The Pirates 3
The hatch opened to admit the other three crewmen. L-T took the remaining chair behind Carnifor, and Olthan ordered a fifth seat. Marc sat cross-legged on the floor between and behind Lannetay and Olthan.
Goofball started a simulation of the ship and yawed all the way around. After a brief pause, he spun on all three axes. “Bill tells me we have a higher velocity than our listed rating,” Goofball said through the sound inducers. “Would you please enter the code to give me access for that, Captain?”
Lannetay entered the codes. She could feel Goofball testing their acceleration and maneuverability. “Bill, you’d better turn up the gravity in our cargo bay.”
“Already done,” said Bill/Goofball. “Quadruple normal.”
Marc tugged on his mom’s sleeve. “I hope Bill doesn’t do that too much. It’s weird hearing him and Goofball at the same time.”
Lannetay patted Marc’s hand. “He’ll disconnect when we take care of this pirate situation.”
“They must think we should see them now.” Bill/Goofball said over the inducers. “They’ve increased speed. They’re faster than we are.”
“Is that a problem?” Lannetay’s sarcasm fell flat.
“Yes,” Bill/Goofball replied. “We’ll have to outsmart them.”
“We’re all pretty clever.” Carnifor’s voice betrayed an apprehension.
L-T’s voice was bitter when he said, “We can’t be that smart if we’re all stuck here.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Lannetay’s sarcasm was biting. “We’re here for various reasons, but none of them is because we’re stupid. We should easily out-think them.”
“They’re cunning, or they wouldn’t make it in the pirate business,” Bill/Goofball said. “Look at their ship.”
A holo of the pirate ship appeared. Matte black to hide in visible light, the clean lines showed no sign of deterioration. Readings accompanied the holo, displaying well-tuned engines and self-powered weapons systems.
“An armed cargo ship?” Lannetay didn’t like that idea, though it did make a certain sense. She prayed they’d be able to handle the situation without loss of life.
“They could blow us out of space whenever they want.” L-T’s forehead dampened.
Bill/Goofball said, “Can’t outrun, can’t even shoot back. This could be tricky.”
Carnifor pointed at the display of the ship gaining on them. “Don’t you think we should put on a burst of speed?”
Goofball might have shaken his head, but nobody could see because of the enveloping material. “No. If they see us as having the ability to maybe break free, they’ll cripple us as soon as they’re in weapons range.”
“How long?” Lannetay asked.
Bill spoke without Goofball’s overtones. “They’re hailing us.”
“Play it.” Lannetay and Carnifor spoke over the top of each other. They shared a worried look.
“William Placard, cut your drives. You cannot escape.” The woman’s voice had a rich, velvet tone pleasing to the ear. Her message wasn’t.
Bill/Goofball grunted. “Your orders?”
“Evade for now.” Lannetay didn’t want to give in too soon. “Do what you need without damaging the ship.”
Stars whirled, and a false-color disrupter beam flashed past. Bill/Goofball chortled, mocking the pirate ship. “Is that the best you can do?”
Carnifor spoke up. “Goofball, they’re firing on us. Try to take this seriously.”
Goofball snorted his derision. “That peashooter? My shielding could handle that all day.”
L-T mouthed the words, “my shielding,” with a questioning glance at Lannetay. She shrugged.
Sensors showed a maneuvering thruster on the enemy ship accepting a trickle of power, and Goofball laughed again. “They can barely keep up with us. Their pilot must be pretty inept if this wallowing beast can keep ahead of them.” His course correction opposite theirs sent the two ships on vastly different courses.
“William Placard, I have a missile primed and locked on your ship. Decelerate or be destroyed.”
Lannetay leaned forward. “Goose our speed by another two lights. Be prepared to come full stop.”
“Aye, Captain,” Bill/Goofball said.
Seconds later a sensor lit. “They’re prepping a missile,” Lannetay said. “Come about and stop.”
Stars twisted again, the engines howled, then the whole ship quieted. An uncorrected slow spin sent the stars drifting across their main display. The pirate ship blasted past at more than a hundred times the speed of light. It quickly reversed and returned, with Goofball keeping the William Placard’s bow pointed at the pirates.
“Now what?” Marc asked of nobody in particular, voice betraying a slight waver.
“We wait.” L-T sounded grim.
Lannetay shook her head. “No. We get ready.”
The macrites covering Goofball withdrew. He stood. “I’ve seen your plan, Lannetay. It’s a good one. I’ll see to it.” He strode out of the control room, slipping between L-T and Olthan. Marc leaned to port to give him room. Lannetay slid back into her own seat, and Marc took the chair she’d vacated.
“What’s going on?” L-T asked. “What plan?”
Bill spoke before Lannetay and Carnifor could explain. “What’s the use of having a fighter pilot on a cargo ship?”
Olthan shrugged. “Ta fly it?”
“Marc could fly it, if that’s all we needed.” Lannetay broke into a grin. “There are more secrets on this ship than any of you know.”
“Goofball is in position,” Bill announced. A moment later he added, “Checkout complete.”
Marc asked, “What position?”
“Wait one.” Carnifor ordered the ship to rotate a few more degrees, and absorbed Lannetay’s scowl without reacting.
Olthan looked at Marc. “What we waitin’ for?”
Marc only shrugged.
“Almost.” Lannetay paused. “The pirates are getting closer.”
“William Placard, stand by as we neutralize your rotation,” the pirate’s voice announced.
Bill said, “Their ship’s calledOlinerie, according to their transponder.”
The stars froze in space as the traction field from the pirates seized the ship. “We’ve scanned your ship,” the pirate continued. “We count five people. Have everyone meet us at your port airlock.”
L-T muttered, “There’s six people aboard.”
Lannetay objected to the pirate. “Any chance we could make that our starboard side, Olinerie?”
“Negative, William Placard. Port airlock in two minutes.”
The connection ended and Carnifor turned to Lannetay. “What was that about?”
“They’re expecting resistance. That little opposition might allay their suspicion.”
Bill announced, “They’re docked.”
“Why couldn’t they scan Goofball?” Marc asked.
Lannetay sent a private message to Marc.I’ll tell you when I can. Things are going too fast right now. Then she sent a message to the fighter pilot.Goofball, go.
“The fighter is away, and our ‘guests’ are at the lock.” Bill’s voice was clinical.
Lannetay climbed out of her recliner and hastened toward the common room. The others followed.
“William Placard,” came the same woman’s voice, “open your lock or we’ll burn it open.” Her voice seemed a bit angry.
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.