All across the watchtower…

Captain Van Garrett’s bondsman shuffled towards him. The man was tall and usually walked with the bounding gait of someone who had been born in the void, a career spacer that had not felt the touch of real dirt beneath his boots in decades, if at all. But today he shuffled, he shuffled because he knew that he brought ill news and to bring ill news to Van Garrett was to risk invoking the captain’s ire and that was a swift way to find yourself taking a little trip out of the airlock, without a void suit or indeed the mercy of a pistol. Going out into the black was not as quick a death as was often made out and although in truth it was a matter of seconds, those seconds could feel like an eternity for sure.

Clearly the bondsman preferred the idea of the pistol…

The captain didn’t even look at the proffered data slate, he knew what it was going to say and could not quite bring himself to make it real by reading it, even to himself. Another loss, another ship taken. It’s cargo looted and taken who knew where. If he was lucky it was the pirates, they would oft let a crew live if they were Imperials or at the very least not followers of the ruinous powers. If he was unlucky, it was the followers of the ruinous powers and another of his crews were likely shrieking their last in some foul blood pit somewhere…

Pirates…

Van Garrett laughed at that, he had to laugh at something else he might have wept for the damage being done to his bottom line. He was one once, back in another life before he had managed to acquire a writ. That legitimised him apparently, made him a privateer. Some called men like him “associated traders” bound to the destiny of a given rogue trader dynasty or the like, but that was what it was at the end of the day. Selling out the law as it were.

Privateers.

Between them and the increased naval patrols, it was a wonder any business was getting done at all.

The old captain took solace in but one fact, his misery was shared. Across the sector something had stirred up every cutthroat and buccaneer for light years around. They hunted fat Imperial merchantmen as readily as the sought out xeno-form ships and the predatory ships of Chaos. All who plied the stars for their trade, whether they made their gelt honestly or dishonestly had come to know loss at the hands of the pirates. There simply was no explaining it, perhaps it was all this talk of crusade, stirring them up to spin gold while they could before the sector went to hell in hand cart. Maybe it was something else, something in the air…

What really set Van Garrett on edge was the songs.

They were singing about it.

From Seraph to Arkangel, voices could be heard raised in the old songs, songs he had not heard for years. Songs that stirred a man’s blood and set him on the path that lead to death if you were unlucky or mountains of gelt, litres of rotgut and plenty of wenches, if the Emperor was smiling upon you. He had heard tell of it from other captains, old contacts and the like. Some had become “respectable” men like himself, others still worked on the wrong side of the law. There were no shortage of men looking to sign on, to leave it all behind and see what they could take from the stars with a blaster in one hand and a sword in the other.

Legends were being made out there.

Crews he had heard of, real demi-throne outfits that barely even saw the glimmer of gold half the time, were being sung of like they were heroes. Like they actually meant something.

Van Garrett thought about that as he finally brought himself to read the slate with a sigh. Another loss projection, ship and cargo this time. Shaking his head he sighed once more, the tune slowly coming to his lips unbidden. How did that song go again?

Something…something…pieces of eight…

…Silver and gold…something…state…

Old words.

Powerful in their own way.

His bondsman looked at him curiously, slowly coming into fill the blanks, singing out the words he missed. That was it, steady now lads, heave ho, heave ho…

Others outside the chamber caught the song and soon it was carried through the ship, from prow to stern, gun decks to galleys…

There was only one thing for it.

Van Garrett gave the order as the warrant of association went up in flames, using it as he did to light one of the blackroot cigars he favoured.

“Strike these trading colours, unfurl the guns and make ready the engines, we’re going across the line lads!”

If you can’t beat them…

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