Author : S. P. Mahoney

“Freighter Tigris, Control. You’re straying out of your flight path — explain. Now.” Maria and Crone shared a look, before Maria put on her headset. Rank hath its responsibilities.

“Control, this is Tigris. Something hit us when that courier buzzed us before. We seem to be losing some navigational accuracy. Can you give me a course correction?” She looked back at the pair of commandos filling the back of the cockpit. EnGorillas. Enhanced, rather, in intelligence and dexterity; the slaves of the Imperium. Specifically, these ones were combat-enhanced, bolted into a suit of powered armor. Under Imperial law, a gathering of two was already a major crime — to say nothing of hijacking a starship. “I don’t want to get myself blown out of the sky for a silly mistake.”

Tigris, Control, sure thing. We don’t want to get the fireworks started early, either.” Easy for him to say. “Come about twenty degrees to the right for me?” She looked back again, and the commando leader touched his pointer finger with his thumb, then made an almost-fist. Ninety seconds. Piece of cake.

“One moment, Control.” She raised her voice. “Get the shutter open, now! We’re going to have to navigate by eye.” The copilot nodded and retracted the cockpit’s heavy window-cover. Sunlight streamed in through the transparent half-sphere in front of them. The second EnGorilla was typing away on a computer attached to the wrist of its (his, Maria was pretty sure) armor. Calculating.

“Control, Tigris, we’re going to try navigating solely with the thrusters. Cutting power to the right thruster . . . now.” She waited ten long seconds, then toggled her mic back on. “We’ve determined the problem, Control, the autopilot is locked-in and won’t deactivate. It’s following the shortest route to our destination. My copilot’s under the console right now, he’s going to see if he can yank the power without killing us all.”

Tigris, Control.” The voice was tight. “You have twenty seconds. Your autopilot picked a bad day for this. I’m going to feel bad if I have to shoot you down, but . . . ”

“Security, yeah. Acknowledged, Control.” It was going to be close. Very close.

“Hold this course, Captain. You’ll know when it’s time to change it,” came the leader’s voice. Calm, like this was just another day.

Maybe it was, for him. By Maria’s count, it was eighteen seconds before the ship began shuddering. The cargo bay alarms lit up like a Christmas tree as the doors on the ship’s bottom opened, spilling two hundred tons of fertilizer into the air. The next alarms were from the weapons-detection sensors: missiles were on their way.

“WHAT NOW?” She screamed at the EnGorilla, who just looked back, unperturbed.

He nodded to his comrade, who stomped out. “I told you you wouldn’t be harmed if you cooperated, and I intend to uphold that guarantee. Those missiles will not hit you, though I suggest you break atmosphere before the next wave.

“We’ll be leaving. The cargo fees have been transferred to your ship’s account; that fertilizer is going exactly where your client wanted it.” On the muted news channel the ape had put on, she watched as the capitol building, all fancied-up for the Centennial, was suddenly pounded by a deluge of high-grade animal waste.

***

And that’s how this particular rebellion kicked off, Spaceman Brown. And that, incidentally, is why “monkey flings poo” jokes are punishable by death in both the Imperium and the Unchained States. So keep them to yourself until we’re back in free space, hey?

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