[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 37
Joey didn’t look good at all. His face had turned an ashen white and his body went limp. Mike dragged him up to the bunk room and laid him down. The boy looked so defenseless.
Mike laughed to himself. It was perfect. It was very likely that this boy could be easily manipulated into thinking everything was alright and anything he was told was the truth. He wouldn’t know any better. After all, his situation, as extreme was it was, wasn’t anything remotely close to normal. He also didn’t know June and Vic any better. All Mike had to do was befriend the boy and execute the boss’s plan through Joey and Mike would be in the clear. It was…
“Perfect. Just when I want to be alone, you two are in here.” June’s eyes burned with anger. Mike cowered back.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Mike had learned that when June said this, it meant she didn’t want to talk to Vic about it. Perhaps she could also be used in the plan.
“Don’t be that way, June. I didn’t do anything to you. Tell me what happened?”
“Mike, piss off. I’m not in the mood to talk.”
“You say that, but you don’t really mean it.” Mike tried to keep his tone consolatory. “What did Vic do this time?” It had to be Vic’s fault she was upset.
“I’ll tell you what he did.” June threw her helmet into the lounge. Tootsie’s sensors detected it and froze it in mid-air. “He screwed up my plans for when this trip was over. And why you ask? Because of his ego. Bringing in an illegal shipment of tonindrium earned him a nice paycheck, but an even bigger celebration.”
“This is a job.” Mike countered weakly. He knew this would goad her anger further.
“I can find any number of jobs that would pay more and not get the police to chase us. I didn’t have a choice when I got here. Vic is the only other person from my planet. I’m stuck.” She started to cry.
“Joey is here now. That makes three of you.”
June sniffled. “I’m stuck in outer space with an egotistical man and a boy who faints at the drop of a hat. Oh I’m such a lucky girl.”
Wait! If June was in here, Vic was still outside. The boss had said that the deal would be going down. It could be happening right now! He had to get outside. But how to do that and keep June consoled? How?
“Um…June. I must attend to a matter. I think you need to get some rest. Perhaps things will look better later.”
“Oh, so you’re ditching me too? Just like a man.”
“Well, I’m not really a man, I’m…”
“I don’t care what you are. Just go. I need some time alone.”
He was going to point out the fact that she really wasn’t alone and that Joey was here, but decided it wasn’t the wisest pursuit.
Mike scrambled out of the bunk room, down through the cargo bay, and to the exit ramp. He paused in the shadows and watched.
Vic was talking to a big man in a white suit accompanied with a shorter man in the same white suit. Mike frowned. It was happening. It was happening right now and he couldn’t hear what they were saying. He had to get out there. How? He couldn’t just amble up and act like nothing was going on. He needed a reason.
Slowly he made his way outside. He didn’t want to startle anyone. There was something about his race that universally frightened people. He smiled as he walked out to try and reassure the strangers.
“Daddy!” The short one exclaimed. “What’s that?”
“Son, that there is an Arachnidion from the planet Crackus. They’re like giant spider people.”
The big man knew about Crackus and wasn’t afraid, but the little one hid behind his father. Mike was glad that at least one of them wasn’t running for cover.
“The name is Mike. I’m glad to meet you.”
“I’m Almo Petrino and this is my son Paul Petrino.”
Vic wheeled around. “Mike, what are you doing out here? I didn’t say it was clear to come off the ship.”
Mike took a deep breath. “I just wanted to let you know that Joey and June are alright. Joey passed out. Nothing more. June though…”
Vic waved Mike to be silent and pointed at the two men. The deal was happening. The man in white knew about Crackus because the boss had told him. It was the only way he could possibly know. Most people were ignorant of the spider-people’s home planet.
“Now you were saying something about a shipment you needed,” Vic prompted.
“Indeed.” The large man in white pulled his son out from behind him and pushed him back to the side. “Junior and I here are having a little side party of our own. You see, our business is responsible for a large amount of this pollution and we’ve been trying to get this shipment here for a long time. The first shipment I paid for myself and my insurance had to help me recoup my losses. The second one I paid half for and the government picked up the rest of the tab. I had to bully my insurance to get reimbursed for that tragic loss.
“Now I was getting a mite frustrated, as I’m sure you can imagine. The people want the air cleaned up and think it’s mostly my fault. The government wants the air cleaned up and think it’s mostly my fault. These rebels like the planet the way it is and think we should stop putting anything else into the air even if it means that it’ll clean it up. So I’m stuck in the middle and since I’ve got money, people expect me to pay. So I did.”
Vic crossed his arms across his chest and started tapping his foot. Mike had never seen Vic get impatient before. It was interesting to observe. If Almo didn’t get to the point, Vic would just turn around and leave. Mike wanted to jump in, but there wasn’t an opportunity to do so.
“Now I know you’ve a reputation for getting things quickly. This is why I recommended you for the tonindrium job. Being that it was, how shall I put it, a lucrative endeavor for you, I think I’m due some of your time as well. I can make it worth your while.”
“I’ve got a party to go to and a crew that’s not so happy with me. You’ll have to pardon me if I pass.” Vic turned to leave. Mike nearly leapt out of his skin. Vic couldn’t turn this down. He just couldn’t.
“Vic, I expected better from you. It’s an easy task. I can get Chancellor Verbiddi to hold up the celebration as you will be slightly detained. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
Vic turned back around. As he did he winked at Mike. “What do you mean worth my while?”
“I had to put up half your paycheck for this load of tonindrium. Half. That’s a lot of money. But, what would you say if I offered you, shall we say, double or nothing?”
“Double or nothing?”
“If you can make it back with the shipment I send you for in twenty-four standard hours, I’ll double not just my payment to you, but double your entire paycheck. You could buy a lot of time off for that kind of money and make your crew happy I’d wager.”
Vic rubbed his chin. He had to take this deal He just had to. Mike mopped his sweaty brow. He’d never been so nervous.
“You do realize that my pay has already been doubled because of a run in with the local authorities on Bamda?”
“I hadn’t realized that.” Almo chewed on his cigar for a moment and shifted it from side to side. “No matter. My offer is already on the table and the offer stands. What do you say, Vic. I don’t have much time to negotiate.”
Almo planted his hands on his hips. He had this negotiating down to an art. Mike stopped worrying. If Vic didn’t take this, he was stupid.
“That’s a lot of money. With the police cruiser out there waiting for me, I don’t know if I can risk it.”
Risk it! Risk it!-
Almo didn’t move.
Vic bit his finger nails. “I don’t know.”
“Aw Vic. Don’t let me down. It’s just a short hop two systems over.”
“It’s not that I’m concerned about. It’s the fact that you’re doubling my already doubled pay. That’s a lot of money for a quick trip out and back. There’s got to be a catch. I don’t know that I need to put my crew through that kind of risk with the law already on my tail.”
“This party is really important to me, Vic.”
“Important or not. I’m going to have to pass.”
All eyes turned to Mike. Frantically he tried to recover.
“Vic, this is a lot of money. Think hard about it. Don’t just pass it up.”
“Mike? Since when are you so concerned about money?”
Why? Why? I don’t know why? I’ve got to think of something and quick.- “I never told you. I’ve got children back on Crackus. They need food and clothing. I’ve been sending my money back to them.”
“Easy boy,” Vic soothed. “Mike, I didn’t know. I figured you were a loner just like the rest of us. But I can’t put us all at risk for just one person. You must understand.”
Mike hated creating a lie to try to get Vic to take this deal. This wasn’t going to work. Time had run out. What was he going to do?
“Triple.” Almo tossed his cigar to the ground and crushed it with the heel of his boot. “My final offer.”
“Look like you just hired the SS Acid Rat, Mr. Petrino.” Vic reached out and shook Almo’s hand.
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