Pirate Stories II

YC??? (100 years ago. More or less.)

Hilion Narath heaved a bail of pikkan over the side of the trawler. The acrid smell of the dried plant hovered beneath the ever-present stink of fish. The stink would stay with the product, but the end users wouldn't care: it was low grade, and any grade of the mild narcotic was tough enough to get on the southern continent.

The sun beat down on the out-of-the-way cove, reddish sand fringed with a tangled, temperate jungle. Hilion was working shirtless and still pouring sweat. At 20, he had already given up hope of ever getting taller than his current 140cm. There was a mild, pleasant ache as he heaved up the next 40 kilo bale. He imagined he could feel the Cyberknight implants coil and uncoil alongside his muscles as he worked. The network of scars over his body were already fading, but a few were still fresh enough he could feel them pull as he tossed the bale to the dock.

All to get the old man political capital. When his father ran out of ways to buy influence directly, he'd started looking for indirect ways. Cyberknight offspring, smart move. But they're never gonna forget he just married into being a holder. It was always there, whenever Hilion went to one of their events. In the glances, in the comments murmured not quite quietly enough. Noone was ever going to see anything but a merchant, especially the old man when he looked in the mirror. Can't fault him for persistence though. Sure glad that leaving me flayed wouldn't have helped him feel more aristocratic.

Of course, Hilion figured maybe he owed the old man something, since it was his boats that were being used to move all the pikkan. He grabbed another bale and smiled.

Hilion had started small, but early: shop lifting expensive electronics when he was 11. Hit so many Holohuts, they've posted my picture in every damn one for 3 systems, he was bragging by thirteen - perhaps a slight exaggeration.

That was before he understood that bragging to the wrong people was a good way to get caught. Of course, when he was caught, his father would make it go away. He'd learned quick that rules were for other people, people who were happy with their boring lives, and he'd picked up plenty of useful skills along the way.

Hilion trotted down the gangway with the last bale and tossed it with the others, then approached the man receiving the shipment. The man's papers (which claimed he was a low level executive for a minor Lai Dai subsidiary) said his name was Verak Kenadenen. He finished tallying as Hilion stopped in front of him, and he smiled ever-so-slightly. "Everything seems to be in order, Narath. I've authorized payment, please verify that it has gone through."

Hilion checked on his com, saw the pleasantly hefty new amount resting in his numbered account with Intaki Bank. He squinted up at the taller Caldari with an easy grin, "Looks good, Verak. Nice doing business with you. This'll be the last for a while, storm season coming, eh?"

Verak nodded, swatting at the biting insects, "What're you going to do until the run opens up again?"

"Well..." Hilion shifted his weight and squinted out over the water, considering what to tell Verak. Truth was, without the southern trade, he was back to the risky, petty stuff for a while. Knocking over stores and hijacking transports and a bit of light extortion. "Ain't got solid plans. Lookin' into a few things."

"If there was something that was solid? Something that pays out, for someone like you?" The Caldari shielded his eyes against whipped up sand as a flyer juddered in just over the treetops, sky-green on it's bottom half, blotchy forest camo on it's top half. It landed with a dull thump and shuddered a moment, then the slaves and workers started loading bales into it's belly.

Hilion watched the work without really seeing it, considering, "Depends. I need to keep a low profile, so I can take the boats out next season for more 'fishing'."

"What if that wasn't an issue?"

Hilion glanced at Verak with alarm, "I'm not looking for anything that's gonna make me 'not an issue'."

"I mean, because you would be off-planet. As long as you wanted. I have some friends who are looking for people like you." 'Friends' meant the Cartel. Verak was a local lieutenant, dirtside, "They're looking for people who can operate on their own. Who have the knack."

"I got time to decide?"

"A couple weeks. Let me know, the usual channels." Verak jogged over to the flyer, which was spooling up for takeoff, fully loaded. He pulled himself into the cargo bay and yelled from the door, "Think about it!"

Hilion narrowed his eyes against the blowing sand and gave the Angel a wave as the flyer lifted off and wallowed away again, nearly scraping the uppermost branches of the trees.

Off-planet work.

Well, it did sound interesting.


Pirate Stories I


Hilion Narath wished desperately for something stronger than the cloying spiced wine rapidly cooling on the tiny table. The galley of the Burning Fields felt even more crowded than usual. He squinted through bloodshot eyes at the man across from him: Oily-bald head, cheap-gaudy robes, pudgy-beringed fingers wiggling around as he made some point or other. Seghet was a slave trader and he was blathering on about how badly the Cartel was overcharging for this latest shipment and how Hilion's transport fees were practically sacrilege and Hilion hadn't really heard any of it in the last ten minutes, but it had given him a headache anyway.

Hilion choked down the dregs of the wine and forced on his most ingratiating smile, "Well, why don't we go check the goods, eh? A'fore we get too much further from Heaven? So's we can still make changes if it ain't all ta yer likin'."

"Finally, a useful suggestion. I trust the wares will meet expectation, at least." Seghet's expression made it clear he doubted they would, "Perhaps be of passable quality, this time."

Hilion gritted his teeth and motioned for the slaver to precede him. "A' course, a' course honored Seghet."

He herded the slaver and his lackeys toward the Dramiel's hold. Seghet nearly tripped over the unfamiliar curves on the ladder down, his men propping him up with difficulty in the narrow space.

"Best be careful, eh? All kinda weird, Angel tech, if you ain't used to it. Got it from you-know-whos." Hilion bobbed his head in what he imagined was a wise way, as if he knew a Jovian from a fedo. Seghet frowned back at him, perhaps trying to sort out what Hilion had said, and almost tripped again. He dropped past several steps and almost crushed one of his unfortunate minions. Hilion felt his headache easing.

The cargo hold was longer than it was wide, with loading doors at the far end. The slaves were huddled in a near corner, chains attached to their right ankles. Already smelling and we've hardly started the trip. Hilion stayed near the entrance and picked bits of spices from the wine out from between his teeth as Seghet and his two overseers began getting slaves up with kicks and slaps to be examined.

The slaves were mostly selected for useful skills; that's what made them worth getting illegally. Doctors, engineers, programmers, skilled tradesmen and others. Seghet was examining a big Brutor, and Hilion checked the manifest. Grisart (last name unkown), accountant.

The chained accountant slapped away the slaver's probing hands, and after a moment of shock Seghet rounded on Hilion, chins wobbling in outrage, "Can't you even keep your stock in line, pirate? He lay hands on my person. Do something about it."

Hilion shrugged disinterestedly, "These're fresh caught, bound to be a bit fiesty. Little spirit's important in an accountant, eh? Make's sure the books is cooked right, don't it? Anyway, once we make delivery, you can discipline 'em however you want, friend Seghet."

Seghet's face went redder. Little less bein' smart, next time. Hilion opened his mouth to try and placate the man, but the slaver spun, a blade flashed, and suddenly blood was welling up all across the slave's throat. Seghet's mouth twisted in satisfaction, and he turned to Hilion, "Maybe you will learn to better contro-"

But behind Seghet, the chained man hadn't fallen. Instead he stumbled forward, and grabbed the slaver by his cheap robes. Seghet squawked in protest, but the slave half shoved, half threw him toward the other end of the hold. The man was obviously almost unconscious, and it wasn't much of a throw, but the slaver was almost round. Seghet landed with a meaty thwack and rolled like an angry soft-boiled egg until he was nearly at the rear cargo door. Hilion was impressed.

The slave fell heavily and was still: dead or dying.

Hilion gestured peremptorily to Seghet's bodyguards, "Dun just stand there, eh? Go see 'es alright."

As they hurried to their fallen boss, Hilion scuttled over, skidding to a halt between the slaves and the slavers. He glanced at the accountant: another slave - a doctor - was working to save the injured man. Probably hopeless. A shame.

He turned back and waited as the bodyguards reached the other end of the hold, wringing their hands and hovering around their boss. He refused their help and tried to roll to his feet himself, his legs pumping in impotent rage. Gonna be messy. Maybe expensive. Hilion considered for a second, then shrugged and pressed his thumb to a pad on the wall. All about respect, really. A panel slid aside to reveal a big, red button. Some people just don't got manners. He smacked the button.

A shimmering curtain appeared, sealing off the slavers near the cargo door from the rest of the hold. Hilion spoke into the intercom, "'ey, you can hear me over there?"

Seghet had managed to get to his feet, run into the shimmering barrier, bounce off like a flabby kendu ball, and then get to his feet again, yelling.

Puffing, sweating, and almost purple in the face, the slaver managed to find the intercom on his side, "What's -"

Hilion cut him off with the same friendly smile, "Well, see, that's the I-F-F-A." He enunciated each letter carefully, "Stands fer Internal Force Field Array. It's fer hull breaches and like that. Cause we're 'bout to have a malfunction, see. This ship, she's always malfunctioning aroun' impolite dick-heads what damage the merchandise, eh? Give the Void a kiss fer me."

Hilion disconnected the intercom as Seghet started shouting again. The bodyguards were firing at the field with no effect. The pirate captain waved cheerfully, headache entirely gone, and opened the cargo doors to the vacuum of space.

And the accountant? He survived, but that's another story.