Fortune's Risk (Star Thief Chronicles 1.5) - Page 1

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  • CHAPTER 1

    Captain Nick Finn raised an eyebrow at the Ileth pirate lounging in the captain’s chair. “You want me to do what?”

    “Help me win a poker game,” Viktis said, lowering his voice and glancing around the Athena’s command center.

    Finn pushed himself off the railing and shook his head. “Why the hell would I do that?” They’d been on the run two weeks. Somehow, in Viktis’s head, that made the two men friends. He was sorely mistaken. “We don’t have time for games. MYTH’s after us. We have to keep moving.”

    “We’re going to be on Forever Station for at least two days, Cap. That’s more than enough time for you to win the tournament. Take a look.” Viktis passed over his tablet.

    The red, flashing font demanded Finn’s attention as he scanned the garish advertisement. “The Point Blue Casino Charity Poker Tournament,” he read aloud. “Five hundred thousand credit payout. Win a prototype Long-Range Ultra-explorer. Drink your weight in champagne with the most beautiful waitresses on the station.”

    Finn shoved the tablet back at Viktis. If the pirate thought Finn was going to help him rig a poker game, he clearly needed professional medical attention. “Oh, hell no. This is not going to happen while I’m in charge.”

    Viktis tucked the tablet into the inside pocket of his coat. He then got to his feet, coming to stand beside Finn at the CIC railing. His long, leather jacket, similar to the one Renna favored, flared out behind him as he walked. Maybe it was some kind of thief uniform he wasn’t aware of. Things had changed a bit since he’d been in the business.

    “Listen, Cap. I know you want me off your ship and out of your life. I know you want to live happily ever after with our girl, Renna. I know you hate my Ileth guts. But did you know that the fastest way to get me out of your hair is to help me get my own ship?” Viktis grinned, rubbing his hands together. “That beauty is calling my name. She’s meant for me—I can feel it in my bones.”

    “You sure that’s not just the STDs spreading?” Finn leaned back against the railing and crossed his arms. “Why not steal it? You’re a pirate.”

    Viktis scoffed. “Did you catch that this tournament is for charity? I’m not going to steal something that could help a bunch of kids.”

    “Well isn’t that sweet? Maybe you do have a heart after all. But I’m still not helping you.”

    Viktis glanced at him from the corner of his amber eyes. “Poor little orphans don’t move you? You’re a hard man, Captain. Think about this for a minute. That mob family back on Hesperia? The ones who kept Myka in that crate for weeks?”

    “The Cordozas.” How could he forget? The kid had been filthy, nothing but skin and bones when Renna had rescued him. The mob had moved him between five cities in four weeks. He didn’t know how Myka had survived.

    “Kitty Cordoza, the head of the family, will be on the station for the tournament. And to sell some recently acquired tech to the highest bidder.”

    “And exactly why should I care?” Finn had heard more than a few stories about the dangerous Cordoza family, including chilling tales about the woman who’d taken over for her husband after he’d been assassinated. Rumors had circulated for years, suggesting she was behind it, but no one could prove it. Her ruthless nature had earned her a host of nicknames – mostly so people didn’t have to use her name in public. Whatever the truth, she’d made the Cordozas one of the most powerful mob families in the sector.

    Finn had no intention of tangling with the Black Widow, especially not with MYTH breathing down their necks.

    Viktis arched an eyebrow ridge, tsking. “Why, Captain. I thought your halo was shinier than that. This is the perfect opportunity to take down the whole Cordoza organization. You’d be a f**king hero. Renna wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off you.”

    Finn started to shake his head, but Viktis threw up a hand. “Very well, if that’s not enough to convince you, I’ll agree to split the pot with you – fifty/fifty. I get the ship, you get the credits. It’ll be a good start for keeping up with Renna. We both know she’s an expensive girl to love.”

    Finn glared and leaned toward the pirate. “How many times do I need to say this? I am not helping you cheat at poker. We need to keep a low profile. Besides, what makes you think you’re going to be the one to take Kitty down? She’s got a dozen dirty lawyers ready at a moment’s notice if any law enforcement agency so much as sniffs the air around her. And half a dozen senators who’d spring her if it ever got that far.”

    “Ah, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?” Viktis shrugged. “I’m going to do this, with or without your help. I just thought you’d want to iron another badge on your MYTH uniform as the person who helped rid the galaxy of the evil Cordozas. It’s kind of your thing.”

    “Yeah, but cheating isn’t.”

    “It’s more like a set-up, Cap. The only person getting hurt is Kitty. The kids still get their money, I still get my ship, and you get your credits to build a love nest with Renna. Everyone wins. Not to mention it’ll be fun. Or have you forgotten what that is? You’d better hope Renna’s gotten a lot less adventurous since I knew her. You’re going to bore the girl to tears.” Viktis shook his head and stalked away.

    Finn clenched his hands around the cool metal railing until his knuckles turned white. Godsdammit! He wished the slim, metal pipe was the alien’s f**king neck. Viktis would be lucky to get off this ship in one piece—unless Finn decided to blast him out of the airlock.

    “Everything all right, sir?” Lieutenant Keva asked from her station, tilting her head in concern.

    Finn carefully wound his flaring temper into a tight coil, schooling his features into a mask of impassivity. His XO saw right through his Zen bullshit most of the time, but it didn’t hurt to try to keep himself in check. He was the captain of this ship, after all. He had an example to set. Even if the shithead alien threatened to launch Finn’s hair-trigger temper every time he opened his mouth.

    “That damned pirate better be blessing the stars that Renna made me promise to behave. Otherwise, I’d be happily teaching him religion, by offering him up to one of the gods,” he added ominously.

    The Delfine’s grin made a dimple flash in her cheek. “He’s…interesting. I found him waiting for me outside the showers this morning. Asked if I needed some help washing my back.”