Aboard the pirate ship Daisy Bell, en-route to Port Royal Station, 17th January 2095
Leah was awoken by the Captain. "Get yourself up, lass. There's somethin' important I needs to tell you."
Leah stirred for a moment and sat up. "What is it?"
She'd been aboard the Daisy Bell for a few days now, in the 'care' of Captain Morgan. The crew had mostly avoided her, given her parentage and what the Captain might do if he caught them doing something nasty. Morgan could actually be quite charming sometimes, she had to admit.
"I've been goin' things over with the crew, an' I want you to do somethin', when we reach Port Royal."
"Well, from what we know of your father's battles, maybe you could..."
"Maybe I could what?"
"Space is a dangerous place, an' pirates can be the most dangerous of 'em all. There be a ship drawin' near, an' they don't look friendly. I want you to be there, in the fight, with the rest of the crew."
"What? But I was shot just a few days ago, and I don't know what I get out of this."
"Take the bandage off, lass, an' you'll see."
Leah undid the sling and carefully unwrapped the bandage. A clump of grey goo fell to the floor and the wound was completely healed.
"What? Where did you get a nanotech bandage?"
"Looted a whole crate o' them from a Yankee ship, a couple o' months ago. It don't matter, does it? You'd better grab a gun and some armour- you're with Stark's squad. If you make it out in one piece, there's a place for you on my crew."
Leah made her way down to the docking module, grabbing an oxygen mask, a Kalashnikov, some spare magazines and some cheap body armour on the way. It was very basic, with outmoded kevlar padding, but it was better than nothing. Stark's squad was to be the first aboard the enemy ship.
Despite space warships having existed for nearly forty years, there was still some debate about how to use them correctly. Most UNDO (United Nations Defence Organisation) warships were fitted with large railguns designed for bombarding targets on Earth, which to some made long-range engagements the obvious solution. However, there were several problems with this.
Chief among them was fitting large numbers of ships with the powerful scanners needed to detect enemy ships at long ranges. The scanners themselves were relatively inexpensive, given the vast military-industrial complex offered by UNDO co-operation. However, recalling hundreds of ships scattered around the inner Solar System and the Asteroid Belt to a few shipyards floating around the Earth-Luna system would be incredibly time- and fuel-consuming, and the scanners themselves were not guaranteed to be reliable. The Chinese and American space forces had already begun the slow process of upgrading their ships for these proposed tactics, mostly due to lobbying from technology companies determined to find a market for their scanning systems.
However, there were schools of thought which stated that the pirates had got it right. These people, including a few senior military officers, advocated the use of close-range hit-and-run tactics using 'broadsides' of smaller coilguns, which could be reloaded quickly and cooled with inexpensive disposable heat sinks. Another main feature of pirate tactics was the boarding party: several squads of pirates would be sent in to plunder treasure and kill all who resisted, taking no quarter.
In two minutes, the assault began. Leah saw the enemy ship through the small window- obviously a pirate ship. There was a sudden jerk and the two ships were connected. As the doors opened, Stark 'rolled' a flashbang through, blinding the pirates on the other side. The seven-person squad opened fire at the first opportunity, tearing apart the ones who were defending the rival ship's entrance.
The pirates rushed forward, guns blazing. Leah was slow on the uptake, but found it in her to join in. After all, this could be her way out of this mess.
The main deck of the rival ship was filled with pirates, who upon spotting the Daisy Bell had bolted crates down to the floor to use as cover. One of the other pirates in Stark's squad was carrying a grenade launcher. He fired a couple of shots, invalidating the makeshift fortifications.
Suddenly, a bullet flew past Leah's head and hit Stark in the eye, killing him as it went through his head. Not wanting to be caught in a broken squad, Leah took command.
"Everyone with me! Concentrate your fire!" she shouted, "Try using short bursts!"
As the other squads began pouring on to the ship, a broadside tore through the hull. Pirates from both sides got their oxygen masks on and held on to something whilst the atmosphere was vented out into space. The battle continued, the pirates under Leah's command advancing forward inexorably.
She led the charge onto the enemy ship's gun deck, catching them by surprise. Leah noticed that many of them were unarmed. Ah well. She did what she had to do.
The battle was over soon and the ship was theirs. Morgan came onboard to admire their handiwork.
"Now, lass, what's this I hear 'bout you takin' command?" he asked Leah.
"I was just doing what came naturally," was her reply.
"Ah... A born leader. Tell you what, how's 'bout you come wi' me..."
Later, as the Daisy Bell got underway, Morgan called the crew to a meeting.
"Gen'lemen, meet your new First Mate." He indicated Leah.
"'Er?" said one of the gunners.
"Yes, her. You saw how she did on that raid. She knows 'ow to lead, she does. We'll be at Port Royal tomorrah lunchtime. Now, I have business to attend to, so I'm leavin' 'er in charge o' the ship." He spoke to Leah on his way out. "Don't bugger this up, lass."
"I won't," she said.
That night, Leah was talking with the crew. Many of them were dissatisfied with Morgan's leadership and there was talk of a mutiny.
Leah saw an opportunity.
"Morgan's weak and selfish. He only cares about his own fame and glory, and hides behind promises of treasure and wealth. How much treasure and wealth do we get? None! And he expects us to stick with his delusion? No fucking way. We're gonna take over."
The plan was simple. Morgan and Leah would come back from their business on Port Royal. Leah would kick him to the ground and shoot him in the back of the head, becoming the new Captain in the progress. Her first mate was to be Turner, commander of the gunnery crew.
What then, the others asked. Morgan was sure to find them an epic quest. You didn't have to be Friedrich Nietzche to figure out what to do next.
Port Royal Station was the heart of piracy in the Solar System. It flew a highly irregular orbit, having been near to Earth when it was first 'built'. The station itself was an assortment of old shipwrecks and asteroids linked together by flimsy corridors. Its inhabitants were the worst the Solar System had to offer: pirates, terrorists, mad scientists... Never would you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
The Daisy Bell docked at the station and Leah and Morgan left for the station.
Their first port of call was a tavern Morgan frequented, owned by an old pirate named Macbride.
Macbride sat them down at a table and brought them some rum.
"So, Morgan, who's this?" he asked.
"Me new first mate," said Morgan, "Born leader, she is."
"Moight regret takin' on summun loike that. Prone to mu'iny, oi thinks."
"Me? Mutiny? No!" said Leah, downing her glass of rum.
"See? No problem!"
"Oi'll trust yer judgemen' here, Morgan, but oi'd still keep an oye on her. So, what're ya here for? Another quest?"
"Yarr, a quest. Say, you still got that map?"
"What? The-" Macbride lowered his voice, "The Leoviathan map?"
A silence fell around the room.
"The Levoiathan," began Macbride, "Well, there's some dispoot as to the name. Oi call it Levoiathan, some call it the Terrorsquid, some say Cthulhu and so on..."
"Some old story or somesuch. Never 'ad the toime for that stuff meself."
"I know where it's from, but what did it do to earn that name?"
"'Tis a terrible slumbering beast, from beyond the stars. They say it wandered into the Solar System millions of years ago. When it wakes, it'll eat the Sun and move on..."
"Has anyone seen ever this thing?"
"Few have seen it and lived... Oi be one of 'em. Oi say, turn back whilst ya still can. There's no point in going after it... You can 'ave the map though." He reached into his pocket and got out a folded piece of yellowed paper.
Leah took it and put it in her pocket. "Got anything else?"
"Oi... Need some toime to meself." Macbride finished his drink and went back to the bar.
Morgan and Leah returned to the ship soon afterwards. Morgan wasn't completely stupid- he wasn't going to go after the Leviathan. The plan was to sail the Belt and find something to plunder. There were plenty of ships in the Belt, after all. They'd find something soon enough.
Just as Morgan opened the hatch, he felt a sharp pain in the back of his right knee, causing him to stumble to the floor, followed by the barrel of a gun against the back of his head.
"What be goin' on?" he said, breathlessly.
Leah smiled as she took aim with Morgan's Mauser. "A mutiny." She pulled the trigger, and Morgan fell down dead. She boarded the ship and set a course- one that would take them back to Europa.
The HMS Charles III was eight days out from New Cardiff and there was still no sign of the Daisy Bell.
The Charles III was a modernised Type 87 destroyer, having been fitted with a pair of B&C railguns and her ion engine array replaced with a powerful VASIMR for operations on the Frontier. She carried a pair of Type 90 shuttles, which could be outfitted for fire support, troop transport or as escape pods. Her commanding officer was Lieutenant-Commander Christine Bowes.
Onboard, the situation was tense. They had spotted a pirate ship not too long ago, but it was too far away to tell if it were the Daisy Bell. Bowes had ordered a closer look, and now they were getting closer to the ship.
"Tell me when you have a positive ID," she said.
Steve, Terrwyn and Joe arrived on the bridge.
"You're here. We're drawing near the ship. We should be able to tell if it's the ship that took Leah soon."
"We have an ID, ma'am," said Croft, the scopeman1. "It's the Daisy Bell."
"Battle stations, everyone," said Bowes, "You three, stay here. Bell, try and contact them." She took up a position at the centre of the bridge. "This is Lieutenant-Commander Bowes, of the HMS Charles III. We know you have Leah Enfield captive, Captain. If you stand down and release her now, we will not harm you."
The reply came from the Daisy Bell.
"This is Captain Leah Enfield, of the pirate ship Daisy Bell."
"Not another Captain Enfield," said Joe, "One's bad enough."
"Was that Joe?"
"Yes, that was me. We even brought Steve and Terrwyn. What the ever-loving fuck are you doing?"
The Daisy Bell swung around and moved towards the Charles III.
"Security to the docking bay!" ordered Bowes, "You three, get back to your quarters."
The Daisy Bell's maneuverability allowed her to dock with the Charles III before the RSF ship could move out of the way. Leah would, in theory, lead the assault. In reality, Leah would cross over and be back to New Cardiff in time for the Super Dome.
The doors opened and Leah faced the security team's submachine guns.
"Drop your weapons!" said the sergeant.
Leah holstered Morgan's pistol.
"Wha' ya doin'?" said one of the pirates.
"You heard him. Drop your weapons."
"The hell is this?" said Turner, "You set us up all along! All of that uber-wotsit ruse was a distraction!" He grabbed Leah in a fit of fury and slashed her up the right side of her face.
The pain was unbearable, but she was able to overpower him and put a bullet in his brain. She crossed over to the Charles III and slammed the hatch shut.
Bowes gave the order to detach and fire the retros, propelling the ship backwards.
"RCS, rotate, three degrees starboard," said Bowes, "You may fire when ready."
"I always wanted to say that!" she said quietly to herself.
One of the Charles III's two railguns opened fire, sending a five kilogram slug of ballistic alloy, a ferrous metal with comparable properties to lead, towards the Daisy Bell. The shot impacted a split second later, tearing through the ship.
"Hit confirmed," said Croft.
In the medbay a few hours later, Leah was being treated for her injuries. Her eye had been replaced with an implant designed for accurate targetting. It felt strange. She had never really gone in for the whole cyborg thing before. Of course, she had the force-feedback implants in her hands, but that was pretty much it.
She looked at herself in a mirror. The implant was very visible, sticking out an inch or so from her eye and glowing red from the lens. She'd been given nanomachines to stop the bleeding, but the scar was there to stay.
"Couldn't I get an eyepatch?" she asked the medic, "I'm going to miss being a pirate."
"I'm afraid not, Miss Enfield. That would be a breach of all sorts of protocol... So apart from that, how does it look?"
"It's not an eyepatch, but it is very cool. Goes nicely with the scar..."
1Scopeman: Bridge officer who operates the scanners on ships that have them.