It hadn’t taken long to find the little spit of land that was home to most of the pirate crews when they went to ground.
Pirates, as a rule, weren’t very imaginative. The name ‘Skull Island’ had stuck out like a sore thumb among all of the touristy paradise sounding islands. They made a beeline for it, and were pleasantly surprised when they picked up a trail. The inhabitants of Skull Island were a fairly pleasant sort once it was clear that Songbird’s crew were not the law.
A couple of the boats they’d come across were more than happy to point out that yes, they saw a boat matching the description of the one that had scooped up their friend right after the storm. That combined with the data they had gotten from their liaison had gotten them within a stone’s throw of the ship in question. And Zane had acquired a souvenir mug.
“Jayna, did you get to do an inventory of our armory?” Ash asked.
“Um, do you mean did I get a chance to look at the four guns we brought with us with a couple bullets between them?” she said, shrugging. “Yeah. We’ll let Zane handle the shooting and I’ll just use the harpoon gun.”
“Why change up a winning formula?” said Zane, eyes shut. “The way I see it is, if they just got away from a clean hit, they’ll need to stop for a bit to clean up, see to anyone that was hurt, tally up their gains. They probably won’t move much what they’re doing that, and what’s more, they’ll be watching for big poker or corporate patrol boats, not little boats. If we come in from their blindside, we can get aboard. I’ll sneak on first, disable anyone that’s armed and assess their remaining manpower.
“Ash will come up behind me and start looking for Mari, while I sweep the ship to remove any further threats. Jayna will stay behind to take out anyone who tries to cut off our escape. If they’re armed with anything fancy, it could throw a wrench into the plan, but overall, we can be on and off the ship in about four minutes with the minimum of casualties inflicted. After that, it’s just a matter of getting out, high-tailing it back to Songbird, and getting offworld before they have a chance to retaliate. Clear?”
He opened his eyes again and saw the others staring at him. He blushed slightly.
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” said Zane. “I just really want to bring Mari home safe.”
Ash hesitated for a moment, before coming up with “I… admire your dedication to your work.”
Jayna coughed and then looked to the other side. “We’ll be coming up on the starboard side in about five minutes.”
“Get ready,” said Zane. “This is going to be a tricky one. These people have stayed out of trouble for this long, which means they’re good.”
“Yeah, well, so have we. And we’re better,” Ash said, tucking the second gun in his tool belt and slipping towards the port side of the boat, getting ready to throw the grapnel.
“Go!” hissed Zane, as Ash hurled the hook over the side. Zane quickly shimmied up the rope and hopped into the deck, bringing his gun to bear as he was greeted by the sight of–
…Mari, reclining in a hammock strung between two masts. She had replaced her nurse whites with a pair of leather pants and boots to match, a black t-shirt that said ‘You can have me booty, but leave me chest alone’ and a rather dashing jacket. And, as she sat up a bit, they could see she was holding a coconut, complete with pink bendy straw.
Ash hopped on board a second later. He stared. And then he burst out laughing.
Mari yawned, stretched and looked up, only opening one eye. “What took you guys?” she asked.
They did not have a good response to that.
“Are… are you the pirate queen now?” asked Zane.
“I might be!” she said, taking a sip from her coconut as she got to her feet. “We need one of those for the ship. Let me go find the captain.”
Mari quickly lead them over to the captain’s quarters, where the large man was tallying something up on his tablet. He put it down and regarded her fondly when she came in.
“I take it that you’re her crew then?” he said, standing up. He approached the two of them and looked them over. “Dare I ask which one of you is this captain I’ve heard so much about?”
Zane raised his hand. At the strange look Izzy gave him, he shrugged. “He called dibs on the hat,” said Ash, by way of explanation.
“Can’t argue with that,” said Izzy.
Mari smiled. “I told you they’d find me.”
Izzy looked Jayna over and let out a whistle. “Not often I meet someone I have to look up at,” he said, shaking his head.
Jayna smiled. “I get that a lot.” she quickly took a seat. Boats were not typically made for someone her height. “So, um,” she said, “Thank you for rescuing Mari.”
“And any sailor worth their boots would have done the same,” he continued. “We may be thieves but you don’t leave someone to the sea.”
“Right, well, speaking as kindred spirits,” said Ash, “we can’t thank you enough. Could a small cut of our payday? It’s the least we can do, and we–”
“I hate to break it to you, Ash,” said Mari, stepping between them, “But after Martens gets a load of what’s happening here, there may not be a payout for either of us.”
Both Ash and Izzy turned to look at Mari. “What are you talking about?” said Ash. “Who’s this Martens guy?” said Izzy.
“This Martens guy is our boss,” said Mari. “Who got contracted through Silversun to send us here to see who was causing trouble. Silversun also hired you guys to knock over their ships. Something smells like fish, and it’s not your larders.”
A moment of silence followed.
A chorus in the key of “WHAT” erupted moments afterward.
Mari looked at Captain Izzy. “So… there’s just a benevolent guy on the inside that hasn’t been caught leaking shipping routes to pirates?” she asked. “A guy can get away with that once, but… how long have you had this ‘man on the inside’ again?”
“…About six months,” said Izzy, speaking very slowly. “We never really thought anything of it. I mean, everyone hates Silversun, why wouldn’t someone want to help us hurt them?”
“No, that’s the problem. Even Silversun wants you to help hurt them. They’ll probably profit the most from it,” Ash said, laughing. “So they hire a team to ‘secure’ a package, it still gets stolen by you guys, right? So then, they not only don’t have to pay our boss because we couldn’t stop the theft, they get to claim the triple insurance money for the package, and get triple the money for it, and then they can probably buy the package back from you guys on Skull Island and still be in the black.”
Izzy’s face slowly shifted through a range of feelings, beginning at denial and taking a long and winding road across puzzlement and disbelief, then taking a brief detour through betrayal before finally arriving safely at its destination of coldly furious.
“Son of a bitch,” he intoned.
Zane looked up now, getting that strangely-focused look in his eyes that he tended to get when he was trying to get a majority of his thoughts to point in the same direction for a moment.
“It seems to me,” he said, “that we have both been played like a… a…” He trailed off for a second. “What’s an appropriately nautical musical instrument?”
“Ukelele?” suggested Mari. “I found one around here.”
“Thanks,” said Zane. “Like a ukelele. So the important question is, what do we do about it?”
The Silversun Corporation kept most of its imported goods in a series of warehouses, the locations of which were strictly need-to-know. The biggest of these on Kanaloa was their main supply depot, located on a sea platform fifty or so kilometers from the nearest point of civilization. It was where they stored the majority of their goods to be distributed to their personal projects.
It was, in other words, the place where they kept the shiniest loot.
Two boats had come up fast, cutting through the water and heading towards the southernmost corner. Before anyone could put up much of a defense, something onboard blew a hole in the exterior wall.
Considering how important that the place was, it was staffed with very well-trained security guards. No mere rent-a-cops would suffice here. The alarm was very quickly raised, and guards started to flock toward the disturbance.
As soon as they flocked to the disturbance, they heard an alarm raised on the other side too. The hole on that side had been cut much smaller, roughly person shaped, and whoever had made it had ducked inside a long time ago.
“Let’s not quit our day jobs just yet,” Mari said, tucking the stun gun back in her pocket. “C’mon, Izzy said the good stuff would be upstairs,”
She ducked around Zane and headed towards the closest stairwell.
Zane followed behind her as they made their way quickly up. Izzy, it seemed, was one step ahead of them, bent over a door and working some trick on a lock.
“What took you so long?” he said, as he popped it over. “My boys have already swept the bottom level clean.”
“Got distracted by a few guards,” said Mari, replacing her stunner in her belt.
“Yes, well, stay focused,” said Izzy, as the locking mechanism flashed green. “Don’t know what we’ll find when we-“
The door popped open, and behind it, aiming a gun at them, was the scientist that they had met with when Songbird first landed on Kanaloa. Izzy stopped in his tracks.
“Leilani?” he said incredulously. “What are you doing here?”
“Is this your inside man?” Ash said lining up a shot behind her. “Gun down, please. This doesn’t have to get ugly.”
“Izzy, you goddamned idiot,” she said, shaking her head. “You have to know that there’s only two ways this goes down. You leave here in cuffs or in a body bag. And for what? A few thousand chits worth of junk? You’re not even hurting Silversun. You’re only hurting yourself.”
Izzy tilted his head as another explosion rattled the building for a moment before it went still. “I mean, we can still escape. I plan on it. I wouldn’t be a very good pirate otherwise. But you’re right. I’m not solving anything, I guess.”
He heaved a sigh, and then smiled. “But there is some really shiny stuff in here.”
Leilani groaned, lowering the gun. “What are you even thinking?” she said. “We had a pretty good thing going. Everyone was winning.”
“But nobody as much as you, hm?” said Izzy. “You’re right, I am an idiot for thinking that it would be this easy. I just wanted to get the bastards where it would hurt the most, in their chit-sticks. But we were just making them more money, weren’t we? Between the insurance premiums and the rate hikes in light of all this.”
Leilani didn’t bat an eye. “Like I said. What are you doing here? We both know there’s nothing you can do to stop Silversun. It doesn’t matter how much stuff you steal from here,” she said, setting her gun down and taking a seat on top of a nearby crate. “If you want, I’ll even help you pack. You won’t get past the security guards anyway.”
Izzy looked her over. Then he shut his eyes and shook his head. “You know what the worst part is?” he said. “I kind of thought we were friends. I know it’s a cliche, but then again, I’m kind of living one of those.” Then he smiled again. “I only have one question for you… do you have the time?”
Leilani’s eyes narrowed as she looked at Izzy’s roguish smile. “What did you do?” she asked slowly.
“Do you mind?” said Mari, as she reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. “Well, what do you know, it’s about 1800, Kanaloa time.”
“I knew that if we tried something as brash as this, it would get everyone’s attention,” said Izzy.
“And we know someone who can make very good use of Silversun’s attention being focused here,” said Mari. She held out the phone for Leilani to look at, and the scientist’s features fell.
“Yeah, that’s what we thought… maybe someone could hurt Silversun a little bit more than some silly old pirates, hm?” Ash said with a smile, and motioned to the front door. “I think you’re going to get very popular very quickly.”
“You get a one-time only offer,” said Izzy, “because I’m a big softie like that. We all walk out of here unmolested, and your name stays out of this. As much as I’d love to nail you to the wall for using me.”
Leilani’s face soured immediately. “It was a partnership, Isaac. That’s all. Just business.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night,” said Izzy. “What’ll it be? Do you want to be famous?”
Leilani sighed, getting up to her feet and brushing herself off. “Go out through the back and you won’t be spotted. I’ll make sure of it.”
“Atta girl,” Ash said, opening the door with a flourish.
“I’d say it was nice knowing you,” said Izzy, giving her a pat on the shoulder as he made his way out, “but I’m a thief, not a liar.”
Twenty minutes later, and a few hundred pounds of spangly crap richer, the crew of Kapo’s Love, and a couple hangers on were zipping away from the back of the warehouse, the media floating in as other barges floated away.
“You were absolutely right, of course,” said Martens, as he regarded the crew of the Songbird from the viewscreen. “Silversun had been in the red for months.”
“No one would try anything that stupid for that long without a good reason for it,” Ash said. “Thanks for the help from your side.”
“Anytime,” said Martens. “Your little raid was just the distraction my man needed to get into their systems. And with the scandal going on, it could be just the opportunity for a civic-minded individual to take over their projects.” He winked at them.
“Well, if you need a good ship and a fast crew on the ocean, we can give you a few recommendations,” Jayna said.
“Oh, I know, I have a few calls to make,” said Martens. “You all enjoy your day now.” And with that, the call cut off.
Mari was the first one to speak up. “Y’know… he didn’t say whether or not we were going to get paid for this job.”
“He didn’t, did he,” said Jayna, sighing. “Well, at least Izzy offered us a cut of the booty. Might just take him up on that.”
“Yeah, we’re proud owners of a speed boat now, I can’t imagine what it takes to live on this planet.” Ash said, shaking his head. “The registration fees are bad enough.”
“It was pretty interesting, though,” said Zane, still wearing his tricorn. “You have to admit that.”
“This has been one of the most surreal weeks of my life,” said Mari. “And that’s saying something.”
“We’re all glad you’re okay. When we saw that ship pick you up, well, we feared for the worst,” Ash said, his personality giving way to sincerity momentarily.
“Awww,” said Mari. “It’s almost like you guys care about me or something.”
“We do!” piped up Zane. “You’re part of the crew!”
“Am I? Maybe I should be the Dredd Pirate Naoki now,” Mari said, gesturing to the hat that sat behind them on the cot.
Zane giggled. “Well, you know, it’s nice to have options,” he said, as he made his way out of the cockpit.
Docked right outside of the ship, Kapo’s Love was still waiting for the crew, and her captain gave them a wave as they stepped into view.
Jayna looked up at the ship, and then to its captain. “So… are you all gonna be okay?”
“I think so,” said Izzy. “Your Mr. Martens told us to give him a call sometime, said he might have some employment opportunities for us. I think I’ve had enough of pirating for one lifetime.”
“Uh oh. Now we’re going to have competition,” Mari said. “‘I’m not sure Ash’s fragile ego can handle that.”
Ash grumbled, looking offended.
Izzy laughed heartily. “I’d never want to compete with you,” he said. “Absolutely ruthless, that’s what you are. Guess you’re shipping off now, then?”
“Yeah, we gotta pick up some quick jobs to make up for lost time,” said Mari. Then she leaned up onto her tip-toes and gave the big man a hug.
“Good luck, you guys,” said Izzy. “And if you ever stop by Kanaloa again, give me a holler. You know how to find me.”
“You’re not exactly hard to spot,” said Mari with a wink, as she mosied back onto the Songbird.
“And I will treasure this hat forever,” added Zane as he followed her.
Several of Izzy’s crew came up to watch Songbird take off into the atmosphere, watching her go.
“Man,” said Kai. “Spacers are weird.”
“Yeah. It’s being out in the black so long,” said Izzy. “Turns them crazy. Keep their transmission signal though. Something tells me we’ll be seeing them again.”