Characters in this post
View character profile for: Cassandra Jones
View character profile for: Jay Chrysler
View character profile for: Thomas Plisken
View character profile for: Jaxx/Bif Biggles (Away)
View character profile for: Dr Jade Black
View character profile for: Jamie Eastlick
View character profile for: Dr. Artemis K. Pritchard VI
View character profile for: Tara Cleavage
View character profile for: H-343
View character profile for: Bruno Downing
"Since when do you know how to use that Terminal?" Jade asked Jamie, who looked confused. "I saw you using it, Even if Cass was teaching you, you used it like it was yours."
Jamie glanced to Cass, who shrugged.
"I... have no idea, it just... happened..." Jamie replied, "I just knew what I needed to do, and did it."
"No time now." Jade continued. "Let's go pick up Jay."
Her eyes darting between Jade and Jamie, Cassandra scowled unhappily.
“That’s not good enough” she said peevishly “You shot three differently configured spikes into the Hauler’s AI, Jamie. That’s arcane, bare metal shit, running atop an architecture you couldn’t possibly be familiar with. How the hell did you know how to do what you did?”
Jamie frowned and slowly shook his head, “I...” he trailed off.
“I... I don’t know - It just seemed right”
“Still not good enough. Only I know how those tools work, because I wrote them.”
“Guys” Jade interrupted “We can worry about this later. We need to go and pick Jay up”
Cassandra wrinkled her nose and glanced away at the monitors “He’s been inside that cargo ship for quite a while; do you think he’s alright?” she asked, before angrily turning back to Jamie “And stop staring at my tits!” she snapped “It’s getting creepy”
Jamie guiltily snatched his eyes away from her to stare resolutely at a spot just above the top of her head “I wasn’t!” he protested.
Jade sighed and shook her head in exasperation “Stop it, the both of you. Let’s just collect Jay and get out of here”
Pulling her jacket close around her, Cass folded her arms and huffily settled back into her chair “Does anyone know how to fly this cargo hauler, anyway?” she asked "Our one and only pilot took a spacewalk"
Jamie shrugged “I just assumed we’d tell the hauler where we needed to go”
“It’s not quite as easy as that" Cass sighed "The basic functionality’s still there, but we’ve compromised many of the AI’s higher cognitive functions in a pretty brutal fashion. Do you want to trust it with a docking manoeuvre?”
“You’ve lobotomised er!?” H-343 was aghast “You... You barbarians”
“It was being a dick” Cass said in a coolly, warning tone
“All the same, I wish you’d have mentioned it” Jamie grumped
“Well, it wasn’t me who shot three spikes into thing”
“Yeah, but -”
“Stop it” Jade said firmly “You can bicker all you like later on, but -”
“Yeah, I know” Cass sighed “We need to retrieve Jay. The only trouble is that nobody knows how to fly this hauler; so, ironically, he’s the only one who can help us to achieve that”
Eve hesitantly raised her hand
“Plisken?” Cass raised her voice and called across the cabin “Do you know how to fly anything?”
The old man just shook his head in response and quickly looked away; keeping himself to himself.
“No you wouldn’t would you, you old git” Cass grumbled under her breath, before raising her voice again “Artemis?”
“Good Science no” the bio-construct looked almost affronted “I don’t dirty my hands with that sort of thing; although I suspect that Ms Stone here might be able to help” he nodded towards Eve who, by now, had detached herself from Jaxx to climb to her feet and was trying to catch Cassandra’s eye.
“I’m a qualified navigator” Eve said, sheepishly.
“Really? I always -”
“- knew a navigator would come in handy someday” Jamie interrupted, before Cass could say what he thought she was about to say “So you can plot a course for the hauler, and tell it where and how to fly?”
“Yeah, I guess...”
“Great. Let’s get you over here, so you can help us out”
The docking clamps engaged another twenty or so minutes later; a dull thump that reverberated throughout the Starbug as Bruno’s cargo transport deployed an umbilical at Jay’s behest.
Cass wrinkled her nose as she emerged through the airlock. Every starship acquired its own unique smell over time, but the scrubbers on this old crate apparently weren’t all that efficient; leaving the air with an unpleasantly male redolence of, well... sweat and dirt.
“Alright?” Jay was leaning against the bulkhead, further down the corridor, arms folded. He smirked.
“Chrysler, my dear boy!” Artemis floated ahead of everyone else “We – or at least all the frail meatsacks here – are mightily indebted to you for encouraging Mr. Downing to let us aboard. How is he?”
Jay pushed himself away from the wall and shrugged “Odd?”
“In that case, I’m sure he’ll fit right in” Artemis swooped past him
“I don’t think he’ll have much choice. He’s this way, up on the bridge” Jay paused and nodded “Cass”
She inclined her head in response “Jay”
Somewhat conscious of everyone’s eyes on her, Cass hung towards the back of the group as Jay escorted them up to meet Downing. No doubt they were all wondering if she’d have anything to say about Jay’s latest fool stunt, but she didn’t want to give them anything else to gossip about. For now though, she was just glad that he was safe, but she’d have words in her own time.
Arriving on the bridge, Downing proved to be almost exactly the disappointment Cass had expected him to be. Dishevelled and dirty, the man, like Jamie, had obviously been alone for far too long; although in Downing’s case, he didn’t seemed to have handled the solitude anywhere near as well – His twitchy attitude and social ineptness, in her opinion, belied some pretty serious psychological issues.
As it turned out, Downing had been ferrying cargo back and forth between a couple of ageing and decrepit Serraco space stations for the past four years, in exchange, as he explained with a shudder, for a Nutrigrain bar each trip; so to his abject horror, the Dwarfer’s spent little time breaking into the cargo hold, to crack open his latest cargo consignment and investigate its contents.
What they found inside the crates was laughably ironic: Hundreds and hundreds of Nutrigrain bars, which Downing had apparently been simply transporting back and forth between the stations all these years. When he found out, the guy looked, for a moment, like he was about to cry and even Cass felt a little sympathy for him.
Left with few other options open to him, to say nothing of his belligerently persuasive new companions, Downing agreed to accompany the crew back to the Dwarf, which had been left in the outer reaches of the solar system, well away from any hostile forces on the surface of Fernando's; a journey that took just over thirteen hours.
With little else to do, most of the crew either rested or, when that got tedious they helped Jamie with stripping the cargo ship of anything useful that wasn't welded down.
Up, on the darkened bridge, Jay tapped a couple of buttons, minutely adjusting the ships attitude to correct for a power imbalance in the main engines.
"You're quiet" he observed as he settled back into his chair.
Sat beside him, Cass made a non-committal sort of noise and pretended to be interested in some of the data schematics on the ancient and dirty-looking screens on the science console.
"So?" he tried again
She gave him a tired look "Just don't scare me like that again, okay?"
"Aw, come on" he grinned, trying to inject a little levity into the conversation "When have I ever had a bad idea?"
"Calling that an idea would imply that you actually thought it through" Cass shook her head and looked back at the monitors.
"Well..." he petered out. It hadn't been much of a plan, he had to admit, but he wasn't about to confess that to Cassandra.
"Orrite dudes" the communicator crackled to life
"Holly!" Jay exclaimed, exultantly pleased with the timely distraction as the AI shimmered into view on the monitors "How's it going mate?"
"Well, I've got some good news and some bad news"
"Fuck's sake" Cass muttered, sullenly.
"Which do you want first?"
"The good news" Jay said automatically as Cass simultaneously said “The bad”
They exchanged glances “What?” Cass demanded "Things can only get better – I’m an optimist, damn it!"
Giving her a sceptical, sidelong glance, Jay turned his attention back to Holly “The good news, please mate?”
“Well, you know those cyborgs that Plisken bought back with him?”
“The good news is that they’ve all up and left, so you don’t have to worry about finding enough food to feed them all”
“And the bad news?”
“They’ve taken most of your remaining food with them”
“Fucking wonderful” Cass buried her head in her hands
“Still, it’s not all bad, eh?” Holly beamed beatifically “At least it isn’t raining”
“Utter, fucking bastard” Cass grumbled as she pushed herself to her feet in the silence that followed “Bastard, fucking bastard” she turned to Jay “I’ll tell the others” she said with a sigh and trudged out with a dejected shake of her head.
“We’re docking in thirty minutes” Jay called after her “Tell them to look lively”
“I can’t fucking wait”
We’re back home
Are you glad to be back?
Food is in very short supply, although we’re not quite at the stage of having to resort to the diarrhoea inducing Nutrigrain bars – yet.
We’ll be on to the next story in a few days, but if you fancy posting anything about how overjoyed you are to be back, feel free to fire away