“Motherfucker,” she hissed, as the engine in front of her came to a screeching, stuttering halt. “That is abso-fucking-lutely not a good sign.”
It wasn’t. Pansy might not have a fancy school coding, or - really - even an instructional manual for the hunk of almost literal trash she called a ship, but she knew that under no circumstances was her engine ever, ever supposed to stop.
Huffing slightly and not taking her eyes off the unusually-still contraption in front of her, she reached out in the direction of her mod-comm and punched at the buttons until a familiar tone buzzed to life.
“Cap?” she called out, pausing and waiting for the long-suffering sigh and the expected retort of, ‘how many gorram times have I told you not to call me Cap?’ and when it didn’t come after ten, then twenty seconds, Pansy started to panic.
“Draco?” she pressed, reaching out to hit a few buttons on her console in vain hopes that her ship would whirr to life again. “Theo?” Still silence.
Not good. Not good at all.
It only took another minute before Pansy decided that the engine was only one of her now rapidly piling up crises, and she turned back for the mod-comm and started punching in individual numbers. Nothing from Draco or Theo’s room, nothing from the bridge deck, nothing from the kitchens. Finally, down in the hold, someone answered.
“Pansy?” came a gruff and slightly out of breath voice.
If she had been the type of person to cry, she might have.
“Flint?” Pansy responded, letting out a breath she hadn’t entirely realized she was holding. “Thank fuck. Flint, we’ve got a major effing problem down here. The engine has-”
“Pansy,” he spoke again, and this time his voice was slower, with a hint of warning coursing through it. The tone you only knew when you lived your life on the edge of legal, when you always had to worry - just a little bit - about the fact that at almost any moment you could potentially be arrested and imprisoned, or worse. Pansy knew that tone, and she heard it clearly, and her heart froze and sank in understanding.
The only reason her engine could ever stop spinning and her ship stay in the air.
“Is everyone okay?” she asked, thinking quickly of where her closest gun was, how many knives she had strapped to herself today, what they had in the cargo bay, if it would be better or worse to hit the Ministry or someone they owed.
Marcus swallowed audibly. “Dunno. Draco and Theo went with the first ship, fucking cocksuckers going on about legal operations and needing to find their papers and ‘probably just some big misunderstanding, Officers-’”
“Did they seriously think that’d work?” Pansy groaned, letting her forehead drop down onto the screen in front of her, tuning out the flashing red and the fact that her engine wasn’t actually still, but frozen - alive and hung in the midst of motion, buzzing like it was searching for a way out.
No way out, she thought, bitterly.
“Dunno,” Marcus hedged. “But, look. I’m trying to get rid of some of the worse shit we’ve got here. Pans, you’ve got to-” Marcus stopped and Pansy strained her ear, wincing as she realized she heard footsteps. Their hold was well hidden, but if it were a Ministry ship, they’d know where to go. “Look, they’re gonna be here any minute. Stay hidden, Pans. Try to stay with the ship, okay? You know the emergency plan, right? You know what to do?”
Pansy bit down on the inside of her cheek, running back through the endless lectures, Draco’s insistence on contingency and his stern reminders to ‘guard this ship with your fucking life, but don’t fucking die for it, am I clear?’. “Yeah,” Pansy managed to whisper back, trying to think if she could get them out of it. She couldn’t override Ministry engine blocks while they were still here. It just wasn’t done. Maybe with enough time, but… not like this. Not when it could mean the lives of her men. Her crew.
Her heart lurched and she was reminded, again, that she hadn’t actually expected this. To be caught, maybe. Or to care if they were. The ship had been a way out, a way forward. Nothing more.
It shouldn’t hurt like this.
“Pansy!” Marcus was saying again, trying to get her attention.
“I got it, Flint. Follow the plan.”
The footsteps were louder now, and Pansy wasn’t sure if they were headed for her, or just nearly on top of Marcus.
Her heart clenched and she screwed her eyes shut as the only world she’d ever started to love began to crumble around her. “Marcus,” she mumbled, and she had to remind herself that she didn’t cry. Not over anything, especially not over shit like this. It was probably all going to be fine. “Don’t be an idiot, right? I expect to see you exactly when and where I’m s’posed to. You hear me?”
“I got it, Pans. Hey. Maybe when we see each other again, maybe we’ll… we’ll try this out again, eh? You and me?”
Pansy couldn’t help but huff out a laugh. “Yeah. Yeah, maybe we will. But if you want to fuck me again, you have to do me a little fucking favour and not try and be a fucking martyr and get yourself fucking killed, right?”
Before Marcus could answer, Pansy heard the hold door slam open. She tried not to listen to the gruff voices demanding Marcus back away from the cargo, to the way Marcus tried to laugh them off. Tried not to listen when she heard a gunshot, and she forced herself to reach up and shut off the channel before she heard anything else.
Her brain clicked sluggishly into action. Follow the plan. The engine room was far and away from nearly everything else on her ship thanks to the strange layout. She had time, and so she had a job to do. Delete contacts, clear location logs, erase things the ship shouldn’t be able to forget. Make them as unappealing as possible, empty, a skeleton crew. And then crawl into a space that maybe wouldn’t be noticed, and wait to be found. Or to be left, floating, abandoned for scavengers and thieves, for pirates.
For someone like her.
When Pansy opened her eyes, she was not alone.
It took her a moment to focus on the fact that, only a few inches away from her face, a pair of large steely bright blue eyes were peering down at her. Almost unblinkingly. It took her a moment to realize where she was - crammed into her safety spot, tucked down under a mess and tangle of metal. Frankly, she was shocked someone had even thought to look for her. And then she realized what had happened - the gravity of it all slammed down onto her and she gasped in a breath and reached for her closest kept knife.
And found that her hand was being held back - thin fingers wrapped around her wrist that she hadn’t even noticed. Presumably, she decided, connected to the blue eyes.
“Hmm. Alive after all, it seems,” the person - the man, she now knew - spoke. His voice was professional, clipped and serious. No joking lilt like Marcus, or the rich pompous drawl of Draco and Theo. It was plain, wholly forgettable.
Pansy panicked. She couldn’t see much more than his face, wasn’t sure if he was Ministry or something worse. “What are you doing on my sh-” and then she paused, swallowed, licked her lips. That wasn’t the right play here. She was alone, had probably been drifting from the lights that flickered across the room on her control panel. This wasn’t the Ministry, or at least - not the main branch. She had to play it better than that. The blue eyes were still watching her and it was starting to become unnerving, and so she finally settled on what seemed like an easy enough question. “Who are you?”
Slowly, the eyes shrank as the man retreated, and then she felt herself being tugged rather unceremoniously out her her hiding space. She was thankful she hadn’t worn her typical work outfit that day, and although she missed the heavy weight of her toolbelt - she could see it glinting out from under where she’d stashed it - it was a good thing. The less culpable she was here, the better. Besides, her looser flowing trousers had more space for hidden knives, and she was thankful for all of those right now.
“None of your business,” the man continued, still holding firmly onto her wrist. He activated a com-device on his other arm and Pansy strained to listen.
“Ten-four, this is Wood, what’s your status?”
“Found a girl - alive, no crew signia. Ministry engine blockers, looks like, nothing of any value down here. No other signs of life that I can see.”
Pansy fought the anger that rose into her chest at his words. Nothing of value? Her ship - no value? She bit her tongue hard to fight from lashing out and worked instead at sliding her hand closer to her favourite knife, working it carefully loose from its sheath.
“Balls. Right, thanks Per-er, thanks, Weasley. Bring her up to the deck, nothing of use for us here, gents.”
Pansy noticed the way the man’s cheek twitched at the words from the other side of the comm, and she thought she caught the start of another voice - a frustrated female one from the sound of it - but the comm was off before she had a chance. Clearly, they weren’t usually scavengers, or at least, not very good ones. It was obvious the man, Wood, hadn’t been using code names, and he nearly let her current captor’s full name slip. A big mistake, in this business.
While this Weasley fiddled with his comm - pulling up a map, it seemed - Pansy seized her moment of distraction and shifted in his grip. Before her knife found skin, the taller (much taller, she noticed) man followed her actions and it was gone from her fingers before she had a chance.
“Good try,” he commented, his voice still almost flat. “Not quite good enough, unfortunately. No more of that, let’s go.” And then he had her hands locked together and she cursed under her breath at the use of the device pulsing around her wrists and restricting her movement. They were expensive, beyond the use of most scavengers. She was working with a different level now, and she needed to remember that.
Luckily, as they slipped through the door, she managed to reach out just an inch and hit the most important button on the ship. The one she had put there. If they were very, very lucky, the Ministry would fly out of range or the blocker would give up before the ship was stripped for all she was worth. If she was even luckier still, she’d make it away from whoever her current captors were, and this wouldn’t be the last time she inhaled the smoky air of her home.
Pansy didn’t cry, but today - she was closer than she had ever been.