[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 75
The vibration of the ship had softened, of that June could be certain based on the speed that the light overhead pulsed and flickered. Twice she’d vomited as the continual shaking had the effect of being on a merry-go-round too long.
They had to be out of the gravitational field of the first black hole for the shaking to have slowed. Perhaps they were now escaping the pull of the second black hole and nearing the neutron star that would slingshot them to Planchar. She didn’t know and didn’t want to think about it anymore.
“Eep? Eep? Eep?”
“No Dexter, I’m not going to throw up again. I’m feeling better. It’s just the shaking. I need it to stop. At least Joey and Vic are out of it. They’ll be fine.”
June looked up and out the door of the weapon’s room. Mike’s body had vibrated across the floor and was now in view.
“Tootsie,” she said and cursed herself. Tootsie’s systems were all tied up and she waited for the annoying buzz that she couldn’t respond.
Instead a beep resounded. “Yes, June. How can I help you?”
“Tootsie? Why aren’t you navigating the ship?”
“My processors are now freed up. We’ll be clear of the neutron star shortly and should be on the ground on Planchar in fifteen minutes based on current speed calculations.”
The weight that held June’s shoulders down for the past day lifted. Soon they’d be back. This would all be over. They’d make this delivery and…
“Is the police cruiser still pursuing us?”
“Yes. It is currently five minutes behind us. They took a slightly more aggressive route and gained on us over the past two hours. I lost their transponder for a short time and thought they had destructed, but they only lost focus on two of their main antennas. That has been restored.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’ve been in continual contact with their ship. I didn’t want anything to happen to the Apprehension. Vic left me with instructions that I shouldn’t do anything to upset him, and if that ship had followed us and been destroyed, that would have upset him. So I assisted their craft through the…”
“You assisted?” June asked incredulously.
“If that ship had been destroyed it would have been due to our not stopping and that would have garnered the attention of Galactic Central Point Central Office. So I helped them through knowing that it would be better to have them catch us instead of them being destroyed and us facing Galactic Central Point Central Office.”
That made a bizarre sort of sense. “Thanks Tootsie.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“It looks like we’re going to make it Dexter.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do after this. I mean, if Vic gets that payoff for this load, that’s going to be quite a lot of money.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“No, I don’t think I’ll go into the shipping business. I’ve had about as much of this as I can take. Still, I don’t think I want to just up and leave Vic all alone. Or Joey either.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“You may be right. I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens after we land.”
Tootsie interrupted. “Hold on, we’re going to come out of hyperspace hot. Sensors show a barricade around the planet.”
“How are we going to get around that?” June asked, mostly rhetorically, but Tootsie still responded.
“I’ve already contacted the lead ship and we’re clear to pass. The blockade isn’t for us.”
“Who is it for?”
“I couldn’t get that information. Regardless, we’re coming in fast. I can slow us down, but we’re not going to slow down all the way before we hit the….”
Tootsie faded into a static hiss. She’d never done that before. June wiped her sweaty hands on her pants as the vibration of the ship worsened. Vic and Joey had gotten the lucky end of this nightmare. At least they could sleep through to the landing.
A warning light flashed to life and warning siren sounded; the same fire warning.
“Nothing we can do about that one!” June yelled to Dexter.
“Eep! Eep! Eep!”
“We’ve entered the planets atmosphere.” Tootsie boomed over the noise.
“Why are we shaking so badly?” June asked in a shout.
“I’m using the friction of the atmosphere to slow us down. I’ve lost my brakes and several systems are down. We also don’t have any landing gear.”
“Tootsie, just get us on the ground as softly as you can. I don’t want to hear any more about what’s wrong.”
“We’re in gravity’s hands now. I’ve done all I can. Argmon is steering us as close to the landing site as he can. I’ve already contacted those around the area that we need a long slide area for landing. The area is being cleared and we’ll be on the ground in two minutes.”
Two minutes of pure hell. The ship was falling out of the sky at break-neck speed and Tootsie, despite being loud, still sounded calm as ever. Of course, she was a machine, but still June had thought she’d sound a little bit concerned.
June gritted her teeth, closed her eyes, and held on. Coming in hot with no brakes, what a way to end this run.
The vibration stopped for an instant, then started up with a vengeance, rattling every part of the ship. June wanted to say a prayer, but honestly didn’t see the need at this point. If they were going to die she just wanted it over with already, but if they were going to live, well, she just wanted to be on the ground and off this ship.
The two minutes disappeared in a blur and the vibration gave way to a thunderous slam that had to be the ship coming in contact with the ground. The ship lurched from side to side accompanied by a deafening screech that could certainly wake the dead. June opened her eyes and wasn’t surprised to see both Joey and Vic wide-eyed. Vic opened his mouth and must have said something, but June shook her head and pointed to her ears. Nothing would be heard over the screeching.
The sound lowered to a dull roar and groaning as the ship slid to a stop. The sensation of rising in the air frightened her. The ship had stopped, hadn’t it?
As if in response to her questioning, the ship slammed back down and all the lights on the ship went out.
“Destination, Planchar, arrive,” Tootsie said flatly.
June rubbed her ears, but that didn’t stop the ringing. She wondered if anything would at this point.
Vic rubbed at his moustache. Joey gripped his head. Dexter unbuckled, seemingly unfazed by the events, and ran from the room in a blur.
They were back, but had they made it on time? For Vic’s sanity, she hoped so.
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