Set Adrift, pt. 2


“Everybody, main deck NOW!”

Robert flew up the stairs from the engine room, taking them three at a time, every step thundering throughout the silent, drifting ship. Spark was right behind him as he burst into the main deck, the rest of the crew standing there in confusion. Genie slid down the ladder and rushed over, meeting the others at the same time as the captain.

Robert didn’t yell. He was the kind of man who didn’t need to. For years the crew had worked with him, knowing him to be one who leads by example and commands by quiet insistence. He had never raised his voice at them beyond necessity, so when they heard him practically scream to meet him, they were there at attention.

“The EMP was a probe,” began Robert. “Spark and I found it under the engine and beat it to hell, but we’re still in a lot of trouble. Depending on how closely the pirates are monitoring the probe, they’ll notice it’s been deactivated real soon. When they do, they’ll pull up next to us and dock. Not much we can do about that while the Starfish is drifting, but once they get inside we have options.”

As he spoke, he drew his pistol and made sure it was ready for action. His crew did likewise, all of them carrying similar pistols, Max carrying a semi-automatic rifle. Robert had often told him to “put that damn thing in your closet and keep it there, it has no place out and around the ship,” but Max was a boy with a big gun and he wasn’t to be parted with it. It’s a guy thing.

“When they board, do not engage, “Robert said to himself as much as the crew. “We don’t know how many of them there are. If we start shooting right out the gate, they could pull back and just blow a hole in the ship, fix it later. As long as they’re unsure how much resistance they’ll meet, they’d probably rather save themselves the ammunition and effort required to fix the ship.”

Spark nodded in agreement. “The first team in will be armed for light resistance. We’re a cargo ship, so we look pretty weak from the outside. But we have the advantage once they get inside. Every one of us has crawled through the belly of this ship, fixed every inch of ‘er. We know the nooks ‘n crannies. We can hide, and attack when it best suits us. But remember,” He looked them each in the eye. “These bastards are not here to play nice. They’ll kill ya, sure thing, ‘n if they don’t, they got worse things in mind.”

“Use the ship, “ordered Robert. “Hide. When you have an opportunity, take it, don’t hesitate. Kill them before they can kill you. It’s simple. We’re going to split up. Jax and I will hang out in the air-ducts on main deck after setting up. Spark and Max, get below and watch the path to the engine room. They’re going to want to check that area out, know what kinda material they’ve nabbed.”

Robert turned to Genie. “Genie, I know you’re handy with a weapon but I need you elsewhere. Get working on the life support. If we manage to beat these guys, we’re still running out of air. Can’t properly celebrate the defense of our home if we can’t breathe.”

Genie looked over the crew, armed with handguns and one rifle. She kept her opinions on the likelihood of their survival to herself. “Aye, Captain.”

With that, she leapt down the stairs and took off running.

Robert hated sending one of his crew off alone, but it had to be done. Genie knew the workings of the ship better than anyone present and time was of the essence. He turned back to the remaining officers.

“OK team. This is something we haven’t had to do before. We’re used to merchants, to traders, townsfolk, and other friendlies. Out there are a group of men who believe they are entitled to what we have and are planning to take it. These guys think they can walk in and steal our livelihood, our home, and our lives. They think we’re weak, prey to their predator. They think they can beat us. You know what I say to that?” He cocked his pistol. “Bullshit. Let’s take ‘em out.”

Three voices sounded at once. “Aye, SIR!”

The pirate ship docked without ceremony. A hulking black mass, it had blended perfectly with the dark of space, waiting out of sight like a shark staring up from the depths at it’s next meal. Having attached lines to the floating Starfish, the ship pulled alongside and sealed an airlock between the ships’ ports. Only a few minutes later, the door had been opened and six men dressed in an assortment of clothes that had no commonality entered the ship.

Some of them wore fine shirts, embroidered with swirls of color and decorated with crisp collars and cuffs, but wore torn pants and holed boots. Others wore top quality boots with rags everywhere else. These men wore what they could steal, it didn’t matter if it matched.

Not what you’d expect from typical pirates, these men were cleanly shaven and bright-eyed, obviously not swaying from booze or fumbling about like pirates from old stories. Their eyes swept back and forth from the moment they stepped foot on the new ship, looking for any threat from their newest plunder. They all carried rifles, fully automatic and held steadily in practiced hands. Once the deck had been searched, one called back to the gaping door.

“Clear.”

Another sort of man entered the ship, this one wearing fine livery that matched and fit his tall, slender form. Dressed head to toe in loose-fitting grey clothing, he almost blended it perfectly with the rest of the ship. He wore a mask of the same strange material, which only showed his darting eyes.

“Not a bad piece of scrap metal,” he said, voice clear and cold. “Search it. Kill anyone you find.” He stayed in front of the door, as if guarding it.

Three men started down the stairs, staying in a loose formation and keeping a wary guard. The remaining men spread out across the main deck, two searching the storage compartments and one towards the ladder to the flight deck.

The storage compartments were a cluster of 10×10 meter cubes set into the floor of the deck in front of the cargo door. The two pirates peered into one after the other, disappointed that they had caught the ship seemingly after it had delivered it’s goods.  On the third compartment, one pirate stopped and called out to his counterpart.

“There’s something in this one.”

The other walked over and looked in. A large box lay in the corner, locked tight and partially covered with a sheet as if half hidden in a hurry.

“Finally. Thought this bird had dumped all her eggs before we grabbed her. Check it out, I’ll watch your back.”

“Oh, how comforting,” replied the first pirate. “Somethin’ happens to me and you don’t need to pay up on that card game you lost. You go.”

“Thought hadn’t even crossed my mind,” the second said with a grin. “But fine, if you insist on being a coward. Cover me.”

The second pirate swung onto the ladder and climbed down into the cube. He reached the bottom and looked around. The cube had nowhere for someone to hide, but he looked anyway. Being cautious meant staying alive. The box was on the opposite side and he worked his way along the wall until he could lift the sheet cover. The box had a large bar code on it, but was otherwise unmarked to relate its contents.

“What is it?” called the first pirate.

“Doesn’t say. Locked tight too. Toss me the bolt cutter-”

Before the pirate could finish his sentence, a flat sheet of thick metal quickly slid closed over the top of the compartment, sealing him in darkness.

“OY! What’s this!?” he demanded.

“Wasn’t me! I don’t even see the controls here! Probably Jerod in the flight deck playing with ya. You owe him money too ya know.”

“Well, get me outta here, Garet, right quick.”

“Quit complaining. And say the magic word.”

“Now!”

“Close enough.”

Garet took his time walking over to the ladder to the flight deck. He almost stopped at the base for a smoke, but decided to hurry this up and get on with it. The sooner they searched the ship the sooner he could go back to his own and sleep or win some more of the pirate crew’s money.

He scaled the ladder at an easy pace, and climbed up into the flight deck. The console was still dark, the handiwork of their EMP probe. The only light in the room came from the colorful gas clouds swirling outside. His partner was sitting in the co-pilot chair, watching the colors through the window, feet up on the dashboard.

“Nice move, closing Tarke in the cargo box. Was that on purpose or was it yer darn feet there?” Garet asked, flopping down into the captain’s chair.

Jerod made no reply.

“Oy, Jerod.”

No reply.

Garet looked over. Jerod was staring at the gas clouds, the colors shining on his face. A dark line ran from the top of his head, down over his ear, and down his neck. His collar, once pure white and embroidered with blue stitching, was stained red.

The last thing Garet was ever aware of was a faint pop and a slight pain in the top of his head. Had he lived for a couple more seconds, he would have heard a quiet whisper.

My chair.”

In the engine room, three more pirates were complaining.

“You’d think the engine would be a little nicer. It’s almost a relic. If it ever fails we’ll be stuck with the cheap back-ups we passed up stairs.” said one, looking at the blocky machine that took up so much room.

“We can replace those easy enough. The last ship we snared had a few spares, nicer than the ones here.” said another, leaning against a wall and lighting up a smoke. He took a long drag and closed his eyes, clearly relaxed.

They had searched the engine room thoroughly, as well as the halls surrounding it. Finding nothing, they assumed the crew had barricaded themselves in either one of the cargo boxes or in a room they had yet to find. For the moment, they had decided to relax a bit, out from under the captain’s eye, before continuing on and exhausting themselves on a thorough search. These men were used to just cleaning up after a heist, not performing one.

A sudden whir and groan of machinery above them quickly put the trio on edge, alert and guns raised.

“What was that?” said the first, eyes raised to the ceiling.

“Sounded like something sliding. Garet, Tarke, and Jerod are checking the cargo, may have been the doors.” said the second.

Clang.

“That wasn’t a door.” said the third, gun cocked and ready.

The first started to walk in the direction the noise had come from. “Down the halls again. You’d think the little mice would know to stay quiet.” His fellow pirates stalked down the hall, eyes hungrily peeled for their first sign of real plunder.

Somewhere down the halls, in the life-support room, Genie clutched the wrench she had dropped and prayed it hadn’t been heard.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Set Adrift, pt. 2”
  1. Karen says:

    This was GREAT; I thought this was where the story started, but now that you say the part 1 was written last Monday, I am going back to read that. Very well written, grabs you right away and leaves you wanting more. Keep going!

  2. Here is the beginning of the story, be sure to read both!

    https://johnkmcewen.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/set-adrift/

  3. Bob M. says:

    Great stuff, Ken! You’ve taken the best elements of “Aliens,” “Star Trek,” 1940s swashbuckler movies and the old 1930s Flash Gordon serials and blended them into a narrative all your own. Can’t wait for the next episode! And my favorite character, of course is Captain Robert 🙂

  4. Johanna Schaechter says:

    Great story Ken !!!! wowww you are a wonderful writer !!!! I love it !!! Are you going to be a writer like your dad???? keep it up. love Hanna

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