[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 53 & 54
The storage compartment inside the cruiser forced Mike to remain in a tight, cramped position. He ground his teeth in frustration. He could hear soft mummers from June and Joey, but since they’d left the atmosphere, the engines drowned out most of their conversation.
He had to wait for the right moment. If he was lucky, they’d go to sleep. June had been searching fruitlessly for a convoy to join. Mike would have better luck. He could get ahold of the boss.
Mike hadn’t contacted the boss. Last time they spoke, everything was going as planned. Things were definitely not going as planned now. Maybe the boss would know what to do.
Mike turned the communication box on. A soft light glowed from its interior.
“Boss?” Mike said softly, almost a whisper.
Soft static filled the delay before the response came. Mike jumped and turned down the volume.
“There’s been an…incident.”
“What happened?” The boss’s tone was flat, but not scolding.
“I bit Vic.”
Mike closed his eyes during the long pause.
“Is he dead?”
“Good. Can you recover from the situation?”
“Well what? I need to know what’s going on onboard the SS Acid Rat. You’re my eyes and ears. What’s happening?”
“I’m not on board anymore.”
Again a long pause. “Where are you?”
“Vic had a stealth craft. I hid inside after biting Vic. June and Joey have left in it. They did it to allow Vic to evade the police.”
“Are they headed back to the SS Acid Rat now?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. They have limited hyper-drive abilities. They’re trying to find a convoy to meet up with to get back to Planchar.”
“I can make that happen, but it’ll take time. Are you still near Raado?”
“How can I locate the craft?”
“I can turn on the beacon inside the communication box.”
“Very good. Do so. I will get a convoy to accidentally arrive in that area. Once you know the convoy is in range, you will do away with the boy and the girl. Do you understand?”
“There can be no more mistakes.”
“I understand, boss.”
The box went dead. Mike heaved a sigh of relief and smiled. The boss wasn’t angry. There was hope to salvage the situation. And he’d get to kill. Soon. His smile widened further. He was going to kill. Kill! Kill!
Mike switched the beacon on and waited.
“Sir, Counselor Pitrine left a message for you. It’s marked most urgent.”
Pompous, arrogant, sumbitch. The last thing he needed now was a message. Once again they’d lost the SS Acid Rat. Once again they floated in the middle of the galaxy looking for it. This time Active Radar drones had been deployed. Soon enough they’d know where they’d gotten off to.
Justice snapped, the veins in his head pulsing. “I heard you! I’ll listen when I’m damn good and ready!” He held the riding crop high to hit to officer.
“Daddy, sir, do you need a hamburger?”
“If you weren’t my son, I’d slap you so hard your mother would wish you weren’t born.” He lowered the riding crop. “Play the message on the main viewer.”
Pitrine’s smug smile sent a chill up B.T. Justice’s spine. That smile couldn’t be there for any good reason.
“Sheriff Justice. We’ve had a report that your ship, the Apprehension, has been spotted in the Raado System. You are hereby ordered to stay in the Raado system until an escort can arrive and return your ship to your own system. Once there, you will be placed under arrest. If you choose to leave the Raado System, it had best be to head back to your own system.” Pitrine’s imaged faded out.
That’s it? Pitrine wants me to just give up this chase and head home? No deal.
“Sir, message from Sheriff Esconso.”
Why couldn’t there just be a report that the SS Acid Rat had been located.
“Put it on the viewer.”
“Sheriff Justice, we need to talk. In private.”
“Officer, put the call to my room. I’ll pick it up there. Junior, come with me.”
Once Justice returned to his room, the call was put through.
“Yes Sheriff Esconso.”
“Drop the formality Buford, you’ve got me in a situation here.”
“Well, Alex, what do you propose?”
“I propose that we return to our respective systems and drop this chase.”
“Do you? I seem to recall that you had you ass over a barrel and I helped you out. You’re telling me that you’re not in the mood to find one little criminal?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Buford. This isn’t a life or death situation. I looked up the SS Acid Rat. It’s small time. Very small time. Everything they’ve done over the past six or seven years amounts to chump change in terms of galactic economy. Do yourself a favor, return home and let this one go.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You didn’t have a small time crook sneak away from you and right under your nose! This bastard is going to go down, Alex. He’s going down!”
“Look at yourself, Buford. You’re obsessed. You need a vacation.”
“I’ll take one when I get this bastard in jail!”
“You’ll have to do it without me, Buford. I’m going back to Raado. The load of beer they stole isn’t worth losing my job or putting my fleet at risk. I’m sorry. We’re going home. You really should do the same.”
Buford T. Justice slammed his hand down on the com button and turned it off. Damn. He was alone once again. Last time he’d save a fellow officer’s life.
Junior rushed over.
“We need to find this ship. We need to find it now. We’re running out of time. I’ve never asked this before, but have you got any ideas?”
Junior looked like a gasket broke loose inside his brain; the prospect of helping overwhelming. “Well, we can deploy drones…”
“We’ve deployed drones and they’re sweeping the area with radar.”
“No, that’s not what I mean. I mean we can deploy drones and have them wait along any path their ship might take. We followed their trail here and it stopped. Right here in the middle of space. The only place they could have gone was back to Raado along the same path. If that’s true, they’ll have to follow another path back to Planchar.”
The boy was a damned genius. “Thanks Junior. Why don’t you get me a drink and meet me back up at the bridge.”
“Sure.” Junior smiled.
Now to get to the bridge and place the orders. They were going to head back to Raado. If they were lucky, one of the drones would pick up the passing SS Acid Rat. As soon as they got that signal, the drones could stay in silent pursuit. He wasn’t going to lose them again. If worse came to worse, he could blow their ship up. At least then he’d be secure in the knowledge that he’d taken care of them.
Once they were taken care of, he could worry about how to deal with Pitrine. One thing at a time.
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