[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 34
June shook her head as Mike dragged Joey back onto the ship. Vic should have known better. Joey wasn’t prepared for this. It took her several planets before she even dared to walk off the ship for the first time and that was only to set foot on solid ground before she ran back into the ship. Joey had been scared not only by the planet, but by the people. Something within her unconscious psychic abilities told her that.
But he was in good hands with Mike. She didn’t need to worry about him. She needed to keep an eye on everything around the ship.
The cameras mounted on the ship’s exterior gave her a view of everything on small view screens inside her helmet. With a word she could switch views, zoom, pan, and filter. With the throngs of people around the ship, anything could get through, but she was certain that whoever would attack this load would not be close by. There were a large number of tall buildings all with easy access to the ship. She had half the cameras aimed high and set to focus on any movement.
Vic and Argmon made their way to a group of very fat, official-looking men and women. Hands were shaken and smiles exchanged. The largest of fat men, Chancellor Verbiddi, led the two of them to a small, raised platform and his voice boomed over a hidden PA system.
“Ladies and gentlemen, V&A Shipping has arrived.”
Fireworks exploded high over head. The cameras swung in the direction of each projectile until it exploded and then panned to acquire a new target. June’s eyes darted to each looking to see if anything was going in any direction other than up. It was hard to keep track of all of them, but it was possible there would be no attack.
“Contaminar would like to thank and commend V&A Shipping for delivering a precious and much needed load of tonindrium.”
Another round of cheers and fireworks erupted. This time one of the ship’s cameras didn’t focus on a rising firework, but on a figure atop a distant building.
“Zoom camera C times two,” she said softly.
“What’s up June?” Vic asked. He was equipped with an earpiece and microphone as were Argmon and Dexter.
“Just checking something out. Nothing to worry about yet. Focus.”
“Not you, the camera.”
Whoever had been atop the building dipped out of sight. The camera would stay trained on that spot now. There was no sense in taking a chance of that person popping back up.
Vic was given a medal of some sort. Of course he got a medal. He was the captain of the ship after all. He was the one who needed the glory. Once the medal was placed around his neck Vic turned and waved to the crowd. A man with a camera stood up and pushed a button on its top. Nothing happened. There was no flash. June trained two cameras in to see what was going on.
Something grew out of the ground. She trained a third camera. It looked like legs made from rocks with a billion tiny particles adding more to the protrusions all the time. A statue?
“…and in honor of your bravery this statue shall remain on this spot for all time to let everyone know that it was Vic of V&A Shipping that saved our planet from self destruction. Let’s all look upon it and marvel.”
A statue. As if getting a medal and having the entire planet adore him wasn’t enough he was having a statue erected in his honor. For a load of tonindrium? This was just ridiculous.
One camera panned away as a crane lowered down to the Acid Rat.
“Mike, open the cargo bay,” Vic ordered.
No response came, but the top of the ship opened up. The crane’s hook descended into the cargo bay. When it stopped there was a long pause. Mike had to be hooking up the load. When the crane started to pull up on the load the ship groaned loudly. The boom of the crane bent dangerously forward. The crane clamped down and righted itself and the load was drawn out of the ship.
The canister, about the size of a volkswagon beetle (tonindrium being the heaviest known element in the galaxy didn’t need a big canister), appeared and more cheers and fireworks ensued. The crowd swayed from side to side and the band started up again.
Three cameras spun and zoomed to the top of one building. A person was definitely there. Whoever it was had a gun and a huge gun at that. They were going to shoot something and the ship was in the way. June cared about getting the load delivered, and that was done, but the ship was her home now and she cared about that even more.
“Trouble. Dexter, to me.”
“What’s up?” Vic said.
“It’s under control.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.” Dexter arrived at her back.
“Keep me covered, Dex. There may be someone in the crowd.”
June raised both guns. The person was almost done setting up his gun. He’d been waiting for the shipment to be out and he was either going to shoot and detonate it or hope to shoot the cable of the crane and crash it back onto the ship. Either way this guy was trouble.
Gasps rose from the crowd. One camera angle showed people moving away. Dexter had his guns out and scanned everyone and watched for anything out of the ordinary.
Crosshairs appeared in her view, one set for each gun. She was able to get them both focused on the man on the building. He was working frantically to get the gun mounted. Why hadn’t they set up before hand? Something didn’t feel right. Something was wrong.
Dexter fired. A woman was downed and the crowd pushed back in a panic.
“Dexter, what happened?”
“Eep! Eep! Eep!” Dexter fired another shot into a man’s chest and he exploded.
June saw the gun, but the crowd couldn’t have seen it. It wasn’t looking good for the home team. She had to concentrate. They had threats here and on top of the building. She could have removed the threat if she’d seen it earlier. They must have known that.
June set the crosshairs on the man’s head and fired. His head disappeared in a mist of blood.
“All cameras in.”
“There’s a lot of confusion here. What’s going on?” Vic demanded over the screaming crowd.
“I’m on it Vic.” June shot two people coming up from the other side of the ship. There couldn’t be many more. These things always came in small waves.
Something overhead groaned. The canister was still over the ship. The crane should have lowered it by now. Why was it still in the air?
“Camera G. Focus crane.”
“Crane? What’s going on with the crane?”
From one camera angle June saw Vic look up above the ship and his mouth gape open. In camera G she saw the controller of the crane in a struggle with someone. Someone who knew their plan had failed and was trying to execute an ad hoc plan. The crosshairs lined up and the man’s head disappeared just like his partner’s had. The crane operator leapt from the crane and ran.
“Vic, problem. Can you get to the crane?”
“Just go. We need a crane operator.”
“I’m on it.”
One camera tracked Vic running to the other side of the ship and to the crane. He jumped inside and moved the canister away from the ship and slowly lowered it to the ground.
No more shots were fired, the canister made it safely to the ground, and as luck would have it, Vic’s statue had gotten knocked over in the confusion. June smiled. He didn’t need another statue on another planet.
When Vic exited the crane she told him, “All clear.”
“Just earning my keep.”
Dexter holstered his guns and moved the bodies away from the ship. One might be booby trapped. Dexter always thought of the little details. She would have helped, but she needed to monitor.
All buildings were clear now. The crowd had moved back, but was once again pressing forward. The fat guy was making a speech. Great. Vic’s going to get more credit and they’ll probably make another statue. What luck.
June put her weapons away and crossed her arms over her chest. “No one messes with the SS Acid Rat” is what her stance said.
Something tugged at her mind. Someone of the crew was scared and hiding. Had to be SPX-39, though she had never had a psychic link with him or Tootsie. Who else would be hiding? Joey was passed out. It couldn’t be him. Mike? Not possible.
She put it out of her mind. She didn’t have time for another distraction. She just wanted to get back on the ship and be on their way. Even if she couldn’t get back to Munchkada she still wanted to be off this planet. It just didn’t feel right. Not at all. They were in danger. It was something more than just that little attack. Much bigger indeed.
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