A Problem With Pirates
Chapter 4: Engagement With The Enemy
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
September 6, 1990
The intercom blared, “Captain. This is Ensign Scaccia. We have a problem outside the galley.”
“What is the problem, Ensign?”
“Seaman Davino, Seaman Martelli, and Seaman Tocci tried to rape Hearth Maria. They’re pretty mangled. She won’t let anyone attend to them.”
Captain Tasso glanced over at Sword Anat. She was watching him for his reaction. He winked at her. She grinned.
He replied, “There’s no problem, Ensign. Hearth Maria is waiting for help in seeing them demoted to Jetsam Davino, Jetsam Martelli, and Jetsam Tocci.”
“Jetsam, Sir? That’s not a rank.”
“Why don’t you and another seaman offer to help Hearth Maria? She’ll show you what’s involved in getting demoted to Jetsam,” Captain Tasso said.
“Aye aye, Sir.”
“Very nicely stated,” Sword Anat said with a smile.
“I did learn a thing or two in Officer Training School. I’ll admit that it took a while,” he said.
“How long do you think it will take the Ensign to get it?”
“About the time she throws one of them overboard,” Captain Tasso said.
The other officers on the bridge turned to stare at Captain Tasso. None of them had picked up on what it meant to get demoted to Jetsam. They couldn’t believe he even joked about doing such a thing, much less went along with it.
“You might get in trouble.”
Captain Tasso said, “There was a time when the Captain of a ship belonging to the Upal Navy had absolute authority over all punishments for crimes committed aboard his ship. It’s my understanding that Jade Force still maintains that tradition.”
“This ship is flying the Jade Force flag and I am the Captain. We must maintain traditions.”
“Well stated. I will support you in that if it ever becomes an issue.”
Captain Tasso went to the window and looked out over the deck of his cruiser. Sword Anat went stood by his side. A minute later, Hearth Maria carrying a man over her shoulder made her way to the railing. She tossed the man over the side. While the Ensign who had been following her stared in shock, she grabbed the man he had been carrying and threw him over the side. The seaman who was carrying the third man looked at his cargo with disgust and then tossed him over the side.
“Their demotion to Jetsam has been completed,” Sword Anat said.
“I hate to say this, but that felt good,” Captain Tasso said.
Captain Tasso said, “Those three have been accused of a number crimes when on shore leave. The charges were dropped every time. I think that the authorities ashore were just happy to get rid of their problems by dumping them on someone else, namely me.
“Almost all of the men under my command are good decent men. They are in the Navy to serve Upal. Most of them have families at home. They have plans for the future ... dreams that can come true because of the skills they pick up while serving in the Navy. They want to walk home with their heads up high and not bowed under a cloud of suspicion that they had acted like animals on getting ashore.
“Then men like those three idiots try to rape some woman. It makes all sailors look bad. People don’t see the man inside the uniform when he does something immoral, they only see the uniform. I don’t like it when men in my command behave that way. I don’t appreciate it at all.”
“I can imagine,” she said.
Captain Tasso said, “I come from a long family of sailors. Going back four generations, we’ve all served in the Upal Navy. My father was a Captain, my grandfather was a Captain, and my great grandfather was a Captain.
“I used to read my great grandfather’s journals when I was a kid. He wrote of his adventures at sea. Those were the days of wooden sailing ships. Grand looking ships they were.
“His stories were filled with details that most modern Captains don’t bother to record. He would describe the meals, what they ate and what they discussed. The men would occasionally break out musical instruments and play music after eating. He made the stories live through his words. Even now, I get chills up and down my spine when I see one of those wooden ships tied up at the dock of a museum.
“Ships in his day had women aboard who were there for the pleasure of the men. You may think what you may, but that was the practice of those times. Some of the men serving aboard this ship may very well be descendants of those women.
“He wrote about punishing sailors who abused the women aboard the ship. He was a hard man and brooked no disobedience. The women were there, and they knew their role. There was no call for them be hit or abused. Those three sailors would have been keelhauled in his day.
“I hope that I have not offended you with this little story, but I feel that my great grandfather would have approved of what Hearth Maria just did.”
Sword Anat said, “I have read Naval Histories for as long as I can remember. Nothing you’ve said to me about women aboard ships offends me. It is history. It could very well have been my life if I had lived back in those days. Instead, I stand here on the bridge holding a very different role. I find that I’m happier with the present than I would have been in the past.”
“I think most people would agree with you on that,” Captain Tasso said.
“What do you think, Shield Mandy?”
“No comment,” she said. “I just think it’s strange to have a military with more men than women.”
Most of the crew on the bridge turned to look at her in disbelief. There were no women serving in the Upal Navy. There hadn’t been a woman in the Navy since the practice of having a woman or two aboard for the men’s pleasure had died out.
The fact that there were women on board who were ‘mercenaries’ had been a major topic of discussion. Many of them wondered if the women had the hardness required to fire upon an enemy. Although, based on the ease with which Hearth Maria had thrown the sailors overboard, those doubts were being put to rest.
Aboard the Sea Foam, a large fat container ship, a different drama was beginning to play out.
Sword Cestmir said, “Inform our escort that the sea is getting rougher.”
He turned to the Captain and said, “Full speed ahead. Prepare to turn hard to port.”
Captain Olaf Steensen relayed the orders to the appropriate men. He glared over at the Sword. The fact was that he was furious taking orders from this man. He was the Captain – the lord and master of this vessel. He was not the second in command, but that was how it was turning out to be on this trip.
He only accepted having this man aboard his ship because the owner had demanded it. Even worse, the owner had told him to follow orders from this stranger. Things got even worse when this man had come aboard his ship fully armed and not even bothering to hide it. He raised hell about that until the man had showed him a paper signed by the current king of Osslovena giving him the right to bear arms while on board a ship showing an Osslovena flag.
At first, it hadn’t been that bad. The man had stayed locked away in his cabin for the first two days out of port. Then he had walked onto the bridge, without asking permission, demanding that he change course to reach a specific set of coordinates. He backed that up with written orders from the owner. Captain Steensen had changed course. He was surprised by what he had found upon reaching the destination.
He looked over at the cruiser sailing just off his port side. With pirates in the area, he had been very pleased to discover that he was going to have an escort. Now, he was having second thoughts. It looked awful close. He prayed that what they were about to do didn’t end up with his ship heading to the bottom of the sea.
Suddenly, the cruiser was moving backwards and turning. Sword Chesmir said, “Turn hard port.”
The Captain shouted the order. This was a much bigger ship than the little cruiser. It was going to take forever to actually turn to port. He looked around for the cruiser. Much to his surprise, the cruiser was now aft of his ship.
Sword Chesmir said, “Prepare to turn hard to starboard.”
The Captain stared at him until he caught the look on the Sword’s face. He shouted, “Prepare to turn hard to starboard.”
“Turn hard starboard.”
Captain Steensen relayed the order. He looked out to the starboard side of his ship to find the cruiser there.
After a few minutes, Sword Chesmir said, “Return to normal course at normal speed.”
He gave the order. In just a few minutes, an incredibly fast maneuver for ships at sea, his cargo ship and the cruiser had just exchanged places. He jumped when the cruiser fired all of its guns at an approaching boat. It was an impressive sight. The small boat disintegrated under the barrage.
“They didn’t fire a warning shot,” Captain Steensen said.
“That would be a stupid thing to do,” Sword Chesmir said. “Why would anyone give the enemy a chance to fire back?”
“So they could surrender.”
Sword Chesmir said, “They came out here looking to have a fight. They found one. Although it might have been an uh-oh moment upon discovering that they weren’t facing what they thought they’d find, it was too late. They wanted a fight. They got it. Goodbye pirates.”
“There are rules to battles at sea!”
Osslovena was the only country in the world that had ports which did not have an armed Navy. Captain Steensen wasn’t exactly sure what the rules for a battle at sea were, but he was pretty sure that there were some and that they hadn’t been followed.
“Tell me, what rules do pirates follow?”
“Well ... that’s ... I don’t know.”
“Just think of it this way. We just fought them using their rules,” Sword Chesmir said.
“That was just wrong.”
Sword Chesmir said, “They are expecting you to stop at Spice Island. I’ll be leaving the ship there.”
Captain Tasso turned to his navigator who had just objected to having sunk the pirate ship without firing a warning shot across the bow.
He said, “We are not flying the Upal flag. We are flying the Jade Warrior Naval Flag.”
“What does that matter? We still should have fired a warning shot.”
“It matters because we don’t care about niceties in war. Firing a warning shot over the bow is a naval tradition rather than maritime law. It is a signal that you’re willing to accept their surrender. We are not,” Sword Anat said.
“Wait a second ... We’re flying the Jade flag?”
“You’re not a nation.”
Captain Tasso looked over at Sword Anat. He hadn’t thought one of his men would even be concerned about that.
“We are not a nation in a conventional sense,” Shield Mandy said.