The four of us made our unsteady way down a dingy back-alley in Tortuga. Tortuga is made entirely of dingy back-alleys. I'm pretty sure it's a universal constant: where there are pirates, there is a pirate town, and it's called Tortuga.
"Do we really have to do this?" I asked. "You know I hate taverns."
"Oh yeah, sure, we could definitely skip this over," came the reply. "We'd be the unmatched terror of the seas. The dread Captain Vantas and his terrifying crew of four."
Terezi gave her mocking laugh. She laughed at everything he said.
"Besides, no one told you to come," Karkat continued. "You could always have stayed on the ship with the rats. And the termites." He laughed darkly. There's nothing funny about having two peg legs.
"That's even- hey, where'd Gamzee go?"
We looked around. He'd disappeared. He did that every time we made port.
"Sampling the wine, women and song, I'd imagine," said Terezi.
"Well, they call it wine," added Karkat.
"And I guess you could charitably call them women."
"And best not think about his singing."
Even I had to laugh. Gamzee's a good pirate, but he doesn't go to any effort to be dignified.
"Well, I can't go looking for him," Karkat said. "I have to arrange the new crew."
"And I can't go looking for him," Terezi said, pointing at her blindfold.
"I'm not going out there on my own!" I insisted.
"We'll leave him then," Karkat confirmed. "He'll find his way back to the ship before we set sail. He always does."
No one needed to say, except that one time. We still laugh about that from time to time, when the nights are dull and the drink flows freely.
We soon found our way to a run-down pub tucked in a corner. It goes without saying that all the pubs are run-down and tucked in corners. I think this one was called The Goat's Tail or something? It didn't really matter. We split up to find new recruits for the crew. I went straight to the bar and intended to stay there while Karkat and Terezi did all the talking elsewhere. I'm not good with strange people.
"Daiquiri, please," I mumbled to the barman. He gave me a funny look, but I flashed my coinpurse and he started mixing the drink. Even Terezi thinks they're too girly to drink, but I like them. They're not much different from grog, and we all drink that. At least that's what I keep saying.
I sipped my drink and looked around. Terezi had disappeared. I could see Karkat talking to a man with funny eyes, and could just about hear their conversation.
"Alright, so you can read and write," Karkat was saying, "and that's pretty useful. What else can you do?"
"Well, I've got a good aim if you give me something to throw. No one can beat me at darts."
"Really?" He cast around and found a pickled onion. "Here," he said. "You see that guy at the bar? With a girly drink? The one looking this way. Yeah, I see you, Tavros! Anyway, see if you can hit him."
I was about to protest, but before I could even open my mouth the guy had grabbed the onion, lobbed it and hit me square between the eyes. Great. Now I had vinegar on my face.
Karkat was impressed though. "Nice! Alright, welcome aboard. What's your name?"
"Sollux. Sollux Captor."
I watched Karkat recruiting. He took on a pallid girl that, by the sound of it, was more interested in digging through the ruins that sometimes dotted the landscape than any honest pirating. He evidently wasn't very picky. He was then approached by a tough-looking guy with a mullet, when I got distracted by someone taking my drink and downing it.
"Um, excuse me," I said. "That's my drink."
"Y' wanna make somethin' of it?" growled the girl that had just taken it. She looked very threatening. She wore an eyepatch, and a hook replaced one of her hands. She had long, filthy black hair. She was in every sense the image of a pirate. She even had the accent.
I was terrified.
"Um, well, I... uh... Hey, are you looking for a job?"
The pirate woman was taken aback by the offer. "What do y' mean?"
"Well, my crew is looking for new blood, and you... look like you might... fit the part?" I trailed off.
"I refuse t' believe yer a captain," she arred. There is no other word for how she spoke.
"Oh, no! No, Karkat's the captain. He's over there," I gestured to the table that he had taken as his now that people were approaching him.
"Karkat Vantas? Huh. I've heard of 'im." She marched over to speak to him, and I sighed in relief. Unfortunately, he accepted her far too quickly, and she came back.
She laughed at me. "Har! No wonder y' need a crew. Yer a mess of a lot! The name's Vriska." She gave me a grin that was not at all friendly. "I think you an' me will be gettin' along like a house on fire."
I was saved from having to spend any more time talking to Vriska by a commotion from deeper into the tavern. It looked like someone had questioned blind Terezi's ability to fight, which she was demonstrating with her bronze cane. It was certainly a very good cane, crafted by a very skilled blacksmith. You could tell she was impressed, because she'd paid for it, and it had seen her through countless battles with barely a scratch. You didn't get to be a pirate if you couldn't kill people. Still, the barman politely but firmly asked them to leave, and waved his gun to punctuate the point. Terezi strode out with the four people she'd recruited – one girl looked barely sixteen! Terezi clearly hadn't been very picky either. Karkat, noticing them, took his three and left too. I followed, with Vriska keeping as uncomfortably close to me as she could.
We would our way back to our ship, the Alternia.
"Hey, what the fucking motherfuck?" yelled a familiar voice from the deck. "Why'd you go fucking leavin' me? I had... I had the greatesht time! Oh! I see you've got... new faces!" Gamzee threw up over the side of the boat, almost splashing an elegant-looking woman that Terezi had recruited.
"Welcome to your new home, everyone," Terezi laughed.
"Alright, alright," Karkat said. "Introductions! I'm Captain Karkat Vantas. Terezi there is my first mate, and Tavros is the navigator! I know, two peg legs, it's stupid, but he knows the waters. New faces, this is Sollux, Aradia and... what did you say your name was?"
"I didn't," said the man with the mullet, as he walked up the gangplank onto the ship.
"You know," Karkat whispered to me, "I think he's related to the nobility. Probably thinks he hides it better than he does." His voice rose to shouting again. "Right, introductions later! All aboard! We're well stocked on food and booze, and we're ready to set sail! Let's get hunting these waters!"
Our twelve-strong crew climbed aboard the ship, and we set off into the great blue seas.