A Problem With Pirates
Chapter 6: A Clean Sweep
September 19, 1990
The near total destruction of the first pirate town sent shock waves across Cartoom. Public opinion was divided. Most were happy that the day of Cartoom Pirates was coming to an end. A significant fraction of the population was horrified by the sheer number of dead that surfaced.
Six additional pirate towns fell over a six day period. The death toll was nowhere near what it had been in the first town. Those who weren’t actively involved in piracy hid at the first shot fired. They weren’t going to run out and get killed over something they had nothing or little to do with. Still, the death toll was shocking to the people of Cartoom.
Then Jade Warriors started midnight visits to the mayors of known pirate towns. The sight of a person wearing tan armor was enough to send chills down peoples’ spines. The mayors were no different than anyone else. Rather than argue, the towns started arresting pirates. Calls were made to the Navy to come and pick up prisoners.
There were a lot of prisoners. Almost without exception, the pirate captains were former Cartoom Navy personnel who had been let go as a result of selling off the ships. For the most part, they had been dismissed, in a manner akin to being fired, from the service without warning. Unemployed and with few prospects for employment, they had taken on the job of carrying the pirates out to the cargo ships as a means of purchasing ships of their own.
In what might be a humorous aside, one town that hadn’t been a part of the piracy even surrendered. When asked what ship they had taken, no one had an answer. The sad thing was that their surrender showed the level of fear the Jade Force had created within small port towns of Cartoom in taking care of the piracy problem.
Jade Force had not escaped unscathed. There had been three fatalities, including Sword Jennifer, and fourteen seriously injured warriors. Sword Aleksy was the most seriously injured of them all. He still hadn’t come out of his coma, although now he was being kept in the coma through the use of drugs.
Captain Tasso stood on the bridge looking over his home port. The ship was anchored in waters off the coast. As far as he knew, the pirate war was over. All of the pirates had been killed, captured, or surrendered. He was anxiously waiting to be told to take the ship into port.
When Sword Anat showed up on the bridge, he said, “Should I weigh anchor?”
“No. We’re not done, yet.”
“What’s left? They all surrendered.”
“The crews surrendered, but not the masterminds. Today was their day to discover what happens in a war with Jade Force,” Sword Anat answered.
“So what should I do?”
“Wait for the final act which will complete the contract.”
“For what final act?” Captain Tasso asked.
He was concerned about what was going to happen next. They were in his home port. There shouldn’t be anything for him to do there. The pirate problem was in Cartoom, not in Upal.
“For us to finish collecting our spoils of war.”
“So what are we doing here? The spoils of war are back in Cartoom.”
“No, they are not. They are here.”
“Do you see that house up at the top of that hill over there?” Sword Anat asked while pointing to a distant house.
“That’s the house of the Minister of Trade,” Captain Tasso said.
“It was the house that belonged to the Minister of Trade. It is now our house,” Sword Anat said.
“Spoils of war.”
“I don’t get it,” Captain Tasso said.
This was a long way from Cartoom. How could they be talking about spoils of war here? The war wasn’t here.
Sword Anat said, “Your Minister of Trade made over fifty million dollars using the Cartoom Pirates. He wasn’t getting paid by the pirates for information. He was one of a number of people who was paying them to take ships.”
“I don’t believe it,” he said.
“He was one of the principal negotiators.”
“Yes and he was negotiating for himself. So were the other negotiators. They were even collecting fees from the insurance companies for having arranged the release of the ships,” she said.
“That son of a bitch. I’m personally going to see that he rots in jail.”
“I should have known that,” Captain Tasso said. “You folks don’t play around.”
Her radio beeped to get her attention. She stepped away and talked with someone for a full minute. Her head was nodding as details were provided to her.
“Level that house.”
“I think that twelve rounds from your largest guns should suffice,” Sword Anat said.
Captain Tasso looked at her trying to gauge if she was joking or not. Then he realized she didn’t joke about war and she certainly wasn’t joking about destroying the building. From her perspective, it was just a question of who destroyed it, not whether to destroy it or not. He knew that if a ship that originated from another country, like Coli did it, then it would be viewed as an act of war. If he did it, it could be politically spun into being an official act of some sort or, at worst, a training accident.
Firing the guns from this ship at a target on Upal soil could destroy his career, but there were official orders dictating his behavior. The contract stated that Jade Force had the right to select all targets. Essentially, the government of Upal had given Jade Force carte blanche to do whatever it wanted and that included destroying the building owned by a pirate.
“Weapons, work up firing solutions for the large guns. The target is the house on the hill,” he said.
“Are you sure, Captain?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” Captain Tasso answered with butterflies in his stomach.
It was an order he never imagined giving. He was firing at a target that was on the soil of his country without seeking approval from command.
“Don’t worry. This is happening at a dozens of places today,” Sword Anat said.
“Can I ask one question?”
“Why destroy it?”
“That house was built using money he made from piracy. He lost the war. He lost everything. That is what war is about – all or nothing. He ends with nothing. His son would expect to inherit the house, that is not ending with nothing.”
“What about insurance on the house? Won’t the son get the payout?”
“It was destroyed in an act of war. Insurance doesn’t cover it.”
“You didn’t destroy the house of what’s his name from the Tobo Drug War.”
“Francis Baudin had no heirs left. The state got his land. He ended with nothing.”
Captain Tasso said, “It seems kind of petty to me.”
“No. It is a lesson about war that must be learned by the world at large. War is a matter of life and death. Those who engage in it risk losing everything,” Sword Anat said.
“We have a firing solution.”
“Fire twelve rounds at the house,” Captain Tasso said in a calm voice.
The three large guns fired four times each. He watched as the house at the top of the hill slowly disappeared under the barrage. He couldn’t help feeling a slight thrill going through his body. There was something about firing the guns at a real target, not some artificial spot on a range. It was more than just the roar of the gun, the vibration through the deck, and the reaction of the ship. He could feel the gun in every part of his body. It felt ... right.
Aboard his ship, Captain Tomas Angotti watched a similar mansion disappear under the barrage from the guns of his ship. He didn’t have any doubts about the rightness of this action. Too many people had profited off the Cartoom Pirates. He felt like justice was being served.
“Sword Lifa, I am pleased to report that the target is destroyed.”
“Thank you, Captain Angotti.”
“Thank you, Sword Lifa. This was most interesting experience.”
“You sound like you enjoyed that a little too much,” Sword Lifa said looking over at him with a smile.
“To tell the truth, I never liked that guy. He was just a bit too arrogant for my taste.”
“I was thinking more about firing on your own country,” Sword Lifa. “A lot of people would have problems with that.”
“I wasn’t firing on my country. I was firing upon an enemy encampment that happened to be located inside my country.”
“That’s a good way to look at it,” Sword Lifa said, thinking Captain Angotti had truly learned something in his training with Jade Force.
“That’s my feeling.”
Pointing to a cliff, Sword Lifa asked, “Do you see that house over there? The white one overlooking the bay.”
“Would you like to take a little target practice at it?”