Brigantine Island Part III

6 Sep

1.

The people of the island had never experienced raiding of one of its transporters by native pirates.

Dango, Pero, and Balno conferred on the earthshaking problem they now faced.

Balno decided to speak first to the other two, while his daughter stood aside a small distance away from the three men.

“I must get back to Insula and find out what anyone knows about this criminal action,” he told them. “The police and the town officials might be able to take some kind of action to put a stop to such piracy on fellow islanders. I don’t have much hope, but an attempt at justice must be made by us.”

Dango turned toward his father-in-law. “I think that I should stay here in Coso in order to arm and prepare our remaining ships in case they suffer attacks in the days just ahead. Pero will help me get our crews of mariners ready for conflict with the new variety of piracy on the Interior Sea.

“First of all, we have to figure out where each ship already at sea is at present located. We can start from there, making immediate magnetic radio contact with each vessel in our commercial fleet.”

“I have a strong suspicion who it was that cooked up this bastardly action,” added Pero. “It had to be the gang leader who armed and modernized the old pirate ships docked in Insula. We all know who that was. He is the only person with the possibility of having organized and led such an unprecedented project.”

Dango pronounced the name. “Sako Gora. That man has both the mind and the heart of an arch-criminal. He is the one who would dare to break the traditional rules that the pirates of Brigantine Island created and followed for generations. Now, all of that historical heritage lies broken and abandoned.

“If he is willing to take such drastic measures, we must also look for new methods of opposing the criminality. That has become necessary. We must seize hold of the situation that now faces us.”

Balno turned to his daughter. “Come along, Ova. It is time that we left Coso for home.”

Sako was jubilant when he received the first report from the ship that carried out the precedent-setting assault on a commercial carrier from the island.

He hurried to his favorite dockside tavern with a written copy of the message he had received. His closest associates sat at booths and tables in groups. Captain Icho sat by himself at a short distance away.

Sako read off the transmitted account in a high, loud voice.

“We traced the targeted transport to near the eastern shores of the Interior Sea. The ship was headed toward the large port of Skidon City, the busy commercial center with many mineral plants in its region. The factor of total surprise provided magnificent advantage to the pirate raiders, making the overpowering of the carrier quick and easy to carry out.

“As expected, the cargo holds contained large quantities of expensive vitriol coral. Transporting to the pirate vessel began at once and occurred with amazing speed. The attackers left the scene with an enormous quantity of valuable goods and materials. Our plans were fulfilled with amazing ease and speed. We outdid all our earlier expectations.

“According to our orders, we shall transport what we obtained directly to Skidon City, where the target was itself going.

“There will be merchants there eager to purchase what we plan to offer to them for quick sale. They will be more than willing to pay us for the cargos that were expected to be delivered to them by those who lost control of what they carried.”

Balno communicated by wirephone with the Mayor of Insula, then with the President of the Town Council. Neither official offered him any relief or solution, saying that they lacked legal authority to act against piracy, even this scandalous, outrageous kind. The banker was greatly disappointed by them.

The Governor General issued a proclamation absolving his government of any responsibility in connection with the attack.

“All of these actions, though they had criminal aspects to them, occurred out on the Interior Sea, distant from the territory of Brigantine Island. On the open sea, our authorities lack jurisdiction and authority.”

Balno then decided to talk with a childhood comrade, Nunk Bredo, who was now the Chief Judge of the High Court of all Brigantine Island.

The Main Courthouse was a gigantic granite structure looking down on Insula Harbor from a hill on the outskirts of the downtown area. It was an expensive, magnificent structure where the most important legal decisions were reached.

Balno phoned and made an appointment to see his friend. Nunk answered him himself. “Come over to my office at once,” said the judge. “I can guess what it is that you wish to talk with me about.”

Judge Bredo was a small, short, nearly invisible figure with a child’s round face and baby blue eyes. His auburn hair hung down in thick threads of red.

He invited Balno to sit down across from him, first heartily shaking both his hands.

“I am fully aware of what one of our pirate ships did to a carrier of yours, my friend,” began the jurist. “What are you going to do about it? There will certainly be other raids following this initial one. I can foresee tremendous losses for your coral vitrification program. It will cause great disruption to a new industry that is beginning to grow and thrive.”

The banker’s face appeared to turn pale. “That is why I came here to see you, Nunk. I am at my wit’s end and can’t come up with any kind of solution.

“What advice can you give me, old pal? This notorious gangster, Sako Gora, has broken the rules by which generations of pirates have lived and operated. Nothing as outrageous as this raid has ever occurred. My people and I are at a loss. What can we or anybody do about this trouble that Sako has created?”

The Judge stared at him in silence, thinking hard on the question.

“I see only one possible solution through use of the law,” he slowly declared. “You must bring a legal complaint against Mr. Sako Gora. The complaint will be one of criminal business conspiracy. He has brought in pirates and their ships against you and your partners in the vitric coral industry for the purpose of destroying your trade and commerce.

“He can be characterized as the organizer of a dark, nefarious plot to put your enterprise out of business operation. And that is clearly illegal under the laws and the rules of our Brigantine Island legal system.

“In fact, this very afternoon I shall issue a mandamus ordering Mr. Gora to stop his conspiracy at once. He is to break all arrangements with pirate ship captains that are part of any such criminal program.

“And I intend to issue general court orders forbidding any and all pirate captains from cooperating with him in organized raids on any of your coral-carrying vessels.

“He and his cohorts will have to obey and comply, or face the authority of my High Court. That will become clear to each and every one of them.”

Nunk and Balno smiled at each other.

“That is a legal solution, all right,” muttered the banker. “But will these characters down on the docks obey it?”

“They must,” said the Judge. “They must.”

Dango and Pero stood on the Coso wharf, watching as a carrier craft packed with vitric coral slowly moved into the Interior Sea. Twilight was falling, since the idea was that setting forth during nighttime provided the transport ship a small measure of protection from possible piracy.

“What do you think, Pero?” asked the businessman of the factory director. “What is the risk that this vessel might fall under attack at sea?”

The one being questioned thought several moments, then turned his face directly upon that of the one questioning him.

“I really don’t know, and I can’t say, one way or the other. Perhaps the pirates will lay off for a spell, or maybe their greed will lead them to make an immediate attack on a coral cargo.

“No one can say for sure, because the one directing the crime would have to be an individual we both know. I refer, of course, to Sako Gora.

“Is there any individual on Brigantine Island with such an evil, corrupted mind and personality? I doubt that there is.”

“I will be on my way to Insula tonight, Pero. My hope is that Balno can come up with a way to fight and defeat that gangster, Sako Gora.”

“I will try to keep production going in the plant,” promised the director. “My plan is to keep loading and sending out our carriers. We have to take the risks involved in that.

“We will find a solution to what has happened, Dango. There must be a way to overcome piracy on property owned by islanders like the buccaneers themselves.”

2.

Two court bailiffs, both in black formal suits, found Sako Gora sitting in his favorite tavern with a tall mug of pivo beer on the small round table in front of him.

“Sir, you happen to be Mr. Sako Gora of Insula?”

The gang leader looked up at the gigantic official with surprise and apprehension in his dark eyes. “Yes, what do you want with me, may I inquire?”

“I am the main bailiff of Chief Judge Nunk Bredo of the High Court of Brigantine Island, and it is my duty and responsibility to serve you with the judicial order which I am about to hand over and place in your possession, sir.”

The man in black pulled out a rolled-up scroll of heavy paper from a notebook he held in his left hand, then placed it on the table top beside the mug of pivo.

As Sako reached over to pick up and examine the court edict, the Chief Bailiff and his accompanying assistant turned about and made quick exits from the mariner’s tavern.

The gangster found that he had to read three times before he understood the gist of the juridical order commanding him to cease his conspiring with pirates of Brigantine Island to steal the vitric coral off of transport ships based on the very same island of the Interior Sea.

Sako put the scroll down and picked up his mug for a drink.

He had to plan and connive to get around the troubling prohibition levied by the Chief Judge on the island.

Balno informed his son-in-law of what he had succeeded in winning from the High Court of Brigantine Island.

“We have placed the weight of law on the back and shoulders of the criminal leader, Sako Gora,” he reported with evident pride in his voice. “My hope is that this will put a halt to what the man is doing, but we can’t be perfectly certain of that. He is a slippery operator with a great deal of cleverness to him.

“We shall have to wait and see what the results turn out to be, Dango.”

At that moment, Ova walked into the study of her father. Gasping for breath upon seeing her husband sitting there, she stepped up and kissed him on the cheek with a contented smile.

He returned the kiss on her cheek with a similar smile.

“I am happy to see you back in Insula,” she quietly whispered. “How did you leave things back there in Coso, dear one?”

“One carrier left as I left,” he told her. “We have to wait to learn how successful its voyage turns out to be.”

Her father then spoke. “I just informed Dango of the court order that I was able to have issued. We will be waiting to see what its final effect is. It may be the answer we need to this new form of piracy we are suffering from.”

The skipper of the ship with a cargo of vitrified coral and hardwood did not foresee any danger of pirate attack and raid until his vessel came much nearer to the eastern coast of the Interior Sea.

It was the dawn of the second day out of Coso Harbor that the surprise appearance of a pirate aggressor occurred.

“There is a strange, unidentified ship to the east of us,” announced the officer who awakened the captain from sleep in his executive cabin.

The chief of the carrier jumped out of bed in complete panic. His face was blank and pale yellow. From the center of his mind beat the warning bell of deadly terror. This should not be the moment of collision with danger. It was much too early for that. The unforeseeable had appeared out of its proper time.

Once he was dressed in uniform of marine blue, the skipper rushed up to his vessel’s bridge.

As he looked out at the approaching pirate ship, the realization dawned on him that it was too late to get out of the way, flee, or avoid impending disaster.

In the air above the raider, octopters with teams of pirates aboard rose and headed toward their determined target, the coral-hardwood carrier.

From a long, narrow cannon aboard the raider echoed the sound of a terrifying explosion. It had to be the shooting off of a plasma shell toward the carrier.

The captain watched passively as the missile struck the stern deck of his ship.

All is lost, and there is nothing left except to surrender our cargo to these buccaneers, he decided.

There is no alternative to giving up to them what the pirate attackers want.

The vitrified coral and hardwood is theirs to do with as they wish. There is no way to keep it in our possession any longer.

I and my men will have to recognize that we are overpowered and must do as these criminals tell us to do.

Pero had just walked into his office at the Coso plant when a production associate hurried up to him with the news that had been received over the magnetic radio connection with the carrier most recently sent off carrying a vitrified cargo.

“We have only a minute ago received a message from the eastern sea,” he declared in a shakily troubled voice. “The ship that left Coso is in bad circumstances. A pirate raider has attacked and looted its cargo. In a very short time, octopters landed on board from above and several plasma shells were fired, causing serious material damage to our vessel.

“The goods being hauled are all lost, and the pirate ship has moved away with surprising speed. The entire raid began and ended faster than the captain, pilot, or anyone else could have anticipated. It was fast as a bolt of lightning.

“We are informed that the event is now finished and that there is nothing that anyone at all can do about the losses suffered by our carrier.”

Pero, his brain spinning almost out of control, braced himself against a nearby vitric desk.

“I will send word of this by wirephone to Insula at once,” he managed to whisper to the three assistants who had gathered around him. “Then, I must drive over to talk over what we are going to do with Balno and Dango.”

3.

Icho, failing to take over command of a private raider for over half a year, lodged in a small apartment that was part of a decrepit cement structure on the far edge of the Insula docks, near the outlet from the harbor and close to the open sea and its cool breezes.

Most of his spare, unfilled time occurred in seamen’s taverns nearer the downtown center of the town.

It was rare for him to have any visitor there, but Sako Gora knocked on his door late one morning, awakening the veteran skipper from a long night and daylight extension of his sleep and rest.

A tired, confused, and half-conscious Icho went to the outer door and opened it, surprised by the large, husky figure he discovered standing there.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed your sleeping, Icho, but I had to speak with you right away,” humbly said the gangster, attempting a small, limited smile.

“Come in and sit down,” said the Captain, dressed in a long, white night sheet. His tow hair shot out wildly in several direction. He rubbed his drowsy hazel eyes with both hands.

Sako took a plain wooden chair whose yellow paint had long before faded away, while the mariner continued to stand, facing the surprise visitor directly.

“I had to come and see you because of the serious problem that I face, Icho.

“The High Court of Brigantine Island has placed me under a sort of injunction that forbids me to take the lead in organizing pirate raids upon any ships hauling cargos from our own shores or harbors. Under threat of being prosecuted, convicted, and then imprisoned, I must cease any involvement whatever in the buccaneering business of Insula Harbor. That command forbids me from organizing, planning, or supervising the new variety of assaults on ships transporting vitrified coral or any kind of vitric hardwood from the new docking facility located at Coso and serving the glassifying factory established there by certain Insula interests.

“I face an enormous problem, my good friend, and you are the only person who can solve it for me.”

“What are you talking about?” nervously asked the suddenly apprehensive Icho.

The underworld operator presented a grave expression of desperation. “You must help and save me. Everything depends on you. Or else everything that I began will fall into ruin. It will all have been for nothing.”

“What is it that you want from me, Sako?” inquired the other, with both fear and a measure of suspicion.

The visitor suddenly stood up from the chair he sat on.

“I must leave this town and take myself into hiding, without direct, daily contact with any pirates located here in Insula. Only that will be proof that I am complying with the court edict and no longer connected with any kind of piracy, especially the new sort that raids the ships leaving Coso with coral and hardwood.

“But, in order to continue, the newly initiated series of attacks must have a chief supervisor, someone to plan, arrange, and coordinate further raiding of what is sent out from Coso.

“I need you to act as commander of the new system of piracy, dear Icho.”

Sako shaped his face into a desperate, pleading, nearly begging kind of grimace.

“You have to do this for the skippers and mariners who are dependent on continued piracy,” muttered the gang commander in a whispering tone.

Seeing no alternative and no way of escape, Icho found himself relenting.

“Very well, I’ll try to do it,” he sadly agreed.

Balno had a mood of confidence and optimism as he met with Dango and Pero.

“I would say that we are cutting off the head of the conspiracy that opposes and harms us,” said the banker, walking with the pair to where the plasma-powered vehicle of Pero was parked.

The three men stopped and each one of them faced the other two.

Dango summarized what lay ahead for them in Coso.

“We must step up the amount of transporting from our docks by the factory, then. There are no good reasons to hesitate, if the chief criminal has been halted. I trust that the pirates from Insula will no longer be taking over our cargo shipments across the sea.”

Pero and Dango climbed into the front seats of the plasma-car, the former at the steering wheel.

Balno watched as the pair began their journey back to Coso.

Icho walked into the rear room of the old beer hall. He had earlier asked the proprietor to reserve the chamber for a private meeting of his friends and associates. The latter consisted of the leading pirate ship commanders who were members of the association set up and put into action by Sako Gora.

Once everyone had been served pivo beer and the door to the room securely closed, Icho started to address those who were present.

“I am the one placed in charge of our pirate syndicate, now that a court edict has removed our originator out of contact with us.

“We are to continue with the kind of raiding already begun. And we have to find a way to improve our methods as much as possible. Yes, we must put all of our vessels out to sea as soon as possible. Our scouting boats with magnetic instrumentation will be on the lookout for carriers leaving Coso with cargos of wood and coral. These targets are to be trailed to positions where they will be available for our raiders to take over so our crews can confiscate all that they carry.

“So, let us not delay. Our ships are safest out on the Interior Sea. That is where we must hunt them down. Let us act at once. There are valuable commodities on the vessels that are to fall to our pirate crews.”

The skippers hearing these spirited words from Icho felt and shared the enthusiasm he had within his own mind now that he was leader of their combined movement.

4.

The vehicle in which Dango and Pero rode slowed down as it climbed over the last hill before arrival in Coso. Both of them were tired and eager to rest and sleep in their quarters adjacent to the vitrification factory.

Pero, at the steering wheel, began to express the thoughts arising in his mind during a period of silent contemplation.

“I believe we now have the upper hand,” he quietly muttered. “Our ships should now be able to cross the waters without hindrance from our enemy, Sako Gora. My expectation is that he has been checkmated by your old friend, the High Judge of Brigantine Island.”

“We shall soon have the evidence, one way or the other,” mused Dango, as if speaking to himself. “But I remain suspicious of a person as wily and sharp as this rotten character. He will surely try to find a way to continue with the new pirate campaign he is the father of.”

“What can the man do?” asked the driver. “He would be disobeying a legal court document, wouldn’t he?”

The passenger grinned to himself. “From experience, I know how operators like Mr. Gora can act when cornered like this. I place nothing at all beyond a gangster like him. I have seen crooked characters like him even in legitimate businesses, let alone the underworld of Insula.

“He will try to do something, I have no doubt of that.”

Two carrier ships left Coso the same day, one heading west and the other northward. Both were large vessels loaded with heavy cargos of vitrified hardwood and coal. The second on the sea, pirates on modernized plasma ships attacked, seized, and looted both victims. Octopters and artillery shells brought both targets to heel within minutes.

Pero was in the main office in Coso when a magnetic message was received, first from the western sea, then from out of the north.

Feeling shaken and uneasy, he went out to find Dango, who had gone off into the factory to inspect how a newly discovered variety of coral called Sarcophyton was coming forth after undergoing treatment in the plant’s chambers and tanks.

As soon as Pero informed Dango of the unfortunate news just received, the merchant made a proposal.

“It looks like Sako is outwitting us,” he said with a pained frown. “Let’s go back to the office and get in touch with Balno. He can tell us whether there are any new, changed conditions there in Insula.

“He may have some idea what we should attempt to do next.”

Saying nothing more, the pair left the factory, both of them crestfallen by what had occurred to the two transports.

“Where is Sako? What happened to him? No one in Insula can see or find him today. The guy has completely vanished, without any clue about where he might be.”

Icho listened patiently to similar questions asked him in the bars and inns he visited along the dockside of the town’s harbor.

But the new pirate leader had no truthful, honest answer to give.

“He is no longer here in Insula, I am certain,” repeatedly replied the pirate veteran. “Once he comes in contact with me, I shall inform everyone in our association.”

Pelo had difficulty falling asleep as the danger to shipping from Coso grew ever more serious and threatening.

What can be done to stymy the attacks from Brigantine Island ships that have their home location in Insula Harbor?

His mind wrestled with the problem, searching for a yet unseen solution.

If there were some sort of defense to protect the vessels being targeted, he wondered.

If there were a wall, a fence or barrier that could be erected about the ships leaving Coso.

What might it consist of, though? How would it repel the attacking buccaneers?

If it were only possible to set up a kind of sheath, whether electrical, magnetic, or perhaps…plasmatic.

His thoughts made Pero leap out of bed and rush to the technical library in the office building next to the vitrification factory.

He had to find out weather the idea that occurred to him that night had any possibility or reality to it.

His indefinite hope was that the concept was not an illusion.

Sako Gora found a vacant cottage he was able to rent without attracting any attention at all to himself.

He settled in, bringing a limited, minimal amount of furniture and necessities along. His comfort was the least of what worried him.

From the back porch of the little bungalow, his eyes were able to see and monitor the vitrification factory of Coso.

In the harbor below, rested several transport carriers moored at the new docks of the booming village.

What were his plans from up here, where he could spy with ease on his enemies down in the valley?

That was not yet clearly defined in his thought. He realized that vigilance was needed, if he was to meet with success as he hid on this height above Coso.

Some vague, inner impulse told him that he would catch something of enormous importance from this location in which he had situated himself.

5.

Dango could not conceal the profound concern and apprehension weighing on his mind. He spoke to Pero in a tone permeated with sadness and worry.

“The last three ships that left Coso have all lost their cargos to the new class of pirates,” he murmured with a moan. “They are continuing to move and act out of Insula with complete immunity. And though Sako Gora fell under a High Court mandamus to stop his supervision and coordination of the pirate attacks, he was able to disappear from the city and his place of hiding is totally unknown to the authorities and police.

“What can we do? Our ships appear to be without defense of any sort. Will our commercial shipments by sea have to halt? That would mean the end of what we have created here at Coso, a vitrifying industry on Brigantine Island, one that supplies special hardwoods and corals for many lands.

“Can your experiments with plasma projection provide a way out for us, Pero? Will a system of vessel defense protect future shipping from being ruined?”

He looked at the other with blazing eyes of dark green.

The two exchanged steady, inquiring gazes of desperation.

“I think that I should visit Insula in order to find out whether the High Court and Nunk Bredo can do anything about Sako’s gang of illegal pirates. And going back there now will allow me to see both Ova and her father.”

“Good luck, my friend,” softly said Pero. “I wish you can discover some path out of this evil form of piracy.”

“So do I, so do I,” said the stupefied merchant with quickly flickering hope.

Dango and Ova embraced and kissed each other at the entrance to the mansion in Insula. Both their faces turned radiant with happy smiles.

“How is your father?” he asked her as they entered the large parlor with multi-colored wallpaper.

She stopped and faced him with a serious expression on her bright face.

“He has been discouraged by the failure to halt the raiding through a court order levied against Mr. Gora. Several times, he has had appointments with the High Judge, but nothing definite or positive has yet resulted from them.

“His lack of success here in Insula has caused him a great deal of grief and misery. I have no doubt of that whatsoever, Dango.”

He made a sympathetic expression toward her. “We have a very slender hope remaining at Coso. I refer to the experimental plasmic shield, an ionized gas wall that can protect our shipping from pirate attacks by shells or octopters flying through the air. That may turn out to be our final chance of avoiding defeat and ruin.”

Ova made a pleading face to him. “Dango, you must take me back with you when you return to Coso. I cannot remain here at home, doing nothing for our goal.

“I beg you to let me go along. You must realize how much this separation of us pains and tortures me. Please, do not keep apart.

“Each and every evening, I think of you and suffer from your absence.”

“Your father?” inquired her husband.

“We will still have frequent wirephone contact, won’t we?”

Dango thought a few seconds before giving his answer.

“Yes, I should think of my own personal happiness, along with yours. As soon as I finish my business in Insula and confer with your father, we two can leave together.

“I hope that you enjoy living there in the northern port.”

She grinned with sudden joy. “I will, Gango, I will,” she said in a whisper.

Balno seemed to be in an especially downcast mood as he sat talking with Dango in the study of the mansion.

“It is useless. I have always been a believer in the law and how it affects the behavior of persons. But every time I meet with Chief Judge Nunk Bredo he tells me how helpless he is to find and carry out any form of justice for our vitrification enterprise in Coso.

“What is the purpose of having courts, judges, and a legal system if it proves to be useless when a major problem arises and causes enormous losses like those that we are at present suffering?

“Perhaps force, or even violence, can produce the justice that the law is incapable of giving to us.”

Dango realized how discouraged and desperate his father-in-law had become and attempted to reassure him.

“We continue to work on a plasmic shield, a wall in the air that will be capable of protecting our shipping from pirate attacks.

“It was different on our island when only foreign, outside vessels were the targets of piracy from Insula. That was an unwritten, unlegislated rule of life for all residents of Brigantine Island. But now the tables have been turned.

“We have new products of a newly conceived industry, and they are under direct looting by our own island pirates.

“What can we who suffer the losses do about the situation?

“Our final hope that remains is in a plasma wall that shields our ships and their cargos from depredation.”

Dango fell silent and looked at Balno, who was unable to make any reply.

Riding back to Coso, the pair were silent till they were nearly at their destination.

“What is it that Pero hopes to achieve through his tests and experiments?” inquired Ova with unconcealed curiosity.

“A sort of multi-layered vertical wall the neither the octopters nor artillery shells of the pirate ships can cross or penetrate,” replied her husband. “It will serve as an invincible defense of our carriers with the equipment and devices that are capable of throwing forth such a plasma shield.”

“That would be a wonder, should we attain it, Dango,” murmured Ova. “It might solve the intractable problem that we face.”

6.

Above the harbor of Coso stood a high hill with a series of century-old houses. Some were occupied, others were empty and available for rent at low rates.

One of the latter was taken by Sako Gora once he came into the area from Insula.

He wished to remain in hiding and this location permitted to do that with ease.

Using powerful binoculars, the refugee was able to keep a watchful eye on what went on about the vitrifying factory. He was aware of the experiments carried out with plasma projectors in the air above the village and the factory.

How was he to find out what were the components and devices in use by those active below him?

He could only guess at that until he became able to obtain direct information from someone who knew.

Pero explained to both Dango and Ova one evening the major line that the research going on was taking.

The married pair sat at a pine table while the factory director stood facing them a short distance away.

“What our technicians plan to create is a plasma wall of ion toroidal filaments. These should construct a shell that no outside object like an aircraft or an artillery missile is able to penetrate.

“We shall project this plasma shield using a multitude of laser devices.
The approach to our defended vessel shall be covered with the ionized rings of plasma, allowing nothing at all to penetrate them.”

Dango grimaced. “You talk of toroidal filaments, but do not explain what they might be. Can you provide us a simple explanation of some kind?”

Pero nodded yes. “The torus is a doughnut-shaped ring of plasma, small enough that no physical object is able to travel through or past it. Enough of these rings linked together will form a plasmic energy wall that is highly magnetized and impermeable.

“We will be testing this master scheme to learn whether it can repel an assault by the disloyal pirates who have broken the basic customary rules of Brigantine Island. The evidence on this should shortly be available to us.”

Ova followed with a question of her own.

“They will have no way of overcoming such a wall?”

“If it can do what we want it to,” he answered her with a grin of optimism.

Sako Gora walked down to the dock area of Coso late in the evening, keeping his face out of prominence or conspicuous visibility.

What might he learn about the defensive plasma research going on over at the vitrification plant? Entering a crowded, noisy pivo beer hall, his purpose was to learn what he could by careful listening to the conversations of local drinkers and factory employees.

Sako ordered a single mug, drinking slowly and keeping his ears focused on what he might catch from the patter surrounding him.

Little by little, by combining stray comments, his knowledge started to grow.

Laser projectors had been placed on a small testing vessel now docked in the harbor. There was to be a test when this ship departed into the open sea just a couple of miles from Coso. Experiments at sea would last several hours, then the galleon would come back with the results to be studied and analyzed.

The purpose of all this work was to be able to set up a plasma wall around ships imperiled by the dangerous pirates attacking ships from Brigantine Island.

Sako stayed drinking until closing time, climbing up the hill where he had his cottage. He had found out a lot about what his pirate syndicate might face in coming days.

Dango decided that he wished to go along and witness for himself how the first carrier with the capacity to set up a plasma defensive wall came out of any conflict with a pirate raider.

Ova questioned him intensely about what he thought he might be able to achieve through going along on the voyage to a port on the western coast of the Interior Sea.

“Can’t you learn as much through the reports that will be made by the technicians who will be aboard the vessel?” she asked her husband in their apartment the night before the carrier left Coso harbor.

He grinned at her. “My eyes will be wide open to catch things that others may be ignoring, Ova. “I think that my presence will help raise the courage of the whole crew. I am certain of that.”

She relented with a degree of reluctance. “It should be a good adventure for you, dear,” she said with a short laugh.

Sako never spoke with other patrons in the tavern that he frequented at night near the docks of Coso. No one knew who he was, what he worked at, or what his personal interests might be.

Yet he was able to gather bits of information and combine these into wholes with some structure and significance.

This particular evening, he went home to his cottage with what he knew was meaningful and valuable.

He dialed a call on his wirephone immediately and was fortunate that Icho Nidat was in his apartment and answered.

“Hello,” said the ship captain. “Good evening. Who is it there?”

“Sako here,” came the reply. “I believe that tonight I found out something of major importance to our enterprise. It has to do with the new defense wall that our enemies believe they have perfected and now plan to use at sea.”

“They intend to use the thing?” asked Icho with surprise in his voice.

“It will be tried out on the carrier ship leaving this harbor early tomorrow morning. The planned route will be toward the southwest sector of the Interior Sea.

“Let me outline and describe for you what I have heard local villagers tell each other about how the plasmic wall is supposed to operate when a raid on the ship begins.

“An impenetrable shield will be projected high into the air, one that will defeat any aircraft or missile that attempts to go through it.

“This would mean the fall of all octopters and artillery bombs into the sea, destroyed and unable to carry out its offensive purpose.”

“Will it work? Can this defeat what we have on our raiding ships?” anxiously asked the skipper in charge of the pirate fleet.

“I have thought and thought about the situation our people will face. There could be a way to win out over this wall of plasma, Icho.”

“What would that be?”

Sako proceeded to explain the idea he had conceived.

7.

The ship chosen for the testing of the plasma wall was a middle-sized carrier, not the largest type hauling cargos from Coso. It’s mission was to take supplies of vitric coral to a port on the western shore of the Interior Sea.

Both Dango and Pero volunteered to travel on this vessel, along with its skipper and crew.

“I feel great responsibility for the outcome reached,” confessed Pero to his associate, the merchant. “It is important to see and judge for myself.”

“I share your thoughts, my friend,” said Dango. “This will be an experience that the two of us share with each other.”

It was but a few minutes after dawn that the pair made their way over the bridge way to the deck of the carrier. Ova accompanied them to the dock berth where the ship stood, ready to make its experimental voyage with plasma wall protection.

Pero and Ova kissed and shook hands. Both of them shared a sense of confused, mixed emotions. Was this to turn out an adventure or a tragedy? Would the final results be gain or loss, victory or defeat?

“You are taking enormous risks with this testing of the wall,” whispered Ova to her mate. “I pray that it comes out the way we all want it to.”

“It will,” he replied with bright feeling in his hazel eyes. “I am fully certain that the plasma will work the way we anticipate.”

The two kissed and hugged each other again, then Pero made his way quickly over the bridge way, to where Dango was waiting for him on the deck of the transport.

Pero looked back to the pier, where his wife was waving at him.

He raised his arm and waved back at her, until both of them sensed it was time to look and move away.

A large crowd of villagers and country people had gathered on the deck to see the departure of this particular ship with its special plasmatic defense system.

As the carrier moved slowly toward the entrance to Coso Harbor, Ova began to depart for the house where she and Pero lived.

Her mind was for several moments unfocused, and her eyes merely glanced around at persons she did not personally know who formed the dockside crowd.

She felt a kind of internal click, a momentary recognition of a single face among the many in front of and on both sides of her.

Ova looked away as she progressed forward, avoiding collisions with the multitude of local strangers.

Her memory revealed to her that she had known whose face it was back there in the crowd of watchers.

It took a short while for Ova to put a name to that particular person.

He was from Insula, and she did not at all expect to find him here in Coso.

She did not personally know the man, never having met him. And he had never been introduced to her back there in her home town.

His reputation was one of the worst in all of Insula, she knew for sure.

What was Mr. Sako Gora, the notorious gangster and currently organizer of a new pirate syndicate, doing at the Coso docks?

By the time Ova reached home, she knew that she had discovered something of potential disastrous importance.

The carrier from Coso did not speed through the western waters, but took a slow, luxurious speed. The plasma wall, not its ionic engines, was to be its ultimate salvation.

Dango expressed his personal speculations to Pero as they sat together on deck chairs near the forward bow.

“I dream of the day, which I am certain is coming, when there are no more pirates or piracy permitted anywhere on the Interior Sea. When even Brigantine Island will be bereft of buccaneering ships, skippers, and crews.

“Old professions and traditional criminality are going to be buried with the outdated and the outmoded.

“Nothing but vague memories of piracy will then remain.

“Parents and grandparents will tell the young fanciful tales and myths about the famous adventurers of the sea lanes.

“I believe that plasma walls can finally place an end to the piracy that still survives in our day.”

Pero smiled, almost only to himself.

“No one can map out the future, my friend,” he sighed. “Especially with something as full of risk and chance as the pirate tradition of Brigantine Island.”

Ova was deeply unsettled all that day.

Her mind returned again and again to the face that had surprised and disturbed her when she was leaving the docks of Coso.

Only late that afternoon did she make a decision to reach out to her father and ask him for advice and consolation.

She found him home in the family mansion that overlook Insula and its harbor.

“Father, how are you? Dango and Pero left here this morning on the carrier that has the new plasma defense. I was there at the dock and watched as the ship departed for its destination in the west.

“But there is also something else that I have to report to you, a very disturbing situation.”

“What is that, Ova? Please, tell me what is worrying you so much.”

“I saw someone in the village, watching the ship leave this harbor. It was a great shock to me. I could hardly believe who the man was. What is he doing here in Coso? What is the reason for such a presence among us?”

“Who is this particular person?” asked her anxious parent.

“The gangster from Insula, Sako Gora. That’s the man I saw in a crowd.”

It took several seconds before Balno Mitne was able to continue.

“He is a fugitive from Insula, sought by the High Court of the island. When Dango returns, my dear, you must inform him at once. I intend to confer with my friends and the police about what can be done about this man.

“For now, we must remain patient and await the results of the approaching confrontation with the pirates out on the sea. I will have to talk with Dango about what you happened to see.

“Be patient, Ova. We must first win out at sea, then we will deal with the gangster you saw.”

8.

The raider caught the carrier from Coso on its magnetic detector screens and followed it from a shrinking distance. Crew members stood ready to take control of the octopters and artillery pieces on the deck. Extra preparations were necessary because of what was known about what the target would attempt to do with its new plasmatic technology.

Aboard the transport ship, everyone was tense about what was going to happen. Would the wall work as it had in experimental tests? The defense of all vessels based on Brigantine Island was in the balance, both Pero and Dango recognized.

The coming battle against piratic assault would certainly determine much for the future of both the island and the entire Interior Sea.

On the magnetic screens of the carrier, the first indication of the buccaneer following them became detectable.

In a short time, everyone realized, the pirate vessel would become clearly visible, for the sky was cloudless and bright with sun light.

Pero and Dango looked outward from the bridge, both recognizing that the inevitable conflict with their pursuers was approaching ever nearer.

On the pirate galleon, the skipper gave a signal for the octopers to start preparing for flight. Pairs of flyers climbed into each aircraft’s cabin and the outstretched wings began to shake and gyrate. Two miles before them, the target carrier was already discernible to the first wave of the planned attack ahead.

Artillery teams took over their stations on the forward deck and started to arm their projector weapons with plasmic shells that would seriously damage any object they were aimed and shot at.

Everything seemed prepared for the modernized version of pirate invasion and capture that Sako Gora had devised and organized for the pirates of Brigantine Island after their long slump of failure in the tradition of buccaneering.

They expected that soon they would be seizing and looting the coral and hardwood cargo of their intended victim.

“It is time to mount the wall of plasma,” announced Dango to the skipper, the navigator, and Pero on the control bridge of the transport vessel.

The ship’s captain leaned over the giant control panel and pressed the buttons connected to each one of the ionic projectors positioned about the rear of the main deck. One by one, these devices became activated and began to send forth long, bluish strings, rods, and waves of argon plasma.

Higher and higher rose the visible defensive shield emanating from the rear half of the medium-sized vessel.

Dango, Pero, the ship captain, and the bridge officers gazed up at the protective plasma wall with hypnotic fascination. Would it fulfill its purpose? How strong was it going to prove in actual use? Did it spell defeat for piracy and victory for legitimate commercial shipping?

“There are three octopters flying toward us, and they are soon about to collide with the wall in the air,” declared Dango in a loud, confident tone.

The leading aircraft, in front of the others, was the one to prove that the plasma sheath was impenetrable.

A shattering, explosive sound occurred the second it crashed into the barrier in the air above the surface of the sea.

The octopters behind it immediately attempted to change course.

One was too slow in maneuvering and hit the wall, despite trying to turn itself to one side.

The rest of the air squadron reversed itself and headed back to the mother ship.

Pilots instantly realized that movement toward the carrier had become impossible. The bluish plasma obstacle was too strong and extensive to go through or pass around.

Artillery projectors on the pirate vessel started to fire shells, but all in vain.

Missiles struck the ionized wall, exploding there without effect on the targeted vessel with protecting plasma.

Pero and Dango exchanged looks of glee. Both of them realized which side was going to win the battle.

But all of a sudden, a shout from one of the bridge officers intruded itself on everyone there.

“There is a ship heading toward us from the front!” he announced. “I can see an octoper taking off from its deck!”

Shock turned into terror in a multitude of separate minds.

Dango and Pero exchanged looks of surprise and wonderment. Each of them could comprehend the thought that the other had in his mind. Facial expression of outrage and anger communicated both idea and emotion.

We have been outwitted by a double attack, not just from the rear, but from the path right in front of us.

Two pirate ships acting in concert have this vessel in an inescapable trap.

Somehow, the criminals figured out a way of defeating the plasmic invention.

How did it come about that they found out our plan and worked out this clever scheme of surrounding our transport ship?

The plasma shield was in the rear, but the effective attack is originating from the sea in front.

Those on the bridge could observe the octopters and the attack boats hurrying toward their target.

It was noticeable that no plasma shells were being fired at the vessel about to be raided from the bow.

The first team of the buccaneers threw ropes up and started to board the ship with the plasma wall in back of it.

Among the first persons to climb up on the deck was someone recognized by both Pero Arslan and Dango Kirp.

The skipper of the second raider ship happened to be a man they were both acquainted with, Captain Icho Nidat.

9.

As chief of the raiders, Icho was for a considerable time busy supervising the looting of the cargos of the captured carrier ship.

Meantime, the officers and directing personnel stood on the bridge, witnessing the appropriation of the properties being transported in the hold of the vessel.

Not much was said between Dango and Pero as they waited to find out the degree of loss and harm in process of occurring.

The two had to watch passively as Icho climbed up the stairwell leading to the ship’s navigation bridge.

The giant figure slowly made his way to the door, opened it, and lumbered into the control room of the vessel.

Icho scanned around. His dark brown eyes came to focus upon the one who had once served him as pilot and navigator.

“Pero, I am surprised to see you aboard here, Pero.

“Life on the Interior Sea takes us on strange, unfamiliar voyages and routes. Do you recall how we were involved together on raids such as what has now happened? But nothing in life at sea is permanent. It can’t be.

“I remain what I have been from the beginning: a pirate, a buccaneer who plows the waters of the sea. There is no other profession that I know. That is what I am fated to do, and I can’t just quit or retire from my old trade.

“But you have lifted yourself to a different field of work. So that we no longer stand on the same side of this fight that never comes to an end.”

All at once, a weird, hideous smile broke across the mouth of the pirate captain.

Suddenly, Pero sensed a need to speak.

“Our new shield would have defeated any raid had it been on both extremes of this ship. How did you come to know what we had prepared for? How did you conceive the plan for an attack from two directions, Icho?”

The latter, not answering, abruptly turned himself about and rushed out of the ship’s bridge.

Pero and Dango looked at each other in wonder.

“As soon as all of this is over and the raiders are gone, we have to turn about and make our way back to Coso,” muttered Dango with bitter anger.

The voyage of return to Brigantine Island was a slow one for the emptied out ship. Why would it rush back in defeat?

Pero wanted to be alone to think out how events had rolled out for him and the project he was involved in.

It would have been wise to have projector devices on both ends of the carrier. But who was clever enough to have foreseen a two-sided attack by a pair of pirate raiding ships?

How had the other side foreseen the plasma wall at all? That was the aspect that puzzled him the most.

Pero kept going back to the presence of Icho Nidat in the events that had just been experienced.

Once he and the Captain had been closely allied and friends of each other.

He marveled at how drastic could be the changes that occurred with time.

Is that the most common core truth about human relations? the depressed ex-pilot asked himself as the vessel slowly returned to its home port.

Coso had received magnetic messages describing the catastrophic event that had happened to the carrier. The population there was eager to see, welcome, and aid those returning with emptied hulls.

Pero and Dango looked at the docks, filled with an awaiting crowd.

How were they going to explain the unanticipated, unforeseen conclusion that had transpired on the Interior Sea?

“Let’s allow the crew members to go ashore first, then we ourselves can follow them,” proposed Dango. “It will be easier that way, in that order.”

Pero conceded with a nod of his head.

The pair waited on deck until everyone else on the vessel had climbed down to the wharf, then they also went after them.

By this time, many in the crowd had departed from the dock along with the crew and its officers, often to their homes, quarters, and village taverns.

Ova stood by herself at the bottom of the walkway attached to the ship. She sent a sad, ambiguous smile up to Dango as he moved down toward her, followed by Pero.

Husband and wife fell into a celebratory embrace as soon as they were facing each other on the wharf.

Ova looked at the face of Dango with uncontrolled tears falling to her cheeks.

“I know how you feel, because I was told of all the magnetic messages that came from the ship after the tragedy was suffered,” she managed to tell him.

“We did not anticipate a double attack from two ships coming at us from opposite directions,” Dango murmured. “It was a great misfortune to our plans, but we now know what must be done to avert anything like this happening again.

“Our mistake will be corrected, Ova.”

“I must reveal something that I discovered, my love. It is clear to me that the pirates who raided our carrier knew that it would have a protective wall shielding it, because I saw someone here in Coso who was able to inform them of our secret invention.

“That man was the notorious criminal leader whose name is Sako Gora.

“He is hiding himself somewhere in the hills above the village and the harbor. I was able to catch sight of him heading upward, on a pathway out of Coso.”

Both Dango, and behind him Pero, were stunned and shaken by what Ova was telling them.

“You are certain it is Sako Gora?” anxiously said her mate.

“I remember, from Insula, what this gangster looks like. He is a dark man of gigantic height and weight. I cannot be mistaken.”

Ova and Dango started to walk forward, away from the edge of the dock and the ship. Pero followed immediately behind them.

“Don’t be worried, my dear,” said the merchant, holding tightly his wife’s hand. “We shall notify the police and ourselves help to hunt down the man spying on what we do.”

10.

Night fell rapidly over Insula, drawing mariners from outside into bars, inns, taverns, and beer halls along the long, wandering wharf.

Captain Icho Midat had successfully disposed of the loot acquired by the second ship that had accompanied his at the time of his collision with the plasma wall protecting the coral carrier from Coso.

He had not received any call or message from Sako Gora since the grant event at sea, but expected to have ties with him restored at any moment.

After several hours spent in his favorite pirate’s dive, the skipper decided to go home to his apartment facing the harbor.

Nearing his front door as he climbed a couple of cement steps, he suddenly heard a familiar voice speak out of the shadows about the entrance to his place.

“Icho!”, it called out. “I’m back in Insula, but no one knows that I am. Only you, at the present moment.”

It was Sako Gora, the was evident from the first word.

The stunned captain had to think as fast as he could.

“Come in, we can talk inside in safety,” he told his visitor in a whisper.

Icho unlooked the door, then turned on the lights of his parlor.

Both men walked in. “Take a chair,” suggested the occupant of the flat.

Icho sat down so that he faced the gang leader directly.

“You drove to Insula from your roost near Coso?”

“I sensed that I had to,” explained Sako. “There was a lot of police hunting around, and it was noticeable.

“There was great danger for me down there, and I suspected that someone saw and identified me when I went into the village and down by the dock.”

“What do you plan to accomplish here in Insula, Sako? There is a High Court order to arrest and bring you in.

“How safe do you think you will be after all that has happened?”

The gangster frowned ominously. “I can foresee what our enemies in Coso are going to do. From now on, there transport carriers will have projectors setting up plasma wall shells on all sides: the front, the rear, and even on the two sides. The aim will be complete protection in all directions.”

“What can anyone do, then?” desperately asked the pirate skipper. “Does that mean that, in time, all vessels everywhere will have such ionized walls around them?”

The visitor furrowed his brow in intensive thought before making a reply.

“I will try to leave Brigantine Island early tomorrow on a passenger steamer. My destination will be an island that is not too far from us. My purpose will be to discover all I can about a certain object that I hope can defeat any plasma wall.”

“What could that be?” asked an anxious Icho. “Could such a thing exist anywhere?”

The other attempted a forced smile. “I am considering the use of underwater submersibles. They would have to be what is referred to as midget in size, carrying only one or two persons. Undersea spheroids or globoids, some people call them. These vehicles could be released off the deck of a pirate ship, then slip through the sea under the bottom of any plasma wall.

“Does such a submersible have practical use in modern piracy, if ships with cargos are equipped with plasma projectors?

“If anything has a hopeful chance, I believe that midget submarines may.

“That is the reason I am going off Brigantine Island to explore what is available for us to purchase and try out.

“Do we have any alternative, Icho? I see none, myself.”

The face of the pirate leader seemed to turn to solid flint.

“I won’t be involved in any raiding that you plan to carry out using midget submersibles. My intend is to apply with commercial transporters for a captain’s role and rank in that kind of operation.

“I see no future for me in piracy, Sako. Perhaps that has come to an end for us on Brigantine Island. If so, we all have to learn to adjust and live with that.”

Without another word, the other rose and made his way out of the apartment.

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