It took all the patience she had to wait five minutes after the Gorilla locked her back inside her quarters. She sat on the end of her bed, watching the smooth door and tapping one toe in a spastic rhythm against the flooring.
Fish bitch would find the bug. She’d been watching more closely than it seemed, probably. They’d barge in any second and stuff the thing down her gullet to digest slowly alongside its partner…or they’d cut it out of her like the Pescine suggested.
At four minutes she crossed to her room’s computer panel. They hadn’t shut her down completely, but all the ship’s codes had been changed, and she couldn’t touch communications. Zander might be a poor pirate, but he wasn’t stupid by a long shot.
He was damn dangerous.
Zora ran her fingers along the console. Four minutes thirty. She keyed in the private frequency, the code she’d programmed into the bugs, and let her hand hover over the enter key. Five minutes, and she held her breath, rested her free hand on the baby in her belly and pressed the button.
At first, all she heard was her own heart beating. Static warbled over the speakers, a hiss that had her looking nervously to the door again and dialing down the volume until she could barely hear it. It wooshed softly, and Zora leaned over and turned her ear to the speaker. The bug worked. She could hear something, but it didn’t sound like Zander, or anyone speaking a language she could decipher.
It sounded like waves. She frowned and leaned down until her hair made a red curtain over the console. Whoosh, and a soft thumping. Faintly, she made out a gargle in the background. It might be Pescine. She’d never heard their native tongue, but something was interfering with the reception.
She tweaked the volume up a touch and the hiss overpowered the grumbling voice. Damn. The baby kicked against her hand and the static drowned out the lower gargle. Zora sat back. She turned the sound up and listened to the noises coming from her speakers.
Whooshing, a soft thumping rhythm. The gargle sounded again, louder and accompanied by a rumble in her belly. It said, I want and Earth Burger. It said, you ate the bug, dummy. She’d keyed in the wrong code and now her stomach was speaking to her in imaginary Pescine.
She reached again, but didn’t key in the other code right away. Instead, she listened to the next swoosh, to the heartbeat and the gurgle. There was a baby in there. Was the bug picking up her heart or her child’s? Was little Zora moving? Flailing her three arms and fifteen tiny fingers?
Her growling tummy overpowered the other sounds, however, and she finally keyed in the second code and let the frequency shift to the proper device, the one spying on the actual enemy.
This time, there was no static. Only the clear, nauseating voice of the phony pirate captain rang through the room. Zora thoroughly enjoyed turning him down a little.
“…Call through on a subspace channel.”
“Are you sure he’ll get it?” The Pescine’s voice was a snarky as ever. If she’d talked to a proper pirate captain that way she’d have been tossed out an airlock by now.
“Of course he’ll get it.” Zander’s answer drove away any thought of orchestrated mutiny. “Iggy will be listening very intently. He’s sent out the damn missing report on every channel.”
The Pescine bubbled an incoherent response, a snort perhaps. Zora didn’t care. Iggy, he’d said. Sending out missing reports. Maybe they didn’t think she’d run away after all. Maybe they were looking for her.
“What happens if he doesn’t answer?”
They fell silent for a moment. All she could hear was the hum of the engines, ever-present on the bridge, and the soft bleep of an occasional toggle being tweaked. Missing report on every channel. She chewed her lip and found a strand of her hair to fidget with, curling it around her finger and uncurling it again. There had to be something she could use in that. Some way to get a message out maybe?
“They’ve got the authorities looking.” Miss Fish wasn’t one to let a matter rest, apparently. She was just as annoying over the spy channel as she was in person, in fact. This time, however, her snarkiness worked in Zora’s favor. The more they chatted the better.
“Three governments. I know.”
“I’m not worried about it.”
“You’re an inflated bastard, you know that?” Maybe the Pescine had some good traits. She was, at least, observant. Also, she had more guts than the gorilla.
Zander just laughed, soft and without even a trace of concern. “As soon as Iggy gets my message, he’ll call them all off. You’ll see.”
“I hope you’re right, Captain.” That time, the title had no sarcasm attached.
“Trust me. I know Ignatius. He won’t be able to refuse.”
The bridge pinged a few times, and Zander didn’t speak. The engines hummed and Zora leaned forward, put her ear close as if that might goad him into explaining. Her stomach fluttered and her grip on the console rim whitened her knuckles. By the time the Captain’s voice came through again, she was holding her breath.
“He’ll call them off,” Zander drawled. “He’ll do exactly what I tell him to.”
The Pescine burbled again before speaking. “So you’ll just dangle your bait, and this Emperor will come running?”
Zora’s ear lowered. She knew what was coming, but it didn’t lessen the impact of Zander’s next words one bit. It didn’t smooth the edges off the bastard’s laughter.
“Of course he will. We have his woman and his heir.”◦