worked it off while working for Galaxia.

        Why? Well, mostly because she treated everyone aboard like her personal slave. We did all the hard work, all the repairs, all the on-station trading, and so forth, and she never paid us a thing. After a few weeks of this, several of my fellow Dust Bunnies started plotting a mutiny. Galaxia found out. I've never quite figured out *how* she found out, but she did. They don't call her the 'Empress of Espionage' for nothing, I suppose. Anyway, she decided to make an example out of them. Letting everyone think she knew nothing of their plans, she sent the would-be mutineers to the surface of some planet for a routine info drop. While they were there, she let news of the drop slip, and with their cover blown, the conspirators were caught red-handed by the authorities, and executed. Everyone aboard-ship pretty much got the message, and while we had a few desertions after that, no one really ever challenged Galaxia again.

        Well, almost no one. None of us Lupinians, anyway. But more on that later.

        I must admit, as wrong as they were about pirates, my favorite authors did manage to capture the world of espionage fairly accurately - or, at least, the form of espionage Galaxia specialized in. I mean, she was *the* Mata Hari incarnate. She pampered herself, and those who wished to hire her also pampered her, showering her with rich gifts and bribes in return for her promises of cooperation. She was decadent whenever possible - her personal cabin aboard the Duck Hawk was more lavishly furnished than any stateroom I've ever seen, and her accounts hold sums that could outstrip the treasuries of several dozen countries! She treated herself like royalty, and her crew was her Court, her servants, her slaves, and her lackeys. We did what we were told, or we were thrown to the authorities - or worse. But there was no real problem with disobedience as long as Galaxia's demands were reasonable - we Dust Bunnies are a race long-accustomed to serving others, which was, I suppose, why she'd 'hired' an entire crew of us. And it could be rather interesting work.

        The only real problems we ever ran into occurred during long or especially dangerous missions, when moral was running low. Then, fights would often break out among the crew, and I - with my 'freakishly' tan fur - would eventually be singled out for persecution. I'd get yelled at, picked on, blamed for mishaps, framed, and even physically attacked. Galaxia, on the occasions when she noticed these happenings, assumed it was because of something I was doing, and upon deciding I was the instigator would punish me accordingly. If our ship had had a 'whipping boy', then it was probably me. Had a bad day? Go kick Lita. Can't find something? Blame that thieving Lita. Need a punching bag? Hey, that's what Lita's for. Moreover, because my tan fur made me so easily-identifiable in a crew of grey-furred Lupinians, Galaxia decided to start giving me extra duties - after all, she'd be able to find me easily enough if I messed up, and she never had to worry about mistaking someone else for me. So it was always "You! Take this to General So-And-So in Sector 3!", "You! Take the helm!", "You! Man the guns!", and so forth. It was like I had suddenly become her own personal all-purpose go-for and stand-in, and all I got in return was more animosity and ridicule from the crew. Soon, I learned that the best course of action was to stay quiet and keep my head bowed. It got me in the least amounts of trouble.

        Things went on like that for quite a while. We had a some close calls with the law - we even got captured a few times - but we always managed to get out okay. A lot of those tricks I learned on the Harbinger came in handy - even saved my hide on a few choice occasions. As Galaxia's power and wealth grew, she started to 'refine' her clientele, taking on only high-stakes spy-jobs. That's about the time the Radioactive Bagels hired her. I don't think she likes the Bagels much. To be honest, I thought she was going to order us to kill their envoy - right up to when he mentioned that most of their activities would deal with undermining the Invisible Ducks. Galaxia's eyes lit up at that point, and it was obvious that she'd take the job for that reason and no other. Well, no other except for the absolutely huge retainer the Bagels promised her.

        Galaxia's done very well against the Ducks so far. I think it's mostly 'cause she looks so much like them. A little feather dye and some fake ID's, and she can easily pass for a Duck. She's hit some snags, though. The Duck Navy is big and powerful, and they seem to have decided that Galaxia's a threat to their empire's security - something that pretty much means they want her dead. The Invisible Ducks have very advanced equipment and technology, so we usually never knew we were being followed until they attacked - and as our shields and weapons were so puny against theirs, fights always turned out badly. We hardly scratched their shields, even if we lobbed every last bit of ordinance at them, and the Ducks needed only to have a few of their shots connect for our shields to fail. Stealth seldom worked - Duck ships could detect each other while cloaked, so naturally detecting lesser-capable ships was a cinch for them. Our best bet was to flee, but even then, the Ducks only needed a few lucky shots to crush our shields and destroy our engines. Galaxia fell into the habit of hiring pirates and other locals as diversions, to throw the Ducks off our trail - but even so, we had lots of close calls. We even failed to complete missions entirely. I'm pretty sure that's why the Bagels hired Commander Charles D'Gal to work our security.

        I *also* think it's why they didn't tell Galaxia about D'Gal until he marhed onto our bridge. No warnings from the Bagels, no announcements from the station he had to have been on before beaming over, not even shouts of alarm from our ship's security detail. He just beamed over and made his way across the ship, from the transporter room to the bridge, smacking aside all that tried to stop him or sound the alarm. I know he hurt some crew members pretty badly in doing that - I've even heard he killed a few. I'm not sure if the Bagels wanted it that way, or if D'Gal meant to prove how poor Galaxia's defenses really were, or if it was just his way of making an entrance. I *do* know that it caused Galaxia to pitch a fit right then and there, with the Bagel general in charge of her operations right there on the vidscreen, watching as she screeched at him, and D'Gal, and at us for not budging an inch when she ordered us to remove the Duck from her sight. I learned quite a few new words during the three-way 'discussion' that followed, but I don't really think it's appropriate to repeat such profanity at this time. Needless to say, Galaxia lost the argument.

        Things aboardship changed a bit after that. First off, no one *ever* deserted again - D'Gal made a show of making painfully clear just exactly what he would do to anyone who tried. Secondly, we never ran from a fight again. D'Gal had Galaxia's ships beefed-up on shields and weapons - ignoring her protests as her accounts shriveled to mere memories - and made sure everyone on board knew something about fighting.

        I must admit, I enjoyed those fight-training exercises. The crew decided early on that *I* should be their punching bag, and *I* decided to try out some of the more...interesting...moves I'd learned on the Harbinger. During one of these sessions, a particular crewmate who had tormented me for quite a while decided to pick a fight with me. Galaxia wasn't around, so I figured there was no harm in venting some long-repressed hostility. I kicked him so hard, I broke three of his ribs - two as my foot connected, and one when his backward flight was stopped by a rather immobile wall. There were so many other people around, practicing, that I figured no one'd see it - certainly none of the crew took notice, and the noise level was so high I didn't think anyone'd heard him slam into the wall. I was wrong. D'Gal saw it, heard it, could tell how badly hurt my opponent was. I froze, and I honestly think my life flashed before my eyes, but I was too busy thinking "oh gods, I'm doomed" to pay any attention to it. Instead of giving me hell for it (or beating me to a pulp), though, he just sort of smiled, flashing me an amused grin. Now, let me say right here and now that prior to that moment, I had never associated a smile with evil - but when that Duck smiles, it's a sinister, evil grin. Even when it's amused.

        Many more things changed with that infamous Black Knight aboard our ship. The crew became more efficient and organized, more respectful and obedient, and a lot more docile. The fights amongst crewmembers didn't stop, but they did decrease. D'Gal broke up fights simply by wading into them himself, and after a few trips to the infirmary, even the most thick-headed crew members got the message. I liked this - if anyone started taking their frustration out on me like they used to, I'd smack 'em, then dodge out of harm's way when D'Gal arrived on-scene. A couple of times I wasn't paying enough attention to the crowd, and I'd still be fighting when he got there - but I knew how to roll with a punch, and always managed to get out relatively okay. I think he knew what I was trying to do - he paid more attention to crew dynamics than Galaxia did, so he had to know I was the ship's former punching-bag - because he never came after me the way he did with the other hot-heads. The crew picked up on this after a while, and stopped bullying me. Actually, they shunned me altogether, which didn't really bother me all that much, since none of them had ever been my 'friend' anyway.

        Let me clarify things a bit: I'm not saying I *liked* D'Gal. But I think I got along with him better than the rest of the crew. We were both minorities, subspecies looked down on and abused by our parent races, and I'd like to think he saw his struggle with the Invisible Ducks mirrored in mine with the rest of the crew. I don't really know, though. I never asked. I wasn't as terrified of him as the rest of the crew, because he let me get away with little things others couldn't, but he still frightened me. I stayed out of his way whenever possible - but as Galaxia's messenger, I dealt with him more than I would have liked.

        I learned a lot about him, though. You know how some people, even powerful villains in books, all of a sudden start being nice to you when you have / know something they want? D'Gal wasn't like that at *all*. If he told you to fetch something, then you damned well dropped whatever it was you were doing and you fetched it. *Immediately.* No excuses. And if he was busy and didn't want to hear your message, then you stood there - out of his way and inconspicuous - until he wanted to hear it. No protesting the importance of the message, and no returning to the bridge like Galaxia ordered you to. And if he corrected you, or reprimanded you, then you *never* made that mistake again. And if he and Galaxia gave you different orders, you followed his. He wouldn't exactly defend you for this, but if you managed to place him between you and your livid 'captain', then you stood a pretty good chance of not getting killed. All in all, if you heaped a healthy amount of respect onto a large mound of fear and acted accordingly, you were okay. Usually.

        At any rate, I got beat up a lot less with D'Gal aboard. The crew wouldn't touch me, and Galaxia was a littly leery of doing any damage that would be visible. She'd still slam me into walls when she was pissed, but that was about it. Good captains don't beat their crew, and I think she was more occupied with keeping up the appearance of being the one in control on the ship. She wasn't, of course, and she knew it as well as we did, but she still got to pick and choose her missions, and she wanted to pretend her status hadn't changed any. D'Gal didn't really seem to care, as long as she didn't try to subvert any of his orders. He made sure we didn't get discovered, ambushed, or beaten in an attack should either of the above occur. In fact, with one exception, he never really interfered with where we were going - just how, by what route, and when. He tended to pick fights with any and all Duck craft we stumbled across, but we didn't usually take on much damage in these encounters, and on missions where Galaxia had to infiltrate Duck ships / stations, he always managed to lay low until her job was complete.

        Once - and only once - he ordered us on a side trip. Not one necessitated for time or safety or supplies, or one that would give him the opportunity of exterminating a few hundred Ducks, but one that actually put us in a fair amount of danger. We headed for a station right on the edge of Duck territory - with several Duck warships docked at it and several more en route - and broke someone out of the brig. Galaxia nearly gave herself a heart attack over the whole idea, and she pitched a fit - to no avail. The whole thing was very quick, in-and-out, no snags whatsoever. A perfect job, really, except to avoid alerting the station to our presence Duck casualties had to be nil, which seemed rather hard for D'Gal, but we pulled it off nicely. Anyway, we bailed out one of D'Gal's fellow Black Knights. Her name was Jes - or at least the bit of it I caught sounded like that - and her time on the ship was the only time I've ever heard D'Gal laugh. Not his usual evil cackle, sarcastic chuckle, or humorless bark, but a real laugh. It scared the hell out of me. Anyways, we dropped her off deep in uncharted space - she took the pirate fighter D'Gal had arrived with. I don't really don't know anything else about it - it was, after all, none of my business.

        A bit after that, the Bagels sent Galaxia out after that wormhole-generator thing. They didn't tell her what it was, of course - they referred to it by a project name, but I don't remember the name of the project. It took quite a bit of searching to even confirm the project existed, and a lot more 'research' - courtesy of D'Gal's rather brutal tactics - to fin out where it existed. You know the rest, I suppose. We got the device, but the Ducks found out about it before we got it back to the Bagels. Galaxia tried her usual stunt of hiring local pirates as a diversion, and I - much as I would have preferred otherwise - found myself drafted as one of the locals' pilots. The diversion was a little late to work - the Ducks were already upon us - and up against a Duck flagship, we made the mistake of testing the thing, only to get flung straight across the whole of known space. Fortunately, we managed to contact the Bagels quickly, and while the resulting showdown between Duck and Bagel flagships was rather hairy, we nevertheless managed to get back to known space. Galaxia *did* turn the gadget over to the Bagels, so I guess technically the mission was a success, but she lost a lot of money getting it, and I don't think they're about to pay her now that they have it.

        Galaxia's ship was badly damaged, and she barely managed to escape the Ducks. D'Gal wasn't quite so lucky - he was shot down over the world I'm now calling home. No word yet on whether or not he survived, but I'm betting he did. He's smarter than he looks, and I really don't think either of the afterlife's kingdoms want him right now, so that pretty much guarantees him a long life, right? This world is still pre-warp, so space travelers and communications are few and far between, making getting any word of galatical happenings more or less impossible. For all I know, the Bagels used that device to go behind Duck lines and obliterate the Duck homeworld - or get obliterated themselves. Galaxia could be back working for them again, or she could be in prison - with as much damage as her ship had taken, she couldn't hope to fight off even small station police.

        Anyways, nowadays I work for the gray-feathered kiwi Galaxia hired as a decoy / diversion on that mission's end run. I'm teaching his pilots how to fly the space fighters, and they in turn are teaching me how to fly their aircraft. Ivan - or 'the Boss', as my new friend calls him - also makes me spend time with a tutor - stupid, I know, but he insists I resume my schooling. He's got an odd array or morals and priorities for a pirate, I must say, but I'm slowly learning that this world, virtually untouched by the rest of the universe, has a lot of odd twists to it. The first being, some of the people in the criminal sector are actually quite nice - more like the pirates and thieves of my novels than my experience. The Boss will even work side-by-side with his archnemesis if it benefits him! And there are a lot of fun things about this world that I'm finding I like immensely. They have lots of neat stuff - cool music, video games, and action movies! I love those the most, even if the are a little low-tech and corny for my tastes. Their special effects usually make up for it - some of the newest movies are beginning to rival my imagination in terms of making cool space fight scenes look as they should. Yeah, I like this world.

        I kind of miss home. But only once in a while, like when Ivan grumbles about how hard it is to explain my appearance - rabbits are not among this world's native intelligent species - or when I have a craving for this or that food or story and realize I can't have it here - ever. It simply doesn't exist. I'm sure my folks have given up on me by now - it's been nearly five Lupinian years since I left - but I don't really regret leaving. My life has been an adventure - maybe someday I'll write about it, and make it into a novel for other young Lupinian girls to read. I'll tell things like they are - or were - so as not to mislead any of them into thinking this sort of adventure is the sort of thing they should actively pursue - I'm not yet sixteen, and I've already seen more death, destruction, and pain than I'd wish on anyone. But to see my story entertaining others, keeping them safe as they live vicariously through the storyteller - wouldn't that be something special?