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Nearly six months turning big rocks into little rocks. A year of rehabilitation after his incarceration. Finally, after all that time, he was back on the Police Cruiser Apprehension. Albeit under supervision from an officer with an untarnished reputation, but he was back. The sound of his boots clacking on the metal deck was music to his ears. Only one thing was missing, what could that be?
How easily it had been to convince those fools back on Bamda to allow him to ride under the supervision of his son. Did they think he would be on a ship with anyone else? And the GCP Central Office didn’t need to know about the little arrangement. As long as they kept to their system, nothing could go wrong. He would have his position back after another twelve months of probation and everything would be right in the universe once more.
“Boy, how many times do I have to tell you? Don’t call me that. We’re not at a family picnic, are we? Do you see any potato salad anywhere? Blankets? Picnic tables?”
“Then you call me sir! Or you call me Sheriff Justice. You do not call me ‘daddy’. We’re on board an official police vehicle. I know it’s been a while son, but you’ll remember quickly enough.” To emphasize his point, B.T. Justice slapped his riding crop on the side of his freshly pressed uniform.
“Better. Next time just try not to ask like you’re confused as to why you’re even in my presence in the first place, alright?”
B.T. sighed. “Okay? Okay? Didn’t I raise you better than that, boy?”
“I have a little task for you. Do you think you can handle it?”
Finally, Junior stood up tall and looked like he was ready. “I can handle it. What can I do?”
“Junior, bring me a hamburger.”
The boy’s eyes looked up, then looked down, the gears were turning, and finally, his eyes lit up. “Yes, sir!”
“That’s a good boy.”
It impressed Sheriff Justice that his son had been able to take over on the Apprehension. It couldn’t possibly be that the kid had done something outstanding. It had to be the boy’s lineage. The Justice line went back seven generations in the Bamda system and would carry on far into the future. It made him proud that his line would continue. He just needed to find a bride for his idiot son. The boy surely couldn’t find a woman on his own. After their two-week stint around the solar system, he would take some time off with the boy. He deserved at least that.
“No, just wait here. I’ll be back.”
“Junior, who are you talking to?”
“Nobody, sir. Here’s your drink.”
An officer B.T. Justice didn’t recognize stayed in the passageway, a young officer with sandy-blond hair, a small chin, and a scowl on his face. Junior closed the door and handed a glass with clear liquid to B.T.
After a long swig, Justice swirled his finger around the glass. “I think I might need another one of these. And some time alone. I need to plan a little vacation for us. How’s that sound?”
“I…well…if I have some time off, maybe we can do that.”
“I’ve been gone for how long? Now I want to spend a little time with my boy and you’re not sure if you’ll have time off? Do I mean so little to you?” Sheriff Justice poked Junior in the chest. “Maybe you’re getting a little too big for your britches. Remember where you came from, boy. Just go make some calls to make sure you can have a week or two to spend with your old man. I’ll make some calls and set us up on a nice vacation on the Corola Shores.”
Bamda had many fine vacation spots. The Corola Shores was where B.T. had met his wife. Junior might not be so lucky, but at least it’d be a start. All work and no play would make Junior a dull boy.
“I’ll work on that. I’d better get back. I have duties to attend to.” Junior backed toward the door and left the room.
Even though he wasn’t officially the captain of the ship, he’d been given his old quarters. Junior hadn’t felt right in taking his father’s room. Everything was just as he’d left it. Perhaps now was a good time to take a bath. There was ample time and Junior had things under control for the moment.
He sat on the edge of the bed and started to take off his boots. Just as he was about to take off his socks, an alarm went off.
“Junior! What’s happening?”
The intercom crackled and Junior’s voice yelled, “Brace for impact. Collision highly possible.”
“Collision? With what? We’re in the middle of our system.” Justice started to put his boots back on.
“Junior, I want a report. What’s going on? A comet? Stray asteroid?” Without bothering to tie his boots, Sheriff Justice strode out of the room, grabbing his hat and riding crop off the table next to the door as he exited the room.
“Another ship towing something.”
B.T. Justice stomped onto the bridge. He half expected soldiers to sit up and take notice, but he needed to keep in mind that he wasn’t officially in charge. Under his current station, he was just another officer on the ship. He put his hat on his head and walked over to stand behind Junior.
“Did you say a ship towing something? It couldn’t have been moving that fast through our system. Why didn’t we notice it sooner?”
The officer with the sandy-blond hair that had been with Junior pointed at the screen. “They were jumping in spurts. They only made small jumps. It appears they’ve got a planetoid orbiting their ship. That’s what almost hit us.”
“Any idea what could possibly be traveling through our system? No one should be going through our system like that without proper approval.”
“Well, officer Justice, I’m trying to get the ship’s call sign. I should have it in a few moments.”
“Junior, did you hail the ship? Try to get them to stop?”
“Daddy, sir, there wasn’t time. I barely had time to make the announcement.”
Good enough excuse. “So why are you still standing here? Do I need to do it myself?”
“I’m on it.” Junior ran across the bridge to the communication station.
“Do you have that call sign yet? Are we in pursuit? Is anyone doing anything?”
“I’ve got the ship’s identification. Looks like it was the SS Acid Rat.”
Justice dropped his riding crop. “Tell me you didn’t just say that.”
“Looks like it, sir. Their ship has taken some minor damage. Perhaps that threw them off course.”
Junior came back over from the communication station. “There’s no response. I think they might be in trouble. We should…”
“We should catch them and arrest them. That’s what we should do.” Justice pushed past his son. “Set in a course to intercept. Follow that ship! Apprehend them!”
A couple of officers jumped, a few just looked at him blankly.
“Did I stutter? Let’s go.”
“Don’t you call me that while we’re on the bridge.”
“Sir, they’ve already left our system, we can’t go after them.”
“Don’t tell me what we can and what we can’t do. They broke the law. They almost crashed into an official police vehicle. We will take pursuit and we will arrest them. Junior, contact the home planet that we’re going to…”
He needed to play this one right. He was still under probation. If he took pursuit again, he might never be allowed to wear a badge again. If he were to provide the ship with assistance, that was a different story.
“Junior, contact the home planet. We’re going to help the ship.” Justice pointed at the communication officer. “You, contact that ship, let them know we’re en route to help them. Do not tell them who we are no matter how many times they may ask. Junior, contact GCP and let them know we’re leaving our system to assist a ship in distress. Let them know what ship we’re in pursuit of and that we do not need any assistance. We will handle it.”
Justice walked away from everyone and toward the monitor. He looked out at the stars in front of the ship. A second chance. That’s what he’d been given. Finally, he’d be able to extract justice on the crew of the SS Acid Rat. He would not have this opportunity taken away from him. It took long enough, but finally, the ship made a turn, and the stars blurred.
“Here I come.”