Flash Fiction: Barium Deeper

More Star Citizen related art, just because.

I wrote this piece for terribleminds, because my last piece was 1000 words too long for this week’s space opera challenge.  This piece sticks with Barium, but is set many years after the previous one.  At least ten years after it.  In case you’re confused by the multiple names, Bury’em = Barium = Barry, and Casi = Cesium.  Enjoy!

***

“Surrender.  One move and you’ll learn why they call me Bury’em Deep.”  The Titan Security ship’s cockpit is still as a sepulcher. Thank goodness for a decade’s worth of carefully cultivated reputation.

My slug-thrower is leveled at the pilot’s head, muzzle cold against his sweating scalp.  It’s rude to sweat in free fall.  The pilot’s glasses are lifting from his nose, but he doesn’t move his hands to adjust them.  It’s a good sign when your hostages are too scared of you to take care of their uniforms.

The other people in the cockpit are paralyzed with fright.  I’ve wedged my foot into one of their support straps, with my back to their main external displays, so that I can cover them with my gun.  Almost no one uses slug-throwers these days, but that just seems to make them more scary.  I guess the threat of hull damage and rapid depressurization is pretty bad too.  My own glasses show me the progress of my assault team superimposed through the walls.  It looks like things are proceeding according to plan.

“So.”  I’ve run so many raids like these, it’s almost dull.  “You are going to tell me what I want to know.”

The cockpit crew glances at each other, then back at me with their glasses glowing, backlight by streams of information from their ship’s computers.

“First things first, you’ll all take off your glasses except for, eeny meenie—,” I pick the environmental engineer, seemingly at random, “you.  You’re my lucky informant today.  Capisce?”  The enviro engineer was the one whose dossier suggested they’d be easiest to control.  It pays to do your research.  Mom and Dad taught me well, bless their souls.  The engineer nods furiously, and the crew obeys me.

“Good.”  I cut an imposing figure in my homemade assault suit.  I designed it that way.  Well, Casi did and I liked it.  I find being terse adds to the effect.

“What,” I pause, savoring the moment, “is the location of the rebel base?”

The engineer’s confusion ruins it.  They clearly don’t know the classics.

Casi’s voice comes in over my earbud.  “Oh my GOD Barry, I will shoot you myself.  Just ask the fucking question already.”  Thank goodness they can’t hear my sister.

“Please, forgive a pirate his classical references.  Where’s Titan Security currently holding the pirates known as ‘Beryl’ and ‘Hal’ Deep?”  Technically, we were never more than salvagers, but technically Titan Security is here for the good of the broader Jupiter orbit, and technically … well.  Let’s not go there.  I’m just hoping that this ship will be a bit more informative than the last three were.  It’s been awkward arranging these raids.  Taking Titan Security vessels doesn’t actually pay very well, even if we’ve gotten pretty good at it.

“Uh,” the engineer looks at me.  “I’m very sorry Mr. Deep sir, but there’s no way that I could have access to that information.”  Hmm, that was a bit more spine than I’d expected, but honest, just like I’d hoped.

“That’s okay,” I wave a finger at the captain, “She’ll tell you the codes you need to access the local secure server.”  The captain gulps.  Audibly.  I love it.

“Oh, and by the way Captain,” I smile sweetly through my armored faceplate, “I’m already familiar with your ship’s scuttling codes.  I’d suggest you not use those.”  She offers a timorous smile.

While she starts rattling off characters to the engineer, I open up a channel to Teach.  It’s probably been more work to upgrade her from the original education suite Mom pirated all those years ago than it would have been to steal another one more suited to our needs, but neither I nor Cesium wanted a different AI.  I guess we humans are silly like that.

“Teach,” I subvocalize into my throat-mic, “please confirm that the assault drones are in place?”

“Barium, all units are in position for operations Can-Opener, Thumbscrew, Nova, and Oh Shit.”  I smile.  I love planning ops with sis.

“Thank you Teach.  Please copy Cesium on readiness, and standby for Thumbscrew.”

“Acknowledged.”

How do you become a successful pirate?  Make your own pirates.  Casi and I haven’t gone for the full bio approach that Mom and Dad used to get us (it’s seriously hard to meet people in this job); but fabricating and arming drones and loading them with hacked copies of Teach slaved to our master copy of our old tutor AI seems to work pretty well.

The engineer’s expression has gotten more and more stressed while they stare at their glasses.  The tension in the compartment would probably stink if I weren’t breathing from my suit’s supply.  Time to apply inducements.

“I’m afraid if you don’t tell me something soon, I’m going to lose my patience.”  Letting them imagine what that looks like always works better than a specific threat.

“Sir, I,” the engineer looks up at me in what I can only describe as fear.  That’s weird.  Am I more scary than usual?  They continue, “sir, I have bad news.  The Deeps,” they swallow, checking their projected displays, and I suddenly have a queasily liquid feeling in my chest, “were executed fourteen hours ago.”

Silence reigns in the cockpit.  I think my face might be frozen.  Crying in free fall is also rude.  And it’s a bad policy in a full suit.

“The FUCK did they just say?”  Casi blares, but I can’t answer.

“Cesium, the engineer just informed your brother that your parents were executed fourteen hours ago.”  Thank you very much Teach, I didn’t want to hear that again right now.

“You.” I’m frozen, but my voice addresses the crew for me.  Fascinating.  “You will now evacuate my ship.  I suggest you reach your life pods within thirty seconds.”  Subvocalizing, “Teach, initiate Can-Opener in thirty seconds.”

“Barry, I will fucking kill them.”

I shake my head, though she can’t see it.

“No sis, these are pawns.  We’re going to kill the king.”

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