Author : Jeff Deignan

As I floated, I thought to myself, “Poems end this way.”

It was easy enough, in the beginning. People expected thieves to use lasers, the sonic tech, or even small atomics for holdups, and security would check for that sort of thing. Security would not, however, expect a black powder pistol in a carry-on bag or a saber hidden in some ultra-thin crutches. Always use what no one expects, the old man had told me. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone the weapon wasn’t a laser, just made sure that the officers guarding the hold knew it was a weapon.

They let me in without too much trouble; where was I going to go, really? The escape pods had trackers, the ship itself was likely being recorded five ways to Sunday, and out in deep space who would catch you?

Ah, but Leila was waiting for me, and that they could not know. Saber at a man’s throat and pistol in another’s face, I smiled. “You two,” indicating the remaining guards, “get those into the airlock, and be quick about it.”

“What is this,” a man said as he hauled one of the two-tonne containers through the lock, “amateur piracy?” Most thieves, pirates, and otherwise operated in groups, allowing for massive takeovers and battles. I was alone, but for Leila, and she always came through.

I have to admit I did not expect the explosive decompression, but had been prepared for it. The Scyllic membrane that I wore instead of a flimsy helmet (a helmet which at that point would have shattered and left me sans atmosphere) easily compensated for the pressure, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t cause a migraine. Granted, the pain could have come from the bomb that had gone off, the shrapnel, or from flying out of the now quite open airlock at a speed I still don’t want to contemplate. Regardless, I floated and thought about poetry as I saw the carnage.

Leila had been hit, badly- my ship, my good and beautiful ship being slaughtered in front of my eyes by patrol craft. Somehow they’d gotten past the cloaks and gimmicks and were killing her straight off.

All I could do was scream, and arm the packages I’d left onboard.

They weren’t the only ones with explosives, curse their souls.

Ah, Leila. It’s been hours since then, and the tethers caught me as planned. I think I’ll walk your corridors one last time, dear, before I fade. You were a good ship, and the best pilot even before we jacked you into the ship.

Well, love, I guess we walked into legend on this one. They’ll never find these ships at the rate we’re going, not unless they expand the territories twenty systems in the next year.

Good night, dear. Could you sing that one again? Yes, Alfred Noyes’ poem, that’s the one. “And he lay in his blood in the highway, with a bunch of lace at this throat.”

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