[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 25 & 26
Joey didn’t know what to say. He’d been wrapped up in the story only to have everything crash down. It all was so unfair. Vic had given up his life with his mother to find a father he wasn’t even sure was alive only to find him and watch him die. How tragic.
Vic was laying down on the bench. He exhaled a plume of smoke into the air. The empty beer cans on the table had multiplied and the ashtray was now filled with butts. Joey looked down at the can in his hand. He’d been drinking too.
“That’s my story, kid. Take it for what it’s worth. I tried to go home. I can’t tell you how long that took trying to explain to Argmon where Earth was let alone trying to figure out how to talk with him. You know what I found there and had to relive when June wanted to go back there.”
“I’m not going back again. I just can’t do it.” Vic sat up and propped his head on his hands. “You see, I just don’t have it in me anymore. I’ve put all that behind me. I’ve moved on. Seeing you was bad enough. Hearing about my mom wasn’t the easiest thing. If I had a way to go back, I’d have done that by now. But that’s not going to happen. Ever.”
Vic’s face clouded over. Joey was sure the man was devastated. How could he not be? Seeing his own father blown to bits just after finding him and being thrust into a bizarre situation. The weight of Joey’s situation, though nearly equally strange, wasn’t nearly as bad. He hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye or to think about never seeing his parents again. June’s situation was the same.
“Look, kid. I’ve got to get back up to the cockpit. I’ve still got to get this load delivered.”
Vic’s hand slipped on the table and he nearly fell to the floor. Joey jumped up to try and help him out, but the effects of the beer was hitting his head hard as well. June appeared.
“Here Vic.” She handed him something. A pill. He popped it, then took several deep breaths.
Vic got up and left. Joey suddenly felt alone despite June being there. Her nose was red and her eyes swollen. She’d been crying.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I thought not being in the same room would help when he told you about the story. Even though he’s got this tough exterior, he’s all torn up inside. I felt his pain as he told that story as if it had happened to me.”
“Is it that psychic stuff?”
“I think so. I just wish it was something I had the ability to actually control.”
Joey couldn’t think of anything to say. He felt so inept to handle this. He wanted to just run away like he had with his parents, but look where that had landed him. Even if he could run away, where would he run? It wasn’t like this ship went on forever. At some point he was going to have to face the reality that he was here and this was his new life. The sooner he accepted that the sooner he would be able to get on with it.
“So how’re you holding up?” June asked.
Joey shrugged. “Alright I guess. There’s just so much to think about.”
“And you’ve only been here for a day. Wait until you’ve been here for a week. Then a month. Then a year. There’s a lot more to think about and you could be a lot worse off. I had Vic when I got here. You can see the deep compassion he shows.” June smirked. “You’ve got Mr. Compassion and me. So just don’t feel all alone. And yes, I know that’s what you’re feeling.”
Damn! She knew how he felt? Could she read minds too?
“I’m not a mind reader, it’s just how I felt when I got here.”
“Are you sure you can’t read minds?”
June laughed. Joey smiled, but it was strained. He had more to deal with than he had ever thought life would deal him. He was supposed to be off to college in the summer, not outer space. His parents must be devastated. Must have been devastated.
“Joey.” June snapped her fingers in front of Joey’s face.
“I was saying you’ve had a couple beers. You want something to eat?”
“That sounds like a great idea.”
June got up and served a small but satisfying meal of bread and meat, at least it looked and tasted like meat. Joey could only think about sleep when he finished. And that’s exactly what he did.
By the time Vic made his way back into the cockpit of the SS Acid Rat the effects of the alcohol were gone. It was June that had found those pills back on some strange planet where they had made a delivery. It had never occurred to him to thank her. One of these days he would have to.
“So Argmon, how’s Tootsie?”
Argmon leveled Vic with a dark glare.
“Hey, it’s not my fault.”
“Okay, okay, so I did buy SPX-39. They guy said it was a good deal. How was I supposed to know the machine would turn out to be nuts.”
“You did? When did you tell me? Was it before or after I’d bought it? Yeah, just sit there and be quiet. You thought SPX-39 was really going to help out until we got it back to the ship and it freaked out at its size. Then freaked out because we had a female computer system. Stupid thing is bonkers and bad with the ladies. Maybe we should take it out for drinks.”
Argmon laughed. Making fun of SPX-39 always made Argmon laugh. Vic couldn’t be sure if Argmon had heard the story, but Argmon had lost his brother the day Vic had lost his father. It was a tough day for both of them and they bonded immediately in their shared suffering. The dog beast wasn’t good at negotiations, but he was an incredible pilot.
“Vic.” The voice was SPX-39 over the ship’s con system.
“It appears that Tootsie is having trouble with a command you gave her. Should I abort the command or hardwire it into her psyche?”
How was he supposed to know? “What command?”
“I can’t be sure what the command was that you gave her, but I think I can hardwire it in easier than wiping it out.”
“How long until she’s up and running?”
“Do it. We need to get moving.”
There was a lengthy silence. Vic wasn’t sure if SPX-39 was done talking. He was about to say something when…
“I don’t think she’s going to like me being in here.”
“Her psyche. She kicked me out twice and now I think she’s mad at me.”
“SPX-39! Fix her. Now!”
There was another long pause. Vic’s patience was wearing thin. He put his hands on the seat of his chair and was ready to go find SPX-39 and talk to him in person.
“Good morning.” It was Tootsie this time.
SPX-39 added, “She’s fixed sir, but she’s going to be mad at me.”
“I don’t care,” Vic snapped.
“You don’t care that it’s morning?” Tootsie asked.
“Sorry Tootsie. Are you ready to get underway?”
“I need to reboot my system. Something seems to have changed. I need twenty-eight minutes forty seconds. Shutting down now.”
“Glad to have you back, babe.” It was about time they got everything running properly.
“Hey Vic. So are we done sitting around?”
“Stuff it Mike. I need you to get the engines ready for a jump to Planchar. How soon can you be ready?”
“Well, there’s calculations to be made and I’ll need to…Hey! What happened to Tootsie?”
“She’s rebooting. She’ll be back up in about thirty minutes.”
“Well, I can’t do the calculations without her up and running.”
“There’s no other way?”
“Well, I can tap into GCP Central Office and use their nava-computer. I don’t think that’s a good idea though?”
“Why not?” Vic Knew why not, he was just goading Mike.
“They’ll track us for one. Tootsie didn’t leave an untraceable trail.”
“Are you saying you can’t cover up our trail once you’re in there?”
“Vic, I’m good, I’m not a god. Even I can’t get around the GCP computers. You know that.”
“I had to try. How soon once Tootsie is back up before we can have our route and be on our way?”
“Five, maybe ten minutes.”
“Why don’t you get up here and we’ll all have something to eat?”
“What Vic?” The tone of her voice let him know she’d been listening.
“Can you whip something up?”
“Vic! I’m not the maid on this ship! I’m not the cook either. You want to eat, cook it yourself.”
Whoops. Caught her on a bad day.
“Aw June. But you cook so much better than I do. Please.” He did his best to sound sincere.
“Since you put it that way. Hell no! Get off your ass and cook it yourself.”
“Hey Mike. Looks like we’re on our own. You want to order out?”
“I can cook,” Mike replied.
“God no! I’ve had your cooking before. Hey! I know. You need to meet Joey. Maybe we can get the kid to cook for us.”
June snapped. “Vic! That’s not nice.”
“I’m kidding. Lighten up.”
Mike laughed. Argmon pointed to himself.
“Hey Mike, Argmon said he’ll cook. You up for that?”
“I’m on my way!”
“Alright. Thanks Argmon. Let’s eat before we head into port and drop this shipment off.”
Argmon smiled and chortled.
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