They found her in the last of the ship’s compartments. She reclined in a plush chair framed with dark carved wood. She glanced and at him lazily and puffed on a cigarette mounted in a long holder. The pale eyes of Countess Evangeline Maria Contessa Marquita DeMontenegro blazed more beautiful than in the news vids. Though Ethan preferred long, wild hair, he found he liked the way her short and curly hair framed her face. It was a face of unquestionable beauty that took his breath away.
He turned sideways to fit his battle armor through the narrow doorway. Its scarred and chipped polygraphene seemed out of place in the immaculate cleanliness of the compartment. He found her careless assessment of him even more contradictory as he sat in an ornate chair across from her. She should be terrified in the presence of a thief who had just taken her ship, but she looked at him like a servant who just entered to remove the trash. “I take it you’ve done this before,” he growled.
She looked away to take a long pull from her cigarette, then slowly deigned to grace him with her gaze. “Done what?”
Infuriating woman! Ethan fought to hold his expression in check. She’d make an amazing poker player. “This is the part where the unscrupulous thief, that would be me, throws you on that bed there and rips off all your clothes.” He grinned evilly, waiting for a crack in her porcelain expression.
She didn’t even blink. She Looked at him as though examining a curious stain on a table…and then she flickered. For just an instant, she wasn’t there. Before Ethan could fully process the event, a furry creature with ten legs scurried up from her lap and onto her shoulders. Its large fuzzy antennae twitched as it stared at Ethan with limpid eyes. Evangeline smirked. “I don’t think that’s your style. Mr. Blink says so.”
Ethan looked away. He wasn’t letting her poker face get to him. On the walls were portraits of her in various styles. The one behind her displayed her visage in an ancient Art-Deco style. He examined them as he gathered himself. He was still in charge despite her flippant behavior. “Alright. This is how it goes. We won’t harm you as you guessed. We will, however, ransom you for the miniscule sum of 20 billion. That’s pocket change for the trillions in the DeMontenegro Shipping Lines coffers.”
She flickered again.
Hologram! The thought screamed through his mind. His hand flashed out, snatching up hers. His sudden motion knocked a table aside and upended a vase. He squinted at her as he held her cool hand in his. She was real. Not a hologram at all. So what was the flickering thing? He rubbed his eyes as the hatch opened behind him.
“Everything okay Cap’n?” said First Mate Ogunda from the hatch. “I heard something.”
“Fine, fine.” Ethan waved him away.
“Shall we offload the cargo?”
“Why bother? This ship will fetch a pretty penny. Leave it for now.”
The hatch closed and Ethan returned to his seat.
The painting behind her was different. As a pirate trading in valuable goods, he had to know his art. This portrait was surrealist.
What the devil?
The Countess smiled enigmatically. A stain of grease marred her perfect cheek. A small crust of bread lie on her blouse. Both imperfections weren’t there a moment ago. What Countess would allow a flawed appearance? He stared at her as she finished chewing. Had she been eating something? He didn’t recall that.
She flickered again.
It suddenly dawned on him as he looked at the impressionist portrait behind her. His eyes snapped to the creature kneeding her shoulder like a nightmarish cat.
The bulkheads shuddered from a sudden explosion outside the ship. Ethan just closed his eyes. “I suppose my man isn’t outside the hatch anymore.”
“Nope,” she said. “He’s in the brig. Don’t worry about your cargo. We offloaded it before setting off your ship’s self-destruct.”
Ethan nodded. “And Mr. Blink?”
“I think you guessed it. With him, I can move outside of space-time. In my perspective, your men were disarmed a full day ago.”
Ethan winced. “The priceless paintings on my ship…”
“All mine now,” she sighed happily.
“You’re no Countess,” growled Ethan.
“An elaborate fiction. But! Like you, I love great art.” She rose and took his hand. She felt like velvet. “Come see the rest of my collection.”
This week at the Grammar Ghoul Press, the word prompt is: Crust. The splash image at the beginning is the image prompt. Look here for more stories in answer to the challenge: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-7-open/