With their ship disguised as a tramp freighter, Captain Nick Steele, Astrogator Cai and the crew of Laughing Owl serve as bait to catch a pirate preying on the ships traveling the silk road. Their orders are to disable and capture the pirates so that admiralty can interrogate them. Both the pirate ship and the Laughing Owl soon realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Will the pirates succeed in their attempts to take over Laughing Owl? Or will Nick and Cai manage to defeat their foe despite an unexpected betrayal?
Cai was in full disguise down to patches on his hull and a fake ID stenciled on. He was no longer Laughing Owl but the tramp freighter Rumpleteazer. “But where’s Mungojerrie?” he’d asked, only to get a blank stare from the junior-grade flunky telling them about the details of this mission—for security reasons, they’d been briefed in person after leaving Hevetich Orbit Control. At least Nick had laughed.
As they approached the mining station, Nick opened a channel and said, “This is Rumpleteazer, outbound from Tau-Ceti with fresh food and medical supplies. Requesting docking berth for trade.”
Cai scanned the station again. It appeared to be an ordinary mining platform. The miners were independent workers, each with their own gear and method for knocking asteroids out of the field into their nets. They went months between trader visits and, as a result, had plenty of hard credit and nowhere to spend it. They eagerly assigned Cai a berth and magnanimously waived the docking fee.