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Chapter One

"Welcome back, Bain," Ganfer said, and chuckled. The ship-brain's voice echoed through the entire ship, following the boy as he ran up the slope from Sunsinger's modified cargo hold to the bridge.

Bain was out of breath when he reached the round bridge of the Free Trader ship. He grinned at the sensor dome in the ceiling and leaned back against the hatch frame until his legs lost their wobbles.

"You see? I told you I would see you again," the ship-brain continued. "You'll need that link collar quite a bit from now on."

"How soon until we launch again?" Bain asked, once he had caught his breath. He raked dark, sweaty hair out of his eyes. He pushed off the wall and walked over to his cubicle -- his again! -- and slung his bag onto the mattress.

"Not for two more days, at least. We have new sensors to install -- replacements and upgrades. The authorities are giving Lin anything she wants, to keep her cooperative."

"She growls a lot, doesn't she?" Bain asked, laughing.

"It works, and she enjoys it."

"Did I hear my name taken in vain?" Captain Lin Fieran asked as she appeared in the open hatch. She pretended to scowl at the boy. The expression didn't last very long, and it made her grin seem brighter when it appeared a moment later. She mimed wiping sweat off her forehead and onto her green-on-blue striped sleeveless tunic. "That was a close call, Bain. Sourpuss Malloy doesn't exactly like me, and if he knew how much I really wanted you to ship out with me ... " Lin shook her head.

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