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The pa.s.sengers enjoying the reception in the main hall broke out in cheers.
"I'm Captain Marika of the pirate s.h.i.+p Bentenmaru, captain of the pirate s.h.i.+p Bentenmaru, Captain Marika."
The clumsy introduction brought a roar of applause from the pa.s.sengers.
"The Bentenmaru has hacked into the Five Star Lines luxury liner, the Princess Apricot. All of the Princess Apricot's systems, including navigation, are currently under the Bentenmaru's control."
There was a pause, as if for a self-congratulatory smile.
"In other words, the pirate s.h.i.+p Bentenmaru has now commandeered the Princess Apricot."
The main hall was a whirlwind of cheering and clapping.
"Captain Ronald Harley of the Princess Apricot, please prepare a tribute for your pirate captors. The Bentenmaru's cla.s.s 40 guns are trained on the Princess Apricot's bridge and engine room, so escape and resistance are impossible."
The gentleman shot an I-told-you-so look at the two women in c.o.c.ktail dresses.
"The pirate s.h.i.+p Bentenmaru's captain, Captain Marika, and her crew will now board the Princess Apricot. As long as no one resists, I don't believe anyone will have to be hurt, so all pa.s.sengers should please collect whatever gold objects they have and wait for the pirates to board."
As the ham-handed p.r.o.nouncement came to an end, the main hall of the Princess Apricot was filled with the sound of emergency sirens. The protective shutter that remained closed over the ceiling's observation dome during faster-than-light flight slowly began to retract.
As the protective screen decorated with figures from a mythological cosmology opened, the seamless, ultraviolet- and radiation-s.h.i.+elded bubble dome exposed a panorama of the galaxy above the pa.s.sengers' heads.
Backlit by the stars of the Milky Way, the black, angular hull of the pirate s.h.i.+p loomed ever closer, flanked on either side by flexible arms affixed with flas.h.i.+ng navigational lights. A flurry of scanning laser beams emitted by the pirate s.h.i.+p licked rapidly across the white hull of the luxury liner Princess Apricot.
The pirate s.h.i.+p, its coloring and silhouette reminders of its purpose as a weapon of war and the countless battles it had survived, bore down on the luxury liner, a white palace floating in the sea of stars, and began a forced docking.
Shudders radiated across the Princess Apricot's outer hull, as if it had been impaled by a ma.s.sive harpoon.
"are they really pirates!?" the long-haired woman blurted out, staring up at the silhouette of the pirate s.h.i.+p floating beyond the dome. A docking bridge began to extend from the pirate s.h.i.+p, illuminated by a bevy of spotlights from the Princess Apricot.
"They're the real deal," the gentleman said, placing his empty gla.s.s on the bar and returning the pocket watch to the pocket of his well-tailored suit. "The pirate s.h.i.+p Bentenmaru. Properly pedigreed pirates with a legitimate letter of marque. Pirates operating within the Galactic Empire are a dying breed; that girl and her crew are lucky."