Monday, January 21, 2013

23 in 2013 Challenge Update

I posted last week that I was participating in the challenge proposed by
John Anealio to create 23 new things in 2013. I'm attempting to write 23 new stories this year. How am I doing? Well, I finished one short short story, and am progressing on another longer one. Halfway through the month, and I may actually stay on track. Of course, this is only January! :)

In other news, got a rejection on a story I sent off late last year. *sigh* But I did get some helpful critique in the email, and that does not happen often. That was a bit of a surprise. So, back to the drawing board on that one, as they say.

And here is the short short I wrote for the challenge. It's not perfect- I did minor edits for spelling, etc. and not much else. Are there problems with the story? Yeah. Is there a big hole in it? Yep. But it's written and that was the deal: write (not polish to prettiness) new stuff. 


Cargo
by
M. A. Kropp


                “Across the bow!” The crewman’s voice shouted as the first volley hurtled across the port side into the distance.
                “Warning shot,” growled Atchens, the first mate. He turned his dark, bearded face to the captain. He jerked his head at the view to the front of the ship with a scowl.
                “They’ll not be givin’ us many of those, y’know.” The captain nodded.
                “I know,” she said, moving forward to stand against the bridge rails. “Ready the cannon.”
                With a crisp “Aye, Captain,” the gunner’s mate turned to his comm.
                “Cannon at ready,’ he said into the unit. A moment later, the speaker came to life with the acknowledgement.
                “Cannon primed,” the voice from below replied. “Target acquired.” The captain nodded to the gunnery mate. He leaned into the comm again.
                “Fire at will,” he relayed. A moment later, the soft whump of the cannon firing shivered the deck. All eyes on the bridge watched the missile as it streaked toward the pirate ship, right on course.
                “What the hell…?” Atchens cried. The captain leaned forward, as if it would give her a better view outside. The missile sped toward the second ship. When it got close, instead of smashing into the hull of the other ship, it seemed to bounce off an invisible wall, and was hurtled back toward them.
                “Some kind of force shield,” came a calm voice from behind them. “But not one I’ve seen before.” The senior science officer was watching the missile on its return path.  “I believe we are about to be hit by our own weapon.”
                “Brace for impact!” The captain shouted, and the message was relayed to the whole ship.          
The gunnery mate punched a few buttons on his console.
“That bounce took the missile just a hair off course,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a lot of damage.”  Just as he finished, the ship shuddered as the missile hit. The captain gripped the deck rail, and gritted her teeth. When the deck stopped quaking, she turned to the science officer, standing behind her.
                “Damages?” She threw the question over her shoulder, as she turned. “And just what the hell was that?” She spat the question at the science officer, who calmly shrugged. Atchens took a half-step forward, a low growl in his throat. The captain stopped him with a raised hand.
                “Cargo bay 2 breached,” a voice from the lower deck recited. “Inner doors sealed and holding, but we’ll need repairs soon as possible. No casualties. Lucky no one was down there.” The captain nodded, and turned her attention back to her science officer.
                “I don’t know,” he said. His voice was quiet and calm. “Obviously, some sort of defense shield, but how it slingshot that missile back at us, I don’t know. No idea where they got it, either, but they are pirates, so chances are they stole it.” The captain eyed him for a moment.
                “Terrific,” she said, turning around again. “Now we’ve got pirates we can’t even fire on, unless we risk getting cut up by our own weapons.” She thumped a fist on the rail. “Helm! Can you get us out of here?” The pilot at the front of the lower deck turned around.
                “I can try, ma’am,” he said, and began to turn the ship away from the pirates who now sat directly in front of them. The ship turned slightly and they felt the buildup of speed as the pilot put it into motion. The pirate ship turned smoothly to match the maneuver and pulled alongside.
                “Grapples!” The science officer’s voice called out. “They’re going to board through the breach in the cargo bay!” The captain scowled.
                “Get us out of here!” she called to the pilot. The man’s shoulders tensed.
                “I’m trying,” he said, his voice tight. “But they’re using grav tracks to keep us lined up with them. I can’t pull us out too suddenly. It will rip the ship apart.”
                “Keep trying,” the captain said. They felt the soft thumps as grapple lines settled on the outside hull.
                “Get me a visual,” the captain ordered. The front screen changed to a view of the ship’s side. The black night of space surrounded them, broken by pinpoints of starlight. The pirate ship loomed beside them, painted dark to blend with the surrounding darkness, the only color a zigzag streak of red lightning on the underbelly. As they watched, figures in space suits began to appear outside the pirate vessel. They clipped to the lines running between the ships and fired jet packs.
                “I want guns down there to meet them!” the captain ordered.
                “It’s going to take time,” Atchens said. “We’ll have to put on suits. If they come through the cargo bay, we’ll be exposed.” The captain gazed at him levelly.
                “Then you’d better get going, don’t you think?” Atchens trotted off the bridge, barking orders into his comm as he went.
                Atchens picked five men with decent weapons skill as his team. They struggled into the awkward, bulky pressure suits and took the hand weapons Atchens handed out.
                “No heroics, boys,” Atchens growled over his suit’s comm. “Just keep ‘em from getting into the ship proper.” The group made their way to the corridor outside the breached cargo bay.
                “Belt up to the handrail,” Atchens instructed. “When they open that door, the hole in the hull is gonna try and pull you out. Keep yourself tethered, but allow as much maneuvering room as you can.” They pulled empty cargo containers into the hall, and strapped those to the walls, as well. The men ranged themselves behind the bins on either side of the door, and waited. The bay doors shuddered and began to slide open.
                “Here we go,” Atchens said on the comm link. He tightened his grip on his weapon, and trained it on the slowly sliding doors. The gap widened enough for the first of the pirates to glide through, powered by the jet packs they wore. Atchens fired, knocking the pirate back through the gap. Answering fire screamed through the gap, now widening more, as the pirates forced their way through. Two of Atchens’ men went down quickly, caught as they leaned around the cargo bins for a better shot.
                Atchens crouched low to the deck and ran as quickly as he could from his left side position toward the bay doors. Movement was awkward in the clumsy suit, and he was hampered by the tether attached to the handrail. It slid in jerky movements as he ran, forcing him to tug at it to get more slack. He made it to the edge of the container barrier when he felt the clink of something on his helmet. He turned slowly. One of the pirates had his weapon trained on Atchens’ faceplate. The first officer glanced over the pirate’s shoulder to see a third crewman sprawled in the corridor.
                “Give it up,” the pirate’s voice came over the comm. “Nobody else has to die.” Atchens looked at the barely visible face behind the pirate’s visor. He dropped his shoulders and let his weapon slide to the deck.
                “Stand down, Andy,” Atchens said into his comm. A static laced voice came back.
                “But, sir!”
                “We’re all that’s left, Andy,” Atchens responded. “And I’m staring down the barrel of a gun. Stand down.”
                “Aye, sir,” came the reluctant reply. All sounds of the battle stopped and a moment later, two of the pirates joined Atchens and his captor, Andy walking just ahead of them. The rest of the boarding party joined them and they made their way to the ship’s bridge. They herded the crew together on the lower deck, guarded by armed pirates. The captain stood alone on the upper deck of the bridge.
                                “All here, Cap,” one of the pirates said to a tall, suited figure. He nodded and loosened the latch on his helmet. He pulled the helmet off and tossed it on the gunner’s chair. His clear gray eyes met the cargo ship captain’s blue ones. She didn’t flinch under his stare. He nodded.
                “So, it seems I’ve got myself a new ship,” the pirate captain said. His voice was light. The cargo captain let one corner of her mouth turn up in a smile and tossed her head.
                “A ship with a great big hole in her side that’s going to cost you to fix,” she said. The pirate waved a hand.
                “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that,” he said, crossing the bridge and climbing the short flight of stairs to the upper deck.
                “And we have no cargo,” the captain continued. “We’re on our way home from dropping our shipment now. So you haven’t got much to show for all that, do you?”
                The pirate looked her up and down, then turned to the group of her crew huddled around the helm station. He turned back to face her.
                “I wouldn’t say that, either,” he said, with a wide grin. “There’s cargo, and then there’s cargo.”
End

3 comments:

John C said...

That leaves me wanting a whole lot more! Superb.

John Anealio said...

Excellent Mary!

Mary Alice Kropp said...

Thank you both. It needs work, but I think it's a decent start.