“I thought ya were meant to always land on yer feet, like,” Regan said, groaning underneath the catman and rubbing the crown of her head.
“I did,” Leo said, flipping himself over off his back and crawling off of the crumpled mechanic on all fours. He stretched out, arching his back with an audible pop, then stood up. “Initially. I don’t know why everybody thinks that should make such a difference. It beats landing on one’s spine or one’s head, but it’s not a retroactive parachute. Even if one lands on one’s feet, one still lands, with everything that entails.”
“I don’t see how the tail enters into it,” Regan said.
“Leo, what are you doing here?” Lilliana asked.
“Attempting to register a complaint,” Leo said.
“Sorry, it’s gettin’ hit on the head lessons in here,” Regan said.
“What are you two doing?” Leo said. “And does it have anything to do with the fact that I can’t play blackjack in The Meadows?”
“Devil a thing,” Regan said. “Though, the fact that ya can’t play blackjack in The Meadows might have somethin’ to do with what we’re doing.”
“Regan initiated a C0B88 inside a bar,” Lilliana said.
“Jesus, man…ish girl. what the hell were you doing with an axolotl?” Leo asked Regan.
“That’s a funny story, now ya mention it,” Regan said. “Me Da, who was o’ course the High King at Tara Spaceport, once was beset by a dozen bandits while crossin’ a rocky stream, an’ there was nothin’ at hand to fight with except a couple o’ slimy amphibians o’ the genus Cryptobranchus. Well, any port in a storm an’ all that…”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Lilliana asked Leo.
“Hellbenders,” Regan said. “Those ugly-lookin’ things what live in rocky streams. Now, it’s not always possible to keep one on hand, but in a pinch, most salamanders work.”
“C0B88,” Leo said. “Exiled royalty has detonated an axolotl.”
“That’s BB8, not B88,” Lilliana said.
“Why do they even have these codes?” Leo asked. Lilliana simply looked at Regan. “Your point is well-taken,” he said. “Was there a purpose to this explosion?”
“Ya know, I don’t like to get all philosophic-like, but I try to look at each explosion as bein’ an end in an’ o’ itself,” Regan said.
“We were trying to provoke a reaction,” Lilliana said.
“Did it work?” Leo asked.
There was a shout from outside the door, and then the thud of booted feet thundering down the hall.
“Yeah,” Lilliana said. “After a fashion, it worked.”
“Lovely,” Leo said.
“This’d probably be the wrong moment to mention I left me salamanders in me other pants,” Regan said.
“Regan, there isn’t a right moment to mention that,” Leo said.
Daniel Shays did not leave the safety and comfort of his lavish and heavily fortified personal compartment lightly, but as long as his ship was docked at the Fickle Finger anyway, he had decided to take the opportunity enjoy the benefits a planet of his stature would be accorded in such a respectable and safe establishment.
Of course, there was no sense throwing caution to the wind. His tall, buxom cyborg bodyguard Cicada would accompany him, and before they disembarked, they checked the station’s public security log.
Daniel Shays was not a stupid man. He was a greedy, venal, lazy, cowardly, avaricious, greedy, and greedy man, but he was not a stupid one. He’d known Lilliana’s excuses for parking the ship there were just that, excuses… just as he knew at first sight that the clusterfuck being described in oblique and PR-friendly terms was somehow the fault of her and her handpicked crew of idiots.
Since she wasn’t answering her commline, he opened a visual link to the forward command compartment to see what the pilot knew abuot it all.
“Mr. Unger, is there a reason The Meadows is locked down and the entire station is on high alert?” he asked.
“Doubtlessly so,” the pilot said.
“Do you know what it is?”
“I’d suggest you check their security report,” Dick said.
“I have,” Shays said. “It says nothing. What would you say the odds are that it has something to do with Lilliana and whatever scheme brought her here?”
“Couldn’t say, sir,” the pilot said. “I’m not much of a gambler. If I were, I’d probably be ashore right now.”
“So are you saying that you have no idea what my lovely young Communicator is up to right now?”
“None,” the pilot said. “She is currently incommunicado.”
“The communications officer is incommunicado,” Shays repeated.
“Well, she is off duty, sir.”
“Is her pet monkey off duty, too?” Cicada asked, bending down and leaning forward to get in the view screen frame.
“The monkey died three years ago,” Dick said. “Killed by the dachshund. Ms. Corsair buried both of them in space, as I recall.”
“I meant Bard,” Cicada growled.
“I’m sorry, you seem to have a malfunction with your vocal processor,” Dick said. “You broke up on that last word. You may want to have a cyberneticist look at that.”
“What about Bard?”
“Crewman Designate Bard may have a way with machines, but I would strongly recommend that you have a licensed and qualified cyberneticist deal with something of that sophistication.”
“Mr. Unger,” Shays said. “I want you to call everybody back to the ship now and I want us underway immediately, if not sooner.”
“I believe that, contractually, Ms. Corsair would have to sign off on that,” Dick said.
“Yes, well, as she is currently ‘incommunicado’, the authority defaults to me,” Shays said. “When the ship is in flight, you’re the nominal captain, which give you command authority, but as we’re currently…”
“Ah, one moment please,” Dick said. He turned away from the screen and punched in a code. The instrument panels lit up and power began to hum throughout the ship. He adjusted a slider a tiny amount and then barely touched the main control yoke, then turned back to the screen. “This is your captain speaking. We’re currently cruising at an altitude of three point five centimeters. Due to safety concerns, no personnel will be allowed to enter or exit the ship for the duration of the flight, barring essential cargo operations. Thank you, and have a pleasant journey.”
64: Closeted 66: Into The Sweet Surrender » »
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