“Cargo ship spotted!” shouted the lookout, from high up in the crow’s nest.
“Boarding team assemble on the main deck! Sharpshooters to your post! Prep the ropes!” barked the privateer known as Captain Hardwood, master of the airship Raptor. The crew followed his orders with alacrity and soon, everything was just as the captain wished. The Raptor rose further into the thick clouds to mask herself from her prey. The massive hydrogen-filled bladder allowed the airship to stealthy get into position.
Below the Raptor, the steam-powered wings of the cargo airship below flapped at a leisurely pace, the crew unaware of the danger just above them. Despite her small size relative to the cargo airship, the Raptor was adept at hunting larger prey.
Assembled on the deck, the members of the boarding team each held a rope in hand that was fastened to the side of the Raptor. Captain Hardwood gestured to the Boarding Sergeant, a clean-limbed young man with short, stubbly beard named Zeke Windrider, who spoke to the assembled boarders with a loud voice.
“Gentlemen, we are at war with the loathsome Lunar Republic. Our esteemed captain has obtained a letter of marque from the King’s own hand, so the booty below is for the taking. Half my share to the first man on deck!” said Zeke, before leaping over the side of the Raptor, the flag of the Kingdom of Victoria around him like a cape.
“He always does that,” muttered one of the boarders, before going over the side of the airship.
With a loud thump, Zeke landed on the wooden desk of the cargo airship. Several more thumps signaled the arrival of the other boarders. As soon as they landed, each member of the boarding team drew their wheellock pistols. Up on the Raptor, the sharpshooters each took aim with their wheellock rifles.
“Surrender and we shall deal with you fairly!” shouted Zeke at the top of his lungs. The crew on deck stood still for a moment, before a bear of a man, a head taller than Zeke, clad in a long black coat and a tricorn hat came out of the gilded door of what could only be the captain’s cabin.
“We’ll do no such thing, you monarchist lackey!” said the captain as he drew and fired a pistol from deep within his coat. The bullet zipped toward Zeke and grazed his side, the leather armor deflecting the bullet just enough to make a thin scratch in his side, rather than bury itself deep in his kidney.
“Fire,” both Zeke and the captain ordered simultaneously. The deck of the airship erupted with gunfire for a brief moment as the boarders and the crew all fired their guns. From above, a volley of sharpshooter fire dropped several of the crew. Zeke had four pistols tied on a rope around his neck and he fired each one in turn, dropping one crewman per shot.
With his pistols empty, Zeke drew his saber and advance down the deck, his boarders on either side of him. Blades flashed in the brief glimpses of sunlight that came through the clouds. The crew of the airship fought valiantly, but they were not all veteran fighting men, like the boarders. Slowly, the boarders gained the upper hand, until the captain exhausted his supply of wheellock pistols and entered the fray.
He was armed with a round shield and a short sword that seemed even smaller in his beefy hands, with which he cut down two of the boarders in a flash. The captain’s swiftness was unusual for one of his size, but his strength was as expected. His shield was more a tool of offense than defense, as he used it break ribs and bash men, rather than block strikes.
Zeke struck down a crewman and struggled to retrieve his saber from the man’s skull. It stubbornly stayed put and the captain took the opportunity to bear down on Zeke. He redoubled his efforts to get it out, but it was firmly stuck. Upon approaching Zeke, the captain lunged at him, but Zeke nimbly sidestepped the sword, but the shield came into the fight and knocked Zeke back several steps. The sword of a fallen crewman lay on the deck, so Zeke kicked it up into his hands.
The sword’s weight confused Zeke, who was used to his relatively light saber. It felt unbalanced, as if it wanted nothing more than to betray the invaders and leap out Zeke’s hand. He adjusted his feet into a defensive stance as the captain advanced on him.
“Think you can take my vessel, boy?” the captain taunted, “I’ll make your corpse my new figurehead.”
Zeke was silent and let his sword do the talking. However, the sword had nothing good to say. Only his nimble feet kept him out of range of the captain, but the captain had the initiative and pressed Zeke toward the edge of the deck, where mobility would become meaningless.
Zeke’s back bumped against the waist-high railing that was the only thing between the deck of the ship and plummeting to the ground, hundreds of feet below. His foot got caught in a coiled rope laying on the deck and he stumbled. The captain lunged at Zeke, eager to end the fight.
Zeke dropped the sword and tipped backward over the railing. Arching his back, he grabbed the rope. The captain could not halt his momentum and went over the railing. Zeke held onto the rope, while the captain’s screams filled his ears. Soon, the captain was a speck far below him, and he could no longer hear the sound of battle.
He climbed up the rope and hauled himself over the railing. The boarders had finished off the last of the crew and they were the undisputed masters of the airship. A massive hunk of flesh and bone, scarred almost beyond recognition, known as the Brute strolled over to Zeke.
“They refused surrender, so we fought them to the last,” he said with a wicked grin. The Brute joined the Raptor rather than go to prison for a string of violent crimes. He enjoyed violence more than Zeke was comfortable with, but he was loyal.
“Well, I’d hoped for a prisoner, but if hope were rope, we could lasso the moon. Check the bodies for any keys or documents and let’s see what we got,” said Zeke.
He took his flag cape off and waved it above his head. Up on the Raptor, another man with the same flag waved back, signaling that they knew the airship was taken. Zeke then entered the captain’s cabin and poked around logs of cargo or possibly documents that might have military applications. The Victorian Air Corps paid handsomely for intelligence. All he found was a spare coat, a couple of hats, and three gold rings. The rings, he pocketed. As Zeke exited the cabin, an explosion rocked the Raptor.
Looking up, he saw the Raptor’s flight bladder floating off into the sky and the rest of the ship as nothing more than splinters obeying the iron will of gravity. Floating through the clouds came a Lunar battleship, smoke still rising from the cannons.
Part One | Part Two