The deep, rich blue of an ocean planet filled the viewport. Miss had never seen so much water on a single planet before. To another, it might have been awe-inspiring.
To her, it meant a fortune.
She knew there were precious minerals waiting under all that water and rock—minerals that were rare in a galaxy filled with jungles and deserts. But as with every worthwhile venture, there was an obstacle. Galactic law prevented Miss from stripping the planet while organic life still lived there. Luckily for her, there wasn’t much land on the planet at all, and the entire population numbered just under 2,000. She was sure that she could easily convince them to relocate under the right circumstances.
“Miss?” A clipped, professional voice sounded just behind her.
“Yes?” she replied without turning.
“The boy is here.”
Miss nodded. Perfect timing. “Bring him in immediately.”
“Yes, my lady.” Footsteps retreated back across the bridge of the spaceship.
Miss allowed herself a private smile. She’d had no doubt that they would get the boy from the ocean planet to come, but having him on her ship meant she was just that much closer to possessing all the money she could ever want.
Footfalls approached, hesitant this time. Not one of her crew; it had to be the boy. He’d probably never even been in a spaceship before.
The boy cleared his throat. Miss kept her gaze fixed outside. Let him fret a moment and squash any doubts he might have had about who was in charge.
“Uh…” He stepped into her line of sight, but Miss only vaguely registered his appearance: skinny, tanned, dark hair. That was all she cared to process. The boy stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m—”
“No,” she said curtly. “You’re nobody. You’re exactly who I say you are, and no one else.”
He blinked, then retracted his hand slowly. “Right. No handshake, then…”
A handshake. Seriously? That was what happened to these backwaters that resisted industrialisation: their people stayed in the Dark Ages “You’ll have to get rid of those primitive ways if you want to be successful, boy.”
He rubbed his fingers together anxiously, his innocent wide-eyed expression reminding Miss of a Towei slave worm eager to please its master. “Okay. I’ll try.”
“No. You’ll do. Trying is for people who don’t want to win.”
The boy’s eyebrows furrowed together. His unwavering stare would have been rude enough to get him executed on exactly seventeen planets. Maybe that’s how I’ll get rid of him later on, Miss thought to herself, unable to help a small smile from touching her lips at the thought.
“Uh…” The boy shuffled his feet.
“And none of this ‘uh’ business,” Miss cut in sharply. “You either say something, or you don’t.”
“It’s just that you never told me your name.”
Miss laughed, her laughter echoing around the bridge. She heard some of her crew join in (and made a mental note to find out which ones hadn’t). Maybe she would keep this boy around for a while if he often told jokes like that.
But when she wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at him again, she saw that he was completely serious.
“Oh, great nebula,” she moaned. “You really do mean it, don’t you? No wonder you wanted to get off of that rock; you can’t know anything of the universe if you don’t know my name.”
“Sorry, but…no. I don’t.”
Miss sighed. “You will call me Miss. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Miss…” The boy’s face screwed up in confusion. “Miss what?”
Well, he did have an ignorant charm, but it was beginning to wear thin. Miss waved a hand and two security officers grabbed him in a tight hold. She heard his exclamation of surprise and his grunts as he struggled uselessly against the best-trained fighters in the galaxy, but her eyes weren’t on him anymore. She looked back at the blue planet.
It will be mine, she reminded herself. Even if this boy was a complete idiot, it might prove to be all the better for her plans.
“Hey!” the boy exclaimed. “I didn’t do anything!”
“You didn’t listen,” she said, punctuating the last word with a pointed look in his direction. “Worse things have happened to people who didn’t listen to me. I said that my name is Miss, and Miss alone.”
The boy nodded vigorously, squirming in the grasp of the two men. “Miss. Got it.”
She raised her eyebrows and the two men let him go. A hiss of pain passed through the boy’s teeth as he rubbed his arms. Miss knew he wouldn’t forget that lesson in a hurry.
“Now, I had you brought up here because I was under the impression you could help me. Is that true, or are you just wasting my precious time?”
The boy pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “Your guy over there said something about minerals.”
“Not just any minerals. Some of the rarest minerals in the galaxy.” Miss watched the boy’s eyes widen with wonder. This was all too easy. She softened her voice to drive the point home. “How would you like to be rich? You could get out of this sector; out of this galaxy, even.”
Miss could nearly see the possibilities unfolding in his head. She’d gotten him. Of course she had. Power, pain, and promise; they’d never failed her before.
“What do I need to do?” the boy asked, the glow of greed shining in his eyes.
She curled a finger at him. He took a hesitant step closer. Miss grabbed his shoulders and spun him around to face the viewport. “I need you to give me this planet. I need every single person off of it and living somewhere else. Do you understand?”
He drew in a deep breath and let it out in a low whistle, his gaze transfixed by the view outside. “It won’t be easy,” he said softly, speaking like he was in a trance. “My people are really stubborn. Trust me, I know. And there aren’t many crafts available to get off-world.”
Miss nodded, slipping a hand inside her jacket pocket. She wrapped her fingers around a small, smooth object. She might as well make extra sure in case the boy failed.
“Then let your reward serve as motivation. If you manage to do what I’ve asked, I’ll give you ten percent of the first mineral haul—enough to get your own hyperspace ship.” She drew the object out of her hand and held it between her thumb and forefinger for the boy to see. “Your first task will be to plant this at the base of… Oh, I forget your name for it, but it’s a giant mountain in the middle of the planet.”
“Yes, that’s the one.” She dropped the teardrop-shaped seed into his palm.
“What will it do?” he asked, rubbing his thumb over the surface of the seed.
“Simply make the planet easier for me to mine. You won’t notice a thing.” You’ll be dead or out of this galaxy before you do, she added to herself.
The boy frowned, uncertainty overtaking his features. “No one will get hurt, right? My parents are down there, and my friend…”
“They’ll all be fine as long as you do your part. Just get them to leave and find a better life elsewhere. It’s a simple enough task, and it will be better for them in the long run.”
He looked into her eyes like he was searching for something. Miss put up her guard, having learned to make her expression completely unreadable after years of practice. Was this boy more intelligent than she’d given him credit for?
“Do we have a deal?” she purred.
The boy hesitated, but then curled his fist around the seed and nodded. “Yes. We do.”
Miss grinned. The blue glow emanating from the planet seemed to be a promise of the untold wealth to come.