Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Kurgan Appreciation, Payment, Ice-cream socials and the Crusader Fleet

Excerpt from the Memoirs of Captain Daedalus Nine-Tails

The last few months have been tough. Lots of people need transport around Kurga/Whatever-the-Kurgans-call-it and I didn’t mind the extra cash too much. I didn’t get shot at as much working the transport business…although there was that one sathraist who tried to hijack us. Truth be told I really wanted to get away from this war zone, no rich pirate worth jacking was gonna hang around ships with this much firepower, and since the guild made me a Killroy I thought it was kinda my duty to actually do something about the pirates out there…that, and I had a reputation to live up to (not that the reputation is true, mind you). But I wasn’t gonna stop coming back till I got paid. Apparently the Kurgan nobility/government or whatever jackasses that are holding this people together don’t deal in Firebirds…so the higher ups had been sending along something to reimburse me for going through with my job of fetching a lost luxury liner back and, you know, fighting off the DEMON WEILDING ANTINOMIST WHO STOLE IT. You’d think these people would have been appreciative. Let it be known that Daely and his crew never give up on a job, even if it would make a symbiot piss his pants…is that even possible? Doesn’t matter, but it is equally important that it be known that Daely doesn’t work for free. But while I waited, there was no need to put on airs and pretend I wouldn’t make money the simple old fashion way that a man with a ship makes money (and no, I don’t mean pirating). I mean picking up fares. A regular Space-Taxi. People will pay quite a bit to get out of a war zone. And the Muster aren’t shy about offering a little Alexius head, as they call it, to send their guys in either. And there was that one special case. The guy is still with me actually…basically a member of the crew at this point. Some Hawkwood noble offered me enough money to go off course and pick him up off his own private rock…I am not speaking in the vernacular here when I say rock… some mining operation, I knew it was a shitty back-water world because it had a number in the name. Mansk-1 it’s called. Well, the guy has a cook with him, and Speedy and I are glad to be eating well again. I thought for sure I was going to lose my figure. As long as he continues to pay, or becomes an asset in-and-of himself, he can stay.

Somehow watching all these ships appear here out of that big purple disk, caressing the apparently golden statuette of a Phoenix, I can’t help think of the fate of those that have just treated us so hospitably.

It had been a day not too much unlike the others sometime last week when it all started. Pick up a pack of refugees; drop them off, head back. The Muster had stopped asking for rides in…I find that kinda odd now that I think about it, but more on that later. Sometime between worlds, Polly, the ship’s new navigational think-machine, notified me that the Kurgans had my payment and that I would be contacted once I landed at the spaceport. More cloak and dagger…it’s not like I didn’t expect it, I mean we only saved a crew of Kurgan soldiers from a DEMON WIELDING ANTINOMIST, what cause had they to trust us? Upon arrival, I noticed three things, one of which I found rather odd. 1.) Smoke rose in dense columns from the surrounding landscape and the land smelled strongly of death and destruction. 2.) My old crewmate Inigo was dancing randomly out in front of the ship. 3.) My old friend father Tomas, who had recently earned the style of “Your Grace”, was wearing burgundy robes. Burgundy Robes? Burgundry Robes?!? What had this world come to? Bishop Tomas had changed sects to the Orthodoxy. The man who sleeps with a flame gun under his bunk, the man for whom I had built a fireproof confessional, the merciless inquisitor fanatical in his opposition of (other people’s) technology?!?! A member of the Orthodoxy?!?! Apparently.

After dusting off the noble who stepped out of the ship a moment too soon, skipping niceties, and ignoring the Ego Slips of the normally well composed priest friend of mine, I waited patiently for the cloak to show…I was hoping whoever they were was going to leave the dagger out of it. Speedy headed instantly to the bar, with the noble tight on his…can one call them heels…talons? The engineer stayed in the engine room, cuddling no-doubt. The rest stayed with me to catch up on old times and news. Our “Brother in Arms” showed up and I was surprised to note that he wasn’t wearing his armor. Upon this revelation I immediately took it upon myself to punch him in the shoulder rather hard. Why? Because I knew it wouldn’t hurt for once, and I didn’t think I’d get another chance. It wasn’t too long before I had to radio out to the surely half-drunk speedy to get his tail-feathers back to the ship because the cloak and, yes, dagger had finally showed.
Her garb wasn’t exactly revealing…but nothing could hide those hips. Our escort (no, not that type of “escort”) to the Kurgan leaders didn’t waste any time mincing words. Although she did attempt to mince Speedy for some wily words…I’m sure she missed on purpose though. She threw a knife and it pinned him to the wall…without hurting him…apparently she’s a match for my engineer on knife throwing…which now that I think about it, it is kind of odd that my engineer is a master knife thrower...how does that come in handy in the shop? Anyways…I took the knife out, freeing Speedy…I don’t know why I felt compelled to hold on to it, but I did. When our comrades returned from the bar she boarded my ship, rather rudely and without my permission, and proceeded to fly us somewhere “we should [have been] honored to be allowed – blah blah blah…to even see this – blah blah blah” Insert your favorite condescending religious mind-vomit ad nauseum. She gave us signs to hang around our necks…it felt strangely like a “kick me” sign, but I’m sure that it was for our own protection. Everything was going all right until the ground forces started firing at us…not for long though, the Kurgan babe put something into the think-machine and they stopped firing…unfortunately Polly wasn’t able to access the info or anything tracing to it. Military-level encrypts apparently…or so Smiling Stanley would tell me later.

Our ship wasn’t allowed to take us the whole way…so we were transferred to a shuttle and taken the rest of the way toward – blah blah, holy, blah, important, your lucky – blah. I could tell she was warming up to us because she didn’t throw a knife at me when I made a sexist innuendo. The rest of the crew had trouble containing their mirth, she however either was more practiced at it, or otherwise didn’t see the humor.

There was either a religious pilgrimage of some sort or perhaps an all-you-can-eat ice-cream social near the large dome/observatory to which we were transported. We were greeted by a noble…I think he was a noble…could have been a Spy-Lord…but probably just a noble…although he did seem to know a lot…doesn’t matter. He was very hospitable and, I think, a good example of what a Kurgan noble should be. He accepted my attempts at showing respect in their fashion. And showed me likewise respect.

He explained very rationally that they did not operate with civilized currency…he didn’t put it that way but it’s true enough. Anyways he paid us with an apparently golden Phoenix statuette. It was however only gilded, inside was solid Ur-metal. I feigned apathy and disappointment with a hint of resentment but nonetheless expressed a complacent manner, although I was actually quite excited. Along with this he gave me a Jumpkey to a lost world…excuse me, gave us. We were then given the room to enjoy for as long as we wished…and a gigantic table of food awaited our pleasure. And it was certainly pleasurable.

The Kurgan babe was assigned to be our guard for the evening. We smoked and ate to our hearts content, for my crew more of the former and less of the latter, for me the inverse. The mood struck me again, and so again I punched our Brother battle. “You know I can still fight without my armor” he said to me with a mischievous smile “You know that I really don’t care” I replied with equal mirth. We stepped away from the table slowly, feigning the possibility of a duel…we both knew the difference between play and war…and we also knew that it wasn’t often that two men could enjoy each other’s physical skills…in a non-Decados sort of way. I’m sure he meant to tackle me…though he was graceful, and apparently had abstained from the hashish as I had, I was still awkwardly more nimble, awkward because of my girth, more nimble because of my time with the pirates. He then decided to have another go, but in the middle of my dodge my foot slipped and I slid to the ground…good thing too because as I slumped to the ground landing on my tailbone I saw Brother Abram fly through the air over me, right where I would have been had I not slipped, and continued for several feet before landing face-first onto the ground. Everyone was laughing at this point, even our guard. Apparently she had not abstained from the hooka and had become much looser. She approached and made a combat salute, eagerly challenging me to the game she just saw (the new game that the crew I’m sure will adopt in the future as “tackle the captain”). Even with a clear buzz she still managed to pin me to a pillar with her foot before I really even knew what was going on…I would have been a match for her had I taken out my rapier…but it was better just to concede that her martial prowess eclipsed mine completely, and congratulate her on her victory. From there on out she was rather personable, and, naturally, Inigo was smitten. I put in a good word for him by lying through my teeth (quite well I might add) and they seemed to hit it off. I signaled him to acquire info about the Ur-metal Phoenix…don’t ask me how I mimed that. He would relate to me later that apparently the Caliph had been moving the Ur-statuette around from planet to planet. Brother Abram and I shared the watch during the night. The next day we awoke to a beautiful breakfast and an awkward situation. Apparently the Kurgan babe had fallen asleep whilst lying atop Inigo…we figured the herbs had worn off by this time and she was about to awake thinking that she had, well…done something she would regret.

After the initial startle, everything was calmed down but the awkwardness would not leave so easily. She returned us to our ship where we discovered that the “kick me” sign that we all had hung around our necks was now stamped on my ship…hmmm. We flew back and this time we were not shot at. Before leaving, I attempted the bow that is their custom to our new friend the Kurgan babe and threw the knife she had thrown at Speedy back at her feet. She took it and gave it to Inigo as a favor, a token, a remember-me if you will. He is still wearing it, now that I think about it…yes. Perhaps Inigo is thinking more long term now. It’s too bad. We got the news shortly after breaking atmo… a holy crusade has been called against the Kurgans, and the invasion force is staring us in the face. The patriarch’s navy as well as representative navies from all the known worlds had shown up. It’s amazing to look at it. So here I sit, with a Ur-metal statue and a Jumpkey to a lost world set-in and about to take us far away from here. I told my crew that it’s not likely that we’d find pirates near this big of an armada and that my Killroy duties are sending me elsewhere, namely to the lost world we had just found a means to find. The truth is that I don’t want a conflict between important members of the crew. Until I can gage the climate of the crew’s feelings I won’t force them to make a commitment that may put their interests at odds with mine. That’s a lesson I learned a long time ago. The jump will fire soon, so for now, farewell.

Captain Daedalus Nine-Tails

Css. Morningstar