the smuggler’s bible

Pluto Vespasianus

He waits thirteen hours for a response—not unheard of, but on the outside edge of acceptable. The pod screams out of orbit and lands on a smoldering tank, smashing the wreck to pieces and half-burying itself in scrap and concrete rubble. The shell groans, cooling in the night air, then splits open, hissing steam.

Pluto Vespasianus stands slowly, watches as Aoi emerges. She’s electric green with white accents. Her eyes glow purple. Flashy, he thinks.

“My shuttle is damaged.”

“Yeah, they sent you in pretty hot.”

“I was late,” Aoi says, “and ‘late’ is the worst kind of backup.”