Captured and Captivated - Margo Bond Collins Page 0,1

trial period. If you fail, you will be sent to Y103. If the Dean of Abductions is happy with your teaching, you will continue to work there until you retire at whatever age is customary for Ferven males.”

I stare at her, trying to see if she’s toying with me, dangling a treat in front of my nose only to pull it away when I reach for it.

“I’d need my crew,” I tell her. “I can’t conduct abductions without them.”

“Naturally. They will be able to choose if they want to be your teaching assistants or if they want to apply to be teachers in their own right. The same rules apply. Work full-time until retirement.”

“What about pay?”

“We shall start at a reduced rate of fifty per cent, that should be enough to cover food and accommodation without tempting you to return to a life of crime. Every year you work for the IGU, the salary will increase by ten per cent until you reach the full salary for a lecturer.”

I mull her proposal over. No more pirating. No more daring escapes and dangerous hijacks. We’d have to go back to mundane life. Jobs. Regular hours. A tiny salary that won’t pay for the luxuries we’re used to. But we’d be free, almost. If we’re sent to the prison planet, there’s no way to know if we’ll be able to escape. We might be stuck there for years.

I turn to Len and Panan. Their third eyes are closed, signalling that they’re engaging in a mental conversation.

“I’m all for it,” La-Layna mutters under her breath. “Let’s take her offer before she realises we have no idea how to teach.”

I nod and wait for the brothers to open all three of their eyes. “What have you decided?”

“We agree,” Panan says quietly. “This is the best option. Plus, we have some savings that we can use to supplement our income.”

Len touches my shoulder and his voice fills my mind.

She never said we can’t take a part-time job at the side. We have enough contacts to make some money, even without capturing ships.

He’s right. We won’t have to live in poverty like the judge intends. When you’ve been a pirate for as long as we have, you learn that wealth lurks everywhere, just waiting to be acquired by a shrewd pirate. Violence isn’t always necessary.

I turn back to the judge. “We agree to your bargain with one condition: our ship remains ours. We’re going to do our abductions on her and not some rust bucket the IGU provides us with.”

The Karangi looks me straight in the eyes and once again I feel like she’s staring right into my soul.

After what feels like a small eternity, she inclines her head. “I agree. Enforcers will take you to the main IGU campus where you will meet Professor Katila. My sister.”

Ah. That explains things. She’s not doing this out of the goodness of her heart, but because she’s doing her sister a favour. Let’s hope that Professor Katila is a little less stuck-up.

The Professor’s purple skin is a little paler than that of her judge sister, but their marbling pattern is exactly the same. She looks at us from her three eyes, studying each of us individually.

We arrived at the IGU campus station late last night, but the enforcers kept us locked up on their ship until it was time for our meeting. My back hurts from sleeping on the bare floor of my cell. I can’t wait to be back on my own ship and in my fluffy, comfortable bed.

“You will need other clothes,” Professor Katila announces. “You need to look the part. And we will have to install cameras on your ship to make sure your students can see every part of the abduction process. I’ve decided that before you get your own class to teach, you will show my current students what you’re capable of. They will learn from both your success and your mistakes. I’m sending you to Peritus, or Earth, as the natives call it. They’re a backwards species with only limited spaceflight capability. Don’t underestimate them, however. They’re graded as a difficult abduction objective in my curriculum, but I think you need a challenge to prove your worth.”

“Cameras?” La-Layne snaps. “I won’t be ogled around the clock.”

Professor Katila sighs. “They will only transmit once you’re ready to start the abduction process. Personal living quarters will be exempt, although the room where your abductee will be kept has to be under observation for welfare