'Which hat? The flying helmet?' She tugged on a shiny leather and brass B6 of uncertain vintage, squinted into the mirror , and removed it, 'or.. The riding hat?' she picked up a miniature top hat, decorated with lace and black roses from the table, and perched it on her head at a jaunty angle.
'I'm... Sorry... I...'
She sighed, sometimes being the corsair captain of your own fighting airship didn't leave time for the finer things in life.
'Access weather control and see what they have planned for all points between our current position and the Straits of Madripoor.'
'Working...' The lights on Frobisher's brass face dimmed slightly as he rerouted power to establish a secure, untraceable, link with The Great Cloud, 'Winds light to moderate from the South West, point seven percent chance of tropical rain, dependant on local humidity, light cloud cover beginning at nine thousand feet, temperature ranging fr....'
'Enough! Riding hat it is! Have the detailed report for the area around Chandra Island fed to my screen on the bridge, after that, put in a request to maintenance and get your contacts cleaned, you're starting to clack.'
'Ma'am.' The construct replied.
The captain fixed the hat to her elegantly coiffed hair with a selection of ornate pins, and strode from her quarters directly onto the bridge. The crew stiffened as she entered, suddenly taking a much deeper professional interest in their respective screens and readouts.
'Dr. When?' she called.
'Aye Ma'am?' He replied, the creaking of her first officer's aged leather overcoat not quite managing to mask the twang of his strange, half Cornish, half Centauri accent.
'Set a course for Chandra Island, Eastern Madripoor, best speed but keep us below detection altitude,' She sank into the command chair and started to digest the information displayed on her screen, 'Notify me at fifty miles.'
'Aye... Alright you dogs, you heard the captain, rig the gasbag for best stealth speed, ramp up the fusion engines, seal all external hatches and report when ready!'
The deck shook as the engineers stoked the huge nuclear engines into life, and the captain could feel the vibration in her bones. She closed her eyes and listened to the creak of the connecting chains tightening around the bags of gas above her. One by one the tell-tales on her panel turned from red to green. As the last one lit, she looked towards Dr. When.
'Stations reporting ready Ma'am, we move on your word.'
'Take us out nice and easy Dr. no showboating this time, Another punctured bag and I'll take it out of your share.'
'All jets ahead one quarter, when we see clear sky take her up to two thousand feet and engage fusion drive.' When turned to the captain, grinned and bowed, 'All hands - prepare for acceleration in ten! Hold on to anything you don't want to be looking for in the stern later!'
The shock of the nuclear reaction always caught her by suprise, its limitless acceleration took them from twenty-five to four hundred miles per hour in an instant. There was a cacophonous noise that rang through the ship, followed by gurgling screams.
'100 credits says cook forgot to secure his pans again?' When commented, hanging on to the guardrail behind the helm.
'200 says it was the kniferack,' The Captain replied, thumbing the switch for the shipboard intercomm, 'Medical team to The Galley on the double, patch up the cook and check the Galley for damage - He does a day in irons for every smashed pot.'
The ship settled into its cruising configuration as the gasbags finally caught up with the main hull, she was a beautiful ship, her hull built to resemble an early 18th Century Barque, the sails replaced by the voluminous gas-bag and the bowsprit replaced by a bronze and copper Ion Cannon, nicknamed 'Daisy' by the crew. She was, rather confusingly, named the Edward Teach, for reasons best known to her Captain.
'Captain!' Barked the Sensor Chief, 'We have a contact, bearing 076 degrees, speed 300, distance 20 miles, closing fast.'
'Looks to be mechanised, showing no lifesigns, minimal biological mass, but plenty of movement. Wait! We're being scanned!'
'Dr When, secure us from best speed, bring Daisy to bear and fire as she rolls.'
'Aye Ma'am!' The Doctor pushed the Helmsman from his seat and took the controls himself, he locked off the engines and threw the ship into a tight turn. The hull slewed viciously under the gas-bag as the chains tried to compensate for the rapid change of vector. The Captain peered through the viewscreen as their foe came into view.
'Spiders!' She called, 'Blow them out of my Sky When!'
The Captain had tangled with the Spiders before, they were a completely mechanical life-form, developed by the military for jungle and urban warfare. Of course, as is the way of such things, they had become too good at their job, finally turning against their controllers and setting off on their own journey, attacking cargo ships and corporate supply ballons, stripping them of their power sources and taking scalps as trophies.
Daisy barked, a glittering beam of blue energy shot from the prow of the ship and hit the Spiders' vehicle amidships, deactivated spiders fell to the ground like metal snow, but the main body was still aloft.
'Hit them again!'
'Doctor, now would be a good time!'
The Spiders' were almost within boarding range as the next blast hit them. The remaining Spiders bounced of the side of the hull and fell the two thousand feet to the ground. There was a moment of furious action as everyone checked that there was no damage to the ship.
'Resume course and speed,' Ordered the Captain, finally breathing out.
The rest of the voyage went without incident, and the crew was just settling back into their normal routine when the fifty mile alarm sounded.
'All stop!' Called When.
'Take us up to fifteen thousand feet and continue on jets only.'
The sudden silence as the fusion drive was taken offline was almost deafening, the ship slowly began to rise as air from the still hot exhausts was fed into the bags to supplement the already buoyant Tritium gas. They broke through the cloud layer and started towards the island. The Captain beckoned When towards her.
'Once we are directly over the island we will be storming the base using two drop-pods, pick a team of seven and take one, I'll do the same with the other.'
'Base? What're we after?'
'Whatever we can get our hands on, as usual.'
When grinned, grabbed his chainsword and hit the intercomm,
'Khan, Russ, Guilliman, Jonson, Curze, Corax and Vulkan - Report to the podroom, we drop in 60.'
As her pod fell, the Captain looked at her assembled team, she saw in the eyes of her crewmen the glint of impending action, the lust for new booty...
'Landfall in five... Four... Three...'
The landing rockets fired, almost doubling everyone's apparent weight and the Captain instantly regretted putting on her corset and kneeboots before boarding the pod. The doors fell open as soon as they touched down and the crew jumped out of both pods, screaming like banshees. A wave of constructguards poured from the main door of the building and ran into When's whining chainsword, cogs, gears and oil sprayed in all directions, covering the ground like glistening brass snow. Their cries of 'Invaders must die!' silenced by the churning teeth.
'We bounce in ten minutes, take what you can!' Yelled the Captain, 'Split up, we'll cover more ground!'
As the flow of guards died down, her crew entered the base and scattered in all directions. She made her way through strangely quiet corridors towards the base commander's office. The trip took minutes longer than she expected and when she arrived at the door, she was faced with an ornate lock of an unknown type.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the small glowing sphere that had cost her a month's share from the Dentrassi trader at Long-Pig station. He'd said that it was guaranteed to undo any lock that could be undone, although he did look like the sort from whom it might be difficult to extract a refund.
The Captain did not care, after a few seconds of melodius humming, the door clicked open. As she entered the office, she noticed how tidy it was - She realised she was in the right place and searched the walls for an entrance into the commander's private quarters.
'Where are you? Where are you?'
'Where is who?' Commented a voice from the doorway.
The Captain froze, turning away from the slowly opening cupboard that she had found. She was confronted by perhaps the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, long, red hair, delicately chiseled features, a classically proportioned body and a flowing, black, spidersilk dress. She stood, brushed herself down, cleared her throat and asked,
'And you are?'
'I am Belinda Von Messier, I command this base, who are you and why are you in my office?'
'Well, I am Dorleith Ahralia, countess of Minidandia, Corsair, Pirate and occasional rabble-rouser, I have come to relieve you of your wardrobe.'
Her sentence was cut short by the timely arrival of the Doctor, his repeating siege bolt gun and two explosive shells to the head.
'We need to leave now Captain!'
'No, now, one of the men thinks that he might have accidentally triggered some sort of self destruct mechanism, it said 120 when I left, but it was counting down. Grab what you came for, we have to leave.'
The Captain looked across to the now, fully open, open cupboard and saw:
When picked her up by the waist, threw her over his shoulder and ran. The sound of huge explosions getting closer and closer. By the time they reached the exit, the wall of flame was right behind them and he could feel his ponytail starting to shrivel. He thew himself into the pod and hit the launch button. He was deafened by the roar, but not before he heard the Captain say.
'Shoes... Lovely Shoes... All gone!'
OK, much like the story about my son knocking the head off the snowman - My daughter went into Town yesterday and saw some nice boots, which she couldn't afford, only I, like, sexed it up a bit.