[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 52
Vic threw up again. The jump to hyperspace messed up his system. Actually it was the combination of poison, anti-venom, and the jump to hyperspace, but he didn’t want to think about that now. He’d have enough time to deal with it once they made it back to Planchar. At least with Argmon driving, Vic could relax.
Joop-Nop tapped along the floor and into the bathroom.
“Joop-Nop. Thanks for coming and keeping me company.”
Joop-Nop clicked two branch appendages together. Something in the slime of its body had a bark appearance and the initial formation of a mouth. It opened and closed like a fish gasping for breath. It was trying to tell Vic something.
“What is it Joop? Are you hungry? You can’t eat me.”
One of the branches lashed out and smacked Vic on the arm.
Again the mouth opened and closed. On the third attempt Vic could hear something. It sounded like “Mike.”
“Are you trying to say ‘Mike’?”
Joop-Nop’s sticks waved up and down vigorously.
“Is Mike still on the ship?”
The sticks waved from side to side. What then? What was Joop-Nop getting at? As if in answer to that question, a protrusion of slime jutted from Joop-Nop’s body and encircled Vic’s wrist and pulled.
“You want me to follow you?”
The mouth gaped and the sticks waved up and down.
“Joop, I’m not in the best of shape. I don’t know. Ow!”
The tendril of slime had tightened.
“Alright, Alright! If you insist.”
Vic struggled to his feet. His head swam back and forth and his balance faltered, but he kept to his feet.
They went down through the cargo bay and back to the engineering room. The room Mike spent a majority of his time. Alone. Until Mike’s attack this wouldn’t have been suspicious, but in the light of recent events, this did appear odd behavior. Especially since the rest of the crew had such outgoing personalities.
“What is it Joop-Nop? I think I need to go lay down.”
Joop-Nop pointed to Mike’s funnel web. Vic looked at the webbing and shook his head.
“Sorry little guy, that just ain’t going to happen.”
Joop-Nop whacked the back of Vic’s legs.
It pointed at the web again.
“Fine. I’ll go look. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll get on that chair and look inside. Will you leave me alone then? There’s nothing in there, I hope you know.”
A farting noise escaped Joop-Nop.
Vic steadied himself on the chair. Mike’s funnel web sat just a few feet off the floor. Raising his arms over his head brought a wave of pain.
“I can’t do it.”
Joop-Nop clicked and clacked disappointment and urged Vic to look.
“Fine, but you’re dragging me back up to the bathroom once I do this.”
Vic reached up to the funnel web. He really didn’t want to touch it. The last time he touched one of Mike’s webs is something he’d never be able to forget. Mike plunging down with that rabid look. Vic shuddered.
Getting his hands up proved to be the most difficult part about getting into the web. His legs worked just fine. To his surprise the funnel web wasn’t sticky. Mike had built it some time ago, but Vic had just assumed it’d be sticky. The texture felt smooth to the touch and had easy hand holds. Climbing into it was a snap.
Vic proceeded slowly. Something had to be in here. Joop-Nop’s insistence, unnerving as it was, couldn’t be for nothing.
Deep inside the funnel web all light stopped. Mike’s web skills were impressive. Vic had expected it to be dirty inside, but it was so clean, disturbingly clean. Mike slept in here. Sometimes he ate in here. He practically lived in the web. Yet it looked clean as if no one had ever been inside of it.
Something caught Vic’s eye. A square depression deep in the rear of the web. He crawled toward it. The dim light made it difficult to see, but obviously something had been sitting there. Something square.
Vic waiting for a response, but he knew he wasn’t going to hear one.
“Joop, there’s nothing up here, but there was. Do you know what Mike had up here?”
Vic shook his head. Why did he bother? He made his way out of the web and sat in the seat. Joop-Nop’s mouth opened and closed, but no discernible sounds emitted.
“I hate to say this, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it. Mike’s not here and whatever he had up there is gone as well.”
Joop-Nop appeared to deflate. Again the mouth tried to form words. Vic watched and tried to figure out what Joop-Nop tried to say. Finally something came out.
“Call? You want me to call some one?”
Joop-Nop clicked and shook its branches.
Call what? Call who? Oh damn! “Are you saying that Mike called someone from up there?” That had to be it. That had to be what was missing from Mike’s web. Mike had somehow gotten a communication box on board and kept in touch with someone from the outside.
Joop-Nop excitedly danced about.
“Thanks, buddy.” Vic shook one of Joop-Nop’s branches. “Tootsie! Tootsie!”
No response came. He’d forgotten he’d swapped out Tootsie with the Iron Butterfly. He didn’t even know the name of this one. If Tootsie had been on board, she’d be able to recount all of Mike’s communications. Until he was reunited with Tootsie, he’d have to wait. Who the hell had Mike been talking to?
No! The Iron Butterfly’s stealth shielding. It would keep Tootsie’s sensors from penetrating and discovering anything inside. Mike, who had not left the ship, must’ve stowed away inside. Mike was with June and Joey, and they didn’t know it.
Vic’s face paled. How could he get in touch with them to warn them? He and Argmon were almost upon the barricade. They had four heavy police cruisers in hot pursuit. June could handle herself if all they needed to do was get back to Planchar, but with Mike on board that cramped little ship, they were in danger.
He tried not to think about losing the money, but that panged him as well.
He had no choice. No choice at all. “Argmon! Turn us around. We’ve got to go back and pick up June and Joey.”
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