Kidnapped as children and recruited into the Empire's military they learned to fight back
|I met Black Jack in a bar on the Jupiter Station, a common haunt for his type. Men drank whiskey there and smoked illegal stuff on old oaken benches modeled on those of taverns from bygone Earth history. Pirate vessels parked outside against the backdrop of the great gas giant. Black Jack's ship stood out though. It was an ex-Turkoian naval Cruiser, painted black with a red dragon's tail, the nose decorated with teeth and fire streaks and it had Chrome wing tips. It was the definition of cool with the latest firepower and defensive systems also. Even the Earth Republican Navy would struggle against such a powerful ship. |
You do not get to talk to a guy like Black Jack by just walking up to him so I had to think of a way to introduce myself. I paid a guy to pick a fight with me in front of him. I dispatched him with a few punches. They let me stay and threw the other guy onto the plaza outside the bar complex in the main Station habitat dome.
"Come ye and sit with me, yer angry bastard," Black Jack said with a winning smile and a strong Martian accent.
I sat down with him and saw how all eyes in the bar were turned for a moment in my direction. Black Jack was every bit the way you imagine a pirate to be. He was tall, my height and build, muscular, with rugged features, in his forties, and with dark brown eyes that could have seen centuries. He had an ugly scar on his cheek and burn marks all over his left hand. He wore purple and black with a black bushy beard.
I had won an audience with the King of Pirates and I was not going to waste it.
"Is that your ship out there?" I asked, pointing to it through the space tavern's window that dominated the side of the bar. The ship was docked against one of the long docking quays of the station, a black silhouette against the backdrop of the planet behind it.
"Who's asking?" He eyed me, with a suspicious look.
"Just a fan. I am looking for a job and I was curious how you acquired such a powerful ship."
"I stole it from the Turkoians themselves when I was 11 years old." Black Jack whispered into a colleague's ear and the man left the bar.
"They raided Mars, killed me family, kidnapped me along with 100 other boys to serve in the Jannikoias. We never made it to the Turkoian homeworlds. I led a rebellion on the ship, killed the crew, and me friends and I took over."
There were some guffaws from around the table. One man especially stood out, wearing a black eyepatch, with a prosthetic hand including a knife attachment.
"You make it sound so simple Jack, half of us boys died in that revolt and it took three days to clear the ship of those Turkoian vermin," the man said.
"Aye, you be right Jim but win we did in the end." The man, Jack had dispatched out of the bar, returned and whispered into Jack's ear. Jack waved him away. "Battles like the ones we fought, battles that could have gone either way are the best kinds of battles to win. I am told you paid that man to take a fall for you, why?"
Slightly panicked by the turn of events I instinctively looked around for the exits but I knew I would never make it that far.
"I err... wanted to meet the Legend and I knew that I could not simply walk up to you. The man I paid was my way in." I decided on honesty.
Black Jack studied me a moment and seemed to conclude I was telling the truth.
"Truth for truth, I will tell yer the story of how I got that ship and give you a choice to join us, rookie, as a new ship's cabin boy. That's a dog's body position just in case yer were wondering but we all start somewhere. Our last cabin boy died in a gunfight with the Turkoian navy last week that ruptured our port nacelle. The poor chap was sucked out into space and suffocated to death. He's not the first we have lost. Yer still interested?"
I could not believe my luck, I would get to serve with the greatest pirate captain in the known universe. I did not care if the position was as menial as he described. "Yes, Captain, sir," I replied.
"Yes Captain, will be fine. Call the other officers, sir. That is everyone around this table."
"So to me story, but first, yer need to go fetch us another jar of ale." I moved to the bar to do as he requested. As I did I noticed he spoke with a woman who switched to another table with a wall behind her and opened a laptop-type device. She was speed typing on the keyboard. As I returned, with a large jar of ale and a tankard for myself also, the woman whispered in Jack's ear. He nodded to his companions and I had the feeling I might have just passed some kind of test.
"So we grew up on Mars as you might be able to tell from our accents. We speak the original language of the universe, the original Earth language, spoken by the first Earth colonists to the first-ever Earth colony, long since corrupted on Earth itself."
The men around the table laughed and clinked tankards together. This story seemed like a ritual they all enjoyed the repetition of.
"The Turkoian Raiders came to the Sol System regularly 30 years ago. They do not come here anymore as we make it too costly for them. Admiral Snarg, their commander, is the man we love to hate. He ordered the raid that killed our parents and one day we will track him down and kill him. Our ship came to Mars, all shiny and brand new and without the modifications and refits that we endowed her beauty with, since then. We call her the Dragon but we treat her like our lady love. We seduced her from the dark side and made her our own. They destroyed the defenses around the Valles Marineris where we had our habitats. Our parents were peaceful people who did not know how to fight. They landed 100 Jannikoians on the planet and rounded us, boys, up, killing everyone else. They managed to get about 100 boys between seven and twelve years in just ten minutes and then they left. They dumped us in special cells they have on the Dragon and flew off intending to take us to the Turkoian Empire and train us to be Jannikoian shock troops like themselves.
Now what they did not know was that for me 11th birthday my dad had given me a small laser scalpel on account of me having told him I wished to be a surgeon like him. They did not bother to search us as Mars had very strict gun laws at the time and they knew that none of us carried guns nor were old enough to have learned to shoot. We really were sheep amongst wolves to them. So I used my scalpel to cut the bonds on myself and me mates here. We hatched a plan to seize the ship.
Later, two men came in with food. One carried the food and the other stood by the door with his weapon. I was by the door and I cut his fingers off with my laser scalpel so that he dropped his gun. While four other boys held him from behind I picked up his gun and fired it at him. We made the unarmed guy take us to the main control deck. Turkoian internal security was very lax at this time as these were trained military men with a cargo of boys. 'So what could possibly go wrong,' they thought."
The men laughed at that again.
"We walked straight onto the bridge, shot the captain dead, and then another four before they could react. Our prisoner set the ship's computer to speak English and stopped the ship for us. Then we told him to get it to speak proper English with a Martian accent. He even managed that. Then, having freed our friends, we asked the computer to seal the control room and withdraw the oxygen from the rest of the ship. Most of the Jannikoians suffocated to death. But some of them had breathing devices and were still armed. So it took a few gunfights in which we lost half of our numbers to finally clear the ship. We searched the ship thoroughly just to make sure and collected the bodies and weapons we found. We were all pretty angry with them because they had killed so many of us and so we threw them out of the airlocks. We were familiar with airlocks, from Mars, which was not fully terraformed at that time.
We had no idea how the ship worked nor how to restart the warp engine that we had switched off. There was plenty of food and water, so we were not going to starve. So we just sat a while working things out. We were lucky we did that in a deliberate fashion, things could so easily have gone badly wrong if we had rushed things with the ship. We found a simulator room which allowed us all to get trained up with Turkoian instructors speaking our language. So we learned Martial Arts, did weapon training, and learned all the functions of the ship. It took us a year but then we could fly it and it has been our home ever since.
Because I killed the old Captain they made me Captain but in practice, we seven have always shared the big decisions and discussed them. Since all our parents were dead and we were still angry we decided that we would become pirates and destroy Turkoian people-smuggling ships for a living and that is what we have been doing ever since. We make our living by destroying or capturing Turkoian raiders which we sell to the Earth Republic, along with any intelligence we discover, in exchange, we get freedom of operation. Inside Earth Republic borders we obey the law. Outside we are free to do as we like. We run three more ships all comparable to this one and we make sure we are always up-to-date with the latest technologies. The Earth Republic privateer system is really something that we helped pioneer in fact and it has kept its borders secure and enriched its people with plunder for much of these last three decades. Now we also raid trade routes deep inside the Turkoian Empire and are fabulously rich as a result. We share our wealth with our crew and with Mars. Our gold made possible the completion of the Martian terraforming project. Some of us have left and live rich boring lives with large families on Mars. But we seven will probably be pirates until the day we die or at least until Snarg is dead.
We sail tomorrow, will yer be joining us on the hunt for Admiral Snarg, the man who murdered our parents and who has turned so many children of Earth into brutal Jannikoians?"
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