The Gladiator and The Ogre
the Ogrenoid presented a major problem. Captain Frederik Glazenby
fought to seize control of the beast.
He followed Directive 439:Under no circumstance is the bio-hazard environment to be breached. The infected vessel is to be escorted to the nearest suitable scientific facility where trained staff will attend to the anomaly. Salvage crews are not to be informed of what the bio-hazard is.
The bastards never told him how large the Ogrenoid was.
“How’s traction, Sasha?”
“A bit shaky.”
“To be expected. Hopefully, once we get moving things will improve.”
The navigation officer shrugged. She nudged the juddering joystick forward.
“Captain, we’ve got company.”
Frederik glanced at his Communications officer.
“What you got Billy?”
High intensity sensors picked up a large S-wing shaped craft circling the Ogrenoid.
“Do you want me to make contact?”
Frederik hated the unexpected.
“See what they want.”
Captain Glazenby ordered the computer to initialise the arms array.
Jack Hart’s instincts told him this was the big one.
“That beast has got to be worth a fortune Skipper. Have you any idea what she’s carrying?”
“Something valuable for sure. Let’s have a look at the lone crow pulling the treasure.”
The craft pulled hard left. The ship accelerated past the ponderous salvage craft before swooping with guns primed.
“Captain, they’re hailing us. They’ve even had the nerve to power up their weapons.”
Jack shook his head at their impotent gesture.
“Put the joker on screen.”
“Identify yourself and your purpose. Any form of aggression will be vigorously resisted.”
Jack Hart admired his opponent’s bold bluster.
“Identify yourself and intentions. If you do not give a satisfactory answer I will regard you as hostile and engage appropriate measures.”
Jack eased back into his chair.
“I’ve already analysed your ancient cannons and you’ve no chance of penetrating my shields. However, I’m sure you’re aware of the damage my plasma arrays could do to your vessel.”
Jack waved for the plasma array to be targeted at Frederik’s main engines.
“I’m Frederik Glazenby of the salvage ship Hercules. Please disengage your targeting systems.”
“Now that’s more like it, Freddy. You’re an honest man. I’m not quite so noble. My name is Jack Hart, captain of The Myrmidian. I mean to relieve you of your charge.”
The captain of the Hercules inhaled hard.
“I’m looking forward to meeting you face to face so we can discuss your surrender.”
“I’ll not have pirates coming aboard this vessel.”
“Why now that’s rather rude.”
A wave of painful plasma tore into The Hercules flank. Frederik tumbled from his chair.
“Fred, I just hit you with a mere 0.2 percent of the firepower of The Myrmidion’s arsenal. I’d say you’d better do as I say wouldn’t you?”
The Hercules captain held up his hands and groaned when he saw Billy lie lifeless next to his terminal.
“What’d you do that for? Killing my crew isn’t going to make your mission any easier.”
“I disagree. Now you understand your position more clearly.”
“I shall come aboard as soon as possible to take a look at the big brute you’re pulling. What’s she holding?”
“I’ve no idea. Our orders are to transport only.”
Jack glanced towards his gunner.
“You’re telling me you don’t know your own cargo? Don’t insult my intelligence or the Myrmidion might sneeze.”
“Look for yourself at our orders when you board.”
Jack detected febrile panic in Frederik’s eyes. Jack cleared the bridge of the Hercules from his screen.
“Any sign of trouble you just take them out. I’d prefer to keep some alive to make our job easier though.”
The Myrmidion edged closer. Jack ordered the boarding rig to be deployed. He led his party across and was met by a solemn shrew who declared herself chief data processor.
“Take me to the bridge.”
Sylvie Reynolds led Jack and his entourage onwards unaware the Myrmidion’s captain.
“Captain Frederik Glazenby, I’m at your service.”
Jack bowed in mock protocol. The crew of the Hercules was herded into the centre of the bridge.
“Captain Hart, allow me to introduce my crew. This here is Sylvie Reynolds.”
“Who’s your nav man?’ interrupted the new owner of the Hercules.
A nervous shrug from a raven haired beauty informed Jack of her locale. He’d look forward to examining her later when she was suitably bound and restrained.
“I’m pleased to meet you Sasha. I deem you indispensable like your Captain. Who’s your comms expert?”
“It was Billy Ramirez.”
Frederik pointed to Billy’s corpse.
“Sorry about that. Did he have a deputy?”
“Yes, that’d be Cory Lanham.”
A sprite of a man of no more than twenty one stepped forward.
“Apart from yourself Captain, that’s all I need. Remo, take the rest of The Hercules staff for a walk.”
“You heard the man,” grunted a bald brute.
Sylvie looked to her Captain.
“You’ll be fine Sylvie.”
Jack switched his attention to a screen to his left. Seven individuals were ushered to the centre of a small chamber at gunpoint.
“It saddens me, Freddy. However, my mission comes above all else. There are times when we suffer for the joy of reward.”
Jack saw Remo exit the room. Sylvie screamed. Jack relished the look of knowledge in her eyes of one who knew life wasn’t fair.
“What do you mean, Captain Hart?”
“In bygone Earth ages pirates had a term called walking the plank. Anyone deemed troublesome or in the way would be asked to leave.”
“You can’t do that. They’re good people.”
Jack jabbed a green button.
The airlock yawned open. Sylvie's breath shortened. Her friends fell to the void. She felt life being sucked away by vampiric vacuum. Her aged eyes burst. A scream caught in her throat. She joined her friends in perpetual black light.
“Damn you. Why?”
Jack responded with a fist.
Frederik was hauled upright by rough hands.
“What is the Ogrenoid carrying?”
“I told you that I don’t know. On no account are we to approach the ship.”
“You’d best examine your memory. It’d be a shame for a cute man like Cory to walk the plank.”
Cory blushed under the leer from Jack Hart.
“All I can tell you is that whatever is on that ship is considered an extreme biohazard.”
“Remo, take Cory for a walk.”
The pirate grabbed the young man’s ear and pulled him screaming towards the airlock.
“All right, there’s a disk. I haven’t told my crew, I don’t even know what is on it.”
“And where is said disk then?”
“My quarters, top drawer of the filing cabinet you’ll see as you enter. The file is marked Farnock collection.”
The pirate found the disk easy enough. He flicked open a small computer and inserted the silver circle. Jack’s eyes hovered on the manifest.
Jack leered at a dark eyed vandal on his left.
“Moleen. I think that’s just what we’re after.”
She pressed a button for the Captain and gasped when she saw how many container pods the Ogrenoid held.
“How the devil can such a thing fly through space?”
Jack hungry hands began to itch.
“I’ve no idea. All I know is we’re going to be outrageously wealthy.”
Moleen entered a few keys. She was rewarded with a dialogue of caution.
Warning. Previous crew of Ogrenoid slain due to unexpected awakening of Farnocks. Under no condition is the ship to be approached.. Ship to be transported to a suitable facility where their aggression will be pacified.
“Captain, what the hell is a Farnock?”
Jack scratched his chin through his beard.
“No idea. See if you can find out.”
Her heavy fingers probed more keys. A small icon on her left appeared. Jack pressed the action key himself.
“My name is Professor Adam Farnock. We have found a cheap natural solution to mining in extreme environments.”
Jack stared in surprise at the rather unassuming bookish man who walked into a small pen containing several sleeping small animals.
“These animals are several of the young of what my colleagues have politely christened Farnocks.”
He drew out a small silver stick and prodded the belly of one of the bare skinned animals.
“As you can see they are all heavily sedated. These creatures are incredibly aggressive and their teeth have the ability to puncture even our most protective armour.”
Jack stared back unimpressed.
“They look like bald dogs.”
The recording smiled almost as though it anticipated Jack’s challenge.
“If these animals are not kept in a pacified state it is extremely unlikely that those who come into contact will survive. These animals are omnivorous and will eat literally anything due to their robust constitution. In every Farnock pack there is an alpha male and female. They must be monitored at all times.”
The professor drew away from the enclosure before issuing one final declaration.
“It is imperative there is to be no unauthorized intercourse with the specimens. The Farnocks are swift breeders. Their numbers will swell if unchecked and an unmanageable situation would ensue.”
Jack slapped the off button.
“Are you telling me, one of the biggest corporations in the universe is running scared of a few mutts? Moleen, find out how much gold and platinum this beauty holds. That’s what sells, not this nonsense.”
“This bastard’s loaded, Captain.”
The figures cascaded onto the monitor until the grand total of two billion plus leered back.
“It’s the gold we’re after.”
“What about the Farnocks though? You heard the zippy professor.”
Jack glared in the direction of the bridge.
“Why’d you think I kept that useless Captain alive? He can see what’s on board.”
“You can’t do this. I’m Captain of this vessel.”
Jack punched Frederik’s ribs with the snout of his plasma rifle.
“Get on the probe. You’re worth more to me over there than over here. Course, if you’d care to disagree.”
Jack raised the weapon between his target’s eyes.
“I’ll go in your damn capsule. Don’t expect me back though.”
“Hope not,” added the impatient pirate.
Frederik Glazenby looked to see if there was any possibility of flight. The reminder of metal between shoulder blades put paid to the notion.
“Get in,” grunted Jack.
Frederik obeyed. The airway closed and he was propelled towards the mass of the Ogrenoid.
The distance was covered in less than two minutes. To Frederik Glazenby it seemed an age. His mind swam with the memory of his first job as ensign on the Plasma Express. He recalled his first promotion, his first bonus and his very first commission. He was damn good at his job, one of the best, or so said Director Yorke. Then came the Ogrenoid. He couldn’t resist the lure though of such a big task.
The heavy clunk of steel on steel affirmed the fact.
“Hurry up and look around. If I don’t hear from you in less than five minutes I’ll assume you’ve been eaten.”
Frederik ignored the joke. He inched into the loading bay. His path was lit by a green glimmer. The interloper’s eyes strained in their search for more illumination. He was rewarded by a simple grey panel. A quick press bathed the Ogrenoid in artificial light for the first time in over ten years.
“Are you getting this?”
“Get on one of those carts and make your way to section GH13.”
Frederik glanced around, nervous of the unknown. He listened yet heard nothing but the gloomy echo of his boots on steel. He pulled an orange cage down and entered the co-ordinates. The shuttle swooped into the depths of the Ogrenoid.
“Good. Bloody long way to go isn’t it?” said Jack.
Frederik nodded. He shuddered at the thought of exploring the cathedral of delivery.
“On that keypad enter AJ55GHJJ2. That will gain you entrance to the vaults.”
The quiet bleeps of keys echoed in heresy before a hiss of hydraulics announced the opening of the treasure chamber. Frederik gasped at the sight of gold bars piled on endless rows of pallets.
“My God, and this is just one chamber,” mused Frederik.
“Fred, can you hear or see anything unusual?”
The former captain of the Hercules peered left, right, above and below. He saw nothing but the interminable gauntlet of vault after vault, gangway after gangway.
“I can’t see a damn thing.”
“We’re coming aboard.”
“What about those Farnocks?”
“Moleen, you don’t believe that rubbish do you? It’s an elaborate story to keep us away from the loot. I bet you the Ogrenoid ran into mechanical trouble. There’s no such thing as a Farnock, believe me. They did have me going for a bit though. Let’s move.”
Captain Jack Hart of the Myrmidion assembled his team of twelve with hard haste and marched them into the vast holds of the Ogrenoid.
“There’s no time for anything fancy here. I want you to check these locations.”
“Captain, you’re not telling us we have to check out every container. We’ll be here forever.”
“Don’t be dense, Tommy. I’ve chosen two hundred and fifty to spot check.”
“What about that biohazard stuff their Captain was on about?”
Jack pointed at his plasma rifle.
“If you see anything strange blast the bugger to oblivion. But Raj, take it from me, this ghost ship is empty of life, human or otherwise. Just check the gold and we’ll be out of here.”
Jack split his team into four units of three. The pirate decided he would take Moleen and Remo in his party. The first stop was to be GH13. He looked forward to announcing Frederik Glazenby's retirement.
“What is it, Raj?”
“I’m not sure Sir. It looks like some kind of yellow wall ahead. It looks like a giant honeycomb.”
“Can you get past?”
“It looks like the track goes straight through.”
Moleen tapped her Captain on his shoulder.
‘We should get out of here. It doesn’t look right.”
“Stop fretting, Moleen. My boys know how to defend themselves.’
Jack picked up the small comms device and uttered the word Raj once again. There was no reply.
“Raj, where the hell are you?”
Static ruled. Jack hailed the rest of his small team and met the same response.
“Captain, we’ve got to get out of here.”
Jack’s furious fist struck Moleen across the nose. Jack quelled the murderous intent in his black heart.
“You think I’m going to run because my communicator isn’t working?”
They were narrowing in on GH13. The static continued. Jack heard a faint tapping noise.
“What is that, Captain?”
“Probably just the heating system. Don’t worry about it Remo, not with that big old ion cannon you’re carrying anyway.”
Remo’s answer was to prime the fuel chamber.
“Are you coming?’ interrupted the metallic voice of Frederik Glazenby.
“Remo, anything that as much as twitches fry it. If anything sounds unusual, blast it to hell. Moleen, you just shoot in the direction of the big man’s guns.”
“What about Glazenby?”
“What about him?”
Frederik knew Captain Hart would shoot him. He would die fighting. He discovered a standard issue pistol. Once he saw Jack he would shoot the pirate between the eyes. He knew the big bruiser with him would disintegrate his sorry arse but at least Jack Hart’s reign would be over.
He pondered this when his eyes caught the words: Quarantined stock. Frederik inspected the screen and saw the words Farnock release protocol. His imagination concocted a lethal plan. He typed in a time delayed opening sequence and leapt aboard his shuttle.
“Moleen, make this thing go faster.”
His acquisitions mate shot him a glare.
“This is top speed. It’s a damn loading shuttle.”
Remo guided his Captain’s attention to a blur on the craft’s left, moments later, several crates smashed down behind on the slender track.
“Let rip, big fella. Show these beasts what an ion cannon can do.”
The dim interior was lit with several brutal bursts of white energy. The bolts disintegrated anything in their path. Jack and his colleagues covered their ears.
“That should sort them out. Moleen, let’s get a move on.”
Moleen pushed the craft forward. She took solace though when the glowing green words loading bay beamed back.
Jack didn’t reply. He pointed to a swarming mass of opaque limbs scuttling in the shadows.
The big gun barked again.
Once more the cavernous halls of the Ogrenoid rebounded with sonic booms whilst unknown creatures met a spectacular end.
“We’re here, Captain.”
The trio leapt off the shuttle and sprinted to the primary airlock. Jack pressed several buttons and a steady screen of shutters isolated them from the growing horde in pursuit.
“Captain, you better look at this.”
Moleen pointed at a yellow note affixed to the airlock door.
There were seven words on the hand written note.
“You ready to walk the plank, Jack?”
Jack cursed his former captive.
“What are we going to do?”
Moleen didn’t need to tell him of the metallic gnawing getting ever louder. Remo blasted again and again into the dismantled shutters. There were other avenues of entry though.
Jack glanced above. He saw the vilest abomination he could ever hope to witness.
A Farnock. He surrendered when death decided to eviscerate his fragile body.
His last thoughts were not of the dreadful screams of his two remaining crew. They were full of admiration for the Hercules Captain.
“Frederik Glazenby, you bloody clever bastard.”