The Boarding Party
Piracy doesn't pay on this ship.
Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. I was ready to test that theory to save my ship.
The craft spun wildly and almost completely out of control. Mercy had better zero it in soon, I thought. Behind me, the pirates pitched toward me in the zero-gravity. Moving like a pack of hungry dogs, I imagined the clank and bangs of their sharpened weapons, but in the silence of my vacuum suit, I heard nothing except my frantic pulse and breathing. I punched the button and pushed forward toward the already cycling airlocks. We were careening between the cargo crates in the hold. The magnetic locks disengaged, and the cargo containers strained against their straps. I crashed along this bouncy castle where the walls had extreme mass and everything shifted with every movement.
The momentum and inertia of the ship’s frenetic maneuvering meant that my next push was magnified by the tonnage momentum of the cargo crate. The air snapped out of my lungs and my head swam as I instinctively frog-legged to the next point of contact. I sucked oxygen frantically as I jutted forward. In the silence of my suit, I sucked more air and bounced along, slamming off the cargo crates. Although I was almost there, I was in terrible positioning as I saw the red lights flash.
The plan was to lure the pirates into cargo, following me. Not a hard sell since cargo held the treasure they were after anyway. Capturing a notorious pirate killer would be a minor bonus for them, but not a prize I intended them to win.
Of course, my radio was silent. I hadn’t heard from Mercy in minutes. This scared the shit out of me, because if they breached the secure bridge, they had the ship. They probably hadn’t managed to breach the bridge. Mercy had locked-it down without waiting for me to ensure they would not get the ship. I had put on a full vacuum suit the second that happened. Then I fought the boarding party of pirates until my subsonic bolter had run-out of ammunition. At which point I raced compartment-to-compartment for the cargo hold.
The pirates wore partial vacuum suits. Subsonic bolters were great, but difficult to reload in zero-g. The pirates and I had exchanged full magazines at each other when they opened the breach point. Since then, they had relied on hand-weaponry, which allowed me to run. It had not dawned on them that I had opened every hatch from the breach point to the cargo hold, but hey, they are pirates and pirates are by definition freebooters and that tends to a lack of overall personal discipline. They were in a funnel now, and all I had to do was get forward to the external bulkhead and release the cargo.
Losing the cargo would be a blow, but the black box recording for this shipment would note we took out the nefarious pirate crew of X268-G. That would probably cover the trip and the insurance would do the rest. The careening spin that we were taking toward the nearby planetary body had the smaller, faster pirate ship in a death-grip as our mass spun theirs preventing release. The pirates could not let go without being smashed by our much greater tonnage.
Mercy had engaged the booster to propel us into a decaying orbit. Their ship was locked to us and a good portion of its crew was on board. I mean, pirates run with crews of five to eight bodies. Mercy and I ran this transport with a crew of just us. So pirates don’t require a ton of bodies to pirate ships. They only needed bodies to outfight crews as small as ours. Automation does the rest. This death spin made the crew remaining on the pirate’s bridge worry about surviving the descent.
Mercy and I did not want to crash. It was a ruse to get the marauders focused on something else. They wanted to capture me to force Mercy to surrender. The ruse looked entirely real because Mercy put the ships into a reckless spin. The inertial force of my body suddenly hitting a crate and misgauging a course correction in zero-gravity as the ship hurtled onward reminded me, I was running out of time. Behind me, I knew the pirates were faring no better. The only thing on my side was my lead. And the fact that I knew I was about to mechanically jettison the cargo.
I reached the end of the gangway and collided with the bulkhead at the lock. I snapped a tether into place on the lock and slammed the hatch release. I had overridden the safeties on the airlock at the previous console, delaying so that I could create the funnel.
My eyes were swimming as I looked back at the pirates, who were a lot closer than I expected, but still far enough away that they could not swing at me. The lead pirate saw me tether. He tethered and slammed on his vacuum helmet. The rest followed suit. Except they tethered to the cargo. The big one-ton containers strained against straps as the ship continued to maneuver. The deadly dance reached its peak. Another stalemate.
Or so they thought. I flipped behind the airlock bulkhead and attached a second tether to the inside of the lock. And then I released the outer door. This, I knew, was followed by klaxons that no one could hear in a vacuum suit. Lights flashed ominously everywhere you looked. I couldn’t see what the pirates did next, but I know what I would have done: engage my magnetic boots, seal my suit, and ride out the outgassing.
You may be forgiven if you think opening the airlocks midflight would be explosive. But opening the outer lock would not result in a sudden explosion of outgassing. Tethers and magnetics would be enough to hold you in place and not be too worse for wear.
“Mercy, on my mark,” I said into the com.
“Go for mark,” she replied.
“3…” I hit the cargo release button. The straps in the hold released on the cargo.
“2…” I punched the cargo lock release. The doors cycled open almost immediately.
“1…” I tightened my own tethers behind the bulkhead.
The ship entered a new vector that propelled the cargo out of the airlock.
“Inertia is a bitch.”
I smiled because, even though I couldn’t hear it, I knew those bastards were screaming.
About the author
Mostly I write fiction. That might be an exaggeration... mostly I write about writing fiction. And that is definitely a stretch. Mostly I think about writing fiction and write about that. I endeavour daily to write more. Coraggio!