“I am Lord and Master of this vessel!” Allston shouted. “What is your authority for being here?”
“I am Elaine Bell.” The woman holding the machine pistol did not budge a micron. “I’m the personal representative of Victor Chelan and the debtors possessing Bulger. By his command and authority I relieve you of your command of their ship.”
“No one takes my ship,” Allston screamed, throwing himself at Bell. She caught him with her left, gloved hand. His ribs snapped as she threw him across the room, hard.
“Power armor,” Elaine said, “Accept no substitutes.” Allston bounced off the far wall and fell to the ground, screaming like a swine in torment.
“The rest of you! Is there anything we really need to know?” Elaine asked. “Ma’am?” the woman at the comm panel mumbled, “Space Pirate Harrington says we release them or they will pull out violently. Also, they’re complaining about boarders in power armor.”
“Tell them we have a minor technical issue and they should release in thirty seconds,” Elaine ordered.
Another signal interrupted. “This is Anglic Union Corvette King Charles the Third to unknown ship tethered to Bulger Spaceship Holdings ship Mighty Transporter. Remain in place. Do not attempt to maneuver. Do not attempt to escape. If you attempt to move, I will open fire. As you are pirates I am under no obligation to take prisoners, and I will not. Your only answer is obbedisco! Instant obedience!”
“King Charles, this is Harrington. We are a neutral vessel engaged in trade. We thought your lawful boarders were pirates. We will not attempt to escape. Please do not fire on us. We believe there has been a slight misunderstanding, which we are prepared to let the diplomats resolve.”
“Harrington, this is King Charles the Third. We believe you have on board a substantial amount of mineral ore belonging to Bulger Spaceship Holdings. You are ordered to return it immediately to the Mighty Transporter.”
“King Charles, this is Harrington. I can’t. Our equipment won’t do that. I propose that we deliver it to wherever Mighty Transporter was going, unload the ore, and await a diplomatic resolution.”
“Harrington, this is King Charles the Third. Agreed. You are going to western North America. You will receive additional boarding forces and other officers, then proceed as you promised. The frigate Queen Victoria the Second will be flying close escort with you.”
“King Charles, this is Harrington. Always happy to have a military escort to protect me against pirates. We hear and will obey.”
Pirates on Earth
Victor Chelan watched from his office as the Mighty Transporter and the Space Pirate Harrington settled onto landing docks well downhill from the Bulger Yard. The first line of railroad cars were already being backed into position to receive cargoes. Very soon, he would again be facing an Elizavetsian delegation, flown down from the Columbia river for a hopefully reasonable discussion. Indeed, here was their air car, its arrival doubtless being timed to coincide with the arrival of of the two spaceships.
He tried to compose himself by looking at messages from the other partners. They were all elated. Benjamin Goldsmith’s Great Lakes Bank was the most restrained, asking if it made sense to accelerate the repayment schedule, or if the money would better be spend on Spaceship Yard maintenance that might increase income in the long term. His own principals were were less patient. ‘Imperative that you accelerate the repayment schedule’ had been the message from Oregon. Soon after the Elizavetsians departed, the Audit Committee would be arriving. Most of the Anglic Union still travelled by rail or ground car, but senior bankers looking to make a huge debt disappear demanded supersonic cross-country travel.
There came a knock at the door. “Enter,” Chelan called, standing as he spoke. Three Elizavetsian delegates followed by three Seldon Legionaires entered the room. “Gentlemen from the Northwest, welcome again to Humboldt Bay. Please be seated.” Without waiting further, he sat.
“We understand you have a more generous offer than the one we rejected,” the tallest of the three delegates said, not yet sitting.
“Precisely. “ Chelan nodded firmly. “Over the next two months, we expect our four transports to be arriving. We will put down 20,000 tons from each of them. The first three loads, you paid for already. The fourth…we would need to be paid at the historical rate, but paid while the product is being transhipped to your freighter, not in advance.”