Me and Bill hauled ass out of there towards Mars as fast as his crippled boat would take him. I did another inspection because first, I hadn't done a full inspection yet that day, second because I'd pushed her pretty hard, and third because I sure didn’t need any new surprises. We were at a third gravity because of Bill, and he was having a hard time keeping up. A third gravity? On batteries? I need to have him teach me some of that nerd shit. I'd given up on docking; if we did run across pirates I'd need to fight, and you can't do much maneuvering when you're docked.
The whores wouldn't like the low gravity a bit, so I tried to stay away from them.
I trudged down all those damned steps to my “dungeon” to inspect the engines and generators. Engine seventeen and the port generator were still not working, of course, but everything else was shipshape. Amazing since I'd been pushing them pretty hard.
On the way back to our quarters there were fifty whores in the commons all arguing. Damn it, Tammy! But we were at Mars gravity, maybe a little less. As I was cursing Tammy in my head she came towards me. “Damn it, Tammy!” I said. “The whores sound like they ain't got no drops. I don't need this, not now. There's pirates.”
“They're going to get the minimum. The low gravity is helping, too. You'll thank me.”
“I'll thank you? For a boat full of pissed off droppers?”
“Yeah,” she said. “For a boatload of pissed off droppers. I've learned an awful lot about them on this trip, much more than we can learn on Earth. Now if you'll excuse me I have to go play dope dealer. Just hope my calculations are accurate.” She walked towards the commons.
I didn't get it. What kind of calculations? Well, screw it. I went back to our quarters.
“Took you long enough,” Destiny said. “Are the pirates gone?”
“Yeah,” I answered, “I had to inspect the engines. The pirates are gone for now, I killed 'em. Loosed an atomic on 'em. I'm sorry you're on this boat, Destiny, 'cause I'm scared. They surely hate me so much now they'll be willing to give up my ship and cargo to kill me.”
“They don't know what your cargo is. John, if they don't blow us up...”
“I don't think they can,” I said. “In fact, I'm pretty sure they can't. An atomic can't even damage us unless it goes off less than two hundred meters away. But with enough vessels they could board us. If they do that we're all dead. I'm more scared for you than I am for me.”
“John,” she said, “don't worry about them boarding us, if they try we'll be fine. Jesus but you're dense sometimes. Didn't you read Tammy's book?”
“Yeah, but it didn't say anything about pirates.”
“Shut up and start the movie, dumbass, you'll see. Jesus, John. These girls are dangerous when they don't have drops!”
“Yeah, and it makes it worse for me.”
“God damn it, John...” she said before the alarm rang and interrupted her.
“God damn whores,” I said. Destiny followed me out.
There was a melee in the commons. Shit, I thought Tammy was going to give them whores drops.
When I got there, Tammy was on a medic with blood trickling from the side of her mouth. Those things are fast! It already had a blood pressure cuff around her arm and something on her head, I'm not sure what, I ain't no doctor. And the whores were fighting over the drops Tammy had brought; I didn't know it then, but it was because she didn't want them horny and sleepy, she wanted them mean. I still couldn't understand why.
I can really be a dumbass sometimes.
The medic took her to the sick bay with Destiny following Tammy and the robot, and I pulled out my fone and locked the door to the commons. Shit. “Computer,” I said to the fone, “flood the commons with, uh...” damn, what was the name of that stuff again? “Computer, what gas will, uh, cause the people in the commons to, uh... lose consciousness?”
“An inert gas will...”
“Computer, list inert gasses.”
“Flood the commons with nitrogen and open the door when the people are all, uh, unconscious. And have a robot bring plastic handcuffs, about a hundred.”
A few minutes later the door opened, and I went in and put plastic handcuffs on them, wrists and ankles. Damn, hundreds of years after they were invented and there's nothing cheaper or works better.
Then I went to talk to Tammy. I hoped she wasn't hurt too bad.
The readout on the medic said she had a slight concussion, but not too serious. She was still unconscious. I said to Destiny “Do me a favor, hon. Please. Go make sure the whores I roped stay alive.”
“What? John, what did you do?”
“There were fifty or more of them fighting over not enough drops for everybody. I don't have a clue what Tammy was thinking but they knocked her cold and fought over the drops. I knocked them out and tied them with plastic cuffs.”
“How can I keep them alive?”
“Find some drops,” I said. And Tammy had woke up, it looked like.
“No!” she exclaimed. “Half a dose each. We need 'em mean!”
“Got it,” Destiny said. I still didn't get it. Tammy gave her a dropper from her pocket and said “Here's a weak dose. One drop in one eye only!”
Destiny said “got it” again and hurried off.
“I don't get it,” I said. “Can you explain...” and the damned alarm interrupted me again. More fucking pirates. Lots of 'em.
Shit. “Take care of the whores as soon as the medic lets you,” I said, and ran to the pilot room.
This was a bitch. The medic would keep Tammy from getting thrown around, but any sudden maneuvering would throw Destiny and the tied up whores all over the place; you need to be strapped in for that kind of shit. So I gave it all my lone generator had, and prayed. And I'm not even religious, I was just scared shitless. I called Destiny. “Hon, you have to strap down. Now. Forget the whores.”
“No!” she said. “Only three more!”
“God damn it, Destiny, we have less than five minutes, we're surrounded by them. They're coming from all directions. It's like a swarm of bees.”
“That's all I need,” she said. “Tell the women to strap down!”
I did. And launched a dozen EMPs and an atomic, all the while spewing deadly radiation from the still-working generator. Then I did a lazy turn and did it again. Must have disabled dozens of ships, maybe hundreds, but these damned things were swarming. Destiny called. “Everyone's secured.”
Good. Now I could maneuver, and maneuver I did. I'm sure maids were busy cleaning up puke and piss afterwards because gravity was really weird for quite a while. I made my boat into an outer space roller coaster.
But God damn it, there were too many of them. One ship latched on to the port airlock. Fuck, I was a dead man. I ran to the port side docking bay, above the crippled generator and one room over from machine storage, leaping down the stairs at almost full gravity.
I couldn't maneuver with that mass on my side anyway. At least I could slow down a boarding party. But I was going to be dead anyway, and so was everybody else. But I had an idea... I could at least kill these assholes and they wouldn't be able to use this docking ring, at least if I was lucky.
I was in the storage area before they could get through the airlock. Thank God for small miracles, I guess. God, get me through this and I'll go to church every damned Sunday for a whole year! I swear! My heart was pounding, from running and from being scared, and sweat was pouring off of me; we were still close to a full gravity.
I moved a huge battery from storage to the docking bay next to the airlock and worked on it as they tried to get through the airlock. Damn but I was scared, of the pirates and of what I was doing. I was actually more scared of what I was doing than I was of the pirates.
What I was doing was making a really big battery into a really big bomb. Bill showed me how to do that years ago, I told you he was kind of a nerd. It really wasn't all that hard, since training was about how to not turn batteries into explosives. Those things hold a hell of a lot of energy.
I wired it into the light panel. Turn on the light from the storage room and BOOM! Dead pirates.
I barely got out and locked the next bulkhead that separated the docking room from storage before they got through the lock, and I flipped the switch after they were all inside.
They all died. Good. It blew their ship away from mine. Bad. That meant the next wave would have an easy entrance, since there wasn't any thing blocking the door and no way to lock it; they had ruined the airlock's security lock. So much for praying. I was hoping their boat docked to mine would… oh, hell. I ran up the flight of stairs as fast as I could run. I had to get to the pilot room and steer this tub.
When I left the storage area and went into the hallway my worst nightmare was waiting for me. Two hundred dropheads, pissed off dropheads without any drops and with those scary bloodshot eyes, although they weren't as red as that one woman's had been, all with big knives.
I was a dead man. I was sure of it.
“You stole our drops!” and similar stuff, they yelled and screamed, coming at me with those damned knives. I stood there like a stone, petrified.
And they all stormed past me, like they didn't even see me! What the hell?
Tammy and Destiny were drinking coffee in the commons, seeming to be completely not worried at all about pirates. Jesus but educated people can be stupid. I went to the pilot room, but it was too late – another pirate boat had docked. Damn it!
And then... nothing happened. No pirates. What the fuck? It fell off the ship and another one docked... and another, and another. Five hundred times! Holy crap! What the hell, they had to be running out of bad guys by now, five hundred pirate ships all full of pirates. Christ!
This had been going on for days. I was too damned busy trying to dodge pirates and shoot at them to try and figure it out. I have a lot of guns to shoot, fifty lasers and eight rail guns, and I spent days marking targets for the computer to destroy. But I couldn't dodge them because cargo wasn't strapped in so I couldn't do anything fancy and they didn't take over the boat and I couldn't figure out why not. I didn't get any sleep at all, except two or three times when I passed out in the pilot seat despite all the coffee I was drinking. If I ate I don't remember what. I'm not sure I did eat.
The fleet finally showed up. By then most of the rail gun projectiles and all my atomics were exhausted, and so was I. There were hundreds of abandoned and disabled pirate ships scattered across the solar system, or at least part of the way from Earth to Mars, and the few hundred pirate ships that hadn't tried to board hauled ass out of there, with half of the company's destructor fleet on their asses. How about that, they had one, after all. So why are there still pirates?
I still didn't know why the pirates hadn't overrun the boat. Destiny and Tammy were still drinking coffee in the commons, with about a dozen stoned, naked whores laying around the big room. I hadn't slept on purpose for days and was living on coffee. I wondered if they were, too.
I sat down and poured another cup of coffee. I was so full of coffee my hands were shaking so hard it wasn't easy to hold the cup still enough to drink. “I need a bath and a nap,” I said. “What the hell just happened?”
“Jesus but you're a dumbass,” Tammy said. “You read my book and you still didn't get it. John, get it through your head – these women are damned dangerous. I told them the pirates stole my drops before they hit me.”
I finally got it. “Have to hand it to you,” I said. “I guess they were one hell of a weapon!”
“You guess?” Destiny said. “John!”
I blushed. “No, they were one hell of a weapon. And you controlled it well, Tammy.”
“Hey, asshole, me too,” Destiny said, grinning.
“Yeah, you too. I'm stupid. Why do you like me so much?”
“Because you know what a dumbass you are,” she said, grinning even wider. I was crestfallen.
“Oh, come on, you big baby, we're still getting married, aren't we?”
“Well yeah,” I said, “If you still want to marry a dumbass.”
“Excuse us,” Destiny said to Tammy, and took my hand and started to lead me back to our cabin. I almost threw the nearly full coffee cup in the trash. I was really tired and wasn't thinking straight, completely forgetting that I had to inspect downstairs again; it hadn't been inspected in two days and I'd really been pushing it.
I also forgot about the monsters.