V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 9
“Officer Justice, the ship isn’t responding.”
B.T. didn’t like it when the crew didn’t address him as Sheriff. He strode over to the officer prepared to dispense with a few blows from his riding crop. Junior got in the way.
“Thank you, officer. Let’s try our communication once again.”
“I could have handled that, Junior. They need to show me some respect.”
“Daddy, sir, no they don’t. You’re not in charge on this ship, I am.”
“I ought to smack your mouth. They didn’t put me back on this ship so I could just stand back and watch. You being in charge is just a formality.” He narrowed his eyes. “Have I made myself clear?”
Junior swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”
“Now get out of my way so we can capture these criminals. You don’t know how long I’ve waited to do this. Officer, where are they now?”
“Sir, that’s what I was trying to tell you. The ship isn’t responding and I don’t have them on screen anymore.”
“What do you mean you don’t have them anymore? I thought we had a good trace on them.”
The officer started to raise his hand as he said. “They just disappeared.”
Justice took off his hat and almost struck the man. “What do you mean they just disappeared? Ships don’t just disappear. Did they jump into hyperspace? What happened?”
The officer flinched and covered his face. “I don’t know. One minute they were there and the next, just gone.”
That didn’t make any sense. Ships didn’t just disappear in the middle of space. They had to be somewhere. Every ship had a transponder and unless the ship exploded, they couldn’t have disappeared.
“Is there any debris? Any trace of an exploded ship?” They couldn’t have escaped him that easily. He wouldn’t allow it.
“We haven’t scanned the area yet.”
“Well, what about that planet they were towing? That must be around here somewhere even if they escaped into hyperspace or exploded or transported to an alternate dimension.”
“An alternate what sir?”
Sheriff Justice smacked the man with his hat. “Get looking for something. I need answers!”
“Daddy, do you want me to get you a hamburger?”
“No, Junior. I do not want a hamburger right now. I want people to give me some answers to just where this ship got off to and I want them now.”
“Officer Justice, I just…”
Sheriff Justice smacked the man again. “For the duration of this exercise, I will be referred to as Sheriff Justice. Have I made myself absolutely clear? Sheriff Justice or just Sheriff, or even sir.”
“Yes, sir,” the officer said.
“Does anyone else have any trouble with that? I know my son here is officially in charge, but I will be giving orders until we have apprehended these criminals that violated our system’s space. Not only that, but they are also the same individuals who stole a shipment of tonindrium from us not too far back and I will see them in custody. Does everyone understand that?”
A resounding “Yes, sir” rose from the crew.
“Junior, are you okay with that?”
The boy looked as if his favorite dog had just gotten run over. His lip quivered and B.T. thought the boy was going to start crying. “Daddy, you’re getting all worked up. Remember what the doctor said. You shouldn’t get overly excited.”
Justice put his arm around the boy and talked quietly to him. “Excuse yourself and go compose yourself. If you’re going to be on the bridge with me, I don’t need you looking like a big baby. The men will lose respect for you and if they lose respect for you they’ll lose respect for me. You understand. As for the doctor, he’s not here. I know how to conduct myself.”
Junior didn’t say anything, but turned and walked off the bridge. The sandy-blond officer followed Junior. Hopefully, between the two of them, they’d be able to collect themselves and be able to conduct themselves like officers of the Bamda Space Patrol.
“Now what were you saying?” B.T. Justice asked as he walked back over to the only officer that had been able to give him any information at all.
“Sir, I was able to locate the planet. Its gravity signature shows it’s drifting away from us.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere. Just where is this planet?”
The officer checked his screen. “It appears to be quite a good distance behind us.”
“How could it be behind us if we were in pursuit of the SS Acid Rat? Did they dump their cargo?”
“No, sir. We haven’t stopped.”
“What?” Sheriff Justice nearly exploded. “Turn this bucket of bolts around! Go back! Go back. We need to find them.”
Incompetence! Incompetents! That’s what this ship was filled with. Did he need to spell every order out so they would understand what needed to be done? It was hard enough just to convince them to leave the Bamda system to pursue the SS Acid Rat. Now he needed to convince them to turn around and go back after it. He was on probation and if they didn’t get back to their system shortly, they would need to contact the GCP Central Command to continue pursuit. He wasn’t about to get a hold of Counselor Pitrine or whoever was in charge now and ask for permission. He was going to catch the gang of the Acid Rat and haul them back to Bamda to face prosecution.
He’d spent long enough on Brakthanian to know that’s where they belonged. He was going to catch them this time and bring them in. There was no escape for them this time. He didn’t care what distance stood between them, they were going to face his wrath. They wouldn’t be lucky enough to escape. Perhaps they were hiding on that planet they were dragging along. Maybe they were hiding behind it. It didn’t matter. Their little cruise around the galaxy would be over soon enough.
“Put me on the general con.”
“Sir, you’re on.”
“Crew of the SS Acid Rat. I know you’re hiding out there somewhere. You cannot hide forever. In a few moments, I will have your cargo under my control and I will be hauling it back into the Bamda system. Do yourselves a favor and just reveal your position and we’ll take care of this unseemly business. You don’t want to make me angry. You wouldn’t want to see me when I truly get angry.”
“I don’t think they can respond, sir. I don’t detect any ships in the area.”
“Oh, they’re here alright. Have you ever hunted before, son?”
“Well, it’ll be just like flushing out a grouse. Bang the bushes and be ready to shoot. It’s just that simple. They’re out there. I can smell them.”
The officer started to say something.
“If you even think to correct me I’ll have you dropped out of the nearest airlock.”
They were out there. It didn’t matter if they’d heard him or not. He was going to take them into custody and ensure they were appropriately punished. His record had been complete, unblemished, and perfect until those hooligans showed up. They were back to darken his doorstep. They taunted him. Flaunted their freedom in his face. They would know what it was like to feel his wrath brought down like the hammer of justice on their heads.
Perhaps he could rename the ship until they were captured. The Hammer of Justice. He liked them. Time to take his first swing.