[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 45 & 46 & 47
They’d put him down. They’d put him down and left. Dexter had hit hard, but something told Mike he’d been out for hours longer than he should have been. The last time Dexter had knocked Mike out it had only been a couple of minutes. And what happened? He’d just bitten Vic, and hard. He was sure Vic never saw it coming. That’s all that mattered, right?
The ship’s engines rumbled and the ship shook slightly. They were landing. That couldn’t be possible. They’d only just left Planchar! How could they be landing? What happened?
Mike wanted to get up, but if they were landing, there was no chance of that. Tootsie must’ve used a stasis field. Mike had hoped putting fear into their hearts would have frozen them with panic. That obviously didn’t work.
The ship stopped shaking. “June, we’ll be down in any minute. We need to get loaded as quickly as possible.”
Vic! Alive? That’s not possible. Even if the poison didn’t kill him, the bite should have. No one survives a bite from Mike.
“I bit Vic! No! That’s not the plan! What did I do? They think I tried to kill Vic.”
Mike un-strapped his belt and scurried up and into his web. The box was there. He needed to call the boss. He needed instructions on how to proceed now that everything had gone wrong. The boss would know how to fix this. Yes he would. He’d know. All Mike had to do was speak with him.
A rumble from inside the ship and Mike knew that the landing gear was down. They were nearly on the ground. He had to act fast. They would catch him. They’d find him and take away the box. They would. He couldn’t have that. No he couldn’t.
Mike took up the box and leapt from the web. He poked his head out into the cargo bay. June, now that the ship had landed, stood near the exit ramp and was shooting back into the cargo bay.
“What are you doing?” Mike questioned in a whisper.
She was shooting out the webbing. Mike’s fabulous web disintegrated with each pull of the trigger.
“I’ll kill you first. Yes I will.”
No! He couldn’t kill any of them until the boss told him it was time.
“I want to kill you, but you’ll have to wait. You’re going to taste so good,” Mike said under his breath.
Once June, Joey, Dexter, and Argmon left the ship, Mike left the engineering room. Vic’s voice sounded weak. Now he could strike unabated. He could kill Vic this time.
No! He wasn’t supposed to kill yet. No. He was supposed to hide. He needed to hide. He’d bitten Vic and they’d try to kill him. That wasn’t in the plan. The boss would be quite upset. Couldn’t have that.
Mike scampered across the floor. He had to act fast. He had to hide. But where? Tootsie’s sensors could find him anywhere on the ship. All they’d have to do is think to ask. He had to be where she couldn’t find him.
“Mike. Where are you going?”
No time to think. Only time to react. Mike set the box down gently and approached the robot.
“Mike, what are you doing?”
Mike lunged. It took only a fraction of a second to tear the robot’s limbs off and rip its head from its torso, then shredd the torso into a thousand parts. The robot’s death felt good, but it didn’t satisfy as good as killing Vic would have. No. He needed to kill Vic. That’s what he needed.
The killing of SPX-39 had involuntarily dropped his fangs. He’d already distributed a massive amount of venom into Vic, he had to save the rest. When the time was right. That’s all he needed to wait for. The right time. The boss wanted this to be a public humiliation and death. Timing was everything.
Mike raced across the floor and snatched up the box and spun three times looking for a hiding place.
“Where? Where? There must be somewhere to hide. Where?”
A large tarp far in the corner covered a bulky shape. Mike rushed to it. He had to get hidden. This had to be where he could hide. He couldn’t let them find him. They were going to kill him. He knew they were going to. He couldn’t be killed. Not yet. The boss’s plan. He had to get hidden.
Under the tarp he spied a small, black cruiser; a small ship that could hold two passengers and perhaps a little bit of cargo, but not much. It was perfect. A stealth cruiser. Tootsie’s scanners would never penetrate inside it.
Mike stowed himself and the box into the small cargo compartment. He could let himself out at any time. Once they tried to find him and discovered he was no longer on the ship, he could get out. A perfect plan. The boss didn’t need to know of the mishap. He didn’t need to know at all. Perhaps the boss would be pleased to know that Vic had suffered before he was killed. The reward could be substantial. Maybe he could retire. He could take the money he’d earned with Vic and the payment from the boss and find a nice planet to retire to. A planet filled with little beings that didn’t mind being killed en masse.
“What do you mean no one’s here? I signaled for and got landing codes.”
“I can only tell you what’s going on. No one is here and all the doors are locked. What don’t you get about that?”
“But I called ahead. The warehouse should be open if they gave me landing codes.”
Tootsie chimed in. “Vic, the landing codes we were given were automated. This is a planetary holiday. No one is working anywhere on this planet right now.”
June’s voice bit as hard as Mike’s fangs had. “Vic! You didn’t even bother to check!” And her voice cut off.
He’d screwed up again. He’d wagered their pay on the tonindrium job on this and he’d lost. He’d just lost. On top of that a police cruiser waited for them back on Munchkada.
He wanted to just call them all back onto the ship, but there still had to be an angle he wasn’t seeing. Something he was overlooking. This couldn’t be the end. It couldn’t end like this. Why is everything falling apart. Why now?
It felt as if someone was orchestrating his downfall. But downfall from what? He’d managed to get a decent business going and he helped people in need. Sure he made a buck or two from it and had been banned from several systems and was wanted on several others, but what did that matter? He had a thousand systems to travel to and each different from the last. Who wouldn’t want to live this kind of life?
A pang ripped at Vic’s heart. He suddenly missed his father. For the first time since he’d arrived, searching for his father, he wished he could ask his old man’s advice. Why, now at the point of his biggest failure, did he suddenly need him?
A tear slipped down Vic’s cheek. His sniffed and rubbed his nose.
“Vic?” June’s voice not as rough as it just had been. “Vic, are you crying?”
He took a deep breath. “Blast the doors.” He wasn’t going down without a fight.
“I said blast the doors, June.”
“No! I’m not getting us banned from another system.”
“Argmon. Dexter. Blast the doors. They’re closed, but we know they’ve got what we need in there. If they can’t load the ship, we’ll load it ourselves.”
“Vic, this is stupid! I’m not going to blast…”
June was cut off by an explosion. Argmon and Dexter had blasted open the doors. Vic smiled as he hit the switch to open the cargo doors.
“Good job. We need to find the crane and get loaded and now. We don’t have time to waste on discussion or argument. Let’s just get going.”
Vic switched off his com unit. A sudden wave of pain and nausea overtook his body. The last thing he needed them to hear was him getting sick. He tried to get up from his seat, but his body lacked the strength to perform something so simple.
“Why Mike? Why you?”
“What do you need, Vic?” Tootsie asked.
A loud clang echoed from the cargo bay and the ship shifted slightly. They’d found the crane and were loading the ship. What a boon. They could be underway in a few minutes.
“Tootsie. How’s Mike doing?” Even if Mike had tried to kill him, Vic still cared about him. Mike must’ve just had a mental lapse or something. It happened to people all the time in space. Perhaps the stress had just gotten to him.
“I’m attempting to locate Mike so I can give you a status on his well being.”
“He’s in the engineering room. June told me they put him there.”
“SPX-39!” Vic shouted. The robot could go and find Mike.
There was no response.
“You really should mind your mouth, Vic.”
“Shut up Tootsie. Where’s Mike and where’s SPX-39.”
“Last location for each was the cargo bay.”
“Did they get crushed?”
Another loud clang and the ship shifted again. Don’t let them be dead.
“SPX-39 and Mike do not register as being on the ship.”
“Well where do they register?”
“I’m not detecting either one of them on the ship or with the rest of the crew.”
“Well isn’t that just great.” Vic switched his com unit back on. “June, you may have company out there. Keep on eye out for Mike and SPX-39.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean Tootsie can’t find them on the ship.”
After a long pause June said. “I think I forgot to tell Tootsie to put the stasis field back on him.”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s just get this loaded and get out of here. If Mike isn’t on the ship, good riddance to the rat fink.”
Vic rubbed his temple. Could anything else happen to make this worse? Anything at all?
“SS Acid Rat! You are ordered to stay on the ground. You are not to leave the planet Raado.”
“And who the hell are you?”
“This is the police cruiser Apprehension. You and your crew are under arrest. You are in violation of…”
Vic switched off the main con unit.
“Guys, we’ve got company. Tell me we’re loaded.”
“Well get that one on board and let’s get going! The cops are here.”
“What?” June screamed so loud it hurt Vic’s ear.
“Are you having trouble hearing today? Get your ass back on this ship! We’re leaving.”
A final clang from the back of the ship and the cargo bay doors closed. It couldn’t have happened soon enough. Vic watched the light for the exit ramp.
“Come on. Come on. Let’s go.”
He couldn’t leave until they were back on board, but they had to hurry.
“Vic, the police cruiser will be in tractor beam range in one minute.”
The light for the exit ramp went out and June said in between puffs and pants, “We’re on. Go!”
They’d left the engines charged so Vic lifted off and left in the opposite direction of the police cruiser. Vic was ready for a fight, but this had gone from ridiculous to insane. If they wanted him, they were going to have to catch him.
“They took off?” B.T. Justice snatched the com mike from the officer. “SS Acid Rat, this is Sheriff B.T. Justice. I order you to land that ship this instant. Do you hear me?”
They obviously didn’t hear or didn’t care.
“Are they receiving us?”
“Well maybe you use your head and force their com unit on!” Justice slapped the man in the arm with his riding crop. Twice.
“Yes…yes sir,” the officer said trying to dodge another blow. “There you are sir. They can hear you now.”
“SS Acid Rat, this is Sheriff B.T. Justice. I order you to land and land now. You cannot escape this time.”
“Yes I can.”
“So you’re a smart ass are you? Let’s see how you fare with a missile in the side of your ship.”
The officer who had handed Justice the mike whitened. “Sir, we can’t shoot them down. Not when we’re off our home planet.”
Justice smacked the officer. “I’m bluffing you idiot!”
“Um, daddy sir.” Junior pointed to the mike. Justice had been holding the button the entire time. The crew of the SS Acid Rat heard everything.
“Damn!” The Sheriff threw the mike across the bridge. “Get that ship. I don’t care what it takes, get that ship.”
“I’m going daddy.”
“And stop calling me daddy you idiot! I swear you take after your mother. If I were a lion I would have killed you at birth. Come here.”
Junior walked back with his tail between his legs, eyeing the riding crop nervously.
“Junior, I need you to contact the local authorities. Let them know there’s been a break in and we are in pursuit.”
“But won’t they wonder why we’re here?”
“Don’t question me. Report it anonymously.”
Junior ran off. Sheriff Justice’s eyes narrowed to small slits as the SS Acid Rat’s silver skin faded from view in the disappearing atmosphere. All they could do was chase now, but this time he wouldn’t let up until the tractor beam was engaged and he was hauling the criminals back home to stand trial. Oh no! They weren’t getting away this time.
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