Pirate Stories: Pirate Songs, ten years on
by Nicolette Barischoff
This micro-sequel takes place ten years after the events of “Pirate Songs”, which first appeared in Accessing the Future, and was written to celebrate the tenth anniversary of TFF. If you want to see more fiction like this in the future, please support our fundraiser where you can pre-order the celebration anthology.
“Margo Glass? My name is Anita Kelley. You’re a hard woman to track down.”
“Not really. You just have to provide me with any good reason why I should talk to you.”
“So you did get my messages. That’s good. Mother of God, it’s hot here.”
The blonde pony-tailed reporter on the other end of the call flashed a wide, white smile of all-purpose flirtation, peeling off her blazer to reveal the faded University of Polis tee-shirt underneath. You can talk to me, girlfriend. I’m one of you. I’ve even got pit-stains. Not very subtle, but Margo could tell she hadn’t meant it to be.
Above the smile, her shark-black eyes didn’t crinkle. “So, I’m guessing you know who I am, what I’ve called to talk to you about.”
“I saw you do that thing on the Mythic Labs petting zoo. Hard-hitting stuff.”
“Oh, c’mon, now, Margo.” The smile widened. “You’ve changed your number three times, put the wrong address on the University immersesite… and I’ve still managed to get ahold of you. Shouldn’t that tell you something?”
“You’re monumentally creepy.”
“Or that you should really talk to me.”
“Or that you’re trying to convince me it’ll be easier on me just to talk to you.”
“You’re right.” The shark eyes blinked. “I am.”
“Right, well… I’m hanging up. If you write some sort of Where Is She Now piece, make sure to mention how my recalcitrance is probably some sign of incipient mental illness.” Margo’s mouth quirked, and she added, “I’ve been traumatized.”
“There’s nothing mentally ill about you.”
“You’re not a liar, either. Not in the way the Russ Hour TerraFirst Podcast thinks, anyway.”
Anita Kelley shook her head so that the blonde ponytail bounced a little too gleefully. “I’m not using a phone. I’ll be able to call you back 900 times before you manage to find this I2P address and block it. You know there’s gonna be a holofilm based on Russ Windon’s book? Now, I don’t know how faithful it’ll be to the source material…”
(Margo shut her eyes and took a short, sharp breath.)
“But I can guess you’re not going to come off too well.”
“Pernicious thrill-seeking whores with borderline personality disorder rarely do.”
“That’s one narrative of what happened to you. There are others.”
Margo snorted. “Yes, I know.”
“Talk to me, and I’ll help you find yours.”
“I don’t have a narrative.”
“No, you don’t. But you should. You were kidnapped by a boatful of pirates on the edge of major colonized space who spent a week or two doing God-knows-what to you…”
“Oh, fuck you…”
“And then you floated back down spouting all kinds of garbage about secret off-world prison colonies, corrupt food-labs—”
“—which led to investigations!”
“And no indictments. Do you know why? Because you don’t know anything. Nothing. You know what you were told by a bunch of criminals.”
Margo’s mouth snapped shut despite herself.
“People need a story, Margo. You’re a politician’s daughter. You should know the only way to cut down a story is with a better story. You don’t want to be a damaged princess with Stockholm Syndrome, or a conniving bitch, we’ve got to make you into something else.”
“I don’t know what story there is to tell, apart from the one I’ve already told.”
“Well. There were fourteen other people on that ship with you.”
Margo felt herself stiffen.
“Were I you,” said Anita Kelley, “I would start with them. Every missing limb, every tangled roadmap of scars, every day of recycled water or rancid soup. And then I’d make it a little bit worse. And then I would remind everyone that while I was up there, I somehow never went a day without food, and that I came back with two arms and two legs, and factory-fresh white skin.”
Margo stared at her. “They would never talk to you. I don’t know who did talk to you, but they would never talk to you.”
“He wouldn’t talk to me, you’re right. He was very stubborn about it. Much harder to crack than you. But that’s why I’m a reporter, and he’s an out-of-work pirate. Some people need you to tell their story for them, Margo. They’re hopeless at telling it themselves.”
“If you’ve talked to him, then I can talk to him.”
“I think you understand why that’s not possible.”
Margo blinked the blur from her eyes.
“But he did tell me to tell you,” said Anita, “that his bulldog’s finally got an eye that won’t make you piss yourself.”
Margo pinched her lips together.
“Okay,” she said.
“Okay,” said Margo. “Ask your questions. Quickly.”