“Engineering, secure.” The report cut through the gunfire, the patter of projectiles on hull metal, the tromp of booted feet and the heavier stomping of battle armour.

“Environmental, secure.” “Crew, secure.” The two reports came through so quickly, only the radically different voices made plain that they weren’t one speaker.

It took a bit more time, a few more shirt-sleeved bodies hitting the hull metal, another two corridor junctions of progress, before the next: “Brig, secure.”

Dak progressed carefully – backwards. The wolverine was the rear guard, this time, his flechette gun ready to brutally suppress any attempt to sneak up behind them. The bulk of the work was being done by the standard ratings, their coilguns dialled all the way down and loaded with tranquilizer needles. Stubborn clusters of them got softened up by the Lieutenant with a few flashbangs from his underbarrel launcher; two or three had found battle armour of their own, but it was light stuff, not even a match for that the Marines wore, much less the walking tank that was Lieutenant Arven Joraquin. Nothing that the squirrel’s plasma caster couldn’t punch a hole through.

Clean through, with enough force still to warp the bulkhead beyond. There was no time to try taking them alive.

They’d just got to the bridge, and Arange was placing breachers on the door, when the last of the other fireteams called in: “Cargo secure. This is definitely our bunch, Sir, we’ve already found some personal effects from the Safe Venture.

“Not entirely damning,” the Lieutenant demurred, “but pretty close. All teams hold positions. Alpha is about to take the bridge. Charlie, I want the gravity to this section cut as soon as the breachers go.”

“Stand by,” a female voice said. Then, “Awaiting your signal.”

Joraquin nodded to Arange. The ferret stepped back and flattened against the wall. He didn’t have to push a button; his charges were triggered by the eye-tracking software all of them had in their helmets. Dak wasn’t even close enough to see Arange’s eye scan through the commands; he just saw the flash and heard the report as the door blew to pieces, even as a signal lit up on his display.

The Marines were already using their boot grips; they didn’t feel anything different as they stormed through. But drifting bodies and debris said quite clearly that the gravity was, in fact, off.

“I really don’t recommend that,” Joraquin said, over his suit speakers, to the wolverine who was struggling to bring a weapon to bear while also clinging to the command chair. “You’re not going to pierce our armour with less than a three-second burn – five, for mine. Meanwhile, you apparently never found armour to fit you. I’m sure you recognize the sort of weapon Master Sergeant Travenis is carrying…” At this Dak, grim-faced behind his visor, brought the barrel of his gun to bear on the shirt-sleeved bandit captain. “It can render even someone your size, within a fraction of a second, into a discontinuous mass off tissue that will take genetic records to identify. I believe you’ve seen the like used before.”

“Yeah?” the other wolverine growled. “So what makes you so special, if you do that?”

“It’s not our first resort,” Joraquin replied.

Morrisey’s coilgun spat. The wolverine jerked, and then he and his weapon went tumbling in two different directions.

The Lieutenant looked around at the other pirates, then, quite calmly, declared, “Bridge secure.”