The Pirate Apprentice, Chapter 19: An encounter at sea

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The monitor came to life at the flick of a switch, lighting up the room and presenting Seji with the face on the other end of the channel. She was almost painfully familiar with the face she saw, but it was still more pleasant to talk in something that was almost in person. She left the rest of the room dark and just let the glow from the screen light her face. No need to let others know how mother had insisted on decorating her room.

“Hey girl,” the woman on the screen said brightly, “did you know your transponder is down? Almost blew you right out of the water before I recognized the old bucket. That would have been awkward.” The woman on the screen laughed heartily. “How’s the old lady?”

Mother is fine.” There was a hint of ice in Seji’s voice. Of all the fleet commanders, this was the one she liked the least. She had never really been one for respect and protocol, both of which Seji thought important traits in a fleet commander. “She’s napping.”

“So that‘s why you took the call so quickly. And I’m guessing she redecorated your room for you too.” “What makes you say that?”

“You were never one for dark rooms.”

Seji grimaced. “You know me too well.”

“Well, you know, hard not to. So tell me, you don’t call, you don’t write, does the old lady even remember she has her own personal navy any more?” Seji didn’t bother to correct her a second time. The intent was sincere.

“Doubtful. She sometimes still waxes eloquent about the days before the First Collapse, but I think everything after that is pretty much a blur to her. She was even opining on why it is that no one has rediscovered submarines yet. That one caught me off my guard. Suffice to say, she is not all that she was. She still likes to believe she is immortal, but even with her, age is taking its toll.”

“Yeah,” the woman on the screen grew somber for a bit, lost in a thought.

Seji tried to let out a long breath of annoyance and sorrow, but it came out feeling bemused. “She was telling me earlier that she was a god.”

The woman broke into a grin which faded back into the thoughts that occupied her. “I suppose in her own special ways she is. No wyrd or occult powers like the Sisters and their kin, no mystic martial talents like the pirates, but we both know she’s capable of some things even they can’t do.”

Seji quietly looked at the soft smile that mirrored her own. It was not a point she could argue. Wrapped so tightly in her mother’s world gave her no choice but to accept the truth of it.

“So, last time you were in contact, she was thinking of setting up a brothel in a mainland port town. How’d that go?”

Seji thought about the question a bit before replying. “Yes, Farport, built right on top of the old base. And rather well, really. She was really in her medium as a social butterfly catering to expensive tastes. To be honest, uncomfortably so. If you know anyone who needs to blackmail some important people in the Empire, I can hook them up.” The face smirked wickedly at her, knowing full well Seji would never tell anyone a thing. “But then she let greed get the better of her on a questionable recruitment deal and got herself framed for some murders and attempted murders.”

Laughter erupted from the monitor. “And she went batshit and burned the place down!”

Seji grimaced at the choice of words. “How ever did you guess?”

“So what’s next for the great mistress of the seas?”

Seji pondered how much to reveal, and decided extra eyes might outweigh privacy on this one.

“She wants revenge against the person who framed her. There was something very odd about him, but I couldn’t really say what. I am sure it is nagging at the back of mother’s mind, but I don’t think she has fully embraced that she was scratched by the sharp edge of a very large conspiracy. From what I could gather before I had to join her in leaving the city, it has very little to do with her. She was just a convenient pawn. And the people involved read like a who’s who of the rich and infamous, and even in gathering that list I was only able to identify more pawns. No idea who is pulling the strings. In good news, aside from Nona, I don’t think any of the other actors even know who she is and was.”

A low whistle came from the screen. “She’s getting herself messed up with Nona again? Any chance we can just toss her in a vitro tank for a century or two?”

“Which one?”

“Both!” Another hearty laugh came from the screen. Seji allowed herself a smile. “Well, at least Nona knows to keep her mouth shut. So, you going to let her play detective?”

“Yes, I am interested in where it will lead. I don’t know if Nona has anything to do with the situation, but I don’t believe coincidences around that woman. And if she is involved, well, I owe her a favor.”

“You owe Nona something?”

“Yes. It involves a fist.”

“Gotcha. Where to first?”

“The base in the north of the Eastern Kingdoms. Mother seems to think there is someone near there who might have some information.”

“Right, I’ll relay that to the fleet and notify the base so they don’t shoot first, ask questions later. Anything else I need to know?”

“Yes, I had to bomb the command depot behind the old base. It was at risk.”

The face in the monitor whistled softly. “The old lady is starting to rub off on you. Anything important lost?”

“Nothing that couldn’t withstand having a large city dropped on it. Let’s call it all safely and securely stowed.”

“Well then, I have some news for you. Two months ago, an experimental deep sea craft met an unexpected doom. There were signs of it being destroyed by a giant sea monster.”

Seji winced at the news. She understood why these things had to be, but she was not happy with it. “Whose was it?”

“Tubengu. It looks like they were doing more than just barely scraping by in their forgotten little empire.”

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