Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Space Pirates, Episode 13

Previously on Space Pirates: Captain Helmer Kristoff and crew are hauling smuggled cargo to the Provincial Militia, a group of independent colonists who are living in the Riva Mountains, beyond strict government supervision and happy to be so. Kristoff has no particular ties to the Provincials; the smuggling is just a job, but a dangerous one. Meantime, he has three suspicious guests aboard the Vega, and whole lot of bugs.

And now, on Space Pirates:

Corrigan entered the cargo deck and set a massive toolbox next to an ancient forklift. “Hey, Cap. Finney told me to look sharp. The Orpheus is still behind us.”

With a nod to Wyatt, Kristoff closed his fist over the deactivated spiders, strode across the cargo deck and bounded up the narrow steps to the catwalk, his boots clanging on the metal mesh with enough force to sway the railing.

On the crew deck, Ezra stepped out of a supply closet, and flattened himself against the wall to avoid Kristoff. “Captain—”

“Ez.”

“Something wrong?”

“The Orpheus.”

“I thought we were done with her.” The liaison fell into step behind him.

“You know Zoltana.”

“Yeah.”

“Enough said.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Go to the galley, see if Sahir has any chandimay tea. Tell him to brew up a pot and keep it handy.”

“Who are you planning on drugging, captain?”

“Don’t know yet. Wyatt thinks we best not turn our backs on our passengers. You get that feeling?”

Ezra didn’t answer right away. Kristoff turned to face him.

The liaison’s neck and ears reddened. “Uh, no, sir. Just a couple fools and a girl, that’s all.”

“All the same, chandimay tea, and an eye on the guests.”

“Aye, sir.”

Ezra took the starboard companionway, and Kristoff continued on to the wheelhouse. He kicked open the door and dropped the spiders onto the console apron beside the pilot. “Am I still the captain of this boat, Finn? Why’re you sending messages through Corrigan?”

“Nice bugs, sir,” she murmured. “Studying to become an entomologist?” Using the knuckle of her left forefinger, Finney tilted a screen toward her.

“I have a radio. You know—radio? And why are you whispering?”

She unclipped hers from her belt and held it out to him. “Button’s sticky.”

He pushed the talk button. It hesitated on depression then slowly popped back into place. He lowered his voice. “Sure you didn’t spill coffee on it?”

“Check yours, captain.”

He did. It stuck.

He grabbed a screwdriver from the tool locker and opened both radios. Trapped between the contacts were transparent circuits roughly the diameter of the tip of his finger. Wafer bugs.

Blast.

None of Zoltana’s crew had been that close to him. Surely he’d have felt it if somebody had removed the radio from his belt and then returned it—and he’d almost guarantee Finney wouldn’t let anyone near her if she didn’t invite it.

He frowned.

Maybe she did invite it.

Maybe one of those clean-cut, academy-trained Orpheus crew had caught her eye. Exactly how close had she allowed those bluecoats?

“Mine was working fine up until Zoltana arrived.” Kristoff tossed the wafers on to the console and reassembled the radios. “When did you notice yours was, uh, acting up?”

“When I tried to alert you to the Orpheus in our wake. Alerio’s gonna check the other radios.” Finney spun the wheel, and the deck tilted.

Kristoff grabbed the bar above his head and braced his feet. “The asteroid field is about a couple hours out—”

“Zoltana has probably already thought of it—”

“You can outrun her.”

Finney slanted a look at him. “The Orpheus is twenty years ahead of us in design and technology. The best we can hope for is a really good trick.” She gave one of her almost smiles. “And, if that fails, we get to use our guns.”

“Didn’t know you were so bloodthirsty.”

“I’m not. But I do like to shoot things.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

5 comments:

The Texican said...

Best episode yet in my estimation. Pappy

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Thanks for my lunchtime reading today......I'll be back after lunch!

Jadesmith said...

The wafer bugs are new to me..were they in the original?

KEANAN BRAND said...

Thanks, Pap!

Lavinia, when I worked in an office setting, I usually brought a book and found a quiet corner where I could read and eat in peace.

Jade, yep, they were in the original. In fact, all I'm doing with each episode is giving it a little polish before posting it.

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Uh-huh...let the "shoosting" begin! Nice set up for the action to come......