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Pan smiled down at the little boy with his mouth full of strawberry-like things. "Maybe I am! Perhaps you could tell me what the sindcut is first, yes?"

 

They were left alone with the children and Lon? Oh, the fun they could have here.

 

After receiving his response, Pan threw some glowing Pixie Dust around, scattering the kids a bit from around him. He stared directly at Ashley, suddenly speaking Vietnamese, that language that he had learned about during some of Ashley's wonderfully creative curses. "Do we have a plan? Perhaps a mutiny is in order? I am sure I can convince Lon to look the other way."

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"I think he means syndicate," Danica offered helpfully. "These guys are trying to get into some space criminal organization and have to steal enough of Earth's gold to impress the leaders so they can get into the gang. I saw a plot like this on Miami Vice once." She took another bite of giant strawberry and flipped open the phone. "I used to have a phone like this! I wonder if this gets signal all the way to Earth." She tapped in the country code and area code, then her mom's phone number.

 

"Hi, Mom? Yeah, I'm still on the field trip but we kind of got stuck on a detour and I can't remember the phone number for the school. Can you get hold of the headmaster and ask her to call the Freedom League so they can negotiate with some space pirates for us? They're treating us fine, they put us in their daycare, but I want to get home so we can watch The Voice tonight." 

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Danica's mom was an old hand at this, and promised to call the school with no more than a faint tremor in her voice, though the line was awfully staticky. "Are you sure you don't need to worry about where you are?" 

 

"My daddy's gonna be in the sindcut," said the boy who'd spoken to Pan helpfully. "We'll eat fruit every day." 

 

"Wait, you can just call people from space!?" demanded Judy, who looked to be going from one shock to another. 

 

"Yeah, uh, Earth is hooked into the Lor communciations network," said Ashley, putting a hand on the back of her neck for a moment before she looked away. 

 

"Should we-" Judy started to ask.

 

"No," said Ashley firmly without actually raising her voice. "No, we need to think...we can't start shooting here, not with so many civilians around. I can probably get us out of this room. What's your plan?" 

 

"Hmph," said Lon suddenly, looking in the general direction of the students without actually making eye contact. "Magic, is it?" He studied his clawed fingertips diffidently before commenting, "I have a few tricks of my own. You kids wouldn't be planning to cause trouble here around all our younglings, wouldja?" Most of the kids, though, not all, seemed to be spreading out cots and blankets and big warm rocks (for the lizardy among them) for naptime. 

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"We sit tight," Danica said firmly, keeping her voice low. "We don't know the layout of this ship, we don't know how to work their transporter or whatever, or how to pilot their ships. Even if we got loose, we don't have a way to get out of space, right? As far as they're concerned, we're civilian noncombatants and they've put us in what's probably the safest place on their ship. I mean, situations like this are why we _have_ the Freedom League, right?" 

 

She turned to Lon and gave him a smile that showed no teeth. "We don't want to cause any trouble," she promised. "But I don't need a nap right now. Are there any educational computer games I could play?" 

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Just... waiting? Letting others come to their rescue? Was that really what they wanted to do?

 

No. No, that would not do at all. The others might be fine with staying still, just waiting for a rescue, but not Pan, no.

 

"No, no, not magic," he reassured, as he began to approach Lon, holding his hands out to the side, showing them to the man. "Just a little trick that I picked up some time ago."

 

He smiled, slowly moving closer. "Tell me a bit more about all of you! I am sure we can work something out if you just tell us a bit about yourselves. Why do you come to the Earth, of all places? Where is this Admiral of yours?"

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Judy glanced at Danica, briefly confused - then her glowing eyes widened as she seemed to catch the turtle-girl's play. "Yeah," she offered, before she concentrated and went back to her usual self, shooting Ashley a shrug and gesturing to the aliens around them before she said to the teacher, "we'll stay out of the way, Ah promise," she said winningly. Between her and Danica there wasn't much anyone could to stop them, and so as the motley crew of alien kids around them mostly settled in for a nap (outside the ones obviously peeking at the very interesting novelty that was the teen heroes), Danica and Judy were given access to a flat-panel screen that looked a little bit like an iPad - albeit an old, battered one.

 

Reluctantly, Ashley sat down to join them, and seemed to surprise Judy by showing them exactly how the space technology worked. "Here, it has a holographc keyboard, or you can manipulate what you see by hand - here, turn this far enough and it'll display in English, at least for things it can translate. It looks like they're using standard Lor tech," she murmured to the two teens, "so it picks up the local language from information broadcasts. Tetchy as hell, though, especially something this old." 

 

The display did turn out to be for children; it appeared to be a smiling face of indeterminate species that was asking WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY? in letters that appeared over its head. 

 

Lon was looking at Pan, an interested look on his face. "Maybe you're not magic - or maybe you don't know as much as you think, hm?" He sniffed the air, then added, "Personally I just came here for the fun of it, but lots of the other crew are here so they can eat. Not a lot of pickings out there these days, you know what I mean, hmmm?" He sniffed, baring pointed teeth, and said, "He's not _my_ admiral, kid. Just the boss." 

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Danica touched a button that showed a person with sound lines coming out of his mouth, not too dissimilar from a symbol that might be on a human computer. "Can you show me a list of all the things you can do?" she asked politely, then watched as her words turned to symbols on the screen. "It does seem to know at least simple English," she agreed. "That's helpful, I don't know any Lor at all. How come you know how to use this?" she asked Ashley. Noticing Pan over by the minder, she tried to get his attention by jerking her head in a "come here" sort of way. 

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"Maybe I do, maybe I do not! It is always so fun to find out!" Pan grinned widely at Lon. He opened his mouth to say something more, before he noticed Danica. He held up a finger, grinned at Lon, then slid across the floor with a trail of golden dust behind his feet, keeping his front to Lon the entire time, before finally turning when he reached the others.

 

"Interesting. Lon does not like the admiral," he mused with a thoughtful tone, before turning to Danica. "What do we have here?"

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The computer showed Danica a fairly lengthy list, one that it was only indifferently able to translate - though Ashley was able to fill in most of the blanks. Danica had seen Ashley lie with the smoothness of a pond on a windless day when it suited her but she noticeably blushed even through her tan complexion, muttering only "Oh, well, you see a lot in the Service." Judy didn't seem to buy that from the confused expression she shot her sister, but didn't comment as Ashley helped the teens run through the list. 

 

There was ART, MUSIC, GALACTIC STUDIES, and SCIENCE, all of it pitched on a late elementary level based on Ashley's translations. "Which makes sense, there's not going to be anything tactical in a kid's computer," commented Ashley. They were able to find a drawing of what was probably the interior of the ship in the ART section, a wide range of stories about the Lor in their GALACTIC STUDIES database, scientific stuff that was way over everyone's head, and there was a picture of a pirate. 

 

There was really no other way to describe him - Pan certainly recognized the type, a tall fellow in a costume straight out of Central Casting, open V-neck shirt and jacket, tight pants and a glowing laser sword at his belt, and even a tricorn hat on his head. The face was new, though; a squid humanoid with tentacles on his face and big bulging eyes, looking for all the world as if someone had taken Cthulu and cast him as Captain Jack Sparrow. 


"I know him!" said Ashley suddenly. "That's, oh, what the hell is his name, Captain Kraken? There was a picture of him in the Raven's lair. And now he's an admiral?" 

 

"No, Ah don't..." Judy frowned, hard, and said to the others, "I don't suppose...suppose y'all can hear that?" she asked nervously. "That person, um, talking to me? He says if Ah don't do something soon, he's gonna shake things up around here." 

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"He seems familiar. Squiggly and with clothes like that? Of course he is in charge, yes? I take it he is somewhat well known?" 

 

He smiled, moving a hand up to rub his chin, pausing when Judy brought up the voice.

 

"I have heard nothing, but maybe you should let the voice shake something up. And then let us find this Kraken, yes?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Did he say what he wants you to do?" Danica asked nervously. She was still keeping one eye on Lon and the kids, all of whom would be very vulnerable if things started getting shaken. "And are you sure he's talking to you? Could you maybe be overhearing somebody else's radio conversation? Or, like, maybe a space TV show?" She poked the picture on the computer. "Computer, can you tell me more about this person?" 

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The computer beeped, flashed, and began playing a tinny version of a theme song before the schoolteacher scuttled over and quickly turned off the sound with a gesture from a long, segmented finger. She shot the human-and-demihuman students a glare, then went back to tapping away at her own screen with at least a dozen of those long, segmented digits. Even with patchy English subtitles the Claremont students got the story of the brave Admiral Kraken - the hero who fought the Lor, the Grue, and the Communion all in the name of Freedom! and Adventure! Ashley looked deeply skeptical of the whole thing as she watched, shaking her head a few times - it certainly seemed like a propaganda history, anyway. 

 

When the students looked up, Lon had moved to sit across the table from them, a friendly smile on his canine face as his voice deepened into a distinctly Southern drawl. "Kraken's come up in the world since y'all may have heard of him last. Freebooters always do better when the government of the day is just a little bit distracted." 

 

Judy frowned, staring at Lon, and asked, "Why are you talking like that?" 

 

"Ah thought Ah might make you more comfortable - Sister." And then the wolfman's eyes flashed a distinct, iridescent rainbow - so fast that the teacher didn't seem to notice. "You see it was quite a haul we caught, wasn't it? One of my own cast away among apes, her loyal and trusted bodyguard, a creature of infinite jest, and of course the god herself," he added with a nod to Danica. "What do you think?" he asked, rising to his feet. "Should Ah go tell Captain Rex what we're really hauling, or can you young people make me an offer that's a little more...interesting?" 

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Pan leaned closer as the propaganda video played, a look of awe in his eyes.

 

"Freedom and adventure?" he asked. "Where do we sign up?"

 

He sounded genuine, at least, but then grew silent for a moment when Lon approached and talked to them, his lips splitting into his just slightly too wide grin.

 

"A deal, you say?" If Pan knew what Lon refered to with Judy, then he didn't let it show. "And what do you find interesting, then?"

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