Category Archives: Blog Post

V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 18

Audio Only:—Chapter-18-e1mnsl2

Hey Jay! Where’d you go?

Hey Howdy Hey Gang!

My apologies for disappearing for much longer than intended. We took our trip to Utah, the Mrs got sick. I got sick. Easter happened. I accidentally bought a new bass (a fixer upper that I will do a video about when it’s done.) So much packed into a single month.

But I’m back.

I’ll soon get back on track with the V&A Shipping 2 Audio. Sorry that got delayed.

If you’re looking for more talk about authors, J. Daniel Sawyer and I started a new vid cast and have a few episodes out there for your listening enjoyment.

Hat Guys Talk Books (HGTB):

Other than, not much has changed since the last time we spoke. I hope to change that. 🙂

Until next Time!

Stay Awesome!

Bit of an Update

Hey Gang!

First, thank you to all who stick around and read this blog when I put out posts and put out videos. It means a lot to me.

Secondly, My voice is gone. Watch the below video and you’ll know why. Short story, I sang my heart out at Metal Jam 2022. Yeah, I played bass on one song, but I sang as loudly as I could for every other song. It was a great time. Being that my job is mostly conference calls and I talk all day, my voice hasn’t recovered yet.

I did have enough voice to talk with J. Daniel Sawyer last night to record a couple of episodes of Hat Guys Talk Books. Those will hit your feed if you subscribe.

Finally, all this is to say, further episodes of V&A Shipping 2 will be delayed while my voice recovers. And I’ll be on vacation mentally recovering.

I hope to get back to regular blogging (2 or 3 a week) starting upon my return from this vacation. It’s time to get my focus back now that Metal Jam is behind me and I don’t need to make sure I’ve got my song down and don’t embarrass my bandmates on the night of the event.

Side Note: If you watch the video, understand that I met 3 or the 4 people I was on stage with…an hour before we went on stage! Very few are believing that, but it’s 100% true. Only the lead guitarist and I got together for a practice session.

Anyway, I’m off to go get other things done.

Until Next Time!

Stay Awesome!

If you made it this far, I’m being sneaky and slipping in links to My Patreon: Please, don’t feel obligated. I’m not doing much there yet but building up a backlog of content.

V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 17

Audio Only:—Chapter-17-e1ggj8c

V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 16

Audio Only:—Chapter-16-e1ggiuc

6th book I read this year: Station 3 by Paul E Cooley

Yes, I read another Paul Cooley book. I do that.

Everyone has that one author that they’ll buy/read everything that author puts out. I’ve been that way with Paul’s work for a very long time. Not everything he wrote back in the day resonated with me, but I could see where he was going with what he was doing at the time.

Paul’s work over the years has evolved. There’s no other way to put it. Some of his work was psychological horror/thriller stuff that usually worked. His Street stories are stuff of legend. Garaga was interesting.

Then we got The Black. This is where Paul’s years of effort paid off. Yes, there were ump scares. Yes, there was the intense mindf*ckery. Who lives? Who dies? Who cares! Let’s keep this ride going. And keep it going he did.

The Paul jumped into space with the Derelict saga. The kid gloves were off. Each book, though I’m sure it took a toll on him, was a fun ride filled with ups, downs, heroes in trouble, daring escapes, and you were left with a feeling of utter dread and satisfaction at the end of the first 4 books of that series. At least I was.

Then we get Station 3. Let’s start out with the obvious. Paul plays video games. There’s no doubt in my mind this story could be wrapped up and played for several hours of enjoyment. I saw a tweet that he’d love to write a Dead Space novel. Hell yes! Sign me up.

This story, Paul left it all out on the table. He upped his game (pun intended) yet again. We get deeper into the mind of the character than we normally do. The conflicted state of emotions driving him forward despite of what’s happening around him. Shark swims. Then he’ll stop and access what happened and what might happen next. Turtle thinks. We get a fleshed out backstory with snippets of the characters childhood and past missions.

I mean, wow. This is Paul at his best. Unless I miss my guess, this book will be a stand alone novel for those that despise a series. For those that love a series, yes, there’s room for more in this universe. I’ll say no more as I don’t wish to drop any spoilers.

Paul, well done. Well done.

More on this later…but…

Billy the Guardian: Billy Barbarian Book 1:

V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 15

Audio Only:—Chapter-15-e1g5ign – Grab a copy of your own!

The beings made up a massive dead zone. June couldn’t be sure if they had too simplistic a brain or too complicated. Perhaps they just had the ability to not allow another’s thoughts to penetrate their own. She just kept trying to reach out and could only feel her friends. Only Dexter didn’t have any thoughts. Argmon was angrier than scared. Joey had passed out, but had come to and seemed to be a little better with the situation.
She just needed to try to keep her head about herself. Watch her surroundings. Turn on her guard mode and remember where they’d been taken. How far they’d walked away from the ship. How many creatures they’d seen that were either guards, the ones with spears, or citizens, the ones without spears. None of them had clothing or even identifying marks on their bodies. Not a word had been spoken.
Because of the size of the rooms, some seemed to span several city blocks, June felt exhausted. The others just kept plodding along. Even though she had worked out often enough, it hadn’t been enough to give her the endurance for this long walk. Even though they remained silent, the guards appeared to at least understand their prisoners didn’t have the speed to go much faster.
Each guard had the same yellowish skin and undulating underside that provided their locomotion, but June couldn’t help but feel there was something different about each. Perhaps it was the eyes or slightly different shading of the skin. She couldn’t be sure, but each certainly felt different. She just wanted to know where they were being taken. For all this walking to stop. Everything appearing oversized, from the rooms, to the statues, to their captors, to the simple floor tiles, made her feel tiny and almost insignificant.
She couldn’t help but think about Vic. Without knowing exactly what was wrong with him, she couldn’t be sure how long he would spend in the medical pod. Judging on how he was reacting, it almost seemed like he was having a heart attack and just denying it. Hopefully, nothing serious had gone wrong and he had been finally patched up and would now be able to look for them. By now he would have figured out they were no longer on the ship and didn’t have any means of communication. If he were smart, he’d just surrender and he’d be taken to where ever they all were being taken. Either way, he’d show up mad as ever.
The crew finally emerged into a massive chamber. She had thought the rooms before were large, this one dwarfed them all. The ceiling was so high she thought she might see cloud formations, but instead only slits allowed light from the planet’s center star to shine. This gave her a moment of vertigo to realize they were standing on the inside of the planet and looking toward the center. Not seeing the sky had prevented her from thinking about that. This room forced her to remember and she reached out for Joey’s hand. He also stared up through the slits at the sky.
“It’s so big. If we fell would we pass all the way to the other side of the planet?”
Joey’s fear was beyond hers. He could barely walk, yet continued to put one foot in front of the other, making his way along. Dexter and Argmon exchanged a few words, but they both appeared more upset about being here than frightened. She wanted to ask how common a planet like this might be but knew no one would have an answer for that.
The two rear guards stopped just inside the door and slammed the butts of their spears on the tile floor. The deep clang was followed by a tone that she felt, not heard. It was almost as if all the bones in her vibrated. The tone from behind them was followed by a similar tone from in front of them. The two guards in front continued to lead them along until they arrived at what June could only describe as a throne.
The white pillars that had lined the room were as large as redwoods and nearly as tall. White stairs rose to a platform with smaller pillars holding up a lattice pergola. She thought they should be seeing someone up there, but she couldn’t make anything out.
Putting their spears on the ground and turning to the side, the final two guards turned to the side. One pointed with an appendage up the stairs.
“This isn’t going to be easy,” Joey said as he looked up the mountain of stairs.
“Eep. Eep. Eep.” Dexter started hopping up the stairs with Argmon close behind using his arms to help ascend the stairs. The two were racing to see who could get to the top first. She hated both of them.
“We’re not going to get to the top of these if we don’t start.” Joey squeezed her hand. She hated it when he tried to be supportive. She’d gotten used to being the one to keep him reassured. She was just glad it was his real hand she held.
“Come on. Let’s see what’s up there. Dexter and Argmon aren’t the only ones that can run up there.”
It was June’s turn to take the lead. One step at a time and the mountain started to fall away. She started to count them, but when the burn in her legs became too much, she stopped. The stairs were bigger then normal stairs and based on the physiology of their captors, decorative. Joey felt as if he were having similar thoughts and he pulled her to a stop.
“What if we’re being brought here as a sacrifice?” His face turned white. She couldn’t have him pass out on her now.
“That’s not likely. These aren’t primitive people back on earth performing sacrifices to their sun god.”
“How do you know that? Are you able to detect what they’re thinking? Are they going to let us go? What’s going on?”
This was a fine time for him to start to freak out and she didn’t have any answers for him. She tried to pull him along, but he resisted.
“June, what’s going to happen? After all I’ve been through, we’ve been through, I don’t want to die. I’d like to think we still have a lot of time ahead of us.”
“Look, Dexter and Argmon are almost at the top. They’ve seen a lot of things we haven’t. I’m sure they wouldn’t lead us astray. Let’s just keep going. It’s better than heading back down there with them.”
Joey looked down at the guards standing at the base of the stairs. Even though they were turned to face each other, their eyes roamed and continued to keep an account of their progress. Were they getting upset they hadn’t gone further? June gave Joey’s hand another tug and he started once again.
The burn in her legs didn’t go away. It was like being on the Stairmaster from hell; the steps too big for a regular human to take in normal stride and they just kept going and going.
“I need to catch my breath.” Joey stopped again.
June looked up the stairs. They were better than halfway and Dexter and Argmon had finally reached the top. It took June and Joey far longer to struggle their way to reach the top of the platform and as soon as they did she lay on her back and thought for sure her legs were going to fall off. Joey fell beside her.
“Can I just die now? Did you have to pull me up? Now my legs and my arm hurt.”
“Don’t be such a baby about it. If we get out of this mess, we need to start doing more exercise. What would happen if we had a shipment that was under threat and we needed to do something like this?”
“June, I hate to break this to you, but we do have a shipment under a threat and we just did something like this to try to protect it.”
She punched him, but it was a half-hearted attempt. Even rolling onto her side hurt. He kept his forehead to the floor and grunted as if it hurt.
June knew they had to keep moving. They were here for some reason and they needed to figure out why sooner rather than later. “We need to get up and find Dexter and Argmon. Did you see them when we got to the top?”
Joey lifted his head and rested his chin on the floor. “This thing is huge.”
“I didn’t ask how big it was, I asked if you saw our shipmates.” June struggled to roll over and put her arm around Joey’s waist.
The platform spread out before them. Looking at this level it appeared perfectly flat and could have gone on for miles. She sighed and looked back and forth across its length. It was flat, but where were Dexter and Argmon? The two didn’t appear to be anywhere in sight. She tried to shake off the rubbery feeling in her legs and got up.
“Joey, I don’t see them. Get up. Quit rolling around like a baby. This is serious.”
There was a slight depression in the platform that started about a hundred feet in. Not a depression, but a section that was lower than the rest. The surface wasn’t white like everything else they’d seen inside the building, but it was a pale yellow. Judging by the ripples running across its surface, it appeared to be a massive pool of water. It was larger than any lake she had ever seen.
“Where are they?” Joey asked as he scratched his head.
June had an idea where they might be and she didn’t want to be right. Not this time.
Other than the pillars holding up the pergola, nothing else sat on the platform. It appeared to have been cleaned spotless and not even a speck of dust marred its perfection. She looked down at their reflection on the surface. She shook her head when the distant ‘eep eep eep’ came from the pool.
“I know where they are. Let’s go. Hopefully, we’re not in more trouble than we were a few minutes ago.”
“Where are they?”
The question answered itself when they got to the edge of the pool. Dexter, with his three little arms, and Argmon, with his four arms, splashed in the liquid. The pool didn’t have a smell and the water did look inviting. She wasn’t naked like Argmon and Dexter and wasn’t about to strip down to jump in.
“You two need to get out of there. You don’t know what’s in there.”
A low rumble came from all around.
“Did you feel that?” she asked Joey.
Joey put his hand on her shoulder more for support. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Just don’t do it in the water. We don’t know what’s in there. Speaking of not knowing what’s in there, Argmon, Dexter, get out of the pool.”
Argmon barked like a puppy. She’d never seen him so happy. Dexter made a noise she had never heard him make that sounded almost like laughter. She hated to ruin their fun, but they had to get out of there. They’d been sent up here for a reason and swimming wasn’t it.
“Hey! Come on.”
The two looked like scolded children as they swam to the edge. Two dark shadows appeared beneath them. They hadn’t seen the shadows. They couldn’t have. She didn’t want to make them panic, but she had to say something.
“Hurry up! Get out of there!”
“What’s that?” Joey pointed into the water.

V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 14

Audio Only:—Chapter-14-e1g2c5o

Again it was dark on the ship. This time at least Vic could see lights from the passageway. That meant someone had turned the lights off in the room. He’d rested enough. It was time to get up and see what the rest of the crew was up to. They were hidden, but were they safe? He didn’t like being locked away and unaware of what had happened around him. He reached up and put his hand on the glass top of the medical pod.
“Vic? Vic! You’re alright. I’m so glad I decided to stay behind and make sure you were alright. I see that you’re going to be fine. I was worried when the pod thing said you had suffered ‘massive internal bleeding’. I don’t have any blood like you do, but that sounds terrible. I just sat here and fretted and worried…”
“B.O.B! I’m fine now. Could you please let me out of this contraption?” If Vic didn’t stop him, B.O.B. would have gone on forever.
The robot continued to talk as he pressed buttons and opened up the pod. Vic tuned out more of what was said until B.O.B. said, “…and that’s when they all decided to leave the ship, but I was scared to…”
“Leave the ship? What do you mean by that? No one is on board?” He tried to push past B.O.B., but the robot was too bulky to just shove out of the way. Instead, they both moved into the passageway. “June! Joey! Argmon!”
“They’re not on board. The ship has been shut down for now, but Muffin should still be online.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad you’re up and moving, Victor. Looks like your little nap did you some good.”
“Where are we? Have we been arrested? Who went where with whom? How long was I out?”
“Only a couple of hours. That medical pod is fast. I’m sure if I were to break it wouldn’t be able to do anything for me mostly because I’m not a carbon-based life form.”
“Enough, Muffin, where is everyone and if you start with B.O.B. or me I’ll come up there and personally introduce you to your circuit boards.”
Muffin beeped. “No need to be rude. Argmon, June, Joey, and Dexter left the ship when several of the local inhabitants approached with spears demanding they exit the ship.”
“Spears? Local inhabitants? I think we need to back up a little bit. What inhabitants are we talking about?” Vic made his way up the ladder to the main deck, then over and down into the cargo hold. He could see the airlock door sat open.
“It appears that the planet is hollow. Joey referred to it as a mini Dyson Sphere. There’s a small star inside the planet and that seems to provide a large amount of power, but I don’t think it’s enough power for as many inhabitants that appear to live inside. The air outside is breathable for all lifeforms on the ship, though it is a little denser than you’ll be used to. You may need some time to adjust.”
“But they’ve got spears. How dangerous could they possibly be? I’ll just take a few blasters, free everyone, and we’ll be on our way.” He looked inside the weapons locker trying to decide the best approach. First, he’d need to know where they went. They were inside the planet. What had Joey called it? A Dyson Sphere? Vic had never heard the term. Made no sense to him. He just needed to find the best blasters they had, a few well-placed shots should scare the locals. Then they’d all be back on the ship and on their way home.
“I don’t think you understood what I said, Victor. We’re inside the planet. There is a city that covers nearly the entire inside shell of the planet. It’s hollow. Argmon, June, Joey, and Dexter were taken by the local inhabitants. Their spears aren’t spears, but power weapons.”
“Come again?”
“Let me explain it in words you’ll understand. Big pointy sticks go boom.”
Vic rolled his eyes. “Okay, so they can fire back. Just point me to my crew and let me go get them.”
The first thing Vic grabbed was his com unit and placed this in his ear. He would need to make sure he could talk with the rest of the crew and Muffin if he was going to pull off a successful rescue operation.
“Vic, I think you need to reconsider. It’s safer right here on the ship. Really. If you go out there, you’ll be in trouble faster than I can down a quart of oil.”
“Why? Because there’s a bunch of guys with spears?” Vic strapped on his holster. One blaster on the right. One blaster on the left. A rifle in his hands. That should be just about enough.
B.O.B. followed Vic to the airlock and just before Vic could step onto the platform the robot said, “Because they’re really big.”
Vic backed up slowly. They hadn’t spotted him yet. He needed a few minutes to rethink this. Perhaps a few hours. In all his time running around the galaxy helping people out with things they needed and providing a great service to people, he’d run into some strange species. Some large, some small, some downright scary. He had never run into anything so humongous as these things. They looked like massive blobs with arms and each had a spear nearly forty feet tall. His best guess was these things were at least thirty feet tall and probably twenty feet wide at their base. He didn’t see any legs and wondered how they might move about. He looked at his weaponry.
“Oh no.”
“What’s that, Victor?” Muffin asked.
“I’m going to need some bigger guns.”
B.O.B. made some noise that sounded like an old car engine screeching to a halt. Vic assumed it might be laughter. Nervous laughter?
“June, this is Vic. Where are you?”
“Victor, that’s not going to work.” Muffin said
Vic looked up toward the bridge. “Why not? Are they too far away? Are the buildings made of something that blocks radio signals? Are they incapacitated? Tell me they’re not dead.”
“None of those, Victor. Your crew forgot to take their communicators with them.”
His shoulders slumped. “You have got to be kidding me? How am I supposed to rescue them if I can’t communicate with them? Did June at least put on her suit so we can track them?”
“I’m afraid not.”
That was so like June. Just run off before being fully prepared. That just made his job a whole lot tougher. How was he to locate them? They could be anywhere. These things looked huge and the only benefit Vic saw of that was there would be fewer rooms to search. Although they could be in the same room and he’d have trouble finding them.
“B.O.B., why don’t you go out there and introduce yourself? Maybe you can distract them long enough for me to get by.”
“I think I hear Muffin calling. I’d better get upstairs and see what she needs. She might be in trouble.”
“You don’t even have to stay out there for long. Just long enough to cause a distraction. These guys are five times taller than I am. Heck, they’re nearly as tall as the ship. Wait a minute. I think I know what I can do.” Vic put down the rifle.
The blobs outside were big and tall, but they didn’t have legs. Even though Vic couldn’t figure out their locomotion, they had to be slow. With that much mass moving across the ground there was no way they’d be fast. All he’d have to do would be to run outside and he’d be past the guards in no time.
“Vic, I don’t like the look in your eye.”
“How would you know anything about the look in my eye?”
B.O.B. fidgeted and looked left and right. “I don’t know. It’s just something that June always says when you look like you’re planning to do something that might get others into trouble. Like that time Joey lost his hand. Remember how you…”
“Yes, I remember. This time is different. I’m trying to think of a way to get them all back on the ship. Not pull some prank.”
A slight breeze, almost unnoticeable, blew past Vic’s ear. He brushed at it like trying to brush away an annoying pest.
“Here’s what I need you to do. I’m serious this time. B.O.B., look at me. Right here. I need you to cause a distraction.”
The robot started to turn. Vic grabbed it and turned it back around.
“I saved you from a lifetime of washing dishes in a back alley shop that served questionable food. We’ve given you a good life here. I think it’s time you did something for the crew.”
It looked as if B.O.B. might say something. The robot stared at Vic, looked at the floor. Looked up again, but remained silent. Vic continued to stare at B.O.B. and wait for the robot to say something. This was a game his father used to play with him. They’d stare each other down, just waiting to see what the other would say. Trying not to flinch or show any sign of weakness. The first person to talk had lost the contest of wills.
“Alright, quit looking at me like that. I’ll do it. Just tell me what I need to do.”
“Perfect. It’s quite simple. I need you to go out there…”
The wind by Vic’s ear grew more intense. There was no brushing it away this time. He thought it might be coming from outside. Hadn’t Muffin said the air was denser outside? This wind wasn’t coming from outside, though. It came from the rear of the ship. The sound of rustling leaves followed and Vic felt the full blast.
“Victor, I’m detecting a presence on the ship. No, now it’s gone. Wait. It’s back now. No, it’s not there anymore. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“I have. B.O.B., you’d better get a bucket and a mop.”
“A bucket and a mop? Is there a mess that needs to be cleaned up?”
“There will be.”
A man in camouflage appeared where the wind seemed to be coming from. He had a helmet, dark goggles, and held a large rifle, nothing like Vic had ever seen. The man was well built, but instantly dropped his gun and fell to his knees. With a scream, he pulled at his helmet and goggles.
“B.O.B., that bucket and mop. Now!”
B.O.B. sped off.
Vic knelt next to the man. “It’s alright buddy. You’re going to be fine. Take slow, deep breaths.”
“What? Where?” The man’s backpack proved to be too much and he fell face down on the deck.
Just like when June appeared, and Joey, Vic rolled the man onto his side and made sure his face was clear of any obstructions. Taking off his goggles revealed the man to be Asian. Probably the biggest Asian Vic had ever seen.
“Help! It hurts.” The man’s voice had no trace of an accent and he pawed at his throat.
“Bring some drinking water on your way back too.”
B.O.B. had almost been back with the bucket and mop. The robot dropped those and scurried off to get water.
Vic fetched the bucket but was too late getting back. The man had popped his lunch all over the deck. Why did these things always happen at the worst possible time? Now he had to find his crew and explain to this guy just where he’d wound up. Neither of them were going to be happy. Vic took the gun and handed it to B.O.B., took the drinking water, and offered that to the soldier.

V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 13

Audio Only:—Chapter-13-e1fso9e

He threw his hat on the deck. “How could you have lost them? It’s not like you can’t tell where they’re going. And don’t tell me that a planet had some hiding spot for them.”
The officer quivered in terror just like he should. He should fear the wrath that was about to rain down upon him for making Sheriff Justice lose his quarry. “Sir, we tracked their ship as soon as it appeared. We saw it land on the planet in a crater. They’ve got to be down there.”
“Let me guess, we’re too big to fit in there.”
The officer held his hands over his head. “Yes.”
B.T. Justice slapped his riding crop on the console. “I don’t want excuses. I want answers! How are we going to go in after them?”
“Sir, they can’t go anywhere. We know where they went. It might just be a matter of waiting for them to come back out.”
“Son, as much as I’d like to sit here and wait for that rat to poke its head out of that hole so I can snap it off, I’m not going to do that. We need to go in after them!”
The officer at the console looked confused. “I don’t handle navigation.” He turned around and slouched over his console.
“Who’s in charge of navigation?” He didn’t care if his question sounded like a threat. He was going to catch the crew of the SS Acid Rat and he was going to do it today. Nothing would get in his way this time. Nothing. Not even if he had to force the ship down that tiny hole after them. He was going to pull them out of there.
“Sir, the ship is too big.”
“I didn’t ask for the dimensions of the ship, did I? I asked who’s in charge of navigation. We need to go in after them. They’re right there.” Sheriff Justice pointed at the screen. A large, red circle shrank and grew over the hole where the SS Acid Rat had disappeared. “Now who is in charge of getting us down there?”
“I’m in charge of navigation.” Finally someone intelligent.
“Son! Get us down on that planet. Right there. That hole. You see it, right. That’s where we need to be.”
The officer looked pale as he adjusted his glasses and swept his greasy, black hair out of his face. “Sir, we can’t go down there. The SS Acid Rat is a small, cargo vessel. Our ship is designed to capture ships of that size and even a little bit bigger. If we try to go down into that hole, we’ll run into any number of problems. We could get stuck. We could sink into the ground. You know that we don’t know anything about the surface of this planet. It’s a rogue that should be here.”
He hit the officer with his hat. “I didn’t ask for a lesson in planetology…”
“That’s not a real science.”
“I ordered you to move this ship into that hole so we could capture our prey. You heard him taunt me. You all heard that. He knows he’s breaking the law and he’s going to try to get away with it again.”
“We’re breaking the law by being outside the sphere of control of our parent star.”
Again Buford hit the officer with his hat. “Quit being a wise apple. Will anyone fly this ship down onto that planet? Junior! Get over here and order these men to do what I tell them.”
Didn’t these so-called officers understand the importance of capturing a criminal? There wasn’t time to just sit back and wait. They’d get away. They would sneak out of that hole and take off. He wasn’t about to allow that to happen.
“Daddy, sir. What’s wrong?”
“Junior, we’ve got them cornered, but your crew won’t do what I’m asking.” Sheriff Justice couldn’t believe he was about to ask his son to do something. “You need to explain to them the situation. I don’t know any of these people.”
“Well, most of them asked for transfers once we got home and you were arres…”
Justice clamped his hand over his son’s mouth. “Don’t you dare say another word about that in front of the crew. I just need you to get them to do what I’m telling them to do.”
Junior walked around his father and knelt to speak with each man. There were nods and smiles. He finished his conversations with the sandy-blond-haired officer and came back over.
“And? I don’t see us heading down into that hole. What’s going on? Why are we still up here?”
“I think the first thing we need to get you is a hamburger and a few minutes to calm down.”
“I do not need to calm down!”
Junior held up his hands. “Then Stan and I can take you on a smaller cruiser and we can go down there and look around.”
“Who’s Stan?” Justice didn’t like the thought of leaving the Apprehension. There was a lot to do here and men without their leader could run amok. He’d seen it before. The men needed a disciplined leader.
Junior motioned for the sandy-blond-haired office to join them. Daddy…sir. This is Stan Gumpshaw. He’s in charge of the smaller craft on board.”
“And you’re telling me that the only way I’m going to get down there and make sure my quarry hasn’t gotten away is to let this officer fly me down there?”
“I’ll come along too.” Junior shrugged.
He didn’t like being pushed off the bridge and that’s what this felt like. As if Junior was placating his old man to ease the minds of the rest of the crew. Their parents should have beat them a few times when they were kids and then maybe they’d listen to someone in a position of authority. As it was, they all just looked at him like he’d lost his mind. He didn’t need them. He didn’t need any of them. If the only way to capture the SS Acid Rat and its crew was to go down to the planet with Junior and this Stan fellow then so be it. He’d do just that.
Sheriff B.T. Justice put on his hat and turned. He had never been on one of the smaller ships, but he knew where they were kept. They were for the rest of the crew, not for the leaders.
“Can we take suits aboard with us so when we find the SS Acid Rat we can leave the smaller ship and go aboard?”
Stan said, “Yes, that’s possible, sir. If they have a large enough airlock, we can get the entire ship on board. It’s a small four-man shuttle.”
“And just how long will it take to get this little shuttle ready?” He emphasized shuttle to let them know how disappointed he was about this situation.
“It’s ready to go. I sent instructions down and the hangar crew will have it ready to go as soon as we’re down there.”
“Junior, I know I was away for some time.”
“Yes, daddy.”
“When did you hire this monkey to do your talking for you?”
Both of them looked shocked.
Justice stopped, turned, and put his riding crop on Stan’s chest. “When I want an answer from you, I’ll ask you. Until then, I’d like you to shut your hole.” He moved the riding crop to Junior’s chest. “I’ll be talking to you and expecting you to answer. Am I being very clear on that?”
“Yes, sir.”
He patted Junior’s face. “Good boy.”
Stan got a dark stare. The boy had said too much already and Buford didn’t like it. If his son was supposed to be in charge of the Police Cruiser Apprehension, then Junior should be the one doing the talking. Not letting some wet-behind-the-ears rookie talk for him.
“Let’s go. We’ve got a rat to catch.”
“Daddy, sir, I think you’ll like the new mini-cruisers. The old ones were all blocky and clunky. These new ones look so much better.”
Justice stopped. “What was wrong with the old ones? You do know I was the one that picked out those models, right? Those were the latest models. Faster than anything else in our system. And you just let them go?”
“Well, while you were away, I did some…well, changes.” Junior and Stan exchanged a look and nodded at each other. “I think you’ll like them.”
All he could do was stare at his son. The boy had made a decision. Even if it went against everything he’d tried to put in the boy’s head over the years, he’d made a decision. These new mini-cruisers had damn well better be comfortable. The last thing he wanted to do was fly down to a planet in an uncomfortable little cruiser.
Entering the hangar, B.T. did not like the look of the new vehicles. He’d been used to the squarish ones he’d ordered. They made the place look full and they fit in just like stacking boxes. These new ones didn’t nearly fill the space like the old ones. They were rounded with sleek curves and looked more like something kids would be gallivanting around the galaxy in, not something a police officer would be chasing those criminals in. Even the big blocky lights had been replaced with a slim light bar.
B.T. Justice just shook his head.” Which one are we taking?”
“Over here.” Junior pointed to one cruiser that was slightly bigger than the rest. This brought a smile to the sheriff’s face. His boy had learned something after all.
Junior went to the driver’s side. It was his ship, his new vehicles, why not let the boy fly down to the planet. Stan went around the back of the car while Justice went to the passenger’s side. As he got to the door and reached for the handle, his hand met Stan’s as they both reached for the door handle to the front.
“I beg your pardon, where do you think you’re going?”
“Well, sir, I was going to ride up front.” Stan looked surprised as if this had been a foregone conclusion.
“Is your name on this door? Does it say ‘Stan sits here’? Do you outrank me?”
“No, sir.”
“Well then sit your little hiney in the back seat.”
Again Stan and Junior exchanged a look. Junior tilted his head to indicate that Stan should sit in the back. B.T. Justice tried not to notice Stan’s indignant sigh.
“Junior,” the sheriff said as he sat in the car, sliding down into the plush seat, and putting his hat into his lap with his riding crop. “You need to have better command of your crew. You can’t just let them walk all over you like that. Do you understand? How would it look if you were on the bridge and something like this happened? Everyone would think you were a candy-ass, push-over. Now, do you want that, son?”
“No, daddy.”
“Sir in front of other crew members. How many times…”
Junior fired up the engine. This caused B.T.’s eyebrows to rise. He’d expected something silent but this had a rumble of power. He tried to keep his smile to himself. The vehicle raised. Junior radioed for the lock to be opened and they flew out into space.
It had been at least fifteen years since B.T. Justice had flown in such a small vehicle. He felt like a young officer again. The way the stars rolled along in front of the cruiser as they banked around the Apprehension and toward the rogue planet. He could feel his heart race with excitement. A laugh almost escaped his mouth.
“Let’s go get ’em, Junior.”
“We’re going to get them this time, sir.”
Stan cheered from the back seat.