[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 38
Joey could feel someone touching his face, but everything was black. What happened? Where am I?- His mind was muddled. He coughed. He rolled over. He finally opened his eyes.
“Good, you’re awake. Vic wants to talk to everyone. I personally don’t like the tone of his voice at the moment. He sounds too happy.”
June talked, but the words didn’t register right away. She had her helmet off, but still had the tight, black outfit on. Joey looked from her waist up to her face. His head felt full of lead and his eyes drooped.
“Joey.” June snapped her fingers in front of his face.
She tucked her arm under his and pulled him to his feet. His head banged into the upper bunk. She apologized and dragged him across the narrow passageway and into the lounge. Everyone, including SPX-39 with its suspicious glare, sat waiting. Vic stood up.
“Great, you’re awake. Kid, I wanted you to hear this too because you’re part of the crew now.”
“What did you get us into this time, Vic? I don’t like that gleam in your eye.”
“June, I just made a deal for this crew that I couldn’t turn down. Tootsie, I need a timer set for twenty-four standard hours and I need it to start counting down now.”
“You got it, Vic.”
“Ok, we’re about to get instructions from one Almo Petrino. Those instructions will include directions, an inventory list, and verification of funds to be deposited.”
“Vic,” June said, shaking her head. “What’s going on? I thought you were going to a party.”
“We’re all going to that party June.” Vic frowned. “I want you to go to. The celebration is for all of us.”
“Just sit down and let me tell you guys the deal. Mr. Petrino has offered to triple the pay for this job, if we get him his items and get back in twenty-four standard hours.”
“Or? What do you mean or?”
“There had to be an ultimatum. He’s not just going to give us triple pay for getting some stuff in a short amount of time.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
Vic looked at the floor. Joey, his head still not fully aware yet, tried to figure out what was going on. Obviously they had made the delivery and there was going to be some sort of party, and this Almo guy needed something. It was all confusing.
“He did say something about double or nothing at first, but now it’s triple.”
“Or nothing?” June snapped.
“Well, yes. But it’s going to be really easy. He just needs stuff for his party. It’ll be a snap.”
“Getting the tonindrium was supposed to be a snap, Vic. It took us two weeks just to find a supplier. It sounds like this Almo person is trying to screw us out of our money. What did you get us into?”
Vic rubbed his mouth. He looked like someone who’d been caught making a terrible decision. Three times he tried to respond, but had nothing to say.
“Vic, you idiot. This guy is going to send us all over and we’re going to lose the pay for this job. Not to mention we’ve got a police cruiser waiting for us back at Munchkada, and you ruined my plans for when we get back. How stupid could you be?”
“This is going work,” Vic said weakly.
June snorted in disgust and left.
“Yeah, kid.” Vic had lost all his prior enthusiasm.
“I was out for a little bit, but what’s going on? You got another job?”
“Sort of.” Vic filled Joey into all the details about the job in question. Something didn’t feel right.
“So you see, kid, I thought it would be best for everyone if we took this job. I mean, we’re not just getting paid double or triple. We’re getting paid double already, and this guy is going to triple that pay. We’re making six times our usual rate. That’s a lot of money. How could I turn it down?”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“Thank you Dexter. See, he’s up for a challenge.”
“But you get nothing for the delivery or the delivery of tonindrium if you don’t make it back in time.”
“I think the guy is just being dramatic. It doesn’t matter. The government is already paying us their part, so even if we don’t make it, we’re still even.”
Joey’s head finally started clearing. “But why would he make that kind of deal if there wasn’t a risk involved?”
“That’s what’ll make this fun.” Joey didn’t like the glint in Vic’s eye. It gleamed of trouble.
“So Vic,” Mike chimed up. “How long until we hear about the details for the job?”
Joey gave Mike a dubious look. Mike had been outside while the deal was made. Why didn’t he know what was going on? If anything, Vic, Argmon, Dexter, and Mike should all know what was going on. Only June, Joop-Nop, SPX-39, Tootsie, and Joey were inside while the deal was being made.
The sweet voice of Tootsie filled the chamber. “Vic, you’ve got a call coming through.”
“Put it through in here.”
A fat man in a white suit appeared in the middle of the lounge. Joey nearly leapt out of his skin. It looked so real. So life-like. It was disturbing.
“Ah, Vic. I see you’re back on your ship. I hope you have notified your crew and they’re all ready to go.”
Joey knew he was ready to leave this planet. The pollution took its toll on his senses and he wanted to see a different planet. Hopefully something more like Earth. June poked her head around the corner and watched. Joey felt better knowing she didn’t stray far. Her presence was the most comforting.
“My computer is talking with your computer right now and giving it the coordinates. It’s only one place I need you to go.”
Vic leaned back in his chair and tried to look relaxed. “What are we picking up?”
“It’ll be a shipment from the Rocmou system. In that system is a planet covered completely in ice and snow, the Raado Planet, and their chief export is beer. My favorite beer. I want you to get me as much as your ship can carry.”
“That’s it? Pick up some beer for your party.”
“That’s it. And be back here in twenty-four standard hours.”
“I don’t think we’ll need the full twenty-four standard hours, but we’ll take them all the same.”
“Your computer should have all the details by now. I suggest you get going, and soon.”
The image of the fat man in the white suit disappeared.
“Tootsie, are you working out the course yet?”
“Vic, I’ve got bad news.” Tootsie ticked and dinged several times. “We won’t be able to make it there and back in twenty-four standard hours based on the route I’ve plotted out.”
“I knew it!” June shouted from the doorway.
“Tootsie, how is that possible. He said it was just a couple of systems over.”
“It is. We’ll be able to get there quickly enough. The problem it that the sector we go through to get there doesn’t allow transport of such beverages and has a standing blockade to enforce that law. We’ll have to go around the sector to get back and going around that sector takes us past two black holes and a neutron star with such gravitational forces that we’ll be forced to make additional course corrections. The best course I have plotted, which skirts the very outside edge of that sector brings us back in twenty-six hours and ten minutes.”
Vic stood up. “We’d better get going. We’ll find somewhere to make up the time once we have the load. Everyone get buckled in. Argmon! Let’s go.”
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