Day 11. 52 pages, 23,147 words.
The ship, a battered gunmetal-grey tube like a huge torpedo, lay along one wall of the cargo hold. It was canted slightly onto its side with its underbelly unceremoniously cut open. Oddly apropos, considering that the vessel fit its pilot rather snugly with only minimal drive, weapons, comms and life-support machinery around the outside. It was a blunt-ended cylinder designed to contain the Fergunakil, take it from place to place as fast as possible, and keep it alive – a suit, really, more than a starship.
The clipper was an extension of a great fish, and it had been gutted and discarded like one.
Even though things were dry and relatively tidy, the fight between the clipper and the Black Honey Wings clearly having taken place sometime previously, the whole spacious main hold still stank of brine and the assortment of rotting matter that usually graced the interior of a Fergunakil clipper. The cybernetic implants and leads and interfaces that connected the shark to the vessel surrounding it had been ripped out in the course of the removal of the pilot, in many cases – Drago saw as he took a deep breath and ducked his head briefly into the burned opening – leaving clumps of soft grey meat around them. He withdrew, stood back, and breathed again.
“I love my job,” he muttered.
Captain Dool’s crew had clearly also removed a lot of the more valuable components from the clipper – just because you’d been sent on a bounty hunting mission, that was no reason to pass up an opportunity for a little side-profit – and left the whole thing more or less disassembled even though at a cursory examination the ship seemed to be in one piece. Aside from the big hole in the belly, at least. This was both good news and bad news.
Oh, Drago could have told them that attacking and scavenging a Fergie ship was a damn fool thing to do, and attempting to sell the parts on was even worse. Even if it was out in the middle of nowhere, alone, a Fergie would be part of a school. And even if the other members of that school didn’t actually like that lone Fergie very much, they would come for anyone who attacked it.
Fergunak held grudges. This was a well-known fact, yes … but the true, crazy extent of the fact was invariably something people failed to appreciate. If you were going to attack a Fergunakil ship, you were better off leaving it dead in space with as few identifying weapons-signatures as possible. Ideally, you’d blast it into its nasty component atoms and make yourself scarce.
But it wasn’t Drago’s job to tell these dillweeds that. Nak Dool should have had some more experienced space-dogs on his crew to educate him about this stuff, before he went toddling off to do the Halfmoon’s dirty work.
Anyway, the ship was stripped, and that was good and bad. It was bad because Barducci had been considering it as a last-ditch escape option if the fight got too hot on board the Black Honey Wings. It was good for much the same reason – piloting a Fergie ship was a revolting concept at best, and was way too dependent on hacking the cybernetic connections and mastering mechanical controls intended for use by the cartilaginous proto-hands of a fifty-foot shark. It was theoretically possible, but the best you could expect was a barely-controlled freefall until somebody could pick you up and pry you out of there. You wanted to be absolutely out of alternatives, anyway.
He took another deep breath, and went delving for the computer core.