We five, the four crewmembers of the Red Barracuda plus our new acquaintance, sit in an uncarpeted room whose main feature is a table, track lighting, and a whiteboard. I don't understand why the Captain put us in here. It's cold and the light does not flatter the Betelgeusean.

Not that any light would. Betelgeusean strippers may be attractive to Ramon but they don't meet my standards of beauty. Alright? I said it. I don't actually appreciate Betelgeusean appearances. I don't care what they think of that, I don't care what anyone thinks of that, it's not gonna change.

I have no idea WHY I went into a strip joint on Betelgeuse-9 that one time, and the only thing I remember there is this one stripper with a nice, uh...mandibles don't exactly smile but you know what I mean. And wouldn't you know it, the ONE Betelgeusean who I remember from there is across the table from where I'm sitting.

"Small galaxy," clacks the Betelgeusean.

"How do you even remember me?" I say.

"Not very many humans wander into a Betelgeusean strip joint. Were you drunk or something?"

"I was drunk," says Ramon. "Maybe I dragged Robin in. Ah, but that was five years ago. Here you are, my lovely, looking no older than when I saw you...although the scorch marks on your carapace are just a little distressing."

"Well, I certainly didn't choose to make them. I'll admit it's a fair price of my failure to capture you. Talking of which, why exactly do you not have me in handcuffs or a cell? I don't feel like a prisoner of war here."

I lean forward and rest my elbows on the table. "Well, my fine multi-legged friend, you seemed overly willing to tell us you were working for the Student Loan Company. So it's not like you're some kind of cover agent. You didn't try to eat poison when we captured you, so you're not a fanatic. And, most important, I think you were set up to be expendable."

"How do you figure?"

"They sent you out alone."

"No they didn't. They said they were right behind me. Maybe they got lost."

"Sounds like a snipe hunt to me," says Aristede. "But more to the point, consider all the cars I had in the garage. I had a Bugatti Veyron, and I had a Bentley, and I had a VW bus, and an Aston Martin DB5, and a Porsche Spider, among many, many vehicles...and they let you drive the Aston Martin Lagonda? How hard did you have to jump up and down and wave your hands just to get them to notice you in the first place? You're like the kid who can't play the game but they're still on the team so they get put in the position that does the least amount of damage. What exactly were you sent to do?"

"Attack the Space Slug."

"They deliberately sent you on a suicide mission," I say. "They wanted to get you and the crappy car out of the way, preferably both at the same time."

The Betelgeusean steps back from the table and draws a sword. "They shan't get away with it!"

"You're going to take on the Student Loan Company," says Aristede, "With a drawing of a sword."

"You're right," says the Betelgeusean, and draws another five swords on the whiteboard.

"I'm sure the Student Loan Company is real scared of your drawing skills," says Aristede.

"They ought to be. " The Betelgeusean thumps the whiteboard. Six swords clang as they clatter to the ground.

"Impressive," says a voice from the doorway.

I turn. There's a silhouetted figure, a tall and broad man with big hair, wearing a cloak with a high collar.

I restrain my urge to lunge at him. It's not Captain Bones, after all. Just his doppelganger.

"There's a good reason most humans don't go into Betelgeusean bars," says the captain. "You never know what you'll find in there."

"Well, I know what I shall find in here," says the Betelgeusean. "I shall find a crew of brave fighters, willing to stick it to the galactic government. The Student Loan company has slighted me, and by extension the Galactic government. Your enemies are my enemies. What say you, sir? Shall I join your crew?"

The captain shakes his head. "I imagine most of my crew would be worried about having you on board, dear, erm...remind me what your name was?."

"Sword Lesbian."

"My dear Sword Lesbian. We like to know that we can safely turn our back to someone. You could draw a weapon right out of thin air! That could cause significant tension among my crew. I trust you, of course, but I cannot be certain I would be able to reassure my crew.

"I suppose I should go with my captors," says Sword Lesbian. "Their enemies are my enemies, now."

"Could you even fit inside the Barracuda?" says Klunk. "Maybe Captain here could lend a starfighter so our friend could fly alongside us."

"Ah," says the captain, "starfighters. The galactic government has the resources to spend on such things, but we on board the Space Slug have more limited resources. The whole concept is rather inefficient, and impractical compared to just having a gun mount and a targeting system. Mace Heads are for intimidation. We do not intimidate until we're certain our quarry is too close to escape. No, I'm afraid there are no starfighters on board this vessel."

"Shuttles?" says Sword Lesbian.

"Those are under repair."

"Sounds like you're on a shoestring budget," I say. "Piracy isn't as lucrative as it might be, hm?"

"We are rebels," says the captain, "not pirates. We have resources coming in from our own government. But they seem to have dried up lately. Tell you what, why don't you four go out to Rigel-8 and see what the holdup is with our Spelunkium mines? I've been getting fairly garbled reports from that sector and it sounds as though they were under attack the last time we heard from them."

"And me?" says Sword Lesbian. "What shall I do?"

"We can attempt to repair your Aston Martin and send you on your way," says the captain.

"Nothing doing," says Klunk. "That thing is a piece of junk. If my people couldn't fix it then nobody could."

"I know what I shall do," says Sword Lesbian. She grabs the marker. "I believe humans have a particular concept regarding, what do you call them, 'clowns'..." she draws a miniscule VW Beetle on the whiteboard. With a well-applied thump, a miniscule VW Beetle falls out of the board and hits the floor with a heavy thunk. Before I even understand what is happening, there is nothing of Sword Lesbian visible but a limb being withdrawn into the interior of the tiny car.

"Couldn't she have drawn a larger vehicle?" says Aristede.

Sword Lesbian sticks her head out the window. "Drawing objects uses up a lot of ink," she says. "I couldn't fly a half-finished ship, now could I?" She draws her head back into the car.

"Does that thing even work?" says Klunk.

The tiny car starts up with a tiny roar and hovers in front of Klunk's face.

"It appears we have a plus one," I say. "Welcome to the crew, Sword Lesbian, and may our goals always be parallel. Alright, folks. Time to check on a mine."

We depart the room towards the vehicle bay, the miniscule car following close behind.