Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

‘Captain’ Hugh Manatee floated in the darkness of his chamber monitoring the remnants of his unsuccessful first strike. The bodies of his crew waved lazily in the current of the ammonia ocean that claimed them. It wouldn’t be long before the cameras themselves were compromised.

Back before Earth was destroyed, being an Earthling meant you were from Earth. Now that Earth is long-gone, being an Earthling meant to be like an Earthling. Greedy, fun-loving, militaristic, and tribe-like. A hoarder and a glutton for new experiences.

A fleet of pirates that called themselves The Earthlings had sprung up and was now scouring the galaxy, currently led by Captain Hugh. A group of aliens bent on violence and the pursuit of treasure through theft, battle and salvage. They had no uniform to fit the wide variety of legs, arms, eyestalks, beaks, and slugfeet but a pale blue dot was prominent on all of them, the symbol of Earth. The dot was on their ships and flags as well.

Pirates with many limbs and some with only a few. Pirates with hard bones and with exoskeletons. Pirates with tentacles and with articulated mandibles. Jelimorphs, hellicorns, annamen, retreads, and silicates. Every now and then an esper became corporeal, risking truedeath to join the fight and get a slice. All of them different but all of them poverty-stricken, uneducated and violent.

It’s the glowing catfish moustache of ‘Captain’ Hugh Manatee that gives the only light here in his personal quarters, his lower lips tracing through the dust on the cabin floor. He’s looking down through the monitors at a failed invasion.

Dead faces stare back at him through the personnel monitor cams, skull-holes hollowed out by crabs. Each pirate dot-tag wrapped around collarbones furring with pink algae. Fistfuls of lariats and breathing tubes stick up out of the ground like exposed wiring. Acid is perforating the gun barrels and disintegrating sword blades. Long strands of ammonia-weed are reaching up through ribcages.

First pick of the spoils, said the recruitment packages. But only to the survivors, it left unsaid.

This planet’s race had protectors. As soon as the Earthling pirate ship arced into orbit and dropped its shuttles, a wave of raw power had expanded out from the closest moon, ringing the other moons like chimes. Too late, the ships realized that the moons were automated sentries. The reverberations destroyed the shuttle’s orbits and guidance systems, forcing them down into the steaming, chemical ocean.

There were no survivors.

More shuttles would not be sent. A memorial service would be held in the mess hall for the fallen comrades. It was quite a huge loss, almost twenty-five per cent of the current crew. They’d been tricked into a quick assault by a seemingly defenseless target. Too good to be true. Captain Hugh berated himself.

Down on the surface, the planet’s dominant life form, red and child-like, played happily and innocently around exposed outcroppings of diamonds, gold, and valuable minerals. A pirate’s dream of booty.

They’d have to recruit hard for the next six cycles to make up the difference in crew before another attack run. And find a way to deal with those moons.

The captain floated in silence in his dark cabin by himself, scanning the nearby systems for likely ports to get more volunteers and maybe some moonsplitters.


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