Captured and Captivated - Margo Bond Collins


I stare down the barrel of the blaster and wish I could jump back in time. Only an hour would do. Change our course, evade the enforcer ships that have now surrounded us. Or a day into the past, when we took on a ship a lot bigger than us and underestimated the determination of their crew. They damaged our shields and long-range sensors, which is why we never saw the enforcers coming. Now it’s too late.

“Pirate Aedan,” their commander, a purple-skinned Lurian, snarls. His tusks curl out of his mouth, signalling his aggressiveness. Lurians are the perfect enforcers. Anti-social, emotionless, always angry. They produce the best weapons in the galaxy and have no qualms about using them.

“Captain,” I correct him. “What’s the reason for this?”

“Reason?” he spats. “You’re a wanted criminal. I’ve been chasing you for months. Stretch out your arms.”

I think of refusing, but I have no doubts that he’s itching to shoot me. He’d get less pay for a dead target, but I don’t think he cares. Lurians aren’t driven by money. They’re all about violence and their old-fashioned sense of justice. In their eyes, all pirates are scum.

I hold out my hands and he clamps magnetic shackles around them. They glow an ominous blue. I bet they have some kind of torture mechanism built in.

“You will tell your crew to surrender peacefully,” the Lurian commands. “We will shoot anyone who resists.”

I sigh and turn around to look at my crew. None of them looks happy to give in, but it’s not like we have a choice. I refuse to get any of them killed.

“Don’t resist,” I tell them with a growl.

La-Layna, my second-in-command, flashes her fangs when they put the shackles on her, but brothers Len and Panan hold out their arms without showing any emotion. They move as one, like always, as if one is the other’s shadow. They have a mental connection unlike anything I’ve ever come across. It’s not typical for their species, but then, they’re nothing like other Karangi. Their kind is known for their benevolence, yet here they are, part of my pirate crew.

They herd us into the belly of their ship and lock us into individual cells. The walls between them are translucent so I can see my friends, but the cells are completely soundproof. My own breathing is loud and distracting. I need to make plans. I’ve been caught before and I’ve always found a way out. This time won’t be any different.

The Karangi judge stares me down, her third eye unblinking and seeming to stare into my soul.

“Aedan Xerxi, you are-“

“Captain,” I drawl.

“Your ship is not legally registered and you are therefore not worthy of the title,” she says in her soft yet icy voice. “You are hereby sentenced to ten galaxy-standard years on the prison planet Y103. You will labour there every day of your sentence to make up for your wrongs.”

I suck in a sharp breath. Ten standard years. That’s fifteen Ferven years. By the time I get released, I’ll be too old to sire offspring. Not that I have any plans of doing that, but it’s something that highlights the length of my sentence. It’s unusually harsh. We’re pirates, but we try not to kill the crew of the ships we hijack. I always tell them that we’re after their cargo, not their lives.

“What about my crew?” I ask hoarsely.

“Nine galaxy-standard years each unless you confess to coercing them. That will lower their sentence to five years each and will add another five to your own sentence.”

“Don’t do it,” La-Layna whispers from my left. “We’ll be fine.”

“I’ll take the fifteen years,” I announce, ignoring her. “If you reduce their sentence to three.”

The judge’s third eye finally blinks as she stares at me. “You’re not in a bargaining position. However, I appreciate your sentiment. Maybe I have to offer you a bargain after all.”

Hope blossoms within my chest, rising all the way into the curled tips of my horns, but I keep my face impassive.

“What kind of bargain?”

“You’ve abducted aliens from other planets, am I right?”

I nod wordlessly.

“How many?”

“Twenty. Maybe more. We’ve not done a lot of abductions recently; our priorities have shifted.”

“Then you may want to shift them back. The Intergalactic University is desperately looking for a new Alien Abduction teacher. Interest in their classes is at a record high and they lack tutors with real-life experience.”

I try to hide my surprise but fail miserably. “You want me to teach at the IGU?”

“There will be a