Read Queen of the Pirates Online

Authors: Blaze Ward

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Exploration, #Hard Science Fiction, #Space Fleet, #Space Opera, #Military, #Artificial intelligence, #Galactic Empire, #starship, #Pirates, #Space Exploration

Queen of the Pirates (6 page)

BOOK: Queen of the Pirates
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The building she wanted was third down on the right of the big quad. Students lounged, even on a cold day like this, some studying, some playing a game with an inflated ball, two necking in an alcove out of the breeze.

One enterprising soul was apparently cooking lunch on a hibachi about the size of her shoe. Not that she had ever done something like that, no sir.

Somebody wolf–whistled at her as she walked past, but she didn’t have the time or inclination to stop and say hi.

Moirrey looked at the faces as she passed, wondering wistfully at the crevasse of time that separated her from these bright–faced youngsters who were all of three or four years younger than her. And had most likely never been shot at by anybody, especially not Imperial Battleships.

She giggled.
And certainly never shot back.
She giggled some more.

Six years on starships had done her legs good. The twelve broad steps up the front of the building were easy going. Inside, there was a large foyer with more students studying, snacking, napping.

Moirrey found the board along one wall, located the name she wanted, and took the stairs two at a time to the second floor. If she’d had thought about how many young men were going to be around today, she might, just might, have worn civilian attire instead of her day uniform. Maybe something with leggings and a tunic that would show off a tantalizing amount of bottom as she pounded up all these stairs with the over–stuffed messenger bag bouncing on her butt.

She giggled yet more.

Let’s see. Offices on the left are low numbers. Not this one. Nope. A–ha.

The door was open. The space was barely big enough for a small desk and two overflowing bookshelves. And one young woman, eyes down, reading. One very pregnant woman with brown hair pulled into a pony tail. Hugely pregnant. Like winter–turkey–about–to–pop pregnant.

Moirrey smiled. “All that reading’s probably bad for you, you know,” she said casually.

The woman looked up and did a double–take. “Moirrey!” she cried, lurching up out of the chair and wobbling around the desk to engulf the much smaller woman in a giant hug.

Moirrey eventually emerged from the hug to poke the big belly.

“This is an agricultural college, Dina,” she said with a tease. “Hasn’t anyone explained to you where those come from?”

Dina laughed with her head back, the sound ringing off the walls and down the hallway.

“And you?” Dina asked, reaching out to touch Moirrey’s collar with her rank tab and then the
Auberon
patch on her left shoulder. “You went off and became a great, big hero.”

“I did no such thing, missy,” Moirrey countered.

“You did, Pint–Sized,” Dina said with another laugh. “It was in the paper, even. Your ship saving the day from the big Imperial bad guys.”

“No way.”

“Truth,” Dina concluded. “So, how did you get here?”

Moirrey directed Dina back to her own chair and then moved a pile of books from the other chair, hidden in the mess, into the hall so she could sit.

“We’re in town for a few days, passing through,” Moirrey replied lightly. “Our Commander likes me something fierce, and asked me to bring you a prize.”

“Me?”

“Well, not you in particular, but I have a couple of things for the Institute that she thought would be fun and useful, and I got a day off to bring them over, quiet–like, while she hobnobs with the governor and folks.”

“Do you now?” Dina asked slyly.

“Aye,” Moirrey said as she opened the messenger bag and pulled out a barely smaller, rolled bag from inside.

She and Dina worked seamlessly to move books around until the desk was mostly flat and kinda clean. Moirrey unrolled the satchel until she got to a piece of paper stuffed in the middle.

“There you go,” Moirrey said as she handed Dina the paper. “Inventory of stuff for the seed library.”

Dina scanned the list quickly and then looked at her former best friend with a dropped jaw. “Where did you get this stuff, Moirrey? This is amazing.”

“T’were Commander Keller’s doing, Dina,” Moirrey replied. “She asked the folks at the University of
Ladaux
to put you together a care package she could deliver. Things that would grow here. Special things nearly lost when the Homeworld was destroyed.”

“For us?” Dina said, still amazed.

“Well,” the tiny woman muttered, “I might’ve called in a favor or two along the way. But she does like me something fierce, so it were a good way to do it.”

“And she’s just giving us this?” Dina asked, breathless.

“Oh, aye, Princess,” Moirrey said, “and I’ve got more for the folks at the library.”

“You know,” Dina said, “nobody’s called me ‘Princess’ in a long time, Pint–Sized.”

“Well, then,
Princess
,” Moirrey grinned evilly, “introduce me to some of the nice folks at the library and I can tell them what they’ve missed.”

She pulled the other object out of the now–deflated messenger bag and set it on the desk. It was a small box, exactly two centimeters thick, nine wide, and twenty–two long, made from a matte black material that seemed to suck the light out of the room.

“What’s that?” Dina asked.

“This, young lady, is a standard
Aquitaine
fleet astrogator’s navigation module, wiped clean and filled with books.”

“Wow,” Dina said. “How many?”

“About three million,” Moirrey said quietly.

“Moirrey, that’s more than we have now,” Dina replied.

“Yup. This be a personal present from First Lord of the Fleet Kasum.”

“Oh my God,” Dina said simply.

“So, you ever take a break from reading? I only have about two hours before I have to be to my next stop, and you’ve got six years of explaining to do.”

Moirrey poked Dina softly in the belly. “Let’s start here.”

Dina smiled. “I met Evgen my first semester…”

Ξ

Moirrey bundled up tight against the chill. The sun had been down for about twenty minutes and the air was dropping fast into too–cold–to–be–outside–thank–you–very–much.

She and Dina walked arm in arm into the parking lot at the far end of the campus, waving to the head librarian, hoping the man wouldn’t feel the need to hug her again. Seriously, books were nice and all, but let’s keep the emotional displays to a polite minimum.
And no more crying.

Beside her, Dina snickered.

“What?” Moirrey asked with a huff.

“You know, Pint–Sized,” Dina replied with a giggle, “if we’d have stayed much longer, he might have asked you to marry him.”

“Is why we’re leaving now, Princess. That and Uncle Detrin or Cousin Dale should be here to pick me up shortly. Sure you don’t want to bring the man and come for dinner?”

“I would love to, but I have papers to grade tonight,” Dina said. “
Somebody
kept me from working all afternoon.”

Moirrey planted herself with hands on her hip bones and gave her best friend a mock–serious stare. “That’s because I’m way more important, missy.”

Dina giggled some more. “Whatever you say, Pint–Sized.”

Moirrey
harrumphed
once for emphasis.

She looked around the nearly empty parking lot. Couple of panel trucks. A few old beaters that probably belonged to faculty. A whole rack of zip–bikes and old–fashioned bicycles. And one flatbed rig still covered with mud. Moirrey began to walk that direction.

A door opened, and Cousin Dale climbed down from the cab. Moirrey refrained from running, since the pregnant lady beside her kinda waddled along, but she raised her hand and waved as the man walked closer.

“Moirrey!” he called to her.

Up close, Cousin Dale was all growed up. Like, almost 2–meters tall and half that across the shoulders. Still had the baby–face, hidden behind a few wispy whiskers. Course, he were only twenty now, so he still had some growing up to do, but he walked close and engulfed her in a hug that lifted her clean off the ground.

She let him swing her around once before she pounded on his meaty shoulder.

“Put me down, you big lug.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled, setting her down like fine porcelain.

“Dina,” he continued.

She stepped up and gave him a much more sedate hug, belly stuck way out front. It was like an iceberg or something.

“You coming with us?” Dale said.

“I can’t,” Dina replied, “but tell Ma and Pa hi for me.”

When Dale put an arm around her, she noticed the two panel trucks across the way turn their lights on and start to inch forward. In the distance, coming down the main roadway into the campus, another vehicle was barreling along at a way–too–fast–for–this–kind–of–neighborhood speed.

Moirrey did the math and reached into her messenger bag while Dale and Dina chattered. Lincoln were supposed to be a quiet place, especially around the Institute, but she’d been bad places before. She knew what the signs of trouble were.

In the bag, her hand closed around a very small beam weapon. It was a kind specially designed for a woman’s purse, and a woman’s hand. Small enough to hold, big enough to whomp a horse upside the head.

The two trucks boxed Dale’s flatbed in and turned sideways. Almost a dozen men in black outfits suddenly jumped out and started pointing guns and things at her. At them, but mostly at her. What had she done?

A goon with some training and a pistol stepped a little closer. “Nobody move and nobody gets hurt,” he growled ominously. “Am I clear?”

“What’s going on?” Dina said, voice rising.

The man started towards Dina, violence in his eyes.

Moirrey stepped in between them and pulled the little pistol out. She’d never actually pointed it at someone before now, outside of training, but her hand didn’t twitch as she did.

“You will leave her alone,” Moirrey growled at him.

The man stopped. He appeared to be Dale’s size, but at least a decade older, a decade of violence obvious in a clipped ear and a ragged scar over one eye. He scowled hard at her.

“You’re coming with us,
Aquitaine
,” he said.

Across the parking lot, the car suddenly slowed down, but kept coming. Moirrey didn’t want to take her eyes off the man to see what the vehicle was doing.

“Fergus,” a man’s voice called, “stand down.”

The goon gave her his best stink–eye, but took half a step back and to one side. She watched him turn away from her group, so she took a moment to look at a new face.

Apparently, he had been in the back of the truck waiting. Short and skinny. Dark hair slicked back. Long duster and black gloves. No gun. Pretty–boy face. Moirrey kept her gun on the goon.

The car kept coming.

The man snapped his fingers.

Moirrey watched half a dozen guns, big battle rifles, suddenly come up and aim at it.

Nobody fired, yet.

The man turned his attention away from Moirrey as the car stopped sharply with a squeal of rubber on asphalt.

Moirrey felt Dale start to move forward, so she stepped in front of him as well and hip–checked him back hard. It felt like bumping a tree, but Dale stopped.

These people meant business. He were gonna get hurt if he tried something, however well he meant.

Moirrey saw most of the guns pointed away from her now, except for the big goon and one other. So she was dealing with professionals. Good to remember.

And then a voice rang out of the darkness and made everything better.

Chapter VIII

Date of the Republic September 24, 393 City of Lincoln, Ramsey

Jessica rode in the back of the limousine while Marcelle and one of
Auberon’s
marines were up front, hanging on as Marcelle drove at crazy speeds through mostly empty streets. Fortunately, Lincoln was the kind of town that rolled up the sidewalks at night. Traffic down in Landing would have been much more severe.

“Marine,” Jessica said, “identify yourself, please.”

“First–Rate Spacer Tawfeek, Commander,” a man’s voice came from behind the lowered face shield.

“Very good, Tawfeek,” she said. “I’m hoping that you have nothing to do tonight but sit around. However, we may need your skills.”

“Aye, sir. Do you want my spare pistol?”

Jessica weighed the options. It would be a nice fall back, but if things were that bad, then she was going to need a ten–kilo maul, not a shiv.

“Negative,” Jessica said finally. “Marcelle is armed. You stay out of sight as long as possible.”

“Understood, sir.”

Through the front windshield, Jessica could see the parking lot at the university. Two big cargo transports had boxed in another vehicle. There were far more people standing around than normal for a weekday late afternoon.

“Marcelle,” she said, “we’re late to the party, but not too late. Let’s be a little more casual, please?”

She felt the vehicle slow as it entered the lot.

Over there, most of the figures were suddenly pointing weapons at them. Marcelle jammed on the brakes and brought the big beast to a screeching halt.

“This will do, Marcelle,” Jessica said, keying her comm and dropping it into an outside pocket on her overcoat.

She opened the rear door slowly, so as not to rouse them over there. Someone might get twitchy if she moved to fast. Best to move with careful grace.

She stepped out of the vehicle, but kept the door between her and the bad guys. She didn’t figure it was armored enough to stop the bad guys if they opened fire right now, but every little bit helped.

“I am Command Centurion Jessica Keller, commander of
RAN Auberon
,” she called across the parking lot. “Who the hell are you?”

She watched a slick punk in a long coat turn away from Moirrey and two locals and focus his attention on her.

“My name’s not important to you,” he sneered. “But you and your friends are coming with us. I have somebody who wants to talk to you.”

“I don’t think so, mister,” she called back.

He stomped closer. Not close, but enough that he could look intimidating without the light breeze ruffling his hair.

“I don’t think you understand, Navy,” he said. “You don’t have a choice. I brought a lot of firepower with me and I’m willing to use it.”

BOOK: Queen of the Pirates
3.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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