2949-09-07 – Tales from the Service: Monte Crow’s Ruination 

This week, we’re continuing the account from last week of a retired pirate being visited by his old foes on Botched Ravi, as we’ve received a few messages indicating interest in the story’s continuation There’s another part to this story I might be able to edit up for next week, if interest persists. 

Still no luck with Naval Intelligence on those other stories. 

David Montero slammed the door at the base of the cellar stairs behind himself just before a burst of railgun fire battered the exterior. Dragging the thick metal panels used to make parts of his house more or less proof against gunfire across the badlands on a ravimule-pulled cart had been among David’s least pleasant experiences on a planet that excelled at producing unpleasant experiences, but as he slid the heavy bolt into place, he was glad for the trouble.  

The door wouldn’t hold his assailants for long, but he didn’t want it to. He fished into his pocket for the big brass key he always carried and slotted it into a round lock-plate fitted into one ferrocrete wall, releasing the tension on a set of gigantic springs buried behind the wall. With a creaking noise and then a snap, the wall opposite the door bowed outward, its thin plaster façade falling to pieces as a pair of concealed panels swung open. Behind the panel, a closet-like space contained racks of cloth-wrapped guns and a trapdoor leading to his escape tunnel. 

As the thugs outside rattled and then banged the metal cellar door, David unwrapped the oily cloth covering one of the long, sinister shapes racked behind that panel. When his would-be assassins came through that door, a spread of fifteen-milimeter explosive fragmentation microgrenades would probably make short work of them. The microgrenade rifle wouldn’t last long in Botched Ravi’s inclement conditions, but it only needed to last long enough to add five or six more tally marks to the ones David had already scored into its polymer handguard. 

The banging stopped, and David, knowing what would come next, backed into the secret closet and pulled the doors mostly closed, with only his gun-barrel protruding between them. Sure enough, with a flash of an explosion sheeting around it on all sides, the door buckled, then swung inward on shrieking, abused hinges. 

David, ears ringing, held his fire, waiting for his attackers to appear out of the smoke. Instead, he saw a pair of small camera drones zip out of the smoke and into the center of the room, surveying the dust- and smoke-choked cellar. 

"Drones on Ravi?” David muttered. As if to verify his disbelief, one of the two automatons sputtered, slewed to one side, then made a grinding noise and fell to the floor, its bearings choked with razor-sharp Ravi dust. “Idiots.” 

The second drone lasted barely a minute longer than the first, but it did last long enough to sweep the small cellar with its glassy eyes, what it saw transmitted back to the wrist-screen of its operator above – the barren floor and walls, the opened secret chamber, and David’s microgrenade rifle protruding from between the doors. 

When the second drone finally sputtered and died, an eerie silence fell. David, knowing the local posse was on its way, nudged the doors open and stepped out. “You don't get credit for killing Monty Crow by waiting for him to starve, boys.” 

“Don’t worry, old chap.” A voice echoed down the still-smoke-hazed steps. “We don’t got that kind of time.” 

The voice sounded familiar. Of course it sounded familiar. “Grif? Shucks, you came all this way yourself? I would have expected you’d leave the dying to someone else.” 

Griffon Baum, one of David’s rivals from his space-pirate days, chuckled. “I’m leaving the dying to you this time, Monty.” 

“I’ve been out of the game for years. My dying’s not going to put credits in your account.” 

“I’m a man of my word, Monty. I told you I’d pay you back for Jaffe’s Nest before I was through.” 

David winced. He’d never felt right about betraying Griffon’s crew in the Jaffe’s Nest raid, not even at the time, when his morals were somewhat less well developed. Still, that was business, as far as there was a consistent thing to call business among pirates. He and his crew had been stabbed in the back at least as many times as they’d done the stabbing. 

“It’s a shame, though.” Griffon continued, not remarking on David’s silence. “You had a nice set-up here. Shame what’s about to happen to it.” 

“Sure, Grif.” David sidled to one side in the tiny space and lifted the hatch of the trapdoor at his feet, glad the big barrel hinges didn’t squeak much. If Griffon was going to blow up his homestead, he wasn’t keen on sticking around. “Damned shame.”