Brigantine Island Part II.

30 Aug

1.

The ship under contract to Dango Kirp entered Insula harbor with all its wares from the southern tropical zone sold. In all the ports touched coming back to Brigantine Island, there had been particular interest in the new form of colobolo hardwood, strengthened and altered through plasma vitrification.

“It will be necessary to return to Pirg and obtain more of what Baxin can provide for us,” Dango told the Captain and his pilot. “We may well have opened the door to a new source of prosperity for us and for our island.”

“Won’t competitors from elsewhere attempt to muscle in and pick up much of this commerce?” responded Icho with a tinge of doubt in his tone.

“I am confident that we shall preserve and even expand the advantage that we at present enjoy,” smiled Dango, turning to the navigator. “What do you think, Pero? Are we going to remain the champions in this particular kind of trade, in vitrified hardwood?”

What should I say in reply? debated the one asked, but only for a moment.

“We will keep the advantages we now possess if we are lucky enough to outthink and outdo our potential rivals and competitors.”

Dango did not continue in that vein, but immediately changed the subject.

Captain Icho stood on the upper forward deck, watching as the main docks of Insula came near and passed by. Where was the ship going to enter an empty berth? The vessels that stood by the wharf were not all recognizable to him.

All of a sudden, Pero appeared just behind him. “Do you notice what is so new on many of these old schooners, sir? There are small octopters resting on special platforms set up for them. And there are what look like naval artillery of some sort on the opposite sides of some of these ships.

“Those must be the pirate vessels that we heard of from rumor talk. They possess completely new equipment for assault and combat. There has never before been such warlike buccaneers, I dare to say. And many of them still run on old-fashioned engines that operate on coal or fuel oil.”

Icho turned his head and looked directly at his navigator.

“I would think that pirating has entered an entire new era,” he remarked in a thoughtful voice. “Who can be said to be ready for all that means and implies?

“We have to find a place to dock, and then try to find out how conditions have changed on Brigantine Island.”

As the ex-pirate carrier was being tied up fast to the docking, Dango approached the two officers and spoke to them on his immediate plan.

“I am heading at once to see the banker, Balno Mitne. He will be able to describe and explain what is happening to the ships of Insula harbor.

“You two can look around and try to find out what pirate leaders will reveal to you about the new situation. There must be someone who can tell you who is behind all these changes that have happened here.

“Later, we will get together onboard and figure out what lies ahead for us.”

With that, he made his way to become the first to disembark down the just arranged gangway to ground level.

Dango first deposited a large portfolio of checks and money drafts earned from his sales in several ports of the Interior Sea. Then, the cashier escorted him into the back office of the bank president and primary investor-owner, Balno Mitne.

The two embraced and vigorously shook hands, then sat down across the official’s large marble desk, opposite each other.

“It appears that your voyage went well and was profitable,” began Balno.

Yes, indeed,” replied the other. “Let me tell you the story of how I came upon a surprising new product down in the southern rainforest. It turned out to be extremely popular and saleable.” He proceeded to narrate the finding, purchase, and merchandising of vitrified cocobolo hardwood across the broad width of the sea.

“You are quite satisfied that this item has a bright commercial future? I know that you have often spoken of transporting supplies of coral from the southern zone of the Interior Sea. As I remember it, you put a lot of hope in the coming market for coral as a construction material.”

“That is right. But this hardwood has become an urgent business matter at present. I plan to return to Pirg and obtain new, greater quantities of the tropical wood with a glassy surface. There is great demand for it everywhere.

“But there is something that threatens to create difficulties for further exploitation of what we discovered. I am referring the outbreak of a new, more virulent kind of piracy, with its home base here on Brigantine Island.

“I have picked up reports on what is going on.

“And on our return to Insula harbor I viewed the pirate vessels equipped with artillery and small aircraft.

“I ask myself, and therefore you too, how did all of this happen?”

The banker formed a facial grimace combining hatred and fear.

“The man who organized and propelled this new variety of pirating is the underworld boss named Sako Gora. It was his idea to add aircraft and artillery to the means of attack, overwhelming the victimized ships both physically and psychologically. There has never been anything like it before on the Interior Sea. All the traditional methods have become outdated, and they are at present obsolete. Legitimate shipping has fallen helpless. The new dangers are colossal.”

“There are stories about this revolutionary change in ports all over,” said Dango with a deep sigh. “Piracy based on this island of ours is no longer in decline, it is said everywhere. It has been revised in a more virulent form. There threat is present all over the Interior Sea.”

The face of Balno Mitne grew pale and sickly. “What can be done? Is it possible to fight and limit this new movement of Sako Gora?”

Dango frowned. “It is a serious problem we have with this criminal gangster,” he declared. “There is no ready answer we can depend on. But in time a solution may appear. Until then, patience is called for.”

Both men thought for a short while. Then, Balno Mitne spoke.

“You must come to my residence for dinner this evening. My daughter, Ova, will be very glad to see you back.”

Icho and Pero found profound greetings from piratic friends in the first tavern that they visited together. Happy to see them again, fellow mariners asked them about their voyage to the southern forest lands. But the returned travelers, as soon as was possible, asked for explanations concerning the revived, renovated pirating that had come about.

“How did all of this come about?” inquired Icho with insistence. “Who first started the use of air vehicles and cannonry?”

An old salt with decades of experience on the Interior Sea radiated a beaming grin as he answered the question.

“Mr. Sako Gora. He has proved himself the true, genuine friend of the pirates of Brigantine Island.

“It was he who came to the docks with the idea of modernized, contemporary methods of combat. He is the one who demonstrated to us what the potential use of air and artillery attack could achieve for our ancient craft. Yes, it was Sako who himself came down here and taught us how to defeat the new defenses of mercantile shipping. We owe him an enormous debt for what he did for us.

“Without him, we would still be helpless before our enemies on the waters. It was Sako who discovered the path to our salvation, and we are grateful for what he did for our sake. We now have a way to get our hands on the plasma engines that are so much better than what we once had.”

Both Pero and Icho were stunned by the unanimous praise that they heard. No one mentioned Sako’s profession in the underworld of illegal rackets and vice. All that seemed forgotten and ignored by his enthusiastic supporters.

One old skipper gave Icho some powerful, authoritative advice.

“You must join the wave that all of us have become part of. There can be no alternative to obtaining and carrying out the new tools and instruments of pirating.

“Do not separate yourself from your brothers and comrades, Icho. You will suffer a great deal if you do so.”

The newly returned skipper felt his head whirl in confusion and uncertainty.

What could he say in response to these pleas from persons he had known and often worked with for many years? How was he to accept the unfounded claims they were making to him?

Icho smiled, but failed to commit himself to anything.

“I have to think out what I am going to do,” he said in order to obtain himself time to consider his options and alternatives. “There are people I have to discuss this matter with. I have business partners whose opinions will be important to what I decide to do.”

2.

Dango was surprised by how changed Ova looked.

As she greeted him at the front entrance of the impressive family mansion, he noticed the subtle changes in her grooming and outer appearance. Her hair had a new liquid quality to it. She wore a more decorative style of dress, with images from island natural scenery on all sides of it.

“Hello, Ova. How are you? It has been a considerable while since I saw you and you saw me last.”

She replied in a low, hesitant voice. “Yes, it has. It is good to see you once again. How was your voyage to the tropics? We will have a chance to talk later this evening. Father wants me to bring you at once to the dining room so that we all can share a welcome home meal with you. Follow me and we will begin.”

Balno sat at the head of a lengthy mahogany table. He invited the guest to sit down to his right. Dango did so, while Ova occupied the chair at the far, opposite end.

Two cooks hired for the occasion served the roasted capon they had prepared and the three diners went at the food with gusto.

Only when he was almost finished did Balno ask Dango a question.

“I do not know very much about this plasmatic technology, not at all. How does it change the character of the hardwood shipped from southern lands?”

The guest grinned at him. “I cannot claim to be a scientist, but I know when I have a commodity that inspires a boom in market demand. That is what we witnessed when the new kind of wood, vitrified to resemble a form of glass, was offered to buyers in the ports where we stopped.

“We all know that many of the engines and motors used on Brigantine Island and elsewhere run on ionized argon gas that has been given a plasma form, neither pure gas nor flowing liquid. That same variety of substance can be applied to a material such as wood to change its ordinary, natural characteristics and properties. The results are almost miraculous.

“The result is molecular rearrangement and reorganization. New patterns arise in the chambers where argon gas plasma affects a substance. That is what we saw done in a lumber mill near the port of Pirg.”

Balno stared at the younger man. “You have had spectacular commercial success, my friend. I have never witnessed anything like it before in our sea trade. And we owe it all to you, Dango. You have performed wonders for us.”

The latter glanced down the table at Ova. “I am happy to have helped your bank and therefore your personal interests, sir. And I have hope of performing even more in your interest. That is what I want to do in the days to come.”

Pero and the Captain finished eating in a tavern, then took a long walk along the main wharf of Insula harbor as the day came to a rapid end. Dark shadows from nearby hills grew wider as night came on.

It was the navigator who found himself doing most of the initial talking.

“These new additions have turned our way of life upside-down. Artillery and octopters have never been part of pirating out of Brigantine Island. No, we have never used these instruments of what belongs in some sort of plasma-powered naval fleet that engages in war at sea.

“How is the new system of raiding going to change how we live and work on this island? What are we to become with such instruments of force and coercion? I wish I could see the future development of these new methods. They might be quite surprising to all of us.”

Icho waited a number of moments before responding to what he had just heard.

“We need to learn more about how these novel ways influence those involved with them. They should be able to reveal the true nature of what they do. It may turn out to be a lot like what has always been accomplished by the pirates of our island.

“There is no benefit in exaggerating the effects of what is going on aboard our buccaneering vessels.”

Pero decided to voice his skepticism about the new ways.

“I do not see our expeditions into the Interior Sea for loot and booty as a variety of brute warfare. Our goal has never been to kill or destroy those who oppose our actions. When we come back to our home island, we are once more part of a large community.

“Our aim is not a negative one of pure destruction. That could be a constant risk that will be taken if we use augmented, lethal weapons such as these.”

Icho stopped and gazed at him as dusk gathered and thickened. He decided to say no more at that time.

Balno made a point of speaking with candor to his daughter once Dango Kirp had left the residence early in the evening.

The two sat together in the closed off, dimly lit back porch of the mansion.

The father began with an unexpected inquiry to Ova.

“What do you think of my informal business partner, my dear? He appears to be an industrious fellow not afraid to take a calculated risk.

“I see that he has a fine eye for opportunities whenever they appear or advance.

“It may become possible to cooperate with him on future projects or deals. I am greatly impressed by his knowledge of and interest in plasma gas. He possesses a remarkable ability to spot promising possibilities as soon as they surface.”

The father paused and waited, but his daughter did not venture to speak a single word.

The face and eyes of Ova had the look of her thoughts being far away.

Balno concluded that his daughter was growing sleepy after the excitement of having a male guest at their home.

3.

Sako Gora concentrated all his energy upon recruiting Captain Icho Nidat into his syndicate of newly equipped pirates. He sent several of his affiliated mariners to talk with and attempt to persuade the veteran skipper. Finally, he tracked down Icho in a waterside bar and set his sights on converting him to the new system of artillery and air vehicles.

“You must not remain with obsolete methods,” he argued.

The two sat by themselves at a back booth of the place. The gang leader was relentless in his pursuit of what he was after.

“We are the future,” insisted Sako. “The old style operation has become out-of-date. You must come onto one of our vessels with the rank of captain. I believe that you can be our top commander, my good man.”

Icho, furrowing his brow, seemed to sink into deep, inner thought. He went over and over the momentous choice facing him. Should he break his ties with Dango Kirp? Could he bring his crew over to the new system of piracy?

The troubled skipper wrestled with the possible consequences of jumping ship over to the fleet controlled by the main gangster of Brigantine Island.

Pero had an almost unconscious sense that something unfortunate and destructive was occurring in relation to his connection with Captain Icho Nidat. A terrible result was coming because of the attraction of the new system of pirating. This was drawing his friend into an orbit unfriendly to his own thinking.

The pair had the issue out between them at the tavern that both of them considered their favorite place to relax and enjoy themselves.

“I am not going to return to the tropics with Dango,” asserted Icho with iron in his voice. “That is definite. I made up my mind this morning, and the more I think it over, the more I see that it is a correct decision.

“I can’t allow such an opportunity pass me by. At heart, my destiny remains in the world of buccaneering. That is the way of life that I must return to.”

Icho looked at Pero for confirmation, afraid he would not find the support that he wanted.

The pilot shook his head, signifying his opposition to what was proposed.

“Will you join me?” asked the skipper. “Sako Gora himself has offered me the command of one of the ships with aircraft and cannons.”

There was uneasy silence for several moments.

“I intend to stay with commercial transporting,” announced Pero slowly. “It is impossible for me to throw away what has been achieved on our first voyage to the tropics with Dango.

“There are marvelous prospects ahead for vitrified hardwood, believe me.”

All at once, Icho stood up from the booth bench he was sitting on.

“Excuse me,” he muttered. “It is of no use to continue arguing over this matter. I am going to do what I must, going back to my original profession.”

Pero watched as his commander retreated and fled from the tavern.

Was this to be the moment in which their friendship and unity ended, once and for all? he asked himself again and again.

Dango woke up with a planned program in his mind.

He had conceived of an enterprise that could capture the imagination of Balno Mitne, the venturesome banker. If it could be sold as a hopeful investment, it might bring social respect and a fortune to the adventurer who first thought of it. Yes, it could open the door to fabulous success.

Dango decided to go to the bank as soon as possible and present his idea to Balno. His support would be the fundamental factor in bringing the dream to realization.

He found the banker in his office, not busy at the moment and happy to see the young man recently returned from the southern tropics.

Once Dango was seated, he began to explain what it was that was causing such sudden excitement in him.

“A startling vision came to me last night, sir, it shook me to my roots.

“If vitrifying hardwood can turn out so successful down in the tropical rainforest, why would it not be possible to duplicate such good fortune up here, in the temperate zone of the Interior Sea? I mean specifically here on Brigantine Island.

“We possess forest that contain valuable woods that could undergo treatment with plasma. There is oak, maple, elm, willow, poplar, sycamore, and countless other varieties of trees on our island. All of these can be improved and refined through ionized gases such as argon, neon, helium, xenon, and krypton. These are the so-called noble gases that have special chemical properties.

“Just think of what might happen if we had our own nanoplasmonic mills or factories here on our island! It could be the core of a new industrial complex situated in our midst. Yes, we could import large amounts of tropical wood, of various exotic characters. Combined with the wood grown locally, we could have a magnificent capacity for exporting throughout the shores of the Interior Sea. People would flock here for jobs and improvement of their standard of living. There is the possibility of great prosperity based upon our application of nanoplasma. Everyone everywhere would have to envy us.”

Balno Mitne made a sour, melancholy face. “I don’t know too much about this plasma business, except that I see such motors and engines in use, even on Brigantine Island, for many different kinds of purposes. But technologically, it is all a profound mystery for me.”

“I am reading everything I can get my hands on concerning this subject called nanoplasmonics. The whole thing happens in sealed vacuum chambers. Heating goes on due to electromagnetic waves fed into them to excite the ions of argon gas. The argon is superheated to fantastically high temperatures.

“The argon can be called energized or accelerated. It has the capability to produce radical molecular changes in any substance introduced into the vacuum chamber. Wood can be hardened to incredible levels. All sorts of material transformations become possible.”

Balno looked away, to one side. “I can’t decide on this quickly, but I promise to think deeply on what you told me. There will be an answer before too long, don’t worry about that, Dango.

“If there is anything promising in the area of plasma, we shall enter it on our own. No one can stop us, if we begin to move in on it.”

3.

Icho hired many old seafarers from previous commands of his, including ones from his last voyage, the long one down to the southern rainforest.

As the vessel he skippered left Insula harbor, he climbed up to the upper deck and looked out over the surface level of his iron galleon. His eyes caught sight of half a dozen octopters arranged in a line on the forward deck, ready for rapid departure on a raiding assignment. Upward toward the sky ranged the muzzles of long, wide artillery pieces along the edges of the prowl of the pirate ship.

What lay ahead for him and this seacraft? he asked himself.

The new weapons that he saw could have an effect on how swiftly a raid might occur. It might be the decisive factor in future outcomes, he decided.

Time would show how much new, more advanced weapons were to count in the balance out at sea.

Dango made periodic visits to the mansion in the evening in order to relate to the banker what the possibilities were in starting up a vitrification enterprise on the island.

“We can begin with only the simplest, most necessary devices and equipment,” said the young merchant. “For instance, a sealed vacuum tank and a large supply of argon gas would be a good start. Then, as we progress and continue, we could add on a number of additional elements. That, I believe, would be best, a moderate yet forward tempo of advance.”

A restless form of silence fell over the banker’s cozy little study.

“I have given the matter a great deal of thought,” finally said Balno. “I believe the bank can afford to place an initial sum at your disposal, Dango. I do wish to see the orders that you post for various items, along with their costs.

“Otherwise, you shall enjoy practically a free hand in this, my friend.”

Dango, surprised at this announcement, smiled at his host.

The pirate vessel commanded by Icho journeyed eastward, toward the busiest lanes of sea commerce anywhere in the Interior Sea.

The Captain summoned his officers and petty officers to the galley for a meeting to inform them of what had been determined they should try to obtain as loot and what variety of commercial carrier they should hunt down and attack.

Icho stood up and spoke in a high, loud tone.

“This is the moment when you shall learn where we shall attempt to find a ship carrying expensive electromagnetic equipment and devices that rank among the latest and most up-to-date. In other worlds, we will be seeking a ship that hauls the most advanced and exotic inventions of mainland technology.

“We shall take our time to find the most appropriate target for our raid, one that meets the most exacting of requirements. Our aim is to try to satisfy the highest kind of scientific demand. The prices of such things will, of course, be extremely high. So will the profits and the rewards. That also refers to how each of you will receive compensation.

“The greater the value of the prizes we take, the higher the payment to each and every one of us aboard this ship.

“Let us hope that our winnings are big and our rewards generous ones.”

The Captain then proceeded to outline the eventual order of attack once a fitting victim was discovered in the busy lanes of trade.

Pero was at loose ends after his uncomfortable break with Icho.

Most of his time he spent in mariner dives in the dock area of Insula.

He was usually alone, not willing to discuss the situation he was in with anyone else.

It was a surprise to him when he noticed Dango Kirp entering the beer hall he happened to be in that particular afternoon. He watched as the merchant looked about the place, saw him, and walked over to his little table.

“Pero! Just the person I wanted to see. How are you doing? Can I sit down and have a couple of words with you?”

“Certainly,” replied the navigator. “I have been inactive of late. It has been a lot like waiting for something to happen to me, whatever it turns out to be.”

Dango gave a sympathetic grin. “I guess that the fact of Captain Icho signing up with Sako Gora sort of shakes up all of us with connections to him.

“I myself was astounded by his unexpected behavior. He did not at all seem to be someone who might jump ship, at least to me. Yes, he upset many of us with his abrupt break. No one could have ever foreseen it.”

Pero, looking up, gazed into the face of the businessman across from him.

“Are you continuing with trips down to the tropical coast?” he inquired.

“That is still in the cards, but something new has come up, at least for me and my main investor.

“We are planning to enter the field of vitrification of hardwood right here on Brigantine Island. That means setting up a factory mill of our own, with all the necessary equipment and mechanisms. We aim to turn out glassified versions of wood from temperate zone trees, like oak, elm, and maple. In time, our facility would also have ordinary wood brought here from the southern rainforests. We will then have a new industry with valuable exports for us to sell on the mainland.

“That is the gist of the project I am working on, Pero.”

“It sounds interesting. But will this idea succeed?”

“There are risks involved, as in every new initiative, my friend. But this is what I wish to ask you? Are you willing to join the new company I am setting up around this enterprise? I would like to have someone with your technical knowledge assisting me set things up.”

Pero felt a jolt of surprise. “You think I could make some contribution?”

Dango nodded his head. “Yes, I do. We will meet here tomorrow and talk over what your duties and responsibilities will be.”

With that, he stood up and shook hands with the pilot, then turned around and left.

Icho chose a large, long iron carrier that had exited from a bay ringed with industrial centers, primarily producers of electronic and magnetic equipment.

From a short distance, the Captain ordered six octopters to take to the air and fly toward the target. Artillery teams manned their stations at the pieces from which shells were to be shot at the commercial vessel.

Defensive alarms sounded on the victim ship. Crew members rushed to the small gun placements they had been assigned to long before. Weapons were aimed at the approaching gliders and aircraft. The shots fired upward failed to hit anything. The attackers were moving too fast to permit that.

All at once, magnetically-controlled charges began leaving the pirate vessel’s deck. All of these missiles struck the deck of the trade ship. One of them hit and killed a mariner moving on the prowl.

The noise of the fired magnetic shells was deafening and overpowering.

Who could hope to stand up against such a well-armed force of attackers?

From his position on the bridge, Icho gave the command to near the enemy for a direct physical mounting and assault. Small boats were lowered into the water and prepared to take raiders over to the defeated carrier.

The Captain heaved a sigh of relief. His first advance with new weapons was going to prove successful, he realized.

He would soon be returning to Brigantine Island with valuable loot and winnings.

Balno Mitne was surprised by the strange note he received at his bank office.

The man who wished to meet with him was Sako Gora, the gang leader who was engaged in advanced piracy. What would such a person want with him? Balno was too intrigued by what this might mean. He could not refuse to see this notorious character, so he sent back a note setting the time and location for their meeting each other and talking.

It was to be in the early evening, at a reputable seafood restaurant a little way beyond the main wharf. Near the docks but not a part of them.

Balno arrived first and ordered a plate of his favorite sordo fish with ganoid sauce. He had not received his order when the large bruin appeared and came to his table. The gangster was wearing an expensive black silk suit.

“Good evening, Mr. Mitne,” began the racketeer. “It is so nice to see you.”

“Please sit down, Mr. Gora,” politely said the banker. “I have already ordered, but not yet started to eat.”

“I am here to talk with you more than to feed myself,” bluntly averred the underworld operator. “Could I begin to reveal to you what I am planning to do? I am certain it will be of surprising interest to you, sir.”

“Please, do as you wish. I am, indeed, greatly curious about what you have that you wish to inform me about.”

Sako made a cynical smirk. “As you have probably heard, I am now in the piracy business with local buccaneers whom I employ. Recently, several of them have informed me that your enterprise in the country has purchased several advanced technical apparatuses from them. These happen to be magnetic, electronic, and chemical items that they had available, but were unable to sale elsewhere.

“This information spurred me to try to contact you in order to make a startling proposal.

“If you are in need of any scientific or technical equipment of recent invention or development, I and my associates can attempt to obtain it for you from vessels transporting it over the Interior Sea.

“I would dare to call such operations a form of piracy by order, specific items for a particular buyer. That could be a very efficient way for me and my vessels to carry out our business.

“What do you say to my idea, Mr. Mitne?”

The latter felt disoriented and at a loss to reply.

“I must think over what you just told me,” muttered Balno. “We have to meet again, because I must know more. Questions are going to arise in my mind, I can foresee.

“But your ideas are new and quite innovative. Let me have some time to consider and judge what you have told me. I am truly interested.”

“I will call on you tomorrow, sir,” said the gangster, rising from his chair and making his way out of the seafood restaurant.

4.

Pero was surprised at how open Dango was in revealing to him the thoughts and ambitions he held in his mind.

The pair worked in the new office they leased in Insula for the new vitrifying enterprise. They had much planning and initial organizing to complete before a mill could enter into operation.

“We will have a good source of the mechanisms and equipment that are needed,” noted the businessman. “The pirates who are raiding under Sako Gora, with octocopters and artillery, can provide us all that we need for full completion of our program.

“Now, it is our task to find a convenient location for the new facility to be set up. Since I must stay here in Insula, present with Mr. Balno Mitne whenever there are decisions to make and deals to carry out, it will now be your assignment to scout about all of Brigantine Island in order to gather enough information for a choice of the site.

“It must be both well connected to Insula by good roads but also a place of sufficient privacy and security. It cannot be too isolated or too publicly accessible. Neither extreme would be good.

“Do you understand what we need, Pero?”

“I believe that I do,” boldly announced the navigator. “Don’t have any concern, I shall find the right combination of factors, as you described them to me.”

“We must keep Balno happy and satisfied, because it is his bank that provides us all of the capital that we need for the venture. He does not understand all the risks involved, which is a good thing at the beginning. As we become more deeply involved, you and I must give him more reason to maintain the present optimism that he feels. We must never let his spirit or faith in the program decline or flag.

“He must have constant, unwavering confidence in the investment he is making for his bank. There must never be a speck of doubt in his mind.

“It is up to the two of us to keep him with us. Do you understand what I am telling you?”

“Yes,” nodded Pero, breathless at what he was being told.

Dango lowered his voice. “Our greatest ally will be his daughter, Ova. She believes fully in the project that I have described in detail to her. We have begun a strong friendship that will hopefully help along the whole initiative. I place a lot of hope in my relationship in this specific area, Pero.”

The latter told himself to say nothing more, especially in response to the last statements of the merchant he was working with.

“I plan to rent a vehicle and start out on a tour of the island tomorrow morning,” he informed Dango, who appeared involved in his personal dreams, hopes, and schemes.

Sako Gora met with Captain Icho Nidat in the dockside tavern that had become the informal headquarters of the new syndicate of pirates that the former headed and that the latter was now a member of.

The twosome sat by themselves in a back booth usually used by the gangster to transact pirating business. He was the one dominating the conversation with the veteran skipper.

“Things are going well for us, right here on Brigantine Island. We have a single buyer willing to put out good, hard cash for what we can grab off of the trade vessels carrying anything having to do with plasma technology and operations. Name it, and this new outfit wants it, as soon as possible.

“I am turning the bulk of our pirate fleet into pursuit of this kind of equipment and instruments. I don’t have any idea what these birds have in mind to do with it, but as long as they pay good money for these items, I mean to supply them with such.

“Do you see the sense of what I’m saying, Captain?”

Icho tried to make a slight smile. “Yes, I think that I do. My ship will be leaving for the eastern shore trade lanes early tomorrow morning. My hope is to return with my cargo hulls full of valuable goods of that particular variety. As long as the demand lasts, I’ll continue my raiding to get more and more of it for them.”

“Good!” beamed the happy racketeer. “We are all going to become comfortable in this specific kind of piracy, my good man.”

Dango Kirp found that the willowy Ova Mitne was devoting more time and attention to what she wore and how she looked.

Her hair had become shorter and better groomed. She wore more colorful and expensive dresses on all occasions of the day and the evening.

His conclusion had to be that she was now aware of the attention he was paying to her, and it suited his own plans quite well.

It seemed to him, as well, that her father had no opposition of any sort to the care and attention he was directing toward the young woman.

“Would you like to go with me to a band concert in downtown Insula, Ova? The mariner’s orchestra is scheduled to play old traditional music of the Interior Sea mariners. It should be a beautiful affair, everybody says.”

Ova stifled an incipient blush on her cheek. “That sounds delightful, Dango. Yes, I would be very happy to accompany you to the musical performance down in Bay Park. I have never been to anything like that before. Father has never had time for such recreation, being so busy with his bank.”

The face of Dango nearly glowed with satisfaction. “We will have ourselves an evening of pure happiness, Ova,” he managed to tell her.

5.

Pero drove the gascar he had rented over a rocky road into the village of Coro on the northern coast of Brigantine Island. I will spend the night here however becomes possible, the tired traveler decided.

He parked his vehicle near the shore on the shore road and entered a central inn in order to ask for directions.

Sitting down at a small table in the nearly empty eating hall, he watched as a fat little man with a white apron approached and asked what he might like to order.

“What kinds of fish do you serve here in Coro?”

The heavy man frowned. “The fish seemed to have moved out of our old, traditional fishing areas, so that we no longer catch the kind that our parents and forefathers did.

“I can offer you only shad, gadus, or hacod. In olden days, we had jackfish, devilfish, flatfish, and rosefish brought in by our sea teams, but now they have moved themselves far away from our coastal waters. Things have never been the same for us. There are only a fraction of the number of fishermen that we had generations ago. Many families have moved elsewhere, away from Coro, because the catches are smaller and fewer than they were before. Even our old cannery had to close down. And a lot of jobs there were gone. Women were the ones who lost their jobs there.”

The thoughts of Pero suddenly focused on what he had just heard from the fat restaurant-owner.

“You say there was a cannery that operated here in Coro?” asked the mariner.

“It was a fairly large operation, with over a hundred people working there, putting all kinds of popular fish into cans. The old structure has stood empty for many years.”

Pero grew exited. “Where in your village is this vacant building?”

“Down at the western end, past the last of the occupied houses. It is very large, made of dark brown bricks. Most of the windows are broken from long neglect.”

Pero turned silent, falling into deep thought.

“What would you like to eat, sir,” asked the puzzled server.

“I’ll have boiled hacod,” smiled the traveler, turning to the one who had revealed so much to him.

4.

Dango decided on the third concert visited with Ova as the right moment to make his move.

The too took a long walk back to the mansion where she resided with her father. Her dress this evening was a shiny, pure white.

The pair were approaching the magnificent home when the merchant suddenly came to a stop. Taking note of it, Ova did the same.

“What is it?” he said in nearly a whisper.

He turned his dark green eyes on her face.

“Ova, why don’t you and I marry? We like each other and get along quite well. I promise to work hard at becoming a good husband, one the you and your father can be proud of. Your well-being and happiness will be my main goals in life. I see myself as absolutely dedicated to you and your interest.”

She gulped, then started to breath fast and deeply. Her head had a spinning sort of sensation.

All at once, a beaming smile covered her mouth.

“Yes, I shall do it with you, Dango. We shall be mates to each other. My life and your life will fuse together into our life together.”

“Let’s go in the house,” he told her. “I myself will tell your father.”

It was a pleasant surprise to the man who had just proposed marriage to Ova.

Balno, sitting at his giant desk in his library, gave him a radiant, beaming smile.

“What you tell me makes me happier than I can remember ever been, my friend,” announced the banker. “I may tell you this: what you have carried out this evening makes me very satisfied, because it has for a long time been my hope and family ambition.

“The more I grew acquainted with your capabilities in the world of business, the greater became my admiration for you and your possibilities.

“Now I have seen my dream come true. You will become like a natural son to me, just as Ova is my natural daughter. The love I have for her will from now on be shared with you. You shall be a dear, intimate relative, inheriting all that I leave to my family.

“You and your wife, Ova, will from now on be as one single person.”

Balno, all of a sudden, leaped out of his chair and rushed about his desk.

Dango was astounded as his future father-in-law placed his arms around his shoulders and embraced him.

The banker kissed his coming son-in-law on the cheek.

“Let us see Ova and begin to plan ahead,” murmured the jubilant Balno.

The wedding was small and private, with a reception party held in an elite restaurant in central Insula.

Pero attended, but then quickly drove back to his assignment setting up the vitrification plant on the north coast of Brigantine Island.

It was only a week and a half after the wedding ceremony and the short honeymoon period that followed it that Dango came to see how the project in Coro was proceeding forward.

The two men sat talking in the office that Pero had set up at the shore end of the factory building.

“How is marriage life, my friend? How have you and Ova adjusted to living together?”

Dango grinned with joy. “This is unlike anything I have ever before experienced. It was impossible for me to imagine what it could be. But I feel like I am a new person, somebody I have never been before. What might have been impossible for me before, has now become perfectly possible.

“It is difficult to explain, Pero. A person has to actually live something like this in order to have even the slightest understanding what it is.

“I am no longer alone, living for myself and by myself. Something different has entered my existence, and it thrills me all the way through.”

The navigator nodded his head. “I guess that is beyond me, a bachelor,” he muttered as if to himself.

Dango began to muse aloud. “I have always been a salesman. And some of the people I have dealt with might have thought me a sort of con man. But I know a little about how to convince others to go along with me.

“In order to sell a thing or an idea, you have to be able to sell it to yourself first of all. In fact, before you can con someone else, you have to con yourself on whatever it is you are trying to sell.”

Dango suddenly stopped, realizing he was saying too much.

The two gazed at each other a brief time.

“Let me show you around what has been already finished in the building,” proposed Pero, rising out of his chair.

6.

The advanced form of piracy conceived of by Sako Gora grew and thrived with astonishing success. In all sections of the Interior Sea, buccaneering vessels from Brigantine Island raided commercial ships with valuable cargos, sparing only carriers that made their homes in Insula Harbor and elsewhere on the island’s coast.

Once the factory at Coso was in operation, it took in tropical wood from the southlands and turned out fully vitrified products ready for export elsewhere.

Dango made frequent visits to supervise the operations made by the man on the spot, Pero Arslan. One afternoon, as the pair walked together near the beach, the businessman from Insula revealed what path his ideas happened to be taking.

“It is no secret that my thought originally dwelled on the possibilities of developing forms of vitrified coral for sale in ports and markets across the sea lanes. I only turned to hardwood products when I visited the tropics along with you and Captain Icho. It was there that I stumbled upon the lumber mill in the back forest where rainforest trees furnished the wood that underwent plasmatic treatment. I was fortunate to see at once the prospects for this tropical hardwood in over-the-sea trade.

“We purchased a shipload to take with us on the converted carrier, and it proved to be a phenomenal success for us. A whole new field of marketing suddenly opened up for us.

“But I never lost or forgot my original dream of developing and selling a converted form of coral, with new properties of toughness and stability.

“I foresaw this vitrified coral as a construction material that could be used in different climates and circumstances. There would come to be high demand for it all over the Interior Sea.

“And I continue to believe that such a path will be a successful one for us.”

An idea occurred to the one hearing this, Pero Arslan.

“But why look in the far southern areas for coral? I know that there are many forms of coral throughout the sea, even in the waters close to Brignatine Island.

“Why not make building material out of what we have near to us? As I recall, there is hard coral available near our own coastline. Why not begin by finding, excavating, and utilizing what we already have? There would be no need to take on the expense of hauling the coral far over the Interior Sea.”

The two stared at each other in silence for a short while.

“Why don’t you survey and find out what our own waters offer us in terms of coral, Pero?” inquired the merchant with a broad smile on his face.

The director of the vitrification plant used many sources in marine biology and geology to explore the corals available in proximity to his island.

He delved into the characteristics of different species: brain corrals, plate corals, fox corals, finger leathers, carnation corals, caulastrea, cynarina, euphylla, blastomussa, montipora, acropora, pagoda-turbinakia, and bubble corals.

Pero had local employees of the factory dive into the sea in order to obtain samples of each type for him to examine, test, and analyze. His small team of trained chemists used their little laboratory to determine the possibilities and prospects for each one of them.

Each time that Dango came to the factory from Insula, he received more optimistic reports from the director.

“There can be enormous value in the best forms of coral,” said Pero with rising hope. “You are right, Dango, this is a perfect substance ready for vitrifying treatment. We must begin working on it at once, without delay.”

Ova and her husband enjoyed together the weekends when they were both relaxed and able to enjoy the presence of the other.

Both of them liked to walk the forest trails behind and above the residence where they lived with Balno Mitne, who continued to be one of the leading figures in the island’s financial and economic life.

The pair stopped and sat down on a polymer bench overlooking the city and the harbor of Insula.

All at once, Dango fell into a kind of mental maze in which he spoke as never before in his previous life.

“I never expected, Ova, that marriage would be like this. It is the result of your influence, whether you consciously apply it or are conscious of what you do to me.”

He turned toward her, gazing into her chestnut eyes.

“I can say that you changed and remade me, Ova,” he murmured. “I am not the same person that I was just a short time ago. You have recreated me completely, in all respects. I am a different Dango Kirp, in ever conceivable way. It has become impossible for me to recognize myself as who I used to be.
Do you see the changes that you made in me, Ova?”

She stared into his eyes of dark green as if looking there for something. What was he talking about? What did his words mean? Ova was lost and confused.

“I did not mean do trouble or disturb you, dear Dango,” she managed to whisper to him. “Forgive me, if you will.”

He began to breath fast with excitement. “There is nothing for me to forgive. All I wish to do is to thank you, thank you, and thank you, my dear.”

“Let’s go home,” said Ova, weighed down in her mind with confusion.

7.

Sako Gora was not a happy man, despite what he had achieved in transforming the piracy based on Brigantine Island.

The amount of currency, investments, and power he had amassed for himself did not bring him the elevated status and position he aspired to.

He let none of his associates or underlings in the buccaneer world suspect his low self-esteem or ego. No, Sako was expert in assuming a pose that denied any such impression upon those around him.

He continued to frequent the pirate and mariner establishments he had been a patron of during the earlier years when he was only a land-based racketeer.

The only individual with whom Sako was ever intimate with happened to be Captain Icho Nidat. This was his best ship skipper, the gang leader believed. And no one else in his organization evinced as much loyalty and integrity.

The pair spent many nights at an old dock tavern when Icho happened not to be out at sea.

“I am not a man satisfied to stand still,” said Sako one night over his pivo beer. “My sight is always set on the horizon and what may be concealed on the other side of it.”

Icho gave him a searching look that conveyed a question. He waited a time before he asked “What do you happen to be dreaming of tonight, Sako?”

The latter gave a sarcastic grin that resembled a troubled grimace.

“I want to accomplish something that no one before me has,” he muttered. “I mean that inside the world of our island’s history and tradition of piracy. My dream is one of doing something so surprising that everyone on Brigantine Island is surprised, amazed, and deeply affected. That is what I aim for.”

Captain Icho furrowed his brow. “I can’t imagine what you are thinking of,” he murmured. “We are doing pretty well at present, aren’t we? Everyone is saying that we are.”

Sako lowered his voice to nearly a whisper. “There is one kind of cargo that no one dares go after and raid. Pirates have always feared breaking this unwritten, unacknowledged law of ours.”

“What do you mean?” asked the puzzled Captain.

Sako turned his blackish eyes to one side as he made a reply.

“The trade in vitrified coral is expanding to incredible dimensions, and most of it comes from the north coast village of Coso, which will soon be growing into a town. A harbor dock was built there, and soon a second and a third one too.

“Those cargos would not at all be difficult to take over out on the Interior Sea. They are a very tempting target to aim for, I tell myself.”

“Nothing like what you say has ever been done by pirates of Brigantine Island,” moaned Icho in a heavy tone. “There could be negative consequences harmful to persons who get involved in anything like that.”

Sako stared fixedly into the face of the Captain, speaking only after he had calculated what it was best to say to this reluctant associate.

“I think that any such project has to start slowly, on a fairly reduced scale. We must not rush into it before we know for certain how it will come out in action.

“So, I propose to have a sort of test raid carried out. It will be done by some of our younger, less important pirates on one of our older, less valuable vessels. I am sure that no one involved with the carriers out of Coso Harbor will suspect or anticipate that any such pirate attack threatens any of their ships. And you need have no part or contact whatsoever in this project, which will be something like a scientific experiment.

“What do you think of my idea of going into the matter slowly and cautiously, Icho?

“Isn’t that the only right way to enter an area that breaks with the ideas of the past?”

The Captain said nothing, merely nodding yes with his head. He kept whatever doubts or fears he had to himself.

Balno Mitne and his daughter visited the vitrification facility in Coso for the first time in a company plasma-car driven by a chauffeur.

It was Dango who insisted that they go on a tour of the factory with him immediately. He was exuberant about what had so far been achieved and what stood ahead for the production of both hardwood and coral products whose molecular structure had been modified into new, planned forms.

He led them through the different stages of the transformation process, explaining in simple terms the nature of what they were seeing being done.

“Our factory line performs on the basis of plasma arc vitrification. These furnaces before you carry out a form of thermal plasma melting. Then there occurs in the following tanks the centrifugal treatment of the natural substance, whether tropical hardwood, island wood, or sea coral.

“Everything occurs with constant measurement and testing, so that the final product that comes out of the furnaces is exactly what was planned for by our nano-chemists. We end up with exactly meets the needs and specifications of the market out there, across the Interior Sea.

“Isn’t it all amazing?”

The trio made their way back toward the factory office from where they had started their tour of the production system.

It was at the door into the large room that Pero rushed up to them, handing a written message to Dango. His hazel eyes looked full of nervous excitement.

“Something terrifying has just come in over magnetic wave. One of our ships, heading toward the eastern coast of the sea, underwent attack and raid from a pirate vessel. The cargo load was quickly hauled away and has been lost. Our ship turned around and is heading back here now.”

“Incredible!” shouted out Dango. “Nothing like this ever happened to any of our vessels before. How can such a thing be possible?”

Pero frowned. “It could only have been some pirates from Brigantine Island. This is the only place that permits buccaneers to dock. How could it be? Who was behind such an outrage?”

No one had any answer for the factory director.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s