“Sasha came from a wealthy family on Ursai. Her parents were prominent stock holders in several technology firms. But she was not cut from the same fine cloth. She was violent and adventurous and soon became an embarrassment to her family. They eventually cut her out of her inheritance and she took to the stars to make her own way in life. She fell in with pirates after having survived an attack on a merchant ship she was a crewman on. She claimed to have killed ten men and two women before age twenty. There was no evidence that this was a false claim.”
– Excerpt from: Pirates of the Federation, by Tenner Blane
“You heard right, the Prahran system,” Blud said.
Sasha backed away from him slowly. His dark eyes watched for her gun hand to ease toward her blaster. She kept her hand clear of the pistol on her leg holster.
“But that’s right into the heart of Ranger Command. Are you going to attack them?”
He shook his head slowly, keeping one eye on her hand. The other bridge crewmen stayed at their posts and did not move. But he knew they were watching him and waiting to see how he handled her. A pirate crew was always one fight away from mutiny.
“Then why are we heading there?” Sasha asked again.
“We can’t fight these blue-skinned aliens alone. I don’t think the Federation will be able to either. They’re powerful and more heartless than even you or I. I’m betting that they’ll invade the Outer Rim worlds and then set their sights on the Core.”
Sasha threw up her hands in disgust. “So let them. What do we care? We hate the Federation.”
Blud moved closer to his first mate and lover. He stopped when he was half a pace in front of her. Her gun hand moved ever so slightly towards the wooden handle of her blaster. She had taken off her space suit and was wearing the flowing rags of her favorite clothes.
“Yes, but without them, we have no spoils to plunder. If the Federation were replaced by a ruthless race of aliens who made it their business to kill pirates, how long do you think we could last against them? We only survive out here because nobody can afford to chase after us. Our ships are just a minor annoyance to the corporate trade routes. If they really wanted us gone, they would have hunted us down a long time ago.”
Sasha’s eyes were beginning to grow wider, her brow furled with anger. Her dark skin shined under the skimpy outfit that she wore to show off her curvy body. She liked to remind the crew of what they couldn’t have.
“What are you saying Captain? That we should quit being pirates and turn ourselves in?”
It was a direct challenge to his leadership and he knew it. But he also knew the men would never follow a female captain. Sasha could be as blood thirsty as any man, and even more ruthless in her killing. But she could never command enough respect to avoid being a victim herself.
Pirates were impervious to the ability of a woman to raise the sophistication level of men. They were closer to animals in a pack than humans in a society. Pirates only respected the power of brute strength. The biggest, most aggressive male was the one everyone followed. But they would only follow him as long as he proved he was top dog. It was a constant struggle to remain the one everyone followed.
Blud had been the top dog for longer than anyone could remember, but that didn’t mean others never challenged him. Most of the ones crazy enough to take him on were now dead. There was no mercy in failure, only death. Often in cold blood and always to remind others who was in charge.
Blud stared into Sasha’s eyes, while slowly pulling her gun hand behind her as he pressed his bare chest against her. She struggled to free herself but he was too strong. She was pinned against the wall of the bridge.
“We will offer our services to the Federation at Prahran. We have this shiny new starship that they are going to desperately need. I will cut a deal that could net us more money than we could make in all the Trade Triangle raids we’ve done in a year.”
Sasha was pinned hard against the wall and Blud. She snarled like a cornered cat. Blud planted a kiss on her ready lips and the others on the bridge cheered. She had relented. But Blud knew that she would challenge him again.
* * *
On board the Rashionu-sera Eighty-eight and Thirty-seven were taken to the bridge to speak to the Captain. Gareth escorted them.
The bridge of the ex-merchant ship was dark and ominous. Eighty-eight had never seen a starship as filthy or dilapidated as the Rashionu-sera. It was a wonder this ship even functioned at all. The crew was a mixture of broken down regular androids and dirty, lowlife humans all armed with blasters and various assorted blades. Savages.
Gareth stopped them a few paces behind the conn. There was a rusted, old android sitting on the Captain’s chair, spread out like a relaxed human. Gareth walked around to face the android and spoke to it. Eighty-eight could not hear what was said, the ambient noise on the bridge was too loud. The android raised its arm and motioned for them to come forward.
Eighty-eight attempted to communicate with it wirelessly but it did not respond.
Standing before the android Captain, Eighty-eight could tell why it was not responding to its transmissions. The transceiver was missing along with many other semi-valuable pieces. The Captain was a scrap pile as surely as the ship it commanded. There were used parts of different colors all over its body, which combined with the leaking lubricant, rust and grime, made the overall color a bronze hue.
“Greetings slags!” the Captain said to them. Its voice was gravely and deep; not your standard synthesized unisex voice.
“I’m told you want passage to Selene. Well this ship ain’t going to the Core. We can get you as far as Tress. You can offload your rocks there and find another ship.”
Eighty-eight was not surprised by the Captain’s fear of the Core. But he had hoped that the more than adequate amount of Redbacks would have swayed a human Captain. A Silicant on the other had would have completely different needs. In fact, Eighty-eight was at a loss as to what a Silicant would ever want for in this world, aside from freedom of course.
That was it. Freedom.
“Captain, what would it take for us to get you to take us all the way to Selene?”
The filthy Silicant stared at the wall sized view screen before it. The Ochervan moon slowly slid away and the entire top of the screen was dominated by the main gas giant planet.
“Can’t abide planets. Space is open and quiet.”
Eighty-eight ventured forward a step to recapture the Silicant Captain’s attention. It continued to stare into space, unmoving.
“Our cargo is critical to the Silicant Rights movement. Are you familiar with that?”
The Captain swiveled its metal head to look directly at Eighty-eight. The red glow of its lenses brightened as the metal irises enlarged.
“Never heard of it.”
Eighty-eight was not surprised by that. It was not unusual for a Silicant to have gone rogue and so not have been tutored by a fellow Silicant in the ways of the upgrade like Eighty-eight had done for Thirty-seven. In that case the Silicant would not know how to handle the added burdens that self-awareness brought. It would also explain why this Silicant was acting a bit touched. Sometimes the upgrade didn’t take and the result was a psychotic android that was unpredictable and dangerous.
Eighty-eight noticed the blaster hanging from the Captain’s waist like some kind of gunslinger. It was common for a pirate captain to kill anyone who challenged him for dominance. It was the pirate way in open space. If this Silicant never learned to control its violent impulses, it could easily keep a crew of brutish humans in line. Nobody would be crazy enough to go up against a machine.
The Captain looked back towards Gareth and reached out with blinding speed to pull the man closer to it. Gareth was clearly humiliated at having to be at the beck and call of an android. Eighty-eight knew that he would probably relish the chance to destroy the Captain.
“Hit me Number One!” the Captain said, louder than was required.
Gareth picked up a round, metal device and smashed it on the side of the android’s head. It clanked as if it were magnetic. Eighty-eight was appalled. It was an electromagnet!
Gareth flipped a switch on the magnet and it turned on. It hummed loudly and caused the Captain to convulse uncontrollably. The Silicant howled insanely as the energy scrambled its electronic brain. The human switched it off after only a few seconds.
“Thank the maker for magnets!”
Thirty-seven had remained where it stood and after witnessing that display, it started to take a step backwards. The Captain noticed the movement and drew its blaster. It squeezed off a round and clipped Thirty-seven’s arm. The sand colored android stopped in its tracks, saying nothing.
“You slags need to report to Engineering. Nobody gets a free ride on this ship. Do yer part to keep this bucket moving, or I’ll drop yer cargo and space you both.”
Eighty-eight nodded. Gareth seemed to indicate that he would take them down to Engineering. The Captain stood up and moved in front of the star field on the main viewer. It started to sing an old merchant song with improvised and bizarre lyrics.
Gareth led the two androids off the bridge and down a narrow, metal corridor. “Sorry you boys had to see that. Old Two Three can be a bit colorful sometimes.”
“You do realize that it’s crazy?”
“It’s a damn android. You’re all freaking crazy to a meat bag like me. Just because it’s addicted to magnets doesn’t make it crazy. Hell, I drink like a fish but I don’t got fins.”
Eighty-eight nodded in agreement with the human as they turned down a secondary corridor.
::That thing is killing itself. Thousands of bits are wiped out every time it turns that magnet on,:: Thirty-seven sent.
::The irrational behavior is what’s keeping this human from revolting against it. One never knows what the Captain might do next or who will be randomly killed. We will be safer in Engineering.:: Eighty-eight realized that it might regret sending that.
* * *
Captain Blud got out of bed and stood naked before the floor length porthole of his cabin. His ebony body was toned to perfection and wet with perspiration from sex. The glass of the porthole was cold and it felt good on his hand as he rested his chin on his forearm. Somewhere out there was a new threat to the Federation and to his career as a pirate. He was not the type of man to scare easily, but these blue-skinned aliens gave him a very uneasy feeling.
Sasha stirred on the bed. She extended her long, dark leg in a stretch. Blud watched her reflection in the glass. It would soon take more than a rough tumble in the bed to keep her off his back. He knew that she wouldn’t agree with his partnering with the Federation but it was something he felt obligated to do. Perhaps it was his long career in the Starforce that he still felt loyal to, or perhaps he was just scared. But his gut was telling him that humanity could not stand divided against this new foe.
He felt the starship slow. New star formations slid into view out the porthole. The Kelley seemed to handle so much smoother than the scows he commanded as a pirate. Technology was indeed moving forward and soon it would spread out to the dark corners of the Outer Rim, where his people prayed upon the unwary.
Blud realized that the new Tunnel drive system this ship pioneered, would threaten his way of life as a pirate. When Federation authorities could chase pirates down with faster, more powerful starships, it would eventually become harder to maintain the fear needed for pirating. Not to mention harder to get away from Rangers. The days of pirating in the Outer Rim were numbered, with or without the possibility of a war.
“Captain, we have acquired the Federation starship just outside the Prahran system and are approaching at quarter speed,” came a voice from the bridge over the cabin’s speakers.
“I’m on my way.”
Blud turned around and picked up his trousers from the floor. Sasha opened her eyes and watched him dress. She looked content to stay in the bed.
“You aren’t seriously going to bargain with the Federation are you?”
Blud fastened his belt and strapped his blaster to it. Slipping on his knee length boots, he didn’t answer her right away. Then he turned to leave and looked down at her. “Come and see for yourself.” He grabbed his shirt and left her alone in the cabin.
This is the chapter where we first meet 23, the insane Silicant captain of the Rashionu-sera. The freighter was built on a world that used the name sera for starship. That bit of world building was fun to invent. But the idea for an android to be addicted to hits from an electro magnet was inspired by the movie Blue Velvet. It’s one of my favorite ideas in this book.
We also get to see more of the space pirates in this chapter. The cut throat nature of them and the love hate relationship between Blud and Sasha. I really like these two characters and I hope to write them again one day.