The Black Claw

A savage pirate. Bounty hunters seeking revenge. A cyborg caught in the middle.

When murderous pirates slaughter a crew of innocent civilians and Krys’s captain is unjustly blamed for it, Krys must hunt down the real killers to clear his name or watch him die in the fighting pits.

Krys strikes a deal with a team of bounty hunters who see her as a traitor for leaving bounty hunting to become a pirate. The only thing keeping them from sending her to the pits is her promise of justice for their murdered teammate, but they fear she’ll lead them into a trap.

They might be right.


The Black Claw Cover4

 

Excerpt (Spoilers from Hand of Steel)

 

I gazed through the Deathhorn’s cockpit glass. A luxury Saddat liner floated helplessly in the blackness below us. With our new hijacker drone that attached before take off, we were able to stop the targeted ship in a pre-planned location, a good thing considering this was a civilian ship.

Klate stood next to me, behind Amellia, who sat in the pilot’s chair. “Move in for boarding,” he ordered.

Amellia expertly piloted the Deathhorn closer to the other ship, her movements smooth.

“Krys, contact the ship,” Klate said.

I leaned around Amellia’s chair and flipped on the short range communicator. “This is the Deathhorn hailing Liner 501,” I said. Crews tended to surrender with less fear when contacted by a Human with a Saddat accent.

“Stay off our ship,” a Skallan’s posh voice snapped through the communicator, his Saddat accent stronger than mine. “We will fight.”

Klate’s long ears twitched. “He’s scared,” Klate whispered. “Trying to sound tough in hopes of frightening us off.”

“We don’t want a fight,” I told the liner’s captain. “All we want is any slaves onboard and any Company supplies bound for Lokostwa. Look up the information on the Deathhorn. We always let the civilians go.”

“I know how you pirates work,” the captain snapped. “Once you’re onboard, you’ll take the best of us for slaves and kill everyone else.”

“I give you my word we won’t do that,” I said. “You surrender and let us on the ship, or we’ll fight our way on. Either way, we get what we want.”

“Stay off our ship.” A click sounded. The captain had flipped off the communicator.

The Deathhorn shuddered as it touched the other ship, even though Amellia had piloted it against the liner with a dexterity few Humans could manage. The two ships met belly to belly so we could go into our cargo hold and leap through the hatch into the other ship’s hold.

“Time to board.” Klate ducked out of the cockpit and headed down the hallway toward the hold.

I followed him and flexed my cybernetic hand, extending claws from my three fingers and thumb. I touched the stunner pistol at my hip with my real hand, then checked my belt for spare ammunition.

Fifteen of Klate’s crew members fell in behind him.

Tenned, being second in command, hung back a bit. We couldn’t afford to let him and Klate get injured at the same time.

Doc stayed with Tenned. With his small size and speed, he’d have been useful, but we needed our medic safe.

We strode to our cargo hold, where stacks of flexsteel had been strapped to the walls.

“Think they’ll have many mercenaries?” I asked Klate.

“Hirami didn’t see any when he put the hijacker on,” Klate said. “That doesn’t mean they didn’t smuggle a few onboard when he wasn’t watching.”

Melsha opened the Deathhorn’s hatch, then started fiddling with electronics to open the other ship’s hatch. We donned masks to protect us from any gas grenades. Delto shifted from foot to foot, his claws clicking against the floor, but otherwise, the crew stood calmly. They’d been on dozens, if not hundreds, of raids. They knew what they were doing.

The ship’s hatch whooshed open.

A grenade flew from the other side, too slow to penetrate the neutral gravity between the hatches. It floated for a few seconds, then exploded with a deafening bang and a flash of electric gel, which missed all of us and splattered in sparking puddles on the Deathhorn’s floor.

Anyone who boarded ships knew that to get a grenade through the neutral gravity between ships, it had to be thrown hard, not dropped through the hatch.

“Civilians,” Melsha whispered, her voice pitying.

Klate slung a paralysis gas grenade through the hatch and into the enemy ship. Yellow gas spewed, but the reversed gravity between the ships made enough of a seal that it didn’t come onto our ship.

After waiting thirty seconds, Klate dove headfirst through the hatch. I dove after him, the rest of the crew on my heels.

As I came up through the enemy ship’s floor, the gravity reversed. I landed on my hands and knees, then sprang up and scanned the cargo hold.

The yellowish gas from the grenade screened our entrance, hiding anything farther than a few arm-lengths away. I ran for the nearest cover a load of crates.

Klate ducked behind another stack of crates as the rest of the crew sprang through the hatch. He fired into the gas. Someone cried out as Klate’s dart struck home.

Klate’s ears swiveled as he listened for sounds no other species could hear. “Hold’s clear,” Klate said. “The rest retreated. Watch their hatch.”

I peered through the thinning gas at the hatch leading out of the hold and to the rest of the ship. Someone had closed it, probably hoping to buy more time.

Two Skallan lay on the floor; a male wearing a mask while the female lay with her mask in hand—she hadn’t gotten it on in time. Klate left the cover of his crates and knelt by them.

I joined him. Both of the Skallan breathed fast, but the paralysis left them unable to show any other signs of panic.

Klate grabbed two pistols that lay beside them. “They’re just civilians.”

Frightened ones at that, judging by their panicked breathing. The maskless Skallan looked at me, her eyes wide. Most likely, the masked one exposed himself to get his friend, or perhaps wife, to safety. The woman had been luckier. The gas didn’t last as long as the serum in the darts.

“We won’t hurt you,” I said as I cuffed her. They’d tried in vain to fight against losing odds. Normally, civilians simply surrendered.