A Problem With Pirates
Chapter 2: The Great Debate

July 14, 1990

The meeting hall was crowded with people stopping by to read over the pending contract. There were piles of documents stacked by the side of the room for people to read about the Cartoom piracy problem if they wished. This was a kind of job that few of them had considered taking.

This was a Naval engagement, which wasn’t the kind of thing that the warriors explicitly trained for. That’s not to say that they were unfamiliar with Naval tactics. They’d read everything about war that there was to read about: land, sea, and air. All of the Jade Warriors had spent time on boats as cadets. Basic sailing skills were considered necessary, just because there was so much water every where.

Sword Tomas tossed the paper he was reading down on the table looking somewhat disgusted. It seemed to him that the problem could be solved in a day and that hiring Jade Force was completely unnecessary.

“What’s the matter, Tomas?” Shield Mandy asked.

“I’m confused,” Sword Tomas said although he didn’t look all that confused.

“About what?”

“They know who is doing it. Why don’t they just take care of it?”

“They can’t.”

“Why not?”

“They are a State and the pirates are citizens of the State. It gives the pirates certain rights. They can’t just go in and kill the pirates.”

“That’s playing games with reality and we all know that reality is a tiger that will bite you on the ass. They’re hiring us to kill the pirates,” Sword Tomas said.

“They are hiring us to solve the piracy problem. They aren’t hiring us to kill pirates, even though they suspect that we’ll solve it by killing the pirates,” Shield Mandy said.

“There’s something wrong here.”

“I agree with you. I think that we were trained to cut through the stupidity,” Shield Mandy said.

Sword Tomas said, “I can’t wait for us to get a problem that doesn’t involve a bunch of killing. I’d like to solve something using a little diplomacy.”

Jade Warriors did not view themselves as killing machines, although they at times acted that way. One of the things that was emphasized throughout their training was that they were the negotiators of last resort. Negotiation from personal interests was fine when negotiating the price of a car, but when negotiating between groups of people it was another matter altogether. It was the needs of the people who were being represented that was important.

Sometimes, the only thing holding up negotiations were people who put their individual personal interests above and beyond anything else. People like Koki Okeki didn’t care about the needs of others. The Tobo Drug Cartel was destroying lives just to earn money. That was when the Jade Force was required to use deadly force. They tended to view those times as surgery where they were required to cut out an infection before it could spread further. The key was to cut it all out at once.

“From what I’ve read, these are a bunch of bad guys. They won’t stop just because they are asked to stop,” Shield Mandy said.

“There is that,” Sword Tomas said. He glanced up at the clock and said, “I’ve got to head to class.”

“Have fun in your class,” she said.

“I will. It’s an interesting course,” he said.

He grabbed the documents he had been reading. He went over to the pile he had grabbed them from and placed them back in the appropriate order. He paused to look at the stack of documents. It amazed him that they could know so much and would do so little about it. He headed off to his class on public relations.

Shield Mandy remained at the table thinking about the contract. She had never gotten into the whole seafaring thing. She could swim, just like every other Jade Warrior. Cadets started swimming lessons in their third year. It was followed with snorkeling and scuba lessons in the sixth and seventh year. She still swam three times a week. Still, she felt that being aboard a ship all of the time was inviting death by drowning. The thought of it gave her chills.

Hearth Maria came over to the table and sat down. She had just finished cleaning the dishes after the lunch crowd had passed through. Dish washing time was not a chore assigned as drudge work, but more of a social hour. That was a time when a lot of Hearths dropped in to chat with each other while doing things in the kitchen. Quite a few Swords and Shields came by at that time as well. A lot of information got passed around while doing dishes.

She asked, “How are you today?”

“I’m fine. Just trying to decide about this job.”

“I know what you mean. That whole idea of working with outsiders like that kind of bothers me. You can’t trust them,” Maria said.

Mandy said, “I don’t know. There will be eight Jade Warriors on each ship. Two Swords, four Shields, one Cart, and one Hearth.”

“A Hearth?”

“You know that we can’t get along without a Hearth,” Mandy said.

“What would a Hearth do on a ship?”

“We have to eat,” Mandy said.

“You just want one of my massages,” Maria said.

“That’s always good,” Mandy said.

“You don’t seem so keen on this potential contract.”

“I just don’t like the idea of being on a ship for extended periods of time.”

Maria said, “I don’t know if I like the idea or not. I never thought of us doing something at sea, so I never thought about life aboard a ship.”

“I know. One thing is sure, though...”

“What’s that?”

“Every book on sea tactics in our library is being read right now,” Mandy said with a smile.

Their classes had emphasized naval history as much as the history of land battles. They were trained as Warriors and war took place as much on water as it did on land. Their courses on navigation were duel duty, applying to cross country and ocean. They all served a bit of time aboard one of the training ships, doing the things that sailors do.

The long intense training in martial arts tended to focus their attention on land warfare. Of course, hand to hand and other weapons were of use everywhere. Ships could be boarded and fighting would be very necessary. Ships had to be defended when in port. Still, it wasn’t an idea that was given too much thought.

“I remember when we were cadets that a lot of Swords were unhappy that we didn’t have a navy,” Maria said.

Mandy was about to reply when she spotted a young woman entering the room. The woman returned a handful of papers to the stack of intelligence reports.

She nudged Maria and said, “There’s Cadet Anat.”

“Who’s she?” Maria asked.

“She’s in my advanced field surgery class,” Mandy said.

“So what?”

Mandy said, “She’s an eleventh year and already qualified to be a Sword.”

Graduating from cadet to warrior wasn’t a matter of having put in enough time in school. It required obtaining sufficient ratings in an appropriate combination to meet the minimum requirements for the entrance into a Cadre. Just because a cadet graduated to warrior did not mean that the person stopped taking specialization classes. Learning was a lifelong activity for a warrior. There were warriors seated right next to cadets in a lot of classes, particularly those dealing with advanced subjects.

“The third class just left the tenth year. How could she be qualified already?”

“She’s wicked smart. She’s already got a bunch of expert ratings in all the normal things Swords excel at, but she got one in cooking, too. She’s nearly got enough ratings to qualify for Hearth, too.”

“That’s interesting.”

Mandy said, “Let me introduce you to her.”

“Sure.”

Mandy waved over at Cadet Anat. Somewhat surprised to be hailed by someone from the first class, Cadet Anat slowly made her way over hoping that she hadn’t been mistaken. When she saw that both women were watching her approach, she sped up her progress over to the table.

“Hello, Shield Mandy.”

Cadat Anat used the formal form of address that was usual between Cadet and Jade Warrior. Jade Warriors, when in secure ground, tended to use the less formal form of address.

“Just call me Mandy.”

“Thank you, Mandy. Did you want something from me?”

“I wanted to introduce you to Hearth Maria. She’s been with Pen Ocival for the past year and has been out of the loop for a while.”

“You were in Amra?” Anat asked.

“Yes,” Maria answered.

“What was it like being there?”

“I stayed in the house most of the time. I am Hearth.”

“Still, you must have gone out sometimes.”

“I did the shopping twice a week, but mostly, I stayed around the house. After the Tobo Drug War, we weren’t exactly popular in some circles.”

“I read about that. It’s hard to believe that no one figured out that we’d take out everyone including the political types. It’s like this job with the pirates. What a mess,” Cadet Anat said.

“What?” Shield Mandy said sitting up straighter.

Anat said, “There’s a whole bunch of people in the governments of every country who are involved in this pirate thing. I was reading one of the intel reports in my intelligence analysis class the other day. No one wonder those folks called us. There’s no way they could deal with it and survive.”

“Tell me more,” Mandy said.

“There are high ranking people in the government who have access to shipping manifests. They are looking over them and selecting those with the most valuable cargo. They’re providing lists of very rich targets to the pirates.”

“What kind of folks?”

“The Head of Commerce in Upal is one. He handed them a ship filled with very expensive electronics from Japa. His cut on that one was about three million,” Anat said.

“So there’s a profit to be made, here?”

Anat said, “Sure. Do you have any idea how much one of those ships can carry. You fill it with cars, electronics, rare woods, or even clothes and you’ve got a fortune. Even everyday items can be worth a lot of money in the quantities carried aboard a ship. Most of those ships carry a mixed load, so there are almost always some very valuable containers on board. I did a rough calculation and decided that the average ship is carrying more than a hundred and fifty million dollars worth of merchandise. The ship is worth about that. Put that together and you’ve got more than a quarter billion dollars all in one place.”

“Interesting,” Maria said.

“These pirates are smart. They really can’t unload one of those ships, so they just hold it hostage. You don’t pay, they sink it. You pay, they walk off with millions of dollars There’s no need to try and convert the loot into cash by having to sell it. They’re doing that about two times a month. That’s a half a billion dollars a year,” Anat said.

“If I read the proposed contract correctly, we get half the ransom value for each ship returned.”

“Yes. That would include the cargo since it is what is really being held to ransom. I read that there are ten ships being held offshore somewhere. We’ll make money. Not as much as it sounded like in the negotiations, but it would still be a good amount of money.”

“That’s good,” Maria said.

“So are you signing up for it?” Mandy asked intending her question for Anat.

“I don’t know,” Maria answered.

“How about you, Anat?”

“I’m not a Sword, yet.”

“You’re qualified to be one. All you have to do is announce it,” Mandy said.

“I don’t really want to do that. I’d have to move into the new dorm. I’d be the only one in there for almost two years,” Anat said unhappily.

“Talk to General Wynn. He might allow you to stay in your current dorm. The tenth and eleventh years are important years socially for cadets,” Maria said.

It was well known that General Wynn did not want to raise a bunch of sociopaths who did not know how to care for their fellow human beings. Tenth and eleventh year cadets were fifteen and sixteen years old. This was a time of social growth and bonding, which included sexual experimentation. It was a time when a lot of long term relationships emerged. Pulling a cadet out of the dorms at that time would be a serious matter.

It was also a time when duels became a common occurrence. Boys fought boys over girls, girls fought girls over boys, and couples or groups fought over ugly breakups and jealousy. It is a time when hormones are running high, tempers are close to the surface, and everything is very important. With three hundred cadets living in close proximity, it was recognized early on that there would be problems.

A grab each other and start fighting kind of mentality would not work, when the participants were highly trained fighters. The chances of people getting killed, or severely injured, were too high. Fights were not to be engaged in while emotions were high, but only after issuing a formal request for a duel witnessed by at least three people. All other fighting was punished by walking the gauntlet.

Duels were formal fights with an audience. They were seen as a way of removing tensions from within the ranks. Most duels were to first blood, but occasionally the cross feelings boiled up to a point where a duel to the death was issued. Most of those stopped before death was the final outcome, but it had happened that death was the outcome. Sometimes they were able to revive the individual.

“I guess I could do that,” Anat said thoughtfully. She looked at the front of the room where the details of the pending contract were posted. “I’d really like to go to sea.”

“You want to go to sea?” Mandy asked.

“More than anything. I’ve stood watch on the Jade Shark during some of our training exercises. There’s just something about looking out across all that water that stirs my soul.”

The Jade Shark was the destroyer that the Jade Academy had purchased for training purposes. The idea had been that at one time it would become the escort for the troop transport ship which was affectionately named the Jade Turtle. For now, it was used in training cadets how to handle a ship, maintain it, and use the weapon systems upon it.

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