KASSI AND THE DESERTED ISLAND
by Ste Whitehouse

 

‘The Pipe-world, Ah’kis, is five thousand miles long and just over ten miles in diameter. It was one of a dozen Arks sent out from Earth to populate distant planets; each meant to journey a mere 200 years at one third light speed. But some accident knocked Ark Six from its course and now 10, 000 years have passed. Kassi seeks her brother who has been kidnapped by ‘demons’ and now travels north to the end of the world. She is accompanied by Sebastian, a sentient bot of dubious origins with whom she can communicate telepathically. That ability seems to set her apart from the rest of the world’s population. This story is set just after she left the City of B’jing.’



The sea lapped against the red sands as gulls wheeled overhead, calling to one another. The sunline held steady in the air above them as the small boat gently cut its way through the water. The four men sat, two alert with swords ready and the other two rowing. In the stern sat Kassi, naked but for cotton shorts. Her skin darkening under the ever watchful line of light far above. The men scowled at her, partly in hope that she would do something stupid so that they had a reason to hit her again. Kassi smiled sweetly, listening not to the sounds around her but to Sebastian’s last set of instructions. 

To be fair she had made life difficult for the pirates and their captain ever since they had killed most of the crew and passengers from the Sant Maria del Costa. They had not actually set weapons upon them but had instead taken only those they deemed ‘worthy’ and allowed the rest to drift in a damaged and, frankly, leaking boat . Undoubtably none had survived. So Kassi had set herself against the captain and his crew. Become a thorn in his side. Until he’d had enough and had sent her to this island as punishment. The only surprise was that he had lasted twenty three whole days. Twenty three days of taunts and disobedience by the warrior.

The captain’s plan, as Sebastian understood it, was to leave her alone for a few weeks. Soften her up so that when they returned she would be much more amenable. There was water and food to be had on the island but nothing else. The four men were to leave her on the beach, hands still tied, and when they returned in a week or two if she was alive then so be it. Kassi could still sense Sebastian from the ship as he stood alongside the captain in ‘obedience’. The only thing either feared was that loss between them. The telepathic link they had shared for over ten years. What if it was lost forever? What if the pirates never returned? There were many variables to Kassi’s insane plan (Sebastian’s words) but what choice did they have? If she stayed, eventually the toil would wear her down. 

The small boat slid up onto the beach and the four men exited swiftly. The two oarsmen dropping their oars into the boat and unsheathing long thin rapiers. All four looked at Kassi with a nervous glance. She stood, causing three of the men to step back, before languidly stepping out onto the hot sand. She felt the warmth seep into her toes and couldn’t help twist a foot so that gloriously hot sand covered it. She had spent almost seven weeks afloat and this was her first time on dry land (even though Sebastian insisted that each island actually floated around the Circle Sea.)

The one man who had not stepped back, the first mate, a man named Jaqu, indicated that she was to step away from them and the boat. She acquiesced. He indicated further and again she silently walked up the beach until she stood near the deep green fronds of grass and small trees. Birds called overhead and she was sure she heard the chatter of other animals. Sebastian had mentioned monkeys and pigs. Perhaps cats. All feral. Warily the four men pushed the boat back into the surf and jumped in. She blew them all a kiss as best she could with hands still tied firmly. Ten minutes later the narrow pirate ship had hoisted its sails and was already picking up speed, travelling clockwise in a corkscrew around the ocean and away. Eventually Kassi could no longer ‘hear’ Sebastian’s words. For an hour there was a slight ‘buzz’ and then silence. All around her the island sang and squawked and called and caroused. 

She was alone.

Kassi hunted for a rocky outcrop, finding one close to the beach. She then sawed at the ropes that tied her hands together until they split. Already the sunline was beginning to dim, so she quickly found some dry grasses and small twigs before using the small fragment of flint that Sebastian had smuggled to her to light a fire. As the darkness spread she tried a few of the fruit she had collected along with the firewood. The sounds of day faded as the creatures of the night awoke. Insects chirped and the shadows loomed over her. A flickering dance trying hard to escape from the camp fire. Wearily she lay down and slept.

Her first full day was taken up with finding water and gathering more fruit. She found shelter at the foot of a large rock where she could rebuild her fire and sleep better with her back to the rock. She found a number of flattish stones and began to ‘knap’ them as Sebastian had ‘shown her’ telepathically. A large stream flowed down from the steep mountain, running crystal clear. Sebastian had said it would be fine to drink, and it was, but she still worried about the fish she saw darting away from her shadow. After all, fish had to pee so even though this was eminently pleasant water to drink, wasn’t it also full of fish pee? And poo? Kassi decided to ask Sebastian the next time she saw him. If she saw him again.

The second day she took a curving path up the central mountain, watching the island below just in case she actually was not alone. She saw no signs of human life but from her vantage high up she could see flocks of gaily coloured birds rise as one from the tree tops and heard the odd growl of bigger animals. It was unlikely, or so Sebastian had said, that the island held anything really large; say a tiger or elephant. Even the likelihood of Trolls or other machines was remote. The islands had been playthings, holiday resorts, for the rich thousands of years ago. Places to explore the ‘wild’ as it were. A wilderness unfettered by machines. There was not even depth enough for a single dwarf. So she felt safe, at least.

During her journey she found a number of bamboo clumps and used the sharpened edge of one of the stones to cut a number down. On the higher slopes she found some firs and brought back a handful of long, straight branches. Back at her camp she found the remains of the fire had been disturbed but she was not concerned. The few paw prints in sight indicated an animal no bigger than a cat. Instead she spent the dying ebb of the day sharpening four of the bamboo shoots and whittling one of the longer firs. She gouged a notch at one end ready to take a long, sharpened stone.

By the fifth day she had found vines to make twine and bound two short spears and sharpened all of the bamboo poles. She had cleared the high ground around her camp and set a small stone wall barely a foot high. Some of the bamboo she used to create a lean-too bound with broad leaves to keep off the occasional splash of rain. Then she went hunting. 

By the end of her first week Kassi settled into a routine. She kept at her collection of stone implements and gathered more bamboo and fir branches in the mornings. Using the time to exercise and build her muscles. At noon, when the sunline was hottest, she hunted, catching mostly rabbit but the occasional wild pig. There was a pack of wild dogs but they kept well clear of her, preferring to hunt on the far side of the island. 

The afternoons she spent on digging up the small pathway she had created and building what she needed. All the time her mind emptying of the clutter she had carried around with her. She was surprised to find that she enjoyed the solitude. It had been over ten years since she and Sebastian had become linked telepathically and the quietness was... refreshing. She sewed rabbit skins as best she could, recalling tricks her mother had tried patiently to teach her years ago. She took to standing in the stream, spear in hand, ready to catch fish. Enjoying the sublime movement of the cold water around her legs. The smooth touch of the rounded pebbles beneath her feet. 

By week four she was fully clothed and meditating. Freeing her mind and losing herself all at once. Taking in the smells and the sights of the world. Relishing the smallness of her boundaries. Happily reciting each tree in her mind as a mantra. In truth she had never been so happy despite the grimness of her daily tasks. The trenches were dug. Not deep. They did not need to be. Just deep enough for men to stumble. Finding the sharpened bamboo ready to receive them. 

She carefully created large nets and then wove leaves and small twigs into them. Spreading them over the trenches and covering them with dirt. She steadied the springs and hid the cages of spikes. She practised with a sling using the smooth pebbles from the stream. At night she ate and pondered her existence. If she had remained on board the pirate ship she would have become exhausted. Worn from rowing. Stiff from been chained in place. The burns and scars down her back were worth the effort she had put into annoying the captain. In truth really she hadn’t needed to annoy him much. 

Now she was free to exercise; to practice with stone knives. To build herself up again. For ten weeks Kassi worked her body and the island. She felt a peace descend. A loosening of her mind. If the pirates never returned she was good. Great in fact. Happy in herself for the first time in years. Complete in and with herself. 

Then one morning she sensed the buzz at the back of her mind.



From the higher slope Kassi could see the narrow pirate vessel approach the island and then wait. She had lit the fires, wet leaves and kindling which created a pleasing smoky finger that literally pointed to where her ‘camp’ was. She had walked the path from the beach and back two or three times every day until even the most stupidest person could follow. As a long narrow boat was lowered into the water she hurried back down the hillside. Spears and pebbles at her side.

Eventually the narrow skiff was pulled up onto the beach and twelve men stood around waiting. Kassi watched from a tall tree to their left. Hidden in the fronds, her skin muddied and smeared over a deep golden tone. She waited calmly, her mind blank.

Eventually the most heavily armed man muttered a few words and the rest split up. Three men followed him along the well-advertised pathway whilst two groups of four scurried either side. A flanking movement. So they weren’t that stupid. She swung on vines silently. (Why Sebastian insisted she made a sort of Aaahuuaa Uaaa Uaaaaaaaa whenever she swung was beyond her.)

To the right, one of the men was slow and had become separated from his group. She waited. Spun her sling and sent a pebble accurately into the side of his head. He fell with a soft thud. She dropped down. Tied hands and feet and stuffed some leaves into his mouth. Softly she followed the men. 

The heavily armed man, she recognised him as Jaqu the First Mate, held a hand up, stopping his group just before the trail of pits and traps. He stepped gingerly forward and pushed his sword down on one of the tight leather springs. Four arrows shot across the clearing. There were a number of grunts, some of appreciation, and then they spread out to avoid the obviously placed traps. The man on the far left never felt the less obvious trap. All he saw was a movement either side and then the cage of spikes was tight around his body. Not even a scream, although the remaining men cried out. One stepped forward, his foot finding not solid ground but netting. He tumbled with a scream that ended with his body impaled on long bamboo spikes. The group of men to their right rushed at the sound and found their own pit of spikes.

Kassi spun her sling and shot a pebble at the third man whilst the First Mate ducked away. The pebble smashed through his skull, splattering the broad leaves with fine red blood and brain matter. The lone remaining survivor of the righthand group staggered into the clearing only to come face to face with a pebble travelling at close to one hundred miles an hour. His face collapsed in on itself. His nose, eyes, vanishing into a dark pit that oozed blood. 

An arrow shot over her head as the third group of men entered from the left. Two were archers but neither had any idea where she was exactly. She tugged the vine close by her and something vaguely human swung across the clearing. Both archers fired, hitting the collection of vines and leaves dead centre. If it had been human it would be dead. As it was Kassi was halfway to them before they even noticed. Righthanded she threw a short spear catching one of the archers in the side and throwing him off balance. The second archer dropped his bow and started to draw a short sword. Kassi caught him mid-draw with a second spear in the throat. 

As he stumbled to the ground, dying, she took his sword and finally felt complete. Stone was well and good against defenceless pigs and fish but these bastards deserved cold steel. She stepped over to the second archer and tried out her new toy. It cut through the leather jerkin with ease. She was a hoppy bunny as Sebastian said (although as all bunnies hopped she was unsure what it meant). The remaining two men ran at her, each with a curved simitar gleaming in the sunlight. 

She danced elegantly to one side. Pirouetted and cartwheeled, just for effect to be honest. The men were used to the feel of wood beneath their feet and cramped decks. The wide open spaces, albeit confined by large acres of trees and vines, confused them. They actually stood still. Looking around and waiting. Like shooting fish in a barrel, as Sebastian would say. (Again this confused her as she had tried it once and the little buggers were hard to hit! Had no one ever seen how fast a fish can dart?) With a sigh she danced across the clearing, parried their desultory swings and rearranged the musculature on their arms for them. One screamed and ran away, the second fell in a heap unconscious. The running man found another of her spiked cages. He stopped screaming, (and running, obviously.)

She turned towards the First Mate. 

He sneered. “You think you have won? All I have to do is signal and the captain will send the experienced men over. You did well against this swill but once he sends our best you’ll die.”

She bared her teeth in vague resemblance of a smile. “You forget. I spent a good few weeks aboard. Seven of these were your best.” She swung her sword in complex patterns, rolling her shoulders in preparation. “The rest were your most trusted crew members. Good with a sword but not great. Okay at snarling at terrified passengers and concerned crew but pretty hopeless at actually killing someone. It’s an art.”

“Then I am an artist.” He leapt forward, scimitar cutting through the air where Kassi had been seconds before.

She danced again. A delicate mixture of ballet and fighting stances while the first mate stood still.

“You have this whole area trapped, I bargain,” he said witheringly.

“In truth you’ve found all traps. I did not wish to skewer you all. There are things to put in place.”

“Like my sword in your gut,” he said.

“You took the words right out of my mouth.”

He leapt at her, a strong sweep of his blade forcing her backwards. Still it was easily parried. She stepped back and he lunged forward again; and again. Each time she expertly parried. Deftly sidestepping. Shifting weight. Countering the man’s every move. Kassi again felt that love of battle bubble up. The sheer joy of pitting yourself in a life or death situation. Unsure how it would be resolved. Aware that at any moment some stray filigree of fate could upend all of your plans and lay you on your back, helpless before your opponent. Some egregious circumstance could cause utter chaos. 

Kassi smiled. The sheer exhilaration of combat filled her with glee. She nicked the man’s upper arms, each precisely; an inch from the elbow on either side. This really was showing off and Sebastian would be appalled but she could not help herself. When you are at the peak of your abilities you wish people to see; and the man saw. He understood that he was outclassed. Raiding ships at sea. Boarding vessels and cowing merchants was one thing. Taming this wild warrior was something else entirely. He glanced back to the beach, trying to figure out if he could make it back to the boat. If not, could he swim? Could she swim?

“Sorry. My plans entail a certain amount of discretion,” she said before forcing him to turn back into the jungle. He began to tire. Made stupid errors but still she did not finish him. Not until they came to a sled resting on a series of rollers. Kassi grinned mischievously. “My apologies. I really did not want to make too much of an effort.” 

She moved forward. Two thrusts almost blindingly swift. A jab. He parried as best he could, set his feet to carry as much of his weight on the next swing, then found that somehow his body was not responding to his commands. He tried to move but his legs went from under him. A warmth spread across his abdomen. Warm and sticky. Wetness. He could smell blood. Smell his death. 

It came quickly. The woman moved into his line of sight. Then shadows engulfed her and all was black. Kassi waited a heartbeat or four then rolled the First Mate onto the sled. This was so much easier than hefting them on her shoulder. At the forest edge she knelt and waited. Waited for the sunline above to fade.



The moonline was a faint smear, high above in the darkened sky. Above that it caught the Circled Sea and reflections glimmered briefly. It seemed to Kassi to be much like stars, as Sebastian had explained them. Dots of light far away. Usually on Ah’kis you can see the light from distant towns or dwellings. Looking up or down the pipe one could see for hundreds of miles and clockwise was always a mere ten or so miles away. That always gave one the sensation that one was enclosed. You could feel the world rise up around you and meet above your head. But here, on the vast ocean, the water appeared as black as a dungeon. Only the odd wave caught the distant moonline. The odd glint of starlight. 

She had spent the early part of the darkness dragging those dead onto the small skiff now bobbing gently on the waves. Arranging them so that they ‘sat’ slumped in the boat. A more motley collection of men she had never seen. Eight of them sat. Dead and bled out. The stench already starting in the humid heat of the night. Kassi untied the rope, pushed the skiff into the waiting ocean, nimbly leaping aboard. She took two of the oars and began to row towards the dark ominous shape of the pirate ship anchored a way off-shore. This was going to take time and effort.



The captain stood on the forward deck viewing the island with unease. Jaqu and the others had set out late morning and despite the dark plume of smoke drifting skywards they all understood that finding the barbarian would prove difficult. Ever since they had boarded that merchant ship she had proven difficult. Most of the men were wary of her and those that weren’t had soon found reason to be. Despite the lashings. The withheld food. The brutality. She had proven too hard. He knew that eventually she would break, everyone did. It was just that having such a fierce symbol of resistance on board could be disruptive. 

The idea of the island seemed a good one. They had used it once or twice, and once they had found only a few bones and once a deranged slave now more than willing to work for them. Fifty-fifty. Not the worst odds. Still he wondered. The woman was unlike any he had met before. Even her companions from the merchant ship had been an unusually eclectic group. And the merchantmen! They had admitted to murder yet still held the woman in high regard. It was as though she inspired confidence. Such a dangerous trait to have in a slave. 

So he waited for his men. Pensive. He had not thought they would discover the woman immediately but Jaqu was supposed to indicate before night fell. It did not bode well. As the captain waited he felt the curve of water around him press in on him. Oppressive and heavy. He caught himself drumming the rail nervously. He’d had the lights above deck dimmed, better to observe the island, and he was pretty sure that the skiff was returning but could not be certain. Damn that bloody machine, he thought. Earlier that evening the thing had brushed accidentally against his desk and somehow dislodged the spyglass he used. He brought it to his eye in any case but all he could see was fractured shadows twisted in the cracks of the lens. When the woman was back in her place he would ask her how better to control the machine. Until then he had locked it away in his cabin. If she could not tame it there was always The Circle of Sighs in B’Jing. He was not quite a Sigh himself but had accrued many of their instruments including a wonderfully ornate short wand which he patted absentmindedly. 

‘There!’ Movement to port. He squinted in the darkness. Shadow on shadow appeared to shift and move. He heard the splash of an oar.

“Ahoy, Mr Jaqu!” he called out, indicating to his crew to stand ready on the port bow.

There was no reply.

He called again. Still nothing. Except the steady splash of oars. ‘Why were they not answering?’ 

“Torches,” he whispered, drawing his wand. The crew had thick ‘wands’ from the Sighs that threw out the sun on command. 

Lights splayed the ridged surface of the water, catching spray in brief rainbows. The men waved the torches, indiscriminately zipping back and forth until suddenly one caught the edge of the skiff.

“There! THERE!”

All the lights focused on the lone boat. Long shadows draped from the huddled men on board.

“Jaqu? Drew? Handstadd?” the captain called, but still no one answered. The boat continued to ply its way towards them. He felt, no, knew, that something was wrong. Then it hit him as the splash of oars ceased. Not one of the men he could see was rowing. They merely huddled like waxworks in the bow of the boat. A single man stood. One torch managed to catch them. He saw the woman. Just briefly. Even as he fired his wand she was moving, diving off the skiff and into the black ocean.



The water was cold but Kassi did not mind. She had learnt to swim in the lakes close to her home, way up south where snow lay on the taller hills all year round and people were used to the freezing cold. Bullets hit the water where she had been. Someone, most likely the captain, had a gun; or wand as they called it. She could ‘hear’ Sebastian muttering but shut him out. After months of solitude she was used to her own thoughts. She pushed on further below the surface, propelling herself forward and under the low sitting vessel. Behind her another bullet spewed into the stygian water.

She sensed rather than saw the ship’s hull draw upwards and away from her. Carefully she rose, one hand tentatively ahead to feel the side of the pirate ship. Finally she broke surface and took a deep long breath of cool night air. She was about midway between each end of the ship. Feeling upwards she found a small indentation where she could hold. She pulled herself up quickly, seeking another hold. Above, just out of reach, she could see oar ports with locks. Swinging up she grabbed one of them. She waited for a second and then pushed herself upwards.

Above the oar locks were the gunports. Seven each side. A fancy array of hinges and pulleys made her pathway upwards easier. A thick ‘skirt’ of wood stood above the gunports. Wide enough to stand on, if precariously, and close to the rail lining the deck. Kassi waited. Catching her breath. Listening to the captain above as he grumbled. She had slipped off the shirt she had been wearing and the captain was complaining that he had fired his ‘wand’ thinking it was her. 

As best as she could tell, all the pirates were watching for her on the far side of the ship. Someone even said that they thought she was dead. Drowned. 

“That bitch has nine lives. Like a fucking cat. If she is dead I want to see her fucking body,” the captain growled.

Kassi deftly pulled herself up the last couple of metres and slipped silently over the guard rail. She took out two slings and dropped a heavy pebble into each. She stood waiting. Feeling the ship tilt beneath her. Drifting back and forth. Instead of trying to adapt she just focused on the deck. This was the sole space she needed to be aware of. Keeping her eyes on the men and the deck, her world narrowed. Whatever was beyond, and it helped that it was still night and thus pitch black, meant nothing. The deck. It was not moving. The people. They moved, but only in relation to the deck. Nothing more. 

She took a deep breath and began to spin both slings. One in each hand. A soft brrrrr of movement settled across the silence. No one noticed, other than her. All eyes were forward, on the black water beyond the deck. She noted who the men were. Those pirates who were the most ‘committed’. Choosing two she let go of her left sling. The pebble smashed into the back of the man’s head. He toppled forward, briefly leaning on the rail as the men looked in shocked silence. Then he fell head first into the water below. Her second pebble hit a man ten feet from the first. He too toppled against the guard rail, collapsing in a heap. Dead.



The fifteen men looked out into a darkness that seemed to envelope them. The ship was alone in the world. A thing of light separated from Ah’kis. Only when morning came and the moonline turned into the sunline would the world outside exist again. Or so it felt to the captain. He had fired his wand yet still the woman had vanished. Then he had seen the pale ghostly shirt and fired again. It had been instinctive, and wrong. Even as his finger squeezed the trigger he knew that she was not in it. It drifted to the surface like a jelly fish. Billowing almost with life. The bullet did nothing to stop its ascent.

He grunted his dissatisfaction. Looking at his men, he wondered. Only five were definitely loyal. The rest were ex-slaves. Working their way up from oarsman to crew. Three had not yet killed. That always taught him everything he needed to know about men. Any slave would be willing to escape bondage. Any slave would pledge allegiance to him, the captain, but until they killed he never trusted them. It was easy to rush a vessel and terrify merchants. Flash your sword, look intimidating. Be loud. But killing. That took much more. It was when a man had killed for him that he knew that he ‘had them’. That part of them would be forever his. A dark, hidden part that he could exploit. Use. Manipulate. 

He had seen how easily the woman would kill. That part would always be easy; but breaking her had been next to impossible. Now she was probably dead somewhere in the dark, but until he was sure…

Someone muttered. “She’s dead. Drowned for sure.”

“That bitch has nine lives. Like a fucking cat. If she is dead I want to see her fucking body,” he growled. 

The men turned their torches back onto the water below. They looked. Carefully and slowly. Foot by foot the circles of light merged and shifted. Nothing.

Then Whillhanson just toppled forward. It was as if he had fainted. Stiff like a board he slowly leant forward. For a second he was steady, the guard rail holding him up. The captain saw the bloody mess that was the back of his head. Then Whillhanson tipped over the rail and into the ocean below. There was a dull splash. Before the captain could say a word, Klyne collapsed in a heap. His two best officers after First Mate Jaqu. Dead.

“Fffuuuuuuuuucck!” someone shouted, and then hell broke loose.



A lad little older than Sin swore, as thirteen men turned to face her. She had dropped the slings and now held two short swords. Before the men moved she was across the deck and striking two more of the captain’s men. As they fell she darted back and up the stairs onto the aft deck where the steering wheel sat. She really needed to figure out these nautical terms. Still, first she needed to live long enough to do so.

Five men leapt forward, swords in hand. whilst the remaining eight took long steps decidedly backwards, away from the fight; away from the captain. Smart men, she thought. The captain fired his pistol once but she was already dodging behind the steering wheel thingy. 

{It is just called a wheel Kassi luv.}

She kicked the first man who ventured above the level of the floor, knocking him and the others on the stairs back. 

{Thank you Sebastian. How I have missed these sparkling interjections}

{Someone got out of bed the wrong side this morning.} Sebastian said in a huff but remained silent afterwards.

{How can there even be a wrong side t... Never mind.}

She stood and swung a sword, catching one of the men ascending the stairs across the brow. Blood arced through the air, followed by shreds of skin and some grey looking brain matter. 

God, she loved swords.

The next man she skewered with her right hand sword before kicking him into the men waiting. Two of the eight had been cajoled or had decided to throw in with the captain so she still faced five men. Well, the two were either very stupid or thought very highly of their own skills. Why else leave the safety of a crowd to face a madwoman with a sword? 

Kassi leapt from the helm in a bid to find out. She rolled mid-flight, landing on the front two men. Even as she managed to avoid their own weapons. her sword slid down the neck of one of the men and she managed to bring her knee up with all the momentum of her fall into the balls of the second man. Something seemed to explode a little. The second man went exceedingly white and wished to fight no longer. A result in anyone’s books (other than the second man’s for sure.)

She darted left, feinted right. Chopped at legs and cut through two other men. The remaining stood. A terrified look in his eyes. Like a frightened rabbit that had just had visions of a pot and heaped firewood. 

“Boo!” she said.

The fifth man dropped his sword and ran. 

She turned to the captain who stood uneasily at the rail, gun in hand.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said casually. 

“Pardon?” he asked with a tone dripping in indolence and confusion.

“I know exactly what you are thinking right now. That’s a mighty fine replica of an old six shooter. Am I right? Of course I’m right.” As she spoke Kassi moved subtly forward. “And what you’re thinking now is; how many shots did I take? Was it five or was it six? To be honest, in all the excitement I really have no idea myself. What you have to ask yourself right now, right at this point is: Do I feel lucky?”

She smiled a bright beam of sunshine. “Well, punk? Do you? Do you feel lucky?”

The captain froze. His eyes darting from Kassi’s face to the barrel of his pistol and back. Then she stepped forward and hit him.



Five days later the ship rolled with the waves. Kassi was used to it again and stood at the bow, watching the waves undulate. Little flecks of white appeared and disappeared. Sebastian came to her side.

“Was that really necessary?” she asked. “That whole ‘do you feel lucky, punk’?”

“It felt culturally appropriate. Besides, it confused him just enough for you to close the gap.”

“I could have just thrown the sword,” she replied.

“And he would have shot you. Never bring a sword...”

“I know. I know. Never bring a sword to a gunfight. It’s not like I had any choice is it?” They both watched the waves for a few minutes. She continued. “I knew. I can count. He had a bullet left.”

“Perhaps a bullet but no confidence.” Sebastian placed his ‘appendages’ on top of her hand. She had forgotten how comforting his presence could be.

“Now the decision has been made,” he said briskly.

“Great. Can I kill them slowly or do I have to do it quickly?” she said with a laugh.

The mech merely sighed. “It is that sort of puerile humour that makes people distrustful of you, Kassi. They actually think you mean it!”

She snorted.

Sebastian continued. “The damaged skiff has been loaded with provisions and hastily repaired. It should hold for a while at least.”

“And we’ve been sailing from the island since that first morning?”

“Aye. When we freed the oarsmen, and women, they were grateful to you. And of course we have some of the crew from the Sant Maria del Costa, so sailing this is fairly easy. A ship is a ship is a ship, after all.”

“How many want to leave?”

“A dozen or so. They have families or loved ones. Often someone who is both. They have not been slaves for long and so have a life to return to.”

“Fy?” Kassi’s voice was dripping with emotion.

“The WatchMother will stay. Says you need an adult to look after you.”

Kassi laughed. “Just me?”

Sebastian looked suitably admonished. “Alright. The both of us.”

The barbarian woman from the far south stretched. “So let’s get on with this. We leave the pirates in the skiff with no oars, correct?”

“Yes. The people onboard thought that we should reciprocate what they did to the passengers of the Sant Maria del Costa. Leave them adrift with an equal chance of surviving.”

“So.” Kassi waited for her big moment. “This is like ‘Piratic Justice’ Right!?”

“It is Poetic Justice, Kassi.” Sebastian replied wearily.

“Come on! How can it NOT be piratic justice? They’re pirates!”

“No. I will not have you mangling.”

“Mangling? Who’s....”

“I say...”

“No...”

“..”
 



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