“Captain Hazari Metabeard?”
I looked up from me map. A pungent aroma of rotten fish and burning hair wafted into me nostrils. Yarrr, what a stench! The next thing I knew, I be face ter face with some kind o’ creature from right outta me nightmares. A gigantic insect, ’bout 4 and a quarter cubits in height, outlined by a thick blood-red exoskeleton. The shock of it drove me from me plane of higher consciousness, which be quite painful for someone as attuned to the cosmic strings as I.
“Put ’er there!”
“Wretched beast!” I screamed as I pulled out me cutlass. “What manner of creature be ye?!”
“Ha ha,” the thing clicked through its jaw-like pincers. “I assure you, my good fellow, you have no need to arm yourself against me. I am but a simple traveler, far from my native land. I heard,” and then it paused to click its jaws a few times. Then it began to advance toward me. “Human language is so... verbal, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, I heard that you sometimes ferry people around for a small fee. Is this accurate?”
“People, yes. But I don’t think ye’re people. Now skip the pleasantries, demon. Why be ye... here?”
“Oh, you wound me. I ‘be here’ to inquire, my good sir, if you would be willing to provide me transport to the Ant homeland, Phylogenua, in exchange for a trifle or two?”
I stared at its quiverin’ antennae. Reachin’ out with me pirate sense, I called out to the other psychic captains ter see if’n they knew where this so-called “Phylogenua” be. An old sea dog off the coast o’ Singapore was quite knowledgeable in this area; he’d been there a few years ago, an’ was willin’ ter sell me directions for one o’ me crew’s kidneys. As soon as the information on Phylogenua popped into me head, I knew there’d be trouble.
Demonstrating the much-maligned pirate sense.
“In case ye don’ know,” I laughed at the ant, “there be not one, not two, but nine catagory 5 hurricanes between us and Phylogenua.” His face, if ye can call it that, turned into what might be a scowl.
“I’m sure a little wind and water is no match for your cavalier wit and-”
“Don’t try to flatter me, ye six-armed ground-beast!” I blasted at ’im. “I ain’t afraid o’ nothin’, but on’y a fool or a madman would put ’is crew through that kind o’ life-threatenin’-”
“I will give you one dollar.”
I was almost taken meself, by the deadly cuttlefish.
“Cap’in, I think our ‘guest’ has overstayed ’is welcome,” chirped me first mate, Porter Orvall.
“Arrr, I know, Porter. But I already divvied up the dollar he gave us among the crew. That’s over four cents per person! If’n ye want ter take the on’y source o’ sustenance they got, be me guest. Indeed, Porter, mayhaps ye’d like them to dance fer their food. Har dee har har. What a riot.”
His gray eyes suddenly misted over with an emotion I knew well; already I could hear the synapses o’ his brainpan clicking into place, the familiar scent of fear and anger that be all too common among we pirate types drifting twixt me nasal cavities.
“Get a hold o’ yerself, skippy!” I hollered right in his decrepit face. The old man had no right to think that way. “Maybe on a regular pirate ship where thought means nothin’, ye can get away with thinkin’ o’ mutiny, but here on the Sand Reaver, we don’t take kindly to errant thoughts!”
He rubbed his grizzled face.
“Cap’in... I don’ know wha’ came o’er me!”
“It be the Antman, Mr. Orvall. It be the Antman.”
“Now put down that toy train, an’ get back ter work!”
“Well, we be beached but good,” I grinned at the Ant creature as it scampered down the side o’ the ship on its sticky segmented feet. A more hideous sight I’ve ne’er seen. “And there be bite marks on the hull. Bite marks shaped like yer mouth.”
It pulled out some kind of plastic bag from the folds of its exoskeleton and started eatin’ what looked like a pre-digested dog. Sick.
“‘Excellent?’ Listen to me, ye overgrown giblet, the ship is beached, and me years o’ psychic intuition tells me it were ye what done it! How’m I s’possed ter get home?! Tap me heels together?!”
“Oh, Captain, no. There will be no need of that, for we are close to the Phylogenuan capital.”
“The Devil’s Nest,” I murmured, remembrin’ a little somethin’ o’ insect civilization from me days as a scribe on the S.S. Pillburton.
“Yes, and at the Devil’s Nest, we have teleporters that function to within .01% of Star Trek efficiency.”
“Open the gates! Yes, I mean you, Roy! Do some work for once!”
As we entered the city, me companion shed ’is blood-red exoskeleton, revealin’ a slightly smaller version of hi’self.
“Why did ye jus’ throw off yer skin?”
“This is my peoples’ true form.”
“But... it looks almost exactly like what ye-”
“We do it for tax purposes.”
I gazed over the city. It be the most beautiful sight I ever laid me eyes upon. Gold, as far as the eye could see! All kinds o’ jewels and gems dotted the streets. The self-styled ambassador led me through streets of giant ants until we reached a great spired building. As I walked through, I felt a tingling sensation throughout me body, as if all the psychic energy illuminating me soul was on fire. How gradient!
“Er, uh... Mr. Ambassador, is it? I’m wonderin’ how far off this teleporter be.”
“Oh, it’s just a little further. By the way, are you allergic to... honey?”
“No.” I didn’t like where this was headin’.
“Good! Humans rarely are. Now, before I introduce you to our Queen and teleport you home, I’d like you to wear our ceremonial... visitor... outfit. You don’t have to take off anything you’re wearing now, just let me pour some honey on your scalp... and your hands look a little dry. I think you might need some of our ‘teriyaki gloves.’ I hope you’ll abide by our customs,” he drooled.
No. This wasn’t gonna end well at all.
“And could you try to tenderize yourself? That would be great.”
“Uhhh... I’d like to see yer teleporter before I do that.”
“If you wear our honey suit, I’ll give you another dollar.”
“Oh Captain, you simply must try these aphids!” said the Queen of all Ants.
“No thanks, milady. It’s been fun gettin’ together with ye guys, but I gotta get back to port an’ buy another ship with the countless booty I made here.”
“You mean the dollar I just gave you?” piqued the ambassador.
“No, ye fool!” I screamed, causing the party to grind to a halt. I walked up to the man an’ looked up right into ’is bug eyes. “The two dollars ye gave me. Remember, I be the last survivin’ crew member; all me shipmates’ shares o’ the first dollar ye gave me is mine now!”
We all had a good laugh over that for a few minutes. Then the royal guards showed me to the teleporter room. I waved good-bye to the Queen and ambassador, and with a shimmerin’ glow an’ a high-pitched chirp, I was gone.
And all the treasure I plundered from Phylogenua. What? I’m a pirate!