Stemepunk Wenesday

..This is it. The last portion of Sky pirates. As soon as I figure out how I’m going to put up the full story on its own page and dedicate a piece of sidebar realestate to completed fiction.




[8]

"We've got fires down here!" The voice on the other end of the comm coughed as if to emphasize the point. "We're evacuating everyone but they've got us fast and the batteries don't have enough juice to pull another whammy."

If it can’t be contained- No that's just borrowing trouble. They've got us and we can't get loose. Jack's mind raced through their dwindling options. They could evacuate. There were enough parachutes to go around, a thing he had made sure of when he'd started running tours through the Confederacy. No good, they'll just break off and snag people as they're falling, or the riders will shoot 'em full of holes.

He had a way option to make sure at least a few got out. He hated it, but from where he sat there were no other options, not with help too far out to matter.

Jack looked his bridge crew over. "Get as many of the passengers off ship as possible. I'll stay to set off scuttling charges, they'll keep far enough away then."

"Instead you would rain debris and possibly the monster's corpses on our heads?" Edward chose that moment to open the door to the bridge. He'd heard Jack's 'plan', for want of better word, and was wholeheartedly against it.

Jack and Edward eyed each-other for a tense moment. "Then what would you suggest?" He wasn't going to argue, the plan was suicidal even if it worked flawlessly.

Damned by law if I do. Dead if i don't. I suppose they won't mind, it's not like I'm toppling governments or anything. "Get me to the radio room."

"How will that help?" Even as he complained Jack motioned for someone to go.

"Tell you later, if it works." If not, we're dead anyway. With guide procured Edward was off to break pan-galactic treaty... again.






"Out!" Edward bellowed at both radio men. When they failed to move he grabbed each by their shirts and shoved them through the door before locking himself in. They didn't need to see what he was doing, and he wasn't about to show them.

A quick glance showed the ship's main rig was, by his standards, ancient. He muttered darkly while pulling a pen knife from his pants and cutting the connection between radio and microphone before stripping away a couple inches of the insulation. He paused then for a moment, taking several breaths before slicing the palm of his left hand open and grabbing the bare wires.

Where blood would have flowed in a normal person instead was a milky substance that first flowed as free as normal blood but after only a couple seconds it started to thicken, then stop flowing completely.

Internally things were just as strange, if not more so. Edward was using the artificial synapses that bridged his different implants as well as a liberal dose of conductive media to make a connection between the transceiver wired to his brain to the ship's radio.

Tones were transmitted along as wide a range as he could force from the available equipment. Pick up Sara. I know you're listening. Pick up. He was pushing what his implants should be capable of in doing this. Data transmission via radio was dicey even without taking the added problems associated with an entire pod of squid squealing and throbbing their own signals into the mix.
> Identity verified. Hello Edward.

> We're getting swarmed by a pod of flying squid!

> Scanning ... ... ... You realize you're asking me to breach article twelve of the Earth Exemption treaty?

> Treaty be damned. I'm only asking you to save my neck from pirates, not topple governments.

> You will be branded Outlaw will be hunted if you ever leave.

> Just do it!

> Edward. I can override the blocks, but doing so will likely lobotomize me. Even if they rule extenuating circumstances I will cease to be.

Edward's mind raced. Sara had been his partner and companion for decades. While you or I might have trouble understanding how a person could have any feelings whatsoever for what amounts to a talking toaster Edward his shuttle's AI more a partner than a mere tool

> There are two hundred people here and their captain plans on igniting the ship's gas bag to give everyone else a chance.

> ... ... ... Weapons systems initializing.

Take a meter long tungsten rod and hit something with it. Unless you're smacking a person or some other breakable with it you won't get much of a reaction. Take that same rod and have it travel at several times the speed of sound from low orbit with the sort of precision that can only be brought about by a highly advanced computerized mind. This is the Thor system in a non-technical nutshell. it is also what Edward's shuttle, Sara, is being asked to employ.

Those watching from either ground or airship saw white hot flashes streak through empty sky and krakken before cratering the landscape below. Each shot produced a deafening boom of expanding air. Boom. Boom. Boomboobmboomboom!

Those that didn't die outright died when the beasts they rode exploded from the mixing, and heating, of air and the hydrogen from their lift-bags. It was far from clean and it was a miracle that the conflagration didn't ignite the ship Edward was riding.

Even as everyone else was cheering or otherwise thanking God On High for delivering them from the literal and figurative jaws of Death Edward's attention was elsewhere. He didn't remember disconnecting himself from the radio, or how he managed to shuffle through the chaos and make it off ship when it landed.



> Attention. Illegal operation preformed. Authorities have been contacted. Ship bound AI has been placed in suspension as have all activity logs pending review. Attention. Illegal operation performed...

"Hey." The voice barely registered in Edward’s mind. "Hey!" Jack caught up to Edward as he trudged into wilderness. "You're Martian aren't you?"

No response from Edward.

"Don't give me that silent treat meant. I know you caused whatever happened out there." Jack easily kept pace with the big man.

Edward turned, grabbing Jack by the shoulders, and picked him up so the two men were eye level with each-other. "I saved you, your crew, and everyone else at the cost of a very near and dear friend of mine. I am also now either exiled to this backwater mudball, or I will be hunted down for saving my skin. You don't want to be around me."

Jack met the man's gaze. "You aren't the only person in the world that’s lost someone or made hard choices. You're obviously here for a reason. Either do what you came here to do. Stop with the woe is me angst business."

Edward gently put the other man down and glowered at him.

"If you haven't noticed I keep a crew of strange folk that don't quite fit with proper society. How about coming on, at least for a little while? If you've got a specific place you have to go we'll give you room and board til you get there. If you're just roaming til you find whatever it is no sweat off my back if you stay longer. If it turns out you’re stuck here you might as well make yourself useful, and i just can't see you fitting in with the eight to seven crowd."

Minutes passed. Edward looked over at the burning masses that used to be krakken and he nodded once. "There's many things here that watching from afar doesn't teach. So long as you don't make my origins public knowledge I don't see why I shouldn't stay."
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