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A tale of space pirates

By K. C. WexlarPublished 7 months ago Updated 7 months ago 19 min read
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

We'd been enslaved right after my seventeenth birthday, my planet just another in the Monzon Emporer's pocket. His unchecked power had run across our galaxy for a decade, and our leaders' passivity eventually left us as lambs for the slaughter. Monzon armies had overrun our outdated and woefully unprepared military in a few weeks - my planet, its resources and people carved out like the butchering of a cow.

For the next few terrifying months, there were whispers that some of our airforces were still operating and help was coming, but they never materialized. At night, when I remembered the happy times before this nightmare - now traumatically severed like a limb, I'd begin to shake with sobs. My mother would put her hand on my back and attempt to ease my suffering, saying, "Just a little longer, just a little a little longer…help will come."

Like other fairy stories, this was only a fantasy to help her child sleep. Eventually, my family was taken into our village square to be sorted with the rest of its residents. Young girls like me made perfect house slaves and were considered very trainable. The bidding on the monitors went for a solid ten minutes. Finally, my mother collapsed to the floor as they led me away, wailing with every ounce of her being - though it made no difference.

For the last five years, I had lived with the Monzons, those murdering monsters. A family of means in every sense of the word who bought and used me in ways the most demented mind could think of and worse. My mind's sharpness dulled, any creative fancy squashed, and I began to see my body as something separate from myself. I fantasized about throwing myself out the window and probably would have had it not been for the raid.

Pirate gangs had grown up on the edges of the First Quadrant and began attacking wealthy families. Other forms of decay, corruption and greed rotted its capital from the inside out, and it seemed that the manor's internal controls were malfunctioning more and more.

That morning I'd been preparing to serve the lord his daily breakfast, and whatever other fresh hell came with the "in bed" part when a strange noise hummed from the window. A dark shadow cast and I'd thought it might be a sudden storm. But then I dropped the lord's tray sending plates smashing to the floor as the outline of a ship passed the large window, landing in the courtyard with a violent thud. An attack so blatant had been unimaginable; the lord never saw it coming, but someone had breached the Monzon forcefield. As he rushed from his bed to call Capital Forces, I almost felt my brain clearing, like a thick fog, finally lifting. Into his house intercom, the lord frantically clicked buttons and barked commands, but he shrieked into a dead line, impotent as usual, as the comms had been cut.

There was screaming and crashing below us, and I heard heavy footsteps on the stairs. The bedroom door flew open, and two men appeared at the entrance, each clad in black and sporting plasma guns.

"Take the girl, take them all! Sell their organs on the black market. That's worth more than my entire home these days!" the lord begged as he backed away from the strangers.

The larger of the two intruders remained silent behind his long black hair and beard, a scar across his forehead catching the light as stealthily he entered the bedroom, looking as if someone may have tried to cut out his brain too. His face's stitching was haggard and uneven as a canyon pulled together with vines, about to burst but holding just the same.

He looked at the lord disgustedly and snickered, "Why don't I start with you then? I wonder what one of these is worth?" Then, grabbing the lord's arm, he used the plasma gun to blast off the hand in a single shot and tossed the bloody thing to the other intruder, who giggled like a manic child.

"Never gets old, Captain!" his companion laughed again as he kicked the lord's head, who lay crumpled on the floor in agony.

"Now," said the Captain, undoubtedly the leader. "Find everything we can carry worth the cargo space. Especially the good wine and smokes." He looked at me briefly, seeing my bruised wrists wearing their trackers. "This bastard got a pleasure parlor somewhere?"

I stood there frozen in anticipation of their plans for me, unable to find my voice, so rarely used these days. Then, finally, the Captain approached, his silver eyes looking clinical and cold.

"Girl, where's the good booze stashed?" he asked with his head cocking to one side as I tried not to stare at the horrible scar.

My shaking hand pointed to the floor as I stammered, "W-w-wine cellar. The master access key is on his belt." I braced myself to get dragged off somewhere next, but instead, the leader bent down to the convulsing lord, retrieved the key, turned, and left the room, his giggling shipmate following.

Left alone with the lord begging for help, I deeply exhaled.

How I'd begged when I first got here.

Blocking his screams, I headed to the bedroom window. The invading ship's hull hung open ready to receive new cargo. If I could get in there unnoticed, would I be able to leave this horrifying place? Even if they killed me, I'd tried to run at least. I hadn't forgotten what it was like to be free. Not yet.

Quietly, I padded down the stairs, slowly reaching a side door that opened onto the courtyard. Usually, all doors were locked in the manor, but someone had already busted it wide, sunlight seeping in, welcoming me, daring me to go. To my relief, no one was watching the hull's unlocked entrance. The crew seemed too concerned with rounding up the rest of the Monzons and shutting them up in various closets as they looted the house. The lady, her sons, and her daughter cried, Please take the slaves and leave us!

"Captain, they have REAL bread!" an excited voice called from the kitchen. Then, I heard heavy boots on the other stairs as the others swarmed the kitchen and whooped like a pack of half-starved dogs. At this point, I could see other slaves begin to run, a few grabbing various items before climbing over the manor's wall. But where would I even go? Another Monzon house?

Quietly I made my way toward the old battered ship and peered inside. Thankfully the raiders had already loaded a few things up, and I could see a pile of expensive curtains and tapestries haphazardly piled into one of the storage compartments. I ducked inside and pushed toward the back, covering myself with the rich fabrics.

It felt like an eternity hiding there when I eventually heard more crashing as they loaded other goods, furniture and art. I didn't dare move or breathe too loudly as various items piled into the storage compartments. Then, finally, the last articles were chucked inside.

"Careful with those. Those are original Tetsi! No one's making those anymore." I heard the Captain admonish a crew member.

Tetsi - my planet and people must have been a lost civilization by now. I wondered how much my parents had to suffer or if our planet had been blown up like so many others. Finally, the ship's door closed, and the crew moved somewhere to the front quarters. When I heard a door close, I slowly sat up, but a moment later, the intense pressure pushed me to the ground as we must have taken off - back into space.

I'd never been on a spaceship, except as cargo in the unlit windowless vessel that carried me to the Monzons like a piece of livestock. As I quietly emerged from the pile of tapestries when the gravity normalized, I took in the ship's storage space, the other compartments filled with the Monzons' ill-gotten effects.

Miraculously my gaze caught a glint of a golden jar shining in one of the interior's lights. My boney arm reached in, and I plucked it from the pile, quietly unsealed it and pulled out a syrupy pear - a favorite dessert of my family's. I had eaten nothing more than rotted bread or gruel the last few years. Biting into the pear brought tears to my eyes, instantly transported to my mother's kitchen in summer. Ravenously I shoved the rest into my mouth, juices dripping down my face in such ecstasy to eat something I'd fantasized over for years that I lost myself when the door opened behind me, and the jar dropped to the floor in a crash.

"What was that?" a gravely voice came from the front. "I told you to watch the breakables, or Captain's going cut your hand off next."

"I did!" a younger-sounding voice shot back defensively.

I could hear the two men approaching, too far from the tapestries to hide in again. My eyes darted until I saw that the storage cage's fencing reached the ceiling. I quickly climbed to the top and wrapped my body around a pipe.

My nails dug into my hands, and I wasn't sure if the wetness causing them to slip was cold sweat or blood, but I refused to let go. As I clung to the pipe above, I could hear my mother (who I hadn't allowed myself to think of these last few years) say, "Just a little longer, just a little longer," as on the nights when she'd taught me how to move my mind away from pain and terror.


I hadn't planned on the explosion. But, all at once, the ship's engine seemed to shatter from somewhere near the front. Ice ran through my veins, and tunnel vision set in as I tried to steady myself. My weakened body couldn't support my weight much longer as I watched the panic of the men below who'd likely slit my throat before I hit the deck.

In handcuffs without the chain, my Monzon-issued bracelets still glowed in the darkness. The Emporer's tracking technology was so powerful that it gave him Godlike powers among the planets he conquered. Unfortunately, they were impossible to remove, and I promptly realized how I'd unwittingly provided a tracking beam to City Forces. No wonder the pirates let the slaves go free. I was sending off a signal! At this realization, my loose house sandal slipped off my foot and dropped directly onto one of the crew's heads.

"What the hell?!" the younger of the two looked up and met my eyes as I hung from the ceiling.

"A goddamn stowaway!" said the older man.

The ship lurched in an unsettling direction and seemed to lose altitude unnaturally. My hands finally slipped, and I plummeted to the ground before them, their mouths agape. My body hit the ship's cold metal floor, but adrenaline allowed me to scramble and return to the tapestries. I hid underneath as I heard them cursing, searching but either too lazy or too drunk from the lord's wine collection to locate me.

"Whad'we do about the girl?" asked the younger. "Captain don't take slaves."

"Forget we saw her," said the older one, his growling voice shaking. "We've been hit. If Janky can't fix the damage, we've gotta abandon ship. I'm not dying on this rig chasing her around!"

They lurched back toward the front, swiped an access card to open the door, and then they were gone, the storage containers deathly silent. My heart thumped in my throat as I listened to the groaning metal screeches rising around me. Like the ship was about to come apart at the screws, gravity pulling it across the universe in a hundred directions.

A robotic voice came over a speaker near the door, Engine Malfunction - storage oxygen turning off for conservation. All crew return to the bridge.

Suddenly I saw the tiny vents around the storage hull walls shut tightly - the air instantly began to feel thin. But then, I saw a crack of light as the door the two men had exited abruptly opened.

Life form detected - The robotic voice ordered. All crew return to the bridge.

I could feel my body going into shock, my teeth clacking with terrified chattering as the ship's cold air broke over my ragged linen dress. I grabbed a tapestry, tucked it around me, and raced for the open door.

Now in a narrow hallway, I scrambled back up against the wall, sucking, gasping, heaving breaths as quietly as possible to replenish my oxygen. My stomach cramped from the sugar my body hadn't eaten in over five years, and I doubled over in pain. The ship lurched again in metallic agony; this time, it felt like we were falling downwards.

Suddenly my balance was gone. My body tipped and rolled down the angled floor like a broken children's doll, and I couldn't help but scream as my hands instinctively grasped around my head to protect it. I slammed into the next entry door and heard the robot.

Life form detected - All crew return to the bridge.

The door slid open, sending me through its threshold - a man's wirey body breaking my fall, the bearded man from the bedroom - the Captain.

"What in the hell?!" he rose to his feet and drew his weapon as the ship leveled off. I stayed on the floor, dropping the tapestry with both hands up to show I was unarmed, having learned this from the many waves of Monzon invasions.

"Please! Sir - don't!" I pled.

"She's got slave cuffs! Still activated!" one of the crew pointed at the glowing bands on my wrists.

But the bearded Captain waived him off and took my hand to pull me to my feet. "I remember you," he murmured. "You were the slave girl in the bedroom in our last hit? Looking for a free ride?"

"I'm sorry, I had to -" I stammered, trying to look as innocent as possible. "I have no one-"

"Except the City Forces tracking you!" the one with the gravely voice said accusingly. His face was pox-marked and hollow like an old piece of fruit as he glared at me.

The Captain took me by the wrist and led me over to a metal table bolted in the middle of the room, "Don't move," he said.

Again I was frozen in fear as I braced myself to lose a hand like my former lord, but the Captain neatly used his gun to slice off one cuff and then the other. Slowly I touched my newly exposed wrists, once encased under cuffs I'd been made to wear since the first day I arrived at the Monzon house. The lightness in my arms almost made me feel like I'd sprouted wings, my vision sharpened, and my spine straightened - a spell broken.

"I'm Captain Daxton," the Captain said. "This is the crew of S.R.S Attixia, former Flight Brigade of the Tetsi, First Rank."

"You're from Tetsi?" I breathed the word in a hallowed tone.

The Captain narrowed his eyes in some recognition but instantly turned from me back to the controls. Another crew member crawled up from below the ship's wheel, a tool belt around his waist. "Well, sir, we've got about a light year, maybe one and a half, before the old girl runs out of fuel. We're nowhere near anything friendly. Better take what we can and head to the lifeboat."

The ship's mechanic turned to look at me, "Who's she?"

"A goddamn stowaway! The reason we were hit in the first place- an escaped slave with her trackers still functioning," said pox-face, his voice growling. "She's been beaming out a signal that led a Monzon homing missile right to us."

"Stow it now," Captain Draxton ordered. "Janky, she's from Tetsi."

The mechanic, called Janky, looked at me in wonderment. "I thought the last Tetsi people were harvested."

"Seems like they may have missed a few," the Captain mused. "Now, what's this you say about the lifeboat?"

"It's a bad hit, Captain. I don't want to risk trying to get to the next outpost. We can trade for a new ship, but we've got to abandon this one."

"And we've only got air supply for five on the lifeboat," announced the young looking one, his wide eyes meeting mine.

"Ain't no room for you, girlie," giggled the one who'd been in the lord's bedroom during the beginning of the raid. "Even if you are more valuable than all the other loot."

"Can't harvest her when she's dead. She's only valuable alive," said pox-face looking at me with hate in his eyes.

"I-I-I don't understand," I murmured. For the last five years, I'd been living in a tomb, of course, there'd been whispered conversations, but I had known better than to believe in rumors. Rumors give false hope that there could be some life again. I had only wanted to survive, to feel as little pain as possible for as long as I could last though I wasn't sure what exactly for anymore.

Suddenly there was another shot. We could all see in the ship's main window as a silver missile screamed past us into a passing asteroid that blasted apart into a puff of rubble.

"They're not going to miss again," Janky was pulling on a ratty jacket and grabbing a satchel of tools. "No more talking. We have to disembark. The lifeboat can get us to the Second Quadrant's outpost, and we can trade."

Without wasting a moment, the rest of the crew grabbed food and various Monzo valuables scattered around the quarters, anything small enough to fit into their battered bags or threadbare pockets. The giggling one grabbed a bottle of wine, winking at me. Captain Draxton deftly hit a series of buttons and levers.

Emergency disembarkment, the robotic voice announced. Lifeboat powering up. All crew prepare to exit starboard door one.

Another sliding door labeled one opened, revealing a tiny ship with oxygen masks and five seats.

"Grab your coat, Drax!" said Janky as he climbed in, "the Second Quadrant's covered in snow these moons."

But Captain Draxton wasn't packing up his stolen jewels and wine. Instead, he just stared at me with his gray eyes. I returned his gaze and felt something spark—something from home. The rest of the men huddled into their seats, leaving the spot with the driver's wheel empty for their leader.

"Let's go!" called pox-face. He looked at me coldly. "She's better off getting blown up anyway."

I knew he was right, and I started chattering and shaking again.

"Gents," Captain Draxton said, "I've been driving Attixia before the war, through eight battles, on thirty raids, and now at the bitter end when things are finally turning. I'm not about to abandon her now." He crossed over to me and pulled the tapestry back around my shoulders.

Sixty seconds to lifeboat launch, the robot voice warned.

"But captain!" pox-face protested.

"It's been a good ride, mates." said the Captain calmly. "But I'm either flying this rig or crashing her. I'm not about to get picked up by City Forces to get executed by the Monzons, not after everything, not today. I'm too damn old to give up now."

"Aye, aye, Captain," each of the crew eventually replied.

The mood turned somber in the cabin. Even from my limited observation, this group respected Draxton. No one was about to argue with him now, not even pox-face.

Thirty seconds to lifeboat launch.

Janky moved to the seat by the wheel, took up the oxygen mask and saluted Draxton. The rest of the crew did the same, the youngest with tears in his eyes. Draxton returned the salute as the lifeboat's door sealed, the Captain backed away without losing their gaze, and then they were gone behind door one as it slid closed again.

Lifeboat launch in 3, 2, 1…

The ship groaned against the velocity of the lifeboat's rockets as we felt something thrust from the ship. Then, the tiny vessel detached and sped away, quickly becoming indiscernible from the stars around us.

"Good luck, boys," said Draxton wistfully as he watched them disappear, pulling on his scraggy beard, but his reflective moment was interrupted by another crash from the ship's engine, and we lurched. The Captain turned back to me, but this time his eyes had a golden light I hadn't seen since I was seventeen years old - the light of my people.

"What did they mean- about harvesting Tetsi? Only being worth something alive?" I didn't know if it mattered anymore, but maybe learning what happened to my people would give me peace before our inevitable death.

"We don't have a lot of time, but we may have a chance," Draxton was back at the controls attempting to steady the ship's course. "We can try."

"Try what?"

Draxton took the wheel up and steered us sharply upwards just as another missile missed us. "The Monzons took everything from Tetsi, our art, music, cuisine - everything our culture built. But all the beautiful things we could make - it was something Monzons could never recreate - not without the Tetsi spirit."

Draxton yanked the controls up as the missile made a second pass for us again, crashing into some nearby space-wreck. "And so the Monzons, only knowing how to steal, consume and destroy, they rounded up those few who survived to harvest that spirit, in our eyes, our hearts," he pointed to the jagged scar on his forehead. "And in our minds."

I almost vomited at the horrors Captain Draxton was alluding to, I wanted to ask who'd attempted to take his brain and how he'd managed to survive, but all I could do was pull the tapestry around me more tightly and watch as he turned back to punch the controls.

Course set for the Fourth Quadrant, said the robot.

"The tide is finally changing - messages are on the boards. Another group has been able to ward off the Monzons, and our refugees have joined the fight. If I can keep dodging the homing missiles, we may be able to crash land there."

"Where?" I asked.

"Some little planet called Earth," Captain Draxton replied. "They call themselves humans. They've got a lot of fight, a decent army, difficult to control, and even more, difficult to predict. Many sorts of them on one world-"

He pushed one last command, and the ship surged forward at full throttle, its machinery grinding and screeching but miraculously speeding ahead.

"So what do you say, Testi girl? Let's see if we can hold out?" Draxton cracked the closest thing to a smile that his grimaced face would allow. "Just a little longer."

Just a little longer, my mother's prayer. I felt hot, crazed rage from everything I'd heard from Draxton about my people, but also I felt something else: hope to believe the rumor - that this evil could be stopped. And even though none of my family may have survived, I could feel their spirits with me now, wrapped around me in the Tetsi tapestry and in the glow of Draxton's eyes.

"Aye, aye, Captain," my voice was steady, and my shaking had stopped.

Like a comet through the sky, we raced forward, and I could hear another missile's roar in the distance, but for the first moment in my entire adult life, this time, I was not afraid.

Sci Fi

About the Creator

K. C. Wexlar

Sweet, scary and strange but always satisfying.

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