[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 62
Argmon growled and pushed Joey’s hands away from the console. With Vic unconscious, the Shathar didn’t want to take any instructions from Joey.
“But I’m telling you we can make it back in time.”
With bared teeth intended to intimidate the boy, Argmon flexed his four arms and snarled. If Joey hadn’t known Argmon he’d be certain that the beast could eat him.
“Calm down. I know you haven’t tried anything like this before, but look here.”
June pressed a button on the console for Joey and a display of the area appeared on the screen.
“See these two black holes?” Joey pointed to the two black holes just on the outskirts of the standing blockade. “We can use the first to speed us along and swing us near the second black hole and then use the neutron star here to correct our course and bring us back on track to Planchar. With the gravity from the black holes and the neutron star we should be able to gain enough speed…”
Argmon shook his head and growled.
June magnified the map. “Look here Argmon. Right there. This is the course Joey plotted. It takes us close enough to the black holes to use their gravity, but stay far enough away so we can pull away if anything goes wrong.”
Still Argmon wasn’t convinced.
“Tootsie,” June called out.
After a beep and a whir Tootsie said, “Yes June.”
“Did you see the course that Joey plotted?”
“What is your estimation of this course?”
“It’s dangerous. The ship may not hold up to the stresses of the acceleration.”
“But it might, right?”
“Would you like me to calculate the odds that the ship would survive?”
“No!” June yelled. “I want to know if this course would give us sufficient speed to get us back to Planchar before the time is up. That’s what I want to know.”
“You’re putting the ship in considerable danger.”
The computer went quiet all except for a slight ticking noise. Joey smiled and put his hand on June’s shoulder. She had done nothing but impress him since he’d arrived. Since she’d kissed him, Joey could think of little else.
She returned his smile and her pale blue eyes sparkled. Joey knew he’d been smitten and he liked it.
Tootsie interrupted his thoughts. “The ship would arrive at Planchar with four minutes, thirty-two seconds remaining.”
June jumped up and hugged Joey. “You’re right! We can do it. Vic will be so proud of you.”
“So proud of who?” Vic asked as he staggered into the cockpit. “And what are all of you doing up here? Argmon needs to fly this ship.”
Vic looked like hell warmed over, his face pallid and sweaty, his body slack as if he didn’t even have the strength to remain standing. That fact was accentuated by Vic’s hand on the wall to remain upright.
June and Joey both moved out of the way and helped Vic sit down. He fell heavily into the chair. He rolled his head around and looked up at June. “So, who am I supposed to be proud of?”
June beamed and held Joey’s arm. Vic gave a disapproving frown, but didn’t say anything.
“Joey found, and Tootsie verified, a way back to Planchar that’ll get us back to the planet before the time expires.”
Vic’s face twisted and he looked back and forth between June and Joey. He focused on Joey. “You did? Tell me.”
Joey couldn’t read Vic’s expression. Perhaps it was the poison, but he didn’t look or sound hopeful.
“See these two black holes? Well, we can use their gravity…”
Joey explained the course and even had Tootsie confirm it. All the while Vic sat expressionless. When Joey finished, Vic crossed his arms across his chest.
“So you think everything will be ok? You don’t think anything will happen to the ship? Or the crew?”
“Well, there’s no friction in space…”
“But there’s gravity.” Vic struggled to sit up, but fell back into his chair. “There are forces that you don’t understand. Black holes can tear a ship apart and you want us to go up against two of them? Do you understand how dangerous it is?” Vic pointed at Joey. “Have you ever navigated a ship?”
“Well, in my astronomy class we…”
“In class, kid, not in real life. You’re dealing with theory. This is real life. One miscalculation and we’re all gasping for breath in the great wide open. Kid, what you’re proposing could kill us all.”
“It could also get us to Planchar on time.”
“Kid, I don’t like the odds.”
“You don’t even know the odds.”
Tootsie chimed in, “I could calculate the odds.”
Joey and Vic yelled together. “Shut up.”
June stepped in between them. “Stop it. This arguing isn’t going to get us anywhere. Vic, we need to know right now, have you given up on winning this little bet you took? I wasn’t big on you taking it in the first place, but we’re all in the same boat here. If we don’t get back on time, we get nothing. I’d rather take home a nice prize. You did, after all, cause me to miss my appointment.”
“Speaking of that, what did you have an appointment for?”
“That’s not important right now. What is important is are you going to step up as captain of this ship and get us back on time or are you quitting?”
Vic narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know that I like your tone.”
“I don’t care if you like it or not.”
“Hey, I came back to save you from Mike.”
“And now Joey and I are trying to help you save this mission.”
Vic sighed and looked at the floor. He looked defeated. Defeated physically, mentally, possibly even spiritually. He’d failed to notice that Mike deceived the crew, nearly costing him his life. He failed to get the shipment back on time on his own. He’d let everyone down by being tailed by the police.
When Vic looked up, his eyes were hollow and devoid of emotion. “Argmon, set the course.”
Joey tried not to smile. The victory felt wrong and bittersweet. Joey only wanted to help. Instead he made Vic look, and very likely feel, useless.
Vic started to stand up and Joey lurched forward, hesitated, then helped Vic stand up.
“I’m just going to go lay down. I don’t feel so good.”
“Okay,” June said softly.
Argmon narrowed his beady eyes at Joey, causing him to swallow hard. Maybe they’d all be happy once they made it to Planchar on time. Maybe.
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