Author : C.L. Guerrieri
I sat at the monitoring bay as he stood there, roughened hands folded calmly behind his stained, dark brown overcoat. His receded cheeks mostly hidden by a thin, graying beard and a matted ponytail, the captain smiled as his thinned eyes squinted out the front bridge window, glazing deeply at the ice asteroid field in front of him. The lasers burned into the pale blue ice as our tractor modules hauled them back into our cargo bay, emitting soft pings for every completed cycle.
My daydreaming was interrupted by soft words I almost didn’t hear.
“Please, speak your mind. Silence can only bring miscommunication,” he said.
He knew I was worried about being the only ones out here.
“Well, sir, it’s just—You know how our scouts can’t find cloaked ships. Being alone in null-sec doesn’t worry you?” I asked.
He maintained his gaze at me before shaking his head.
“Not in the slightest.”
This seemed like a horrible lack of planning, but I decided not to press. He always had a plan.
As if on divine cue, a half dozen dark beige shapes popped into view above the belt only a half-kilometer away. Their dark, spiny tips, typical of missile-loaded gunboats and stealth bombers, meant only one thing:
We were far too late for warp, but the crew did as usual, setting a warp course for a nearby planet. A warning light popped on in my panel, indicating that the worst of my fears had come true.
“They’ve scrambled our drives. Webbed our ignition too. We can’t escape.” I murmured.
“Not to worry,” came the calm response.
The main comm screen popped on, the static clearing to reveal a tanned, well-groomed, dark-haired head sneering at us with a hollow grin.
After no words from the captain, he began:
“You know how this goes down. We—“
The captain interrupted, holding up his hand, silencing the man at once.
“Glad you could join us, at last,” the captain calmly stated. “Today was becoming quite dull.”
The captain hit a small black button on the front dashboard of the bridge and, a moment later, numerous faded-blue Orion-class laser and missle gunboats warped in around us with dull thwumps.
The pirate’s face contorted and drained of color.
“FIRE!” the pirate screamed.
Their missiles released, but it was too late. The blue gunboats fired their lasers and missiles, detonating the pirate missiles prematurely as missiles ripped through the pirate hulls with bright-orange blooms, sending dull booms of pressure waves cascading over our hull.
As the blue ships realigned for another warp, the captain turned, sensing my anger at him.
“They,” pointing to the destroyed ships, “are, or were, experts at hiding. They needed something to draw them out. Besides, I don’t like to quit.”
“Please resume cycling whenever you are ready, Erin,” he said as he turned back toward the front viewing panel. I pressed a few buttons on my display as the dull hum picked up, casting the green arcs of light back out to the rocks. After what felt like too long, he turned and looked at me.
“You must be tired. Feel free to go rest.”
Grateful, I nodded and made my way towards the back of the bridge and turned as I walked out. He was still standing there, facing the asteroids, hands behind his back. He began humming a verse from a tune, an old naval song every miner knew as a rite of passage. I sang the verse in time with his humming in my head as I headed out.
Now the moral of this story is
As plain as plain can be,
Don’t ever trust a sailor
An inch above your knee.