Pirate Stories I


Hilion Narath wished desperately for something stronger than the cloying spiced wine rapidly cooling on the tiny table. The galley of the Burning Fields felt even more crowded than usual. He squinted through bloodshot eyes at the man across from him: Oily-bald head, cheap-gaudy robes, pudgy-beringed fingers wiggling around as he made some point or other. Seghet was a slave trader and he was blathering on about how badly the Cartel was overcharging for this latest shipment and how Hilion's transport fees were practically sacrilege and Hilion hadn't really heard any of it in the last ten minutes, but it had given him a headache anyway.

Hilion choked down the dregs of the wine and forced on his most ingratiating smile, "Well, why don't we go check the goods, eh? A'fore we get too much further from Heaven? So's we can still make changes if it ain't all ta yer likin'."

"Finally, a useful suggestion. I trust the wares will meet expectation, at least." Seghet's expression made it clear he doubted they would, "Perhaps be of passable quality, this time."

Hilion gritted his teeth and motioned for the slaver to precede him. "A' course, a' course honored Seghet."

He herded the slaver and his lackeys toward the Dramiel's hold. Seghet nearly tripped over the unfamiliar curves on the ladder down, his men propping him up with difficulty in the narrow space.

"Best be careful, eh? All kinda weird, Angel tech, if you ain't used to it. Got it from you-know-whos." Hilion bobbed his head in what he imagined was a wise way, as if he knew a Jovian from a fedo. Seghet frowned back at him, perhaps trying to sort out what Hilion had said, and almost tripped again. He dropped past several steps and almost crushed one of his unfortunate minions. Hilion felt his headache easing.

The cargo hold was longer than it was wide, with loading doors at the far end. The slaves were huddled in a near corner, chains attached to their right ankles. Already smelling and we've hardly started the trip. Hilion stayed near the entrance and picked bits of spices from the wine out from between his teeth as Seghet and his two overseers began getting slaves up with kicks and slaps to be examined.

The slaves were mostly selected for useful skills; that's what made them worth getting illegally. Doctors, engineers, programmers, skilled tradesmen and others. Seghet was examining a big Brutor, and Hilion checked the manifest. Grisart (last name unkown), accountant.

The chained accountant slapped away the slaver's probing hands, and after a moment of shock Seghet rounded on Hilion, chins wobbling in outrage, "Can't you even keep your stock in line, pirate? He lay hands on my person. Do something about it."

Hilion shrugged disinterestedly, "These're fresh caught, bound to be a bit fiesty. Little spirit's important in an accountant, eh? Make's sure the books is cooked right, don't it? Anyway, once we make delivery, you can discipline 'em however you want, friend Seghet."

Seghet's face went redder. Little less bein' smart, next time. Hilion opened his mouth to try and placate the man, but the slaver spun, a blade flashed, and suddenly blood was welling up all across the slave's throat. Seghet's mouth twisted in satisfaction, and he turned to Hilion, "Maybe you will learn to better contro-"

But behind Seghet, the chained man hadn't fallen. Instead he stumbled forward, and grabbed the slaver by his cheap robes. Seghet squawked in protest, but the slave half shoved, half threw him toward the other end of the hold. The man was obviously almost unconscious, and it wasn't much of a throw, but the slaver was almost round. Seghet landed with a meaty thwack and rolled like an angry soft-boiled egg until he was nearly at the rear cargo door. Hilion was impressed.

The slave fell heavily and was still: dead or dying.

Hilion gestured peremptorily to Seghet's bodyguards, "Dun just stand there, eh? Go see 'es alright."

As they hurried to their fallen boss, Hilion scuttled over, skidding to a halt between the slaves and the slavers. He glanced at the accountant: another slave - a doctor - was working to save the injured man. Probably hopeless. A shame.

He turned back and waited as the bodyguards reached the other end of the hold, wringing their hands and hovering around their boss. He refused their help and tried to roll to his feet himself, his legs pumping in impotent rage. Gonna be messy. Maybe expensive. Hilion considered for a second, then shrugged and pressed his thumb to a pad on the wall. All about respect, really. A panel slid aside to reveal a big, red button. Some people just don't got manners. He smacked the button.

A shimmering curtain appeared, sealing off the slavers near the cargo door from the rest of the hold. Hilion spoke into the intercom, "'ey, you can hear me over there?"

Seghet had managed to get to his feet, run into the shimmering barrier, bounce off like a flabby kendu ball, and then get to his feet again, yelling.

Puffing, sweating, and almost purple in the face, the slaver managed to find the intercom on his side, "What's -"

Hilion cut him off with the same friendly smile, "Well, see, that's the I-F-F-A." He enunciated each letter carefully, "Stands fer Internal Force Field Array. It's fer hull breaches and like that. Cause we're 'bout to have a malfunction, see. This ship, she's always malfunctioning aroun' impolite dick-heads what damage the merchandise, eh? Give the Void a kiss fer me."

Hilion disconnected the intercom as Seghet started shouting again. The bodyguards were firing at the field with no effect. The pirate captain waved cheerfully, headache entirely gone, and opened the cargo doors to the vacuum of space.

And the accountant? He survived, but that's another story.

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