[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 71 & 72
“What are you two laughing at?” Sheriff Justice asked with an air of annoyance. They’d been giggling and snickering like a couple of school girls for nearly five minutes and his patience had been pressed. If he had his riding crop he would have whipped them into silence.
One of the officers turned and looked up, his eyes wide with fear and he swallowed hard. “Well, sir, we were just looking at the speed at which the SS Acid Rat was pulling away. We’re already moving at the limit the ship will move yet they’re pulling away.”
“Am I on a ship of idiots? Are all of you that stupid? Of course they’re pulling away from us. They’re near a black hole and it’s pulling them along. It’s called gravity! We’ll move as fast as they do in a few minutes. If we were to try and go around, they’d get away.”
“But sir,” another officer chimed in. “Won’t our ship fall apart?”
“If that old hunk of junk can go in between two black holes and come out on the other end, so can we. The Apprehension is…”
A force caused the ship to lurch and Sheriff Justice lost his balance. He fell into the lap of one of the officers. He fought to regain his balance.
“What was that? Were we hit? Did they fire at us? Oh, tell me they fired at us.”
“Sir, they’re over two light years away. We’re far out of range. We came into the gravitational range of the first black hole. They’re on the other side now and we’ll lose sight of them for about an hour, maybe two, until we come out on the other side.”
Finally reports that he could use. “What’s our current speed? And what’s their speed? I want to know if we’ll be able to over take them before they reach Planchar.”
“Based on calculation, our speed is nominally above top hyperspeed. Their speed is currently three times normal hyperspeed and increasing.”
“Okay, will we gain on them?”
“Taking normal hyperspace theories into account along with the fact that no one has ever traveled at this speed, let alone come this close to a black hole, and survived…”
B.T. Justice took off his hat and started hitting the officer with it. “I asked a simple yes/no question. I don’t want a dissertation on quantum physics. Will we gain on them?”
The officer cowered and shielded his head from more hat assaults. “It’s not quantum physics,” he said and ducked more. “But no, we won’t gain on them. We’ll get there about thirty minutes after they do.”
Thirty minutes. They could do a lot in thirty minutes. They could leave the planet again. They could hide the ship as well as themselves. They could get away and he’d return home and have to face Pitrine with his hands empty. If he showed up with the crew of the SS Acid Rat then he’d be able to sway the government on Bamda to allow him to stay and not face prosecution. He had to catch that ship under any circumstances.
“Open a channel to Planchar. I need to place a call.” Justice seated his hat neatly back on his head. “We’ll get them this time. Oh yes, we’ll get them this time indeed.”
Something pressing into Joey’s chest woke him up. A fog still clouded his mind as he opened his eyes and saw Mike sitting on him. Several fast heartbeats passed before it registered the danger.
“Ah, you’re awake,” Mike said with a wicked smile. “I prefer my food to be awake.”
Joey reacted as fast as he mind would allow. His knee came up and connected with Mike’s abdomen. A hushed curse through gritted teeth earned a wider smile from Mike. If Mike had been human, he’d have been hit in a sensitive area, but as it was, the blow only glanced off his body.
With widened eyes Mike leaned his back and dropped his fangs. Joey gasped as the long white teeth descended. Without a thought he wrapped his hands around the fangs and pushed up. The fangs were smooth and slippery, but only pointed, not sharp as Joey had suspected they would be. His hands slid to the base of the fangs and kept going.
This appeared to catch Mike by surprise and the sudden burst of adrenaline that surged through Joey’s body helped him force Mike’s head up and into the rack above. Joey couldn’t think of anything to do once he had Mike held there, only slightly pinned.
Mike could think and reacted. He punched Joey in the stomach. Joey’s hands slipped slightly and Mike dipped down. Mike punched again and lowered more.
Joey forced back and pushed mike back up. He couldn’t let the fangs come any closer. Tiny drops of poison had already started to flow to the ends. Yellowish drops of death.
He raised his knee again, blocking another punch from Mike, and rolled his body away from the wall. This pinned Mike against the wall and Joey nearly fell out of the bed, but he held fast to the fangs.
Mike punched with three balled fists and knocked Joey out of the bed. He felt the air escape his lungs in one huge huff and he bumped his head on the floor as he fell.
He had to get up. If he didn’t, Mike would surely kill him. Where was Vic? Dexter? June? Had Mike already killed them too? Was he the last? Too many questions and no time to stop and ask. He stood as quickly as he could. Mike still struggled to get out of the rack, his arms tangled in the blanket in the confined space.
“I’m going to enjoy sucking your innards out, boy.”
Mike’s fowl tone frightened Joey. He did the only thing he could think to do. He grabbed the top bunk and kicked Mike, twice for good measure and ran from the bunk room. He had seen Dexter asleep in the top bunk, but if Mike wanted to kill Dexter, he’d have done that already.
In the passageway Joey thought of running up to the cockpit. Perhaps Argmon could help him. But what if Argmon was already dead? He’d be no help. The lounge would also be a dead end. He didn’t like the sound of that and turned and ran toward the cargo bay. The thick black smoke made it difficult to judge distance. He didn’t know how close to the edge he was. And where did all the smoke come from? They had put the fire out and he could see the scorched control panel that had exploded. That was the last thing he could recall.
Joey coughed and ran. The black smoke tasted oily and bitter. It made his eyes water, but he ran for his life. Mike surely wouldn’t pause. Joey didn’t even dare a glance back for fear that Mike would be upon him.
Through the smoke he could just make out that one of the four large containers that now filled the cargo bay loomed in front of him. The gap from the top of the ladder to the top of the container, which conveniently sat about two feet below the level of the passageway floor, was about fifteen feet away. Joey had never been the athletic type, but being driven by fear and a desire to stay alive, he chanced the jump knowing that going down the ladder spelled certain death.
He kicked off the edge without pause, certain his heart stopped as he flew. When he crashed to the top of the container and his heart started up again, he tried to breath relief, but the black smoke in the cargo bay was thicker and made breathing difficult. He coughed, trying to clear his lungs. That’s all he needed was to escape a killer and be killed by smoke inhalation.
He didn’t have enough time to think about his lungs filling with smoke before he saw Mike spring from the passageway to the container. Joey rolled out of the way as Mike landed.
“I love to play with my food,” Mike said, the wild look in his eyes letting Joey know he wasn’t fooling around. The smoke didn’t seem to be affecting Mike. Not at all.
Joey looked at the next container. The smoke wasn’t so bad on that one. If only he could get up and run, but Mike would be on him. He would have to fight. He would have to fight Mike and his truly powerful spider body. It hadn’t been so difficult defeating Mike by sitting on his back and pounding his head with Tootsie’s metal box. He didn’t have any such luxury this time.
“I’m going to kill you slowly. Don’t think this will go quickly. I think I’ll take an arm first. That’ll slow you down. Just one arm.”
Mike’s fangs retracted and twitched out as he advanced. Joey backed up and fell on his rear. Standing and looking at Mike’s crazed expression terrified Joey, but sitting and looking at Mike, eye to eye with the insane spider with a man’s head, Joey gave up. He could feel the tickle of nausea and his vision blurred and darkened. He was passing out. God he was about to die and he wasn’t even going to see it coming.
No! Joey steeled himself and sat as upright as he could. If he was to die he wanted to see it coming. He couldn’t just take death lying down. Slow, fast, whatever, he didn’t want to just fall over and let Mike kill him at his leisure.
Mike crouched and sprang at Joey. Joey laid back flat and Mike, who had been aiming high at Joey’s head, flew over him.
“No!” Mike screamed and grabbed Joey’s arm with one of his hind hands.
Mike’s flight dragged Joey along and over the edge. Joey lashed out and took hold of the edge of the container. Mike’s grasp on Joey’s arm slipped, but he managed to catch his leg. Joey reached up and held on with both hands as if his life depended on it, because his life did depend on it.
“Don’t worry, I can hold on for both of us,” Mike said with an evil laugh. He had grabbed onto the side of the container and started pulling hard on Joey’s leg. “Perhaps I’ll start by taking a leg!”
Joey felt his fingers slip. He took a deep breath of fresh air. He could catch his breath, but how long would that last? He was certain he’d be dead at Mike’s hand any moment.
Joey kicked and planted his free foot in Mike’s bearded face. The fangs retracted fully and Mike pawed at his face. Joey kicked again landing another full force kick. Mike howled in agony.
Joey had a sudden thought. He could die by Mike’s hand or die by asphyxiation, or he could be killed by Mike and if anyone else was still alive, they’d have to face Mike.
Joey kicked again.
He had to do something. Joey felt his foot grabbed once again. Mike pulled fiercely. Joey knew, deep down, that he was going to die be it at the hands of Mike, this fire, or the ship plunging into a black hole because everyone else certainly must be dead. He wasn’t meant to be in space. He shouldn’t have pushed that button. He didn’t belong here. But he didn’t belong back on Earth either. All those years of torment at the hands of bullies.
Joey let go.
As he fell, Mike pulled hard. Joey reached out and grabbed onto Mike and punched him hard in the face. Joey grabbed Mike from behind and planted his feet on the side of the container and pulled Mike off as well. Mike lost his grip and the two fell, end over end, toward the hard, steel floor below. Joey continued his barrage of blows into Mike’s face as they fell. He wasn’t going do die without a fight and he wasn’t about to end up a meal for a spider. He punched once for Brad, once for Chad, and once for Thad. Mike’s face changed into all those faces that had done him wrong over the years.
Joey felt them hit the floor and heard the awful squish below him as Mike’s body exploded. Joey bounced off Mike’s body and into the container, hitting his head and knocking him out.
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