Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

He stands near three metres tall and his smell precedes him. It envelops all who dare approach the being renowned for murderous piracy on a scale never before seen. The wiry lad he towers over is, nigh-impossibly, even filthier. Both are in sharp contrast to the gleaming vessel they amble through.

“I be Flint. This be me tub, the ‘Black Harrier’.”

“What’s a ‘arrier?”

“A bloody great ‘awk known for ‘avin’ a mean streak. Likes what I get when swabs get nosey.”

The watery eyes in the grime-caked face blink. The mouth beneath snaps shut.

Flint nods: “Fast learner, ay? Good.”

The master strides forth on his gleaming trio of cyberlimbs. The rookie hurries to keep up, stumbling a little as his innate understanding of pace struggles to allow for a drunken gait complicated by three weaving legs.

“We use ta do our piratin’ in the ol’ overwhelm, ‘eave-to, an’ board way. Cost me four ships an’ so many crew it got to botherin’ me. Not that I gives a damn ‘bout you swabs, but replacin’ ya takes time an’ money, an’ I begrudge anythin’ what takes either offa me.”

He points up at the clusters of gleaming tubes high above: “Nowadays, I uses narrow beams to punch clean through me prey. Got me a wizkid who pulls up skee-ma-ticks so I knows how many bulkheads any tub ‘as, then I punches so many ‘oles they can’t stop the decompressin’. Then we just moves in an’ tows the hulk to one of me strippin’ stations to get cleaned out. What’s left is sold for scrap. Even got me contacts what buy body parts. O’ course, if we gets a high-value catch like a governmint boat or elite barge, we strips it on the spot an’ sends it into a nearby star. Thems the only scows likely to get a big fuss made over their disappearin’.”

Flint stops and looks down at the rookie: “Seems to me I sees a question in yer eyes. You be wondrin’ – if I be doin’ blast piratin’ – why I needs more men. This game be notorious for makin’ crews smaller. Space is fillin’ with bands o’ starvin’ brigands, every man-jack o’ ‘em bein’ dross dumped by their former Captains.”

The rookie nods.

Flint grins: “I like you. Got a fast grip o’ the essentials. Well, chew on this. I got shot o’ the dead weights on me crew right sharpish. All what remained was good, ‘ard, pirat-ee-cul scum. Trouble is, blast piratin’ got no fightin’. It’s all pree-zish-un. Thems what joined coz their souls havta fight hit dry times. An’ we all knows that a man who needs a fight can surely make one ‘appen, ‘specially in the comp’ny we keeps.”

The stinking Captain crouches down, extending a tentacle to pull the rookie up from where a cyberleg has knocked him.

“I seen ya, Krilla. Yer fast and ye pays yer dues. Steely when ya hazta go ‘ard, but got no need ta fight burnin’ under yer ‘ide. You’ll be replacin’ Dokfun: a lean, mean, sharp bein’ with a devil inside ‘e couldn’t shake and wouldn’t bring t’heel. ‘E started that fight to ease ‘is bloodlustin’ nature. You ended ‘im instead. Puttin’ that wit’ all else, I feels yer a man I can use and I’m offerin’ riches for yer time. You with me?”

Krilla smiles.

“That I am, Cap’n.”

The new shipmates stroll off toward the messdeck, followed by a discreet cloud of cleaning nanobots.