https://smile.amazon.com/Hollow-Shipping-Book-J-R-Murdock-ebook/dp/B00GT9H4JQ – Grab a copy of your own!
With Dexter’s jump and Vic being hit by something, that left only Joey secured to the hull of the ship. The tether keeping them all attached had been cut. The object, about the size of a basketball, had hit between Joey and Vic and broken the tether before hitting Vic and knocking him off the ship. Dexter had tried to jump at the last minute and deflect the object but had only succeeded in spinning Joey around. He felt dizzy. He felt sick. He’d only done a couple of spacewalks and the loss of direction made his head swim.
“June, Vic is floating away, what do I do?”
“What do you mean floating away? I thought the three of you were tethered together.”
“We are. We were. Well, whatever hit Vic must have snapped the tether. How do I go get him?”
A hologram of June appeared in his helmet. “Joey, pay attention. This is very important. Don’t lose sight of Vic. You’ll lose him quickly in the stars. Do you still see him?”
“Yeah, he’s not moving very fast. Sort of spinning a little bit.”
“Are you still tethered to Dexter?”
“Release the tether.”
“Eep! Eep! Eep!”
“It’s alright, Dex. Joey needs to do this. You be ready to catch the two of them on the way back.”
“Wait a minute, catch us?” Joey asked as he untied the tether.
“Joey! Keep an eye on Vic. Don’t look away. This is very important. I should have been out there. Anyway, lift your right arm and point at him, and put your left arm straight out in front of you. Got it?”
Joey looked at his arms. He followed his right and he was still pointing at Vic. The suit had a way of holding your position even when you relaxed. It made him feel comfortable knowing he could stay in this position as long as he needed to.
June’s hologram flickered. “Now I want you to look at your left arm. Are all the lights green?”
One of the lights blinked from green to yellow back to green.
“One of them should have just blinked.”
“Okay, you had me scared there for a minute. What happened?”
“I took control of your suit. Well, partial control. I’m going to fly you out to Vic and you’re going to catch him. Look down your right arm and make sure you can still see him.”
“I’ve got him. Now you’re going to do what?”
The ship dropped away. Not slowly, but fast. He thought he might lose his balance or veer away from pointing at Vic, but Vic came up fast.
“What do I do?”
Joey lashed out and grabbed for Vic, but missed. The tether trailing out behind him had come close and he managed to grab the end to make a loop that caught Vic’s arm. The two started spinning away from the ship. He fought with the tether as he pulled Vic in and finally grabbed onto him.
“June, I think I’ve got him.”
“Don’t think right now, Joey. Do you have him or not?” The hologram of June kept looking down and back up. “Joey!”
The stars spun around. Joey closed his eyes. “What happens if I get sick in my suit?”
“Joey! Listen. Do you have Vic? You need to secure your suit to his. Pull the black plug on your right shoulder and connect it to the matching plug on Vic’s suit.”
“But I’m on the back of him. How can I…”
“Don’t think about it.”
He started to reach for his shoulder but their rotation caused them to separate. He pulled Vic back in harder. He tried twice more and the same thing happened.
“I can’t do it.”
“You need to get this done.”
She wasn’t helping. Her yelling was making him stress out. The stars spinning by were making him sick. He tried to keep an eye on Vic. He needed to get them connected. He got a better grip with his right arm tucked under Vic’s right arm and reached for the plug with his left hand. This time they stayed together. A long cable came out with the plug. With his right hand, he tried to get a hold of the plug on Vic’s suit. It took a couple of tries, but he pulled Vic’s plug free and connected them.
“I think I’ve got it.”
“What did I tell you about thinking?”
Joey looked at the connected ends. “I’m connected!”
After a brief sensation of being pushed sideways, Joey assumed that he and Vic were moving back toward the ship. He was holding on tightly to Vic and didn’t dare look around. What if they didn’t make it back into the ship? Would that be so bad? They’d run out of oxygen, but at least they’d know how long they had. Onboard the ship with a black hole for a power source there was no telling when things would go wrong or how badly they’d go wrong.
He needed to stop thinking about that. Right now nothing was more important than getting back on board the ship. To safety. Joey hadn’t looked inside of Vic’s facemask so he didn’t even know if Vic was alive or dead. The impact of that rock that hit him, or asteroid, or comet or whatever it was had knocked him for a loop. Literally. The hard suit should have taken the brunt of the blow, but now Joey needed to make sure Vic got inside.
Something started pulling in short jerks. He tried to turn around, but could only see the edge of the ship getting closer.
“Dexter, pull harder. You need to get them inside the ship.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
When had the hologram disappeared? Looking out into the stars and being pulled toward a spaceship, Joey wondered once again what would happen if he suddenly got sick. Did the suit account for that? Would it clean itself?
Dexter’s face looked in at his. Joey lowered his feet down onto the ship’s dura-plasti hull and they stuck instantly. He was safe. Now he and Dexter needed to get Vic to safety.
They tethered together and pulled Vic along with them. Joey never liked the sensation of stepping over the edge. He felt like he was going to start falling, but Dexter was moving with a purpose and it was all he could do just to keep up. As soon as they were back in the airlock, the outer door slammed closed and the inner door opened up. B.O.B. stood there tapping his robotic fingers together looking like a nervous Nancy.
“I was watching the whole time. Muffin has hooked me up to the video cameras. I couldn’t see the hull, but I could see the three of you and I was so worried when that pod hit Vic and knocked him off the surface of the ship. I thought for sure he would be flung off into space and we’d never be able to get him back again. Please, please, please tell me that you’re not going back out there for a long time.”
Joey popped off his helmet. “We’re not, now help me get Vic’s suit off. We need to get him into the medical pod.”
“Certainly. Right away. Let me just prepare the right tool.” B.O.B.’s hand retracted and a bright, blue flame shot out the end of his hand.
“No! Wrong tool.”
“So sorry, is this one better?” A whirling blade replaced the flame.
“B.O.B. just use your hands. We can undo the suit and open it up. We don’t want to do any more damage getting him out. Understand? Slow and careful.”
“I understand. Shall I hold him? Or perhaps I should be the one to…”
“Stand back, B.O.B. I’ll take over.” June allowed the bot to slide out of the way and helped Joey get Vic out of his suit. “You boys couldn’t wait a few more minutes for Muffin to finish her calculations. You had to go rushing out into space to look at the outside of the ship. I knew something like this was going to happen.”
“Less scolding, more helping?”
June was mad and she had every right to be, but right now they needed to get Vic out of his suit and into the medical pod. None of them could see what might be wrong with Vic, but the medical pod could not only check him out but keep him safe until he either healed or they got to a port to get him the medical attention he needed. Joey tried to shake off his suit’s gloves but wasn’t successful. It was almost impossible to help Vic out of his suit.
Dexter appeared at their side, already out of his suit, and put his three arms to work helping Vic. Joey sat on the floor next to B.O.B. as June and Dexter half-carried, half-dragged Vic away.
“I guess we weren’t much help, were we?” Joey asked, not wanting an answer.
“Should I go and offer my assistance? It seems that I was only getting in the way, but if you think there is something I can do for Vic I will gladly go and do that. What do you think?”
“I think you did enough already. Why don’t you just take a break?” Joey laid back on the deck as B.O.B. went in circles for a few minutes before finally tucking himself into a corner of the cargo bay.
They had been a little hasty about going out to inspect the ship. For a few minutes, it’d gotten Joey’s mind off the black hole the ship carried around. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around how something like that could power a ship safely. It defied all logic. Black holes weren’t safe, they were dangerous. They destroyed life, not aided it. Even if it was a microscopic black hole, it could obliterate the ship. And if it was large enough to capture a planet, even a small planet, and control the orbit of the planet, that meant it had to be a sizable black hole and not something insignificant.
He needed to just go to sleep and maybe when he woke up he’d be thinking clearer about the situation. Vic would be better, they’d be closer to the delivery point. Everything would be alright. That’s all. He just needed a nap. First, he’d have to try to get himself out of his suit. Getting in had been easy enough, but it was always an easier task when you had a little help. He tried to sit up, but that didn’t work. He tried rolling to his side. That also didn’t work. The suits were designed for work in zero-G, not for lying about on the deck of the ship.
Should he call for help?
No, everyone was busy or incapacitated. Everyone except for B.O.B. Joey groaned.
“Hey, B.O.B., can you give a guy a hand?” Even as he asked, he knew they were words he would regret.
What’s this? Jay recorded something?
After so much waiting, I have finally fired up the mic and recorded Chapter 1 of V&A Shipping 2: Hollow. I know many have waited for years for me to get off my duff and get to recording once again. I plan on dropping more than one episode per week and getting through my entire backlog of books that I’ve not recorded previously.
First and foremost, thank you for everyone who’s shown their support by buying a book, picking up a free edition, or simply commenting and asking for more content. It’s helped me keep pushing forward and getting things going. 2021 was great, 2022 should be even better.
Without further ado…
https://smile.amazon.com/Hollow-Shipping-Book-J-R-Murdock-ebook/dp/B00GT9H4JQ – Grab a copy of your own!
“It’s kind of hard to lose a planet, kid.” Vic stretched and took a seat next to Joey.
Joey frantically pressed buttons to try and call up the display, but everything had gone blank. Not five minutes before he’d pinged the planet with a pulse and it came back right where he’d expected it to be. Now it was gone and he couldn’t figure out where it’d gone. He called Vic because he wasn’t sure why it had disappeared. He hated to wake him up, but this was the first time he’d been left alone in the cockpit. Even Argmon, the big Shathar, had gone off to get some sleep.
“I don’t get it. Where did it go?”
“Did you check to make sure it was still orbiting the ship?” Vic flipped a switch, turned a dial, and brought up a holographic display of the planet. “This is the planet. You didn’t touch anything, right?”
“No. I was just sitting here looking out at the stars and decided to do a check.”
Vic flipped another switch. “When was the last time you pinged it?”
“Probably five minutes ago. I know it was there.”
“June, Argmon. Hate to break the two of you from your beauty sleep, but we need to go hunting.”
“Do we need them on this as well?” Joey hated for everyone to be woken up for his mistake. They still had a couple of weeks before they’d be delivering this planet and he didn’t need them all upset with him.
“Kid, if we’re going to look for a dark planet in the blackness of space, we need all the eyes we can get on this one. In fact, Muffin, where’s the planet. I thought you had something set up to check on it automatically.”
Muffin was what Vic called the new ship’s computer. Its designation was LMSM and he laughed when he saw the little silver box it came in and named it Little Miss Silver Muffin. This got a lot of laughs from the crew, but Muffin still hadn’t taken too kindly to the name.
“If you must call me that, at least don’t expect me to do any more menial tasks. Joey was doing just fine and didn’t need my help.”
“When was the last time you checked on the planet, Muffin? We need to know everything about when you lost contact, which direction it went, all of that.”
“Really? you want me to spend time searching my records to see when the last time I looked?”
Vic took a swig of his beer and winked at Joey. “I need to know the exact moment we lost contact with the planet and what our coordinates were.”
Joey thought he heard the computer make an audible sigh.
“Vic, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, kid. These things happen. That’s why we’re supposed to have computer backup. Muffin should be able to get us back to the right location. Then it’s just a matter of calculating when we lost it, what trajectory it went off in, and pick it back up. Piece of cake.”
He made it sound so easy. Something about towing a planet just didn’t sound like something easy. Sure, he’d been on board when they’d performed the past couple of jobs, but he wasn’t privy to what they’d done to perform the task. He’d been busying trying to study about how this ship worked. There were so many schematics and old wiring plans to go through and he hadn’t even gotten to the propulsion systems yet. Vic had given Joey the title of Ship’s Engineer, but he was still learning after nearly a year on the job. There was only so much you could read about the ship, the rest was all hands-on work.
“What are you boys doing up here? Tell me we didn’t lose another shipment.” June rubbed her eyes and sat on Joey’s lap. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek.
“You two should get a room.” Vic looked away and out into the black in front of them.
June nudged Vic’s leg with her foot. “We have a room.”
They did have a room. They even shared a bed. They had kissed on many occasions, but that was as far as their relationship went. They’d spent some of their downtime together and that had helped them grow closer, but June just didn’t seem interested in being more than they were. Perhaps it was because of Vic, but Joey was pretty sure it was what had happened to Vic that brought them closer together in the first place.
Joey was just happy to have someone. On Earth, the only person he’d been close with was Carlos, his best friend, and for the most part, they were picked on to no end. It took getting off the planet to find someone special. It gave him a little comfort to be able to hold the last woman from Earth. Vic had told him several times it didn’t bother him, but June loved to goad him.
“Yes, I know. I helped the two of you decorate it. Remember? Can we just get back to work? Muffin, where’s this planet? How long does it take an advanced AI computer to look something up?”
“You also asked me to perform calculations and estimations on where it might be. This isn’t like dusting crops.”
“Speaking of dusting crops, why didn’t you alert anyone once you lost contact with it?”
Something beeped twice. “I’ve got your estimates.”
“Yeah, yeah. Now answer my question. Why didn’t any alarms go off? This is an important job.”
“You won’t like the answer, Victor.” Only LMSM could get away with calling him Victor.
“Muffin, just tell me.”
“You didn’t ask me to.”
“Oh, come on now. Are you telling me that after the first couple of times we did this and I asked you to set an alarm, you didn’t take that to mean that every time we drag a planet across the galaxy I want an alarm on it?”
“We’ve never dragged a planet across the galaxy. The furthest we’ve ever moved a planet is…”
“I don’t care.” Vic upended his beer. “Argmon, I’m empty! Grab me a fresh one on your way up here.”
Argmon must’ve read Vic’s mind and handed him a cold can of beer. He then chuffed and motioned for Vic to get out of his seat. The Shathar looked at Joey and shook his head.
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault! I was checking.”
June kissed the top of his head. “It’s alright. Calm down. No one is accusing you of anything.”
“I am,” Vic said with a smile as he popped open his beer.
Argmon took his seat. His two missing left arms had been regrown. Chancellor Verbiddi insisted that all reparations be made and that included getting Argmon his arms back. They’d spent the better part of three months planetside while the SS Acid Rat had been repaired, everyone healed, and Argmon’s arms were regrown. In that time the atmosphere had gone from difficult-to-breath to almost bearable. The tonindrium worked like magic pulling all the excess pollution out of the air. It was the job that had convinced Vic that he could stick to doing legal jobs for a while and perhaps keep the Galactic Police off their trail.
“Victor, your planet should be…”
“Could you just feed the coordinates to Argmon’s display? He’ll turn us around. To be honest, you’re just going to talk gibberish to me and you know I don’t like it when you do that.”
“Always a gentleman.” Muffin beeped twice.
Argmon looked at the display and his four arms went to work. The stars shifted giving Joey a moment to feel dizzy. He nearly dumped June off his lap.
“Easy there. If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were the one drinking, not Vic.”
“You know I can’t drink that stuff like he does.”
Joey had tried keeping up with Vic. Once. That didn’t end well and Joey wound up sleeping in their newly redesigned break room. He vowed never to have a repeat performance of that incident.
“Argmon, you got this all under control?”
“Easy, I was just asking. Hey, where’s Dexter?”
“You only called Argmon and me. I’m sure he’s probably still sleeping. I don’t think you want to wake him up. He was in a feisty mood before going to bed.”
Joey knew that was possibly the worst thing June could say. It was almost a challenge for Vic once he knew one of the crew was in a bad mood. Sure Vic had mood swings and got bored from time to time, but when it came to Dexter, Vic loved playing with fire.
“I’ll be right back.” Vic started to leave.
June fought her way off of Joey’s lap. “No, you don’t! Dexter and I have some work to do with the load we’ve got down there and I don’t want our resident Tri-Ped all worked up and mad.”
“It’s just a little fun. He likes it.”
“Fine, then next time you’re sleeping, I’ll do it to you.”
Joey never really understood the relationship between June and Dexter. For that matter, he never really understood Dexter, the squat, green, three-eyed alien. Dexter was the strangest and by far most dangerous member of the crew. He and June were in charge of the ship’s security. June he had figured out, but Dexter seemed to have his motivations for what he did.
Vic, on the other hand, seemed to derive a lot of pleasure from tormenting both Dexter and June. Sometimes it had comical results, but often Dexter and Vic would wind up in a knock-down, drag-em-out fight that usually ended with Vic bleeding and laughing and Dexter sulking and angry. Joey was just glad he’d always been left out of the fun and games.
“Victor, we have found the planet you misplaced.”
“Hey, I didn’t misplace it. It was right where I left it when the kid took over. Don’t go pointing fingers at me.”
Muffin beeped. “You’re the captain of the ship and therefore the one ultimately responsible for the shipment. Therefore, I found the planet you lost.”
Vic switched between snarling and looking confused. Finally, he said, “Fine, Joey and I are going to go down and hook it up so we don’t lose it again.”
“Wait, what do you mean by that?” Joey got up to follow Vic. June took his seat next to Argmon.
“I’ll keep the seat warm for you until you get back.”
June slapped the Shathar on the arm. “Oh, be quiet.”
“Come on, kid, I’ll show you some more about the way this ship works.”
It was about time. Vic had shown Joey a couple of things, but he didn’t fully understand it all. It would be nice to have someone point things out to him rather than trying to read books and holo-manuals that didn’t explain things in terms he could fully understand. Sure he’d taught himself how to repair a turntable and a radio back on Earth. Those had parts he could make sense of. The SS Acid Rat was literally light-years ahead of anything he’d ever dreamed of working on.
It’s been far too long since I mentioned Jack Kane and the Statue of Liberty. Yes, this stand-alone book is wonderful and you would love a copy (you can get a copy right here). Mike Plested and I worked very hard getting that one out the door and then both of us had life events that took up a majority of last year bleeding over into this year.
Suffice to say, we’re finally up and writing once more! Jack Kane 2 is under way. We don’t have a full working title yet, but that will be coming along any time I’m sure. We’re passing it back and forth so it should get done in a far shorter time than the first go ’round we had with Book 1. The writing and plotting will be tighter. The characters are already fully formed. It’s great fun so far and we’re nearly 20,000 words in! WOO!
So if you haven’t read book 1, now is a great time to get caught up. You won’t need to read book 1 to understand the events in book 2, but it’ll help get to know the characters. As soon as this one is complete and off to the publisher, I’ll be sure to let you know. Needless to say, I’m very VERY excited to be back sitting at the keyboard. I think doing these little blogs posts are helping as well.
It’s an exciting time. I’m glad you’re still with me for the ride!
Until Next Time!