Monty had inherited his ship.
Well, that was the short version he told new customers, if they asked.
The long version was harder to explain.

After Serenity Valley, after the War was lost, after reparations were disbursed, Monty found himself on Persephone with a pocketful of Alliance scrip, representing two years back pay as a sergeant, the usual piloting and trading skills of the shipborn, and a powerful thirst.
He found a bar that looked reasonably safe- most of the customers were armed, but there were  tough looking personnel at the doors wearing Staff tees – and ordered a beer, planning to make it the first of many.
“Monty!”, came a clear sweet voice, over the hubbub of the bar,” Is that Sergeant Montefiori of the Seventh Brigade?”
He recognized the voice as that of his lieutentant– well, she’d started as a lieutenant, but by the time he saw her last she had earned her major’s commission. “Louie” her men called her and she was smart and brave and all kinds of sensible. A tiny woman, with an impressive bosom, clear blue eyes and strawberry blonde curls, she could persuade a scared farmgirl to attack a hill covered in purplebellies and could field dress wounds. She could see where the enemy would be next and make sure her people were there first. She was a mother to some of the meanest soldiers in the Verse and a commander, the commander,  to everyone who served her. “Louie! Well, Major Louie. Umm. Major Epheseus! You made it through.” Monty felt his eyes fill with tears for all those who didn’t.

“I wasn’t on Hera. At least, I wasn’t on Hera at the end. They’d called me back for a report to HQ.” Louie’s blue eyes brimmed too. “I don’t think they listened to the report though. I’m sorry.”
The two Browncoats raised their mugs and drank.

“So what’s your plan, Monty?”
“Don’t really have one past this beer and maybe the next one. Find work, if anyone will take me.”
“What are your skills, sergeant? I know you’re a leader. Your men would follow you anywhere. Zǔzhòu,  I’d follow you anywhere.”
“Well, I can pilot most spacecraft. Been flying’ since I was old enough to read the dials and reach the joystick. No actual qualifications, just what my ma taught me. She was our pilot, comin up.  And, like you say, my powers of persuasion are pretty fair. Got a bit of money, but that won’t last. Not enough to get off this rock and there are lots of soldiers, Browncoats and Purplebellies with the same skills.”
“Reparations for a major are pretty decent. I’ve got a fair bit of coin to hand. Lookin for a crew who can go in with me on a ship. Innerested?”
“Dìyù yeah! Sergeant rep ain’t near what you’d have but so far I’ve managed to buy one beer with it. Let me buy you another and tell me about your ship.”

Well, there wasn’t a ship. Not right then. But Louie – now Captain Dia Epheseus – took Monty shopping for a transport. She figured that the Rim worlds would soon be needing Core manufactured goods, and the Core would be looking for Rim resources. As they shopped, they picked up a few other former soldiers and by pooling their money, were able to buy, outright, no mortgage, a Scarab Mark One Transport with a cargo capacity of 350 tonnes. It needed eight crew, but in a pinch it could get offworld with just a pilot and a mechanic with four arms.
Louie named it Pretty Baby.
Monty joined as pilot, but Louie soon found a woman with actual papers, and more talent, for the job, and Monty became First Mate, handling the job rota and working by her side when they went out trading.
Most of the work was legal. Louie was right that trade between the Core and the Rim was brisk. But bitterly, they saw up close that most of the profit was heading into the Core, just as it had before the War.
Both had been shipborn, and regarded smuggling as part of living free. None of the crew were inclined to argue, and if smuggling made their work a little more dangerous, it also made it more satisfying.

It was a happy ship. The crew were very likeminded and Louie picked them for good humour as much as any other skill. She also turned out to be a very sexual woman, and bedded every member of the crew at one time or another. A practice which spread among the shipmates and led to some jealousies and arguments, but nothing that was particularly deep. Louie had no idea who had gotten her pregnant, but she was looking forward to having a new life on board. Monty was pretty sure it wasn’t him since he had been sharing a bunk with the cook eight months previous.

Then came Lilac.
Monty left the ship with just one companion, to deliver a load of frozen bull semen to a ranch halfway around the moon from where Pretty Baby had landed with a legal cargo of frozen compressed hydrogen and oxygen for the water plant. Most of that cargo had to be unloaded to get to the smuggler’s compartment. The crew was planning on two days shore leave by which time Monty and Faoud would be back with their coin and the ship reloaded with the famous Lilac dates and olives for the luxury markets of the Core.
The exchange had gone well and the happy ranchers had thrown a little shindig for the visiting smugglers. As they returned, only slightly hungover, to Pretty Baby’s only shuttle, an ugly ship screamed into atmo.
“Tamade! What do those idiot bī think they’re doing?” exclaimed Faoud.
“Prolly hurrying to the scrapyard before the gose falls apart. Get more money for the shell than for the parts.” laughed Monty.

It was the first recorded Reaver attack.
There had been rumours of something, some group, attacking isolated settlements before, but opinion was that those were attacks by pirates or slavers. The rumours held that no one was left in the attacked towns, and that much violence had been done to property and to the bodies of the dead.
This was worse.
This was…… this was…..
Monty found a child whose buttocks had been slashed off. She had bled to death from the wound.
Two men had been skinned, probably while they were alive, because the first cuts indicated that they had still been fighting. They were fortunate to have lost consciousness before the process was complete.
And then they had been tacked together, wrapped in razor wire.
Razor wire had been used to bind several people to various posts by their wrists before the rapes began. Some  were fortunate to have been able to cut open their wrist veins and bleed out.
The town had been burned. Some of the buildings had been used as refuges. Smoke inhalation probably killed those people before they cooked.
There were burned bodies that were missing limbs or had slices cut from their, cooked, flesh.
And Louie.
Louie had been sliced open and her eight month fetus stolen. She couldn’t see that, because her eyes had been gouged out. And she couldn’t have asked for mercy since her tongue had been cut from her mouth.
The attackers were gone.
Monty used the shuttle’s Cortex to wave the Alliance base on Deadwood, after failing to reach the closer Miranda. The base promised a visit from a cruiser.
Monty and Faoud waved the ranchers they had been dealing with and  work parties arrived  to begin the grim work of identifying and burying the dead. From a population of nearly 500, they found no survivors.
All of Pretty Baby crew had died too.
Monty took over the ship. The doors and airlocks had been shut tight while the crew enjoyed shore leave and the cargo was intact along with their payment for the delivery.

Faoud left Lilac with him, but at their next stop he took his share, one twelfth of the profit, he refused any more, and disappeared. Monty saw him once more, just before he died in a Shepherd’s hospice on New Melbourne, a shivering ghost, addicted to any drug would put him into a coma. When he recognized Monty, he screamed.

Dark / mature. Not our main family, but again , I was wondering how these demobbed soldiers could afford spaceships. Then I found this wiki:  which seems to be for the Role Playing Game and if you look around, also gives prices for various ships, new and used.  
Part of the Fleurs de Mal series.


About femmefan1946

Retired professional writer and editor. Nominated for an Aurora Award for work on CAN-CON 2014, which concentrates on introducing new and aspiring writers and artists to agents, editors and publishers.
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