The Adventures of Captain Arcolier, Part Three

(Welcome back. In our last installment Captain Arcolier had dispatched One-Eye and a crew of Marines to board the hapless frigate. If you're new to our tale you'll want to start here)

     Captain Arcolier brooded from her perch in the center of the bridge. The raid so far was textbook perfect - almost too perfect. The escorts were out of the action, the prey was firmly tractored in position, and the Marines would be boarding in just a few minutes. Her biggest worry should be that this raid was going to be too dull, not enough to keep a fan's interest. But she couldn't shake a feeling of impending doom, of something that wasn't right. She shook her head minutely, annoyed at herself. Here she was, the most notorious pirate of the Far Reaches and she's jumping at shadows like some wrung out old washerwoman! She resolved to focus more on the situation at hand just as Stinky Pete blipped a comm alert onto the main screen.

     "Cap'n, incoming transmission from the frigate. Shall I acknowledge?"

     Jaimie took a quick moment to review herself, making sure the pirate image was firmly in place before responding. She straightened her sleeves slightly and made sure the cuffs were aligned perfectly before nodding curtly at Stinky Pete. Her eyes stayed fixed forward as the tactical display shrunk into the lower left corner and the strobing comm alert swelled to fill the screen. A standard communications header blinked out and was replaced with the nervous visage of a mercantile captain. He started to stutter something ineffectual, but Jaimie cut him off dramatically.

     "You face Captain Arcolier and the Beauteous Revenge. Yield your goods and ship to us or face certain doom!" She smoothly drew her rapier and pointed it at the viewscreen, the tip unerringly pointed at the captain's projected eye. The entire comm system was rigged to make this image work in reverse, and there was a special light programmed to track her rapier, giving the tip an evil, sparking glow. Jaimie had spent hours practicing this move, and calibrating the camera and lights to make this shot as menacing as possible. It often paid off and it did this time, as the stuttering sheep of a captain fell silent and visibly gulped in fear.

     "Carruther and Son's has a standard ransom policy and I'd be more than happy . . . " the captain bleated, his eyes never leaving that shining point, the manifest symbol of his impending doom.

     Captain Arcolier cut off his nattering and even as she spoke she began to subtly move the rapier point in a arc. It was almost subliminal, barely noticeable and yet utterly hypnotic. Her market research showed this motion held attention better and upped her menace levels, while going unnoticed by over ninety-eight percent of the observers. Her episodes aired with multiple angles and during these segments a sizable percentage of consumers chose to see her from the transmission perspective, seeing the holos as the victim saw them. She knew this was pure theater but if theater bought reaction mass for the Revenge then she was happy to use it. "We're not interested in your ransom, we're interested in your cargo. Your cargo and your ship."

     "B-b-b-but . . . M-M-Mister Carruthers . . . ." Captain Arcolier made a chopping motion with her free hand and Stinky Pete broke the transmission, cutting the stutter off mid-gabble. The tactical display slid smoothly back into predominance. Assault Pod One had almost closed the distance, although it wasn't visible to the naked eye at the scale of the display. The display was fed from from a remote satellite and the Frigate dwarfed the Revenge, much less a tiny Assault Pod. The computer enhancement magnified an area of space around the Pod though, and through that little mockup ring Captain Arcolier could see precise bursts of attitude jets as One-Eye flipped the Pod around to begin deceleration.

     "First Assault Pod - status report." Captain Arcolier spoke with a clipped precision, coolly surveying all the displays at her disposal. The corner view of One-Eye brightened slightly as he spoke.

     "Textbook approach so far Cap'n. I've just finished reorienting for braking, and I anticipate hull contact in two minutes." One-Eye didn't even look up as he spoke and his hands flew over the instrument panels, constantly tweaking and nudging the approach vector to be more to his liking.

     Captain Arcolier nodded. "Carry on then. Make us all proud." She turned in her seat, looking to side where Stinky Pete manned the communications board. "Any surrender yet?"

     Stinky Pete scowled and shook his head. "No Cap'n. We've had no communication since you spoke to the mark."

     Jaimie furrowed her brow as she contemplated that. Most mercantile captains took a few seconds to consider their situation, wet their pants, and then surrender. Radio silence almost implied a hidden reservoir of backbone. She returned to studying the tactical display as her feeling of disquiet returned in double strength. This time though . . . she frowned as she grabbed her pointer and clicked at a portion of the frigate's bow. The display zoomed in, until the blunt hammerhead shape of the frigate's forward hold filled her viewscreen. She scrolled the view aft and suddenly stopped. Her face paled for an instant as she delicately traced an odd seam in the hull. "Shit! Full combat alarms! One-Eye, get your ass back here. That ship is a decoy! A feint! Tractor beam, disengage immediately!"

     Bedlam erupted in the ship, as the lights dimmed even further and a muted klaxon began to cycle. The tactical view zoomed back to the default setting where the zoomed view showed Assault Pod One already in a hard burn. But before Jaimie's horrified eyes a second tractor beam stabbed out from the "frigate" and trapped Assault Pod One in its forceful grip. And aboard the Revenge the crew was a beat too late to release the tractor beam. The forward hull broke off the "frigate" just along the line Captain Arcolier had traced, revealing the thinner profile of

     a Cantrellan destroyer. Other portions of the frigate lines broke off as well, as the destroyer heeled hard to port and accelerated, pulling Assault Pod One with it.

     Impelled by the tractor beam and no longer attached to the destroyer the forward hull began to accelerate towards the Revenge. Spectrometer readings indicated it was abnormally massive and it sported its own engine as it began to rocket right straight at the pirate ship. Belatedly the tractor beam blinked out, but the false hull continued to close the gap.

     "Evasive action! Don't let that get close!" Captain Arcolier clenched her hands over the arms of her chair as Revenge lurched forward and began to roll.

(Tune in next week to see if Captain Arcolier discovered the ruse in time!)

(Next week's installment is live! Check it out here)