1.68 - Existential

I follow the coordinates to a different ward of Tortuga. This area looks nothing like the others I’ve been in. Buildings crumbling but still housing people. Trash covering the pathways and no shortage of seedy characters and others packed into tight corners or on staircases. I’ve never been here before but it’s a familiar place. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a mega sized space station, Earth, Mars or anywhere else; there’s always a ghetto. A place where if you’re poor it’s a fight just to survive. A place where criminals can hide amongst good people because they know law enforcement won’t look. I find Edan sitting on a bench, staring off into the artificial night sky.

“Hey,” I take a seat next to him.

“Hey,” he seems upset by something.

“What’s wrong?”

“Just thinking.”

“About,” I ask, he wants me to pry it from him but he’ll tell me right away like when we were kids.

“I owe you an apology,” he doesn’t take his eyes off the sky.

“The kidnapping? I’m over that,” not entirely. “You’ve treated me well, I’ve spent your money, had some interesting food and some good times. I even got a great new wrist comp.”

“No, for the trade going bad because I didn’t research the other party. An apology is owed for dragging out the response as well. I didn’t know how all of this would end, so I just kept dragging it along, not doing any work and making excuses.”


“No really, I just didn’t know what would come next. I got scared and I froze up because I didn’t know how to continue.”

“Seriously,” I interrupt him. “I don’t care. Let’s just go get this girl,” I stand from the bench and start walking.

“Other way,” he laughs as he rises from the bench and stretches.

The old metal building is covered in grime that hasn’t been wiped off in probably years. Inside is a hologram of a man operating as a check in. The floors are dirty, stained and sticky. There‘s an unrecognizable smell in the air. The place I used P.R.I.D.E. at wasn’t top of the line, but this place is closer to the bottom than the top. It’s the kind of place people go to when they’re running away from problems; Edan didn’t lie about that.

Rows of machines have people hooked in, helmets covering their faces, reclined in chairs. IVs run into their arms; it isn’t hard to tell the IVs are what’s keeping them locked in. Up higher a second level of machines have been placed on what look to be shelves extending from the wall. A quick scan of the bags with my wrist comp tells me they’re full of experimental drugs with names I couldn’t begin to pronounce. The whole place gives me a sick vibe, no decorations, no furniture, just machines. The quiet hum and our footsteps peeling off the floor with each step are the only sounds as we make our way towards the back, looking for an office.

“You said you tried one of these before right,” Edan asks.

“Yeah, it was nice. A little disorienting when I came out but nice,” I leave out the part about my terrible reaction to the drugs.

“I always wanted to try one, but this building makes the whole thing seem,” he pauses for a word, “eerie.”  

“I know what you mean, lined up like this, with so many crammed into a tight space. It’s almost like a storage facility.”

“You know we’re shutting this place down right,” Edan asks.

“I don’t have any objections.”  

At the end of the building there’s a small office. Inside is a Meteorian man sitting behind a desk staring into a holographic display where a woman is sitting on a couch. I’ve seen enough videos to know he’s into classic pornography. I’m just glad we got here before he reached the good part.

“Wow, is everyone in here trying to get their rocks off,” Edan asks.

The Meteorian fumbles to turn off the hologram, shouting obscenities. It’s not a big deal, we just caught him before he was going to partake in some self-love. He reaches for the desk drawer, and I know he’s going for a gun. I rush forward pushing the desk backwards sandwiching him between the desk and the wall.

“What do you want,” he shouts knowing he’s trapped.

“Not a handshake,” Edan laughs plugging his wrist comp into the terminal at the desk.

“We’re here to free the people you’ve been exploiting,” I answer his question.

“They paid good money to be here,” The Meteorian argues.

“I’m sure they did,” I respond.

“Well, that was easy. No real security at all,” Edan unplugs. “Kids should be waking up. What do we do with him?”

“Take his gun, tie him up and leave him,” I shrug.

“Great idea. Let’s just hope he’s not into bondage,” Edan laughs.

I let Edan work the crowd of people waking up and give instructions. He’s good with people, keeps everyone calm. I might even say he’s charming. I know I couldn’t lead a group of disoriented teenagers to safety. He promises to get them all home safely, one at a time. I follow his lead, helping people regain their balance. Calling transport services, pairing up people headed in the same direction. I’m better with the details but this needs both of us. 43 kids are sent on their way when we’re finished but Edan hangs back with 44, the one we came for.  

“I’ll make sure she gets home safely, you go get ready. Hit the shooting range, do some stretches or whatever you military dogs do,” Edan gives me a crooked salute as he gets into the backseat of taxi. I watch as the shuttle slowly lifts into the air before taking off. Once they’re out of view I remove the Meteorian’s gun from my pocket. Poorly made, cheap, and likely to jam. I break off a piece of the firing mechanism and toss the gun in the trash. If I have to shoot someone, I’d rather do it with a gun that isn’t likely to shoot me as well. 

1.67 - Different DNA

There’re so many different kinds of music on Tortuga, and a few that blur the lines on what can safely be called music.  I feel like an actual tourist in this place. I never got more than a few hours to explore when I was out on duty. New foods, new places, new stores. I never really cared much about what shoes or clothes I was wearing as long as the colors didn’t clash. Now I find myself looking at expensive shoes and clothes just because they aren’t what I’m used to seeing. Edan lent me some money, but I’m hesitant to spend it, afraid I’ll find something better right around the next corner. More than that, I need a hobby or something. I never had time for them before but walking around window shopping doesn’t seem like a productive way to spend my time. Should I take up painting? Maybe I can try to make my own music. How am I not a complete person at my age?

Before I can spend more time thinking about potential free time and how I still don’t know what to do with it I get a call from Edan on my wrist comp. He’s been trying to track down an ethical arms dealer, whatever that means. It hasn’t been easy, and most of them are looking for prices that could only be paid for by black ops operations, private militaries or criminal organizations that are really good at being criminals. I can’t say I’m surprised by the prices, just surprised he didn’t have connections. I guess he wasn’t joking when he said there were things he wouldn’t transport.

“Big brother, have I told you how much I love you today,” Edan starts.

“What do you need help with?”

“Why do you assume I need help?”

“Because when we were kids, that’s how you would always ask for help.”

“You’ve got me there,” we share a laugh. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

“Start with the bad news.”

“The guns are way more expensive than we wanted, and the guy doesn’t want to do business at all right now because of a family issue.”

“Well, what’s the good news?”

“Ethical gun runner,” Edan laughs.

“You’re a real unique individual.”

“Same DNA, but I’m one of a kind. How do you want to get the guns?”

“Same way we got things in the service. We do a favor for a favor.”

“I don’t do assassinations.”

“Doesn’t always have to be an assassination. Might be a recovering equipment, might be trading some technology.”

“I think he’s more worried about his family at the moment. Something neither of us know how to fix,” Edan stares blankly expicting some witty response, but I don’t have one.

“See if you can figure out what’s going on with his family. If we can help, that’ll get him on our side.”

I end the call before Edan starts telling more jokes. I know this whole thing has gone south and is probably really stressing him out, but he isn’t handling the pressure well. I think, or at least hope he’s stopped drinking so much. But I can’t be sure. I’m not tailing him every second of the day. Maybe Nastas was right, we should have just let this go. Trying to run an operation to get everything back might be too much pressure on Edan. He’s been smuggling things all over the galaxy, but it’s just that, smuggling. He hasn’t done anything like this as far as I know. But he’s my brother, my living brother. He grew up in the same terrible environment that I did so I expect him to be okay with it. Same DNA, but we aren’t the same people. He was right about that if nothing else. I’ve been trying too hard to make him be like me, or one of my soldiers.   

I wanted to stay when this was done. Explore the stars with my brother but I’m becoming a hindrance even if he won’t say it. Pushing him into confrontations he doesn’t want to be in, taking charge of operations, forcing him to reach out to costly contacts. I hope this all pays off in the end; if not I should be saving this money he leant me.  

Edan pops up on my wrist comp again, “Found out what’s going on with the guy’s family.”

“Okay, talk to me.”

“His daughter has gone missing. But, thanks to Tawa we know where she is.”

“We going to get her?”

“I’m already here. She’s been strapped into a virtual reality device for weeks. They keep the people alive, but it’s an extended simulation. Usually, you would take breaks but these people are running away from something, choosing to live fully digital instead. She likely wouldn’t want to go home because they rarely consider anything as home. They’re real virtual vagabonds.”

“Those things can be addictive; I tried a cheap version once, almost got me, but it was way too happy to be my life. Send me the coordinates.”  

“Let me know when you get here, I’m going to do some scouting. We’ll get the girl back.”

Same DNA, different people. But we do have similarities. We care about people; this girl is more important than the guns. We don’t even know if the guy will sell to us just because we bring his daughter home. We’re just hopeful that he’ll be grateful. We see the best in people, I just expect them to do the worst while he doesn’t. I wonder if it’s because I’ve seen war but he hasn’t. There’s no honor among thieves, but maybe there’s kindness. I don’t know. The location pings to my wrist comp, and I tap for directions. It’ll take about thirty minutes to get there, I really hope he doesn’t do anything I wouldn’t. 

1.66 - New Tactics


It took six hours for us to finish cleaning Tawa’s apartment. Enyolo didn’t come, Velphi was rather heavy handed and Nastas complained the entire time. Still, the apartment is clean. Everyone has headed back to the ship or hotel accommodations they secured on Tortuga except the lucky few of us remaining for a planning session.

“So, who’s the boss,” Edan asks as he sips from a glass of water.

Tawa swallows a bite of the cold and spicy noodle dish he served us. “A woman named Yana is the leader of their group. She’s done a brief stint in prison and is fond of neon tattoos so she’s really easy to spot when it’s dark.”

“I don’t see what her fashions sense has to do with the plan,” Nastas interrupts, still irritated.

“Oh, I can,” Nastas fumbles over his words, clearly uncomfortable.

“Let him finish. I’m sure he had more to tell us than just what she likes to wear,” I give him a nod.

“Yeah, it’s not as if you can be long winded,” Edan stares down Nastas.

“Thank you,” Tawa regathers his composure. “Yana has recently taken control of the group. Previously they primarily worked in smuggling drugs and people. Since she’s taken control, they’ve began a life of true piracy. Attacking ships and deals seemingly at random. They don’t have a preferred broker of jobs; so, word of mouth, hacked emails, stolen ship manifestos and anything else they can get their hands on is how they choose jobs. But, it looks like she’s been planning something big, as they’ve taken control of a large warehouse where they’ve been storing goods.”

Tawa gives the command and a projector shines down on the tabled displaying an exterior view of the warehouse. He swipes through cameras that he had taken control of, giving us a view of the layout and items inside. He’s strange, Edan didn’t lie about that. He also wasn’t lying when he said Tawa does good work.

“This is too much of a risk. There are no less than twenty people inside of that warehouse,” Nastas crosses his arms. “I propose we cut our losses now. The client will be disappointed but it will not hurt our reputation as a crew. He was aware of the risks involved when he chose to work with the kidnapers instead of the authorities.”

“We’re just going to let Phil lose his job and his son because it might be dangerous,” I ask Nastas.

“Who is Phil,” He asks both confused and enraged.

“The client,” Edan chimes in.

“You are a guest on The Pariah,” Nastas raises his voice, “you have no say in how we conduct our business or dealings. It would behoove you to remember your place,” Nastas drops the long winded persona as he speaks to me.

“You’ve got a place for me? Put me in it. But, you’re going to have to do more than talking.”

“Are you asking me for a fight?”

“I didn’t ask you for anything. I never will. But if it’s a fight you want, I’m sure we could arrange something.”

Edan places a hand on my shoulder to calm me before speaking to Nastas. “I understand you have your reservations. We don’t deal with drug dealers and human smugglers because they’re dangerous. More dangerous than what we usually do. I’m not going to ask you to participate in the raid, because there will be a raid. I’m only going to ask you to fence the goods,” Nastas is fuming but doesn’t respond to Edan. “Oh, one more thing. At the end of the day, this is my ship, my crew and you may be the first mate, but Efrem is my brother. It doesn’t matter if you think he oversteps his boundaries or doesn’t talk to you nicely. If you have a problem with him, then you have a problem with me. If you have concerns, voice them. Now, or forever hold your peace.”

I’ve never seen Edan like this before. It’s almost as if he really is the captain of a ship, not just someone flying through the skies and pretending to be a smuggler or pirate for fun. I’m glad he defended me even if I didn’t need it.

“I will not partake in the raid and I shall voice my concerns to you privately, not in front outsiders,” Nastas speaks to Edan before standing. “Tawa, I apologize if I have offended you or your home. I shall leave now. Farewell.”

Tawa makes a strange sound somewhere between a grunt and sigh as he gives Nastas a strange wave goodbye. “I don’t read social situations well, but even I can tell that didn’t seem good. Do you two need a moment?”

“No,” Edan laughs and takes another sip of his water.

“You sure, because that was tense,” Tawa asks.

“We’re good,” I chime in.

“Do you have a plan,” Tawa asks moving along.

“I got nothing, it’ll probably end in a full blown fight, which I don’t do. I also don’t do killing,” Edan shrugs.

“I’m sure we can get some non-lethal rounds from somewhere. It’ll be easy if we can get one or two people inside. Then we bottle neck them out the front door and pick them off from there. The easiest way to do that would have two people infiltrate, and kick start some shock and awe. Smoke, loud bangs and flashes.”

“This is some real military dog behavior,” Edan laughs.

Tawa hesitantly laughs along with Edan, still unsure of the mood. The situation is a lot less tense as we go over the finer details of the plan. We’re hoping to run it with just Edan, Enyolo, Velphi and myself at the warehouse while Tawa hacks their electronics from his home. Tawa seems really eager to participate after meeting the rest of the crew for the first time. I don’t think he was joking when he said he rarely has any visitors. I’m glad we can help him feel better, but I’m concerned about Nastas. I got the feeling he didn’t like me when we first met, but he’s really making it known. I don’t care if he doesn’t like me, he isn’t the first. My concern is that he may do something to Edan or something that puts him in danger.