Night Hawks

When you try, again and again, to apply some semblance of order to the fractious, free-wheeling pirates and freebooters that have inhabited the frontiers for generations, eventually you might get results. It won’t be exactly how you wanted it, maybe even worse than before, but something will stick. The Northwest got the Sunders, more a criminal mercantile group these days, and the Night Hawks.

The Night Hawks emerged from the successive break-downs and rebuilds of the Dissolution years like most rogue fleets, small fierce bands of survivors clinging together out of convenience and common mindset. But the Hawks did a little image polishing and delivered a good pitch: Pirate problem? Hire other pirates! We won’t betray you!

They kept their word and the concept of having the criminal elements of the region eat each other up for a few years was good enough for many freeports and merchant groups to take them up on the offer. After all, everyone figured the Night Hawks would collapse under their own weight and fall to infighting. It was a good gamble. Happens to almost every pirate fleet. Hasn’t paid off.

That’s because the Night Hawks seem to be the black-winged conscripts of old lady Ambition. They’re a heady mix of freewheeling corsairs and martial organization, and in the past half-dozen years they’ve gone from part of the rogue flock to one of the heads. From small-scale scuffles and bickering to running contracts for Core states out across the expanse. They’re not just after wealth, though that’s a means to an end and enough to satisfy most of their captains and crews. They’re building assets and laying claim. Carving out scattered fiefdoms across the Northwest from old pirate ports, consistent clients, and other targets of opportunity. Their destruction of their former fellow pirates created a vacuum, but they’re  allowing that empty space to fill with something productive. So, credit to them there.

But there’s something else. There’s gotta be guiding hand, a mastermind. And that’s difficult to call since no one knows who the leader of the Night Hawks is. There’s no flagship that we know of. No admiral directing their various known commodores. Their wings operate semi-independently, but can pull together and react as a group when there’s a bigger objective, a bigger prize, a bigger contract.

Maybe that’s the trick to their success. Every other attempt to consolidate or tame the pirates of the Northwest failed, but those always fell to the failures of the commander, of the authority attempting to control the doubly rebellious and free. In this case, the change came from within, even if the heart-of-hearts reason is sealed in a box as black as the Night Hawks’ ships.

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Copyright © Michael L. Watson 2016