Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The external camera pan across a steely – if a trifle motley – flotilla of guard skiffs, arrayed before a Griffin-class Space Dreadnought painted in the eye-baffling ‘wasp-fragmentary’ colour scheme.

Voiceover: “These nights, the long hand of the law comes to the furthest territories in the form of the Space Dreadnoughts from Privateers-of-the-Line; possibly this decade’s greatest rebranding triumph, although their former peers have also rebranded them, less flatteringly, as ‘The Turncoat Company’.”

The internal camera shows an anchorwoman dressed in ‘Gypsy’ formalwear: “Privateers-of-the-Line, formerly the Cutlass fleet ‘Desperados’, ruled by Captain Jake Delahunt, have gone – in ten short years – from Galactic Most Wanted to Galactic Defenders without compare. Good evening. My name is Verdanata Lires, and tonight I bring you a special presentation from Mercantor Unlimited.”

Subtitles: ‘Formerly the crew of the Cutlass Banshee. Incorporated 3455, Alastor Cluster. Trader registry 160828130526JV’.

The external camera jump-cuts to a battered Cutlass tethered to a barren asteroid.

Voiceover: “Is this your future? Have the days of star-wolfing fallen to nights of fleeing the Turncoat Company? Take heart! We have the answer. Guaranteed improved profit-from-pillage within a stellar month!”

Subtitles: ‘Subject to non-capture and abiding by raiding guidelines as established by Captain Blackhook under the Gather-In of 2609’.

“But don’t take our word for it! Here’s Captain Durgindar of the Cutlass Cremator, leader of the ‘Unforgiven’ Cutlass fleet.”

The internal camera cuts to a cyborg whose flesh components sport marginally more gold piercings than obscene tattoos, and whose cyberware is black chrome blazoned with fluorescent skulls.

“We wuz at d’end of owa teffer.”

Subtitles: ‘We had reached the end of our patience.’

“D’ally plots dun cropped our take.”

Subtitles: ‘The planetary alliances had made raiding too risky.’

“Me ladz dun fink we go deeptime.”

Subtitles: ‘My crew were considering crossing to the Fergall Cluster in cryosleep.’

“Den softlad fro Mercata cum bord wit savin graze.”

Subtitles: ‘Then a representative from Mercantor came aboard with his revelatory device.’

“From dat day to dis, we dun mor bootee dan eva. Black ‘ook bless Mercata!”

Subtitles: ‘Since then, we have made more profit than we ever did before. We cannot recommend the new Galactic Pillaging System from Mercantor highly enough.’

The internal camera cuts back to Verdanata, whose Gypsy formalwear is now looking somewhat informal in places: “Well, that’s it for tonight, ladies and gentlebeings. This is Verdanata Lires, signing off.”

Cameras chop to black. Audio continues: “Keep your filthy graspers off of me, you tin-clawed perverts! Guardee! Get me out of here!”

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