Barrett’s Privateers – Plague Ship IX

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Fiction | 68 comments



The Grugell frigate K-110

With nothing to do, Group Commander Kestakrickell IV was relaxing in his command suite when the door chime sounded.

“Come,” he called, and looked up to see the frigate’s commanding officer walk in, a grin on his narrow face.

“Our long and boring wait has finally come to an end,” Commander Chiksteskattitk II informed his Group Commander. “We have a short-range signal from a Confederate ship. They have the shipment that Baxter offered, and will meet us at the arranged rendezvous in one day.”

“I presume they had the location and the security codes, as arranged?”

“Indeed they did, Captain. All codes match. They are on their way here now.”

Kestakrickell stood up. “Very well. Find two good officers to make the ‘transfer,’ arm them well. Move us into the moon, and prepare a landing shuttle. We will conclude our business here, and then return to accept a second shipment from Bolin.”

“As you command,” the Commander agreed.


The unnamed Type II moon of an unnamed gas giant

The system had two planets, both gas giants, both within the ‘green zone’ of their large blue-white star. The closer of the two giants had two planet-sized moons; one was tropical, the other a desiccated pill of a world, farther out in its orbit and therefore more geologically stable than the other.

It was on this world that Baxter had arranged to swap contraband diamonds for Grugell gold.

On the Shade Tree’s Bridge, Jean Barrett and Indira Krishnavarna looked at the main screen, where the image of a gleaming silver orb with two trailing yellow drive pods swam into view above the rust-brown shape of the desert moon.

“That’s a Type 11 Grugell frigate,” Krishnavarna said.

“Yup,” Barrett agreed. “What did you expect?” She fought back the urge to order shields and weapons; it had not been that long since the war.

“Touchy situation, Cap’n,” Hector Gomp muttered.

Barrett looked over at her Security Chief where he stood just inside the main Bridge hatchway. “Get your stuff ready, Gomp. You and I will go down and do the meet.”

“Cap’n,” the ex-Marine warned, “I don’t like it. I don’t trust them. They’ll double-cross us.”

“I know.”

“You’re not worried about it?”

“Gomp,” Barrett smiled, “I’m counting on it.”

Gomp didn’t understand, but he grinned, shrugged, and headed towards his cabin to pick up his gun belt.

“Indira,” Barrett called.

The Exec walked across the Bridge. “Captain?”

“Keep the main drive warmed up. We may have to leave in a hurry. Channel some reserve power, quietly, to the weapons systems. Keep a good targeting solution on that frigate with both forward pee-beam emitters; if it starts to power weapons or shields, or tries to cloak, cut it in half.”

“All right, Captain. I sure hope you know what you’re doing.”

“So do I.”

“You’re taking a big risk,” the Exec pointed out. “You should send Gomp and McNeal down to make the swap.”

“And miss all the excitement? Not a chance.”


The K-110

The bridge on a Type 11 Grugell frigate was narrow and cramped by human standards, but the Grugell found it capacious, with room enough for an expansive view screen at the front. Group Commander Kestakrickell IV looked at the screen now, where the image showed the charcoal-gray hull of the Confederate ship holding position off the K-110’s bow.

“Be ready, but no power to weapons,” the Group Commander ordered. “Not yet. Let us make the exchange first. Commander, is your landing party ready?”

“They are at the landing shuttle even now, Group Commander,” Chiksteskattitk replied. “They have the gold, and they have hand weapons.”

“That,” Kestakrickell said, “should be sufficient.”


The Shade Tree

Jean Barrett had ‘liberated’ her landing shuttle from the wreck of a Confederate Navy destroyer during the war. Thus far the Navy had not bothered asking for it back, and every time Barrett was compelled to take it to the surface of some undeveloped world, she was sure she knew why. The teardrop-shaped ship had only room for the pilot, three passengers, and was able to carry only a thousand kilos or so of cargo; insufficient to do much good in resupply, but enough to move high-value material – or contraband.

The shuttle’s main weakness lay in its means of moving down a planet’s gravity well. Described in the manual as a “lifting body” hull, the shuttle depended on an old-fashioned, un-powered descent, protected from friction by a ceramic surface on its flat belly. This made for a rough ride, especially given that the pilot could not see where he was going until the last few moments, when (one hoped) the shuttle’s maneuvering thrusters kicked in.

Since the Shade Tree was too small for a hangar, the shuttle was attached to a hard point on the ship’s belly, which made access a matter of climbing through a manhole-sized port in the deck and dropping into the shuttle’s control compartment. Barrett dropped into the shuttle first. Gomp squeezed his bulk through a moment later and moved to the controls.

“Strap in, Captain,” he said, seating himself and fastening the heavy four-point webbing harness. “Detaching now.”

The shuttle left the ship with a loud clang. Gomp tapped a contact, and thrusters fired to aim the shuttle at the moon below.

“Gravity about two-thirds gee, Captain,” he said. “Should be a decent ride.”

“I hope so. At least McNeal isn’t aboard this time. Funny about him and shuttle rides, after as much as he’s bummed around on starships.”

“Yeah,” Gomp chuckled. “Took me a good two hours to clean the puke off the control panel last time I took him down a gravity well.”


The K-110

“The landing shuttle is away, Group Commander,” Chiksteskattitk reported.

“Very well. Hold your position. Everything proceeds according to plan.”


On the surface

Captain Barrett found breathing a little hard; the dry, dusty world was a little short on oxygen. Only the gravity of about two-thirds gee made it tolerable.

“Incoming, Cap’n,” Hector Gomp pointed at the gleaming silver shape of a Grugell shuttle, flashing down through the atmosphere towards them. Barrett loosened her pistol in its holster. Gomp drew his holstered revolver, checked the load of eight 10mm hollow points. They were ready.

Barrett squinted at the gleaming silver shuttle. “Punctual bastards, aren’t they?”

Gomp shrugged. The Grugell shuttle passed overhead once, then turned, idled slowly back, and settled to the ground about fifty meters away. The hatch popped open, and two tall, spare figures emerged.

“Captain Barrett,” the taller of the two Grugell smiled amiably.

“That’s me. And you are?”

“Tiskatrattik III, Subcommander under Chiksteskattitk II. My inferior here is Gorbatamik V.”

“This is Sergeant Gomp,” Barrett said. “You have the gold?”

Tiskatrattik pulled a small silver pad from his pocket and tapped it twice. A polished black cargo container floated from the Grugell shuttle’s hatch.

“You won’t mind if we verify,” Barrett said.

“By all means, Captain,” Tiskatrattik said with a grin.

Gomp walked forward and popped the seals on the cargo container. He extracted a portable scanner from a pocket, passed it over the container.

“It’s real, Cap’n,” he called back. “Five hundred kilograms of gold, one thousand fine.”

“Bring it over,” Barrett ordered.

Gomp put one hand on the floating cargo container, guided it back towards his Captain.

“Our diamonds?”

“See that ridge?” Barrett pointed over the Grugell’s shoulder. “The diamonds are in the original cargo containers, just on the other side, under a couple of camouflage cloths. Here,” she tossed Tiskatrattik a small portable scanner, “this will lead you right to them.”

Tiskatrattik turned the scanner on, examined it for a moment. “Very well.”

“Pleasure doing business with you, Subcommander,” Barrett said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have places to go and people to see. Gomp, let’s get that container back to the shuttle.” She turned as if to walk away, but the high-pitched voice of the Grugell officer stopped her.

“I’m afraid not,” Tiskatrattik called out, “Captain, you know we can’t allow you to just walk away.”

“Why did I have a feeling you were going to say that?” Barrett stopped, turned, faced the two grinning Grugell.

Tiskatrattik and his sidekick both had blasters drawn and leveled. “Orders are orders, you know, Captain. Gold is very valuable to the Emperor – far too valuable to trade away to some Confederate pirate. I’m sure you understand.”

“Oh, I understand, all right. Gomp, you understand?”

“Yeah. Fifty dollars, Cap’n?” Gomp said in a low voice.

“You’re on,” Barrett agreed.

Gomp smiled a slow, lazy smile. Barrett looked at the smirking Grugell – and dove for the dusty ground, drawing her .45 and firing at Tiskatrattik even as Gomp rolled and fired his revolver at the second Grugell.

“Mine hit the ground first,” Gomp claimed as he got back on his feet.

“Mine was taller.”

Gomp stood looking at his Captain, grinning like an ape. “All right,” Barrett conceded. “You win. Fifty dollars.” She dug in her trouser pocket, found a roll of bills, pulled one off and tossed it to Gomp, who pocketed it with a grin as Barrett withdrew a small but high-powered transmitter from her pocket.

Shade Tree,” she said into the device. “This is Lander One.”

Shade Tree here,” came the reply.

“Case Alpha,” Barrett said.

“Case Alpha, confirmed. Shade Tree out.”

“Now,” Barrett said, “let’s load this stuff in the shuttle and get back to the ship. Not a bad day’s work, Gomp.”

“Should feed us for a good spell,” Gomp agreed. “Along with those diamonds.” The diamonds were still on the Shade Tree; Third Watch scanning tech Miguel Sanchez had carefully set up the hand scanner with a ghost reading.

“We’re not done yet,” Barrett pointed out. “We still have to sell the cargo. I think I know the best place to do that.”


The Shade Tree

“Double-crossing bastards,” Indira Krishnavarna breathed. “Weapons, fire pee-beams on prearranged targets. Target two Shrikes. Blow those treacherous bastards out of space.”

Two faintly visible lines of force lanced from the Shade Tree’s forward emitters, smashing the Grugell frigate’s shield projectors seconds before two anti-ship missiles arrived to shatter the gleaming silver shape. The Shade Tree’s bridge crew watched dispassionately as the remnants of the ship spun slowly towards the moon below.

“First time I’ve ever fired on a Grugell ship,” Weapons tech Gillian Bates breathed. “But we’re not at war now.”

“Too bad for them,” the Exec pointed out. “Better they had stayed on their own side of the border.”

“I’ve got the landing shuttle on radar,” Ophelia Watts called from the Scanning console. “ETA twenty-two minutes.”

“Very well,” the Exec said. She stood up, stretching, and watched the main screen for a moment as the last silver shards of the wrecked Grugell frigate toppled away into the moon’s thin atmosphere, ignited, disappeared. “Hope nobody is waiting on them back at Grugell. I’m going down to the sally port to meet the Captain; hold our current orbit. Newman, page all decks, tell everyone to make ready to leave orbit. I expect we’ll be saying goodbye to this little rock presently.”



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Semi-notorious local political gadfly and general pain in the ass. I’m firmly convinced that the Earth and all its inhabitants were placed here for my personal amusement and entertainment, and I comport myself accordingly. Vote Animal/STEVE SMITH 2024!


  1. juris imprudent

    OK the last loose end to tie up. Unless we are to be entertained by Baxter’s fate in the wake of this.

    • R.J.

      That’s my bet. Baxter needs to get hosed.

  2. juris imprudent

    Also I can see why the Grugell lost the war. They didn’t seem to learn much from that either.

    • ron73440

      They have slow reflexes.

  3. SDF-7

    I half expected “By my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you”… it had that feel. 😉 Thanks as always, Animal.

    • ron73440

      She got 62.8%
      1,274 votes

      Donald Trump got 33.3%
      676 votes

      She can finally say she beat Trump.

      Of course it’s in the uniparty shithole.

      • R.J.

        She won the popularity contest in Hell. Congrats.

      • Sean

        ^^ This. It’s no accomplishment.

      • Not Adahn

        Her spin is high-larious: “Those who are closest to government dysfunction reject the chaos that OMB will bring!”

  4. The Late P Brooks

    I predict: if Biden does not actually nod off during his State of the Union address, it will be acclaimed by the media as the greatest American success since Washington crossed the Delaware.

    • JaimeRoberto (carnitas/spicy salsa)

      Even if he does nod off, the spin will be “Biden is so experienced he can do this stuff in his sleep!”

    • The Other Kevin

      Definitely. They’ll go on and on about how energetic and articulate he is. But he does have a problem because it’s at night, well after the time he normally calls a lid. And it’s a long speech, and he won’t have people right there to deflect or end it early.

      • juris imprudent

        He’ll be juiced up enough he won’t sleep until the reversing drugs are administered.

    • creech

      Unless teleprompter goes down, Biden should make it through o.k. MSM will proclaim it better than the Gettysburg Address. By the way,Joe is scheduled in Philly yet again on Friday so he can chill out for another weekend in Delaware.

      • juris imprudent

        Imagining the teleprompter with one of those USB powered and malware-infected vibrators attached to it.

      • Tres Cool


  5. ron73440

    Great story so far, we’ll see what happens to Baxter.

  6. Derpetologist

    Spot the Not: Florida Man

    1. Naked Florida Man Robs Bank and Escapes on a Unicycle

    2. Florida Man Stabs Tourist Despite Having No Arms

    3. Florida Man Trapped in Unlocked Closet for Two Days

    4. Florida Man Arrested for Beating Drag Queen with Tiki Torch While Dressed as KKK Member now Running for Mayor

    5. Florida Man Arrested for Illegal Ride on Manatee

    6. Florida Man Busted Feeding Iguanas to Alligator in Jail Zoo

    • juris imprudent

      1. That sounds more like Portland.

      • R.J.

        I don’t know… There are a lot of naked crazy Florida men.

      • juris imprudent

        But can any of them ride a unicycle?

    • Animal

      Now you can also see the adventures of Alaska Man, every Monday.

      • kinnath

        Pretty tame stuff there.

      • R.J.

        Awesome. I shall look forward to it!

      • Derpetologist

        I respond thusly:

        Florida men rally to shoot down Hurricane Irma

        Florida man robs Wendy’s by throwing alligator through drive-thru window

        Florida arrested for practicing karate on swans

      • Tres Cool

        “An armed transport guard who stole more than $500,000 from credit union and bank ATMs in Alaska literally drank away all of the money he stole, according to court documents.”

        My G_d, how much does booze cost up there ?

      • Derpetologist

        It’s possible that while he spent all the money on alcohol, he didn’t drink it all. Most people who drink liquor have a bunch of partially full bottles in their homes. And then there those who collect expensive wine. It’d be easy to burn through the money if he bought a bunch of top-notch scotch.
        60-year-old scotch can cost $60k per bottle.

      • Tres Cool

        Point taken, but Im going to presume that your run-of-the-mill Brink’s driver isnt into a 50 year-old Balvenie.

      • The Other Kevin

        Maybe he drank it all at a high-end strip club.

      • whiz

        My guess is that he bought a round for the house (or more like several dozen rounds).

    • R.J.


    • Not Adahn

      5. The cops only arrest tourists for riding manatees.

    • Derpetologist

      1 is the Not. Congrats to juris imprudent.

      On an unrelated note, I’m pleased to report my internet has been working well for the past 24 hours or so. I haven’t had to restart my wifi gizmo.

      • juris imprudent

        Woot! My astrological forecast can suck it!

      • UnCivilServant

        I’m going to need a citation on what jail has a zoo.

      • Derpetologist

        Jailbird Jason Aaron Gibson was all allowed to work at a small petting zoo on the Stock Island Detention Center — until fellow inmates ratted him out for feeding the giant lizards to “Irwin” the gator, officials said.

        The petting farm, opened in 1994, is home to more than 150 animals. It is open to the public every other Sunday and has become one of the Key West area’s most beloved attractions, the Herald says.

        Florida – where prisoners run petting zoos

    • Suthenboy

      Take any two of those and my answer would be ‘both’.

  7. The Late P Brooks

    Couch cushion money

    The sale of the Northeast Gasoline Supply Reserve is among the provisions intended to raise funds in one of six bills setting out appropriations for some federal departments this year after Congress narrowly avoided another shutdown last week.

    Under a bill providing funding for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the fiscal year, a million barrels of the government’s strategic reserve of petroleum would be sold off—the same amount as in the NGSR, which is located in New York Harbor, Boston, Massachusetts and South Portland, Maine.


    Still, some have questioned shutting the reserve down. Zero Hedge, a far-right libertarian financial blog that has promoted conspiracy theories and climate denial, wrote on Sunday: “Is the government trying to cause another disaster? This supply is so small but crucial for its intended purpose that we’re in ‘just why?’ territory.”

    The revenue from that should last almost until the ink on the check dries.

    • Derpetologist

      Meanwhile, the national debt is now increasing at the rate of a trillion dollars every 100 days.

      Cut. Spending.

      • R.J.

        “Zero Hedge, a far-right libertarian financial blog that has promoted conspiracy theories and climate denial,”

        F that guy with a tinfoil hat. He can’t even spell Alex right.

    • The Other Kevin

      He needs to come to my gym and practice tire flips. I think our heaviest tire is 380#.

      • R.J.

        Those big round hay bales average 800 pounds. As low as 500 if it is dry and beat up.

      • The Other Kevin

        We’re gonna need a bigger tire.

      • R.J.


    • Sean

      And they both lived. Wow.

    • juris imprudent

      That asshole needs to suck a shotgun barrel.

    • The Gunslinger

      “Teixeira’s leaking of information regarding U.S. documents about the Russia-Ukraine war and assessments of strategic allies across the world was an embarrassing moment for the Biden administration.”

      I think I see where he messed up.

    • kinnath

      Uh. I watched All in the Family and never once got the impression that homosexuality was part of the story line.

      • R.J.

        See? Look how the Overton window has shifted for you.

      • kinnath

        Anyone that watched that show and thought that Meathead was the protagonist was a idiot.

        And, presumably, Meathead was fucking Archie’s daughter Gloria.

      • UnCivilServant

        I tried to watch the show recently.

        I couldn’t stand listening to Meathead long enough to finish an episode.

      • Tres Cool

        The early episodes when John Rich directed are pretty good. Then it goes downhill.
        Kinda like when they let Alda start directing MASH.

  8. Not Adahn

    Did they leave the alien shuttle on the planet?

    • Not Adahn

      Er, moon?

  9. The Late P Brooks

    And, presumably, Meathead was fucking Archie’s daughter Gloria.

    It’s beards, all the way down.

  10. R.J.

    Does anyone have the Cliff Notes on what is happening in Haiti?

  11. The Late P Brooks

    Does anyone have the Cliff Notes on what is happening in Haiti?

    Papa Doc is sorely missed.


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