[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 51
Only when he saw the police cruisers fall away did Joey deign it plausible to start breathing again. Dizziness overwhelmed him, but he didn’t pass out.
“Is that your problem?” June asked. “You stop breathing when you get stressed?” She asked it so calmly. So coolly. As if this entire episode followed normal guidelines for working with Vic.
“I’ve only been here a short time. This is all new to me.”
“When it was all new to me, I didn’t pass out at every opportunity.”
Joey pointed at an approaching building and gasped. June casually went around the building.
“Honestly Joey, you need to learn how to relax.”
“I’ll relax when my feet are back on solid ground.”
“You want to land?”
June laughed. “Joey, relax. Breathe. Everything is going to be alright. Vic’s plan is working.”
Joey looked up. The massive police cruiser, blue and gold reflecting the sun, veered away. All the Raado police had stopped and given up pursuit. Just as Vic had explained it, the ships had solid steel hulls and image screens that translated everything and ships were translated by transponder signals. When they turned off Tootsie’s, they effectively disappeared.
Of course they could have turned off the transponder signal on the Acid Rat, but it wasn’t a stealth vehicle and therefore suspect to radar probing. They would have been found, eventually.
“So what do we do now?”
“We wait for a little while.”
“Well,” June set the cruiser to hover. “We need to wait until we know we’re no longer being pursued. Then we’ll get on the line and find out who’s heading out and join them.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, this little ship can make a hyperspace jump, but nothing far. We need to find a convoy that’s heading out and we make the jump to hyperspace, but we’ll be sucked along in their ebb and be able to travel farther.”
“Oh.” What June said made no sense whatsoever. No way he could let her know that. He didn’t want to appear stupid.
“You didn’t understand a thing I said, did you?” She smiled. So much for not looking stupid.
“Don’t worry about it. It took me a long time to catch on to all this stuff.” She pulled something that looked like a pack of crackers. “Hungry?”
Seeing the food made his stomach rumble. He couldn’t deny that he was. “Very.”
June opened the pack and offered it to Joey. They tasted like sweet graham crackers. He closed his eyes and thought of home. What had his mom and dad thought when he never came home? What would they think of him now, sitting in a sleek ship floating billions of miles from home over a strange planet. He wanted to smile, but found it difficult.
“Come on, Joey.” June pushed a cylinder of water into his hand. “I know it’s tough, but you need to hang in there. I’ve been here for five years now. It does get easier.”
Joey thought about that. He still had trouble grasping the fact that he was way in the future and everyone back on Earth long dead.
“I want to see Earth.”
“I want to go home. I have to see it.”
“Why? What good will that do?”
“I know Vic doesn’t want to go, but I think all this will feel more real if I see it.”
“Well that’s something that’ll have to wait and you’re going to have to convince Vic on your own.”
“No, not with Vic. Just you and me. I want you to take me back there.”
June opened her mouth to say something, but refrained. She looked away and off into the distance. “It’s not that easy.”
“What’s not that easy? I need to see it June, you must understa…”
“No, not that. Getting to the planet is easy. Getting Vic to let us go. He’s a nice guy, Joey, and he really does think he’s doing the best he can, but he’s,” she turned back to Joey, “Overprotective.”
“Why? He’s not my dad.”
“No he’s not.”
She put her hand on his. Joey’s pulse quickened. He swallowed hard. He looked into her green eyes and felt everything start to melt away. He wanted to touch her face and feel her blonde hair on his hand. He wanted to kiss her.
“Joey, it’s that he feels responsible for us being here.”
Reality came back all too quickly. “Why?”
“I’m not sure why, I just know. It’s that psychic thing I got when I got here. He feels guilty I guess. Something his father built sent us here into space instead of leaving us back on Earth to lead regular lives.”
He hadn’t thought of that. Of course Vic would feel responsible. That’s why he had tried so hard to make Joey feel part of the crew and keep his mind off where he was and what he was doing.
Joey’s eyes widened and he stared at June. She couldn’t know how he felt about her. Pangs of panic struck him.
“What is it?” She asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I think we need to get going.” He moved his hand away from hers.
“Joey, talk to me. What is it.”
Joey stuffed a cracker in his mouth. They didn’t taste very good anymore. He tried to take a drink from the water and started coughing.
June sighed. “Well, we’ll have a lot of time to talk about it I guess. We’ve got a long trip back to Planchar. Let’s hope that Vic and Argmon make it back on time.”
Joey thought of something. “June, how do they search ships that pass through the blockade?”
“They check the transponder signal from the ship. They compare that signal and do a scan of the ship to check its contents. Why?”
“Tootsie, what is this ship carrying?”
Tootsie beeped. “Current load: five hundred fifty thousand cases of beer.”
June looked wide-eyed at Joey. “We’re in a stealth vehicle They’re going to want to search this ship.”
“And didn’t you tell me that Tootsie’s crew is wanted?”
“Oh crap! We’re going to have to go around.” June’s face twisted. “Tootsie, can Vic unload the ship without you on board?”
After several whirs and chirps Tootsie said, “No. My programming locks down the ship. When you left the Acid Rat, I was able to open the cargo doors and close them again, but the programming from this ship doesn’t allow for that. Vic and the rest will be locked on the ship until we arrive.”
June groaned. “Vic just lost his bet.”
“Well, not really. His transponder will allow him to pass through the blockade. Right? It shows he’s not carrying anything.”
“Right, so he can make it there in time, but what about us? We show we’re loaded with beer. We have to go around. We can’t get there in time.”
“I have an idea, can you find us a convoy?”
“I should be able to.”
June set to work on contacting local shippers. Joey had to get someone to think his idea would work. He just had to. Even if he only had a theory, it was worth a shot. Hopefully nothing else would go wrong on this trip.
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