By Jack Williamson (1908-2006).
First appearance: Wonder Stories, August 1931.
Reprinted in Startling Stories, March 1946.
Collected in The Early Williamson (1975) and Wolves of Darkness (1999).
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at UNZ HERE (start) and HERE (finish; scroll to page 112).
(Note: Some text cut off, but still readable.)
"Captain David Grant is faced with a desperate choice when he is pursued by an implacable vandal in the interstellar void!"The rocket liner Queen of Night doesn't stand a chance against the heavily armed pirate ship Black Hawk, but as the Queen's captain will find out, there are worse things than dying in the vacuum of space. (Note: Readers might be dissatisfied with this story's conclusion, which, to put it kindly, has been "borrowed" from a story found in a million school textbooks.)
~ Captain David Grant:
"Man the rays!"
~ Nell Grant, newly wed to Captain Grant:
"Oh, it's lovely! What is it, a comet?"
~ The Black Hawk, ruthless space pirate:
"What do you think of my hobby?"
Typos: "to disintergrate the atoms"; "disintergrating rays" (at least they're consistent).
- On his megasite Atomic Rockets, Winchell Chung has a page devoted to space piracy, where the pros and cons of the idea are discussed:
Space Pirates is a science fiction trope that just won't go away. The image of pirate freebooters on the high seas is just too romantic for words; science fiction writers can't resist. Alas, in a scientifically accurate world, they are more or less impossible, much like space fighters and for similar reasons. There ain't no stealth in space, so it is practically impossible for a fat space galleon to be surprised in mid-trip by a sinister space corsair flying the Jolly Roger. Or a rude surprise for a space merchant ship whose trajectory passes too near the Somali Asteroids for that matter. It would be several orders of magnitude easier for the "piracy" to take the form of grand theft from the merchant's warehouses on the ground. — Winchell Chung, "Interstellar Piracy" (HERE), Atomic RocketsHERE) and (HERE) about space pirates, and TV Tropes has fun with the concept (HERE).
The bottom line:
"How can we sail to an island that nobody can find with a compass that doesn't work?"
"Aye, the compass doesn't point North. But we're not trying to find North, are we?"
— 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'