Niall arrived last, watching the team’s six. He
stacked right, facing away from the door.
‘Breach and clear,’ Rynn ordered.
Jan swung around the frame in a low crouch, turning
left into the room. Lara was a breath behind him,
plasrifle turning over the top of Jan in a tight arc,
before paring right and moving in.
Rynn followed, turning into the room and moving
straight forward, shotgun raised at head height and
pointing directly into the body of the room.
Niall stepped backwards, still pointing out and away
from the team, and reversed into the room, before
grabbing the door and swinging it around to secure the
room. Only then did he lower his weapon and turn.
‘Well… that escalated quickly,’ Niall said, voice in a
dead-pan as he looked at what the rest of the crew was
already moving towards.
When the altimeter read 600 feet, Jo levelled out
their ascent. The countryside sailed along below them,
summer-glossy trees patched with green and gold
fields, threads of stream, ribbons of road. The horizon
lay ahead, a smudge of blue hills against white clouds.
Her heart felt as though it was pumped full of steam
like the envelope above her. No, not steam: hydrogen
like the big airships used. If she weren’t holding the
control sticks, she might bob up into the sky like an
untethered balloon. She couldn’t stop smiling.
She’d almost forgotten about the tall woman, until
she said, ‘How far will this thing go before we have to
from ‘Skyway’ by K.C. Shaw
‘Stopper your ears!’ Ellie yelled. She scanned the sea,
searching for further sign of their enemy, then something
moved under the water nearby, something large
which rocked the boat as it passed under, and as she
shifted her balance she gripped the hilt of her favourite
blade and made ready to make her cuts count.
And there, just off astern, a silver-grey leviathan rose
out of the depths with a deep grumbling hoot and she
barely had time to notice the Selkin on its back when
more of the thrice bedamned creatures leapt up over
the rails on all sides and attacked. Leaping harpies of
the deep that they were, the dead-eyed creatures never
considered giving quarter, just went straight for the
kill, all wicked talons and teeth and misshapen knives
that she could only think they’d stolen off some sunken
wreck once upon a long ago.
from ‘Past Lives’ by Jenny Barber
‘Some are in such a rush to die, they grab hold of
death even as they push it away.’ He looked at Safe
again, his dark eyes twinkling with a smile. A man
behind him on the floor groaned and stirred. Bill
moved closer, and Safe wondered why he wasn’t covered
in blood and shit, or tied up on the floor. ‘Every
hour Harlik will take one of you to the open deck,
hang you upside down and flay you.’ Safe’s skin froze.
‘When twelve hours are gone he’s going to give the rest
of you to the sea.’
‘You’re not making me feel better.’Said Safe. Bill
‘Make sure you’re not one of the twelve, you want
him to throw you overboard.’
‘You’re forgetting something old man. I can’t swim
tied up like this.’
from ‘Plunder’ by Francesca Terminiello
For your delectation, the first few hundred words of the opening story from Piracy.
‘We’ll live like kings,’ the captain said. ‘We’ll not want for anything. Even death will turn his face from us.’
That’s what the captain said.
No one has seen him in three days now. He retired to his quarters and locked the door. The first day was all crying. The second day there were voices tangled in dispute, then a scream. We’ve not heard anything since. No one wants to go in there.
We’re becalmed. The sea is as flat as any mirror, reflecting the dull grey of the sky. The sun is a smudge of white light behind indistinct clouds that stretch to the horizon in every direction. Rotting fish float in the water, unholy flotsam, and I know in the marrow of my bones we’ve brought this on ourselves.
The Absent Friend isn’t like most ships, certainly not most pirate ships. Not that I’m an expert. This is my
first time signed on under that shady profession. Still, how many ships willingly let women aboard? Much
less three of them. And the none-too-small issue of them being witches. The captain calls them theurges,
and I dare say there are prettier names, but we all know they’re witches. They were part of the captain’s great
‘We’ll go ashore at night,’ he said, ‘only small towns mind.’ He was a hearty man in his fifties with a tangle of dun brown hair and a beard touched with grey. He wore a patch, but only to cover his cock eye and protect his vanity. His parrot had shed most of its feathers, always sick and withdrawn. ‘The theurges will scale the rooftops and position themselves by the chimneys,’ he looked around, daring us to speak out. ‘Your job will be to carry the dreams back to the ship.’
We all laughed at that. The parrot flapped its stunted wings and shat, jetting foul grey liquid across
the captain’s frock coat. ‘Dreams? What use have we for dreams?’ snarled Horgan. He was as sour as they came; his crimes didn’t stop at pillaging. They said he had cruel tastes to match his temper. ‘You’re all here because you lost something,’ replied the captain with one hand on the hilt of his cutlass. ‘Some of you have a name for the thing you lost, and some of you don’t.’ He eyed Horgan and there was an uncomfortable pause. ‘Some of you might even deny your loss, but no man becomes a pirate unless he’s missing something. Maybe you never lost it,’ his eyes settled on me, ‘perhaps you lacked it from birth.’