Haunting Blackie Page 4

“You getting ready to make it easier on them when they overtake us and board the ship?”

“Nope. I’m starting to sweat and want to be comfortable while I kick pirate ass.”

“I hope you’re wearing clean underwear.”

“I’m not planning on dying.”

“Good. I’m going to that new club I heard about on Titan. You’re buying the drinks. We’re going there after this. Promise?”

Eve glanced at her screen as she finished removing the warm outfit to sit in her tank top and comfortable shorts. Their chances were grim at best and guilt returned. She had gotten them both killed. “Sure. You got it.”

* * * * *

“They don’t stand a chance.” Fleet frowned, watching the viewing screen, zoomed to maximum to get a better look at the battle taking place.

“Should we intervene?” Gene glanced back. “They aren’t aware of us. We could take out quite a few of the pirate ships before they realize they have a shielded shuttle firing on them.”

The cyborg in charge shook his head. “Cyborg Council’s orders are not to have any contact with vessels from Earth. We’ll wait until it’s over and clean up this mess. The Earthers can clear the field a little for us.”

Blackie itched to fire on the radiation-leaking pirate ships. “The distress signal from the freighter is weak. It won’t reach Earth or any military vessels within three sectors. No one is coming to assist them. It wouldn’t matter if we attacked now or later. We still need to take out those pirates. They are too close to Garden to allow them to roam. Their swarm behavior is also disturbing and out of character. They are working together in unusually large numbers to attack the Earth vessel. That shows a strong level of intelligence.”

“Agreed.” Fleet took a seat. “We’ll wait until they dock with the freighter after it’s completely disabled and target it. They’ll want to converge on it en masse to salvage it for parts. One shot will cause a chain reaction. We’ll pick off any of the survivors.”

Blackie leaned back in his chair to watch the battle. One pirate ship tried to dock with the belly of the outdated Earth transport vessel but it changed course and slammed hard into the smaller ship. They rubbed together to create a light show from the pirates as interior explosions rocketed through until it drifted away, too damaged to do anything else.

“That pilot is good.” Gene sounded impressed.

“Or desperate,” Fleet announced.

Another pirate ship tried to dock at the side but the freighter turned hard, coming into hard contact with that one as well. The smaller pirate vessel rolled from the impact, breaking up into large chunks as it detonated from severe damage.

“Ouch,” Gene muttered. “That had to hurt for the few seconds it took them to die.”

The old Earth vessel rolled completely over as it turned in a new direction, plowing into a few more pirate ships, taking them out or damaging them until the leaks could be seen as they vented contents and oxygen into space.

“Take that, you sons of bitches,” a female voice shouted over the open coms.

“Take it down a notch, Danica,” another female voice broadcast. “Decompression in levels one and six. Just vent the oxygen from all the exterior sections. It’s making it harder to maneuver with the ruptures and there’s going to be a lot more of them. The helm feels as though I’m trying to steer a popped balloon.”

“On it, Eve.”

“Surrender,” a male voice hissed.

“No thanks.” It was the one called Eve who spoke. “My sister has her heart set on hooking up with someone cute and that leaves all of you off her dance card.”

The other woman laughed. “Exactly. No amount of drinks will make any of you boys look pretty.”

Blackie knew he wasn’t the only one who was stunned as he glanced around the room. Every cyborg who had gathered in the confined space to witness the battle had wide eyes and surprised expressions. There were women aboard the freighter. He jerked his gaze back to the screen.

“Strap in tight,” Eve demanded. “I’m cutting gravity stabilizers to conserve power.”

“Shit.” The other woman groaned. “I hate feeling weightless.”

“You’d hate them boarding us more.”

“That’s the truth. Fire in cargo bay one.”

“Jettison it but wait until that bastard on our ass gets a little closer.”

A section of the freighter broke loose when one of the pirate ships changed course to pull alongside the Earth vessel instead of behind it, slamming into the ship on the starboard side. They collided hard, slicing into each other in a tangled mass of steel. Lights flickered rapidly on the pirate vessel before it began to tear apart.

“They did that on purpose,” Gene gasped. “They’re using the coms to confuse the pirates.”

Blackie smiled, more than a little impressed. “Smart.” He had to admire the women.

“Dickheads zero, cargo bay score one,” the one called Danica said as she laughed. “Okay. Eighteen more to go.”

“Is that all?” Eve didn’t sound amused. “Hang tough. We’re about to go bowling. Remember that one? I’m going for it.”

“Fuck.” The other woman had lost her humor by the grim tone of her voice. “Are you sure we can take it?”

“Do you think we have a lot of options here? Do you want to take the pilot’s seat? We’re three levels from the impact zones. We’ll hold together or we’ll die fast. Either way you won’t be seeing radiation sores up close and personal. Lock down Control and seal all the vents. It might hold in some sections instead of causing a chain reaction.”

“Go for it. I’m strapped in and ready. All sections secure. You better remember your promise if we do survive.”

“Nightclub and drinks are on me. Unload everything we’ve got on them. It’s balls-to-the-wall time while we’ve still got enough power.”

The big freighter rolled over and turned, reversed thrusters and slammed into a cluster of trailing pirate ships. Blackie held his breath, watching the belly of the large transport being torn apart right along with their targets. Laser cannons blasted from the undamaged weapons on the Earth vessel.

“Fleet?” Gene turned his head. “They are women.”

Their commander stood. “They deserve assistance just for their bravery. I’ll deal with the council and the consequences.”

Blackie frowned. He wanted to help the freighter, curious about the women aboard. It didn’t sit well to do nothing while they were killed but it was his duty to state the obvious despite knowing it would make him unpopular. He debated his personal feelings against what was expected of him. It could be a test and he decided not to fail. He was up for promotion.

“What do we do with the crew of that ship if we save them? Mission protocols state we avoid all contact with any Earth vessels.”

“Let’s worry about that afterward. This is a unique situation.” Fleet leveled an approving stare on him. “Fire on the pirates.”

He focused his attention on the job at hand. He targeted the pirates, taking out their engines. It wasn’t hard to kill them. Their ships were outdated and the structural integrity already weakened from years of attaching scrap metal to keep their hulls together. The battle waged until only the freighter remained.

Blackie studied the ship. They’d stopped firing their cannons and seemed to be drifting in space. Explosions could be seen sparking in the most damaged sections and he wondered if they’d joined the battle too late.

“Open a focused link to the freighter. We don’t want our signal to travel out of this sector and be picked up by anyone else,” Fleet ordered.

“Done,” Gene whispered.

“This is Captain Fleet of an Earth mining expedition,” he lied. “Respond, transport freighter.”

The silence dismayed Blackie. The pilot and copilot had fought valiantly against great odds. He wouldn’t admit it to others but he had a soft spot for anyone facing unfair odds.

“I repeat, this is Captain Fleet from Earth. Freighter, do you hear me? We picked up your distress signal.” He glanced at Blackie before motioning to cut the coms. “Drop our shielding. They’ll know this is an Earth shuttle.” He motioned to Gene to open communication again. “We are allowing you to pick up our signal now to verify we are from Earth. We’re on a mission for Earth Government.”

No response.

Blackie had a really bad feeling that no one had survived on the freighter after that last altercation.

“Prepare a team,” Fleet ordered. “We’ll board her and seek survivors.” He shot a glance at Blackie. “You lead it. Bring back anyone you find alive. We’ll transport them to Garden for medical care.”

“For what purpose?” Blackie stood.

“There are women aboard that shuttle. We could always use more of them.”

“And what of any surviving males?”

“We’ll decide that later.”

He wanted to curse but instead spun on his heel to go to the docking station to put on a space suit. He doubted there would be survivors. The council wouldn’t be happy if there were. Fleet had gone against direct orders from them and he knew he’d have to explain the situation. He couldn’t see many of them being sympathetic toward the plight of two women from Earth.

A memory surfaced, though, of one human who’d been worth saving if he’d been given the chance. His heart grew heavy thinking of Hellfire. He masked his expression and locked down his emotions. Duty came first and foremost. The past couldn’t be changed.

Chapter Two

Smoke made breathing difficult without coughing as Eve unbelted and stood on shaky legs. She stared at Danica. A great sense of relief washed through her when a pair of green eyes held her gaze and the fact that they were both still alive sank in.

“We didn’t die.”

“Yet.” Danica wiggled out of her belt, stood, but then collapsed back into her seat. “Shit. I feel as though I’ve just been beaten up.”

“You kind of were. It’s no time to sit around and be lazy though. We’re probably being boarded. Exterior and interior sensors are down but gravity is on. I’d blindly keep rolling and slam into them to keep them from docking with us but we lost engine power.”

Alarm widened her eyes. “There’s nothing at all?”

“We’re dead in space and now we’re going to have to fight hand-to-hand.” Eve reached up, yanked open an overhead compartment and withdrew the emergency bag.

“Um, there’s something I should tell you.”

“Tell me when we’re on Titan.” Eve tore open the bag and stared at two big replicas of men’s penises.

“That was supposed to be a joke. I thought you’d get a laugh out of it the next time you recharged the weapons during the three-month maintenance schedule.”

Numb fingers dropped the bag as she turned to gape at Danica.

Danica had tears in her eyes. “I didn’t know we were going to end up like this. You’re always a bit bitchy and I picked them up at that last outpost we stopped at to buy supplies. It was meant as a hint for you to, um, maybe use one of them to chill out. I got two different sizes because I didn’t know what you’d prefer. Thick or regular girth.”

“Where are the weapons?” She tried to remain calm but failed as panic set in.

“In my room.”

Eve momentarily closed her eyes to mask her anguish. Their sleeping quarters were two decks below, probably open to outer space. She took a few deep breaths, trying to think. “There’s a weapons locker on this deck but we have to go through one of the cargo bays to reach it. We might beat them to it. Did you replace those too?”

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