Auctions are all the same: stolen goods, lost goods, damaged goods, wholesale goods. I used to be damaged goods, then I became lost goods, and for a second I was stolen goods. Now I'm just good.

The woman at my side stares at everything with the open naivete of a kid, eyes all lit up with her own special brand of greed. Christ, she wants everything now. She'll buy the whole fucking place unless I distract her.

Fortunately, this is easy to do. A hand on the ass, a comment about her wardrobe, and there she goes: greed turns to rage and she clocks me on the chin. No one else would be able to tell how lightly her fist connected. I catch it in my hand. "Too slow."

"I still got you, didn't I?"

"Hell, you wanna hurt me, all you have to do is get me into bed." I grin at her. It's one I had to invent specifically for her: slow, mocking, lopsided. She never forgave me for making fun of her for that headbutt. Which did happen, though she was too lost in her own world to remember it. I take a little more care now.

She grins back at me, feral, predatory, and her voice is slow as warm honey. "You better believe it."

Every time, she marks me as though she's claiming territory. And, thing is, I don't mind. "Wildcat."

"What did you call me?" She about to hit me again when I point off to the side.

"Wildcat. That ship there."

The Wildcat is a monocarrier like the deceased Redtail, but the cockpit is needle shaped and the thrusters flare from the top. Faye inspects it. "Tell me about it, Spike."

"Fast. Maneuverable. Can take a hit without spraying into four billion shards."

She glares. "Nice. The Swordfish couldn't have taken a hit from those lasers either."

Since this is the truth, I don't argue. "It's got good weapons. No pulse cannon, but claw lasers—fire in a spread pattern. Hard to evade."

This makes her smile. "That'll come in handy the next time I have to blow your ass out of the sky."

I smile back, amused. Yeah, I'll no doubt end up dogfighting with her again, Swordfish versus Wildcat. I'm looking forward to it.


I sigh as I part with the cost of the Wildcat. Five hundred thousand woolongs. It's a pretty big portion of what I've got left after I started paying off my debt—for real this time. Spike wants me out from under it. Says it's part of my past, and if he can get free of his then blah blah blah blah.

But as the seller hands over the keys and the chip to program its automatic drive, I feel something. This Wildcat is mine, fair and square and legal. I didn't steal it and it wasn't given to me: I earned it.

Kind of like I earned the long-legged curse who climbs all over my new ship, kicking her hull and staring into the engine. He looks perplexed by her innards, but when he catches me looking, he puts on his I-know-this face. I smile and shake my head.

I miss the Redtail, but the fact is, it wasn't mine. It didn't belong to me. So it got blown to bits, and now it's gone. Not coming back. Well, karma's a bitch like that. There's no use crying over it, especially since I now have the Wildcat.

Spike jumps down from the ship and takes a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Offers me one, his fingers lingering on mine in an unmistakable carress. "You got what you came for. Ready to go?"

So this is my life now. The Bebop. Bounty hunting. Two different kinds of wildcat. No regrets, no peering into the past to find my future.

From now on, I'll only have the things I earn, the things I choose to work for, like the man who slouches alongside me, his breath tickling my ear.