The Pirates 2
Lannetay gestured to the star field surrounding them. “Which one are we headed to?” She could detect a slight motion to some of the nearer stars, telling her the image was real-time.
“Rubineker.” Marc pointed. “You can’t see it from here unless I have Bill brighten it.” A red dot pulsed three times, then vanished.
Lannetay nodded, and asked Bill to meld her seat together with Marc’s. “Tell me about that colony.” She put an arm around the boy.
Marc’s shoulders drooped as he sighed. “Always making things into a lesson, Mom? Seven different colonies started there. Each is a simple dome-settlement, but they cooperate quite well.”
“Don’t cheat,” Lannetay said. “Using Bill is against the rules.”
Marc frowned. “I know. Bill just told me that too, by the way. Since their planet is in close orbit around an M5 star and is tidally locked, they’re all in the same region.”
“What about their economy?”
“Only one is dedicated to farming,” Marc said.
Bill interrupted before Marc could elaborate. “Lesson time is over. Lannetay, we have a ship coming on an intercept course.”
Lannetay scowled. There’d be more opportunities to teach. Space was really big, and even at more than a hundred times the speed of light, getting from place to place took considerable time. Instructing Marc was a perfect pastime for both of them.
“How long until intercept?” Lannetay asked.
“Just over an hour.”
Lannetay’s frown deepened. They usually only had a dozen minutes of notice when a ship approached. “That’s a lot of lead-time.”
“They’re big and slow, or we wouldn’t have noticed them that far out. They’re almost as big as our ship.”
William Placard had been constructed to military specs, so the scanners were better than commercial grade equipment. Even so it still took a massive ship to register so far away.
“Take us a few degrees away from the convergence point. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
Carnifor stepped into Marc’s room and his jaw dropped. “Nice view. Bill, can you do that anywhere on the ship?”
“Yes. Now about this other ship . . . .” Bill reminded them.
Carnifor said, “Can’t be a coincidence, Lannetay. Space is too big.”
Lannetay and Marc shared a brief disgusted look, then both of them stood. A sitting person was in a less-dominant position, and Lannetay wasn’t giving that away to Carnifor. “Then can you explain why there’s another ship coming so close?”
“Our altered course plot will take us quite a bit away from intersection,” Bill said. “I took us three degrees off course, and goosed our speed by a tenth of a c.”
“I can think of a few examples of why another ship could be on an intercept course.” Carnifor edged toward Lannetay and put his hands on his hips.
Do you think he’s going to start beating his chest? Lannetay asked Bill.
The AI’s response oozed sarcasm. Chimps have been known to do that.
Lannetay barely suppressed a laugh. Marc gave her a quizzical look, so he must have felt her silent chuckle.
“I’m guessing they’re pirates,” Carnifor said.
Lannetay rolled her eyes. “Pirates?” She wanted to dispute him, but couldn’t think of any reason he was wrong. In fact, she agreed.
“Your previous ship was probably fast enough you didn’t have to worry.” Carnifor switched from intimidation to lecture so smoothly few would notice the difference. “Now you’re ship is bigger, slower, and a ripe target.”
Marc grumbled. “If you’re not going to talk to me in my own room, could you at least leave me alone here?”
Bill canceled his starfield display. “Maybe you two would think better up front.”
Lannetay nodded, then she and Carnifor left Marc’s room, each trying to keep ahead of the other.
Lannetay edged out Carnifor and managed to get into the control room first. “What do you think we should do about that ship, Carnifor?” She sat in her recliner and peered at the sensor images displayed above the blank console.
“Normal sensors would be able to pick them up in five more minutes.” Carnifor sat in his right-hand chair. “At that point we should react somehow. It’ll look suspicious if we don’t.”
Lannetay crossed her legs and leaned back. “We could have Goofball fly. He’d certainly ‘react’ in ways not easily predicted.”
“Let’s do it.” Carnifor looked at Lannetay as if waiting for her order.
Is he actually deferring to you? Bill sent to Lannetay. There is a God.
Lannetay tried to suppress a smile. “Okay.” She switched to her implants and sent, Goofball, could you come up here?
Consider it done, he sent back. And while I’m on my way, think of the other two wishes you’d like me to fulfill.
Lannetay muttered invectives about the evils of live theater. Carnifor’s smirk told her he’d been included in the electronic conversation.
Moments later Goofball sauntered into the ship’s nerve center. The hatch closed behind him. “Oh, I come from a land, from a far away place.” He leaned against a bulkhead and crossed his ankles.
Lannetay ignored the affectation. “We have a ship coming up on us. Feel like doing some magic, Genie?”
“You did get that joke, then. I’m impressed.” His expression didn’t show any awe. “To be more accurate, though, the play should have called him a Jinn, not a Genie. Most people wouldn’t have known what a Jinn was, though.”
Carnifor rolled his eyes. “Oh, mighty Jinn, would you please fly our ship and evade the dastardly brigands who are about to accost us?”
Goofball looked at Lannetay, who nodded encouragement. “I suppose I could do my best. This beast isn’t exactly nimble.”
The fighter pilot stepped to one side and gave Lannetay a peremptory wave to vacate her seat. She did, but with eyebrows lowered.
Goofball leaned back in the pilot’s recliner. “Bill, give me tactile controls Bravo Sierra Eight.”
Macrites grew from the decking, chair, and panel to encompass Goofball’s legs to mid-thigh, his arms nearly to the shoulders, and most of his head.
Carnifor stated what Lannetay was thinking. “Direct mental commands are faster.”
“This isn’t for control.” Goofball’s voice came from Bill’s sound inducers. “This is for me to feel the ship.”
Bill, can’t you do that without physical contact? Lannetay asked.
Bill’s answer came as a mixture of two voices, Bill’s and Goofball’s. Yes, but the best pilots have a reaction time somehow quicker this way. Just via implants slows them down a fraction of a second.
Lannetay sat behind Goofball. Hook me in, Bill. I want to watch this.
Me, too, Carnifor sent.
Bill, do you have to include him on everything I say to you?
A chuckle that was pure “Bill” came from the sound inducers. I sent the conversation to everyone aboard. “The rest of the crew wants to monitor this, too.”
If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.