Pirates of the 23rd Century: Chapter 1
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The full version of Chapter one. Gray gets his ship, stuff blows up, and a jolly good time is had by all. Sorry in advance for the length and any spelling/grammar mistakes.


Major Hank Thomas of the American-Earth Navy was not the type of man who liked setbacks. His brainchild, the new starship dubbed the Archangel, was facing a major one. It had been stolen from right under his, and half the Navy's, noses.

Two Months earlier

"You did WHAT!?!?!" "I told you, I rerouted the turbine cowling so it would blow directly onto the combustion chamber." "And you did this, why?" "Because it'd keep the engine cooler in atmosphereic conditions." "And it also exposes the engines to any crap that happens to be floating around out there." Nathan Gray slowly massaged his temples, highly frustrated with his new mechanic. Thomas Lee had just signed on at the beginning of the previous voyage, and was proving to be a slight problem. The problem wasn't Tom's ability to fix things. It was his complete lack of common sense. "well, whaddya want me to do about it, Cap'n?" "Just fix it, alright Tom?" "You got it." As Lee ran back down to the engine room, Gray heaved a long, exasperated sigh. Four months out in the black and only three good prizes. Throw in being chased by six different system patrol squads, and Gray had every reason to be stressed to breaking. His crew were unhappy, his ship was falling apart, and there was a three inch coating of dust on his cargo bay floor. Not a good life for a pirate. Almost thankful to be back on that God-forsaken rock he called home port, Gray headed for the off-ramp. The Void had been a pirate haven for a long time, since Gray could remember, at least. Hidden in the asteroid belt, the space station was built into a large asteroid, making it all but impossible to find. The only way to get there was to have the coordinates, which changed daily. The only people with the coordinates were regualr pirates who stopped in every month or so to sell their swag. The Void constantly broadcast their coordinates to these ships so they could return at their leisure. He stopped in the cargo hold on his way out to check on Kim and Kay. Kimberly and Kay Adams were a rather interesting pair. Gray had found them on the streets of Mars, abandoned by their owners. Kimberly was a slave to an old Frenchman who had the bright idea of clonong her for free labor. His attempts failed, and Kay was born. He and his "sister" were thrown out by their master, to die on the streets. Gray gave them a place on his ship, and they repaid him by being probably the hardest working of his crew. "Hey Cap'n, where ya goin?" asked Kim. "Nowhere in particular, just tryin to sell off that swag we got last month." "Don't expect to get to much for it Cap." Kay grunted from behind the barrel he was moving. "Why not?" "Well, some of it's evaporated, and what hasn't is either contaminated or tastes like bathroom cleaning chemicals." Oh wonderful, thought Gray. He had two dozen barrels of spoiled water. "well, could it be good for anything?" Gray asked. "We could switch it with Tom's water ration." giggled Kim. "An idea I might be inclined to overlook at the moment" muttered Gray as he left the cargo bay. Gray left the ship wishing he never had to go back. The rust-bucket piece of shit 'Orion' class cargo hauler looked bad, and flew even worse. It looked something like a fattened paddle, with the paddle-blade being the engines and the grip holding the bridge. The cargo bay, crew's quarters, galley, and med bay were all smashed together in between. Not to mention being slow as a retard with a hangover, it mounted almost no weaponry. Two turrets. Two ruttin turrets. Not very good for getting ships to strike their colors and fall over in fear. Wandering around the station, Gray thought about the first time he came to the place. He was a stowaway on a freighter bound for the mining station orbiting Jupiter. He had gotten on to try and escape the slums of Saturn. At age 20, he figured work wouldn't be too hard to find. On the way to the station, however, the freighter was ambushed by pirates. Gray stayed hidden in the cargo bay until the fighting was over. when the pirates boarded to loot the ship, they found him hiding among the goods being shipped to Jupiter. Knowing he wasn't a threat, they took him on their vessel, and headed off to The Void. There, Gray signed on with a band of pirates who had a particularly good run. Gray managed to stay on for three years, enough for him to amass a good sized chunk of wealth and experience. Then the captain, who was getting on in years, rewarded Gray, who had become a very competent pirate over the past three years, with captaincy of the vessel. Gray's career as a pirate had begun. Things had gotten worse since then. Gray's ship, the Flame, had been a Foxhound class patrol boat once, but heavy modificatios had rendered it nearly unrecognizable. The standard Foxhound armament was eight 60mm turrets, two torpedo tubes, and four 30mm chainguns. The Flame carried ten 70mm turrets, six torpedo tubes, and eight chainguns. Not to mention an EMP beam, magnetic grappler, and radar/comm jammer. Add on the extra ten inches of armor plating, beefed up engines, and large-ish cargp bay, and you had yourself a right fearsome pirate vessel. Then things got ugly. Two years after becoming captain of the Flame, Gray decided to go after a government freighter transporting rare minerals from the asteroid belt to Earth. When he found the ship, around 2 days from Mars, he was also unpleasantly surprised to find three escort fighters. Heavily armed escort fighters. Gray and seventeen of his crew were the only ones who made it to the lifeboat in time. Eighteen survivors out of a crew of seventy-three. Not to say they went down without a fight. Quite the contrary. One fighter destroyed, one severely damaged, and the last giving of smoke. The freighter got lucky and made it to Earth with minor damage. Hence Gray's current situation. As he walked from his ship to the tavern, he thought about his current vessel. The Donkey Cart, as it was not-so-affectionately called, really was a piece of crap. The only real reason Gray flew in it was because he had no other option. The ship's lack of quality made capturing anything else somewhat impossible. He had first gotten the ship through chance. A friend of Gray's, Jacob Craig, or Jay, had just captured the ship, and didn't have the crew or money to keep it. He was about to sell it for scrap, when Gray showed up minus a ship. Jay, being the crazy bastard he was, was reluctant to just give away a ship. So he challenged Gray to a drinking game. We'll skip the details and just know that Gray's liver will never be the same again. When he reached the tavern, Gray looked around. It was mostly empty, with just an old guy sitting in the corner and a group of guys discussing something or other over drinks at the bar. As Gray sat down at the bar, he couldn't help but overhear one of the men in the group say, "....but we can't poison the water. We don't have anything to use as poison." Gray quickly went over the ups and downs of selling his contaminated water to these people. He found lots of pluses and not many miniuses. "Gentlemen," Gray addressed the group,"I believe I just heard you say you neede some form of toxic material?" "Yeah, that's right." said the man closest to Gray. He was big, bald, wearing a sleeveless jacket and microfiber pants. Gray noticed that he made no move to conceal the bulge of a gun inside his jacket. "well, I think I may have something you might like." "What is it?" asked a different man. He was smaller, almost wiry. He wore a plain shirt and pants, and Gray noticed, carried a short broadsword strapped across his back. "Two dozen drums of contaminated water." replied Gray, hoping that he'd be able to sell it. "Do you know what it's contaminated with?" asked the big guy. "Not sure. It's definitely lethal though." "You said two dozen drums?" "Aye." "How about, maybe, 200 American-Earth per drum?" offered the wiry man. "Sounds fine. I have it all in my hold. Where's your ship?" asked Gray. "Docking bay 17, but we'd like to take it right now." "Of course," said Gray. "I'll show you to my ship." The rest of that day was spent unloading barrels of poison water. The crew was doubly happy, having money in their pockets and being able to go into the cargo bay without gagging slightly. The total came to 4650 American-Earth dollars. The water in one barrel had leaked out and one was only a quarter full. Dividing up the money, each member of the crew ended up with 139 dollars, while Gray's share as captain was 390. 1210 dollars were spent upgrading the ship. Gray didn't much care about what his crew did with their money, but he always like to spend his on new equipment. With his newfound cash, he bought himself two high quality Roman gladius style swords, a new peacoat, two Sig Sauer 9mm automatic pistols, and a 10 gauge shotgun. He came out with 126 dollars to spare. With his pockets full of cash and his ship due for an overhaul, Gray decided a good sleep was in order.


Gray awoke to find Roxanne, his first mate, poking him, an amused look on her face. "About time you woke up, I've been doing this for the better part of twenty minutes." "I'm surprised you cared to wake me up at all." mumbled a still half-asleep Gray. Roxanne was known for being a hardass. "Well, considering you blew most of your money on those new toys of yours," said Roxanne, as she lifted the captain's shotgun, "I thought maybe you'd like to know that there's a Russian freighter full of ore heading out of the Belt in three hours." "Well why'd you waste time waking me up? Just get everyone on board and get the ship ready to go." "Actually, sir, we left the station an hour ago." "Oh. Well ok then. How long do we have 'til we meet the freighter?" "I'd say about an hour and a half, plus or minus." "Alright, let me just get ready."

******************************************** The Donkey Cart was a bustle of activity, everyone preparing for the upcoming raid. Turrets were manned, swords sharpened, guns loaded, and boarding ship fueled. Raymond Sharp, the weapons specialist, was getting things ready in his lair. Basking in the glow of video feeds from the turrets, monitors displaying damage, heat buildup, and ammunition usage, and various other weapon-related electronics. Ray was known for being slightly insane. As Gray descended into the control center, Ray spun around in his chair to face him. "What brings the great Cptain Gray down to my little enclave?" asked Ray, somewhat sarcastically. "Just want to make sure the new systems are alright." replied a slightly nervous Gray. Having Ray around the weapon controls scared him a little. "Oh, they're doing fine, Cap'n. The two new turrets are working at one hundred percent, and the torpedo tubes are performing flawlessly." "Alright, you just make sure they stay that way." said Gray over his shoulder as he climbed back out into the main hallway. He headed for the makeshift hangar where the boarding ship was. The boarding ship was a heavily modified heavy bomber, having had all its bombing equipment removed to make room for passengers. A special vacuum sealing and slicing mechanism had been added to attach and slice through enemy hulls to land boarding parties. Kay and Kim were busy going over last minute checks of the ship, and Gray left them to it. He needed to get his gear before they met the freighter. Gray had always preferred light weapons. The heaviest non-turret weapon he had ever used had been a 9mm rifle back when he still had the Flame. Nowadyas he used his two new Sigs, and his swords. He hung the gladiuses from his belt, and kept the pistols in holsters in his coat. People often scoffed at the idea of having a sword as a weapon. Pirates knew different. When a person is engaged in close quarters combat, like when boarding a ship, it was highly impractial to use a firearm. Aiming would be too hard, and you would probably end up just wasting ammunition. Not to mention swords were light, easy to maintain, and don't need reloading. ********************************************

"That's her?" asked Gray. "That's her." replied Roxanne. Both people were on the bridge, watching the freighter as it came into view on their radar. Most of the ship's equipment was off in an attempt to hide from any scanners the freighter might have. "We ready?" asked Gray, for the twelfth time. "Yes, just like we were the other eleven times. But we'd better get down to the hangar if we're going on the boarding ship." As Gray got into the passenger section of the boarding ship, he looked at the other people there. Him, Roxanne, Kim, Kay, Austin, Jack, Drew, Ely, and four other people. Twleve people were boarding, while the other eleven stayed on the Donkey Cart. Roxanne was armed with her assault carbine and spiked chain, Kim and Kay both sported katanas and semi automatic rifles, Austin carried his famous two handed claymore and a .44 mag revolver, Jack went with a semi automatic rifle and a longsword, Drew took a rapier and crossbow, and Ely had his two punching daggers and his .45 Colt automatic pistol, while Gray's armament consisted of his two gladiuses, Sigs, and 10 gauge. "All ready back there?" asked the pilot. Without waiting for an answer, he started up the converted bomber and flew it gently out of the hangar. ` The Fringe was desplate, even more so than usual. There were no ships to be seen, visually or on the scanners. It was just a big section of the black with some rocks floating in it. It was a very lonely place to be, and as such made it ideal for anyone who didn't want to be found. It would have seemed almost solemn in the boarding craft if "Selfish Man" by Flogging Molly hadn't been blaring over the comm system. Gray never understood how anyone could listen to that. Even though he secretly loved it. As they approached the edge of the Asteroid Belt, the ship full of pirates looked anxiously at the radar screen. A full two minutes were spent staring at an empty screen. Then, ever so slightly, a small blip appeared on the outskirts of the radar. "That our ship sir?" asked Austin. Austin was a big man, muscled and beefy. He had a thing for big weapons. "That it is, Austin." responded Gray with just a hint of a grin. Easy pickings, he thought. No escort of any kind, and the technical readouts Roxanne had given him listed the vessel as having only four heavy ship cannons. "Starting approach, expect attachment in ninety seconds." said the pilot over the comm. Excellent, thought Gray. He was always most at home when he was fighting. The pilot fired up the ship's engines, thrusting it forward violently. As it went, the ship's flight grew steadier. As the freighter looked ahead, the pilot readied the vacuum seal for attachment. "One hundred meters and closing." came the pilot's voice over the comm. "Everyone ready?" asked Gray, knowing the answer already. As the boarding craft drew closer, a stream of Russian came through over the comm system. The message was repeated twice, then a shot erupted from one of the heavy cannons. The shell flew past the craft's nose, missing by only two meters. Just then the ships collided. "Beginning attachment sequence." said the pilot. The hissing sound of the seal extending could be heard throughout the ship. "Seal in place, proceeding to pressurize." came the pilot again. Another, louder, hissing started. "Opening bay doors." said Gray into the comm. "Roger that captain, you are clear to go." Gray hit a switch on the wall, and the bomb bay doors opened. Gray and his crew descended down into the seal and now stood on the freighter's hull. "who has the torch?" asked Gray. "Right here, captain." said Ely, coming forward holding a portable plasma torch. "Alright, everyone back up, give him some room." said Gray. Everyone moved to the edge of the seal as Ely began to cut throught the ship's hull. Soon the hull was breached, and Gray and his team were inside. They had entered into the galley area, aft of the crew quarters and bridge. As Gray lowered himself into the freighter, he felt a bullet whiz past his shin. He instinctively pulled his legs back up out of the hole. Gray pulled out his pistols, and everyone else did likewise. Peeping through the hole in the hull, Gray saw a man holding a rifle looking around a corner. Gray motioned to Jack to move where he was so he could get a clear shot. Jack lined up, took aim, and fired. The sharp crack of his rifle must have startled some of the crew, because at that moment seven more men came running from the crew's quarters, all brandishing a gun of some sorts. Gray holstered his pistols and drew his swords, as did everyone else. He readied himself, then dove headfirst into the freighter. He came up to find himself nearly surrounded, with men everywhere but to his left-rear. He brought his swords up in a blinding arc, one in each hand, catching one crewman in the throat and one in the groin. Both fell to the ground, bleeding profusely. The other five men all raised their weapons, hoping to catch Gray off guard. Just at that moment Roxanne came tumbling down through the hole, her chain whirling around like a crazy snake in its death throes. It hit two more men, wounding them but not doing any fatal damage. Roxanne was quickly followed by Austin, brandishing his huge sword. He took off one man's head in a single swipe. As Ely came down, he drove one of his daggers through a crewman's skull, killing him instantly. Drew, who was a very skilled fencer, dropped down, slashing one man on the way down and stabbing him as he regained his balance. The one crewman remaining turned and ran back towards the bridge. Gray, Roxanne, and Ely followed him as everyone else descended throught the hole and spread out to secure the ship. As Gray rounded a corner, a burst of gunfire flew past his head, missing by centimeters. He quickly ducked back behind the wall and readied his guns. He steeled himself and strafed around the corner. He saw three men, all holding automatic weapons, aiming right for him. He let off three quick shots before ducking behind the corner again. At that moment, Roxanne jumped out from behind the corner, unleashing a volley of automatic fire from her carbine. Two of the men dropped, and the third nursed a bleeding thigh. Before he could ready his gun again, Ely had dispatched him with a well placed shot from his Colt. Gray and Ely advanced down the hall, stopping to examine the bodies. They were all Russian, wearing black combat suits and, to Gray's surprise, armor. Judging by the way they shot and the weapons they carried, Gray thought that they must have been KGB operatives or some such. Gray rounded the corner at the end of the hall, went up the short staircase, and encountered the door to the bridge, locked securely from the inside. Through the door, Gray heard snatchs of Russian conversation. It was rapid, almost incoherent. The men inside were obviously panicked. Gray tapped on the door window a few times with the butt of his pistol. A very scared looking Russian man appeared in the window. He immediately spouted a stream of Russian, more than likely begging Gray not to kill him. Gray's 9mm guns didn't have the power to break through the window, but Ely's Colt did. As Ely raised his gun to window, the man looking out instinctively ducked. The explosion of glass caught one man in the temple, killing him instantly. Gray calmly reached through the shattered window and unlocked the door. The two Russians still standing both dropped to the ground, sobbing for Gray not to blow their brains out. Gray, being the mean old man he was, did just that. "Sir, was that really necessary?" asked Roxanne, who had finished securing the ship with everyone else. "Yes, it was." replied Gray. "We can't risk having anyone left around to go tell the hunters who we are." Ely shivered at the mention of hunters. Nothing but pirates themelves, really. Some of them were supposedly decent, but most were just heartless bastards. They roamed the system, targeting the enemies of whoever they worked for. They were also paid by the government for every pirate ship they destroyed. "Is the ship secure?" asked Gray. "It is sir," replied Roxanne, "and there were six who laid down arms." "Throw them out the airlock." said Gray, as he headed back toward the boarding craft.


After the freighter was patched up, cleaned, and mostly stripped of anything valuable, Gray set sail for The Void, his new ship in tow. Five hours later he was arranging a deal with a wealthy contractor's agent to sell the stolen ores. An hour after that, he was looking into having the Donkey Cart stripped and the freighter refit and repaired. Two more hours had him sleeping in his new bunk on board the newly christened 'Flame II,' enjoying the feel of being rich again.


It had been a month since Gray had captured the Flame II. And what a month it had been. Several fat targets had been taken, including an American fuel tanker, a UEN shipment of food, and a Japanese freighter carrying weapons. The Flame II, which was a "Nусто" class cargo freighter, looked like a big box sandwiched between two smaller boxes. The sandwiching boxes housed the engines, while the center box was the cargo hold, crew quarters, galley, med bay, and common area. The bridge was contained in a protrusion at the bow. Over the past weeks, it had been upgraded with six torpedo tubes, four turrets, and four chainguns. Half of the cargo bay had also been transformed into a hangar for the boarding craft, as well as two fighters Gray had managed to capture. It seemed like things were going well until Gray ran into a UEN-German system patrol. A "Haifisch" class patrol cruiser and two "Fische" class heavy fighters. Naturally, Gray didn't go down without a fight. He managed to destroy the fighters, but the Flame II suffered heavy damage. Luckily, everyone made it off the ship okay. Gray and a dozen others, however, got into the boarding craft with the idea of taking the patrol cruiser. After a three hour firefight, Gray came out victorious. Unfortunately, only he, Roxanne, Austin, Jack, and Ely came out alive. A few weapon systems and some cargo were salvaged from the burning hulk of the Flame II, all that wasn't damaged beyond repair. Gray then towed it back to the Void to sell for scrap. Gray wasn't sure whether he really minded losing the Flame II. True, he had poured tens of thousands of dollars into it, but getting a patrol cruiser made it worth it. Gray also had a thing for German engineering. Something about the two foot thick armor plating and almost blatantly excessive weapons gave him the warm fuzzies. The cruiser was rechristened the Thunderbolt, because Gray had now lost two ships named the Flame, and he thought it was bad luck. The addition of a tractor beam, radar and comm jammer, and some minor engine upgrades, and Gray was satisfied that he was ready to head back out into the black. Now, Gray was deciding whether or not he could take on a military gunship in ship-ship combat. The gunship was escorting a cargo hauler loaded with things like honey, tea, eggs, milk, and cheese. The convoy was on its way from Earth to Mars, delivering its goods to the wealthy residents of the Martian cities. Gray, confident in his ship's abilities, decided to engage the gunship. Turning to Jack on the bridge, he gave the order. "Take us in fast, don't give them a chance to react. Surprise is key." Gray activated the jammers, ensuring that they would remain undetected by radar. Reaching for the comm, he called down to the weapons control room. "Everything okay down there?" "Everything's just shiny captain. Green lights across the board." came Ray's voice. "Turrets one through eight are ready, all set for remote control. Torpedo tubes one through four loaded and ready to fire. Chainguns one through six ready to fire, set for automatic tracking." "Good." Gray hit a switch on the comm panel. "Engines?" "Running fine captain, nothing out of order." replied Tom. "Make sure they're ready for some evasive maneuvers." "Will do, captain." Switching the comm so that it was heard throughout the entire ship, Gray addressed his crew. "This is the captain, we are about to engage a heavily armed military escort gunship. Everyone get to your stations, and be ready to make emergency repairs." As Gray hung up, Roxanne came onto the bridge. "Everyone's ready sir. All turrets are manned, and the rpair crew is standing by." "Good, things could get ugly real quick, so I want the repair crews to be light on their feet. Dong ma?" "Yes, sir." Roxanne said over her shoulder as she walked off the bridge. "Convoy is in sight," came Jack's voice from the pilot's seat, "preparing for attack run." Gray picked up the comm again, swithing it to the weapons control room. "Ray, I hope you and your boys are ready." "Ready as ever, captain." came Ray's voice. "Alright, you may fire at will." Gray switched off the comm and went to stand by the bridge window. There was the convoy, the gunship slightly ahead of the freighter, and between it and the Thunderbolt. Perfect, Gray thought. He could fire away without damaging the goods too much. "In range, firing torpedos." came Ray's voice over the comm. "Torpedos away!" Gray wacthed as two crimson jets streaked from the bow of his ship toward the gunship. They were quickly followed by another pair. The gunship must have been equipped with countermeasures, because the first torpedo exploded harmlessly five hundred meters from the gunship. The other three, however, smashed into the gunship's starboard side, tearing a hole in the armor plating. The starboard turrets suddenly came about, their sights trained on the Thunderbolt. Gray grabbed the comm and yelled down to the engine room, "Hey Tom, remember those evasive maneuvers I mentioned earlier? I need them, NOW!" Gray didn't even wait for a response, just slammed down the comm and grabbed a pole for support. At that precise moment, the gunship's turrets erupted, a jet of flame spewing out behind the 24cm shells. Jack threw the cruiser into an amazing series of loops, rolls, and dives that it was never meant to do. It paid off, with only one shell grazing the port side of the ship as she came about. "You're getting rusty Jack, they actually managed to hit us." said Gray from the floor, where he had been thrown during the mad dodging. "Yeah, well I imagine Ray will give them something for me." Jack's words were punctuated by several loud explosions from the Thunderbolt's massive 32cm turrets. "There, see?" Three of the shells exploded against the armor, while the fourth penetrated it. Just then, the gunship's side split longways. Gray thought that the ship was breaking apart, until he saw flashes coming from the opening. "Missiles!" yelled Gray over the comm. "Everybody brace yourselves!" Jack's crazy flying couldn't save them from this one, Gray thought. He managed to dodge six, but the other fourteen impacted solidly against the armor. "Rox, damage?" asked Gray over the comm. "A few dents, and a crack along the upper decks." "I want that crack sealed up. I intend to kep breathing air for the rest of this engagement." Gray switched to the weapons room. "Ray, new plan. Target their weapons. I want to try and capture this S.O.B for what he did to my ship." Gray didn't hear the response, but knew Ray had heard him when four more torpedos raced towards the gunship and blew apart several of its turrets. "Jack, take us in closer. I want to board that ship." Gray picked up the comm. "Roxanne, Austin, Ely, get some others and meet me in the hangar." Gray walked off the bridge, stopping at his bunk for his weapons. As he entered the hangar, he saw Roxanne, Austin, Ely, and seventeen others. "Everyone ready?" Gray asked. "Ready for what?" asked Austin back. "To board that bad boy." replied Gray as he climbed into the boarding craft. He was quickly followed by the rest. "Everyone suit up," said Gray as he finished putting on his helmet, "because we are doing this extravehicular style." Everyone felt a slight twinge in their stomachs. They were about to jump out, into space, and land on the gunship. Then it was just a matter of cutting in and kicking ass. "Take us out." Gray said to the pilot. The boarding craft exited the hanagr just as the Thunderbolt passed over the gunship's bow. They came out facing the bridge, which gave Gray a very good idea. "Alright, everyone go for the bridge windows," ordered Gray, "and for the love of God, try not to miss." As the bay doors opened, small bursts of fire erupted around the boarding craft. "They don't seem to agree with your plan, captain." Gray chuckled slightly at what Roxanne had said. "Well, that's their problem. I'm doing it no matter what they say. Or shoot." Behind them, the boarding craft peeled off, heading back to the Thunderbolt. Now it was just Gray and his crew, alone in the black. "Prepare to latch on." Everyone readied their grapplers at Gray's command. With several light clunks, Gray and his crew of pirates latched onto the hull above the bridge window. Gray checked to make sure his lifeline was firmly attached, then swung down to hang directly in front of the window. He never got tired of the looks on the faces of those people. He smiled at them, leveled his shotgun, and blew in the window. Gray was blown off the window, held on only by his lifeline. He watched as crewmen, papers, various technical equipment, and all amnner of other things were sucked out into the vacuum of space. Gray gave the signal that all was clear, and he and his team climbed through the hole where the window had been, and spread out through the bridge. The entrances had all been sealed, so the rest of the ship still had oxygen. "Gray motioned Ely over to a fixed computer terminal. "Do you think you can override the seals?" Ely gave Gray a look that would have made a polar bear shiver. He stepped up to the terminal, typed in some various commands, hacked into a few systems, and in about six minutes had all the airlock seals disabled. Now all they had to do was wait until everyone was dead. It didn't take that long. The freighter, upon seeing it's escort captured, promptly surrendered. That made things a whole lot easier for Gray. He went aboard, making no moves to hide the fact that he could kill them all if they gave him a reason, and had them all bound, gagged, put in a lifeboat, and set adrift with no fuel, food, or weapons. That way Gray didn't directly kill them, he just left them in a situation to die easily. It was like some sort of conscience. Gray, now with two ships in tow, limped back to the Void to sell his swag, fix his ships, and get some rest. ***************************************************

"Captain, you might want to take a look at this." Ely walked into the galley and handed Gray a datasheet. As Gray scrolled through it, his eyes grew wider and wider. "Where did you get this?" Gray looked up at Ely, praying to God he hadn't been hacking into government databases again. "It was in the freighter's computer. I went through everything before we wiped it." Gray let out a small sigh. "And, why did you think I needed to see this?" Ely rolled his eyes, making it plain he thought Gray was being a dumbass. "You expect me to go after that thing?" Gray asked incredulously. "You want me to risk my ships and crew to go after some government super-secret stealth warship?" Ely just nodded. "Well, Ely, you know me all too well." ***************************************************

The money gained from the gunship encounter had been used almost exclusively for ship upgrades. The gunship, rechristened Sin, had been patched up and equipped with a very, very, nice weapon system, including eighteen turrets, ten torpedo tubes, an additional bank of broadside missiles on each side, and six forward facing chainguns. The Thunderbolt had been repaired and given four more torpedo tubes and eight additional turrets. The freighter, now called Hellfire, had been upgraded with heavy armor, tractor beams, a boarding seal, and several types of jammers and disruptors. Gray believed that the upgrades would help in the encounter to come. The boarding craft had been blown to pieces before it could get back the the Thunderbolt, and had been replaced with thruster- and grappler- equipped space suits. Additional crew was needed to keep all Gray's ships running properly, so another eighty or so pirates were now sailing with Gray, making his total crew around one hundred and forty. When all was finally done, Gray gave the order to ship out and set a course for the Moon. ***************************************************

The Moon orbiting Earth had been transformed into a military base for every major nation. China, Japan, the UEN, America, and Russia all had bases there, making it one of the most feared places for a pirate to go. Not only was it crawling with navy men, but it was also usually surrounded by hunters. Several people had told Gray he was crazy. Going anywhere near the Moon usually got a pirate caught and killed, but actually breaking atmosphere and landing, plus hijacking a warship, was equivalent to signing the death warrant yourself. Fortunately, Gray was not your average pirate. That, and he had two warships of his own to do the job. "Captain, we are approximately ten thousand kilometers from the Moon." Jack didn't even sound nervous. He and Gray were on the bridge of Sin, while Roxanne and Ely were on board the Thunderbolt. Austin had command of Hellfire. Soon, the Moon came into view. Gray's fleet was approaching from the dark side, so the Moon was between him and Earth. He could already see ships swarming around it. As he approached, a message came over the comm, first in English, then repeated in Russian, French, Spanish, Chinese, and a multitude of other languages, "You are entering a restricted zone. Please enter your access code or leave." Gray chuckled slightly. Trying to scare them away, he thought. No way in hell. "You are still in a restricted zone, and have not entered an access code. This is your last warning. Leave or we will open fire." The message again repeated itself in different languages. Gray ordered an increase in speed, just to show them he didn't intend on leaving. Suddenly, two ships came around the Moon. They were both heavily armed hunters. They came at Gray's fleet like lightning, going full speed and guns blazing. The fleet immediately broke, Jack sending Sin into a mad spiral loop to port, Hellfire going in a corkscrew straight down, and the Thunderbolt spiraling off to starboard. Gray picked up the comm and set it to the fleet frequency. "This is where the fun begins. Everyone ready weapons." The first volley had been fired before Gray had even hung up. Jack's evasive maneuvers had left Sin broadside on to the hunters. The missile banks slammed open, sending forty missiles streaking toward the hunter ships. Whoever was flying those ships must have been good, managing to dodge almost half of the missiles. Each ship had still taken about eleven or twelve hits. Then the turrets on Sin and the Thunderbolt came to bear, firing seconds apart. The hunters were still recovering from ddging the missiles, and didn't have time to react to the turret barrage. All seventeen shells impacted solidly with the hunter ships. One of the hunters exploded immediately, while flames could be seen coming from the other. Four torpedos from the Thunderbolt put it out of its misery. At that moment, Gray saw something he hoped he would never have to see during his career as a pirate. A Claymore heavy assault cruiser was closing in on him, its laser cannon trained on Sin. "Jack-" "I see it, I see it!" Jack threw Sin into a twisting dive, avoiding the ensuing laser blast by no more than three meters. As Gray regained his feet, he saw the Thunderbolt fly bby them, intent on drawing the Claymore's fire while Sin readied its weapons. Gray winced as seceral shells from the Claymore's turrets smashed into the Thunderbolt's side. The Thunderbolt gave as good as it got, delivering several salvos before finally pulling out. Gray looked in horror at the gaping holes in the Thunderbolt's armor. Another beating like that and he'd be minus a ship. The Thunderbolt's near destruction hadn't been for nothing though. Jack had brought them up under the Claymore' belly, aiming the bow, and as a result the torpedo tubes and chainguns, at the underside of the massive warship. All eight of the torpedo tubes fired, and eight explosions rocked the assault cruiser. Then the chainguns opened up, ripping holes in the thin armor of the cruiser's belly. Jack then rolled Sin over, so that it's starboard side was facing up at the cruiser. Before Hray could ask what in God's name he was doing, the broadside missiles launched, and were quickly followed by the starboard turrets. Overall, forty missiles and nine turret shells hit the underside of the Claymore. Several cracks and holes had appeared in the hull, and all of a sudden the rear of the cruiser was consumed by by three massive explosions. Gray lloked around, seeing the Thunderbolt standing away aft of the cruiser. They must have shot the fuel reserves, thought Gray. Before he could radio a congratulations, a sleek black cruiser materialized above and to port of him. He gasped when he realized that it was the stealth warship he was after. He gasped louder when he noticed the torpedos ahnd chainguns aimed at him. Gray mentally thanked Austin for suggesting extra frontal armor as four torpedos smashed against Sin's bow. Before the chainguns could open fire, Hellfire came into view and latched onto the ship. Its jammers must have been on, because the warship ceased all function. The engines cut off, and the weapons stopped firing. Even the navigation lights shut off. It was just then that Gray saw people walking along the surface of the warship. He smiled to himself as he remembered the space suits he had gotten. Suddenly, a voice came over the comm, saying, "This is the captain of the warship Archangel. We are prepared to-" it was drowned out by gunfire, then a gurgling noise. Then Austin's voice came through. "Captain, sir, the ship is pretty much cleared. We lost a dozen or so, and there are about twenty wounded." "Get everyone back on the Bolt, except anyone not hurt to fly that thing." Gray seitched the comm so that the entire fleet could hear. "Alright everyone, we got what we came for, now let's get the hell outta hear before more warships show up." With that, Nathan Gray and his band of pirates, with their prize following behind, turned around and headed back to the Belt.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006 5:32 PM


Very cool. I like your space battles a lot! There's nothin' like a bunch of shootin' and blowin' things up to start the story! I think you need to put a little more Firefly references in it, but this is a great story! Keep up the good work.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 8:52 PM


Damn tasty I must say, looking forward to the next Chapter. Space battles are brilliant, and I like the extremely dark gray.


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Pirates of the 23rd Century: Chapter 1
The full version of Chapter one. Gray gets his ship, stuff blows up, and a jolly good time is had by all. Sorry in advance for the length and any spelling/grammar mistakes.

Pirates of the 23rd Century: Capter 0.5
Not exactly Firefly, but it has some Browncoat-speak in it. I think of it as what was going on before we moved out into the new solar system where Firefly takes place. Basically, 200 years before Firefly. A description would take to long, so if you really, really want one, go check out my first log entry. (the one entitled 'guuuuhhhhh.......' or something.)