Chapter Eighteen




Not much happened in the next few days that I didn't log in the ship's log, even though I've been talking about it all damned day long today. Is anybody really going to read this whole damned thing? You don't need to know every time I take a shit or what I had for breakfast, right? Even though I went into detail about those days. I bet nobody's going to read that. Anyway, the whores pretty much behaved themselves. It was like taking a vacation almost, except inspections and checking the systems in the morning. Even the cargo inspections didn't have anything happening, and the engines and the good generator were behaving themselves as well.
Like the log says, robots were trying to fix the busted generator but I knew they couldn't because they didn't have any parts, and it was going to have to be rebuilt even if the stupid robots did have parts and they're not programmed to rebuild generators, even if they were in a repair shop. They're programmed to try to do what they're programmed to do no matter how impossible doing it is. They'll spend days searching for parts that aren't listed in the computer's database when they should know better. I mean, can't the stupid robots access the databases? I don't know if programming them like that is smart or dumb, but idiots programmed them to make coffee, that's for sure. Maybe they weren't idiots, maybe they just didn't drink coffee and their bosses were idiots for assigning somebody who didn't drink coffee to program a robot to make coffee, I don’t know.
Anyway, after an easy couple of days there were some more little rocks in our way, but these were mapped; we could just go around them. The computers would do the actual steering but I have to sit in the pilot seat in case the four of them disagree about something and I have to make a decision. I've never seen them disagree about anything ever since I started driving these boats, though.
While we were driving around the rocks, Wild Bill called over the maser link. “John, Bill here. I'm about a light minute ahead of you and I'm standing still again, but this time it's on purpose. There's pirates ahead, and I can't outrun them on batteries. If your systems are all in good shape, run like hell. If you're having problems you should stop.”
Shit. I could out run them on one generator easy but what if the other one went out? Hell, I could just detour around them. Too bad Bill didn't have that advantage, batteries just didn't hold enough energy. I have no idea how in the hell he was still in front of me on only batteries. Well, come to think of it we'd gone way off course when we were doing almost a full gravity, that's probably when he passed me. Orbital mechanics is weird, I have no idea how the computers figure that shit out. Bill was sure getting more speed out of batteries than I could, though. But Bill's a nerd, he likes reading tech manuals and boring stuff like that.
I answered him back. “Pirates? This far out? Are you sure they're pirates?” You usually only saw pirates near Mars. Ships full of cargo, all decelerating, make it easier for pirates to catch. You never saw pirates this far away from Mars. Shipping is usually pretty safe this far out.
It would be a couple of minutes before I heard back. I put the course correction into the computers' input console while I waited, then addressed the folks on board. “Passenger and cargo, your attention, please. Prepare for unexpected gravity changes. Strap down, ladies, it might be wild. That is all.”
Bill answered. “It's a fleet and they're not listed in the computer. Hell if I know what they're doing way out here. I reported it to headquarters and they have a fleet on course to meet us, but we're still a long way off, way too far for them to do us any good now.”
Damn. Bill was a damned good friend who had helped me out of jams more than once. And he was hauling tons of different metals, a valuable cargo inside a valuable ship. His short circuit could have been sabotage; pirates have been known to infiltrate the company before. This could be a trap for Bill and his ship and cargo.
The company wouldn't too much mind pirates killing Bill but they'd hate to lose the ship and cargo, so maybe I wouldn't get in too much trouble for what I planned, even though it was way outside the book and completely against company regulations. I picked up the fone and addressed the ship's P.A. System again. You can probably get a lot more detail from the computers, but anyway I got on the P.A. “Attention, ladies, this is the captain,” I said. “When I said strap down, I meant it. Strap down, we're going to have some crazy gravity in a few minutes and if you're not strapped down it's really gonna hurt bad. That is all.”
I strapped into the pilot's chair myself. I turned the boat around and decelerated, lowered power to half the engines, made one look like it was sputtering, and informed Bill to get ready. Then I went toward the pirates while the computers figured out the trajectory, or whatever the computers figure, for what I'd planned. I'm glad I have those computers, I could never do the math myself. Hell, I'd have to know calculus.
They saw me, and I pretended I'd just noticed them and changed course. I wasn't kidding when I told the women gravity was going to be weird. The maids were going to be busy, I'm sure.
They took chase. I went just slow enough to keep them the right distance and get where I was headed when I was headed there. Timing really mattered.
From the radar it looked like they were steering those things by hand. Good, that raised my chances. Actually there wasn't any danger to me since I could outrun 'em easy and they can't shoot at me or do anything that might damage the boat and cargo, because their goal is to get the boat and cargo, both incredibly valuable. Our company brags that its ships “are almost impervious to weapons,” anyway, even if other companies' aren't. But it raised my chances of saving Bill and his ship.
You know how the pirate fleets work, with a lead ship carrying an EMP. They don't know we designed these ships with pirates in mind and their EMP wouldn't stop us, but the EMPs will stop boats owned by other companies. And I didn't want them to know so I sent them a nice little present, fired from the rail gun.
I hear the pirates still use chemicals like gunpowder or something in their weapons. But hell, with all the tremendous amounts of energy coming out of those giant fusions, who needs chemicals?
The bastard's ship exploded and we were almost there...
When I reached the right spot I raised all the engines to full power, or as full as one generator would give me, and we took off like a bat out of hell. Ten seconds later the poor pirates got caught in the rain, as we say. I thought they probably all died. I sure hoped so, murderous bastards after my friend!
I set the course back to Mars and addressed the ladies. “You can unstrap now.”
Time for another inspection, since I'd pushed her hard on one generator, and even turning them around breaks stuff sometimes. No, usually something breaks when you turn around, even if it’s minor.
Like it says in the log, the generator was fine but a little warm. The engines were in good shape, too, but I shut down the one I made stutter for twenty four hours, just like the book says. For once nothing had broke.
This called for a beer. Hell, this called for champagne but I didn't have any, who can afford that anyway? Might as well be eating pork. I started back to my quarters for a beer.


Chapter 17
Chapter 19

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