Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Dead-pirate-flying slams past me in silent majesty, drives blazing, weapon ports opening.

I kick the pedals to accelerate port and ahead, then split the sticks: left fully forward, right hard back. There’s a lurch that makes my stomach churn, then we’re pointing back the way we came from a few moments ago. This sort of manoeuvrability is what you get when you take an armoured mining ship and dump all the asteroid grappling machinery. Enough power to push a small moon at luxury liner speeds, with only a fraction of the weight, and vectored thrust ports pointing in all six directions.

Dead-pirate-flying isn’t expecting the ‘scow’ it’s facing to turn like an interceptor. It’s still coming about to place it in an ideal firing position for where I should be.

When they took the asteroid grappling gear out, I got them to leave the huge mantle-cutting beam projector that runs down the centreline of the ship. Everything about me dims as it unleashes a blast of energy designed to punch a hole through a medium sized moon.

I watch as dead-pirate-flying folds inwards around the scintillating crater made by my energy burst. Any moment –

Now! The whole mess turns into a rapidly expanding sphere of hot and lumpy. My frontal shields shed light and I’m thrown about in my seat while various laws of physics have a brawl outside.

The light show finishes. I’m still here: my shields won.

“Parker! You still breathing?”

I grin: “Sure am, Admiral. Just converted another pirate to cinders and dust.”

“You and your mutated asteroid thumper. I keep having to explain why there’s never anything left to analyse.”

“Only to the armchair experts, I’m betting.”

“Too right. Our bounty balance loves you, but not as much as the parents of the late Ellis Mortimer do.”

“He was the kid in the yacht?”

“Yeah. The engineer who evacuated the passengers then used the yacht to shield their pod from the pirates. His last words were ‘Find these bastards and kill them for me’.”

There you go, Ellis. Hail and farewell.