Lilo Pelekai had seen a lot, in her years as a pirate. Pirates didn’t make good money, unless they were willing to risk big-time hauls, and she did not do that, not by a long shot. She’d stuck to non-Federation ships – traders and the like – in order to keep from pinging on anyone’s radar. Her goals for the short-term were simple: food, money, and safety. Her crew regularly sought to double-cross her and cheat her, and she went through them like flies, sometimes spacing them by dumping them out her airlock, sometimes just dumping them on the closest planet regardless of whether it was inhabited or not. No one stayed very long.
No one stayed very long anymore.
She had her battle scars, her prizes. Her badges of victory. She had her rituals, things she did to keep her hunk-of-junk ship running smoothly. And she had her one, steady star to guide her.
Her short-term goals might be material, but her long-term goals were very specific and centered around one person. She had feelers out, knew what to look for, but all in all it had been fifteen long years since she’d last seen him, and she was practical. She needed to eat and she needed a crew, and that crew needed to eat, so she kept to small-time gigs that sometimes landed her in hot water but never a frying pan, and she kept her head down.
She finally touched base back where it all began, back where she’d been twelve and so sure of her ability to take care of herself. For all that she and her sister had been orphaned, she’d been completely convinced of their immortality. The rock she’d grown up on, had lost so much on, looked smaller now, and she stood in the dock, watching her crew unload the latest haul, trying not to think about the memories that threatened to overwhelm her.
“How long before we’re off again?”
She glanced over at the Jinko, the first mate’s bulging eyes that looked like he was perpetually sad and sleepy. “Two days. I’ll dump the haul; I’m expecting at least 30 megacredits, so I’ll overhaul the O and make sure she’s in working order. Give the crew their pay now, and let them blow it here in port. Whoever is on board come second dawn on the third day is who I’m taking. You aren’t there, you aren’t coming.”
The Jinko – Artoo? Farchu? – nodded and ambled off, and she stood on the shifting dock as the crew stacked the loot on gravisleds, watching their movements with sharp, keen eyes. At her belt, her communicator vibrated, and she slid the keycode and keypass into her worn leather jacket before unhooking the communicator and tapping in the acceptance code.
<The cargo you requested has come into play. Transported from Solarium to Apoch XIV on the stardate 07.13.56.5. Payment expected within thirty standard hours from this transmission to keep this information exclusive.>
Her breath caught, and she began doing rapid calculations. She needed those 30 megacredits for the ship and for supplies, but if she dipped into her reserve she should be able to pull out the 2 gigacredits requested for payment. She wasn’t stupid enough to think her payment would actually keep her source from telling others about this info, but her payment would increase the price of such info high, so that only the really rich or the really determined would find it out.
Quickly, she made plans. It was currently the fourth day of the thirteenth month of the fifty-sixth year of the fifth dynasty, and she had three days. Three days exactly. Her crew needed the break – they’d been two months in deep space with nothing but each other as (bad) company. But this meant that she really needed to leave bright and early if she was going to get to the Opal sector and the most commonly used route between Solarium and the Apoch system.
She’d be taking on a heavily guarded ship. She’d need ammunition, a payoff of some kind to placate the crew for risking their lives. Well, she didn’t need a payoff. In fact…
She hummed, considering. It would always be better to get there early. A crew made it more likely that someone would squeal, especially considering the bounty on his head. A crew would also slow her down – but a crew could handle the weapons as she didn’t actually think she’d be able to spring him without some kind of resistance.
It took her only a few hours, after unloading the haul on a fence and sending the payment off to her source, to make a decision.
She’d always been clever – even if it took her a bit of working it out, of studying the angles. Hacking into the shipping manifests of all the ships currently docked on Solarium, figuring out which one would most likely transport him. Figuring out what types of capabilities the ship had. How they were transporting the prisoners. The rough number of crew aboard and awake. The best way to get herself aboard the ship.
In the end, she dumped the crew she had, leaving them on that planet and making her way immediately for the shipping lane. She parked herself on route and cloaked, waited. While she waited, she planned – put enough in the ship’s log to make it look like she’d been surprised on a solo trip and hyper-jumped here, turned off the gravity in the ship to make it look as if her system was glitching, and when she finally picked up chatter on the radio, she took in a deep breath and turned off her cloak.
It helped, in situations like this, that she was petite and good looking. It helped that she knew how greedy mercs were, especially mercs that transported maximum security prisoners from one prison to another. It helped that they weren’t expecting her at all.
She didn’t kill all of them. Didn’t need to, just needed to cripple their crew enough that they wouldn’t think about following her ion trail. And when she kicked the corpses out into space and stepped over the few she had left stunned to stand before the cryo-chamber, she could feel her hands trembling.
Using the keycode from one of the merc’s pockets, she opened up the chamber and stepped back.
The soft hiss of the cryogenic liquids draining away, the creaks of the prisoner waking up, all of it she watched with wide eyes. Her heart was beating in her chest, loud and fast, and her jumpsuit was starting to stick to her skin from her sweat. She hadn’t seen him for over fifteen years, back when he’d hidden out in her flop for three months before taking off. Just – disappearing. She had wanted answers, she had wanted an explanation, she wanted something from the man who had taught her to defend herself and made her think she had gained a family member before he turned around and left.
A rumbling growl vibrated in the narrow hallway, and then midnight-blue fur rippled over slabs of muscle. Six limbs, ending in humanoid-paws tipped with dagger-like claws, stretched and shifted, and eyes blacker than the darkness of space blinked open and pinned her in their stare.
His head tilted, the feline-like nostrils flaring and those large ears swiveling towards her. She knew she looked a mess – blood spattered the legs of her jumpsuit, and it was worn, stitched up multiple times, the leather jacket on her top as battered as the rest of her. Her face was scarred, and she was missing a finger. Still, it wasn’t any different than when he’d found her all those years ago, beaten and bloody from her last john, spitting fire and daring him to tear her apart.
“Little Lilo,” he said in that peculiar growl. “All grown up. Took you a while to find me.”
“I looked,” she said through gritted teeth. “I searched, I put out feelers, I paid for dead end after dead end.”
Those spines on his back lifted and then settled as he moved into the hallway, his huge form dwarfing her and filling the entire space. “Did you?” he asked. “Why?”
“I told you,” she said, and she was ashamed to realize she was too close to crying, her eyes watering, her arms and shoulders shaking – with fury or with sobs, she wasn’t sure yet. “Ohana. You were, are, ohana, you stupid bastard.”
He stared at her, his shoulders brushing the ceiling, hunched down to sniff at her short hair and tears. “You called me that, once,” he began slowly. “You said that ohana meant that… that nobody got left behind.”
“Or forgotten. The way you forgot me, you stupid sonuvabitch.” She whirled on her heel, not sure what she was expecting, not sure why she should have expected differently than what she had gotten. Not sure why it was so important to her, because Nani had told her, before she had died, to let him go. To forget, and to let him forget. Nani had begged her to stop turning tricks, stop stealing. To go clean, to go safe, to cut out this part of her life that she had found wild and dangerous and intoxicating. And she hadn’t. She couldn’t honor Nani’s last request.
A heavy paw pressed down on her shoulder, holding her still, those claws delicately clenched without puncturing flesh or cloth. “I didn’t forget you, little Lilo,” Stitch rumbled, mouth gaping in a parody of a grin. “I never forgot you.”
She stared at him a moment before drawing in a shaky breath. “I don’t care about the other prisoners, or the rest of the guards. My ship’s bridged with this one. We can be out of this sector within a few hours, get you some new ID. Disappear. I have some money stashed away, and I don’t need a crew to pull off small cons to keep us flush for a while.”
Stitch purred and nuzzled at her chin. “There’s my little Lilo,” he crooned. “So. What are we waiting for?”