Chapter 1: A quiet day
The crew had been restless for days, weeks, even months. Despite having enough provisions and supplies, there was a huge lack of fun. Or rather, a certain thrill. A call to havoc and chaos.
Roaming these floating wastelands with nothing to lose and no shame or morals left, the pirate crew of Paulsen certainly is a crew to be reckoned with. Even better, a crew to avoid. Everywhere they go, they leave a large mark of destruction and blood.
“Before this world, there were terrors of the Seven Seas, now there is one particular terror of the entire sky!” Thord Paulsen, captain of the ship Ragnarök, often proudly exclaims with a sharp laugh, showing off his crooked teeth. His First Mate, Bjørn Laegreid, then nods in silent approval and agreement. Unlike Paulsen, Laegreid is a quiet man but ruthless, nonetheless. Rumour has it, that even crew members are more afraid of the grumpy, grey wolf than of Paulsen himself.
“We have to do something,” Bjørn, as Thord calls him informal meetings, insists. The man’s dark, bushy brows curved in a strong frown. Thord sighs and looks out of the large window.
“I see, but what do you want me to do? We have plenty of food and drinks. We recently visited a brothel, for fuck’s sake.”
“Helvete, that didn’t take off everyone’s edge,” Bjørn counters, agitated by his Captain’s indecisiveness. “Some of our men are fighting. Again. For no particular reason but the mere urge to just punch some adrenaline out of their bodies.”
“I-, we-, we can’t just storm another village!” Thord shouts back.
“Since when did morals stop you before?” Bjørn calls out.
A smirk creeps up the blond man’s lips. It’s a dirty smile, one that warns everybody the Captain’s up to no good. The man gets out of his lazy chair and stretches as he keeps looking out of the window. No cloud in sight. Hell, even the sky is boring and lifeless today.
“You’re right, Bjørn. What was I thinking? If we want to trample some village for fun, we just go our way! Think I’ve had too much booze previous night. It keeps my morals too much in check.”
The smaller man chuckles and pats his partner on the shoulder. “Very well, time for some preparations then.”
After dismissing his First Mate, he calls in his most trusted Navigator, Tor Steinar. He’s a few years wiser but also a few years stiffer in the bones and weaker on the liver.
“You called for me, Captain?” Tor is smoking his pipe as usual.
“You should stop smoking, if you wanna stay on my ship,” Thord chuckles.
Tor chuckles too. “I lived through a fuckin apocalypse, a smoke or five won’t kill me now.”
“I need you to point out some targets. Preferably a value target.”
“So we’re going on a rampage,” Tor takes the pipe out of his mouth and walks over to the table. He spreads out the maps necessary. He glares at different locations and marks he’s made through the years. He’s mumbling to himself.
“Any preference in distance? Scale?”
“Short time period. Fun to play around at the place,” Thord specifies.
“Hmmm… Lemme see. Ah, there’s a small village only an hour from here. Might be worth checking out.”
Thord stands next to the older man and mutters. “Good, good. I’ll ask Bjørn about the preparations.”
“The entering hooks have been readied. Ammo’s been refilled. Guns are able to be used and fire. Now we have to wait,” Bjørn goes through his mental check-list. Captain and First Mate stand on deck.
Paulsen speaks up to his men, encouraging them to go have some ‘little fun’ with their next target. As the ship slowly sails through the soft sky, everything seems so calm and serene. Little will those poor farmers know what will hit them once the Ragnarök arrives.
Without a proper goal, other than just having an inhuman outlet for their frustrations and boredom, Thord lets his men loose on the village. Soon the first house is set ablaze and more windows have been shattered. Bjørn is watching. His dark eyes sparking with the reflection of the flames. Thord think his friend looks beautiful.
“Let’s advance,” the older man says.
Thord goes first. The square is full of running people. It’s a funny sight. “Give them a bit of panic, and humans become like startled cattle,” Thord chuckles.
“Pathetic, almost,” Bjørn huffs.
The Captain sets his mind on a young couple hiding behind a small wall. How stupid, their big adult heads still stick out. When Thord leans over the wall, he sees two more heads. Kids. For a second he gulps. But then he puts his hands in his sides and cackles.
“Please, have mercy!” the woman cries out. Her husband stands up, fists clenched. Thord sighs, faking to consider before he punches the man a broken nose. The whole family is yelling and crying. Thord can’t stand the noise. He takes out his gun and silences both man and woman, leaving their kids behind. Completely in shock, the little boys crouch aback before freezing in place.
“What’s the fun in that? No fight?” he mocks them. Still, he aims for the older boy’s head. He’s muttering something to himself before he gets stopped in his tracks. It’s his navigator.
“What are you doin’ here? I thought you’d be on the ship!”
“I wanted to look around myself. I need more tobacco,” Tor grunts. Then he looks at the kids. “Leave them be, Thord. You need to help me.”
A few seconds pass before Thord holsters his gun and rolls his eyes. “Alright. Play time’s over. Go to your mommy and daddy.”
When the two pirates walk away, Thord gets a sharp look from Tor.
“Wasn’t that a bit cruel?”
“You mean like we’ve always done? This is our life style,” Thord snarls. “If you don’t like it anymore you can jump off my ship or die here.”
Tor visibly gulps before remaining quiet on the matter. By the time, the majority of the small village is burning, there’s no tobacco found and Thord and Tor return to the ship. On their trip toward it, Thord spots something in an alley. He stops by and looks. It’s those kids again. They’re hold by a stranger. A bald man with a dark patch on his chin. Fright and disgust are readable on the man’s face. For a moment the pirate captain thinks of taking their lives too but he hesitates. He doesn’t know why. Then he feels a hand on his shoulder.
“Let’s go, we’ve done enough. Our men are satisfied. And so should you be.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Thord huffs and turns his eyes away from the victims. They probably won’t make it out alive here anyway. When they’re back on the ship, they should celebrate with wine and beer. Not to celebrate some achievement, they really didn’t. But at least they can say they haven’t died of boredom yet.
“A market, huh,” Thord mutters surprised as they finally float over a market first. It’s oozing of life down there. Perfect. Instead of landing immediately, the ship continues to fly over it until it reaches the steady looking farm. Thord intended to only destroy the farm, but now seeing there’s more to play with, he decides to make this little fun trip a bit longer.
“This will do. Let out the smaller ships,” he commands. The smaller ones fly via a detour below the islands to the market. The leader himself exits their main ship together with his First Mate and some remaining crew. “You’ll go first. See what you find inside.”
Then the men sally forth and Thord decides to check out the farm’s outer lands. Thord himself stumbles across a young kid. Blond hair like himself, blue eyes that look shocked. Thord blinks for a second. There’s…something familiar about this boy but he can’t exactly pinpoint the reason for this déja vu. He brushes off the feeling and approaches the boy.
“You live here?”
“Y-yes. Y-you,-” the boy stutters. His whole frame is trembling. Delightful.
“I ask the questions here. And you’ll answer them,” Thord snarls back. “And who lives with you?”
“M-my dad and y-younger brother.”
“Very well. Where are they now?”
“At the m-market, sir,” the young boy again answers.
“That’s… unfortunate,” Thord sighs. He scrubs his chin and wonders what he shall do. Should he end the kid’s life here and now? Or should he wait a little. Make it more interesting. Maybe give the kdi a chance at life. That sounds like a good plan to the pirate.
“Alright. I’ll give you a head start,” Thord slowly pulls out his gun and aims it into the air. The boy’s eyes widen and he slowly starts to step away. Good.
“You can go run to your daddy and brother. Tell them to run. Far, far away if they wanna live!”
“I-, Please,” tears start to roll down the boy’s face.
Amused, the pirate watches as the boy runs away toward the bridge. He follows him. The bridge looks firm but probably not strong enough to withstand gunfire. The corner of Paulsen’s mouth crooks into a smirk. This is going to be bombastic! On the other side of the bridge, a person appears. Thord assumes it’s the kid’s father, or at least someone caring enough to go here. The kid is running, running and running. But to Thord’s dissatisfaction, this isn’t going as he wants.
“You’re too slow, kid,” he grumbles before he starts firing at the bridge’s start. The gunfire makes the bridge become unstable and eventually collapse. Thord watches in silence as the boy falls along with the wooden bridge. There’s screaming on the other side.
“Let’s join my men,” the pirate turns away from the scene and goes to the main ship where he dispatches a smaller boat to reach the other islands. Chaos is already all around him by the time the pirate sets foot on the market. People running for their lives. Collapsed market stalls. Ruined furniture and goods.
Looking for new victims, Thord spots a bald man with a young boy following him around the place. For a few seconds the pirate observes. Familiarity. All this time since he’s come to this place and-
Suddenly Thord remembers. Back, in that alley.
He decides to step into the man’s way, blocking him off to whatever that might save him. Who would’ve thought he’d get a second chance to kill those pathetic fools off? Not Thord.
Sadly, this time he’s less stable. He lacks one eye and he misses his left hand. But resourceful as ever, Thord managed to turn a hook into his hand and weapon. The more he’ll use it, the better it will be.
“I never thought we’d be reunited, friend!” Thord sarcastically yells.
“You’re not my friend. Let us pass.”
Thord has to laugh hard at that. This stupid farmer thinks he can take him on in a fight? Pft, idiot.
“I’m afraid I won’t let you do that. There’s no fun in that!”
“You sick fuck!” Tears rain down the man’s eyes, anger paints the rest of his face in a frown. Thord claps his hands and wants to make another funny remark. Alas, he doesn’t get time for that. The farmer is in front of him before he realizes, and then he gets knocked down.
Frustrated how the simpleton got the first offense, he tries to kick him off of him. Sadly, it’s only the blunt part of the pirate’s hook that hits the taller man. However, the kick is hard enough to make the bald guy retreat for a moment.
Thord scowls and curses when he jumps back to his feet. This time he kicks the farmer with his foot. He should go for his gun, but pure manpower is fun too for a change. Besides, now he can use his hook and-
A painful sting crushes through Thord’s entire frame. He spits saliva and some hint of blood. With his intact eye, he stares down and sees a rusty rake bored into his flank. Blood gushes out of the wound. Too much in shock of being beaten by a stupid farmer, Thord just stares at his wound in a sheepish manner. His right hand trembles when he takes the steel of the rake and tries to pull out.
Through a dizzy vision, he watches the farmer make his escape. He hears the iconic sound of the Mother Ship nearby. Shit. Those fuckers again. Last time they’ve interfered with the Ragnarök’s affairs, it costed him his eye and hand.
Unable to pull out the stinging rake, he has to watch as some ‘Protectors’ gun down his men. A few of the nasty dogs fall too, but his men are in disadvantage despite their big number. Shit, shit, shit.
“Look what we got here,” a tall figure hovers over Thord.
Leather uniform and all. Pretentious cap too, to top it all off. A firm hand grabs Thord’s chin and makes him look up to the man in the suit. This isn’t Thord’s lucky day as he realizes who he’s been dealing with now. Broad figure, intense eyes and prominent skull-like features. This must be-
“F-fuckin’ Keplinger,” Thord spits the name like it’s a curse.
“And before me: the Terror of the ‘Whole Sky’,” Keplinger says in a patronizing tone. His eyes turn to slits.
“What’s a high ranked dude doing here?” Thord wonders out loud. Of all annoying people with only some value, this guy showed up.
“Can’t believe the second in command of the Mother Ship has to take care of clearing the lands from street trash like you?” Keplinger chuckles. To be compared to mere trash, Thord bites but Keplinger is fast and pulls away his hand. It then comes back in the form of a slap across the pirate’s face.
“You’re like a fucking cockroach. You and your men. There’s nothing supreme about you if that’s your delusion,” Keplinger talks in a calm way but there’s intensity and raw power behind his sentences.
“Then tryna kill me,” Thord almost wants to laugh.
“I will. After I execute all your men. Or at least, those who didn’t manage to escape.”
Bjørn! Thord suddenly panics. For a moment he’s also disappointed that some of his men didn’t put up a fight and instead fled like cowardly peasants. Bjørn can’t be one of them. No way.
Before the pirate can think more, the Second in Command of the Mother Ship pulls him up on his feet, the rake still residing in his damaged side. Without mercy, Keplinger pushes him to a clear part of the now vandalized market. There, a few of his men await execution. Among them is Thord’s own second in command. Bjørn’s down on his knees. Hands tied behind his back, his eyes blindfolded. His mouth is stuffed with bloodied cloth.
“Bjørn!” Thord screams.
The older man reacts in respond but gets kicked in the head by a filthy dog.
“You see that? That’s the remaining part of you bastards,” Keplinger hisses in the pirate’s ear. “Years we’re trying to catch all of you guys. Who would’ve thought it’d be this easy to round you all up.”
“But you were too weak, you fools!” Thord shouts despite being in the weak spot here. He gets hit across his jaw before he also suffers the same fate as his partner. Except, he doesn’t get blindfolded and his wrists aren’t tied. But Keplinger makes sure that prosthetic hook won’t be a possible threat and nuisance to him. Thord cries out when Keplinger simply cuts off more limp to get rid of the hook.
“Says the one with a humongous body count on his name. This is where you and your men will die. Together with your so-called ‘ideology’ and Ragnarök!”
The first shots are fired. In pure fury, Thord watches his men die one by one, by a simple gunshot. Due to his blood loss, he’s only half conscious when those wretched bastard get to his partner.
He reaches out a trembling hand but it’s all in vain of course.
Then it’s Thord’s own turn. Keplinger stands over him like a tower. Thord swallows. He can’t believe this is how he’s going to die. Pathetic and helpless. The dumbest, most boring way to die that is. All because a fucking farmer got the upper hand in a fight. There was no glorious Ragnarök, there was no heroic death. Mere executions as if they were ants that got trampled on. The gun’s steel feels cold against Thord’s sweaty forehead.
“I hope nobody will remember you.”
And thus, Thord dies an almost normal death. One he did not want. One that was too simple and too easy.