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Lyn "Ninja" Meltzer was still aboard the Wingnut, naturally enough. Also, naturally enough, she wasn't where the colony's individual locator software said she was on the ship even though that software was supposedly hack-proof. Rob punched her ID into his pad, hoping she would accept his call. "Ninja, where are you? We're dealing with a reality-bites situation."

Her reply came in moments later, showing her head against the top of her bunk. He had only met Ninja a few times, but she smiled in welcome at seeing him. "Hey, Lieutenant! Reality for real?"

"Yeah. Break time is over. Do you know anything about the old Buccaneer cutters?"

"I might."

"What about Torres? Do you think he's familiar with them?"

Meltzer grinned. "Corbin Torres served six years on a Bucket."

"How do you know that?" Rob asked.

"He's the only other fleet vet with this mob. Who else am I going to swap stories with?" Meltzer eyed Geary. "I heard there's another ship in-system. We're dealing with a Bucket?"

"Yes. Let's you and me and Torres get together and brainstorm this."

"Corbin isn't going to want to play."

Rob exhaled slowly. "Tell Corbin he either meets with me and you in the break room on the third deck in ten minutes, or the police will show up in fifteen minutes and drag him there."

"We're not being recalled, are we?" Meltzer asked. "Because I wouldn't like that, either."

"No one is being recalled. But the council, and all the other people with us, need you and me and Torres to figure out if there's anything we can do about that Bucket. If you and Torres want to go walkabout after we've hashed over the problem, I won't try to stop you."

Fourteen minutes later, as Rob was getting ready to call the council, Torres shuffled into the break room and sat down heavily in the seat next to Meltzer. In a colony group made up primarily of young people looking for a start in life and middle-aged people seeking a new start, Torres stood out for being older, his face bearing the lines of experience and the resentment of someone who thought life had not dealt out the rewards expected for a long life of work.

Acutely aware that his authority over Torres was limited, Rob tried not to talk like the lieutenant he had been. "You two know the problem, right? And you both appear to know more than I do about Buckets. What can we offer the council as alternatives to surrendering and paying the protection money being demanded?"

Ninja made a face. "If they haven't upgraded their systems, they're probably still running on HEJU."

Corbin shook his head, speaking grudgingly. "Unless they gutted the systems, they're still using HEJU. Those things were designed around the operating system. That's why everybody sold their Buckets instead of upgrading them."

"HEJU," Rob commented. "Is that the one where you have to input commands backward?"

"Yeah," Ninja said, smiling.

"No," Torres insisted. "HEJU is designed to make you think through the entire process and your end goal before starting, so you have to enter command sequences in the reverse order you want them executed."

"Same thing," Ninja said. "That means their firewalls must be extremely obsolete. No one has coded in HEJU for at least twenty years, so there couldn't have been any upgrades in ages."

"The crew codes HEJU," Torres corrected again. "They have to. The operating system needs patches and repairs. But they're probably not any good at it, just stuff they learned on the job, so the patches and repairs are probably just able to get by."

"Do you think there's any way we can deal with that Bucket?" Rob asked him.

Torres paused, eyeing Rob as if trying to judge the sincerity of his outward respect for the former sailor's knowledge. "If we had anything better, and just about anything would be better, that Bucket would be toast. Even an old Sword Class destroyer could take it without breaking a sweat. But this old tub," he said as he kicked the deck of the Wingnut with his heel, "is useless. They didn't bring any weapons?" he demanded.

Rob shook his head. "No. Just hand weapons."

"Then you got a boarding party. That's something."

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