Five days to go! I think the title says it all so on with the show!
Aurelia Popkiss glared at the half-dozen men who dared to board her ship and didn’t know what annoyed her more: the fact that eight meagerly armed men thought they would take them so easily, or the imbecile currently blocking her shot.
“Where’s the vault?” The small one in front without a single strand of hair on his head obviously fancied himself the leader. Not a man she would have followed into battle, personally. He waved a mass of metal nearly the length of his arm at them. “This ain’t a toy, you know.”
No, definitely not a toy. She felt the urge to comment on his need to carry such a big gun, but she figured it wouldn’t be well received. It was never good to taunt a man about the size of his weapon.
“You’d best shove off, mate.” Everhard, aka the man-mountain blocking her from view, made her so proud. “We haven’t got a vault.”
A sharp bark of laughter burst from the little man. “Look at your clothes, your fancy weapons. This ship ain’t exactly a relic. Of course you’ve got a vault. Now, tell us or we start shooting and find it anyway.”
Not only was he short in stature, but on brainpower too.
Weapons on her side lifted a little higher. They had at least eight men while Aurelia’s side had five, including her. But her men’s weaponry was much more advanced. Surely they had to see this too. The exotic munitions her men carried should have been a tip off that they weren’t the type that got hijacked.
The intruders seemed to realize they might be at a disadvantage when Bam stepped forward. They took an instinctive step back. He had that effect on people. Or at least his mechanical bits did. With one eye and an arm replaced by machinery—in addition to his size—he cut a frightening figure. “Best think again, mate. Y’ might have the numbers, but we’ve more firepower. What makes y’ think y’ can get past us?”
The other group looked more than a little daunted by the overt challenge. Their eyes darted from one another to their diminutive leader.
The little man’s face twisted with such hatred that Aurelia could almost feel it coming off him in waves. “Have it your way!”
Then hell decided to have its way with her ship.
Shots flew from the guns of the invaders, while Aurelia and her crew dove for the nearest cover.
Aurelia landed behind a crate just as a bullet grazed the corner. “Fire!”
Her men didn’t hesitate. She edged around her shield and fired. The scream that rewarded her almost made a smile curl her lips. She relished the cries of fright when they unleashed the awesome power of Meri’s weapons. Unlike what the would-be marauders were firing, their weapons didn’t merely propel bullets. Hiding behind things wasn’t going to save them from what was essentially target-seeking lightning.
Brilliant flashes of light burst in the cargo hold, accompanied by the dull thud of bodies falling to the floor.
Unable to see any more adversaries, Aurelia sidled out from her hiding place inch by inch in search of another target. She stifled a cry of pain behind gritted teeth when an arm snagged around her middle and dragged her to the forefront.
Furious, Auri glared at her men when their guns sagged a little. The expression on her face was enough to buoy them back up again.
“Get your hands off her and get the hell off this ship!” Everhard jerked his head toward the airlock. “We’ve got the upper hand.”
“Like hell. I think we’ve got a little leverage now.”
Her first mate, Keys, took a menacing step forward. Ever her guardian angel. Though at this moment, despite his golden good looks, he appeared quite the opposite. “I think your logic is a little addled.”
“And I think you’re bluffin’ ‘cuz we got her.” He gave Aurelia a little shake in emphasis.
She could see the deadly glint to Keys’ pale eyes now. Jaw clenched, his mouth tilted wryly. “What makes you think we give a damn?”
“You’ve gotta be stupid if you think we don’t get what she means to you. One woman on a ship full of men?” Her captor ran a meaty hand up her side to cup a breast, kneading it painfully. “She must be something.”
Her entire crew stepped forward as one.
“Do that again and you die.” Keys drew another gun and leveled both weapons at the head of the man who dared to touch her.
“Keys.” Aurelia’s gaze broke from his and swept over their group of men; they backed off. “Live today, fight tomorrow.”
“The ladybird’s got some sense in her. You boys oughta listen.” He buried his nose in her hair and dragged a deep breath. “Smells like flowers. I bet you all are gonna miss her something awful.” His laughter darkened her men’s faces even more. “I’m feeling charitable. We’ll take her and leave the safe. I’d wager she’s worth more than whatever you’ve got on this wreck anyhow.”
Big talk from a man who would be dead if he wasn’t using her as a shield.
Aurelia kept her eyes on Keys to make sure he didn’t try anything stupid, while she was divested of her weapons. Her glare was enough to keep him and the rest of the men rooted to the spot as she was hauled away. The look of fury on Keys’ face when she winked was quite a sight.
Despite his lack of height, the one holding her hefted her onto his shoulder as if she was a child and carried her through the airlock and into their launch. The shuttle they piled into was tiny enough without the stinking and sweaty men, crammed onboard in varying states of consciousness. She allowed them to push her into a corner without a fight, focusing her energy on breathing without retching. The craft was what she would call outdated, if she wanted to use the most polite term for rusted piece of space junk. It was a miracle it even functioned.
“A fine haul!” The laughter and the cheers made Aurelia grimace. “It’s a damn shame we don’t have any beer to celebrate.”
“We can celebrate properly once we’re back on the ship. I’ll call ahead and tell them we’ve got company.”
They paid little attention to her as they congratulated each other on their latest acquisition. Aurelia took advantage and reached into her coat, pulling out a bronze sphere that was easily concealed in her palm. She found the small hollow that was the trigger and depressed it before rolling it under the control console.
“We’ll head back to the ship and give her a test drive.”
The leering grins were enough to make her skin prickle.
“Nothing to say, whore? Your tongue seemed to be wagging plenty back when we were with your mates.”
She shrugged. “I didn’t think you wanted me here for conversation.”
Their raucous laughter made her fists clench from the force it took not to punch one of them right then and there.
The jubilant mood was disturbed by a faint ticking.
Aurelia shrugged again. All too aware of their attention, she calmly reached into her coat again and pulled a mask out of its depths.
“What’re you doing? What’s that thing?”
She ignored the hysterical questions bombarding her as she secured the glossy chrome contraption snug against her skin. Aurelia’s fingers barely managed to fasten the clasp behind her head just as a brilliant flash burst.
“Dammit all to hell!” Aurelia reflexively scrubbed at the glass over her burning eyes with the heel of her hands. Even her skin was irritated from the intensity of the blast. Blinded like the rest of the men in the small room, Aurelia wrestled with her coat to produce another ball and threw it in the direction of the outraged shouts.
It was a few seconds before she could make out the blurred figures of men falling over.
Aurelia breathed a sigh of relief behind her mask and made her way over to the control console.
Or at least where it should be.
The stacks of garbage that overflowed the console and every other surface would require an archaeologist to excavate in order to find it. Auri kicked at the piles until she found what she was looking for. Even without the garbage she was hesitant to touch anything.
Stomach heaving, she wrapped a finger in the hem of her shirt and jabbed at the filth-encrusted communication controls until she managed a secure signal. “Euchronia. Are you there?”
The image on screen wobbled into the familiar interior of her ship’s cockpit.
The devastatingly handsome face of Everhard appeared. “Glad to see you’re alive, darlin’.”
“No thanks to Meri.”
The accused pushed his skinny frame to the front of the group with a pleasant expression on his gaunt face.
She tore off the mask and stabbed an accusing finger at the screen. “You! You said that the gas bomb was the bronze one and the flash thing was the silver one!”
“Ether Deployment Incapacitator and Vision Impairment Flare Unit, my dear.” He waved dismissively at the screen. “Did I mix them up? Never mind. It all worked out, didn’t it?”
“You are going to experience a whole new definition of pain when I get back, old man.”
“Manners, young lady!”
Aurelia gave them her sweetest smile. The one she always gave before someone got hurt. “My sincerest apologies, dear sir. Being blinded and helpless at the hands of my captors tends to make me a bit sore.”
“Enough.” The tall figure of her first mate, Keys, pushed into view. “Miss, are you okay?” From the wild disarray of his sandy hair, she would wager that he wasn’t.
“I’m fine.” She settled back at the controls and made herself as comfortable as she could without actually touching anything with her bare skin. “I’m going to head back to their ship now.”
“You should come and get us. There might be more of them.”
His concern was always equal parts touching and irritating. After all this time, she would have thought he had more confidence in her abilities.
“I’ll be fine. Just get that hunk of rust hidden and I’ll find you when it’s done, okay?”
“Yes, miss. But—”
“My locator beacon is functional, is it not?”
“If you don’t hear from me in three, maybe four hours, come looking for me.”
“We will.” It was a promise.
“Wonderful. See you in a little while.” She closed communications before anyone else could argue.
Finding the ship her kidnappers were from was easy enough. Guys like them made it easy. All Aurelia had to do was push the autopilot button and sit back to enjoy the ride.
She put the mask back on and took a glorious breath of filtered air.
Sometimes it was almost too easy being a pirate.
So? What do you think?
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