The Pirates of Ersatz-Sixty-Seven

The Pirates of Ersatz-Sixty-Seven

It exploded luridly as Derec crumpled from the pistol bolt. There was thick, strangling smoke. Hoddan disappeared. When the thickest smoke drifted away there was nothing to be seen but Derec, lying on the ground, and thinner smoke drifting out of the still-open boatport.

Nearly half an hour later, figures came very cautiously toward the spaceboat. Thal was their leader. His expression was mournful and depressed. Other brawny retainers came uncertainly behind him. At a nod from Thal, two of them picked up Derec and carted him off toward the castle.

A spearman just behind Thal said:

“Dirty trick! I was with him to Walden, and he paid off good! A good man! Shoulda been a chieftain! Good man!”Thal entered the spaceboat. Gingerly. He wrinkled his nose at the faint smell of explosive still inside. Another man came in. Another.

“Say!” said one of them in a conspiratorial voice. “We got our share of that loot from Walden. But he hadda share, too! What’d he do with it? He could’ve kept it in this boat here. We could take a quick look! What Don Loris don’t know don’t hurt him!”

“I’m going to find Hoddan first,” said Thal, with dignity. “We don’t have to carry him outside so’s Don Loris knows we’re looking for loot, but I’m going to find him first.”

There were other men in the spaceboat now. A full dozen of them. Their spears were very much in the way.

The boat door closed quietly. Don Loris’ retainers stared at each other. The locking-dogs grumbled for half a second, sealing the door tightly. Don Loris’ retainers began to babble protestingly.

There was a roaring outside. The spaceboat stirred. The roaring rose to thunder. The boat lurched. It flung the spearmen into a sprawling, swearing, terrified heap at the rear end of the boat’s interior.

The boat went on out to space again. In the control room Hoddan said dourly to himself:

“I’m in a rut! I’ve got to figure out some way to ship a pirate crew without having to kidnap them. This is getting monotonous!”

“I guess he got it,” said Thal dismally.

He peered in. He shook his head.

“Wounded, maybe, and crawled off to die.”

He peered in again and shook his head once more.

“No sign of ‘im.”

A spearman just behind Thal said:

“Dirty trick! I was with him to Walden, and he paid off good! A good man! Shoulda been a chieftain! Good man!”Thal entered the spaceboat. Gingerly. He wrinkled his nose at the faint smell of explosive still inside. Another man came in. Another.

“Say!” said one of them in a conspiratorial voice. “We got our share of that loot from Walden. But he hadda share, too! What’d he do with it? He could’ve kept it in this boat here. We could take a quick look! What Don Loris don’t know don’t hurt him!”

“I’m going to find Hoddan first,” said Thal, with dignity. “We don’t have to carry him outside so’s Don Loris knows we’re looking for loot, but I’m going to find him first.”

There were other men in the spaceboat now. A full dozen of them. Their spears were very much in the way.

The boat door closed quietly. Don Loris’ retainers stared at each other. The locking-dogs grumbled for half a second, sealing the door tightly. Don Loris’ retainers began to babble protestingly.

There was a roaring outside. The spaceboat stirred. The roaring rose to thunder. The boat lurched. It flung the spearmen into a sprawling, swearing, terrified heap at the rear end of the boat’s interior.

The boat went on out to space again. In the control room Hoddan said dourly to himself:

“I’m in a rut! I’ve got to figure out some way to ship a pirate crew without having to kidnap them. This is getting monotonous!”

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