The Carnwennan

She had started out life as a Verra GalaxyWorks B-11 ore hauler. Its lines were smoothly crafted for something that looked like a bisected egg with four maneuvering engines jutting out like stumpy turtle fins. At just under fifty-five meters long, there was plenty of room for rocks, a pilot and an engineer to spend lifetimes in the doldrums of moving everything from fertile soil to molten rock between star systems, even if a short jaunt of five light-years could take a week.

At some point in her youth, a wise man had gutted her. A much improved engine was slipped in, as well as a cheap energy shield and an external missile tube, though it probably didn’t do much for anyone since it was locked in place. Whoever had owned her then probably fancied themselves a privateer or mercenary. At least, until they picked on someone much tougher than themselves and had gotten smashed into a moon for the trouble.

That’s where Deter found her, and the two were a match written in the stars. She needed freedom from her purgatory, he needed a fresh start in life. Sure, she was just a hulk when they met, but he had just enough inheritance coin to patch the holes and restart her heart.

And so, she was gifted the name Carnwennan, the shadowed dagger to strike the heart of the greedy, the pious and the false. Which, in this case, would be the Interplanetary People’s Union, or more directly, the Trader’s Quorum. The sole monopoly of shipping and business for any part of human civilization worth a damn.

Of course, it was a bit impossible to be a one-man piracy front, as he’d found out quickly enough. Only by fortune and an amazing failure of slipstream calculations had earned him the services of Wyvorn. The saurian soldier had gotten himself in trouble trying to pull an assassination job on a CEO’s private corvette and had gotten himself pinned in a cargo bay. The Carnwennan had come in screaming out of the slipstream and only slowed down enough to crash into the larger ship at a speed her hull could handle. And since Deter had majorly scratched some paint, the remaining bodyguards were suddenly torn between killing Wyvorn and punishing him. Deter had never seen a Sormorite in action, so watching Wyvorn leap from wall to wall and tear men down with his prehensile claws instead of his rifle was amazingly terrifying. Still, the Soromite’s sense of debt was stronger than even his combat skills and Wyvorn was forced to acknowledge that Deter had indeed saved his life, which means he owed the human a measure of equal value. So he became the razor claws to Deter’s razor edge planning. The saurian had also brought along his one-person shuttle, which fetched a neat purse, even though they salvaged the small auto-cannons of it for the Carnwennan.

They found Anon easily enough, but bringing him into the group was more difficult. The pilot had been a member of the Quorum and was guiding a shuttle hauling six tons of uncut diamond when they pounced. It should have been easy prey, but Anon evaded them in an asteroid belt for almost two days, hopping in-between, around and even through the stellar remains. When they finally pulled him aboard, Anon was smiling like a fool, as he’d never had such a rush. From there, it was easy to woo him on-board the Carnwennan with a cut of the profits and a chance to modify her for maximum speed and maneuverability. Anon had a good nose for speed, though he was never quite satisfied with how she handled. “I’ll get it balanced one of thes days, just gotta get the sweet spot!”

Yet for all the skill and craziness Deter had assembled, the Carnwennan still needed someone to maintain her far better than he could. There were plenty of hands available for the right price, of course. But on their way to the shining, seedy city-planet of Aramat Prime, Deter had felt a twitch in his gut and pounced on an un-registered freighter as it came their way. What they had set upon turned out to be more like a flying vault, with layers and layers of locks, security drones and electrified traps. And at the center of them all was a man, bound in chains and cryogenic suspension. At least, Vex had started as a man. His arms and legs had been augmented and spliced so much that was barely any flesh left. What was even worse still was his face. Whatever had been done to Vex had also removed the man’s lower jaw completely and replaced it with flexible metal plating all the way down to his sternum. Granted, neither of these issues seemed to slow him down, as the cyborg was able to rib himself free from his bounds once Deter woke him up. His price was simple; the mechanized man would help Deter with whatever he needed so long as, when the moment presented itself, the pirate took Vex to the Core world of Mars to do whatever it was he needed to do. Since the Carnwennan now had itself an mechanic that would literally link himself to the ship and keep her alive in measures well beyond any normal human, Deter eagerly agreed. Vex had repaid his freedom by building an impressively powerful slipstream wave disruptor into her hull, so Deter could snatch hapless cargo ships right out of light-speed and pick them clean in the confusion. None of them had ever seen such a technology before, though it was enough that such a machination wasn’t pointed at them.

Now, the Carnwennan skipped among the waves of the slipstream, racing away from its last kill with bounty tucked securely in her arms. In the cockpit, Anon was perched like the lanky goose he was, fingers flying over the controls to plot the evasive course back to Kranob and hefty payday. Wyvorn was curled up in his quarters, relaxing under inhumanely arid conditions. And probably still cleaning bits of merchantman from his claws, freakin raptor
Vex had never left the engine room. In fact, he never really left there. This was fine by Anon, as the unblinking cyborg scared the ever-loving shit out of the pilot. Deter understood, though. It was an unspoken agreement. Some men have an element, some just have an ease about them. That guy…I think he had both once. Before he became half a man.

Taking a long drag of cheap rum in the solitude of his own cabin, Deter pitched his booted feet up onto his desk and leaned back to watch the iridescent streaks of faster-than-light matter scream past. The captain raised a glass to his window “Here’s to you, baby. You did good today.”

So, this a companion to something I wrote many a year ago, back when I was in a very pirate-y mood and just wanted to leave the troubles behind for the wind, the sails and the rum. Still sounds like a good idea, somedays…

I hope you all enjoy.