Author : Bob Newbell, Featured Writer

“Surrender your cargo and you can leave unharmed.”

The message comes over the radio the moment I come out of a space fold maneuver inside the Gliese 832 system. It’s a fairly old trick. There are a finite number of space fold nexuses and of that finite number only a small subset located close to settled star systems. From a pirate’s point of view, it’s a logical place for an ambush.

I reply to the bandits’ demand with an anatomically impossible suggestion.

“Surrender your cargo or we will open fire!”

I scan their ship. Railgun. It could punch holes in my ship if I gave them the chance. I examine their propulsion system. Fusion rockets only. No space fold system. And their vessel has heavy radiation shielding. Locals. They might even be completely unmodified human beings. I’m heavily cyborged. The unmodified human body isn’t designed for space travel, let alone space folding. The nanomachines in my cells are already repairing the damage from the Bremsstrahlung radiation I was hit with upon defolding back into normal space. I decide to give them a break.

“Boys, my cargo isn’t that valuable. But I have a legal and professional obligation to deliver it. Clear out of here and we’ll pretend this never happened. Or stand your ground and I’ll kill you. You won’t get another warning.”

I switch off the radio. Suddenly, my ship lurches violently. The ship’s computer isn’t designed to inform the pilot of a threat and then wait for a response. Too slow and inefficient. And potentially lethal. The moment the sensors detect the pirates have fired their railgun, the ship itself reacts like a man reflexively swerving out of the way of an opponent’s punch. Dozens of rounds streak by the ship. None make contact.

Another jarring course correction. My ship heads directly for the pirate vessel. The horizontal axis g-force on my body is over 30 times the acceleration of Earth’s gravity. The enemy doesn’t even try to lock their railgun back on my ship. What would be the point? My vessel has more than 100 times the mass of theirs. A few holes in something that massive striking their ship wouldn’t change anything. Their rather pathetic attempt at evasive action indicates the crew, not their ship’s computer, is manually trying to move the spacecraft out of the way. I imagine there’s quite a lot of screaming going on over there right now.

My ship’s space fold system comes online. The vessel is still close enough to the fold nexus to form a jump point. The craft veers slightly to avoid a collision with the pirates. As I streak alongside the raiders’ spacecraft, my ship’s computer abruptly shuts off the fold drive.

My ship cuts acceleration. My vessel is sailing toward the colony at a good clip. I’m even still on schedule for delivery. My aft sensors show the pirate vessel’s contorted hull, the fold drive’s spacetime distortion and sudden cut-off having twisted and warped enemy ship into a piece of surrealist art. The bodies of the crew, I imagine, are in much the same state.

My vessel’s computer uploads the entire sensor log of the battle to the colony. I’m still six weeks of travel through normal space away. Plenty of time for the authorities to review what happened. It’s extremely unlikely any charges will be pressed. I’ll get asked a few questions and that will be that. Gliese 832 is not known for coddling criminals.

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