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Rapier by R.A. "Doc" Correa
Chapter 11 from the book
The Rapier moves cautiously through Russian space toward the US and Chinese sectors. As it approaches the border, it’s detected by a Russian frigate. For five nerve-wracking days, the two ships play cat and mouse— the Rapier slipping cautiously away, the frigate trying to get eyes on it, both ships moving closer to contested space and other military units.
In this area of space, the Chinese and the Americans regularly have violent encounters, and when the shooting starts, ships of other nations in the area run like hell as both sides automatically engage ships they can’t identify. Over the last nine years, about a dozen Russian ships had been lost, so the captain of the Russian frigate becomes as cautious as he can be. It gives the Rapier its opening to scoot out of Russian space and into American. Once several hundred kilometers into American space, the crew relaxes, and for a few days, everyone lets off steam.
This area had been overrun by the Chinese, but the Americans decided to fight for it, and they took it back. It’s a topic the crew discusses in depth, and the discussions all end with the same comments: why these people and not us, why fight for here and not Safe Port?
The Rapier eventually docks at Omega 4 Beta, more commonly called Reavers Cove. When the Rapier arrives, three pirate ships and another privateer are also docked there. One of the pirate ships is the Raven, captained by Black Jack Bartholomew.
The captain authorizes a shore leave rotation and strongly cautions the crew to avoid trouble with the other crews, reminding them that some of these people really are bad men. When it’s Kathy’s turn to go “ashore,” the captain and Mr. Gibb are waiting. The captain says, “Come along, ladies, we have a special treat for you.”
The five of them, Captain Black, Mr. Gibb, Kathy, Cindy, and Lien, head to the far edge of town, away from the docks. High on a cliff overlooking the sea is an old inn. It’s a breathtaking setting. Here among some of the least trustworthy people in the galaxy is an island of tranquility with a lovely garden, a scenic overlook, and great food. For two days, no Chinese, no raids, no being hunted, just blissful peace.
Kathy and Cindy buy swimsuits and go down to the beach. Lien is too shy for a swimsuit; she sits under an umbrella on the beach, watching. The two of them splash around in the water, play in the surf, and swim a bit. When they come back to the shore, they see two men sitting on blankets, watching them. They’re wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts, sipping drinks.
It takes a moment, then Kathy realizes it’s Captain Black and Mr. Gibb. They look totally out of their element, and for the first time since she’s known them, they seem completely at ease. They wave Kathy and Cindy over, pour Kathy a drink, and give Cindy a soda. Kathy takes a sip; it’s a strawberry margarita. Lien comes over and joins them. She has a Coke as well. Even Lien seems at peace. The five of them sit on the beach, take turns playing with Cindy in the surf, watch the waves wash in, muse as the clouds drift by, and watch the birds fly overhead. Well, the planet’s equivalent of birds.
While the captain and Cindy are playing in the surf, Mr. Gibb starts talking to Kathy as Lien listens in.
“The captain and I used to be explorers—adventurers, if you will. Whenever we returned to Safe Port, we’d regale our families with tales of our adventures. Often my Aunt Jenny would be at these get-togethers.”
“Is that where the captain met her?” Kathy asks.
“No, they grew up as neighbors. At that time the captain and uncle Marty treated her like a little sister, the captain was eight years older than Jenny. After they graduated from school the captain was doing field work for the magazine he and uncle Marty owned, and aunt Jenny was often out on her own searching for subjects for her work, so they seldom saw each other. Then she was dating Uncle Marty, so the captain never approached her. She was six years older than my mother. I was eighteen then. I believe my mom was thirty-nine.”
“So your aunt was forty-five then.”
“Yes. Aunt Jenny was an adventurer in her own right. An artist, a painter, as I remember. Though Uncle Marty was in love with her, she was too much of a free spirit. For her, Marty was too uptight. Soon she stopped seeing him. But the captain, he fascinated her. All the adventures we had, all the exotic places, unknown animals. She just couldn’t get enough of him.”
“Oh,” Kathy replies.
Mr. Gibb grins at her. “Yes, she was a lot like you. Anyway, soon they started dating, and within a year, they were married. That broke Uncle Marty’s heart. But the captain and Aunt Jenny were so in love they were sure Uncle Marty would come to accept it.”
“She was kind of old to have a baby, wasn’t she?”
“That’s what they thought. They even planned to adopt. But there was a surprise—some say a miracle—and Aunt Jenny got pregnant. It was a rough pregnancy because of her age, but with the cap- tain’s help, she made it through, and little Mary was born.”
“How old was she when the Chinese came?” Kathy asks.
“Four,” Mr. Gibb responds.
“Oh my god,” Kathy says.
The captain and Cindy are returning, so Mr. Gibb changes the subject. The rest of the afternoon is spent frolicking on the beach. Dinner is excellent. The inn’s chef knows his business and could
give Cookie competition.
After dinner, the five of them talk for hours, tell stories, talk about what they’d like to do when the contract is up, and express thoughts about the future. Even Lien participates. Later Lien, Cindy, and Mr. Gibb go to bed. The captain and Kathy stand out on the inn’s veranda. The stars are spread brightly across the night sky. Starlight causes the breakers to sparkle as they crash onto the beach.
“Miss Masters, you light up the night better than the stars,” Captain Black tells her. Kathy blushes. She’s at a loss of what to say.
The inn’s sound system plays an old song that can be heard in all the common areas. Captain Black takes her hand and leads her to the middle of the floor. He takes her in his arms and guides her across it. Captain Black is an excellent dancer. Kathy feels she’s drifting above the floor, her feet barely touching it.
It gets late, and the Captain walks her to her cabin. He leans down and kisses her on the cheek, opens her door for her, bows, and says, “I had a lovely time, Miss Masters. Sweet dreams.” Then he turns and heads to his cabin.
Cindy and Lien are sitting on the bed. They start giggling when she comes in. Kathy’s face turns red as she enters the room, which just makes the other girls giggle harder.
“Get to sleep, young ladies,” Kathy tells them. They lie down but giggle even harder. Kathy goes to sleep with a smile on her face.
As Captain Black prepares for bed thoughts of Kathy flood his mind. His affection for her is almost overpowering, he finds himself thinking, I think I love her. But how can I be sure that it’s not just how much she reminds me of Jenny. If things were different I think I could make a life with her. These thoughts are foolish, she needs a younger man, someone that will be with her for life, and I’m forty years older than her. That and the life I lead, what kind of future could I give her.
The next day, they go back to the beach. Aquatic mammals dance on the waves. The sky is filled with birds. Cindy and Lien chase the mammals that come ashore. Kathy takes dozens of pics. The captain and Mr. Gibb watch over them as they play. The setting is idyllic, and the two days pass by far too fast. But now it’s time to return to the Rapier. The five of them walk down the main street toward the shuttle field. As they do, they notice a crowd gathering.
Mr. Gibb says, “Captain, isn’t that Jenkins, Samuels, and Marx?”
All of them look at the gathering crowd. Three crewmen from the Rapier are backing toward a store wall. At least eight from another ship are moving in on them. All have weapons drawn. The captain shouts, “What’s going on here?” He moves rapidly toward them, his hand on his sword. “Back off now!” he shouts. As he gets closer, two other men move out of the crowd, heading behind him. Cindy takes off running toward them.
“Cindy!” Kathy shouts. Kathy and Mr. Gibb start running after her.
Lien shouts, “Stop, please!”
The men are poised to stab Captain Black in the back, but Cindy strikes first. Dropping to her knees she cuts the Achilles tendon of one of the men with her sword, then slashing up, she cuts across the other’s butt before he can react. Then the fight starts in earnest. Captain Black takes down two attackers right off the bat. Each of the other crewmen fends off two attackers apiece.
Five more move out of the crowd.
Cindy rolls over and drives her sword up into one. The captain takes on another. Kathy and Mr. Gibb are facing three.
Lien rushes to the crew against the wall. Quick as an adder, she takes three. The rest of the crew take down the others but not before one of them runs Jenkins through.
Kathy’s sword dances before her, the light flashes off it as it does its deadly jig. The ring of metal on metal fills the air. She knows she’s there, that she is wielding the sword, but it seems she’s watching it from afar. Suddenly it’s over. Two men lie dying at Kathy’s feet; blood drips from her sword. She doesn’t even remember how it happened, but Mr. Gibb stands next to her, grinning. He looks over at Lien with admiration. He can’t help feeling great affection toward her, she helped to save his mates.
Three men lie at Cindy’s feet, all are severely wounded. “Move and I’ll finish you,” she growls.
The other attackers are all down, and so is Jenkins. Kathy recognizes him. He was one of the young boys that came aboard at Safe Port.
A man shouts from the crowd, “What the hell did you bushwhackers do here?” It’s Black Jack Bartholomew, captain of the Raven.
Captain Black shouts, “Your men attacked us, you bastard”.
“Then they were provoked.” Bartholomew replies.
“Like hell they were.”
The crowd grows larger, some from the various ships, most from the town. Captain Bartholomew starts to say something; hands are on weapons. Before anyone can do or say more, Cindy strides over to Captain Bartholomew and says, “You get your scurvy arse the hell out of my way, or I’ll put you in the ground.” Kathy feels the blood drain from her face.
Captain Bartholomew stares down at this nine-year-old pipsqueak challenging him in the street. All eyes are on him; complete silence surrounds them. “And who be you?” he asks.
“I’m Cindy of the privateer Rapier, and you’re a slimy dog.” Captain Bartholomew’s face burns with rage; he starts to pull his sword. Cindy goes en garde. The people hold their breath. He stops and looks around. All eyes are on him, and most of them are unfriendly. Kathy’s heart beats wildly. Lien shakes with fear for Cindy. Cindy stands her ground; blood drips from her sword. Moments pass. Then Captain Bartholomew looks at Captain Black.
“You’ll pay for this, Black,” he scowls. “But for now, take your midget back to your garbage scow and get out of here.”
The town militia shows up. “Both of you, get out of here,” their captain shouts. Samuels and Marx help Jenkins up, and they all leave for the Rapier’s shuttle. Crewmen from the Raven are picking up their dead and wounded. Captain Bartholomew glares at them as they leave. Captain Black says in a low voice, “This isn’t over yet.”
The shuttle lifts off. On the way up, Captain Black contacts the ship. “Mr. Hansen, recall everyone ashore. Get the power revved up. Everyone to action stations.”
Doc Smith meets the shuttle and takes charge of Jenkins; Lien goes with them. The captain rushes to the bridge along with Mr. Gibb, Cindy, and Kathy. “Everyone to stations!” he shouts. They all enter the bridge. “Full power, Engineering!” the captain shouts at the intercom.
Cindy jumps into the weapons seat. She starts powering up the main batteries. “Weapons going hot, Captain.”
Kathy sits at tactical, brings up the holographic display, and marks the Raven as hostile. “Tactical ready, Captain.”
Mr. Gibb watches both of them with an expression of pride.
“Helm?” Nobody is there yet, so Mr. Gibb takes the station. “Helm, aye, Captain.”
“Head out on course 132. Give me maneuvering speed as soon as possible.”
The crew is scrambling out of bed or out of shuttles and rushing to stations.
Kathy sees the display light up around the Raven; the readout dumps data onto the screen. “The Raven is powering up, Captain,” she shouts. “Their weapons are coming online.”
“Ahead one quarter, Mr. Gibb.”
“Aye, Captain.” The ship picks up speed.
“Bring that new drive online, Mr. Gibb.”
“Weapons charged, Captain,” Cindy sounds off.
“Strap in, everybody,” the captain shouts. “Mr. Gibb, give me a vertical 360. Stand by weapons, Miss Cindy.”
Both respond, “Aye, Captain.”
The ship rapidly rises in a vertical loop. Kathy watches tactical. The Raven is starting to move as the Rapier loops over it.
“Punch it, Mr. Gibb!” Captain Black shouts. The ship leaps forward as a particle beam rises from the Raven and just misses the Rapier.
“Target locked, Captain!” Cindy shouts.
Cindy hits the rail guns. Three bursts. The projectiles strike the Raven. The first three projectiles bounce off the neutron armor, draining its energy. The fourth and fifth crack the surface of the hull. The sixth punches through opening a two-meter-wide hole in the hull.
“Let’s leave, Mr. Gibb.”
“Aye, Captain.” He accelerates the ship, and the Rapier streaks away from Reavers Cove.
Later Doc Smith reports that Jenkins died of his wounds. As Kathy lies down in her bunk, it hits her. Jenkins was just fourteen when he came onboard, and he didn’t live to see his eighteenth birthday. She weeps quietly until she drifts off to sleep.
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