Clash of the Star Galleons

Meet the Flints

Everybody knows Ty Flint’s the fastest draw in the Milky Way.

She’s quicker on the ray gun trigger than any talking two-leg from the Belt to the Crux. Fizzled a dozen Martians before her sweet sixteen. Never misses neither. Sure can kiss too. Got more boyfriends than she knows what to do with. But she doesn’t give a buzz about all that. Nah, our girl only cares about one thing. Finding out who fizz’d her mother and getting payback.

Her pops was the great William Patrick Flint, Captain of the Star Galleon Rocinante. Ty grew up on that ship. Practically born there. Closest thing the poor kid ever had to a mother. Used to ditch class and hide out in the bowels of the engines. Loved the hum that filled her ears. The vibrations that tickled her skin.

Every year on her mother’s birthday, Ty Flint asked how she died.

“Like a hero,” Captain Flint always explained.

That was part of the truth, but not the whole truth.

When Ty was a little baby, less than a year old, Captain Flint was given a real dizz assignment. Had to escort a convoy of slave traders from Titan to the Clusters. Real nasty guys. Of course they didn’t call themselves slavers. Human slavery was outlawed on Earth back in the 1800s or whatever. But aliens? They ain’t human so it ain’t slavery if we chain ‘em up and tell ‘em what to do. That was the way people saw it. We don’t pay horses or cows or sheep dogs, why aliens?

‘Cept horses don’t sing.

Cows don’t paint.

Sheep dogs don’t build tools.

Plutonians have the most beautiful singing voices in the known galaxy.

Venusians are better painters than Picasso.

And Mercurians? They make the best bottle openers in the solar system.

But they ain’t human. So we make ‘em do what we say.

Ty’s momma never liked that. Never thought it was fair. She was plumb pissed when the Navy ordered her husband to escort those sonnovaraygun slavers halfway across the galaxy. She told him to make a stink, ask for a transfer. Quit the damned service. Whatever. He didn’t listen. Wouldn’t listen. Sometimes he stays awake at night fighting back tears, wishing to Jupiter he’d listened to his wife.

Ma Flint decided to take matters in her own hand. She snuck on the lead slaver ship when the convoy was passing Saturn. Hacked the security protocols and opened the cells. Helped the slaves get to the lifeboats and blast the hell out of there. The Commander of the slaver ship got wise and ambushed Ma Flint on the way outta the cell block. Ray gun’d her in the back. Captain Flint arrested him for murder but the bastard walked. Ma Flint was in the wrong according to the letter of the law. The slaver was just defending his property.

On what should have been her mother’s 40th birthday, Ty learned the truth.

Captain Flint sat her down in the observation lounge of the Rocinante and related the whole sad story. Ty couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe her father. What a coward. She decked him in the face right there and then. Punched her own pops, a Captain of the Galactic Navy on his own buzz’n ship. He realized she was a chip off the old block. Not his, mama’s. He got scared. Scared he would lose her. Just like he lost her mom.

Ma Flint

Millie Flint was a frontier girl through and through. First generation Martian. Poster child for the colonies. A real pioneer. Never saw a blue sky in her life. She met William Flint when she was twenty-one. He was on a supply run from Earth to Mars. The colony had requested fifty tons of Cortaquinine — an advanced water purifying agent used to make melted Martian water drinkable. Flint had the fifty tons on board but his orders were only to deliver twenty-five to the Mars colony and take the rest to Neptune. Millie was something of a local rabble-rouser and when she found out the colony was getting shorted twenty-five tons she stormed into Flint’s quarters and demanded the rest. Flint calmly explained that he was instructed to deliver the remainder to the Neptune Colony. She asked him why he couldn’t give them the fifty, then go back to Earth to get a load for Neptune. He explained that those weren’t his orders. Ty’s Ma pretended like she accepted this bulldizz explanation and started playing nice with Flint. He invited her to dinner. She spent the night. When he awoke, she was gone and so were the fifty tons.

Flint arrested Ty’s Ma and threw her in the brig. He gave her two options. He’d haul her ass back to Earth where she’d be convicted and do ten-to-twenty on the Io penal colony. OR she could marry him. She told him she’d rather do thirty-to-life. So Ty’s Ma sat in the brig all the way to Neptune and all the way back to Earth. And Captain Flint visited her every day. At first she ignored him. But then she got so damned bored she started talking to him. Eventually she grew to kind of like the guy. And by the time they made it home, she actually sorta loved the sonnovabitch. As they were passing the Moon, he asked her one more time if she’d rather marry him or go to jail. She figured what the hell and decided to say “yes.” Captain Flint scrubbed the logs and no one ever knew about his betrothed’s little insurrection.

Flint tried to tame her. Make her into a good captain’s wife. Fool’s buzz’n errand. You can take the girl outta Mars but you can’t take Mars outta the girl. In fact, the only thing that ever came close to calming her down was Ty. Beautiful little Ty. The girl she loved. The girl she’d never see walk or talk or run or love. But Ty Flint wasn’t mad at her mother for what she did. She was proud. Damned proud. Her dad was full of dizz but he was right about one thing. Ma Flint was a hero.

When Ty turned thirteen, her father sent her to boarding school back on Earth. Wanted her to know what her real home was like. Concentrate on her studies. Get to know some people other than crusty intergalactic engineers and career naval officers. People her own age. Maybe even a boy. But Earth wasn’t her home, never would be. Most humans couldn’t afford to live on the home planet anymore. It was too expensive to get a decent plot of land with breathable air. The ozone layer — rather lack thereof— was also a bitch. Without proper protection, you’d get cancer in about two weeks. Captain Flint called in a few favors to get her into that boarding school. Dropped a line to Admiral Tanaka, reminded him that he saved his ass in the battle of Hicho Ru.

Ty couldn’t stand the school. Bunch of stuck up buzzers who only went off-world for spring break, Christmas and vacations. Never to work. She ran off of course. Didn’t even last a year. Hacked a community kiosk to fake her ID imprint so she could buy a ray gun and hunt down those buzz’n slavers. Slim Pickens, if only her mother could see her now. She’d be proud as hell.

Johnny Rustler

The ray gun was awkward in her hands at first. She wasn’t afraid of it or nothing, just didn’t quite have the feel for it. She took the thing out to the Mojave and started just blasting cacti. Shot the poor things for about a week straight. Pretty much became a dead-eye. But she was slow. Couldn’t get the quick draw right. Always fumbled getting the piece out of her holster. Slamming the hammer wasn’t her forte neither. Half the time she couldn’t get it to fire that way. She needed a mentor. A real gunslinger. That’s when she decided to hunt down Johnny Rustler. Handsome bastard. Outlaw though. Stick-up artist. Always robbing freighters on the Sagittarius trail. The navy couldn’t catch him. The boys in blue played by the rules and Johnny Rustler hadn’t followed a rule in his life. Just the kinda Tango partner Ty Flint was looking for.

Word on the block was Rustler had a hideout on the Titan ringlet. Navy never went out there. The rings are basically a no-man’s land. Anything goes. Perfect spot for a lovable scumball like Johnny Rustler. Only trouble is, stick-up men don’t invite wannabe teenage slingers over for tea unless they got chops. Some cred. Lucky for Ty, Johnny had a standing challenge. If you could fizz two of his goons he’d grant you an audience. A chance to face him in a duel. He figured if you had the guts to get that close he’d do you a favor and kill you himself.

Ty knew she’d have to fizzle Rustler’s heavies with accuracy rather than speed. The Moon was her best shot. What with the gravity everyone’s basically underwater anyway, lumbering around in slow motion. So she tracked one of Johnny’s thugs to the Darkside and ray gunned him from forty paces. Took his piece and the holster. She still couldn’t draw worth a damn but with a ray gun on either hip she could at least double her luck.

Guy number two was a big bastard. Gorilla almost. They called him Toucan Smalls. Way people tell it, he took six rays to the gut in the shootout at the Deimos Docking Station and didn’t even wince. A little birdie told Ty that Smalls was aiming to hold-up the Lunar Liner Delta Fuente on it’s way back from the Belt. So Ty stowed away in the hold and waited for Smalls and his gang to board the ship. The cargo bay was naturally the first place the outlaws went for and when they showed up Ty Flint and two ray guns were waiting. “The element of surprise is a bitch ain’t it?” thought Ty as she blasted ten fizzles into Toucan Smalls’ head. The big bastard did more than wince that time. And Ty Flint giggled with glee when she saw his gang shuffle out the bay with scaredy cat piss drizz’n down their shaking legs.

Word got back to Johnny Rustler. Some teenage kid, a girl, was fizz’n his hoods. Left and buzz’n right. Rustler usually didn’t take it personally when someone rose to his standing challenge. But this one was different. He’d make this little brat pay. So he sent his best bagman, Kyd Boob, out to deliver the official invitation. Ty Flint graciously accepted and then fizz’d Boob too. Just for the dizz. Show Johnny Rustler she could deliver a message too.

Ty followed the directions on the invitation out to the Titan Ringlet and spotted Johnny Rustler’s hideout. Nice digs. Lot of stolen loot. Dozens of thugs and goons. Women hanging around too. Not much older than Ty and god knows how they got there and what they were expected to do. Rustler wasted no time. He sized her up, smiled and nodded. Rustler escorted Ty out to a little courtyard in the middle of his hideout and all his hangers-on followed them out there. Johnny explained the rules. Twenty paces. Three seconds. Draw. Die. Ty nodded. Pretty cut and buzz’n dry.

They walked the twenty, waited three and drew. Ray gun fire blasted all over the goddamn place. But when the smoke cleared no one was fizz’d. Rustler couldn’t believe it. Ty Flint wasn’t surprised one bit. See, everyone knew Johnny Rustler’s a quick-draw but no one said he could aim. Sure he knew where to point his piece but he always pointed it in the same place. Five feet above the dust.

So if you were five-foot two you got it in the head.

Five-five, ray gun to the chest.

Six foot, you got fizz’d through the gut.

Fourteen-year-old Ty Flint? Well buzz. She was only four foot ten.

Ty smiled and looked over her shoulders. Sure enough there was a laser-sized hole two inches above her head on the wall behind her. One of Rustler’s goons started cackling. Johnny pointed the pistol without looking and fizz’d the buzzer quiet. Then he started laughing too. Ty joined in. Soon enough everyone was chuckling it up. Johnny Rustler walked forty paces to Ty Flint and put his hand on her shoulder.

“Kid,” the stick-up man smiled, “you’re swinging a helluva pair ‘a buzzers.”

Rustler took Ty Flint under his wing. Big brother kind of deal. Showed her how to sling. It took her a couple of weeks but she got the hang of it. Earned herself a real smooth draw. After a month she was almost as fast as Johnny. Everyone knew that with a couple more fizzles under her belt she’d be the fastest ever. Johnny didn’t care, wasn’t jealous. He never had a daughter or a sister or even a real friend. He was just proud that when people asked Ty Flint who taught her to be the quickest gun in the galaxy she’d reply, “Johnny Rustler. What’s it to you punk?”

Mav’rick

“I love you Ty Flint,” the boy professed.

“You don’t even know me Mav’rick,” she insisted.

Mav’rick. What she called the boys whose names she couldn’t remember.

“I feel like I’ve know you a thousand years.”

“Ah c’mon, you don’t know dizz, you just wanna buzz.”

Ty Flint had kissed fourteen boys since she left Johnny Rustler’s hideout and began the long search for the man who fizz’d her momma. But she hadn’t given it up yet. There were a billion boys in the Milky Way but there didn’t seem to be a buzzer between ‘em. Helluva thing to be a virgin gunslinger.

This particular boy trying in vain to lead off from second base was some kind of rich kid. Big shot daddy. Ran a mining racket or some dizz like that. He was used to getting what he wanted. But he never tried to feel up a girl who had a ray-gun where his sweaty palms wanted to be. He thought it was hotter than the sunny side of Mercury. She was just bored. Waiting for the next transport from Titan to Galatea, fourth moon of Venus. She had a favor to call in there. One of the Venusian slaves Ma Flint saved that fateful night was now a Galatean shipbuilder. Owed the Flint family his life. Ty Flint didn’t want anyone’s life, just a ship.

Mav’rick started to get adventurous with Ty’s backside. She slapped his hand out of the way and rolled her eyes. Unphased, the brazen little dizz went for the grav-strap. What in the hell? Ty smacked the hand again, harder this time. Daddy’s little boy seemed to like it. He tried to go for it. Steal third.

Quicker than dizz, Mav’rick felt a ray gun on his buzzer.

“Cool it Mav,” Ty calmly insisted, “I got a sneaking feeling you don’t know what to do with that.” She lifted the piece to his temple, “but I sure as buzz know what to do with this.”

Suddenly Mav’rick’s buzzer stopped doing the thinking and started doing the drizz’n. His face turned red. His dingles went blue. Ty Flint shook her head. Date over. The station P.A. blasted a welcome announcement.

“LAST CALL FOR GALATEA. ALL PASSENGERS PREPARE FOR BOARDING.”

Ty Flint whirled the ray gun around her trigger finger and sunk it neatly into its holster.

“Sorry Mav, that’s my ride. But we really oughta do this again sometime.”

She patted the boy on the head and sauntered towards the transport bay. Her pops, the slavers, Johnny Rustler and a baker’s dozen Mav’ricks. When the hell was she gonna find a man worth a damn?

Doc Venus

He’d been building ships before he was born. That’s the way with Venusians. Start working in the womb. Maybe it’s why the Earthers enslave them. Humans had the laziest fetuses in the galaxy. By his third cycle, Doc Venus was the go-to guy if you needed some new equipment to fly. Fighters, freighters, yachts, rowers, the works. Knew how to fly the birds too. Did a little barnstorming in his early cycles. The Earthers were looking to cut in on the Venusian shipbuilding market but they didn’t have the talent to build a competitive rig — major brain drain in the engineering sector on planet Earth these days. So the Privateer cartel put out a bounty to the slavers. A thousand clams for each Venusian they could bag. Four figures a tag was good money and the slavers went for it.

Poor Doc Venus got scooped by the slavers when he was about six cycles old. Threw ‘em in tension binders and locked him in solitary for asking just who the hell they thought they were. So for two months he never saw or heard another living soul. He wasn’t starving or nothing. Venusians only eat twice a year at most anyway. Nah, just lonely. And what a sight for sore eyes it was to see Ma Flint open that cell door. He thought humans were ugly as buzz, but at that moment, Flint was the most gorgeous gal he’d seen this side of the Cluster. It damn near broke all three of his hearts when he saw that brave dish get fizz’d in the back. Slavers are cowards but dizz if he at least expected some degree of decency from those scum. As she lay there dying, Ma Flint told Doc Venus to run home and never look back. Doc Venus didn’t speak human but he got the jist. Hopped in the last life boat out of dodge and counted all forty-six of his luckiest stars. Fourteen years later he still hadn’t forgotten that beautiful face. Broke his heart that he’d never see it again. And then one day, he did.

“I’m Ty Flint,” the face announced, “word on the arm is that you owe my momma your life.”

Doc Venus nodded.

“Look bub, I ain’t gonna make you my personal servant or nothing, just need you to throw me together a rig. Something tough enough to hold it’s own in a fight but fast enough to run off if the going gets rough.”

Again, Venus got the drift. He built her a ship alright. Twin-gun, four-seat coupe. Ruby red. Fast as bizz. Ty didn’t have her license yet but that didn’t matter buzz all. She didn’t have no licenses to fizz neither. Didn’t stop our girl one bit. Now all the ship needed was a name. Then it came to her. The Earhart.

The day Ty Flint was set to blast off, Doc Venus met her down on the drydock gangway. He’d picked up a few human words, figured now’d be the perfect time to try ‘em out.

“You need pilot?” Doc stammered.

Flint smiled when she realized it weren’t a question.

“Hop in Doc. We still got two seats left, time to find us some muscle.”

Hearts Rangoon

You’d think in the future people’d play some kinda fancy space chess. Nah. Turns out Five Card Stud’s still the best game in the known universe. And no one had a better poker face than Hearts Rangoon — no mean feat ‘sidering Martians got three faces. He was a hulking brute, big even for a Redsand, but unlike most Martians, Rangoon could think as well as fight.

The Martians were the first people in the system that the Earthers had enslaved. As a result, they were something of the favored race. Dumb, brutal and obedient. They were crap miners though, couldn’t farm for dizz and always burned the toast. In fact, humans were about to emancipate the whole lot of ‘em when a foreman on the dark side of Europa spotted a brawl breaking out between two of the Redsands. When he saw his guards taking bets on who’d live to see dinner, the foreman realized the real value of Martian chattel. Gladiators.

The Grand Arena of Mars was a hit. Now there are franchises all over the system. Popular place to take the family. Fight to the Finish Fridays. Decent steak and the longest happy hour in the Milky Way. Fantastic chicken spears on the kid’s menu. Everybody gets to watch Martians fight to the death. Great t-shirts. The Redsands were more than willing to give their blood to good sport. They could even buy their freedom. Hearts Rangoon gambled for his.

He was the only two-leg in the system who ever won his freedom without killing one of his brothers and he was a hero to all those who still lived in lazer chains. But Hearts Rangoon didn’t wanna be a leader of the people. Just wanted to play poker. He could double bluff his way past a Neptunian Mindreader on a pair of Deuces. He’d bet anything he got except his freedom. Some things you just don’t play for keeps. And then one day some kid gunslinger asked him to put it all on the line for the greater good. Bought herself into his standing table on the Starsteamer The Sam Clemens.

“I’m Ty Flint—” she announced, plopping the chips on the table.

“—named after your pops?” Rangoon taunted.

The girl straightened up defiantly. “It just so happens I am.”

Rangoon nodded. “In that case Earthskirt, you can blast off. We don’t tangle with Navy brats on The Sam Clemens.” Two of the crew members—menacing looking Martians—approached the girl and gestured towards the door.

“Shucks,” young Flint sneered without budging an inch, “you’re just chicken.”

The Martian goons pulled ray guns out of their holsters and aimed for Flint.

“I’m afraid I’m not kid.”

Flint pushed all her chips into the pot.

“Bet you are.”

Hearts Rangoon smiled and motioned for his thugs to shoot.

Before they could even flinch their fingers, Ty Flint had quick drawn the both of them. Fizz’d ‘em good. Then the twin ray guns were pointed at Rangoon.

“Now deal me in buster.”

Hearts shrugged, burned the top of the deck and dealt her a hand.

“So whattaya want outta me kid?”

“I need a Martian with brains for a mission to the Cluster.”

“We’ve all got brains sister.”

“Yeah but not like yours.”

“Why should I help you? You just fizz’d two of my guys.”

“I’m worth three.”

“Listen, the Cluster’s slaver space. If I’m caught there—.”

Where’d you learn to play Poker?”

“Home, on Mars.”

“Who taught you?”

“Earth lady. The only decent one I’ve ever known. She taught me how to read and write. Weren’t for her I never would’ve been smart enough to win to my freedom.”

“Well my dad may damned well be a bastard,” Ty Flint admitted, “but that woman who taught you to read, write and play poker? That was my Ma Millie Flint.”

The Mata Hari of Neptune

Blue Planet Mind Readers are the most tempting sirens in the system. Some poet once called ‘em  “The Geishas of Neptune.” Best lovers on the arm. Some Earthers are against falling in love with a Bluecloud. Churchers mostly. “There aren’t any hes or shes on Neptune!” the Churchers cry. Well shucks, that’s the point. The idea of having different types of people is as foreign to them as breathing nitrogen is to us. Diff’rent strokes I reckon.

For big shot intergalactic businessmen, buying yourself a Neptune Geisha is the ultimate status symbol. Big money for the slavers too. That’s how Skin Lizy ended up on that slave ship the night Ma Flint died. If it wasn’t for Ty’s momma, Lizy would have ended up the eternal concubine for the Wayton Family. Blueclouds don’t die like Earthers, so Neptunian slave wives are passed down from generation to generation.

The Waytons are waste farmers. Intergalactic garbage men. Built an empire out of recycling human waste into lunch meat. Needless to say, Skin Lizy weren’t keen on spending an eternity at the beck and call of a bunch of dizzmongers. So when the door to her cell opened that night s’he felt like s’he owed something to the universe. Then s’he realized s’he didn’t owe dizz to no one. S’his life weren’t no one else’s to begin with. But when young Ty Flint burst into her boudoir backstage at the Triton Ballet, Skin Lizy changed her tune.

S’he was the only Bluecloud in history to be cast in the leading role of an Earth Ballet. When s’he performed the first night, everyone knew why. Weren’t no Earther could dance like a cloud of gas. The humans were just jealous. Even after all the awards and rave reviews, there were many Earthers what still hated her. Some even accused her of being a spy. Called her the Mata Hari of Neptune.

Skin Lizy was used to admirers trying to sneak backstage to bring her flowers or kiss her hand. But none of them every made it past the goons. ‘Til Ty Flint came knocking.

“Hey Blueskirt, nice setta pipes,” Flint offered.

“Who let you in here?!” Lizy put an offending hand to her breast.

Ty patted her holster with a smile.

“No one, ‘cept me and my buddy Ray.”

Lizy looked over Flint’s shoulder and noticed a trail of ray gun’d goons scattered down the hallway. So this was it. Some bounty hunter hired by the Waytons to finally bring her in. Well she wouldn’t go with a fight.

“Who are you?!” Skin Lizy demanded.

“Name’s Ty Flint.”

“Flint…?” Lizy stammered, “you’re mother isn’t…?”

Ty shrugged, “Afraid so.”

Blueclouds haven’t had the need for children since achieving immortality. But deep down, inside every Neptunian, still lies an unstoppable spring of love for youthers that even millennia of evolution can’t get rid of. Ain’t no such things as Ma’s and Pa’s on Neptune. But you can bet buzz all they know what love is. Skin Lizy put s’his hand on Ty Flint’s smooth check and offered a grave smile.

“I’m sorry Ty.”

Flint pushed Lizy’s hand away. “Sorry don’t mean dizz.”

“Well, I just wish I could have thanked your mother some how.”

Ty grinned mischievously. “Well now you’ve got your chance Lizy.”

“How’s that?”

“I’m hunting down them slavers what fizz’d my Ma.”
“If you’re looking for revenge, I won’t do you any good. I’m a dancer, not a fighter.”

“You’re a mind reader.”

“So?”

“When I find these buzzers I want to get in their head, find their darkest fears. The dizz that really keeps them up at night.”
“And then what?”

“Give it to ‘em.”

Skin Lizy liked the idea. Liked it a lot. S’he crossed her arms at Ty Flint and smiled. “Let me call my understudy,” the dancer announced.

Back at the Ranch

“Flint, your daughter’s a menace,” Admiral Kerim Tanaka proclaimed.

Standing at attention on the top floor of Naval Headquarters in Old New Orleans, Captain William Patrick Flint couldn’t disagree.

“Yes sir, I apologize sir.”

The Admiral stood from his desk, feigned a smile and put a reassuring arm around Captain Flint’s shoulders. “Now I know you’ve done all you can for that child. It’s not easy raising a girl without her mother.”

“Yes sir, but that’s no excuse sir.”

The Admiral’s smile collapsed as he nodded. “No I suppose not. Escaping from school is one thing. Hell I wish I’d had the guts to do that myself when I was her age.” Tanaka shook his head disapprovingly. “But falsifying her ID? Gunslinging across the system? Slapping backs with the likes of Johnny Rustler and Hearts Rangoon? I’m afraid that’s not acceptable.”

“Yes sir, I agree sir.”

“Now word is she’s secured a rocket and plans on blasting across the galaxy to find the slaver that murdered your wife. Can’t say I blame her. But she must be stopped.”

“Yes sir, absolutely sir.”

“That’s why I’m sending you to find her.”

“Me sir?” Captain Flint stuttered.

“Yes, you’re the only one who knows how she thinks, knows what she may do next.”

“But sir—”

“—I’m afraid there’s no debate Bill. This one comes from the top.”

“And just what am I supposed to do when I find her?”

The Admiral leaned in to Captain Flint. “Whatever’s necessary.”

Flight of the Earhart

Ty Flint’s ruby red rocketship was ready to blast for slaver space with full crew complement.

Doc Venus, pilot and engineer.

Hearts Rangoon, brains and brawn.

Skin Lizy, the mind reading Mata Hari of Neptune.

Ty Flint, quick draw’n Cap’n.

If only they knew how much trouble they’d find themselves in, the whole lot ‘em might’ve thought twice about this harebrained scheme.

Slaver Dave

Dave Junior bagged his first Martian before his tenth cycle. Dave Senior slapped the boy on the back and promised him a fair share of whatever profits his chattel would fetch. Junior got a taste for the hunt. A feel for the bargaining block. Grew to love his work. Was damned good at it too. Never lost a pair of two-legs in his whole career. Until Millie Flint buzz’d it all to dizz. But he gave that frontier upstart what-for he reckon’d. He never worried about the Flint family seeking revenge. Judging from the way Captain Bill Flint rolled over when the charges were dropped, weren’t in their nature. So it damned-near gave him a heart attack when the spitting image of Millie Flint showed up at his plantation atop the Verona Rupes. The highest cliffside in the solar system, the Rupes was a 12.5 mile drop on Miranda, the innermost moon of Uranus. A stunning natural wonder, the dizzying drop also served as a preventative measure. Any slaves looking to escape the plantation would think twice once they peered over that cliff.

Dave Junior’d been terrified of the Verona Rupes ever since his Pa first took him to the cliffside on the day of his 18th cycle. The two men stood at the edge and watched the sun rise.

“Life’s a cliffwalk boy,” Dave warned his son, “you’re only one step away from death and there’s always a sumbitch waiting to push you over.”

Dave Junior took the hint and shoved Pa off the edge, watched his father’s body disappear into the darkened depths of the cliff as his screams echoed across the moon. Anyone two-leg tells you slaver’s got half a heart is pulling your tail.

Every year on his birthday, Slaver Dave Junior dreamed of that cliff. A nightmare really. He stood in his father’s place, facing an echo of his younger self. He delivered his father’s speech just as he remembered it and then he watched as the youthful echo shoved him off the cliff. When he opened his mouth to scream it was his father’s mournful cry that he heard. He always awakened in a cold sweat just before he hit the ground.

Dave Junior never told a soul about this dream and for years he figured he was the only one in the galaxy who knew about it. But then on the day of his 47th cycle the dream changed. It started out the same. Standing there watching the sunrise, giving the speech, then feeling that terrifying push from his younger self. This time the ground never came though. Slaver Dave plummeted through endless darkness with no end in sight. The cliffside turned into a tunnel — a vortex from which he could not escape. He heard voices, saw faces. They chattered in every language — Martian, Venutian, Plutonian, Mercurian — crying out in anger and disgust. Then he started to recognize them. It was every person, every creature, every being he had ever enslaved, tortured, killed or hurt. All of them. That first martian from his 10th cycle, his own father and thousands of others. Finally he saw an end to the tunnel, with a single solitary figure standing on the ground. A human woman with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. His eyes bulged in recognition.

Millie Flint.

She reached out her hands and caught his neck in her fingers. She squeezed and he felt life gurgle from his lips.

“But…I killed you!” he choked.

“No,” Millie Flint’s voice echoed through the shadowy vortex, “You murdered me.” She clenched her fist tighter. He couldn’t breathe. Her face began to change, become younger with every breath he couldn’t take. He felt the oxygen fading from his brain and then the face stopped changing. It still looked like Millie Flint, only as a teenager.

“Wake up dizzbag,” the young girl bellowed.

Dave Junior awakened. He was in his bed. But he was not alone. Standing above him was a terrifying menagerie of creatures. A towering Martian, an imposing Venutian, a lithe Neptunian and one pissed off looking human female with a striking resemblance to Millie Flint.

“Happy birthday!” the Martian cackled.

Dave dizzed himself. “How? You were in my dreams!”

The teenage girl tsk tsk’d.

“Ah come on Davey, you know you can’t hide dizz from the Mati Hari of Neptune.”

Skin Lizy tapped the side of her head and winked at her former captor.

“Please don’t kill me!”

“Kill you?” the girl laughed, “where’s the fun in that?”

Skin Lizy placed s’her hands over Dave’s eyelids and closed them. When he opened them he was in some place he’d never seen from the inside. A cell on his slaver ship. The door was closed, locked. He banged his hands on the side and bellowed. No answer. “Let me out! Please! I don’t belong here.” Silence. “I don’t belong here!”

Slaver Dave screamed from that cell for the rest of his natural life. Even after his body died, his mind remained as alive and alert as ever, still stuck in that cell. There he learned the curse of Neptunian immortality, implanted in his mind by the Mata Hari of Neptune. He screamed and screamed for a thousand millennia and heard no answer. Enslaved by eternity.

Shootout on the Miranda Moon

You still hear tell ‘round these parts of the shootout on the Miranda Moon. Schoolers try ‘n read some meaning into it — talk’n ‘bout the moon being named after some Earthskirt from Shakespeare times, the rebellious daughter of a spellcasting wizard named Prospero. Anyone with half a brain knows that’s a bunch of bulldizz. Bill Flint was no wizard, ‘though his daughter might’a had a little magic in her trigger finger.

When Ty Flint and her gang emerged from Dave Junior’s bedroom, they were surrounded by 4 score slaver goons. The lead gun drew first but Ty was quicker and buzz’d the dizzer ‘fore he even had a chance to aim. Rangoon started holler’n and pulled a buckshot ray gun off his back — buzz’n slavers left and right. Some of the goombas recognized at least one of Rangoon’s faces from the arena and high-tailed it to the craters. Doc Venus weren’t a gunslinger by any stretch but he held his own that day, buzz’d at least a dozen of Dave’s hired guns. Skin Lizy had never handled a raygun in her life but s’he shot herself up a mess of goons. S’he could feel every one of their thoughts as they died, wading through the dark final fears of the condemned. Ty Flint took two laser blasts to the arm and one in the thigh. Hardly slowed her down. She must’a bagged at least 40 goons that day, some say high as 50. Reck’n we’ll never know the truth of it, ‘sidering dead men talk about as much as a Mercurian mute toad.

After the goons had all been buzz’d, ran off or surrendered, Ty and her gang took to freeing Dave Junior’s slaves. She was back in the family business and after a spell started to take to it. To this day, they say half the free Martians in the system owe their life to one Flint woman or ‘nother.

The Flint Gang

The Star Galleon Rocinante lay in wait outside the orbit of Uranus. Captain William P. Flint had the conn. He paced the bridge anxiously, waiting for his daughter’s ship to emerge from the Miranda moon. His orders were to return her to Earther space. Dead or alive. A tiny blip emerged on their scopes. The markings were Venutian.

“Identify that vessel,” Captain Flint barked to his bridge crew.

“She’s not registered sir,” an ensign intoned, “but she has an identity beacon.”

“What’s her name?”
“The Earhart sir.”

Her mother’s daughter.
“That’s her alright,” Flint sighed. He turned to the gunner, “target that vessel and fire a volley over her bow. Be careful for heaven’s sake, just get her attention.”

The gunner nodded solemnly and carefully shot a barrage of gunfire towards the vessel of his captain’s daughter.

“That should do it,” Captain Flint asserted, “send a message ordering their surrender.”

“We already have a response sir,” the radio operator informed the captain.

“Read it,” Flint ordered.

The radio operator gave his captain a mournful look and remained silent.

“I said read it,” the captain bellowed.

“Do it Pa,” the operator spat out with a gulp, “kill me. Kill me like you killed Ma.”

Flint slammed his fist into the command desk and put his head in his hands.

The first mate was unmoved. “Orders sir?” the second-in-command inquired.

Captain Flint breathed deeply.

“Orders?” the first mate insisted.

Flint straightened to attention and regained his composure. “Engage the tow beams. Bring her aboard.”

Almost two decades earlier, Captain William Patrick Flint carted Millie Flint to Earth in the brig of the Rocinante. Now he did the same with her daughter. His daughter. Their daughter. He was thankful she was alive. Ty Flint would have gone down fighting just like her Ma. He was grateful he hadn’t given her the chance. Like her mother, Bill Flint visited Ty in that same brig every day on the voyage home. He made her the same offer. Stay with me. Be my family and I’ll make this go away. But Ty Flint was strong. Stronger than even her Ma. She stayed silent that whole buzz’n trip.

A day out of Earther space Pa Flint was greeted with a surprise. The Star Galleon Gunpowder, flagship of the Earth Navy and personal command of Admiral Kerim Tanaka. Flint was sitting in the brig with his daughter when the Gunpowder emerged on their radar. The First Mate called him from the bridge.

“It’s Tanaka sir. He wants to speak with you.”

“Tanaka?” Flint was incredulous.

“Yes sir, the Admiral.”

“I’ll be up in a minute.”

“He says to bring the prisoners.”

Captain William P. Flint’s heart skipped a beat. But he obeyed.

“Hello Bill!” Tanaka bellowed cheerfully from the viewscreen.

Captain Flint settled into his chair on the bridge, his daughter and her rag-tag crew standing defiantly over his shoulder. “Admiral,” Flint acknowledged formally.

Tanaka smiled, “Excellent work Captain. You’ve handled the situation perfectly. For your loyalty and speed I’ve recommended you for a promotion to admiral.”

Flint nodded, “Thank you sir.”

“Congratulations Bill, you’re finally going to get your star.”

Captain Flint couldn’t muster a smile and this announcement provided him no relief. “I appreciate the show of confidence sir, but I hope you didn’t come all this way just to give me the message.”

Tanaka laughed and waved his hand, “No no no! I’m here to take custody of your prisoners.”

“I see,” Flint acknowledged, “are they to stand trial?”

The admiral shook his head, “I’m afraid they’ve already been tried and found guilty. I’m merely here to exact their sentence.”

Ty Flint looked at her friends in surprise.

“And what is that sentence Admiral?”

Tanaka shrugged, “Why death of course.”

Ty Flint spoke up for the first time in ten days. “Do it Pa, I don’t want these bastards taking me alive anyway.”

“Ty be silent! I’m trying to save your life.”

“No you be silent Pa. The lot of you. I reck’n I’ve learned a few things about this here galaxy over the past few weeks. Y’all got laws about every dizz’n thing under the Sun. Can’t do this, have to do that. Can’t go here, better go there. A lot of people called slaves, some called masters. Some of us are in chains and some of us hold the keys. But you what I’ve figured out? We’re all slaves. All just doing what we’re told, chained up by all these buzz’n laws. Look at you Pa, you’ve got a Star Galleon under your command, the power to save a thousand worlds. And what do you do with it? Protect the bullies, save the slavers, chain yourself ever tighter to their power. Me? I ain’t got no Star Galleon. But I’m free, and so is my crew. So are all the slaves we freed on Miranda. So Admiral Tanaka, ya’ll can chain whoever you want, kill whoever you want. Take away everything, everyone we love. But we ain’t never gonna be your slaves. So hand me over Pa. I’m ready to die. To die a free woman in a universe full of slaves, just like my Ma. Just like Millie Flint, the bravest woman in the galaxy.”

Tanaka chuckled. Bill Flint’s heart pounded. Pride? Fear? He couldn’t tell.

“Charming speech my dear,” the Admiral praised mockingly, “I’m afraid you will die far from free. Bill, I’ll send my officers aboard to take charge of the prisoners.”

“No,” Captain William T. Flint growled.

“What?” Tanaka was incredulous.

“I said no. And if your officers attempt to board this vessel I will open fire.”

“Bill if you do this, your career is over. I’ll kill your daughter and then I’ll bury you.”

“You’ll do no such thing.”

“FLINT. Might I remind you that you are flying under the flag of the Earth Navy and this is mutiny.”

“This ship is no longer under that flag Admiral,” Bill Flint exclaimed.

“What the hell are you talking about Captain?”

William Flint stood at attention and lifted his nose in the air.

“I hereby commandeer this vessel in the name of the Flint Gang,” Captain Flint announced.

Tanaka laughed in surprise, “the Flint Gang eh? And I suppose you’re the leader of this ‘gang’ Bill?”

Bill Flint laughed and shook his head. “Nope,” he pointed at his daughter, “she is.”

Tanaka stared at the Flints in disbelief.

Pa Flint turned to his daughter. “Orders Captain Flint?”

“Fire Captain Flint,” Ty replied with a smile.

No vessel of the Earther Navy has ever been captured. In fact, no Earther ship had fired upon another in the entire history of spaceflight until the day of the Flint Gang Mutiny. The Gunpowder was every bit the superior ship to the Rocinante. But it was the element of surprise that won the day. That and the bravery of the Flint Gang. Doc Venus grabbed the wheel, Hearts Rangoon manned the guns and Skin Lizy dove into Tanaka’s mind and started ripping out wires. While the Rocinante riddled the Gunpowder with cannonfire, Admiral Tanaka sat on the floor with a thumb in his mouth as Lizy laid him up with a vision his deepest, darkest fear — the three-eyed floating clowns of Iapetus. Within a matter of minutes, the Star Galleon Rocinante sailed victoriously through the stars as the Gunpowder listed in defeat. To this day, schoolers still hear tell of the “The Clash of the Star Galleons.”

Epilogue

After the battle, Ty Flint disappeared into the lower decks of the ship that had once been her home. The gang searched high and low but couldn’t find hair nor hide of the girl. It was Bill Flint finally came upon her, hiding in the engines just like she’d done as a child. After some convincing, Captain Flint talked his daughter into sitting for a spell with him in the observation lounge. Ty and her father talked long into the night next to the great window that overlooked the starry expanse of the galaxy. He told her stories he had been too afraid to tell. The story of how he met her mother. The story of how they fell in love. The story of how Ma Flint put her life and freedom on the line for a freightload of Cortaquinine.

Ty Flint is a strong girl and stubborn but everyone knows she’s got the biggest heart in the Milky Way. Even bigger than a Saturnian and their hearts are two feet by four. When she heard about her ma stealing that Cortaquinine she just up blubbered and cried.

“You feel okay Ty?” Pa Flint asked as he took his daughter into his arms and held her tight.

“Yeah Pa,” she smiled through tears, “how’re you feeling?”

Captain William P. Flint started to blubber too, cry like a baby. “Free,” he told his daughter, “I feel free.”

The Flint Gang will Return in…

High Noon on Harpalyke!

About the Author

C.C. Devereaux was born in Savannah, Georgia on New Year’s Eve 1999. Her father was a preacher and her mother a dancer. After surviving a car wreck before the sophomore winter formal and missing a year of school, Devereaux passed her GED and earned a full scholarship to Cornell. Devereaux is a qualified sharpshooter in the Civilian Marksmanship Program and lives in Ithaca, New York with her grandmother and their dog Richard Pancakes.

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