handsome_jew

Work Hard, Play Hard, Die Hard

Aug 19th, 2018
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  1. >”Oh Doo-uglaasss” a cheery, high-pitched voice called over the intercom, rousing you from your slumber. “Would you -please- be so kind as to come to the cockpit?”
  2. >You’ve managed one sleep shift this week without being woken up for some bullshit. Only once was it actually anything concerning; the rest of the time, your beloved partner simply called you up to delight in your unshaven, sleep-deprived mug staring her to death. You expected this call to be something similar.
  3. “For Christ’s sake, Cherry,” you called out as you exited your room, only a few feet down from the entrance to the cockpit, “this had better not be some bullshit again.”
  4. >”It’s not,” she replied, a grin only rivaled in its brightness by her voice. “We actually got something. It should be visible by now.”
  5. >You sat down in your chair. It was bigger, more padded and more expensive than hers. But that was due more to practicality than your being the captain of this vessel: being a small, delicate equine, she fit comfortably into the seat that would make even the most diminutive human statures uncomfortable.
  6. >You squint your eyes and look out ahead, only to see the exact same picture that always greets you here: darkness, stars, and the bright cloud stretching across your entire field of vision that served as a reminder of just how big the galaxy was. Billions of stars stretched across its expanse, with a similar number of worlds dotting most orbits. It was remarkable that in that time, only two worlds had managed to work their way beyond simple tribalism into anything resembling civility.
  7. ”Wow, space. Hell yeah,” you remarked sarcastically, before pulling down the sector scanner. Sure enough, there was indeed something dead ahead of you, but whatever it was, it was either too small or too far off to see.
  8. >”I’ve already run a probe. There’s a cargo ship out there, stranded. Looks fully intact but without power.”
  9. “Wow, that certainly doesn’t sound like a trap at all,” you sighed, already knowing that you’d be boarding the vessel regardless.
  10. >”Relax,” Cherry Shot replied, stretching in her seat. “All the escape pods are detached, and a life signs check only came up with one faint presence. Shouldn’t be trouble to deal with.”
  11. “You say that,” you groaned, “but I’m going to be the first one on board again, right? Just like always?”
  12. >”What are you, chicken?”
  13. “Hey, man, what if that one life sign is from a fuckin’ space tarantula or something?”
  14. >”Perfect, we’d get a sweet bounty for finding a new lifeform,” she laughed, grabbing your shotgun from the wall behind her and presenting it to you. “Besides, ain’t nothing a little plasma shot can’t handle.”
  15. >You snatch the weapon from her grasp, intending to come off as hostile but only eliciting a giggle from her. No matter how much shit you gave the mare, she always seemed to appreciate your gruff character. And, for that, you liked her quite a bit yourself. A rough-and-tumble man gets on well with a rough-and-tumble partner.
  16. >You tapped a button on the control panel to your left, preparing the boarding craft for launch. A short ladder climb later, you dropped down with Cherry into the smaller ship’s much more cramped cockpit space. At least this one didn’t smell of old pizza boxes and off-brand air freshener.
  17. >The shuttle lurched forward, briefly pressing your back into your seat. It momentarily occurred to you that a seat belt might be advisable for the speeds you prefer to fly at, but since that’s some pussy shit, you waved the thought off.
  18. >As you approached the stranded vessel, you took note of its design. It appeared to be a cargo hauler, similar in size to your own, but without the armor and weapon outfits you’d suped your ride up with. You didn’t even need to examine its side-painted registry information to recognize it as an Equestrian ship: it came from a line of well-known and expensive haulers found almost exclusively in their space.
  19. >”Isn’t this a human-dominated shipping lane?” Cherry asked, thinking along the same lines as you.
  20. “Yeah. Wonder what this thing’s doing all the way out here.”
  21. >”She looks new.”
  22. “Yeah, that’s their 4778 model. Only two years old.”
  23. >”Think we could sell the whole thing?”
  24. “Depends on what happened. The hull ain’t worth much.”
  25. >Your boarding craft attached to the rear port of entry. It quickly installed a virus to fry the other ship’s airlock into submission, allowing you to pass through into the other craft without so much as a round expended or a moment of cutting. It had cost you a pretty penny to get access to that kind of software, but you’d found it to be a good investment.
  26. “Clear,” you sounded off as you entered the foyer, finding nothing. The vessel was much like your own, consisting of a rear foyer and evacuation center (lacking, of course, both ejection pods), a long hallway with occasional doors to expansive cargo holds, and a front area for living quarters and the cockpit. This ship, however, was far less comfortable: the ceilings were barely high enough for a large pony to stand up straight in, much less your six-foot-two self.
  27. >”Let’s get this done quick before you hurt yourself,” Cherry said through a snicker as you were forced to crouch down.
  28. >The entire vessel’s power had gone out, meaning each door had to be unlocked and opened by hand, a remarkably difficult process when neither the dimensions nor the locking mechanisms were designed for human use. But the moment you opened the first cargo bay, you realized this was no ordinary Equestrian luxury cargo haul.
  29. “Hot damn,” you remarked, stepping to the side of the doorway to allow Cherry to look inside.
  30. >”Whoa,” she muttered, her headlight illuminating more of the area than your shotgun could. The bay was packed to the brim with pallets of Equestrian spices, far more than regulation would ever allow. Your eyes immediately fell on several distinctive materials and labels that indicated these stores as less-than-legal cargoes: you would know, half of your business involves smuggling them. But this was far more than you’d ever seen, enough to dwarf all of your past runs if the other three cargo bays were similarly packed.
  31. “Whoever the fuck was hauling this shit,” you mumbled as you shut the door back up, “they’re a lot better at bootlegging than we’ll ever be.”
  32. >”Pfft. Bigger hauls don’t mean you’re better at hauling, just better at talking.”
  33. >The other three main cargo holds contained similar stores, with the final, auxiliary cargo bay holding a small fortune in treasures. Not the standard gold and jewels that had once held value but were now little more than decorative pieces in the average home, but real, genuine treasures from Equestria.
  34. >”This,” Cherry proudly proclaimed, holding up a small and curiously-shaped lockbox, “is the very same box that was used to seal the Elements of Harmony long ago. That, or a very compelling replica.”
  35. “The hell does that mean?” you ask, usually dismissive of Equestrian history and customs.
  36. >”It means it’s probably worth as much as the rest of the cargo on this ship, to the right buyer.”
  37. >With the final hold cleared, there was only one thing left to do before starting the process of transferring cargo: finding the sole remaining life source on the ship. Evidently, it was either trapped or hiding, as the two intruders had gone unmolested up through this point in their search. The first living space was empty, but when the two of you stacked against the next doorway, you heard a rustling inside. You motioned for Cherry to keep quiet, then leaned over and slowly, firmly knocked on the metal door three times.
  38. >”Don’t come in or I’ll shoot!” a female voice shouted from within, muffled by the thick door.
  39. “I don’t have to come in,” you shouted back to ensure your voice could be heard. “I can pack up and leave right now with your cargo. But from the looks of things, you probably won’t fare so well without our help, being that you’re stranded out here.”
  40. >”Who’s ‘we’?”
  41. “Nobody who’s going to run and tell the law. Now if we open the door a crack, will you put down your weapons and come out?”
  42. >”Ohhhh...” you heard from within, as the mare contemplates her options in frustrating. Finally, you picked up a sigh from just behind the door. “Fine. I’ve left my gun on the other side of the room. I’m a unicorn, but I’m not going to hurt you with magic.”
  43. “Come out slowly,” you responded, pulling a horn ring from your pocket that you’d kept for such a situation. Different races required different restraints, and carrying each type on you had helped you out of more than one scuffle.
  44. >The door unlocked and slowly opened inward. Cautiously, the mare slipped through the crack, rear first to present minimal threat from her horn. She had a light cream coat, with a deep blue mane highlighted by streaks of red. Finally, her head came out, and you quickly slipped a horn ring around her, just to be safe. The mare, however, was unwilling to present any kind of threat while at gunpoint, and placed her forehooves up against the wall once she emerged into the hallway.
  45. “Cherry, watch her,” you said, nodding to your partner as you lay down your shotgun to secure a blindfold around your captive. “So, what happened to your crew?”
  46. >”I don’t have any crew,” the mare responded. “Just me.”
  47. >“Then where did the ejection pods go?” Cherry chipped in.
  48. >”I sold them a couple months back.”
  49. >You and your partner looked at each other. To have a cargo like this while cutting corners like that makes no sense.
  50. “Bullshit. What happened?”
  51. >”I’m telling you the truth,” she said with a sigh. “Sure looks dumb in hindsight.”
  52. “Right, whatever. Who and where is this stuff going to?”
  53. >”No,” she spat out, definitively. Something told you she won’t budge, so you refrained from pursuing it now.
  54. >”What happened to your ship?” Cherry asked, brow furrowing.
  55. >”Stopped here to refuel, the ship runs on solar. Massive solar flare caught me before I could get away, that’s why my trajectory is away from the star. All my systems went down and the core power is fried. Life support is on a separate system and has a couple days left.” You look to Cherry for confirmation of that explanation’s plausibility, which she affirms with a quick nod.
  56. >”Look, man,” the mare said with a sigh, “if I don’t leave with you, then I’m not leaving at all. Might as well make things easy, I guess.”
  57. “What’s your name?”
  58. >”Starcatcher. You?”
  59. >”I’m Cherry Shot,” your partner replied, always eager to perform introductions, “and this here is Douglass Deadeye, smuggler extraordinaire!”
  60. “I’m Douglass,” you said, not entertaining Cherry’s ever-shifting idea of what your surname should be. “If there’s nothing else to be said, go ahead and turn to your left and start walking down the hall. We’re heading back to my ship.”
  61. >The mare turned to face the exit to your shuttle, and you grabbed a fistful of her mane near the roots to lead her on and maintain control. Your thoughts now strayed from the large fortune in cargo surrounding you to the stranger. What would you do with her? Does she have something else up her sleeve? What isn’t she telling you?
  62. >You and Cherry mostly remained silent for the trip back to your hauler, preferring to communicate with gestures and expressions to keep your blindfolded captive in the dark. When you finally docked, you pushed her up the ladder and stowed her in a locked supply closet, for the time being.
  63. >You sat back down into the cockpit with a sigh, and waited for your partner to arrive a minute later, thankfully with drinks in tow. Together, you steered your ship up alongside the now completely lifeless Equestrian vessel and began the delicate process of exchanging cargo. Thankfully, you could take everything the other smuggler had with room for one additional auxiliary cargo bay, should you find anything else.
  64. “What are we going to do with her?” you asked after the final cargo pod had been swapped and the two of you leaned back to take a break.
  65. >”The unicorn? I say we keep her,” Cherry remarked, taking another deep swig of her beer.
  66. “I don’t think she’d take to that, even if I did somehow trust her enough to do that.”
  67. >”I don’t mean as another crew member, Douglass,” she explained, straight-faced. “We’re a Lhyndian Federation ship, right?” The Lhyndian Federation was the far smaller of two independent Gryphon nation-states, comprising only two lightly-settled systems that were dissatisfied with even the lax laws governing the rest of their species. Most of the faction’s population were spacefaring folks like yourself of any race, looking for as little regulation as possible.
  68. “Yeah?”
  69. >”And you ain’t dumb, you know we’re governed by Lhyndian ‘laws’, right?”
  70. “Yeah?”
  71. >”Well under Lhyndian law,” she said, a smile crossing her face, “there is no rule against forcible labor. It’s the only way their planets function.”
  72. “What?”
  73. >”I’m saying we keep her captive and get ourselves a free set of hands around here.”
  74. “That’s slavery. Which is illegal, Cherry.”
  75. >”No it ain’t, trust me!” she cheered, her smile widening. “It’s like two pages of paperwork to get her registered, I’ve looked into it before.”
  76. “Why, looking to enslave me?”
  77. >”I bet you’d like that, you fucking pervert. No, was thinking of picking one up from those Gryphon traders we met a couple months back.”
  78. “Oh,” you replied, suddenly remembering the slavers you’d encountered on a Lhyndian orbital trading post a few months ago when you went to port. “Yeah, now I remember.”
  79. >”So c’mon, Douglass. What do you think?”
  80. >…
  81.  
  82. >With the help of a modest bribe, the paperwork went through in a matter of hours. All the while, your new slave remained locked in the closet, unsure of her immediate or long-term future. When you next opened the door and saw her, she was already legally your property.
  83. >”Back again so soon?” she jested, head perking up to the sound of your entrance.
  84. “Yes, and we’ve already decided what to do with you,” you begin, motioning Cherry to undo the mare’s blindfold while keeping a sidearm trained on her.
  85. >”And what might that be?” Starcatcher replied, attempting and failing to mask how nervous she sounded.
  86. “Here,” you grunt, holding up a copy of her contract for her to read. She squinted at it for a few moments before her eyes widened in surprise.
  87. >”Wait, what?” she asked, incredulous. “Not going to turn me in, or trade me away, or even bother to ask if I-”
  88. >”Welcome to the crew!” Cherry cut off, her visage inappropriately bright and pleasant. “You’ll be sleeping in here ‘til we dust off the third set of quarters for you. There should be a sleeping bag somewhere in the back corner.”
  89. >”Wait, no, I don’t understand, why-”
  90. >”Because we need an extra set of hooves around here,” your equine partner chirped with uncanny cheer, “and we were probably going to keep you anyway for questioning.”
  91. >”Do you have any idea who I am?”
  92. “Don’t care. If you were someone important you woulda told us, and we woulda ransomed you by now,” you grumbled. “Not like someone important would get left behind or forget to buy evacuation pods or whatever.”
  93. >The mare sat and stared for a moment, looking for any change in demeanor or stance from either of you. She then snatched the papers from your hand, giving them a more thorough look-over, her anxiety increasing by the second.
  94. >”I mean if you’re someone important, we could just sell you,” Cherry mused. “Depends on how much you’d go for, really.”
  95. >”No, I...” the mare trailed off, still dazed. “I don’t think you could sell me. I’m not important to anyone buying.”
  96. >”Great, glad to have you aboard!” your partner said before slamming the closet door shut.
  97. “Why’d you do that?” you asked.
  98. >Cherry shrugged. “She’s going to need some time to cool down, come to terms with things.”
  99. “You really think this is going to work out?”
  100. >”I have no idea, but I figure we’d probably try to sell or ransom her anyways if she ends up becoming a problem, so now all the paperwork is already done.”
  101. “We’ll have to watch her, you know. Captives and responsibilities don’t mix.”
  102. >”She can’t do shit just cleaning up and helping with maintenance and stuff. Maybe if she turns out alright, we can have her do more. But for now,” the mare said, smiling, “she’ll just take over some of our chores.”
  103. “Alright, I guess. I’m offloading her at the next station if she’s trouble, though.”
  104. >”Speaking of,” your partner began, motioning for you to follow her back to the cockpit, “where do you think we should take all this stuff?”
  105. “All the Equestrian antiques and shit could probably fetch a good price at a gryphon port, and if we head back to Lhyndian space, we can get rid of our ‘guest’ at the same stop, if need be.”
  106. >”There are a few things in there that we should get to Equestrian hands- err, hooves, by the way,” she responded. “Gryphons either won’t know or won’t care about their real value, and I think they’d fetch high enough prices to warrant a separate trip.”
  107. “Like that little lockbox thing? Alright, sure. We’d have to offload the rest of the cargo first, though. Lhyndians probably won’t touch that stuff with a ten foot pole, either.”
  108. >”Why not?”
  109. “They’re facing trade embargoes for buying up illegal shit from people like us, so as a consequence, they are no longer buying illegal shit from people like us.”
  110. >”Well, fuck, then we can’t even sell the Equestrian stuff there.”
  111. “Don’t worry about that, I think I can make it work.”
  112. >”How?”
  113. “I know a guy or two at the main port.”
  114. >”You always know a guy, don’t you?” she asked, smiling and opening up another beer.
  115. “Not always. I’m not going to be able to sell four cargo pods full of bootleg spices and raw materials in gryphon space. Mostly just ‘cause they don’t seem to buy the stuff.”
  116. >”Well we aren’t bringing it back to Equestrian space, that’s for sure.”
  117. “Fuck no. Even if we got past the cops, I ain’t taking the bargain bin pony prices your kind pays for a trove like that.”
  118. >”But what human port is going to take this stuff?”
  119. “Nowhere legal, that’s for sure,” you chuckled, cracking open a drink of your own.
  120. >”I’m not even talking legality, I want to know who’s going to have the kind of demand for this shit.”
  121. “Well shit, there’s plenty of demand. But I know what you mean, there aren’t many folks who can pay up for a haul like this.”
  122. >”We could probably sell to a cartel.”
  123. “And they could just as easily pay us in gunshots,” you laughed, remembering the ill fate of a friend from years back. “As far as I can tell, we’re not going to be able to sell a large chunk of it at once. It’ll take us a while to cash in.”
  124. >”Those relics can’t wait forever,” Cherry sighed, putting a hoof to her forehead. “Whoever they were going to is probably missing them by now, you know.”
  125. “Perhaps our new friend can help with that, give us some information on what to do with them?”
  126. >”Even if she does talk, I doubt she’d be truthful.” She finished off her drink before following up, “It’s just you and me, partner.”
  127. “When is it not?”
  128. >…
  129.  
  130. >It was a very bad day for Starcatcher.
  131. >Being stranded with the biggest haul of her life was bad enough, but to be captured and suddenly forced into literal, contractual slavery in the span of a few hours was perhaps too much for her already failing emotional state. Cherry Shot had done well to lock her in the closet, as her initial shock was immediately followed by an intense, volatile rage. She threw herself against the door, cursed her captors’ names, and tried to tear the ship apart with her (blocked) magic, all to no avail. Within half an hour, she’d been reduced to a sobbing, despondent mess.
  132. >She was supposed to be rich by now. Her cargo would have been sold and she would have been spending several lifetimes of wealth as she pleased. Instead, not only was she penniless, but she wasn’t even a free mare. She was well enough acquainted with the gryphons’ slave laws, and had always sympathized with those ponies unfortunate enough to be entrapped in them. There would be no help – much as the system disgusted the galactic power players, they silently consented to it. Perhaps a do-gooder might be willing to assist her emancipation, but that would be a poor turn of events, too: fugitives and vigilantes rarely mix.
  133. >After what must have been hours of sitting in the supply closet, the door was briefly opened to toss in some water and stale rations before being shut once again. No considerations were taken for her now-pressing need to release waste, and she briefly considered doing her business in the closet out of spite, but pocketed the idea when she realized that she had no idea how long it would be until she was let out. Sooner or later, though, something would have to be done.
  134. >Several more hours later, her captors opened the door once more, this time for long enough to remove many of the supplies she’d tossed about and replace them with basic living amenities. She was given a well-worn pet bed, an end table with three legs, and a sealable bucket. “Nothing personal,” Cherry said with a grin, “we just don’t have anywhere to put you just yet, and there’s no plumbing in here. It should keep the smell inside – probably.”
  135. >With nothing else to do at that point, Starcatcher opted to hit the lights and try to get some sleep. The pet bed was well-used and covered in dog hair; it caught in her nose and ears and made both areas itch. The water tasted of lead and the food could barely be bitten through. At least her tears had some salt in them. But, she thought before drifting off, at least she was still alive, in a fashion.
  136. >…
  137.  
  138. “Why couldn’t we have her do this, again?” you groaned as you dragged a sixth heavy, packed box of junk from the previously-unused room that would soon house your new crew member.
  139. >”Gotta keep her locked up,” Cherry explained, most of her attention focused on sifting through the stuff you’d pulled out over the last few minutes. “After being stuffed in there long enough, she’ll appreciate even a barebones room. Get that Stockholm Syndrome working and whatnot.”
  140. “Wow, damn, that’s fucking tough,” you replied, arching an eyebrow. “Alright, I guess. Also, could you give me a hand here and move some shit?”
  141. >”Oh hush, you can handle it, Mr. Strong Man. Besides,” she said, holding up a dusty piece of unidentifiable machinery, “it’s not like you’d be able to sort this stuff out.”
  142. “I’m not all brawn, you know.”
  143. >”Of course you’re not, sweetie. It’s just that I’m all brains,” she laughed, gingerly placing the mechanical part on the small pile of worthwhile keepsakes behind her.
  144. >Much as you hated it, you knew that you’d never do well without Cherry. You’d first met her years ago, when you were barely more than a glorified highwayman. The mare had been a spacefarer from birth, constantly inundated in laws, regulations, and foreign customs. She’d first run away from home to join a smuggling outfit as a teenager, and her skills only grew from there. Sometimes you wondered why she’d stuck with you for so long.
  145. “Well,” you groaned, hauling out the last box of junk, “that’s the last of it. I’m heading the fuck to bed.”
  146. >”Oh come on,” Cherry chirped, her head still searching through a box, “won’t you at least stay up for me?”
  147. “Why?”
  148. >”I’m horny, Douglass.”
  149. “Oh. Yeah, whatever, why not? I’ll be in my room.”
  150. >”Thanks.”
  151. >…
  152.  
  153. >Perhaps Starcatcher’s captors had forgotten about her. She’d heard their muffled voices on occasion through the thin yet quieting metal walls that entrapped her, but they’d not once spoken to her, or even lingered for long outside her door. She didn’t know how much time had passed: perhaps it had been twelve hours, or it could have been a week. Regardless, so long as she had food and water, she wasn’t particularly keen on interacting with them, either.
  154. >Lhyndian slave contracts were tough, and it disturbed her that her captors had so easily obtained a legitimate one for her. If she were ever to break free, she would be on the run not only from the law, but also from organized crime syndicates. Either her legal owners or a Lhyndian government organization would buy her back, most likely at a price high enough to earn her buyers’ ire. Of course, she thought, she would attempt to slip away at some point, but her life would become even more dangerous than it was before.
  155. >Just as she was about to lay down for another bout of sleep, the door to her room opened, with you and Cherry standing armed and ready for any threats she might have posed or traps she might have set. Of course, with her magic cut off, there wasn’t much the unicorn could do to them.
  156. >”Yes?” she groaned, stretching out and hopping down from her bunk.
  157. >”We’ve come to help you get acquainted with our ship,” Cherry euphemized.
  158. “You’re gonna clean the ship while we try and figure out if you’re trouble,” you stated flatly, wanting to get to the point.
  159. >”Alright,” Starcatcher replied a bit too quickly, eager to do -something- other than sitting alone with her thoughts.
  160. “We got some cleaning shit in the supply closet you were in the other day. Start with the hallways and don’t open any doors without coming to ask one of us. They should all be locked anyway.”
  161. >”And don’t try anything stupid, like jumping into an evac pod,” Cherry added. “We’d just blast you out of the sky and call it a day.”
  162. >For reasons she couldn’t quite place, Starcatcher considered this cheerful, pinkish earth pony far more dangerous than the colossal, grizzled man she worked with. The way she spoke wasn’t genuine: it always hid something more, masked some unidentifiable intention. She bit her lip slightly and made her way down the hall to the supply closet she’d trashed a few days ago.
  163. >You watched her go. The mare clearly resented her position here, but didn’t look to be fighting it much. Perhaps she was trying to present herself as cooperative, only to sneak away whenever she got a chance? You still weren’t entirely sold on the idea of keeping her with you, but with Cherry’s mind made up, she’d have to be a real problem for your partner to allow you to sell her.
  164. >It would take a few days to get to the next stop, a refueling post, before making your first journey to port since acquiring your new, highly illegal cargo, putting your total travel time to port just at just under a week. In that time, with Cherry manning the comms and navigation, there would be little for you to do but chat, jack off, and watch over your new “crew member” as she performed mindless chores.
  165. >Starcatcher was a tad small, even for a unicorn, but she was still just the tiniest bit bigger than your bite-sized earth pony mare partner-in-crime. You’d seen your fair share of eye-piercingly bright and mismatched color schemes manifest on Equestrians of all races, but hers was one you’d only seen a few times before. If her cream coat was just the slightest bit lighter, she could have starred in promotional material for the Human Core Front, where you’d been born and raised. But the rich blue of her mane, accented by thin streaks of red, attracted even your own simple, unappreciative eyes.
  166. >With no magic to aid her, she struggled with simple tasks. She’d done a fine enough job of trashing the supply closet, but now that she was being made to sift through the debris and find the few tools she’d need for basic cleaning work, she grew increasingly frustrated at her apparent clumsiness. You’d seen it before, a unicorn left completely useless by the removal of her magic, but that didn’t make it any less amusing.
  167. “Do you need any help?” you asked through a chuckle as she tried and failed three times to remove a bottle of glass cleaner from the bottom of a pile.
  168. >”No, I...” she trailed off, attempting to grip the bottle with her forehooves, before slipping off and falling back onto her hindquarters. “I can manage. I think.”
  169. >Two attempts later, the mare simply kicked away the pile of debris atop her target, nearly breaking a vacuum cleaner in the process. By this point, you were convinced that there was no way this mare would be able to pick up and carry these rudimentary cleaning tools, let alone use them. But there was no way in hell that you’d let her use her magic, not now and probably not ever, so she’d simply have to learn and adapt to the earth pony lifestyle.
  170. >Two very boring hours of watching an inept unicorn poorly clean a single hallway later, you cut her workday short and sent her back to her room. What she’d done in those hours would have taken you perhaps five minutes, and that’s if you bothered to do a good job. When she slowly, ashamedly made her way into her quarters, you tossed in an old book you found lying in the corner of your room out of pity.
  171. “You been watching any of the security feeds?” you sighed as you fell into your seat in the cockpit beside Cherry Shot.
  172. >”I take a glance every now and again,” the mare responded, passing you a beer. “She’s done already?”
  173. “No, and she wouldn’t be done before we got to the next station,” you chided, taking a long, welcome swig of the beverage. “That mare can’t do shit for shit without her magic.”
  174. >”Figures,” Cherry replied with a sigh of her own. “I guess you’ll still have to be my little maid, won’t you, Douglass?”
  175. “I’ll fucking kill you, I swear.”
  176. >”Oh, hush, you. What did she get done?”
  177. “She kinda shittily cleaned half the hall floors and bruised herself a few times in the process.”
  178. >”Geez. Well, that’s okay, I still have a few uses in mind for her.”
  179. “Like what? Can’t exactly trust her with much, can we?”
  180. >”You’ll see,” she said dismissively. “Besides, I’m sure she’d grow more useful with time. Maybe if she’s a good girl we can even get some of that magic to work in our favor.”
  181. “Not while I’m around, we won’t.”
  182. >”Oh come on, it’s not like magic can stop lead. Or plasma. Or anything else, really. There’s a reason unicorns always got picked on in school.”
  183. “Cherry,” you began, turning to her for emphasis. “How have we always been so successful?”
  184. >”Because of my genius?”
  185. “Because we keep caution in mind even while doing dangerous things. I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but this mare is dangerous. I can think of a million ways this little project could do us in.”
  186. >”What are you, some pussy who can’t handle a little mare? Well,” she laughed, “I guess you always have been, but she’s nothing like me.”
  187. “I think we should offload her when we get to port,” you sigh, growing tired of Cherry’s games.
  188. >”Oh come on, she hasn’t even been trouble yet!”
  189. “Hard to act up when you’re locked in a room all day without anything to do. I finally tossed her an old book I found lying around when I put her back in there.”
  190. >”You gave her a book?”
  191. “Yeah?”
  192. >Cherry frowned and pushed herself up from her seat. You turned around in your chair to watch her exit the cockpit, only to return a minute later with the book in her mouth.
  193. “Why’d you do that?”
  194. >”Listen, I get that you’re trying to look out for her,” Cherry said gently, setting the book down to her side. “But we can’t be soft on her now. She has to understand that we mean business.”
  195. “I think she got the message when we robbed her, enslaved her, and kept her locked in a room for a few days.”
  196. >”Look, Douglass,” she replied, now slightly irritated. “I know you’re eager to get rid of her, but I’m putting my hoof down on this one. She’s staying until I think she’s a problem, and as of right now, I don’t see any problems.”
  197. “Why do you even fucking want her, Cherry?” you nearly shout. “Do you all of a sudden want to be a slave trader or some shit?”
  198. >”I just… ugh!” she groaned, sinking back into her seat. “Douglass, it’ll be fine. I’ll even take her food and stuff out of my split of profits, alright?”
  199. “Whatever. If she becomes a problem and we’re too far from port, I’m jettisoning her out the trash chute. Just warning you in advance.”
  200. >”Fine. Also, we’re out of beer.”
  201. “Fuck.”
  202. >...
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