Rejoice! We have a new person sign up, so it's time for a new installment of The Bold Marauder! As always: once we hit $200/month, you'll get 500 words a week of this pulp SF serial, until it's done. And then I write a new one, I guess.
Joining the Nike’s crew proved an adventure all its own.
Samson and Adam expected -- Andy did not, but he assumed the other two knew their business -- it would be enough to look interested in joining up. Once interest was shown, a petty officer would be sure to swiftly invite himself to their table, jovially come up with an excuse to buy a round of drinks, and then the tests would start. The ships would take all full-limbed spacers, whether veteran or ‘greenhand;’ but no need to waste coin on a prospective crewman too foolish or ignorant to dicker hard. And on the crewman’s side; one expected a ship’s tout to lubricate a deal with liquor, of course. But too heavy a hand when pouring out the bottle was a warning, to those who knew the ways of the privateering fleets. And if the booze was too cheap or scanty? That said much, as well.
But to get no pitches at all? That was mysterious. Ships needed men. Ships always needed men. While a captain breathed, he worried about his crew roster. That the Nike seemed content to simply pass up three prospects suggested some things to Samson Black.
Useful things. Samson stood: Adam cocked an eyebrow at the sudden movement, but seemingly relaxed back in the chair at Samson’s quick head shake. “Time to teach these fellows a lesson?” asked the Gene-man.
“They could use one,” muttered Samson. He waved a waiter-robot over, and purchased a bottle for what passed for good liquor in Dis. Which, in those days of still-abundant loot, admittedly could pass for it anywhere else. It took no more than a few steps before Samson was at the table holding about five or so crew from the Nike; and from there they looked even rawer and scatter-headed than they did from a distance.
None of this showed on Samson’s face as he gave a wolf’s grin and sat himself in a handy chair. “Evening, lads. And to you, Missy,” he nodded politely to the one woman at the table. “Shove your cups over. Even on Luna, this bottle won’t empty itself.”
They may have been raw, but not that raw: the cups came sliding over the moment the crewmen heard the seal on the bottle part. Samson grabbed a not too grubby glass for his own swig and casually downed the liquor first, as was only courteous. Not that he would have ever stooped to spike a bottle, but spacers have their expectations.
Once they drank up, the local silence at the table grew, cut only with the flickers of looks the Nike’s crew gave themselves. Samson gave it a half minute, sighed, and pointed to the one who looked least confused. “You,” he said. “Ask.”
The man was younger than the others, to the point where ‘boy’ was almost fair. But he had drunk his dram well enough, and his voice did not seem weak. “Thank you for a taste from the bottle, sir. But we’re the Nike’s.”
Samson Black smiled a bit more. “Put your name in her Black Book, all right and proper, then?”
Another of the Nike’s crew -- the woman -- spoke up. “That we have,” she said. It took Samson Black a moment to realize that her English wasn’t flavored with any of the lilts the Imperials used; it was pure English-English. And educated, at that. “With our captain to see, and she knows our faces and names. Terribly sorry if that disappoints.”
“Not at all,” said Samson Black easily. “I look for that, in a captain. Tell me,” he asked as he refilled their glasses (but not quite his own), “does she have you gleam the baffles?” The way that the slang term for a captain who kept her ship too clean for true safety passed over their heads made Samson carefully not shake his head. “Ah. Is she a devil for the polishing and holystoning? And are the watches kept well and fairly?”
“Excuse me,” said the not-quite-boy, “but why do you care?” He was carefully not drinking as deep as the other three men; the woman showed the same care.
Samson shrugged. “A good officer likes to know how much slack needs to be taken in or let out before he starts to serve under a new captain. ‘Tis easier to ask before my mates and I sign the Black Book.”
“And who said the Nike needs officers?” asked the woman. Samson looked at her, kindly, and then waved a hand around.
“Everything, Missy. Everything.”