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A Corsair Among the Stars


by zennistrad

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For nearly as long as she could remember being alive, Korzara had yearned for freedom.

     Certainly, most people would say that they would prefer freedom to the alternative. But most people also didn’t realize what freedom truly was, or how much they were being denied it.

     Sure, there were the usual aspiring tyrants of Neopia who tried to bring everyone under their heel. Sloth, Captain Scarblade, Lord Kass, all rightfully recognized as villains. But there were many other, more subtle tyrants that Neopians accepted, even loved.

     Fyora was the worst of them, revered by all who spoke her name, despite the power that she commanded over others as the Queen of Faeries. But she was far from the only one. Everywhere you looked in Neopia, there were kings and generals and leaders. Even the pirates of Krawk Island had such positions, with captains and admirals who commanded their entire respective crews. And to say nothing of those weird, magic-less, wing-less faeries who called themselves ‘owners,’ a word that made Korzara’s skin crawl.

     The point was, no matter who and what they were, there were people who spent their lives telling others what to do. There was nothing that Korzara found more repulsive than that. She lived her life for herself, and she wasn’t going to be limited by the rules and customs of anyone else.

     It was precisely that desire that brought her to her current position. Most who saw her grey scales and deep scowl would call her a Pirate Techo, though she was quite unlike most of the pirates Neopia knew. Korzara was a space pirate, for it was in the lawless expanses of space that she found her true freedom.

     ...Freedom didn’t always pay well, mind. She had made quite a fortune for herself in her early career, even managing to snag a privateer’s license to exempt her from being charged with piracy by the Space Station authorities. But she had far too quickly thrown that opportunity away, as much as she tried to tell herself it was for a good reason.

     Korzara sighed, and stared through the glass of her spaceship’s flight deck, trying to shake the woes of her past off her mind. Her reflection showed a scarred and permanently blinded right eye, while the pitch-black sheen of her Space Trooper armour matched the blackness of space just outside.

     But trying to avoid dwelling on the past had only brought attention to the problems she was presently facing. Her heists had gotten progressively more and more dangerous and less rewarding, while the bounty on her name had skyrocketed. Fewer and fewer outposts in the Neopian solar system were safe for her to dock in, and she didn’t have the food stores to travel too far out into the Galactic Alpha Quadrant.

     Thankfully, she had managed to snag a promising job just before she ran out of supplies. There was a shipment of valuable ore due to pass by a nearby trade route, and if Korzara could rob the cargo and carry it back to her employer, she’d have enough Neopoints to eat well for the next several months.

     It was fortunate that she had one of the best-equipped starships in the entire Galaxy for such a task. Her spacecraft, the Liberada, was a Moltenore-class gunship with a grade 1.5 hyperdrive, medium range sensors, twin rotating mana cannons, thaumatic torpedos, phlogiston mines, a disjunction pulse cannon, a tractor beam projector, and a cloaking device. Thanks to Korzara’s modifications, it had traded its passenger capacity for an expanded one hundred metric tons of storage space, as well as state-of-the-art teleportation systems for loading and unloading cargo.

     Sure enough, the sensor displays in the flight deck began to beep, alerting Korzara to a light freighter ship approaching her position at sub-light speed. Preliminary readings showed that it held seventy metric tons of cargo, and that the cargo had a... strange energy signature. She couldn’t quite figure out what it was, but it emitted a constant and intense magical radiation.

     More importantly though, the freighter’s cargo load was small enough for her to fit the entire shipment within the Liberada’s hold.

     Her eye narrowed as her ship’s computers locked on to her target. Through the viewscreen, she could see it. An Eyrie-class freighter, armed with a massive and powerful-looking turret gun on top. One look at it, however, and Korzara could tell that it was used mainly for intimidation, not for combat. To man such a weapon would require more crew than was typically seen on such a small cargo ship.

     Moving into intercept, Korzara disabled her ship’s cloaking device. The freighter’s pilot was clearly astonished by her sudden appearance and radically swerved out of the way to avoid her — but not before her ship fired its disjunction cannon. A panel opened up on the top of Korzara’s ship, revealing a massive gun barrel. A blast of bright blue magic fired from the end of the barrel, and the freighter’s hull was enveloped in a burst of freezing energy.

     Then, just as quickly as it had been struck, the freighter went silent. Against such a powerful disjunction, the reactive core of the cargo ship’s engine was separated into its base components, rendering it inert. It was now running entirely on auxiliary power, with its life support and communication systems still active.

     Grabbing the yoke and steering closer, Korzara slowly moved herself towards the freighter, within teleport distance. She flipped on the radio and sent a message through her communicator, addressing the helpless freighter pilot.

     “This is the gunship Liberada! Your engines have been taken offline! Stand down and prepare for boarding!”

     Korzara grabbed her weapon, and slung it over her shoulder. It was a heavily modified Slime Gun, its slime tank converted into a massive battery, attached by a power cord to the blaster rifle holstered on the battery’s side. While the backpack battery made the weapon far more unwieldy to operate than most hand-size blasters, the massive increase in raw power it offered made it more than worth it, and it could go for up to three months without ever needing recharging. She flipped open a wrist panel on her armour, and signalled the teleporter systems of her ship to beam her away.

     A familiar light enveloped Korzara, and the surroundings of her ship faded away as she jumped through subspace, into the awaiting freighter craft.

      ----------------

     As usual, the crew of the freighter had offered no resistance. They were a small shipment team of three Grundos, all of them green except their leader, who was yellow with black spots. All Korzara had to do to earn their compliance was stick her blaster in their general direction.

     And so, the captain of the ship brought her to the cargo hold, where the shipment was kept. The other two crew members followed, as Korzara insisted that they stay within her sights at all times.

     As the thick metal cargo bay doors opened, Korzara stepped inside to observe her quarry, with the captain and his subordinates following close behind. Inside it were rows upon rows of thick metal crates of various sizes, with yellow warning signs written all across them.

     A smile crossed Korzara’s face. “Bingo.”

     She turned to face her hostages, and looked the captain straight in the eye. “Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to have my teleporter move your cargo onto my ship. You three are not going to move from this spot until everything is gone. Do we have an understanding?”

     The three Grundos shared a look with each other. They all seemed to have the same question in mind, but it was the captain who spoke up.

     “What about our engines? You’re not just going to leave us stranded here, are you?”

     “Not my problem,” said Korzara. “You have escape pods, don’t you?”

     The Grundo captain flinched away at Korzara’s response, as though he had been slapped in the face. He shared another glance with the other two, then turned to speak again.

     “You’re not really going to take everything, are you? We can’t get paid if we have nothing to ship! We could even lose our jobs!”

     “Again, not my problem,” Korzara bluntly replied. “Let me guess, next you’re going to try to grovel, and ask me to let you go out of the goodness of my heart.”

     The captain flashed a sheepish grin. “...Maybe?”

     “Well, tough luck! I have a job too. You have what I’m after, and I’m not about to let anything stand in my way!”

     It was then that fate heard itself being tempted, and decided to respond in kind.

     The sound of a sudden, shrill beep came from Korzara’s communicator. She flipped open the panel on her wrist, and her eye went wide at what she saw.

     It was another ship, which had rapidly decloaked and was now hovering just outside both the freighter and the Liberada. Worse, it was a ship that Korzara recognized.

     The air several meters away from Korzara began to glow with the characteristic light of a subspace signal. It quickly materialized into a corporeal form... a bipedal blue Acara of slender build, wearing bronze-coloured plasteel armour, and carrying a distinctive blaster pistol in her hand. Tattered strips of striped cloth were affixed to her waist and shoulders, and they fluttered in the wind as the Acara displaced the air around her.

     Korzara’s eye narrowed at the new arrival, meeting her with a glare that could pierce through the hull of a capital ship.

     Her name was Ylana Skyfire, and it was a name that had gone down in infamy among space pirates.

     “Drop your weapon,” she said, brandishing her blaster. “You’re coming with me.”

     

To be continued…

 
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