She leaned forward onto the dashboard and began typing into the keyboard in front of her, moving her fingers along a pad to manipulate the screen in front of her. The star maps and gauges moved out of the way, and a list of applications came up in its place.
She scrolled down to the third application in the list and clicked on it to open. The application displayed a list of pictures of unsavory-looking characters, along with small stories about the latest crimes each had perpetrated:
Her eyes lingered on the last line - Sage Teon. But not because the man pictured was young and handsome, with shaggy blonde hair and green eyes, but rather because the very thought of him made her want to punch something.
Her eyes snapped back to the top, as a new story had just appeared.
She narrowed her eyes and clicked on his name, displaying his full wanted information.
She looked at the list of known aliases and pursed her lips thoughtfully. Flipping back to her application list, she opened an app that displayed the logo and log-in information for the Universal Bank - the central banking organization for the Universal Beings Union. Because the reach of civilization was so widespread, the UBU was established to provide a standard set of laws, trading partners, and - most importantly - currency system. The currency - known as universal credits, or "C" - was the only money accepted and used across the universe.
Even pirates used this currency - which was how bounty hunters tracked and captured them. To compensate, pirates, who were already forming groups to pool money to pay off the police, began to pay off the bank to be able to create more than one alias. The groups then began to rank who had better pirates in their web - based on the most wanted list the police released.
There were four main pirate "webs" now, each still in competition with each other. When bounty hunting was added as a punishable offense under the piracy laws, the webs began using bounty hunters to seek out and capture the top pirates in the other webs. Lately, most pirates did some bounty hunting, although not all bounty hunters were traditional pirates.
Snapping from her thoughts, she logged into the Universal Bank to check on Dalton Burk’s aliases. Along with the ability to create multiple aliases, the pirate webs also paid for the ability to search for the profile of anyone in the system and look at every transaction they had ever made. Pirates sometimes would use five or six alias C-cards in one sitting, just to throw bounty hunters off their trail.
While her ship was connecting, she brought up a third window - this was a custom program she had created to keep track of pirates she was hunting:
Momentarily distracted, she began to click on the first set of names - Relleck. She smirked - all of the accounts were actively in use, at casinos, with prostitutes, and hotel rooms. It looked like he had lost a fair amount of money at the casino last night. She calculated the time between transactions, based on the average purchase patterns, just to make sure he didn't have a fifth she didn't know about. She was satisfied that he was still unaware she had his number.
Turning back to the second pirate on the list, she tapped the first of three of Burk's aliases that she had discovered, and it took her straight to their transaction histories in the Universal Bank:
There was nothing out of the ordinary, coffee, dinner, and a female companion over the past day. She searched on the second name:
It appeared as though he left D-882 for a brief moment yesterday, picked up some coffee, and probably his bounty, then returned back to the planet to spend some time with his female friend.
Lazily, she checked on the third alias transaction history:
She chuckled to herself - he apparently paid the same woman twice - but then she paused, curiously. Normally, buying the company of a woman also resulted in the purchase of some drinks at the same place. But neither account had any record of those kinds of purchases. To boot, he paid her twice - meaning he was obviously plastered.
She sat back for a moment, smiling. Burk must have created a new alias that she hadn’t found yet.
However, before she could start a search on transactions on the house where Burk had spent the night, she angrily turned around and smacked her dashboard to answer the video call that had coming in repeatedly since she logged onto the pirate web.
"For crying out loud, what?" she barked to the person on the other end of the video call.
"That’s not very nice, now is it?" Smiling, Sage Teon was leaning into his video camera eagerly.
"Go on, what do you want?" she said, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Just to chit-chat!" he said, sarcastically. "What with your charm and charisma, who wouldn’t want to talk to you all day long?"
She stared back at him, silent.
"I mean, you are just a fabulous person to talk to."
She blinked at him.
He blinked back.
She blinked again.
He blinked back.
"Oh come on, Lyssa!" he said, finally, sitting back. "What crawled up your ass today?"
She turned sharply to him. "Don't call me that."
"Fine, Razia, whatever," he said, rolling his eyes.
"It's not whatever," she snapped at him. "One of these days, Lyssa Peate is going to disappear, and all that will be left is Razia."
"Who will be the most wanted pirate in the universe," he smiled at her. "Yeah, I got it. Old habits, you know."
"Well break them," she snapped. "I don't want your crew finding out-"
"Re-lax. They're off celebrating anyways," Sage said. "Just me on the ship today."
She opted not to inquire further, knowing exactly what he was calling about. She turned back to the bank application, comparing the three known aliases with a timeline of purchases from the bar and a different on the night before, and seeing if any of the same names popped up-
"Well, if you must ask," he interrupted.
"I didn’t," she responded, trying very hard to keep her focus on the list of names she was comparing and not Sage's stupid face in the video call.
"Have you seen the news lately?" Sage asked.
"No," she snapped, scrolling through the names of people who purchased drinks at the same time. A few names she recognized, but a few she didn’t - and so she began searching on each of the unknowns to see where else they-
"Lyssa," Sage whined.
"Oh Leveman’s freaking Vortex, yes, I saw it," she sighed, turning to look at him. His face was pressed close to the camera again, a wide smile on his face.
"And?!" he pressed.
"You broke in somewhere and you stole some stuff, what else is new?" she snapped.
"No, no, no," Sage said, sitting back. "That security system was brand new, and was supposed to be one of the most impenetrable out there. I knocked it down in just under two days and took a whole bunch of diamonds."
"Uh-huh," she said, trying very hard to focus on cross-checking the names of the men at the house with their bank accounts. Most of them seemed to only have one account - that is, they had multiple transactions on the same day, spanning back weeks. She just knew that-
"God in Leveman's Vortex," she said, swirling around again to glare at him. "Go bother someone else!"
"I can't," he said, folding his arms over his chest. "My stupid bounty's up to eleven."
Her eyes widened and she sat back, pursing her lips into a thin line.
"I mean, not that that’s anything good or anything. I mean, it’s…er… What’s your bounty at now?" Sage squeaked, realizing that he'd really stepped in it.
She looked at him with the meanest, iciest glare she could possibly muster.
"Well it’s certainly not eleven," she said, closing all of her search windows and refusing to look at him.
"Oh come on," Sage said, trying to salvage the situation. "I’m sure it’s not that bad-"
She turned back to the pirate news and typed in the name, Razia.
Only one profile appeared - a picture of her, two or three years younger, and the following information.
"594," she deadpanned, exiting out of her profile. "And still on probation."
"Oh," Sage swallowed. "Dissident hasn’t taken you off yet?"
"No," she snapped. Although most pirates belonged to webs, membership was tightly controlled by the leaders of the webs, the runners. Runners only wanted the best pirates in their webs, so when a new pirate or bounty hunter wanted in, they were put on probation. For bounty hunters, the runner would tell them which pirate they were allowed to hunt and capture. Once they proved their merit, the pirate was promoted to a full member of the web.
"Two years," Razia grumbled. "Two years I’ve been on probation."
"Well, at least you’re hunting someone, right?" Sage said, in that tone of voice he used when he was trying to look at the bright side. It was quite literally the most annoying thing he ever did. Besides existing.
"You know, I realized Dalton Burk has another alias, but can I go after him? No!" she growled.
"Oh, what other alias?" Sage asked, curiously.
"You know that Dissident’s only doing this because I’m a girl, right?" Razia said, ignoring his question.
"Well, I mean," Sage shrugged. "They don’t want girls in the pirate webs?"
"I’ve been in the pirate web for ten years!" she whined.
"Yeah, but you were on Tauron’s crew for eight of those years," Sage said, tiredly. They had this conversation at least once a month. "Doesn’t really count."
"Counts for you," she grumbled.
"If I could change Dissident’s mind, you know I would have done it by now," Sage said, gently. "You gotta keep doing what he wants-"
"700," she said, finally. "The bounty he wants me to capture is the seven hundredth most wanted person in the universe. That’s a seven, with two zeroes. He’s worth 200C."
"Ouch," Sage winced.
"That won’t even pay for the hour of parking that it will cost me to go find him and take him to the bounty office," she sighed. Which was why, she thought, she was headed to the Academy to sell the planet she had just excavated.
"Look, the offer is still open," Sage said, folding his hands behind his head. "You know Dissident is always yelling at me to do more bounty hunting. I could really use someone like you on my crew-"
"UGH!" she cried, throwing her hands up. "I don’t want your help!"
"Well then," Sage sighed, tired of the conversation. "I guess you’ll just have to stay on probation until Dissident decides he wants a girl in his web. Which is never."
"Get sucked into Leveman’s," she snapped at him.
"Bye Lyss," Sage smiled sweetly before ending the call. She was about to call him back and scream at him for hanging up on her but…
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