[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 55 & 56
June pounded her fist on the console. She’d tried calling several people Vic had introduced her to and none were in range of Raado. Sitting just off planet and partially hidden by the moon, she’d seen four of the five police cruisers that had followed Vic return. He must’ve given them the slip.
A lot of good that did her and Joey. For that matter, a lot of good it did Vic. He may be able to land, but he wouldn’t be able to get out of his ship. He’d lose whether he made it there or not.
Joey sulked. June tired of his brooding. How could he just sit there and be so childish? She had to keep reminding herself that he was new out here as well as only eighteen years old, even though he looked much younger. No longer a child, but not really a man. He didn’t even need to shave.
“So what do we do now?” he asked.
June gave him a tight-lipped smile. “I don’t know. We’re pretty much stuck out here. I guess we’ll just have to float until Vic comes back for us or until we meet up with a convoy we can travel along with. Either way, we wait.”
“I saw those police ships.”
“Yeah, me too. Either Vic got caught and the one that didn’t come back was the one that’s been after him, or he got away and those ones came back.”
“What does that mean? I mean if he gets caught, what happens to us?” Joey’s faced strained as he spoke.
“Joey, we’re going to be alright. If Vic got himself caught, I just need to get us back to Munchkada. I’ve got some money put away just in case something like this happened. In fact…” She thought about the meeting she was supposed to have and decided not to tell Joey about it.
“In fact what?”
“Oh, nothing. We’ll be okay. I don’t want you to get all worked up about money or anything.”
Joey looked down at the surface of the moon. His eyes darted from crater to crater looking at each settlement and mining community. Clearly he enjoyed the scene. June decided to change the topic.
“That’s kind of neat, isn’t it? I mean, did you ever think you’d get to see a moon base?”
“I thought I might, but not this soon. I guess it still doesn’t feel real. You know.” He turned back to face her. “I mean, you’ve been back to the Earth. You’ve seen the destruction first hand. You have that to go forward with. Me, I still feel like this is just a bad dream and I’ll wake up any minute. You know.”
“Actually, yes. I felt the same way until I went back. But Joey, trust me, you really don’t want to go back there.”
“I don’t want to. I know that. I need to. I must see it to know it’s gone or my head will just keep telling me that I don’t belong here.”
June knew he was right. She’d felt the same way and had to really pressure Vic. Vic had complained about lack of money and came up with every other excuse he could, but June had worn him down and they went back. Joey couldn’t be denied that opportunity either.
“I’ll talk to Vic when we’re back on the ship.”
“Don’t you mean if?”
She did, but she didn’t want to say it. “Vic is smart. If there’s a way out of this situation, he found it. He’ll come back for us, one way or another.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
“Will you get off that trip?” June snapped. She crossed her arms across her chest.
Joey fidgeted in his seat. June watched his reflection. He’s just scared. Go easy on him. Why couldn’t she get him to talk about something else, anything else.
“How long do you think it’ll be before he comes back?”
At least he sounded more positive.
“It depends on how long it takes him to figure out he can’t open the ship without Tootsie.”
A sensor on the ship’s console blinked yellow. Slowly at first, then changed to solid green.
June touched the control. An outside view of the SS Acid Rat popped up. Joey’s mouthed opened wide.
“Is that what it looks like?”
June shrugged. She’d gotten used to it. It really did look like a giant, metallic rat. Skinny at the front, wide in the middle, and a tapering tail. “Well, yes.”
“I had thought the name was, well, just a name.”
“Nope. Vic isn’t very creative. I thought you’d have figured that out by now based on the fact that he’s had this ship, the Iron Butterfly, for some time and never named it.”
“Well, why is it appearing on our display?”
“He’s trying to contact us, just be quiet now.”
June fired up Tootsie’s transponder. Vic’s face appeared on screen.
“June! There you are.” He looked worried. It had to be the poison.
“Vic, are you taking your medicine, you don’t look good.”
“Send me your coordinates. Now!”
The jerk. He’d finally figured out he needed Tootsie to open the cargo doors and that’s all he was concerned about. She hesitated.
She moved her finger away from the controls. “You need to stop taking that tone with me. I’m not your servant. You could ask nicely.”
“June, just do it.” His face twisted in agony. Yelling was hurting him.
“I said ‘no.’ Why should I?”
“This is really important.”
Joey looked warily at June. “Why won’t you tell him where we are?”
Because she was pissed off, that’s why. Vic came all the way back and he couldn’t even be polite. “You’re being rude.”
“June! Look. I need your coordinates. Send them to me now.”
Joey turned in his seat. “June, just send them. We can bicker about who’s rude and who’s not later.”
“Who’s side are you on?”
Joey sighed. “Um, Vic, why don’t you try saying ‘please’?”
“Dammit you two, quit screwing around and give me the coordinates. We don’t have time for this.”
“All you care about is your precious money.”
“To hell with the money! This is more important! Now give me your coordinates!”
Vic never screamed like that before, even when he was healthy. And about the money? Vic was never one to turn down a profit. Something serious was going on. June sat straight, fired her finger out and pressed the button on the console to send the coordinates. She then casually flicked off the display.
“What was that about?” Joey said.
June leaned over and kissed Joey on the cheek.
“What was that for?”
“Thank you for sticking up for me. I’ll tell you later what’s happening. Trust me, you don’t want to know. Not now and don’t ask. I won’t tell you. Just sit there and wait for Vic and Argmon to come and pick us up.”
Mike could hear voices. The last he heard had come from Vic, of that he could be certain. But the boss said he would send a ship? He contacted Vic?
If the boss contacted Vic, why didn’t he have the coordinates of the cruiser? Mike had sent out the beacon signal. Vic should know where they were.
No, Vic couldn’t be the contact. The boss’s plans didn’t include Vic directly. Vic was only a puppet being lead about, unbeknownst to him, by the boss. Mike thought fast. He had to react. Trapped inside the storage compartment of the small cruiser he couldn’t think well. He couldn’t hear well. June and Joey whispered or talked, Mike couldn’t tell. They were doing something and he couldn’t see. The gentle hum of the engines wouldn’t relent on his ears.
Mike put his hand on the small sliding panel between the storage compartment and the storage space. He pulled it down a fraction of an inch. Light flooded in. He repressed the need to snap it back up. He had to see what was going on up there. To be able to hear better.
He could. He could only see June’s left shoulder and Joey’s right, but he could see them. That put his mind at ease, but only slightly. He still couldn’t hear them.
June said something. Joey held up a package of crackers. Mike mouth salivated and his stomach ached. It’d been hours since he’d eaten. He hadn’t had the time to get anything before he had to hide. If SPX-39 had been flesh and blood, he’d have had something to eat. His hand twitched. He needed those crackers. If only he could get one, just one, he could satisfy this hunger.
He had to remain hidden. The boss would not tolerate another failure. Mike had to stay put. If Vic came back to pick up June and Joey, there had to be a reason.
But Vic was on a timeline. Vic had to be back in Planchar. He’d lost at least two hours coming back for these two. He was going to lose his bet.
Was it possible that Vic knew Mike had hid on board the cruiser? How could he know that? He couldn’t know that. It wasn’t possible. Vic wasn’t that smart.
Mike slid the panel shut slowly. He had to think and think quickly. If Vic did know there would be trouble. If Vic knew, he could have a chance to prepare. Mike needed to be prepared as well.
But how? All he had with him was the communication box. He couldn’t use it again. What would the boss think of two communications so close together? He would suspect that Mike’s failure was imminent and abort the mission. Meaning he’d blow up the box. Mike didn’t have a death wish.
There was only one chance; desperate, but a chance all the same. He had to take out June and Joey as he planned. No other way existed. If he could assume control of the small cruiser, he could shut everything off, go into stealth mode and follow Vic back to Planchar.
Even if Vic didn’t find the cruiser, he had to chance it. Vic would know that June and Joey were dead. He wouldn’t search for them because how could he find a stealth vehicle in the middle of space? He’d go back to Planchar to try and win his bet, something he’d never accomplish now, and Mike could follow in the cruiser.
Mike’s breathing quickened as he prepared to leap out. All he had to do was push the panel down quickly. He’d have to overtake June first. Her skill far outweighed Joey’s pitiful strength making her dangerous. Yes, June had to be first.
A yellowish film coated Mike’s eyes. He could feel a battle rage coming on. The communication box was pushed out of the way and Mike was ready to go. Just push down the panel and spring out. June on the right. June on the right. He could take her. He knew he could. He had to. His life depended on it.
You can do this. They’re unarmed.
Mike opened his mouth and bared his fangs.
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