Apex of the Songbird Episode 5 – Mari Naoki, Pirate Queen, Part 1

Aaaand we’re back! Hopefully all of our fans haven’t forgotten about us by now, eheheh.

Regular updates will resume every Wednesday and Saturday, so let’s not mince words. On with the show!

~*~

Terraformation was a multitrillion-dollar industry that had come a long way since its inceptionIt had taken a decade for the planet Mars, in Sol System, to be brought to a state which people could habitate. Now, a suitable planet or moon could be made livable in a little over one solar year.

At this point, the process was so perfected that selecting suitable worlds could, at times, be the most difficult part. Finding suitable planets was an art form. There were millions upon millions of them out in the known galaxies, with more being discovered every day, but only a small fraction of them were suitable for terraforming.

Smaller planets were preferable; almost no habitable worlds were anywherenear the size of the original Earth, the world of humanity’s origin. The amount of time it took to successfully terraform a planet grew exponentially with its size, and in the constant discovery of new systems, there was never a shortage of satellites and small planets eligible for exploration. Many small planets could be made livable in the time it took for a single Earth-sized planet to be completed.

Most terraformed worlds were broadly similar; there were no ice planets or desert planets or anything of that sort. The terraformation process was more stable than that.There were, however, occasional outliers. Once in a hundred million attempts, something went funny with a world, leaving it perfectly habitable, but slightly… different. No matter how hard they tried, the appearance of these outliers was inevitable.

One such outlier was Kanaloa, a planet in the Qingu sector.

On a typical terraformed world, the ocean covered sixty-five to seventy percent of its surface. The exact amount could never be predicted, but the margin of error was very small.

The surface of Kanaloa, however, was ninety-seven percent water.

Due to the very small land-base, there were only a few places for sturdy food farming. Pretty much anything else had to be shipped in from neighboring planets.

However, there was a company devoted to creating floating agricultural flotilla, which could double agricultural production. The only problem was most of their science labs were off world. There were only two ways to get flotilla components out to one of their prototypical flying bases… and only one of them was secure. —

After Songbird had been fully repaired and stocked with plenty of replacement parts, they’d completed their multi inter-sector job, and then requested a quick run that wasn’t too far from home.

Martens had sent them to the ocean-planet of Kanaloa, and, it didn’t seem like the job would be too hard.That’s how Songbird ended up skimming close to the ocean on the lookout for the floating base.

“Is this safe?” said Mari, as she watched out the cockpit. “I’ve never seen a spaceship fly so low before.”

“I have no idea,” said Zane, idly.

She could tell that Ash hated it. “I just got this thing working again,” he muttered, as Zane skipped over a particular large rock outcropping. “Watch the landing pads!” he said, smacking a hand over his eyes.

“Go take a lap,” Jayna said, waving him off. Ash sighed and stormed off.

“So what’s this place supposed to look like again?” said Zane, oblivious to the proceedings.

“Like a big dome on a floating platform,” said Jayna.

“You mean like that over there?” Mari asked, gesturing towards the right. “Wasn’t it supposed to be starboard?”

“I think that is starboard,” Jayna said, looking at the maps. “Man, seafaring just makes no sense, Zane, looks like they’ve got a floating landing pad set up over there, aim for that.”

“Will do!” Zane says, settling his goggles on.

~*~

The landing was as smooth as such things get, and the lot of them disembarked with minimal fuss. A tall, tan-skinned woman in a lab coat and sunglasses was there to meet them.

“Welcome to Kanaloa,” she said.  “I trust you’re here to help us with our little problem?”

Ash frowned, holding up a small package. “The problem of you not having your components? I don’t like the sound of problem.”

The scientist looked sheepish for a moment. “Yes, well,” she said. “The situation is… complicated. Would you like to come in? There’s coffee.”

“How is it always complicated?” Ash groaned. Jayna nudged him  forwards impatiently. “Stop whining! We’re in paradise.”

“Apparently it’s a complicated paradise,” Ash replied, before following the scientist.

“The biggest industry on Kanaloa is fishing, for obvious reasons,” she said. “But we can’t subsist on just fish. We need produce, and there’s so little arable land on the surface that we need to import it all. That’s what these facilities are for.  They’re going to be huge hydroponic gardens, purifying the ocean water and using it to grow food.”

“That’s incredible,” Mari said, looking over the plans. “So, they’d just be floating food domes. And they’ll be able to move around from island to island?”

“In theory,” said the scientist. “There’s a whole lot to it. We were transporting some schematics and samples to our headquarters when our vessel was ransacked by pirates.”

Mari turned away from the schematics. “Like… eye-patch bilgewater, pegleg, pirates?” she asked.

Jayna snorted with laughter. The scientist sighed.

“You watch too many movies,” she said. “They’re terrorists and thieves. They raid our ships and steal our cargo. There’s so few places to land a full-sized spacecraft on this planet that almost all local commerce is by ship, and there’s long stretches between ports.”

“So we are here to… what?” Ash asked calmly. “Run protection while you move this thing? We’re not guns for hire, you know.”

“I mean, we have guns and we are for hire,” said Zane, shrugging. “But there’s a distinction.”

“Nothing like that,” said the scientist. “We want you to transport the goods for us. You’re outsiders. The pirates we’re concerned about work big jobs. They’ll be trying to spot any ship coming from this site with our name on the side for kilometers out. You’re less likely to be targeted. Tourists carry chump change and police activity. And you’re experienced in moving goods, as I’ve heard.”

“What, in a spaceship?” Ash said, shaking his head. “Too easy to shoot us out of the sky,” he said. “We’ll need to borrow a boat.”

“We anticipated that,” said the scientist, nodding. “And we have one prepared for you. It’s around the back.”

She led them around, and there was, indeed, a mid-sized boat out there. It was pink. Very pink. And there were decals all over the hull. The lime-green lettering on the side declared it to be the S. S. And Then Some.

“We had to ‘tourist it up’ a bit to make you blend in,” she said, “but rest assured, this is one of our top-of-the-line transport models.”

“It’s adorable,” Zane nodded firmly. “I don’t know if I know how to drive one of these.”

“I do,” Jayna said, settling a pair of sunglasses on. “I guess I’m the captain today.”

“Just for today,” said Zane, folding his arms. “Don’t get used to it.”

“I’d love to give you more time to rest up a bit,” said the scientist. “But we really need to get you moving as quickly as possible. Our package is in a hidden compartment under the floor belowdecks.”

“Well then, let’s get going,” said Zane. “Wait, do I have time to get a more appropriate hat?”

  “Nope.” Jayna said, patting his shoulder as she hopped behind the wheel. “Besides. You’re not the captain.”

  “Dangit,” said Zane, slumping a bit. “Well, she did call it.”

“Is it really that easy with you people?” said Mari. “Next time, I’m getting in on that.”

“If you wanna get in on that, then you should probably learn how to steer,” Jayna grinned, and then started the boat.

“Fair point,” Mari said, and settled her sunglasses on.

 

~*~

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