[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 66 & 67
Joey gripped June’s hand. This jumping in and out of hyperspace still unsettled him. The speed didn’t bother him, but the feeling of his guts being ripped out of his body, twisted into a knot, and shoved back in the wrong end did.
The view, though, was spectacular. June had given the command to make the walls semi-transparent and to dim all the lights. All around the small lounge, just as Vic had shown when Joey first arrived, they were surrounded by billions of pin-points of light. Joey felt like a child as he craned his neck around as if he needed to see each and every one of them.
Two occupants of the room didn’t share Joey’s child-like view of the universe, Dexter and Joop-Nop. Both stared at Joey, Dexter with his three eyes blinking out of unison and Joop-Nop with a freshly grown eye-stalk. Joey hardly noticed.
Instead, he found himself distracted by the myriad of stars in view. They shifted slightly as the ship moved, not nearly as fast as he had thought, but then astronomical distances had to be taken into consideration. He tried to find anything in the sky that looked familiar, but laughed to himself. He’d have to be back on Earth for that.
Earth. Would he ever see it again? Did he really want to? No, he needed to. Until he did, nothing in the galaxy would ever feel real. The only thing that felt real was June’s hand in his. He liked how it felt.
“Alright folks, hold on. We’re approaching the first black hole. Let’s see if this bucket of bolts holds together.”
Argmon growled at Vic’s comment.
“I know what…”
Vic turned off the con and his voice cut out.
“Time to see if you’re right,” June said.
“Based on some simple computations, the gravity of the first black hole should nearly double our speed.”
“You did take into account that the gravity of the second is stronger than the first, didn’t you?”
“Tootsie helped me out with that. It should be like being shot from a sling shot.” Joey smiled.
June now gripped his hand tighter.
A shudder rocked the ship. For a moment the lights came on inside the ship, then dimmed again. A constant rattle came from inside the bunk room.
“What’s that?” Joey asked.
“Something must not be secured in there. Tootsie, seal off the bunk room.”
Without a response the door to the room slid closed.
“Maybe we should close off all the doors,” Joey said.
“Tootsie. Seal off the ship.”
The door to the lounge closed, still Tootsie said nothing.
“Why doesn’t she answer? Doesn’t she usually say something?”
“She must be really busy keeping the ship together. There’s more for her to do besides flying. Millions of tiny adjustments and calculations.”
Joop-Nop looked at Joey. “The…ship…is…not…designed…for…this…kind…of…stress.”
“Yes, but airplanes on Earth aren’t intended to be flown through excessive weather, but they can hold up.”
“It’s not important,” June interrupted. “What is important is that the ship should be able to withstand more than normal forces.”
“Such as the gravity of this black hole.”
The vibration intensified. Joey’s teeth rattled inside his head.
“Hey kid! Did you plan on all this vibration in your calculations?” Vic’s voice wobbled up and down with the vibrations of the ship.
He hadn’t. “Um… yes!”
“Our speed has already doubled. I’m not opposed to speed, but I don’t think anyone has ever tried this before.”
“The ship will hold up!”
“Well I won’t be able to do anything to you if it falls apart, just keep that in mind.”
The shaking unnerved Joey. He had anticipated a little vibration, but nothing to this extent. If it grew worse on the second black hole, he wasn’t sure the ship would stay together. All his simple calculations for speed would be accurate, as for the stresses on the ship, he’d left that up to Tootsie. Based on her estimates the ship would be reaching its normal operating limits and he’d just added ten percent to that and assumed everything would be alright.
“Joey?” June snapped him back to the present.
Joey swallowed hard. “I’m fine. Based on Tootsie’s estimates for the stresses on the ship, it should hold up. I just didn’t know there would be this much vibration.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“I know Dexter,” June said. “This will pass. We’ll be on Planchar in no time.”
That no time lasted far longer than Joey wanted. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and settled in for the ride. He knew the next few hours were going to last a lifetime.
Mike shook his head. No, he wasn’t shaking his head, something else took care of that.
Opening his eyes, he found himself to still be inside the little, black cruiser. His head ached. That boy, Joey, had hit him over the head with something. Not just once, but so many times. June had almost been done in, but Joey stopped everything. Great pleasure would be taken when Joey was killed.
The vibration roused Mike’s sluggish mind. The cruiser sat inside the cargo bay of the Acid Rat once again. Mike looked worriedly about.
“Why am I not in a stasis field as they had done before?”
Time had obviously passed him by, but they should have taken precautions. He didn’t want to look at this freedom lightly. He had to take action before they discovered him.
Mike shoved himself into the storage compartment of the cruiser and pulled the communication box closer to him. The boss would know what to do. Twice he’d failed to kill. Twice Mike would need to redeem himself.
Mike turned the box on.
“Boss, this is Mike.”
No longer did he need to worry about being quiet. He pulled the box into the cockpit of the cruiser and made himself as comfortable as his body could be. The seats were not designed for him, but for a more human form. He stroked his beard as he waited for the boss to respond.
“Boss, I’m back on the SS Acid Rat. I tried to kill June, the girl, but I didn’t succeed.”
“Where is the ship heading now?”
“It’s shaking a lot. Something might be wrong with the ship. They’d put me in a stasis field, so I lost some time.”
“I need to know where your ship is.” The boss’s tone was flat and unreadable. Mike hated that about him.
He pulled up a display on the cruisers console. With a few commands he found the flight path of the Acid Rat.
“It looks like they’re passing by two black holes on their way back to Planchar. Why are they doing that?”
“I would think for speed’s sake. That does not matter. I want you to scuttle the ship.”
“Disable, destroy, anything. See what you can think up. Be creative. Do they have escape pods on board the ship?”
“Yes. A few.”
“Excellent. See to it that they evacuate the ship. Judging by my calculations with their course, they’ll be in an orbit around the black hole. That will give me time to get there and retrieve them.”
“What should I do?”
“Once they are off the ship, you can do with it as you please. I will no longer have need of your services. You reward shall be waiting for you back on your home planet. Go retrieve it.”
“So that’s it? You don’t want me to kill any of them?”
“You may kill any except Vic. I shall extract my revenge in a more…subtle way. Just get them off that ship.”
The box switched off. No more killing. No killing at all in fact. But how would he get them off the ship? It had to be something they wouldn’t suspect. Something, how had the boss put it? Subtle?
Mike smiled. He knew exactly what he needed to do.
The ship lurched violently, then resumed its steady vibrations. Mike had to hurry. This vibration would surely tear the ship apart. He couldn’t let that happen if he needed it to get home. After a year he’d finally be able to retire. If this was to be his last job, he had to do it right.
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