[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 41
A thin wisp of smoke wound up from Vic’s mouth, though his moustache, across his nose, and dissipated above his head. Argmon was flying and Vic wasn’t needed. Vic’s part would come later, not now. Now he needed to think. Everyone had left the lounge except Joey. The kid just sat and stared at the wall.
“What do you think, kid?” Vic took another drag off his cigarette.
“I think if you keep smoking those it’ll kill you.”
The kid had a sense of humor in a crisis. Vic laughed. “That’s a good one kid. But like a lot of things, you’ll find they’ve got a pill for everything these days. My dad used to say ‘they’ll make a pill to cure everything someday.’ I guess he was right. These ones aren’t even real. They’re synthetic so they don’t have all those damaging chemicals Earth cigarettes had.”
“It’s still a bad habit.”
“Well I’m not going to discuss my smoking or my drinking with you, kid. I want to know what you think can be done to get us back to Planchar on time?”
“Why are you asking me? I didn’t even get a good look at the planet.”
“True, but hey, I’m open to suggestions.”
Joey scratched his head. “Can you ask for a little more time?”
“Not hardly. This isn’t a regular job. This one is a bet. A challenge. Almo sounded like he was daring me to take it. I just have trouble turning down bushels of money. It’s probably my biggest weakness.”
“What could we use to go faster? Are there any wormholes or anything like that?”
“What’s a wormhole?”
“Like on Star Trek.”
“There was never anything like that on Star Trek.”
“Sure there was, when Captain Picard…”
“You mean Kirk.”
“Who? Oh! You never saw the Next Generation.”
“Never mind. There were a few more Star Trek shows after the seventies. But there’s a lot of theory around wormholes.”
“So what is it?”
“It’s a sort of tunnel in space. You go in one spot and come out the other end instantly, but really far away from where you went it.”
“Sounds like a nice theory, but out here, there’s nothing like that. What else have you got?”
“Um… I don’t know. Can we go closer to those black holes that Tootsie mentioned to help speed us up? Black holes warp space and maybe even warp time so we could come out on the other side faster.”
“I heard you. Tootsie. Did you hear what the kid said?”
“Yeah, Joey. Did you hear what he said? Is that possible?”
Tootsie beeped and chirped. “The ship isn’t equipped to handle the stresses of going near a black hole.”
There had to be something there. The kid was on to something. “What about the neutron star? Its gravity isn’t as strong as a black hole.”
“The SS Acid Rat isn’t designed for such things. It’s designed to haul, not explore.”
“Damn! Kid, I really thought we were onto something.” Vic slumped back into his chair. Maybe something would come to him later in the trip. He’d taken this challenge and he would figure this out. The solution eluded him, but he always found a way. He would this time too.
Joey ran his hand though his moppy hair. “So Vic, what do you think we should do?”
Vic laughed involuntarily. “Kid, if I knew that I wouldn’t be asking you. So hey, how are you getting along? I never asked.”
“I’m still having a tough time dealing with all of this. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the hang of it. Still feels like some weird dream that I’m going to wake up from at any moment.”
“Me and June got over all that. You will to. It’s really not such a big deal.”
“Not such a big deal? I’m thousands of years in the future in outer space. Just a couple of days ago I was at home trying to listen to Iron Butterfly, now I’m flying around the galaxy on a beer run. What’s your idea of a big deal?” Joey had nudged little by little as he ranted until he was sitting on the very edge of his seat waving his hands in the air. It was quite comical, but Vic refrained from laughing.
Instead of responding, Vic got up and got himself a beer. A smoke and beer. That’s what he needed. He turned and tossed the beer to Joey and fetched another.
“You see, kid, it’s like this. At no point during your time on this ship has your life been in danger.” Vic snuffed out his cigarette. “You get easily riled up. You’re quick to fly off the handle. That’s immaturity.”
“What?” Joey sounded offended.
Vic tried to back pedal. “Look, what I’m saying is your reactions are because you’re out of your element. This is all new to you. June was all jumpy when she first got here too. Hell, I wasn’t in any condition to handle where I wound up. Who could be? I had a dog thing help me out and I had to figure out what he was saying. At least you’ve got a couple of people here you can talk to.”
Joey stood up. “What kind of a jerk are you?”
“Hey, I’m just trying to help you out here. See what I mean about you getting all worked up over little things.”
Joey huffed and dropped the beer on the floor. “I’ll leave you alone so you can figure out how to get out of this mess you got yourself into.” Joey walked out of the lounge.
“This is your problem too!”
So weak Vic you idiot. Here he was trying to help the kid out and get him to adjust to the situation and all he’d done is get another crew member mad. At least the rest weren’t mad at him, but somehow it hurt more knowing that the two people who were mad at him were from his home planet. Did he get along better with aliens?
He lowered himself into a seat and cracked the beer. As he reached for another cigarette June’s voice squawked over the con. “Vic, get down to the cargo bay. You’ve got to see what Mike did.”
“What did he do?”
Her tone betrayed her annoyance. “Just get down here.”
Great. He needed time to relax and figure this out. He didn’t need to be getting distracted. Not now. How bad could Mike’s timing be to pull something random? He was strange and did stuff once in a while, but he’d always done it when things were slow, not when they were in pressed for time.
Vic stopped at the ladder looking down into the cargo hold. June, Joey, Joop-Nop, and Dexter were on the floor looking up at the far corner of the bay. They were looking at Mike on a web. An incredibly massive web. Bad timing Mike. Really bad timing to go and pull something like this.
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