Kilnday Thirdweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

Son of a bitch. Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Keddle. That rot-damned moaning sack of crap. All he ever did was complain and grumble, in between the odd bit of semi-competent navigation. He wasn't the best, by any chalk, but he did his job. I thought that finally, after all these years, I'd found a navigator I could stick with. One that was sensible enough not to get shot, strong enough so that he wouldn't die of some unknown illness, unambitious enough not to betray me, unromantic enough not to desert for the love of some random whore. By the warty bowels of the Allsoul, I've had shitty luck with navigators. But Keddle... damn it, I really thought he was going to be a stayer.

Turns out he isn't. Turns out Silo was getting suspicious about all those engine parts going missing. So when we set down in Jander's Maw, a half-day from Scarwater and our meeting with Macarde, Silo decided to hide out in the engine room and see what happened. Saw Keddle rifling through the spares. Followed him all the way down to the workshops in the town, where he saw Keddle selling them off to a craftbuilder. After that he came back to get me.

Keddle screeched to the high skies when we turned up at the tavern where he was drinking. Course, he said he was innocent, but if Silo says otherwise then there's no question. We dragged him back to the Ketty Jay. Me and Malvery were pretty angry, to tell you the truth. We probably didn't conduct ourselves too glamourously as we were kicking the stuffing out of him. I came close to shooting the bastard, but in the end Silo stopped me. Sure, it wasn't a lot of money, but he was stealing! From me! I mean, damn it, there are limits!

Well, I had to get him out of my sight, so I put my boot in his arse and shoved him off the cargo ramp, hands tied behind his back. He went down pretty hard on his face, but he can count himself lucky I didn't put a bullet in his back.

After that, we took right off. Couldn't stay there a moment more. Figured we might as well go overnight to Scarwater. It was close enough that I could find it myself.

It's almost dawn now. We've put down in Scarwater, waiting for the place to wake up. Later today I'll go see about ripping off Macarde. Later today I'll get looking for a new navigator. After that, I'm gonna get roaring drunk and get into some kind of fight. It just feels like one of those days.

Why me, Log?

Why me?

Transcriber's note:
At the time of writing, this was the final entry in the Logbook Of The Ketty Jay. Darian Frey was never known for his diligence, and he apparently forgot about writing in the logbook after this date. Considering what happened afterwards, however, he can perhaps be excused. The affair which followed has been luridly recounted by various pulp biographers, but I direct your attention to the only official and unbiased account of the tale, written by this humble scribe, which bears a title as honest and straightforward as the words within: Retribution Falls, available now in bookshops all over Vardia.
Daggersday Secondweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

So here's the plan. We need aerium, badly. The last lot we got hold of has pretty much run dry. Lawsen Macarde wants aerium too, but he doesn't want to pay full price for it. I don't even have enough to buy it for cheap, and if I could find some I'd keep it for myself.

There is, however, a way around this.

I'm not too proud to go trawling round junkyards for aerium. See, abandoned ships are not that uncommon, and plenty get shot down. Scavengers just strip what they want and leave the rest, but the higher-ups don't like to leave wrecks rusting all over the place. So sooner or later the big haulers turn up and take them off to the junkyards. Thing is, what a lot of people don't realise is that good aerium can be run through the engines four or five time before all the gas is released. Sure, by the last couple of times your craft flies like a whale and you're liable to drop out of the sky in a storm, but many's the time I've ended up flying on recycled aerium, and I'm not dead yet.

If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for Macarde. So we've been haunting the junkyards, siphoning tanks, and we've got twelve canisters all sealed up and ready for deliver. We're going to flog them to Macarde and use the money to buy three or four canisters of the real stuff from a legit supplier. The supplier will charge and arm and a leg, of course, but I'll pay this time. If you cut corners, you might get some seedy bastard delivering you a load of useless aerium, after all.

All this will mean two things. One, we'd better make ourselves scarce before Macarde finds out what we've done. Two, we're never coming back to Scarwater. I'm fine with both. Macarde's probably not that desperate for aerium that he'll immediately fuel up with the stuff we give him, and Scarwater's a dump anyway.

One more enemy to add to the list. It gets difficult to remember them all, sometimes.
Queensday Firstweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

Got round to picking up my mail today, and there was something interesting inside. I've got mail drops all over Vardia. People I trust, as much as I trust anyone. They hold the letters for me. I stay on the move a lot, and this is the only way I stay in touch. Normal people use the post office for the same thing, but I trust the post office even less than the barmen and low-lives I pay to be my points of contact. Some of the parcels I get are questionable, to say the least. Wouldn't like to turn up asking for it and find myself staring down the business end of a Navy revolver.

What I got this time was a message from a guy called Xandian Quail. He's a whispermonger that lives over in Marklin's Reach. He says he has a proposition for me. Me in particular. A proposition that might make me very rich. And that's all the detail he gave, other than I have to be there by the end of the month. That's two weeks away. Twenty days. Can't hardly stand the suspense, to tell you the truth, Log.

Of course, you can no doubt tell by my jaunty pen-strokes that I'm kidding. This whole thing is suspicious as Pinn's imaginary girlfriend. I've sold a few titbits to Quail in the past and he always pays fair, but he's a big-money information peddler. Never been able to afford to buy anything from him.

So why me? What do I have to do with anything?

The sensible part of me is telling me to ignore it. Anything too good to be true usually is. Thing is, my sensible side doesn't have the stamina that my stupid side does. It'll be tired in a few days. I might as well give up now and say I'll be going. Just to talk. I can't think of any reason why Quail would want to kill me, but he could well be working for someone that does.

Still, though. What it'd be to be rich, eh?

I also got a message from an old acquaintance, some horrible bastard called Lawsen Macarde. He's the dominant smuggler in Scarwater these days. One of the fellers I pegged to make it to the top, so I never screwed him too badly on a deal. He's in the market for some aerium, if I can get my hands on any. I could do with some myself; we're getting a bit low. I'll maybe head over to Scarwater sometime soon, see what I can do.

Desperately trying to think of anything I've done to wrong Quail. Can't.

What's it all about?
Dyersday Firstweek, Howl's Batten, 147/32

Things have calmed down a bit lately, and I for one am happy for some peace. Seems like everyone's forgotten about the freighter debacle, anyway. I should steer clear of piracy for the time being, I reckon. Sometimes a man has to accept there are things he's not good at.

What I am good at is ripping off low-level criminals and getting away with it. See, it works like a cycle. You get a small port, middle of nowhere, sooner or later the bad men move in. They swagger about a bit, running the place down, and sooner or later they get shot by even badder men or the Coalition Navy go in there and sort 'em out. Either way, they've got short lifespans, then they're replaced and it all begins again.

Way I figure it, as long as I don't revisit any town where I've stolen from the local crime-boss for a few years, chances are he'll be gone by the time I go back. Clean sheet for me. Then I rip off the next feller. The trick is to spot the ones that have got too big for their boots, the ones who are gonna get 'emselves killed soon. Once or twice I met fellers who were just dangerous enough to make it into the big leagues. Those, I left well alone.

You might call it a bit risky, making enemies like that, but it's only because my memory is so bloody patchy that I keep on stumbling across folks that want to settle a score. I should keep a list, or something.

This one was a straight theft. I persuaded this feller to let me haul a load of rare glassware for him. Top quality stuff, which he'd no doubt robbed off someone else. We were all smiles as we loaded it on, and then we buggered off out of there, never to be seen again. Made a tidy profit selling it on the other side of Vardia. Would've made a tidier one if I hadn't smashed half of it with a slightly clumsy landing. I didn't think we came down that hard, though I suppose it did make Malvery fall down the stairs into the cargo hold. I blame my mysteriously damaged hand.

The passenger's settled in well enough. He's a bit plummy but otherwise a good sort. No idea what his deal is, and more than once I've caught him glancing over his shoulder in public places, like he thinks he's being followed. Still no sign of whoever it is, though. Malvery seems to like him. Keddle likes him as much as he ever likes anyone, the moaning little bastard. The only one Crake can't get on with is Pinn. Not that that's a bad thing. Anyone who doesn't think Pinn is an idiot is an idiot themselves. I've met smarter furniture.

Bess gave us all a shock last night. Someone tried to get into the ship. Most of us were out, and I suppose Silo and Harkins were asleep. Harkins says he got woken by this roaring noise in the hold that scared him silly. Silo went down - Harkins wouldn't, obviously - and found Bess trying to put some poor bloke's limbs and head back on, like he was a doll she was playing with. At least Silo was considerate enough to clean it all up before I got back (I wasn't back till this afternoon, by the way - entertaining a lady, if you know what I mean).

Better make sure Crake has that thing on a lead, in case she thinks about doing the same thing to us. Crake assures me she won't, but nobody's convinced.

Note to self again: Silo is still after a bunch of spares for the engines. I swear I bought some in the last port but they aren't there now. I don't know if the cat's eating them or something, but we only ever seem to have just enough to keep the Ketty Jay halfway running. Can't think where they're going but it's getting on my nerves.
Scaleday Thirdweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

You'll forgive me, Log, if I haven't written in you for a while. I do have a good excuse, though. My right hand has been out of operation for some time. As to how it actually happened... well... your guess is as good as mine.

We picked up the freighter. I mean, we actually did. That poor guy I beat the information out of was dead on. It came cruising over the Splinters with two piddling little Caybury Interceptors as escort. They crossed at night, following a course between the mountaintops, trying not to be noticed. Probably it's worked up till now. But we knew their route, it was a clear night and we had the moon.

Pinn came screaming out of the mountain pass and blew one of the outflyers out of the sky before they even knew what had happened. Harkins was a bit slower than Pinn - he always is, but that's still quick in most people's book. Quick enough to empty his machine-guns into the other outflyer's flank, anyway.

The freighter had some guns on it, cannons big enough to do the Ketty Jay some damage. But they were occupied with the smaller craft and they didn't see us coming up on their blind side. The bigger the craft, the easier it is to sneak up on. I raked my guns across its underside, right where the aerium tanks were. Perfect shooting, even if I do say so myself. Holed the tanks and the craft started venting aerium, faster than they could pump it back in.

The art of it is to make them leak enough but not too much. You don't want to rip the tanks apart or they'll dump all the ultralight gas and drop out of the sky. But a steady leak is like a slow puncture. They start losing altitude, and the pilot has to make a choice: set down while he still can, or crash his craft hard. Most of them choose the first option. Ours did, anyway.

Once it was down, we boarded them. They were pretty cooperative, all in all. They opened the door rather than make us blast it open with dynamite. Then we were all in there with our guns, the whole crowd control routine, everybody down, show us the stuff, etc.

But there was no stuff. See, the guy I met knew the route alright. But that shit-wit, accidentally or on purpose, had me intercept them on the return route. After they'd delivered the money. We'd boarded an empty cargo ship.

The mood soured after that.

The boys were giving me dangerous looks on the way back. I really think that we got close to mutiny that night. I don't mind admitting I got a bit worried, but then I hit on an idea. I told 'em that I'd take 'em all out on the town, and I was paying for everything. So we did. At first they were still grumbling, the ungrateful bastards, and things were nasty for a while. But then Pinn and Malvery started singing, and everyone joined in, even Crake. Soon we were all best friends, at least temporarily. Soon after, we'd forgotten who we were.

At some point in the night, long after I'd lost the capability to make sound decisions, something happened to my hand. I think I got it jammed in a door, or some fat sod stamped on it, or something. Either way, it hurt like a bitch and went sort of purply blue. Taken a week or so for the swelling to go down, but I'm pleased to report that the incident with the freighter has been all but forgotten, and all is normal again. As normal as it gets, anyway.
Queensday Firstweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

Killing time 'till our date with the freighter. Crew are restless, as ever. The passenger is showing signs of thawing out. Malvery's decided to start dragging him out with us whenever he can. The Doc doesn't talk like it, but he used to live the high life once upon a time. He doesn't have a problem with Crake's accent like Pinn does. Me, I'm easy. He seems like an alright feller once you unjam that cane from his arse.

The golem is well-behaved, at least, although I do sometimes hear her charging around in the hold. I think Crake's playing ball with her. She doesn't seem violent, but I wouldn't want to get in her way while she's barrelling around. It's all a bit weird, but every time I think of kicking them off, I take out my cutlass and swoosh it around and everything's better. Pity I wasn't carrying it when I got spiked; I think I could have carved up the room blind drunk with this little wonder in my hands. It just seems to know what I want it to do.

I asked Crake if he could make any more stuff like that. He said no and went a bit funny. Mumbling about equipment this and sanctums that, but I could tell what was really bothering him. He's frightened of the idea. Seems a shame to know how to craft miracles and then not do it, but it's not my business, I suppose. Pity. I was going to ask him for a pistol that never missed, or something. Still, I'll set Malvery to pestering him, see what comes of it.

Not long till the freighter. Half the crew think the information's probably bad. The other half agree with the first half. But we've got sod all else to do, so we might as well check it out.
Kingsday Firstweek, Swallow's Reap, 147/32

Feel rather heroic today, actually. There's nothing to make a man feel like a man like setting right some wrongs.

Now I'm not going say I haven't pulled off a few injustices in my time, but Feckley's little trick was just low. I beat those guys fair and square at Rake, and he spiked and robbed me. It's not often I beat anyone fair and square at anything, so when I do I'm kind of precious about it.

Once I'd got out of bed and had my bowels back under control (an unpleasant-yet-strangely-satisfying side-effect of the spike) I gathered up the boys and we went down to Feckley's den.
Harkins I left to guard the Ketty Jay. He's a fine pilot but his bravery ends at the limits of his cockpit. He's not cut out for the physical stuff. Confrontations turn him into a gibbering wreck. He's likely to accidentally shoot someone out of nervousness. Quite possibly one of us.

I took Silo along this time. He doesn't often get off the ship on account of his being a Murthian and liable to get lynched when he's on his own. It's been a good few years now, but nobody's forgotten the war. Suppose the wounds run pretty deep. Me, I'm not fussed about Sammies or Dakkadians or Murthians or whoever - live and let live, that's what I think - but my guts still twinge when I think about that time in Samarla. The end to my illustrious career hauling cargo for the Coalition Navy. Still got the scars on my belly.

Silo and Malvery are the muscle, really, so I let them go in first. Pinn next, cause he's eager. I follow him in - can't go last, that'd just look weird - and behind me comes Keddle. I'm thinking I should start getting the passenger involved in this kind of thing, maybe. An extra pair of hands never hurts. And that golem would be pretty damn useful, if slightly unsubtle. Seeing Bess walk through town would raise a few eyebrows, and I like to keep my profile a little lower than that.

We boot our way into the den, bristling with guns. Feckley's got some muscle, too, but they're slow to their weapons. 'Don't you even think it,' I warn 'em, but there's always one. He thinks he's being ever-so-sneaky as he moves his hand towards his holster. Malvery spots him and shoots him with that big lever-action shotgun of his. Takes his head off above the jaw. Nobody messes with us after that.

Card dens have a lot of money lying around, and this one was no exception. Much more than was taken from me, anyway. I figure I deserve it. Just to be nice, though, I let the players keep the money in their pockets and what they have on the table in front of them. I'd be a bit of hypocrite if I didn't. It's not their fault that Feckley's a cheating pusbag.

He glares at me all balefully as we empty out his den. I can tell he's wishing he killed me when he had the chance. I know he's thinking up some kind of revenge if he ever lays eyes on me again, so I get my retaliation in first and shoot him in the foot. That'll teach him for glaring.

After that we reckoned it was best to get out of town, so we did, and then followed the obligatory grog-soaked celebrations of a job well done. It's not often we have a genuine reason to celebrate - we usually just make one up. So this time was a bit special. Put me back to bed for a day, but it was worth it.

Where next, Log?