[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 35 & 36
Part 2: The Challenge
They were still on the stinking moon in the Munchkada system. The engineer had assured Sheriff Justice that they’d be in the air in forty-five minutes. Over an hour had passed.
“Why are we still sitting on this rock?”
Junior’s face twisted in thought and fear. “Because we haven’t taken off yet?”
Justice’s eyes narrowed. “Get out of my sight.”
Junior put his hand on his hat and turned to run away.
“Where are you going? I need you here.”
Junior stopped and nearly toppled over as he turned around. He looked torn between running away anyway and returning to his father’s side. In the end he pouted and stayed put.
“Sir, we have a communication from GCP Central Office,” one of the officers said.
“Put it up on the screen.” B.T. Justice stood up and walked forward from his chair. “Junior, don’t stand too close. I don’t want you in the shot.”
Junior backed up with his head down as the image of Counselor Pitrine faded into existence. His hands were hidden in the sleeves of his robes and he looked displeased, judging by the frown on his face.
“Sheriff Justice, I thought you’d like to know that we’ve located the SS Acid Rat.”
“You have?” he tried to feign surprise.
“We’ve also detected that your ship accessed the Galactic Central Point Central Office computers and also obtained this information.”
Caught in a ruse there was no use lying. “Yes.”
“I must ask, Sheriff Justice, are you anywhere near the system where the Space Ship Acid Rat is?”
Sheriff Justice smiled. “No.” And he wasn’t about to give anymore information.
“Sheriff Justice, we have been having…difficulties tracking your ship. What are your coordinates?”
“I told you before; we are running silent in our system. We are looking for a smuggler that hasn’t left our system yet.”
Pitrine’s eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed. “At this time you are not granted access to leave your own system. Please keep that in mind Sheriff. I wouldn’t want to see you overstep your bounds. If I find that you have your only course of action will be to report here to Galactic Central Point Central Office to stand trial.”
Like a common criminal? That would never happen. He would catch the SS Acid Rat and haul it back to Bamda and place the entire crew under arrest. Never had anyone snuck onto his planet and stolen right under his nose and he wasn’t about to let this one get away with it.
“I understand Counselor Pitrine.”
“Do you? Do you understand the consequences of leaving your own system without authority? I can assure you, Sheriff Justice, that the Central Office will not go easy on a rogue officer loose in the galaxy. It is possible that your punishment will be most unpleasant.”
Empty threats. That’s why they were dishing to him. If he brought in a criminal wanted in over forty systems he’d be a hero not only on his home world, but across the galaxy. He’d be the man that brought the weasel to justice. He would live up to his namesake. There was nothing the GCP Central Office could do, but he didn’t want to push his luck until such a time as he had the SS Acid Rat in his custody.
Counselor Pitrine studied B.T. Justice for several long moments. Finally, after an intolerably long time his image faded.
“Junior! I want this ship off the ground now! Do you hear me? Now! Let’s move. I don’t want any more excuses. If that ship has left Planchar by the time we get there, heads will roll!” He snapped his riding crop against his leg. He thought about smacking Junior upside the head, but he wanted the boy to be alert.
“Sir,” Junior said and swallowed hard. “Engineering reports we are ready to take off.”
That’s more like it. “To the Planchar System. And don’t tell me some nitwit forgot to enter in the coordinates and I have to wait for that.
There was silence.
“We’re ready for take off sir. You’ll want to buckle in.”
Sheriff Justice clicked a button on his uniform and his boots magnetically secured to the floor.
“I’m ready. I don’t want to wait any longer. Get me to Planchar and get me there quickly!”
The Apprehension slipped silently off the moon and into hyperspace.
With the canister on the ground and June signaling all was clear, Vic got out of the crane. He didn’t so much get out of the crane as he was carried out and passed over the top of the crowd back to his ship. People swarmed from all directions. This was heaven.
He found himself deposited back next to the Acid Rat. June stood stolidly with her arms crossed. She looked as cold as steel in her outfit. Vic had tried to dissuade her from her choice of uniform and had suggested something a little less intimidating, but she wouldn’t have it. He wasn’t about to bring up the point. Not with her mad at him. He thought about slapping her on the bottom and congratulating her, but only laughed at the idea. Last time he’d done that he’d gotten a black eye.
He gave Dexter a pat on the head and walked back over to Argmon, whom was still standing with Chancellor Verbiddi. The man wore a massive grin.
“Vic you’ve done it, my lad, you’ve done it. This is wonderful. Not only have you brought us a load of tonindrium, you’ve eliminated the rebel threat, well, at least for the short term.”
“Who were they?”
“They had blown up two official vessels bringing tonindrium to Planchar and that’s when the trade embargo with Bamda started. If it hadn’t been for you, we wouldn’t have gotten this load.”
“And speaking of that, you didn’t tell us that it would be illegal to get this stuff off Bamda and you didn’t tell us we’d be at risk of being shot at when we returned. I’m going to have to up my price.”
“Of course, of course. Money is no worry. I’ll make sure you and your crew are well taken care of. Before we concern ourselves of such petty matters as money, what do you say we have a celebration?”
Vic smiled. He loved a good party. Besides, they couldn’t go back to Munchkada yet. There was a police cruiser there waiting for them. “Sounds good. I’d like that.” He could feel June’s anger aimed at him. That psychic stuff hurt sometimes. He’d have to let her know to bring it down a notch.
“Excellent.” Chancellor Verbiddi clapped his hands like a giddy school boy. “Arrangements have already been made. I anticipated you would stay.”
Vic smiled and Argmon barked a low, gruff bark.
Verbiddi pulled Vic aside. “Please have your crew dress appropriately. This will be a formal event.”
“I’ll have them go out into town and get some new clothes. Should I have the bill sent to you?”
“I wouldn’t dream of you doing otherwise. I shall see you there.” The Chancellor left and vanished into the crowd that had already started dispersing.
Once he was gone, Vic hugged Argmon. “Can you believe it! I knew this trip was going to pay off.”
“Don’t get cocky, Vic,” June’s voice said in his ear.
“Don’t get sour, June. I know you really wanted to get back to Munchkada right away. We’re just being a little delayed.”
June didn’t answer.
“Come on, June. You know we can’t risk going back now. Not with a police cruiser sitting there waiting for us. I’ll get ahold of someone and they’ll let us know when the coast is clear and we can zip on back.”
“It’ll be too late then.”
“And you’re going to hold that against me?”
“For taking risky assignments? Yes.”
“But look at how much we’re getting paid for this trip.”
“It’s not about the money, Vic.” June finally turned her body to face him. She raised her hands to her helmet and removed it. That was a good thing because it always creeped him out when she talked inside her helmet and he couldn’t see her face.
“June,” Vic said in a meager attempt to console her.
“Not this time. You can count me out on the next assignment. I’m going to find something back on Munchkada when we get there and this little jaunt around the galaxy is over.”
“But you love your job.” Doesn’t she?
“I don’t care. Your shenanigans are going to get us all tossed into jail. You’ve got Joey now and you can tote him all over the place if you like. I’m through. No more rebellions. No more guarding this ship. No more illegal shipments. I’m done.”
She was really hot this time. She’d blown up before, but never like this. What is it that’s so important for her back on Munchkada? Vic didn’t even know how to respond. He just looked at her, his mouth agape.
“That’s about the response I’d expect from you, Vic. Go enjoy your victory celebration. I’ll be on the ship.”
She spun on her heel and stomped back into the Acid Rat. Vic had the feeling he wasn’t going to get her back out again.
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
Well, he had a naked tri-ped and a naked Shathar to take along to the celebration. Not much need to go shopping for them.
Mike scared people everywhere he went so he was going to be restricted to the ship. Joey had passed out. Maybe he’d wake up in time. Vic knew he’d feel really stupid showing up without his entire crew and June needed to be there. The Chancellor was expecting her. She deserved this as much as anyone. She’d saved the shipment. And this wasn’t the first time.
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“I’m thinking Dexter,” Vic said and pulled the earpiece out. “I’m thinking.”
“Perhaps I can help you there.”
A fat man in a white suit and a tall white hat walked up. His white boots stomped on the platform and echoed loudly. He had long, thin, white hair and a thick, white moustache. In his mouth he chewed on a massive cigar. Beside him strode a much shorter, and much thinner version of the man minus the white hair, moustache, and cigar.
“Name’s Almo. Pleasure to finally meet a legend like yourself. Paul, this man here is a living legend here in this galaxy.”
The little one responded, “Legends and derelicts look a lot alike I guess.”
“You watch that mouth, little one. I won’t have you talking like that in this man’s presence.”
“Who are you?” Vic eyed the two men warily. Something about them didn’t feel right.
“I’m Almo Petrino, and this is my son Paul Petrino and we’ve got an offer you can’t refuse.” Almo accented his last words by pointing his cigar at Vic.
That was doubtful, but Vic was never one to dismiss an offer. He was still riding the high feeling of making the delivery of tonindrium and the pay they were going to receive. This would have to be something big to keep his attention for long. Really big.
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