The grizzled Captain of the trading ship grimaced at the situation. Most of his crew was captured, and the pirates outnumbered them anyway. The few free remaining ones would not be able to mount an effective defense.
Worse, the Captain recognized the pirates; opportunistic thieves and scavengers who wouldn’t be adverse to slaving. The young men and women attracted to a spacefaring life of intermittent gravity would fetch high prices in terrible places. There was only one chance.
Though his hands were bound behind him, he stepped forward and announced, “I demand ritual combat of honor between our bravest fighters. If we lose, we freely give you our most valuable cargo, and you leave my crew alone. If we win,” and here he smiled charmingly, “we get your most valuable cargo, and you leave us in peace.”
As offers go, this wasn’t as bad as it seemed for the pirates. The trading ship cargo doors would resist hacking and brute force, and the pirates would be at risk of the trading crew turning the situation around or a lucky police patrol happening across the two ships.
The Captain wasn’t sure which pirate was the leader, but one stepped forward almost immediately, and nodded, arms crossed and waiting. He didn’t like the look of this pirate, the guy was huge, scarred and muscled, and he smirked in a knowing way as he returned the Captain’s gaze.
Still, he had a job to do, and any chance to protect his crew was worth a beating. There was honor among pirates, they'd keep their word. The cargo wasn’t even a concern at this point. The Captain was just about to take one step forward into a world of hurt when he heard a familiar sound coming from far down the corridor. The smile on his face widened, and he took one solid step backward.
Puzzlement and confusion spread among the pirates, they looked around the room to see who the new challenger would be, until they too noticed the sounds growing ever louder, a sort of whirring hum and the occasional metallic rattle.
The crew gathered near the corridor hurried to part ways as Admiral Stabby, a space Roomba with a knife taped to the top of it, trundled into the room. It rolled right into the center of the floor like the champion that it was, and with a satisfied hum and a clunk, it switched modes and began to sweep the floors in a widening spiral pattern. The pirates stared.
This was it. The Captain swallowed nervously, glad that his beard hid this from the pirates. Either the pirates had no sense of humor, in which case everyone was dead or slaves, or the traders might just make it out of this. The tableau lasted longer than anyone was comfortable for, the only sound a quiet whirring as Stabby polished the hangar bay floor to a shine. Finally, the big pirate nodded at one of his crew, his gaze never leaving the Captain.
The Captain held his ground and his gaze, even as Stabby’s widening spiral brought his ankles into the danger zone. Soft footsteps echoed as the pirate crewmember returned, reverently carrying a velvet, tasseled pillow, upon which was - another space Roomba, with a scimitar taped to it. As if sensing its nemesis, Stabby stopped just short of hamstringing its Captain, and turned to face its foe.
As knife Roomba battles go, it was fast, only a couple of hours. It started in silence, each group watching as the devices circled each other unknowingly. Occasionally a crew member would have to move out of the way, which would cause a series of vicious chuckles from the other party. By the end of the first hour it was noisier, cheering and more pleasant laughing, helped by the flow of food and especially drink from both galleys. The Captain stood side by side with his counterpart, making minor wagers about which hapless crew member might get stabbed. Most of his crew were unbound except for Jekins, who found he liked it. The crowd was pressed in close, though everyone was taking care not to get too close.
The battle was gruesome, if you find a few grazed ankles gruesome, and was ended in a way that everyone agreed was elegant when Admiral Stabby disarmed the pirate Roomba in a slow sweep that brought it back into the center of the room again, its cleaning cycle ended.
The crews parted ways days later with a ritual exchange of valuable cargos, the pirates making off slightly better in terms of raw value while the traders gained something they could sell immediately at their next stop. The Captain considered it a great win on both crews part however as the conflict was resolved with nobody dead, nobody sold into slavery, and no ships destroyed. Both Captains had come to recognize in their counterpart something of themselves: a person who would do whatever they must, whatever it takes, to care for their crew. And moreso, the crews parted as friends, knowing there was one other ship of people they could count on in this crazy universe that understood how things really worked.
"What the heck is going on?" - Read the rest of the Tumblr thread:
Post I reblogged from: (their theme deals with nested threads better)
bitcoin pic: http://bit.ly/2fzq9EQ
If there's anyone using a username of Jekins, this isn't about you. I typoed Jenkins, which I made up on the spot as a generic British-y name. I liked the typo better. XD