Kato stood on the deck of the Cyexian pirate ship, lined up with Chase and George, feeling like the biggest fool on the high seas.
Chase warned her, of course, but with all the smoke, it looked like a genuine emergency from afar. Should have known from the moment she saw so many Cyexians in the crew, yet it wasn’t until they were well within range that any of them showed any weapons. Naturally, they had tried to retreat, only to quickly discover that the enemy’s armaments were too heavy, that the Triad III would suffer too much damage before they could get out of range.
Sink or surrender, they quickly concluded that there was at least some chance of survival in the latter.
So now she stood next to her friends on the main deck of this pirate ship, being stripped of their valuables while a boarding party looted the Triad itself. Admittedly, none of them had a whole hell of a lot, but what they did have was pretty damn important to them. Such as George’s “armtop” computer and visor-monitor, or Chase’s new plasma rifle or coat-of-arms.
Busy stripping it of anything of value, carrying on with such gleeful remarks as: “Ooh! I don’t know what this is, but it looks expensive! I bet it’ll fetch a good price on the black market!” or “Weapons upgrade! You people are too kind!”
“Wow! This looks like a fun toy!” one of them laughed as she swished and twirled the laser whip Kato was certain had saved her life in the Harken Building, while she was now stuck glaring at its new owner from at gunpoint. “I’ve never seen one like this before!”
Much like her friends, Kato was torn between her fury at being robbed like this, and the cold, hard understanding that the best the three of them could hope for was to be relieved of most of their possessions, and left to drift in a largely stripped-down vessel.
Though bearing accessories and stylistic elements of at least a dozen realms at a glance, the one thing these seafaring scavengers all had in common was the military uniform motif. Only with a mercenary compliment of weapons on their persons, a random mix of whatever they could get their hands on; Kato and Chase even spotted a few energy blades in the crowd. Even the supposedly unarmed decoy crew members who waved and shouted for help not long ago now sported comparable arsenals: bandoliers, sashes, gunbelts, straps, boot holsters and sheaths.
Overseeing the pillaging of the Triad and her crew was the woman they were pretty sure was the captain of this ship. Tall, perhaps as tall as that Max fellow, with unfemininely broad shoulders, she was decked out a cut above the rest of her crew, with a pair of power pistols fine enough for any military officer-grade sidearms. And quite possibly were, to say nothing of the weapon that looked a lot like a laser sword, only with what appeared to be a wicked axe blade for a hilt. A strangely elegant and authoritarian weapon next to her crew’s motley assortment of armaments. Her auburn hair, though short and spiky in the front, hung just past shoulder-length in the back, and her stern eyes were the same violet shade as Kato’s.
Descended from the upper deck to walk among her anxious captives, relieving them of anything she saw fit to take.
This was a final confirmation to Kato, for unless they were clearly in the minority, there was no way they would accept a non-Cyexian as their leader.
That captain now strode up to the captive Kato, eying her like a fish she considered throwing back, then asked, “So, girl, you think you can run with real Cyexians?”
“Well, um…” All Kato could think of was cowering before NK-525, or jumping at her own shadow in the Harken Building, just one humiliating memory after another. Now she faced fellow real Cyexians, and she couldn’t help thinking this was some manner of mockery, all of them measuring her up and finding her lacking, and all she could come up with was, “I would, but I already have my own crew…”
“That could be remedied,” the pirate captain told her, gesturing to Chase and George in turn, then sliding her finger across her neck in a very universally recognized gesture.
“Hey!” Chase snapped, “don’t even joke about it, Kato!”
For his part, George just stood there looking very nervous, face pale, twiddling with a triangular silver medallion while the pirates just laughed at him.
“Ha! You’re no fun!” the captain sneered, several of her crew snorting and snickering. “As if we’d let a wannabe like you join—”
“Whoa! Is that real silver!” one of them remarked, snatching the Tri-Medal from George’s hand, chiming, “Jackpot!”
“Shit!” Chase hissed, and Kato tried not to flinch at what she knew was next. “Dammit, George!”
“Seems you’re holding out on us…” the captain intoned, spying part of the chain peeking out from under Chase’s shirt collar. At gunpoint, there was nothing he could do as she strode up to him and reached inside his shirt, snatching that Tri-Medal as well, saying, “Same design… Interesting.”
Now all eyes were on Kato.
It took an effort not to shrink from her as she strode up to Kato, unzipping her coveralls slowly, to draw out the suspense, quipping, “Your boy’s not the jealous type, is he?”
“Good one, Captain!” one of the others laughed.
Before Kato could sputter any objections of her own, or Chase could catch up with their host’s insinuation, the captain grabbed her Tri-Medal, too.
Embarrassment heaped on top of humiliation, Kato reflected bitterly, and now most of the pirates were laughing at her.
Before the Captain could make further sport of her prisoners, though, one crew member, a mousy slip of a girl who couldn’t possibly be any older than George, scrambled out of the main cabin, shouting, “Captain Striker! Captain Striker! Lookout says there’s another ship approaching!”
Even as everyone else started to look about in abrupt apprehension, they all heard the unmistakable sound of engines bearing down on them to port. No one, not even Kato, had seen this particular vessel before, but though no one could place it, it didn’t take a tactical genius to tell these visitors were looking for trouble. The approach speed alone would be enough to tip most off.
Even as Kato tried to figure out what this was all about, that name caught up with her, and she started sweating, realizing that she was in more trouble than she wanted to believe.
But the unknown vessel préempted Striker’s call to battle stations and opened fire first.
Author's Chapter Notes:
among the prisoners