Title: "Vampire Pirates? It's More Likely Than You Think"
Beta-Reader: brightknightie & Pfeffa
Prompt: Write a story involving any of the main characters either featured as or involved with pirates/privateers. And yes, space pirates count too!
Length: about 2,000 words
Rating/Warnings: Okay for teens & up. Canon-typical levels of violence and callous disregard for the lives of sentient beings
Disclaimer: The characters from "Forever Knight" are owned by Sony or Columbia/TriStar or James Parriott, not me. I'm just fooling around.
Written for the FKFicFest 2011 over at Dreamwidth
Her heartbeat was slowing, slowing, stuttering to a stop. But then, well after he was sure that it was finished, there was another beat, followed by one more weak, thready beat of the woman's nearly drained-dry heart.
His blood-tinged tears fell upon her still, pale face like rain.
"She is nearly done, Nicholas. What have you decided?"
Despite the fact that he had meant to let her die, to live these last few remaining hours or nights of his own life with the guilt of her death (so painful, even among all the other thousands of deaths he'd caused) rather than to pull her into his endless night, despite the fact that he had resolved to never bring her across, Nick tore open his wrist and pressed it to Natalie's mouth.
Seven hundred years later...
(Seven centuries are ample time for a personality to change 180 degrees. Or maybe that weathercock wasn't facing the way you thought it was to begin with.)
"Better by far to live and die, under this brave black flag I fly-"
"Than to play a sanctimonious part, with a pirate head and a pirate heart-"
"Oh, c'mon, Nick. Loosen up!"
"Natalie, you can't possibly be happy about this situation. We're space pirates!"
"So what? Besides, we aren't really pirates." She thumped the iron-gray main computer console, which sported an engraved nameplate announcing that the Fleur de Nuit, registered master Lucius LaCroix, was a private ship-of-war officially chartered by the Earth Defense Force, and delegated to wage war upon Earth's legally declared enemies. "Look, we've got our letter of marque right here! We're privateers, just doing our part to defend good ol' Earth from the alien aggressors of the Kullorn Empire!"
"You're wearing an eyepatch!"
"Well, you made me give away the parrot." (She'd reluctantly agreed that the parrot was better off with Janette. Her luxury spaceliner, The Raven, had a crew of nineteen, a first-class passenger capacity of sixty-five plus, and plenty of room for the occasional well-behaved pet.) "Seriously, Nick, go have some lunch; you're getting needlessly cranky." It was amazing that three vampires confined in a small (but ridiculously fast and well-armed) freighter for months (or sometimes years) on end could get along as well as they did - Nat credited the more-than-state-of-the-art galley, which she spent so much of her off-shift time tinkering with. (Well, that and the Gilbert & Sullivan singalongs.)
LaCroix came up onto the bridge, carrying a tablet computer and a warm mug of perfectly-replicated human blood, Type A. (Natalie always referred to the replicated Type A blood as "Original Recipe" because it was the first that she'd perfected, way back in the twenty-first century.) "Children, children, children," he tutted.
"Uncle," Nat greeted him. She took off the eyepatch and shook out her hair.
"Don't call me that," LaCroix said, for approximately the seventy-thousandth time. He ducked under the low overhead compartments and settled leaning against the gunnery console. "Any sign of the Kullorns yet?"
"They are not coming out," Natalie sighed, returning to her instruments. "We haven't seen a single Kullorn ship for weeks!"
"Patience, my dear. They'll be along." He drained the cup. "And we will be waiting for them." He looked at his tablet computer. "What's a nine-letter word for 'dregs'? The fourth letter's a U."
"I don't understand why they won't simply meet/i with the Earth representatives and negotiate a peace," Nick complained. "It's obvious that they can't just conquer us as they did the poor Dorandls, and it's been obvious for at least a hundred years. Feculence." He got up from his swivel chair at the nav/comm station and stretched.
"Conquering the Dorandls turned out to be a bad move on their part, actually," Nat commented. "Once the sun-drenched beaches of the Dorandl Riviera stopped being accessible as an undead vacation spot, the vampires of Earth got all angry and political." She shrugged extravagantly, a gesture she'd obviously learned from Janette.
LaCroix snickered. "For values of 'political' that include the planning and waging of war," LaCroix agreed. "And to think, we might have never noticed how delicious the Kullorn are, if they'd been less obnoxiously, obliviously... arrogant."
"It's a long time since I've been out in the sun," Nick reminisced, ducking back towards the little galley for his turn off-shift. "Dorandl City was a beautiful place to visit."
LaCroix said nothing, but that alone meant that he probably agreed.
"Hah!" Natalie exclaimed. "Got something. It's a large courier or a small freighter - looks fast. Blockade runner."
"How surprising," LaCroix commented, leaning over her shoulder to check the readings.
"Yeah, that's the only kind of ship we've seen for months," Nat muttered, tweaking the gain and moving the ship to intercept. Then the realities of vampire-scale thought caught up with her, again. "Years?"
"Years," Nick confirmed, already back at his station. Without consulting either of the others, he tapped the comm panel. "Unknown Kullorn ship. This is the Earth vessel Fleur de Nuit. Turn and return to your home port, or stand and deliver. This is your only warning."
"Why do you bother to warn them? They never take the offer," Natalie griped.
"It's what he is; it's what he does." LaCroix put his empty mug into the galley return slot. He laughed, shortly, that incongruous giggle that Natalie still could hardly believe. "Surely you're used to it by now, Doctor?"
"Their weapons are live. They're not turning back to the planet. They're not responding to communications." Nick shook his head. "They're not attempting any sort of evasive maneuvers. Continuing to close at standard rate."
Natalie put her head on one side. "They look like suicide bombers to me. Do they look like suicide bombers to anybody else?"
LaCroix took his seat at the gunnery panel. "Targeting drive module. Counting down to engage Ross's Explosion Discourager. Have I ever told you, Natalie, how much I personally appreciate your having brought across Dr. Naomi Ross? I know that I regarded it as unwarranted presumption on your part at the time, but her inventions have turned out to be exceedingly useful."
"It's only been six hundred and eighty years - that's much sooner than I expected you to apologize, Uncle." She flashed him that wry, cheerful smile that he'd grown to like so much. "I just thought it would be convenient to bring along a mad scientist, on my vampiric journey to the future."
Nick and LaCroix shared a meaningful look over her head before going back to their attack preparations.
"Don't call me Uncle, you brat. Explosive Discourager in three, two - firing on drive module - one." He hit the switch for Dr. Ross's space-bending device, which would render useless any chemical or nuclear explosives the doomed Kullorns might intend to deploy, immediately after snapping off a perfect shot with the ship-to-ship beam weapon.
"Direct hit on their drive," Nick reported. "Their propulsion is... Yes. Completely disabled. Nice shot, LaCroix. We were barely in range."
"Why does no one call me 'General' anymore?" LaCroix grumbled. "We are at war."
Natalie snorted in amusement. "In my day, generals didn't shoot the guns themselves. And! Both of you, don't say that in your day they did, because you guys didn't even have guns. Brace for impact!"
The ship lurched as it collided with the Kullorn vessel. Dr. Ross had also invented the inertial dampeners commonly used on Earth-based spaceships, which were sufficient to allow all sorts of extravagant maneuvers if the crew were all vampires; ships crewed with mortal humans couldn't employ the same techniques. All three vampires cringed a little as the grind of the docking clamps assaulted their sensitive ears.
"Number three airlock boarding tube engaged," Nick reported. "We won't be using the explosive bolts this time, so-"
"On it," Natalie answered. Oh, vampiric strength was fun! She dashed down to the airlock, flew easily through the tube, and forced the enemy ship's outer airlock hatch with no trouble at all. LaCroix was right behind her, armed with a Gauss gun - he was a deadly shot, and a Gauss would work fine even with the Discourager in play. As vampires, they had no need for armor, especially with two of them to watch each other's backs; both wore ordinary shipboard garb of black jackets, trousers and boots. Nick (still somewhat lacking in bloodthirstiness, even all these centuries after The Tragic Affair of the Ballet Dancer, but he was what he was) would stay aboard the Fleur, acting as shipkeeper, unless they called him.
Nat broke the airlock's inner hatch (let the atmosphere escape; the boarding tube would catch it, and it wasn't like anybody would be needing it much longer anyhow) and barreled into the Kullorn ship staging area. LaCroix shot two of the waiting Kullorn warriors right through their faceplates, then grabbed the third one by the eyes and the heartbeat and rendered him helpless.
"How many Kullorn are aboard this vessel?" LaCroix asked politely.
Natalie dashed to the bridge to incapacitate the shipkeeper. She had him fully under by the time LaCroix strolled in.
"There should be two more," LaCroix said, fastidiously wiping the blood from his chin. "Check the cargo bay."
"Are there two crewmen in the cargo bay?" Nat asked her Kullorn. He nodded helplessly. "You wanna interrogate this guy, and I'll go get the others?" She knew that LaCroix's long experience, both as a vampire and as a soldier, made him the better choice for gleaning relevant military intelligence from the prisoner.
LaCroix smiled and grabbed the Kullorn with the power of his mind, and Nat ran to the cargo area.
The ship's cargo was in some disarray from Fleur de Nuit's ramming attack, but there was a lot of it. The suicide run must have been a Plan B; these guys had evidently been blockade runners gambling for high profits. Sweet!
"Olly olly oxen free!" Nat called. She had the two Kullorns located by their heartbeats (heavier and slower than human heartbeats, but just as easy to pick up on), and she smiled to see how they were attempting to set up an ambush zone for her. They never knew how quick and how strong vampires were; they were used to killing normal, mortal humans whenever close combat between armed forces occurred. She tiptoed up behind the bigger one, approaching from a completely different direction than what he expected, and quietly broke his neck. She'd perfected her technique over the centuries; the Kullorn was unconscious and immobilized, but he'd live for hours yet - plenty of time to eat him later. She jumped out at the other one and yelled, "Boo!" and had his heartbeat in her power before his startled mouth had time to close. Then she grabbed him by the elbow and dragged him uncomplaining back to LaCroix for interrogation.
LaCroix had the shipkeeper drained and done by the time she got back and handed over the Kullorn from the cargo bay. "Did he know anything useful?" she asked, gesturing towards the corpse on the deck.
LaCroix shook his head. "Perhaps this one will prove more... informative."
Nat gave him a look. "Okay. I'm gonna just go drink the last guy - don't think he can talk, and probably doesn't know anything anyhow - and start transferring the cargo over. I think I saw their 'Semtex vest' down there, too. I'll defuse that first, disassemble it for transport. Kullorn explosives get a good price on Faldene."
"Do that. I'll be down to take over for you on the cargo later, when this Kullorn 'scum' has yielded up anything he might know, and you can come up and go through their instruments and what have you."
"Strip the computer. Yeah." She headed back to the cargo hold, then stopped and turned back around. "Hey, LaCroix? Do you think we'll ever win this war?"
He chuckled lightly. "War is over when all one's enemies are dead."
She rolled her eyes at him. "I don't mean philosophically win this war. I just mean, you know, stop the Kullorns from trying to invade Earth, get a chance to go back to Dorandl and vacation in peace."
He smiled condescendingly at her. "So do I."
"Well, I suppose we aren't in any hurry," Natalie mused, heading back to the cargo hold. "Dorandl City will still be too radioactive even for vampires to visit for at least another hundred and seventy years." She had just turned to go when Nick's voice came over the comm.
"We've got another one, coming up from the planet. Get back aboard now! It's not a blockade if we just let them through!"
LaCroix snapped the neck of the Kullorn in his hands; Natalie slapped a salvage marker onto the console, so they could easily locate this vessel again, when they got finished with stopping and looting the other one.
"We're on our way, Nicholas," LaCroix said. He presented Natalie his arm. "Shall we?"