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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Pirates 6

“Don’t stall,” Penn said. “I may not have Sieznull’s lie detector, but I can tell when someone is fabricating. You’ve done enough of that already.”

Lannetay sighed. “Okay. You’ve heard the Wantis can’t feed themselves?”

“Who hasn’t? That’s why they went to war in the first place.”

Lannetay did her best to fake being abashed. “I heard on Inglep the Wantis are going to take over Rubineker and make it a full-fledged farming colony. Their fleet is already on the way, and they’re going full-bore on upgrading the colony to raise crops. I’m only trying to beat the market by getting this equipment there first.”

Penn didn’t look like he believed her. “You are aware the Wantis tend to take what they need, regardless of who provides it?”

“Yes. I have a plan for that. I don’t really want to go into it, though. It’s convoluted.”

Penn nodded, obviously still unconvinced. “A Wanti attack on Rubineker could be used to make money. Do you know when?”

“In the next two weeks. We were going to hide in-system and wait.”

Penn’s nodding slowed. “Hmmm.”

***

Docking to the pirate ship wasn’t possible, so Goofball had to use an emergency support belt to drift from Tabitha to the airlock. He recognized the configuration of the ship, accessed the factory specs from Tabitha’s memory, and tapped in default codes.

The seventh attempt worked. Will nobody ever learn to change the presets? he thought.

I’m not programmed to anticipate human activity, Tabitha sent back.

Goofball shook his head and boarded the ship. He convinced the Olinerie he’d been recently recruited. “I’m supposed to watch the ship while the rest of them are on the William Placard.

The typical monotone of a Core system replied. “Limited access granted. Authorization needed for full rights.”

Goofball smiled and wound his way through the living areas, past the crew quarters, and into the engineering spaces. A workstation stood wide open for him, and his fingers flew as he penetrated layer after layer of their laughable security.

The ship’s log told him more than three out of every four ships Olinerie stopped were subsequently destroyed. Not a chance he wanted to take.

Bill, can you hear me?

Nothing. He’d have to take steps himself to make sure the pirates weren’t able to obliterate William Placard.Even with the damage he’d inflicted, the Olinerie still had missiles. He spent a few minutes gaining access, then programmed a main power shutoff fifty seconds after undocking from William Placard. A half-minute should be sufficient.

Goofball stood, considered, and inserted a virus to do the same any time this ship – or any others with the same ownership – approached within range of William Placard’s transponder. He smiled and added a personal glyph to display as the power failed. They’d know somebody had been tinkering, but not specifically who. Or when.

I wonder what they’re carrying. He headed up a ramp to the cargo hold.

I don’t have access to that information.

Goofball sighed, resisting the urge to tell Tabitha to shut up.

***

Penn motioned Lannetay to head back to the living spaces. Once through the airlock, she re-secured the system.

The pirate captain looked down the crew corridor. “Three staterooms left, three to the right.” He pondered.

Are you just about done back there, Lannetay? Carnifor’s ire colored his “voice.” Your crew is getting restive, and the pirates look like they want to start shooting people just to have something to do.

Keep your engines cool. I’m trying to balance on the edge of an event horizon here.

“Let me see your stateroom,” Penn said. “You’re hiding something on this ship, and I want to see it.”

Lannetay blinked her surprise. “You think I’m hiding something in my rooms? There’s nothing of value there except fashion patterns.”

“I don’t care about fashion.”

That’s for sure, Bill quipped. That shade of blue does nothing for his eyes.

Lannetay didn’t quite hide a chuckle.

“You think this is funny?” Penn asked.

Lannetay fought to bring her expression back to normal. “No, I just visualized you in one of my outfits. I didn’t mean any offense.”

“Well, I’m not going to rifle through your closet.” Penn drew his pistol and aimed it at Lannetay’s heart. “I want something of value.”

Lannetay shrugged. No need for closets when each outfit was recycled every day. “Okay. But I want a chaperone before I’ll go into a private space with you.”

Oooo! Bill sent. Pushing your luck, aren’t you?

I want to see how far these jokers will go. They don’t seem like people who could succeed at pirating for very long.

Penn’s expression turned to puzzlement. “Why? You’re the captain of the ship.”

“Propriety, if for nothing else. I have a religious objection to being in a private space alone with a man.”

Penn scoffed. “We were alone in the cargo hold. Same thing.”

“It’s not. That’s a public space, my quarters are private. I won’t go in there with you unless someone is with us.” Lannetay crossed her arms and set her jaw.

“Your virtue is safe with me. You’re far older than I like.” A smug smile tugged at his mouth.

Lannetay said, “I’m sure you didn’t mean that as an insult.”

“Not at all.” Penn’s laugh indicating the opposite.

Marc interrupted via implants. Mom? Are you okay?

Hush. I’m still dealing with this pirate captain. She tightened her arms. “So, do we get an escort or not?”

Penn’s eyes clouded for a few seconds. Lannetay could see his ire increasing and guessed a silent argument went on between Penn and a cohort.

“Fine. Sieznull will be here in a moment.” Anger rang from his words.

Lannetay let her expression relax a bit. “Not used to defiance, are you?”

“No.” He crossed his arms, still holding his pistol, staring into Lannetay’s gaze and waiting for the woman with the eyepatch.

***

Goofball stood in awe at the valuable cargo in front of him. A hundred crates of Wagyu steak. Boxes of Nadurumi spices. Stacks of canned Topil beluga. None of these classic items had ever been mapped for synthesizing. Somehow the preservation process prevented duplication.

Breaking into a crate of steaks would destroy the food’s stability. They’d need to be cooked or frozen within an hour. William Placard had no refrigeration, nor any way of cooking meat. Goofball dumped out one box of spices, rifled through the other seven, and stocked one box with a variety. It should fit behind the recliner in his fighter.

A box off the the side looked out of place. Inside he found perhaps a hundred credit chips. None showed their denomination, but with a smile he closed the box and added it to his collection of booty. Then he picked up a couple cans of beluga and sprinted for Tabitha.


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.



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