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.