I was led into the Ship by the man named First Mate Parrot. (âYou can call me First, Mate, or Parrot, your pickâ¦ and yes, that is the name on my driverâs license.â) Parrot, as his name implied, was McRavenâs second in command. Parrot had a tendency to squawk, an odd hobble to his walk, and the ability to stare down a mongoose at 50 meters. He was a great messenger and odd job man, had something of the art of command, but wasnât as bright as his sense of humor was.
The Ship was an upscale downtown apartment with an extremely expensive lock. Inside it was crammed with computer displays, comm. devices, and people. The Captain loved the beautiful irony that the most infamous Pirate Crew in the Digital Seas was here in this room. Louisville is just about as far as you can get from the ESTâs lovely Atlantic and Gulf coast lines, and yet still is a major US shipping port. The Captain was silhouetted by the setting sun to the east, his eyes transfixed on the apartmentâs breathtaking view of the Ohio River a stoneâs throw to the north. His hands were clasped behind his back and the way the shadows played across his haunches, the set of his body, and the view of water nearby all helped to give him that timeless look of a sea Captain examining the horizon for storms. It made you almost feel as if you were on the main deck of some great vessel, not some floor of a skyscraper.
As Parrot shut the door behind me, the Captain turned towards me, extended his hand in a firm handshake, âWelcome aboard, matey. This here is the Ravenâs Eye. She sails where the wind takes her.â Someone else yelled out, almost directly in response, âThree sheets to the wind!â A small chuckle murmured amongst the rest of the crew, and the Captain smiled.
The Captain led me to the sole unoccupied room in the apartment, the bathroom, lowered the seat and gestured for me to sit. He then sat on the edge of the tub, leaned back, glanced at the ceiling, and then lowered his burning gaze into my own. He relaxed, the pirate persona and accent I could see almost as a physical thing being drained from his eyes. One minute he was a commanding officer of a buccaneering navy of his own design, and the next he was a gray old man sitting on the edge of a bath tub because it was the only room in his cramped home with some modest privacy.
He stared at me for an indeterminate amount of time. His eyes never wavered from mine, even seemingly as he blinked. Even without the false layers of personality his charisma and good-nature simply eked out of his gaze. I was uncertain if time was even moving.
Finally he spoke, âI could give you the standard speech; I could speak of blood pledges, plank walking, and dead men telling no talesâ¦â and here he paused briefly, almost wistfully, âbut, you are an intellectual, which is why I am hiring you for your particular expertise, and you are much more skeptical of magic by nature. I too once was a naÃ¯ve intellectual... One of the things Iâve since learned is that there is magic in stories, in metaphors. Another is that I cannot hire anyone I canât trust to follow me and my command to the ends of the Earth,â his gaze tightened, pulling at my very being, âLet me tell you why you are here. You are here because you want to learn, not that which can be found in books or academia, but what can be learned in some modest job. Let me first apologize that I canât offer you any straight-forward knowledge that you can learn without experiencing lifeâs lessons for yourself, all I can offer is a story. I can hope that you find a lot to learn in the story if you let it teach you and all I ask of you in return is loyalty. Is your loyalty too high a price for a good story that you wonât find on the shelves of some bookstore?â
The problem with being intelligent is that loyalty isnât cheap. Weâve spent the last several decades trying to hammer out exactly how to trust people and when to show loyalty. The Tribes have formed as people on similar circadian rhythms found they had an easier time trusting each other. Systems have secreted together as the Tribes began fighting betwixt themselves to protect and insure the trusts and loyalties between the Tribes. I spent years gaining Trust in and learning how to in turn Trust the Tribe. It took a minor role in a major negotiation with Swingers to get me as deeply trusted as I was, and that was a lot of work.
I had spent the last day since being invited to this mighty loft of a âshipâ using what little trust I had earned within the Tribe to learn whatever I could about the Captain McRaven and his crew. McRaven appeared to have garnered quite a lot of trust within the Tribe. McRaven and his crew were treated as something of a Tribe to itself like the Swingers, but unlike the Swingers, McRavenâs Crew was well respected not just by the Tribe, but by all of the others. In my brief foray into the trust space of what fellow tribesmen I could find that any who knew of McRaven, even often indirectly, in hushed tones told me to trust him.
So the early dilemma of yielding loyalty to an aging man sitting at the edge of a bath tub with a grimy tri-corner hat and a room full of hackers outside was both extremely hard to the ages of built up mental security layers and extremely easy to the bright young man in me that wanted to be a pirate, told funny pirate stories by tribesmen longing to themselves chance upon this silly old man.
McRaven let the silence linger a bit and then answered it himself. âYes, it is a tenuous battle in this day and age. Loyalty is the one currency that matters in this age of information and thus we return to the trappings of Piracyâ¦ The Pirates of old illicitly brokered cash, sailing in the middle places between large empires. The major difference between any given set of Pirates was not so much the illicit nature of the activities as it was the loyalty of the men and the party in which they gave their largest fealty.
âWe are the Pirates of the Eastern Standard Tribe. Our allegiance is to ourselves first and to our Tribe second. We sail the border lands, both physically and digitally, between the Tribe and its neighbors. We broker, and some would say illicitly, information.
âI am heartened that you hesitated, but I can tell by the fact that you havenât bolted out of the door that you have enough loyalty to give to keep listening. I will give you many tasks over the next few weeks, some of which might be very hard on you, and I expect you to always follow orders. But, loyalty begets loyalty and I want you to know even now that I hope to eventually groom you as a future officer in me navy.â
As he said those last few words the disguise, the metaphor persona, what have you, visibly filled the room, like a steady dawning of some otherworldly sun. I was on the edge of bewilderment and amusement. He rested his hand fatherly on my shoulder. To the man that wasnât McRaven it was a mere steadying gesture as old joints attempted to realign themselves after being placed uncomfortably at the edge of a bathtub. But for McRaven is was a sign of pure assurance, encouragement, and raw trust. It was that gesture, that confidence, and that ability to truly live a metaphor that finally swept aside my bewilderment. Truly, if he was grooming me for an important position in his crew, and I realized that I could trust the truth in that statement, then I had much to learn and I was excited by that.