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Perils in Piracy

Jez Patterson is a teacher and writer currently based in Madrid. Links to his recent and collected fiction can be found at: jezpatterson.wordpress.com.

An anagram of marriage, Percina's mother had once told her, is "I am rage."
After Percina had counted out the letters, she pointed out there were two rs in marriage. "No, there aren't," her mother had replied. "There's only one, and you'll be married to him."
On this occasion though, Martin wasn't at fault.
Percina wanted to kick some pirate ass because, anagrams often giving inadvertent truths, they were parasites.
Unfortunately, another anagram they provided was aspirates, meaning the sound that came with an exhalation of breath.
Helpless to stop them, Captain Percina Saunders watched the hordes approach and sighed.
Pilots of terraform-tankers were usually human equivalents of the vessels they steered: enormous, slow, relying on automated systems, and producing vast quantities of gas.
The last of these, in the case of her tanker, was the methane produced by the fertilizing soil it carried.
Percina had once been a proud captain of the Fleet. Before she'd paid to have her first mate enhanced--mentally and physically--married him, and so lost her command. Since then, she and Martin had dabbled in the space-limo business, animal transportation, and now a giant bloated metal whale building up to the longest slow-released fart in history.
"More are arriving," Martin said.
When she'd been with the Fleet, hunting pirates had been a way to let off steam between more important engagements. Now she could only watch as her ship drifted across the galaxy via an initial impulse push and thereafter allowing frictionless space to do the rest. Any maneuver took more than a day to enact because planets didn't have a habit of jumping the lights at the crossroads.
The only "weaponry" the tanker possessed was the two huge canons mounted at the front to obliterate any obstacles that came up on them too fast to steer around.
The pirates knew this and so approached from the side. Their plan was to hook their ships to the tanker and then fire their engines simultaneously in order to turn the tanker out of the shipping lane and into unpatrolled space.
"Why would pirates even want a load of fertilizing soil?"
"They don't," Martin said. "It's the tanker they want. Its parts and panels will be broken up, the bits sold off."
Percina stared at her hands as impotent rage shook her shoulders and trembled down her arms. Her fingers looked like they were playing jaunty ragtime melodies.
Percina still harbored hopes of getting back her command in the Fleet. Being waylaid by pirates and putting up no resistance whatsoever was hardly going to get her the kind of attention she needed.
She considered her options.
Methane was explosive. Some of the earlier terra-tanker designers actually considered siphoning it off to fuel the very tanker carrying it. The need for sufficient oxygen to ignite the methane made the plan unfeasible. Instead, the vast build-up of gas would be allowed to escape at a gentle rate in the last week of their trip so they didn't arrive at their destination like a bomb the size of ten thousand Hindenburgs.
Although they could open the cargo doors along both sides, there was no way to jettison the soil and clog up or wash away the pirate ships because it was contained by a fine mesh that only allowed the gas to seep out into the hold.
The pirates weren't even bothering to request her surrender.
"I am rage" indeed.
Which wasn't helped by her enhanced husband relating interesting facts concerning pirate folklore.
"_tradition of walking the plank was a mistaken belief that if their prisoners walked to their own deaths, the pirates wouldn't face charges of murder."
"Martin, if you haven't got anything useful to share, trying shoving it, shutting it, or shushing it."
Martin, being Martin, just smiled.
"'Aspirates' can also mean to draw via suction from a vessel or cavity."
Percina stared at him. Or a vessel with a cavity.
Space didn't allow for sound effects, either dramatic or comical, but Percina's mind had been supplying the ship with a long, raspberrying fart for the last month. This time it provided a giant, wet, schloooock sound as she flipped open the cargo-bay doors on the opposite side to where the pirates were securing themselves, one split second before she opened the doors on the pirates' side.
The pirates had obligingly walked to their own deaths.
The huge, pressurized build-up of methane happily rushed to freedom on one side... thus causing whatever was available on the other side to be sucked in in order to fill the cavity.
As all fifty-six pirate ships were swallowed up--including those not even yet docked--Percina imagined a loud, satisfied burp.
"Yo, ho, ho."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Author Comments

I had an idea for a sketch featuring two people stuck, and bickering, in quicksand. Percina and Martin were created on the spur of the moment, merely to give the characters names and a reason for being there. I really didn't expect to see or hear from them again. When I was submitting the story to DSF, I was reminded that they also considered series of stories and was drawn to the challenge. All the ideas I came up with, however, either called for stories that would be too long or off-genre. Sheepishly, I went back to Percina to enquire if, by any chance, she'd experienced any other "incidents" she might care to relate. I was surprised, but delighted, to find she had more to say, and honored that DSF accepted them for publication.

This is the fourth adventure for Captain Percina Saunders. Previous (and forthcoming) adventures can be found on the Daily Science Fiction webpage at Captain Percina Saunders. Thanks!

- Jez Patterson
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