V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 10
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to go out and look around. We should go back and check up on Vic.” Joey was concerned that with the power out the medical pod might not be powered and if Vic woke up with the power out, he’d be in serious trouble.
“If Vic was in any kind of trouble, I’d feel him. I always have before. You need to learn the controls in here so let’s get back to it.”
They’d been going over the controls of the Iron Butterfly for nearly an hour. Without actually flying the ship, he wasn’t going to learn anything new. It was like sitting in class for seventeen hours. You only learned so much and the rest just spilled out your ears.
June already knew all about this ship and how to fly it. Sure they’d flown it together a few times, but mostly she flew and Joey just watched as her hands floated over the controls. For her, it was easy to manipulate the controls. It wasn’t as easy for him. He just couldn’t grasp the panels and what they all did. Perhaps if he’d been learning how to drive a car, or a plane he might have some basic understanding of how the Iron Butterfly functioned, but as it was, he didn’t.
“I’m just not ready for all this right now. There’s too much going on already and this is just messing with my head. We should get back to see what’s happening with Vic and the rest of the crew. I mean, the lights are still out and…”
B.O.B. appeared in the front of the Iron Butterfly waving his arms.
“Yikes!” He hadn’t been ready for anyone to show up while they were inside the ship. Dexter had retired to the storage locker as he always did, while Vic was in the medical pod and Argmon was busy flying the ship or at least sitting in the cockpit ready to fly the ship.
“Now what does he want?” June shook her head.
“I don’t know, but he looks pretty animated. We should go see what he needs.” Joey was more than ready for this distraction.
June sat back in the seat and closed her eyes. When she did that, Joey was sure she was reaching out trying to feel someone. “It’s Vic, he’s awake. Let’s go.”
She hit the control to open the canopy. Joey could have done that. At least he knew where that was on console.
“It’s Vic. He’s most insistent that you join him in the cockpit. Did you hear the announcement? It wasn’t very clear. I’m not sure who the person was, but it was loud. Perhaps it was an old friend of Vic’s.”
“Vic is on the bridge?” June asked.
“Yes, he doesn’t appear to be well.”
Joey asked, “Did the medical pod complete the procedure?”
B.O.B. tapped his claw hands together. “I’m afraid I didn’t ask. You know how I get flustered when I’m around Vic. It’s hard for me to talk. He’s so imposing.”
If only B.O.B. understood Vic like they did. B.O.B. wouldn’t be on this ship if Vic didn’t like him for one reason or another. Unfortunately, the robot wasn’t very good at most tasks. Joey wondered if B.O.B. would ever find his place among the crew or if they’d have to find something else to do with him.
“Just lead the way, B.O.B. I need to check on Vic and make sure he’s alright.” June pulled her hair back and secured it with something. Joey liked the way she looked with a ponytail, but something about her hair being up made her look more authoritative and intimidating. Something about that made Joey’s stomach tingle.
“What’s the status on Muffin?”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.” Dexter had appeared out of nowhere, but with how dark the cargo hold was, that wasn’t difficult to do.
“Vic is up. We need to check on him. Come on.”
The four of them made their way up the ladder. B.O.B. talked the entire way.
“…and it would seem that Muffin is in the process of completely restarting all systems on the ship. I informed Vic that this would normally take me a few hours, but Muffin might take even longer because of all the systems on the ship. Then once she is back up, there’s the matter of bringing all the systems back online which will take even more time.”
“And time isn’t something we have in abundance. Everyone get in here.” Vic’s voice came from the lounge.
Vic sat in one of the lounge chairs, a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other. He didn’t look particularly interested in either. He snuffed out the cigarette as soon as the crew started into the room and placed the beer on the table. As he did this he winced and twisted to the side.
“Are you alright? What happened in the medical pod? Did you wait for the cycle to continue? Should we put you back in there?”
“Fine. I don’t know. Yes. And no. Sit down, we’ve got a lot to talk about. Did any of you hear a voice over the general com?”
Joey shrugged and sat across from Vic. “No, June and I were in the Iron Butterfly. We had planned…”
“I know what you two were about to do, and no. The ship stays grounded for now. At least until we get this situation under control. At least whatever had been impacting the ship has ceased for now.”
June sat forward and put her hand on Joey’s knee. “Any idea what was hitting us?”
“Not yet. I’m not sure why Muffin shut down, but once she’s back online I hope we have some answers. Things went horribly wrong and we’ve got to get them back on track. This planet isn’t going to deliver itself.”
“Wait a minute.” Joey scooted forward in his chair. “Do we still have the planet in tow?”
“Kid, you’re asking me things I don’t know right now. I can only hope that we didn’t drift too far and the planet is somewhere near where we lost power. That’s not as important as the voice that came over the com.”
“Who was it?” June asked.
B.O.B. handed June and Joey each a beverage and went to stand near Vic.
“I think our good friend, Sheriff Buford T. Justice is on our tail.”
Joey tried to think hard about who that was. “Who?”
“The crazy sheriff that followed us on our run from Raado to Planchar. You remember our little beer run that put us on this path? Yeah, that sheriff.”
Joey shook his head. “I thought he went to jail or something like that.”
“They’re not going to keep someone like him locked up for long. I read about this guy after we managed to avoid getting caught by him. Apparently, he was a highly decorated officer in the Bamda police force. What he got was more of a slap on the wrist and a little probation. I don’t know where he’s at with all of that, but somehow he’s on our tail. The best thing we’ve got going for us right now is we’re floating out in space with no systems up. If we come back up, we’ll broadcast our position. As it is, there’s a lot of space out there.”
“What about radar?” Joey asked.
“What about radar?” Vic parroted.
“I mean, can’t they just sweep the area with radar and find us?”
“It doesn’t work like that in space, kid. There’s too much stuff out here. They’d be getting so many signals back, it’d be an overload on their system just to go through it all. Each ship sends out its identity for other ships to read. That’s how we got away last time. Remember?”
They had done something with Tootsie and the Iron Butterfly’s computers. “So you’re saying that as long as we don’t broadcast, we’re pretty much invisible?”
“For the most part. Ships will locate objects by gravity. The bigger the object, the more gravity. So that pulling will help them focus on an object. If they’re sitting right on top of us, they’ll see the small amount of gravity we have on this ship and we’ll have problems.”
“You mean like that black hole drive?” Joey shuddered just to think about it.
Vic shook his head. “Kid, don’t worry about that drive. You’re looking at thousands of years of technology. I don’t even understand how it works, but I’m not afraid of anything going wrong. Like I said, just get over that. Anyway, right now it’s completely contained. We only had a little bit of it exposed to allow the planet we were towing to orbit the ship. With it all closed off, we have a tiny gravity signature. That planet will mask us unless, like I said, they’re right on top of us. Then there’s nothing we can do. Won’t have enough time to charge the engines for a jump out of here.”
Joey rubbed his head while June patted him on the back. Everything was going wrong. Not nearly as bad as before, but everything was going wrong. They needed to get the ship back up and running so they could get to safety and away from the sheriff.
“Wait a minute, are we even near his system?”
“Doesn’t matter. He’s here, we’re here. If we send out a call, it’ll be too late if someone tries to get here to help us. It’s not like we’ve got a convoy right here that’ll get this Smokey off our tail. We just have to hope…”
Muffin beeped. “I’m almost done restarting, Victor.”
“Oh, crap. That’s not what we need right now.” Vic stood, winced, and grabbed his side, then sat back down.
“What can we do?” June asked.
“Eep. Eep. Eep.” Dexter nodded his head. Joey had no idea what that meant.
“Our friend isn’t going to fall for a transponder swap again. We need to come up with something different this time. We need to think fast here guys. What options do we have?”
“Well, can’t we just land on the planet and shut down again? Won’t that throw them off our trail?” Joey clapped his hands as if his idea made any sense. He wasn’t even sure if it’d work.
“Kid, that’s great. We can not only hide the ship but hide our gravity signature. Argmon! Get us onto that planet as fast as you can.”
“I see one problem here.” June stood up. “We’re not even sure the planet is anywhere near us.”
“Dammit. Muffin, where’s our planet? I don’t want you doing any calculations, just locate the planet we were towing.”
Muffin beeped. “I don’t seem to have any information on a planet. Some data appears to have been wiped from my system.”
“Shall I go and see if I can aide Muffin in the recovery of her lost memory, Victor? Perhaps there’s something still there and I can find the information and bring it back up.”
“No, B.O.B. Just stay here for now. Muffin, find the nearest, large gravity signature. That’ll be the planet. We need to land there. Argmon, turn us around. I’m sure we’re way past the planet by now. The rest of you, buckle in. I have the feeling this is going to get bumpy.”
Vic slowly got up and walked out of the lounge.