Chapter 42: For Every Action

The Federation attempt to expel the “Lockhard City Squatters,” as the news feeds had dubbed them, came within five weeks of the pirate victory.  Faster, and with greater ferocity then first imagined, but kinder then expected given the discovery at Sisyphus Rock.  Julian suspected that even the Trade Council did not appreciate the full scope of it.  Surely the entire navy would have descended upon them had the truth been known.

The Grand Corsair, silent as the void and face as stern, led his crew to the most feared ship of war ever built by man.  The sensor report was blood-chilling, forty-two naval warships: a battleship, two carriers, four cruisers, nine frigates, twelve destroyers, fourteen corvettes.  As many support craft and troop carriers likely hid among the comets.  This would be a savage night for the ages.

As the crew of Iceni Queen approached the gantry tunnel that led to the flagship’s starboard airlock, they found every deck and every rail jammed with shouting bodies.  Not only the exiled Rifters but as many or more of the city’s original inhabitance came to cheer, none wanting for enthusiasm.  The carnage at Nova Antigua, the shock of Sisyphus Rock, and the nightmare stories of Epsilon Scorpii and New Botany Bay had united the city in outrage and spread like a rising water across the Orion Spur.  The League laid siege to Dyson even now and at least three Federation worlds were in open rebellion.

Trepidation seemed to fade now, exercised by the roaring crowd.  Soon Julian began to laugh heartily, and smiled broadly at his crew.  If he was to die today then all well and good, he could not ask for better company.  Pride and defiance welling-up in his chest, he began to sing:

 

“When I sally forth to seek my prey

I help myself in a royal way,

And I sink a few more ships, it’s true,

Then a well-bread monarch ought to do.

 

Still, many a prince on a gilded throne,

Should he want to call that chair his own,

Must somehow manage his way through

Far dirtier works then ever I do.

 

For I am a pirate king!

 “You are!  Hazza for the pirate king!

And it is-it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king!

I am a pirate king!

You are!  Hazza for the pirate king!

And it is-it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king!

It is!  You are!  Hazza for the pirate king,

Hazza for the pi-rate-king!”

 

Though his enemies and detractors would forever hurl the title at him, he knew he was no longer a “pirate” in any real sense of the word.  Julian McAllister had graduated to warlord.

 

Task Force Righteous Hammer shunted into Dearg Doom to confront the raider fleet and a dozen warships of the Democratic Stellar League, apparently allied with them.  Just as well, the aggressing commander thought.  It’s long past time the council realized this was all one war.  Sensor reports also showed sixteen defense platforms, cobbled together from the wreckage and armaments of the previous defense force.  He remained unconcerned.  Nothing these Rifter monkeys could throw together in a few weeks should be much trouble.

            Third Admiral Winchester Jericho-Rockingham, “Butcher of the March,” had come to finish the job he began thirty-five megaseconds and a hundred lightyears past.  They slipped by him in the Rift, wreaked havoc across colonized space and crushed one of the most powerful companies in the Federation; but now they made a fatal error.  They stopped running.

            Approaching the corsair battle line he saw the first images of the captured, multi-trillion monit starport orbiting HR II, renamed “Blarney Stone” by the renegades.  A huge skull and crossbones appeared on her outer hull.  “New Port Royale” was written in massive letters arching above, below it read:

 

“People’s Bad-Ass Revolutionary Paradise

And Home of the Triple Martini in a Skull.”


Listen

 

Listen closely, can you hear it?

Lay your ear to the ground,

Sleep-like in the waking world

Where it might dream

Itself into lucid consciousness.

Let the deep ear ring

With its soft percussions.

The distant, muted chants

Of the shadowed mind,

The timeless creakings of

Roots as they drink

Fresh rain and ancient blood.

Feel the vibrations

Of long-dead tongues

That reached for things

No language could touch;

The sounds of sentences

Stripped-bare of tinseled words,

Like a conversation

Barely perceived through doors

That are closed to you.

Voices come and gone,

Hardly discernable

Through their planks of pine

And six deep feet

Of untaxable real estate.

Low bass rumblings too distant

And drone even for

The winged ears of elephants

Who clutch at

Old bone and ivory; remembering.

Hear the idle but knowing

Dinner party chatter

Of aristocratic barrow worms.

Listen close, do you hear it?

 

–Julian The Bastard


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