Or maybe the editor could be a red pen with a seemingly unlimited supply of ink.
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The Black Claw – by Jessi
(This is a sequel, so readers are likely to be familiar with the story world and characters)
I gazed through the Deathhorn’s cockpit glass. A luxury Saddat liner floated helplessly in the black space below us. With the new hijacker model, we’d been able to stop the ship without causing damage to anything, a good thing considering this was civilian ship.
Klate stood next to me, behind the pilot’s chair where Amellia sat. “Move in for boarding,” he ordered.
Amellia expertly piloted the Deathhorn closer to the other ship, her movements smooth, something few Humans could pull off with such dexterity.
“Krys, contact the ship,” Klate said.
I flipped on the short range communicator. “This is the Deathhorn hailing liner 501,” I said. Crews tended to surrender easier if they were contacted by a Human, not our huge Elba captain.
“Stay off our ship,” a Skallan’s posh voice snapped through the communicator. “We will fight.”
Klate’s long ears twitched. “He’s scared,” Klate whispered. “Trying to sound tough in hopes of frightening us off.”
“We don’t want a fight,” I said. “All we want is any slaves onboard and any Company supplies bound for Lokostwa. Look up the information on the Deathhorn. We always let the civilians go.”
“I know how you pirates work,” the captain snapped. “Once you’re onboard, you’ll take the best of us for slaves and kill everyone else.”
“I give you my word we won’t do that,” I said. “You surrender and let us on the ship, or we’ll fight our way on. Either way, we get what we want.”
The Deathhorn shuddered as it touched the other ship. The two ships went belly to belly so we could go into our cargo hold and leap through the hatch into the other ship’s hold.
“Time to board.” Klate ducked out of the cockpit and headed down the hallway toward the hold.
I followed after him and flexed my cybernetic hand, extending claws from my three fingers and thumb. Even after having the cybernetic hand for a year, it still felt foreign and I couldn’t accurately shoot a pistol with it. It was crazy strong though, so it came in handy at close range. I touched the stunner pistol at my hip with my real hand, then checked my belt for spare ammunition.
Klate’s crew fell in with him.
Tenned hung back a bit. Being second in command, it wasn’t a good idea for him to be too close to Klate. If Klate got injured, Tenned had to be far enough away he wouldn’t get hit and be unable to take command.
Doc stayed with Tenned. Even though Doc was only three feet tall, he could have fought with the best of us, but we couldn’t risk out medic getting hurt.
We made it to the cargo hold, where stacks of flexsteel had been strapped to the walls.
“Think they’ll have many mercenaries?” I asked Klate.
“Hirami didn’t see any when he put the hijacker on,” Klate said. “That doesn’t mean they didn’t smuggle a few onboard.”
We donned masks to protect us from any gas grenades.
The ships’ hatches whooshed open.
A grenade flew through from the other side and got caught in the neutral gravity between the hatches. It exploded with a deafening bang and a flash of electric gel, which missed all of us and went to spark on the ship’s floor.
Whoever was on the other side of the hatch had no experience with boarding a ship. Anyone who had fought knew that to get a grenade through the neutral gravity between ships, it had to be thrown hard, not dropped through the hatch.
Klate threw a paralysis gas grenade through the hatch, but unlike whoever was on the other side, he threw the grenade hard, sending it all the way into the other ship.
We waited thirty seconds, then Klate dove headfirst through the hatch. I followed him, the rest of the crew on my heels.
I felt the gravity reverse as I came up through the other ship’s floor. I landed on my hands and knees, then sprang up and scanned the cargo hold.
The yellowish gas from the grenade screened our entrance. I ran for the nearest cover visible, a load of crates.
Klate dove behind another stack of crates as the rest of the crew sprang through the hatch. He fired into the gas. Someone cried out as Klate’s dart hit them.
“Hold’s clear,” Klate said. “The rest retreated. Watch their hatch.”
I peered through the thinning gas at the hatch leading out of the hold and to the rest of the ship. Someone had closed it, probably hoping to buy more time.
Two Skallan lay on the floor, one wearing a mask, while the other one hadn’t got a mask on in time to avoid inhaling the gas. Klate left the cover of his crates and knelt by them.
I went to him. Both of the Skallan breathed fast, panicked. Breathing was one of the few things someone under the influence of paralysis could control.
Klate grabbed their pistols. “They’re just civilians.”
Frightened ones at that, judging by their panicked breathing. The one without the mask looked at me, her eyes wide. Most likely, the masked one had exposed himself in an attempt to get his friend, or perhaps wife, to safety.
“We won’t hurt you,” I said. They’d tried to fight, even though they had to know their odds were bad. Normally, civilians simply surrendered, but this ship seemed full of surprises.
Klate went to the hatch and pressed one of his huge ears against it. He listened, his breathing slow, his clawed fingers twitching slightly. “There’s no more than three over there.”
Melsha removed the panel by the hatch and started fiddling with it. It only took a few seconds before she nodded to Klate. “Ready,” she said. “Typical civilian hatch, barely has a locking mechanism.”
Klate waved the crew back, then grabbed another stunner grenade, this one meant to throw the electric gel around and shock anyone who came in contact with it.
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