[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 39 & 40
“We’re approaching the Planet Planchar,” one of the deck officers announced.
Any minute now and the planet would be in sight. Finally this pursuit would come to an end. He could capture the SS Acid Rat, tow it back to Bamda and make a proper arrest.
B.T. Justice sat in his command chair. He couldn’t have been more proud. He pulled a cigar out of the compartment in the arm of his chair.
“Junior,” he said kindly. “bring me a drink.”
He didn’t care if the crew knew. He deserved a celebratory drink. After a momentary thought to allow the crew to join him, he decided it’d be best if they had a party after they were towing the crooks back to Bamda. He didn’t even care if they had offloaded already. It wasn’t the material he was after, it was the culprits.
“How long until we make landfall?”
“We’ll be on the ground in twenty minutes.”
“And you have the coordinates of the SS Acid Rat?”
“And it’s still on the ground?”
“According to the planet’s flight log, yes.”
“And how long ago did you check that log?”
“I checked before we left the Munchkada System.”
“Check it again. It’s been a few hours. ” -Perhaps it is too soon for that drink.-
Junior delivered it anyway and B.T. Justice took a sip. The taste wasn’t right. The drink didn’t sit well with the dryness of his mouth. Something was wrong, he could feel it. Even before he heard the news he put the drink down on one arm rest, the cigar on the other, and stood up. Before the news was delivered he picked up his riding crop.
“Sir,” the officer said softly.
Sheriff Justice put his hands behind his back, puffed up his chest with a deep breath, and turned around. “Yes.”
“The SS Acid Rat is no longer on Planchar. The ship left about ten minutes ago.”
Ten minutes. That wasn’t so bad. His frown deepened and he narrowed his eyes at the officer. “And you’re already pulling up their last known trajectory and course projections and setting up our navigation system to follow them. Right?” It was all he could do to keep from screaming. He was already out on a limb chasing them to Munchkada and doubly so being here in Planchar, a much more populous system. Now the chase was going to continue to yet a third system.
“That is being calculated now sir.”
B.T. Justice relaxed slightly. A ten minute head start could mean several light years, but as long as they knew the ship’s course, they could follow. What could have prompted them to leave in such a hurry? Surely they couldn’t have been alerted to his arrival. They hadn’t told anyone where they were? The crew of the SS Acid Rat had outsmarted him once with their multiple trails, but they wouldn’t outsmart him a second time. Oh no they wouldn’t.
“Sir, we have their course.”
“Are the ship’s computers set up to follow?”
“I don’t know if this is the best place for us to go, sir.”
“That’s my call to make. Set the course.”
“Sir, they’re headed to the Rocmou system.”
“So what. Get us over there.”
“The system has a standing blockade. We’ll need to pass through the blockade to get to the Raado planet. If we go through the blockade…”
“GCP Central Office will be alerted that we’ve overstepped our bounds. Is there any way around?”
“Yes sir, but it’ll take twice as long if not longer to get there.”
“I don’t care. Plot the course and take us around that blockade. We’ll catch them on Raado.”
Why were they on their way to Raado? The only thing that Raado produces as an export is beer. What good would that do them?
“Sir, I’ve plotted the course. If they’re picking up something from Raado, they’ll have to go around the blockade to get back to Planchar, if that’s where they’re headed.”
“The blockade doesn’t allow the transport of such beverages and searches each ship that passes through. They’ll have to go around the system. The course we’ve plotted is the fastest course going around the blockade. They’re sure to use the same route.”
“Perfect. Get us there now. Perhaps if we’re fast enough we’ll catch them while they’re still on Raado. Junior!”
Junior picked up the drink from Justice’s chair and hustled over with it, spilling some in his haste. There would be plenty of time for more drinks. The crew of the SS Acid Rat is going slip up sooner or later and I’ll be there to tighten the noose. Oh yes, I’ll be there. They aren’t going to make a fool out of B.T. Justice. This little game of cat and mouse, or should I say cat and rat?, won’t last forever and the cat always wins.
Once again the Apprehension slinked away after the SS Acid Rat’s tail.
“Boss this is Mike.”
Vic took the challenge. Hopefully the boss hadn’t heard about the near bungle of the situation. Mike had spent far too much time with this crew that lying was difficult at best. He didn’t like any of them, did he? He had a job to do and didn’t have time for relationship entanglements.
The static from the box started. This confrontation could turn out badly if the boss heard about what transpired planet-side. The boss had only ever wanted reports as to what was going on in the ship. This was the first time in the year Mike had been on the ship he’d been asked to do something else. He did the best he could. What did it matter, Vic had taken the challenge.
“Report.” The boss’s voice was quiet but still had that same gravely tone.
“Vic took the challenge and we’re en route.”
“Is there anything else to report at this time?” asked the boss in the same quiet tone.
The machine spat static for several seconds and fell silent.
“Well that was strange.” The boss had never been so distant. Usually he would take at least a little time to talk. And what to make of his tone? Was he upset? Distracted? Something else entirely? Without ever having seen the boss’ face, Mike could only rely on the man’s voice to get a reading on him, but this time he’d spoken so drastically different Mike wasn’t even sure it was the boss at all.
“You’re getting paranoid. That’s all. Just need to proceed as planned. Everything will work out.” Mike closed his eyes and continued to talk to himself. With the communication box hidden in his web Mike didn’t feel comfortable at all.
Even after exiting the web, the control room felt constricting. Are the walls closing in? The experience of claustrophobia was foreign to Mike. He needed to be outside. He needed to get out of this little room. Even in the cargo hold the ship felt too small. What to do? Where to go? To ease his nerves Mike raced up to the ceiling of the ship, planted the base of a web on the wall with his spinners and dove off the wall.
The plunge down should clear my head. That’s all I need. A little air on my face. That’s all. I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. Just a little air. A little air.
Mike stopped spinning and let the web stretch toward the floor. It took several trips up and down and he had the beginnings of a web when he was done. Rather than let good webbing go to waste, he formed his first full web in the ship’s cargo hold. Circling around and around connecting all the strands helped him calm down and relax.
It had only taken ten or maybe fifteen minutes, but when he finally finished the web he was exhausted. Mike made his way to the center of the web, tucked his legs in, and closed his eyes.
It had to be the pressure of a year without working a job. Oh, he’d worked on the Acid Rat, sure, but not his line of work. Am I too rusty for this job?- Mike knew that wasn’t the case. He’d done far too much work to let a little thing like time off stop him. Deep breaths and a clear mind, that’s all he needed. That was it. Just clear his mind and let his actions dictate. Training would all come back. The boss would give the signal and everything would work out.
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