Pirate's Life

23 – Social Change

Mei Ling Pirates Life Banner

Lancelot

They watched in silence as the gangster quickly bled to death and then collapsed. Funny, it was the least gruesome thing that Lance had seen in the past couple of hours, as if that should be possible.

“Gah!” Mei shouted in frustrated fury. She hacked at the body with her sword, the blade thunking into what was no just a hunk of dead meat. 

Lance shivered and backed away. This was all a lot for him. He was a businessperson. He belonged in front of a computer or in a boardroom. He worked with people, he didn’t go around killing them. 

He eyed the Asian woman standing over the body. She was pretty enough. Or she would be if she hadn’t been wiping blood off her cheek and snarling at the dead man. He wasn’t entirely sure what to think of her. She was about as far from his usual experience with women as could be. Well, there was a hint of that command and confidence that you saw in the upper echelons of businesswomen, those who managed other people, executive types. 

He’d found Mei intriguing enough when she’d first arrived. And things had gone swimmingly, at that time. Until she’d declared herself here by mistake. Or rather, here unfairly. Unlike the rest of the losers in this miserable world. Unlike him, she wasn’t guilty of breaking the law. Of the alienation he’d experienced during his fall from grace. Of hurting others.

He resented her. And yes, he knew that might not be fair, but so what? He was very much unsettled at the moment and in no mood for fairness. 

Lance shook his head and turned his back on the others, trying to center himself. He could use a hot yoga class. And a stiff drink or three. And a massage. Maybe an hour with a beautiful woman. One who wasn’t going around shooting people and then cutting them to bloody ribbons. 

“He’ll be back,” Juan muttered.

Lance turned back to the group. 

Mei’s head snapped up. She turned on Juan. “Where did you re-spawn?”

“Me? Over there. Just down the beach.” He vaguely pointed.

She swivelled to Armand. “And you?”

“Other side of the island,” the Frenchman replied. He was older than Lance by at least a decade, maybe two, always calm, always thinking. Nothing seemed to phase him. He’d been the one to volunteer for the dirty work of burning Odessa’s wounds closed and he hadn’t hesitated once. Lance had to respect that, though he didn’t understand it. 

Armand was as educated and classy as anyone Lance had ever met. He had an old-world, gentlemanly charm. The kind of thing Lance had always aspired to despite his obnoxious American roots. Class was something that seemed to have gone out of fashion sometime before he’d been born. How could a man discuss philosophy with such intellect on moment and then calmly burn a man alive the next?  

Mei didn’t seem to like either answer given her. She cursed and gritted her teeth.

“Why?” Cheeto asked her. “What’s up?”

Mei sighed. “If we knew where he was going to re-spawn, we could have ambushed him there. But if it’s random, that means he could reappear anywhere out there. And then he’ll come for us.” A finger tapped the sword hilt in her hand as she mulled the situation over. “I think I’m going to take Winny to the Carib village.”

Lance’s eyes widened. “What? They’ll kill you.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think things have changed since that guy attacked them. He killed a lot of them. When I left, I spoke with an older woman. She gave me back my weapons. Pointed me to this place to meet you guys. She was really helpful.”

“You think she’d take us in too?” Cheeto asked, looking hopeful. 

Mei shrugged uncertainly. “I don’t know. I think they treat women a bit differently than men. They were going to make Winny a wife-slave after all. If I go back and warn them that that gangster—“

“Odessa,” Armand clarified.

She nodded in thanks. “If I warn them about Odessa and ask for shelter, they might be willing to take us all. They might. Especially if the guards are coming. They could use the help fending them off.”

“If they show up, I’m not planning on fighting,” Lance announced. He hadn’t decided until the words had left his mouth, but now that they had, he knew he wanted no part in any rebellion or any more violence. Pretending like it was possible to fight off the guards and escape this place was just suicidal idiocy. Sure, maybe if there was a ship sitting off shore right now and they could harmlessly sail off to some pirate town, he’d do it. Why not? But there was next to no chance of that happening.

Armand’s gaze turned his way. It was neither judgemental nor surprised. “Are you sure?”

Lance hesitated, then nodded. “It’s not worth trying to run. I mean, we can’t. We’re not sailors. We’re not fighters. And we’re going to lose. They have hundreds of soldiers with guns. We have next to nothing to defend ourselves with.” 

“Actually,” Mei broke in, “there are weapons in the village. There are a couple of rifles, bayonets, a pistol, I think.”

Lance huffed and rolled his eyes. “Great. Well, unless they’ve got machine guns, we’re outgunned.”

Cheeto looked up at Juan, conflict all over his homely face. “Maybe we should give ourselves up too, hey?” He generally put up a brave face, lots of bluster, but he was about eighteen, still a kid, and his fear was written all over him. He stuck close to Juan and seemed to really look up to the Spaniard.

Juan shrugged at Mei. “You can go if you want. I think we will stay here.”

She looked disappointed, but nodded. “I understand.” She turned away and started towards the other woman. “If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

He watched her help poor Winny to her feet. She guided the other woman towards the jungle, one hand on her lower back. 

Winny cast a long, hard look at Odessa’s body as she walked before turning away. The pair merged with the foliage and disappeared. 

Odessa’s corpse faded away. Only blood remained. 

Lance went and sat in the shade of his lean-to. He felt sick and angry and worried all at the same time. It was not a pleasant experience. Nor were the other feelings that he was trying very hard to ignore.

Armand came and sat next to him. Lance had to admit the Frenchman was a handsome man. The stark white hair and his very black skin gave him a very distinguished air. When he spoke, it was with a cultured accent, the kind that made women sigh and swoon. “She is right, you know.”

“So?” Lance didn’t want to think about it anymore. 

“We don’t get many chances to change our lives in here. On a colony, everything is controlled by someone else. Their rules. Their orders. And they are not benevolent dictators.”

“You don’t think I know that?” Lance snapped. “If you want to join her, go for it.” He waved at the spot Mei had vanished into.

But Armand shook his head. He plucked a piece of grass up and chewed on it, as was his habit. “Her and I alone, we have no chance. But if all four of us joined her…? Maybe. Depends how many marines they send after us.”

“Yeah, well.” Lance took a deep breath. “I’m pissed. I hate that…my life turned out this way. I hate that I’m here. I hate a lot of things.” He flopped onto his back and stared at the ceiling of branches overhead. “Fuck, I don’t know.”

“You played by their rules once and they took everything away from you, oui? Will you do the same again?”

“I only have to tough it out for three more years.”

“Hmm. Not such a long time.” The older man shrugged. “Then again, it is the only time we have. Each day only comes once. And life is short.”

Irritation crept into Lance’s voice. “You know what they’ll do to us if we try to resist. We’ll get locked in a lightless box and starved for a month. Or more. Or worse.”

“Perhaps,” Armand allowed. “But sometimes life requires sacrifice to achieve something better. You were a businessman in the other world, were you not? Did you not take risks?”

Lance had to laugh at that. “All the time. You don’t become successful by playing it safe. Not in this day and age.”

Armand nodded slowly. He had a thoughtful expression, though he did not turn to look at Lance. “And you took a big risk, or too many, something went badly and you ended up here. So now you are too scared to take big risks again?”

Lance had no answer to that. It cut too close to the truth. Especially after he’d gambled once in here and lost everything. Maybe he deserved it. Shitty people like him didn’t deserve happiness. 

⚓️

Mei

Heads quickly turned in their direction as Mei led Winny into the Carib village. Two warriors ran for spears while several women ducked into huts to hide. Others, however, just looked wary or hostile and watched as the foreigners returned. 

The village was much changed already. The bodies, of course, were all gone, and any trace of blood or death. Ruined huts had been taken away, blackened sections of others removed. Already, they were rebuilding. It was impressive. 

The old woman who had helped Mei before was squatting in the dirt, her gnarled hands putting together bundles of roofing thatch. When she saw Mei and Winny, she slowly straightened and frowned. Then she took a closer look at Winny and her features softened. She said something they didn’t understand and came forward. 

The two warriors ran over and pointed their spears at Mei and shouted at her. Both were young, in their twenties perhaps, and angry, maybe a little afraid.

Winny froze and her eyes widened, but Mei gently propelled her forward. She held up a hand. “Peace. We’re not here to fight.” She looked at the old woman and bowed politely. 

One of the warriors tried to stop the old woman from going forward, but she just pushed past them. She approached Winny and examined her, nodding and speaking in their language. She took Winny by the shoulder and made to lead her towards one of the huts. 

The warrior who’d tried to stop her shouted and threatened to stab Mei. 

Mei frowned at him. “Back off!” She shooed him away with her sword.

The warrior looked affronted by that. He made to lunge. 

Mei slapped the thrust of his spear aside with her sword and pulled her pistol and levelled it at his face. 

Everyone froze. She spoke calmly. “Go away.”

The warrior’s eyes glared daggers. But he knew what a gun was. He slowly backed up. 

The old woman sighed melodramatically and authoritatively snapped at the two men. She, too, waved them off, dismissing them. Then she called out to others and more females hurried over to help. 

The males were taken aback. They argued and said many things, but none of the women heeded them in the slightest as they passed by. They helped Winny along, some grabbing water and clothes and food. One of the women was the one who Mei had seen raped. She shouldered the more vocal warrior hard as she passed and he gave her a very startled look that she completely ignored. 

Mei couldn’t help but grin at that. She put the gun back in the waist of her pants. Looking around, she noticed that the population of the village had shrunk considerably, though some might be off working or hunting or something. Also, the gender spread had become unbalanced. Besides the two young bucks, she saw one middle-aged warrior who hadn’t bothered to get up from where he worked with some fishing gear, and an old man. The rest of the villagers were women, who now seemed to outnumber the men at least two or three to one. When the warriors had fought Odessa they must have lost a lot of their number before driving him off. 

Would this new gender imbalance have an affect on the tribe’s culture going forward? Would the women now feel more confident, more able to assert themselves, as they just had? If it led to a little more mutual respect, and a female voice in the leadership of the community, then Mei was all for it. When either gender gained too much power, everyone suffered. Equality and cooperation worked best.

In fact, to support just that, she specifically sought out the old woman as she tried to explain the threat of Odessa and the marines that would surely be sent from Barbados soon, if they weren’t already on their way. Without a common tongue, the conversation required a lot of sign language. Things picked up as Mei took to drawing pictures in the dirt. The old woman was delighted with that innovation and clapped her hands and laughed before drawing her own stick figures and such. 

The warriors did not look happy about being excluded from the discussion, so Mei relented and allowed them to join in without objecting. However, any time either of the young men rudely tried to dominate the group, she would silently give them a flat stare until they backed down. Or one of the women would gain a bit of confidence and shout them down. When the ruder of the young men tried to mess up one of the drawings in the dirt, the old woman actually slapped his hand away as if he were a child. And perhaps she’d done just that when he’d been a boy, because he looked angry, but abashed and didn’t retaliate. 

The end result was that Winny and Mei were accepted into the village. Winny was taken care off and both were fed. The Caribs were frightened by the thought of the marines attacking, however, and that was the only reason why Mei and the villagers continued to debate into the evening about whether or not the male prisoners on the other side of the island should be allowed to come here as well. Some were obviously scared. Others seemed to want the help to protect the village, their home. Others wanted to pack up and escape by canoe. 

Unfortunately, the more they debated, the more it looked like the villagers were going to take that last option. With so many experienced warriors now dead, they stood little chance against marines with rifles and grenades. 

Mei was frustrated, but understanding. As with the prisoners, Armand and the others, there was little reason for anyone to fight. Mei was an outsider in wanting to defy the colonial powers and flee to some other life. Everyone else had too much to lose. Or was too afraid given the disparity in power. 

She sighed as she ate some kind of roasted bird and listened to men and women of the village argue about leaving for a new island. She wanted to urge them all to fight alongside her, but there was only so much passion that she could put into her argument. She didn’t want to manipulate people into risking their lives just for her own cause. She refused to be so selfish. 

Sitting alone in the village, the only prisoner here, there was little that she could do to fend off despair. Maybe there was nothing she could do to save herself. Maybe a pirate’s life was beyond her after all. 

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