V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 4
“What the hell was that?”
All he wanted to do was get a little more sleep. It was like having a party of ten-year-olds. All the banging and crashing and he’d only been asleep for a few minutes. He knew Muffin had given him something to keep him from getting a hangover because it always gave him a worse headache if it hadn’t taken full effect.
“Victor, B.O.B. was trying to clean the lounge. I’ve told him numerous times not to do that. He broke the glass on the beer dispenser. I’m afraid we’ll have to figure out how to keep your beer at the proper temperature.”
“Fine, so B.O.B. is doing his best. What else is banging around? That last one didn’t sound like it came from the lounge.”
Vic liked B.O.B. The robot tried so hard and was just so darned polite. Besides, they needed an artificial life form on board. It was almost an unwritten rule. SPX-39 had been scared of its own shadow, but still did some things they needed from time to time. B.O.B. was the same even if it proved to be the clumsiest bot in the galaxy. At least it was mostly harmless.
“The last impact was on the outside of the ship toward the aft section.”
“Okay, and what hit us?”
“I’m calculating that, Victor. Once I know I will let you know.”
Vic fought his way off his water bed, the best improvement he could have possibly asked for on this ship, and up the ladder to the navigation level. The new crew quarters that gave each person their own room was much bigger and a whole level down from the navigation, galley, and lounge. Sure it was a little more difficult if you had to get from your bed to the storage area, but everyone having their own room made life so much better on the ship.
After getting to the top of the ladder, he saw B.O.B. standing in the passageway between the galley and the lounge. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Vic. I was just trying to clean as quickly as I could and, well, you know how I get nervous sometimes when I’m in a hurry and trying to do a good job and my arms just go all wonky on me…”
Vic put a hand on the robot’s shoulder. “I understand B.O.B. Now please try to relax and just go sit down. We’ll figure everything out.”
B.O.B. started to say something, but Vic held up a hand and pointed to the lounge. The bot lowered its head and sulked into the lounge. It didn’t sit, it didn’t turn around, it didn’t even move once it had found a spot to stand. It was like scolding a child when all it wanted to do was help you do the dishes.
“June, Joey, where are you two?”
“We’re in here.”
Vic followed June’s voice into the galley. Joey still looked scared, or tired, but at least he wasn’t catatonic anymore. June stood with her hands on the table leaning down as if she were talking to Joey.
“Any idea what hit us?” Vic asked as he sat across from Joey.
“We’re still waiting for Muffin to tell us what happened.”
“It’s probably that black hole engine we’ve got. It’s sucking in debris from the planet we’re towing.”
June smacked Joey on the back of the head. “Stop that. I told you already we have that under control.”
Joey crossed his arms on the table and put his head down. “Fine.”
“Vic, why did you have to show him the drive while we’re out in the middle of space?”
“How was I supposed to know the kid was going to freak out? I mean he’s been all googly-eyed at everything else he’s seen since he got here. I thought he’d be all excited to see it. It’s not like I’ve been able to spend much time showing him things while we’re in port. The two of you keep taking off and usually take Dexter with you.”
“What, now you feel like Joey and I are abandoning you?”
This wasn’t the time or place for a discussion like this. Vic rubbed his head. Hopefully, this headache would go away soon. Why did Muffin need to keep spritzing him with that stuff?
“Okay, look. We’ll all have a nice sit-down soon enough. But right now we need to figure out what hit the ship and if there’s anything else that’s going to hit the ship. I’d like to make this delivery and have the ship still in one piece.”
Something banged loudly on the hull. The dampers on the ship kept them from feeling the vibration, but Vic could swear he felt the ship lurch sideways a little bit.
“Muffin! What’s going on?”
“I’m trying to calculate the trajectory of the objects coming in, Victor. Please be patient.”
“We don’t have time for patience. Is there any damage to the exterior?”
Muffin beeped. “To check the damage to the hull, I’ll need to spend less time calculating the trajectory of what hit us and take time to investigate the exterior of the ship. I’m already spending time talking to you which is taking away from my calculations. What would you like to do, Victor?”
What he wouldn’t do to have Tootsie back. At least that one knew how to take an order. This replacement only served to aggravate him. It was as if June had programmed it.
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“We’re trying to figure that out, Dexter.” June sat down next to Joey and bumped him so the kid sat up.
“Dexter, suit up. We need to go look at the outside of the ship. Muffin is busy trying to figure out what hit us and where it’s coming from. I’m not going to have anything happen to this ship while we’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“Joey, you up for a spacewalk? Maybe the fresh air will do you some good.” Vic thought the joke would go over well.
June glared at Vic. The joke hadn’t gone over well with her.
“Sure. Let’s go.” Joey looked pale and on the verge of being sick, but he was the first one to leave the room.
“Seriously? You’re going to take him on a spacewalk in this condition?”
“Hey, look. He needs to do something to get his mind off whatever his problem is with the black hole drive. This is just the thing he needs. Let’s go Dex.”
“I was about to make breakfast. At least you can wait until Muffin has analyzed whatever hit us.”
Another boom echoed throughout the ship. “We don’t have time and she’s busy enough as it is.”
“I thought we had other sensors to monitor what’s happening on the outside of the ship. Why don’t we just turn on the cameras and watch?”
“That sounds like a lovely idea, but we can get out there with blasters and shoot away whatever is hitting the ship. Whatever is hitting us, it’s too big for the standard deflectors to fend off. We need to get out there, do a little walking around, check the damage, and hopefully figure out what’s going on. We’ll be alright. Just cool your little head.”
Vic decided to leave the room before June’s glare burned a hole through his skull. It wasn’t like they’d be in that much danger anyway. The ship was pretty big and anything hitting the ship would likely miss them. Even if they did get hit by something, the hard suits would protect them. They just needed to make sure to stay tied off so they didn’t drift away. June worried too much. Maybe that’s what had gotten Joey all worked up over the black hole drive.
Dexter, Joey, and B.O.B. were all in the weapons locker. Dexter and Joey were getting suited up. B.O.B. appeared to be helping them, but Vic had told the bot to stay in the lounge.
“What’s going on?”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
“Not you, Dex. B.O.B., what are you doing down here? We’re about to take a walk on the hull. You need to stay inside. I thought you were going to stay in the lounge.”
“Vic, please let me go with you. I’m sure I can be of help and if anything goes wrong, well, I don’t need air. I’ve got magnetic feet so I won’t fly away. I just want to be there to help you. I’ve got great eyesight and it’s easy for me to see anything that’s moving. You can count on me to stay out of your way unless you need me…”
“Thank you, but please stay inside. I don’t know what’s going on out there yet, and we just need to assess the damage. Muffin is busy, so the three of us are going to go out there. Do you think you can stay by the airlock in case we need emergency help once we come back?”
“Oh! Certainly, I can do that, Vic. I’ll go get the medical kit and I’ll wait right next to the airlock waiting…” B.O.B. kept on talking as it exited the room in search of the medical kit that Vic doubted they would need.
“Are you two almost ready?” Vic asked as he started putting his suit on. He hadn’t worn the hard suit in a long time. June and Dexter were in charge of making sure the gear was always in ready condition so there was no doubt in his mind it would be safe.
“What is it we’re going to be doing out there?”
“Kid, I thought you were listening. We need to go out and check the hull for damage. If there was a hull breach, we’d be hearing all kinds of alarms, but I want to know what we’re dealing with so we’re going to go out and take a quick look around.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.” Dexter’s eyes blinked out of unison as he cocked his head to the side.
“Yes, you can take the lead.”
They finished donning their suits and made their way to the airlock. B.O.B.’s mouth grill glowed showing he was talking and Vic just nodded as the airlock door opened. B.O.B. continued to talk even after the airlock door had been closed. Vic waved and smiled.
“June, can you hear me?”
“Got you, Vic. You guys be careful out there.”
“Let me know if you hear anything else hit the hull.”
“Hey, kid! Look up there.”
Joey turned around and followed Vic’s hand. The planet blocked out the stars allowing them to see its progress. Vic watched Joey and the kid smiled.
“Looks like fresh air was just what the doctor ordered, eh?” That got a laugh out of the kid.
It didn’t take long to get to the top of the SS Acid Rat and check out the top. The first spot they came across looked as if whatever hit them had deflected off nicely. No major damage.
“June, can you see a visual? This one doesn’t look too bad. If you grab my coordinates you can check to see if there’s any interior damage we’re not seeing from this point.”
“I’m checking, just hold that position for a minute.”
“Vic!” Joey pointed at something. Vic looked, but at first, couldn’t make out just what it was. Stars blinked on and off. Was this thing moving toward them?
“What is that?”
“Eep. Eep. Eep!” Dexter hopped, but the tether attached to Joey pulled the tri-ped to a stop. Why would Dexter be trying to…