[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 69 & 70
In her past June had felt alone. She’d also felt frightened. Even frightened and alone. But sitting in the bunk room aboard the SS Acid rat with three unconscious crew members and a third that didn’t have the ability to help, she was consumed by it. It ate at her very being as she fought back tears to bandage Joey’s head.
Dexter also looked to be in bad shape, but not as bad as Joey. Of course it could just be the amount of blood coming out of Joey’s head, or it could be that despite being on board with Dexter longer, she liked Joey better. She enjoyed having his company and talking coherently with someone and not fighting.
The bandage was already red, but she needed to tend to Dexter and she also needed to take care of Vic.
“Just stay out of the way.” June wiped tears from her eyes. “Actually, get pillows and blankets if you can.”
“Yes.” Joop-Nop galloped to the storage locker in the bunk room. His locomotion would prove to be a benefit.
The computer from the Iron Butterfly chimed up. “All fires have been extinguished.”
“All? I thought the one in this passageway was the only one.”
“No. Three more fires are burning.”
“In the cargo bay.”
In the cargo bay? Why would anything down there catch fire? “What started the fires?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have full access to Tootsie’s systems.”
“What do you have access to?” She asked. “No, never mind. Can you put a stasis field over these three?”
The computer paused. “No. I do not have access to that field.”
June finished with bandaging Dexter and pulled Vic into the bunk room. Joop-Nop returned with two pillows, dropped them to the floor, and left to get more. Finally the little slime ball was being useful.
The vibration of the ship worsened. June tucked a pillow under Joey’s head and one under Vic’s. Joop-Nop returned again.
“I need you to keep an eye on these three while I see if Argmon can come back and help me move them into the racks.” She felt bad after she said it when she looked at its only eye stalk, but she didn’t have time to say anything better. She ran from the bunk room and up the ladder. She raced along the passage way and to the cockpit with Argmon.
“Argmon,” She tried to catch her breath. “Vic, Joey, and Dexter are all hurt. I need your help getting them into racks so they don’t bounce around. The ship is shaking a lot and I’m worried they’ll get hurt even more.”
Argmon shook his head almost imperceptibly, but he wasn’t going to move. In the view screen the stars moved faster than she’d ever seen them move before, even when Vic and Argmon pressed the ship to its highest limits of speed. So far Joey had been right with the ship being able to withstand the forces of gravity from the black hole, but soon they’d pass into the pull of the second black hole and would be pulled from two sides and not just one. Would the ship hold up then?
“Argmon, it’s not worth it. We need to stop.”
Argmon motioned with his snout to a rear view from the ship. June had to squint to look through the blackness, but something sat hidden there. She touched the display to make it larger. She gasped and made the image larger again.
The police cruiser from Bamda in its blue and gold glory followed them, though it was far behind in pursuit. If they stopped now, they would be overtaken and, of course, arrested.
“I guess it’s do or die now, huh?”
Argmon didn’t respond but instead steeled his glare at the view screen and the display of numbers across the top of the control panel. June didn’t know what the numbers meant, but she knew that the ones in red weren’t a good sign.
She would have to get the others into the bunks on her own. She didn’t know how, but she’d have to try. Without a word she left Argmon to pilot the ship.
Another rock of the ship slammed June into the wall causing her to hit her head. Her vision blurred for a moment and she nearly lost her balance. A second jolt and she stood upright again, her eyes seeing double.
She fought the shaky floor, but managed to get back to the bunk room.
“I know what they need Joop-Nop!” June snapped. Her ears were ringing. She needed to be lying down as well, but there wasn’t time for that. She had to do what she could to get them back into the racks.
“Another fire.” The computer interrupted. “Now extinguished.”
June hefted Dexter, easily the heaviest of the three, into a lower bunk. She more pushed and rolled him into it, as lifting Dexter proved an impossibility.
Next she struggled to get under Joey. Although in his youth, he weighed nearly as much as her. She’d never tried to lift her own weight, and it proved to be quite a feat. She placed him in the bunk just above Dexter.
Vic she also didn’t want to carry, but he needed gentler handling. Dexter and Joey had only been knocked unconscious by the blast from the computer. Vic had deep wounds and his delicate condition wouldn’t hold up to too must jostling.
As gently as she could, she dragged him across the floor, holding him by his feet. When she got him near a bunk, she dumped his feet into the bunk and sat on the floor. Her breath came in short gasps. Her mind reeled and her vision still hadn’t fully returned. The vibration of the ship didn’t help matters, nor did her frayed nerves. She wanted to go home. Just go home. Why were they all so stubbornly trying to get this shipment back to Planchar? Why?
June took a deep breath and righted herself and got her arms under Vic’s body. Only a few inches she had to lift him. Only a few inches. Vic weighed only slightly more than Joey, but after getting Joey and Dexter into bunks, Vic’s slack, un-cooperating body didn’t go up high enough. She struggled to hold him in the air. She didn’t want to drop him for fear of hurting him more, but she had to put him back down.
Gritting her teeth, she tried again. Once he was in the rack, he would be alright. Possibly even safe from the vibration of the ship. With her last ounce of strength she lifted Vic up and leaned forward, pulling, pushing, and getting Vic into the rack.
Once he was in place, she laid upon his chest. She didn’t have the strength to move off him.
Had she the power left in her, she would have leapt off of Vic, but her movements were considerable slower. Still, she got off him and lay on the floor.
“Another fire in the cargo bay.” The computer reported.
“Where are all these fires coming from? June asked, gasping for breath.
“The fires are…” the voice faded into a static followed by a loud feedback and then silence.
June sat up. “Computer?”
“No kidding. I never knew you were a genius.”
June instantly regretted snapping at Joop-Nop like that.
“Thank you Joop-Nop. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“Well, I am. I need some rest. I’ll be right here in a rack when you get back.”
Joop-Nop left the room and June crawled in the rack just above Vic. She didn’t want to, but she closed her eyes and fell asleep; a deep, dreamless sleep born of exhaustion.
Mike tossed the remains of the Iron Butterfly’s computer to the ground. He’d trash Tootsie too, but he needed her to keep the ship flying, even if it had to be by force. The Iron Butterfly he didn’t. They’d swapped out the computers, that much Mike remembered. A good ruse, but a failed one.
With Tootsie too occupied with keeping the ship flying, and as best Mike could tell at great speeds, even beyond regulation hyperspace speeds, he would finally be able to get a good fire going. The Iron Butterfly’s computer had kept putting them out. The only way to get them all off this ship without damaging the ship too greatly would be to fill it with smoke. Tootsie, too occupied with keeping the ship flying, wouldn’t be able to ventilate the ship.
He had also gotten into the engineering room and set the controls so Tootsie wouldn’t be able to slow down, even if she wanted to. Not until the crew left the ship and he was the only remaining occupant. The boss would be so proud.
Mike scurried around the cargo bay and collected all the flammable material he could find. He’d nearly run out of items to burn and had resorted to lighting the containers Vic had gotten from Raado. It didn’t matter what they contained, just as long as the paint on them would burn. That’s all that mattered.
The blaster he’d gotten from the weapons room, one of June’s, had been adjusted to produce a fine, hot point. He focused the point on a small pile of already-scorched tarp. It took several seconds, but finally caught. Mike unclenched his jaw and backed away to admire his work. The fire spread quickly onto the container’s painted exterior and black smoke billowed up from it. He had picked the container closest to the ladder to the rest of the ship so the smoke would spread quickly.
Mike wheeled about. Something with strange branch legs and an eye stalk stood at the top of the ladder to the cargo bay staring at what Mike had just done. Mike noticed a small amount of greenish slime in the middle of the body.
Mike leapt with astonishing speed and scrabbled up the ladder. He had to catch Joop-Nop before the creature could reveal the plan. The boss wouldn’t tolerate another failure. Mike wouldn’t allow himself to fail this time. Even though the boss said no more killing, this one had to die.
At the top of the ladder, he saw Joop-Nop slip into the bunk room. Mike raced across the floor and without a thought of anything else he reached and caught Joop-Nop by one of its branch legs.
Mike paused. He saw Dexter, Vic, Joey, and June all in bunks and apparently sleeping. His eyes darted from one to the next. The all looked hurt. Beyond that, they all looked like easy prey.
Mike grabbed two more of Joop-Nop’s appendages. His breathing had slowed and he didn’t notice the black smoke now filling the passageway. All he could see was food. Involuntarily his fangs lowered slightly. He needed to eat. Just one. How could the boss know one of them didn’t die in an accident. Especially if the body never left the ship. His own people wouldn’t question.
He ripped off one of Joop-Nop’s appendages causing a squeal of pain. Mike hardly noticed. With four of his hands he slowly, mercilessly tore Joop-Nop to pieces despite the squeals of pain and protest. When he dropped the limp, slimy goo that remained of Joop-Nop and wiped his hands on the floor, he looked over each of the bodies.
The boss expected at least Vic and June. He had no intention of eating either of them. He focused on Dexter for a moment. He would love to eat the little one. It was his fault that everything had gone wrong in the first place. If Dexter hadn’t knocked Mike out, he would have been able to kill off Vic and June with no trouble and would have done away with the rest of the crew as well.
But no, Dexter would have to await his fate with the boss as well. That left one. Joey. A tender young human. Soft and sweet. Mike’s fangs dropped down and his eyes widened. Yes. Just a bite. Something to satisfy the craving. Killing Joop-Nop hadn’t done anything. He wanted to feel his prey squirm and fight. Joey had fight. Joey had also been instrumental in the failure. The boy had to die. Mike crawled up into the rack with Joey and raised his fangs.
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