Sugar Rush

Ruth picked up the emptied plates from around the galley table, trying to remember each woman’s name as she gathered utensils and cups: Cherry had the red hair, and Tootsie had a gap between her big front teeth and had an accent from the outer colonies, Kat was a tank made out of muscle and mascara, and Joy and Patty—gosh, which was which?—and she had completely forgotten the name of the last woman, but she was the pilot, Ruth remembered that much. She busied herself at the sink, scrubbing for her passage. The captain walked in just then and brought the group to order.

“Morning, ladies.”

“Morning, Cap!” they cheered in unison.

“Glad to see you all looking rested, because it’s time to go to work.” This brought a round of good-natured hooting. Ruth tried to make it seem as if she weren’t listening, keeping her head down and her eyes on the dishes.

“What’s the take?” asked Tootsie.

“Two million,” said the Captain. This brought another round of rowdy jeering. The Captain waited for the uproar to die down before adding, “Each.” They fell silent for the first time, and Ruth’s scrubbing was—for the moment, anyway—the only sound in the galley.

The Captain continued. “Carmella, have you worked it out yet?” She removed a cigar from her vest and waived it about like a dog treat.

The pilot responded—Carmella, then, Ruth noted—”We’re headed to the Klondike system.”

“Goddamn, you’re good,” said the Captain. “How’d you figure it out?”

Carmella snorted. “C’mon Cap, might as well call you the Slingshot Kid. Whichever way you tell me to go is definitely not the way we’re going to go.”

“Fine, fine. Take a stab at the target?”

“Only place in Klondike with that kinda cash is Fortymile Station at the Sun-Champagne L5.”

“It’s at the L4, but close enough.” The Captain tossed Carmella the cigar. “It’s going to be a big job, and that means we need everyone on point. It’ll take a QB, two run-n-guns, a firecracker, a call girl, a Jill of all trades, a spin doctor, and a worm.”

There was a moment of silence while they all pointed fingers at each other and worked out the math. “We don’t have enough,” said either Joy or Patti—the one with the tatts.

“Sure we do,” said the Captain. “Ruth is going to be the worm.”

Ruth dropped a mug into the sink and soap water splashed her from bangs to bellybutton. “What?” she asked, and turned to face the group. “A worm?”

“Bait,” said Kat with a snicker.

“I didn’t sign up for this. I’m not a pirate.”

The Captain put a hand on her hip and cocked her body to the side. “What, you thought you could star hop your way across the galaxy on a pirate ship just washing dishes and scrubbing latrines?”

“Well, yeah, I—”

“Stop. Get that big ugly thought out of your pretty little head. You’re the worm, or you’re walking from here. Got it? Welcome to the Sugar Rush, sugar.”

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