We landed back at the Frontier in record time. Estella parked us near the factory. Guppy was getting anxious, fearing of being nabbed by her old gang.
“As long as you stay at one of our sides the entire time you’ll be safe.” Aurora promised her.
“Can I cut off their legs if they try?”
Aurora chuckled. “Sure, just not on the ship, I don’t want to have to clean it up.”
“When we split up I’ll head to the market with Aurora and Guppy and buy the meats for our BBQ and restock the ship.” Estella had our day plan all worked out.
“Um, you mean after Sam collects our payment from Roland’s boss, we need money to pay for it.” Aurora reminds her.
“Oh right,” She nodded, “After Sam tracks down the doc, unless you want our help with that?” She looked over at me.
“I will go to Old Scorby for tips first and then hit up some of my barhopping group.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
When we got to the factory, Roland was standing outside. He waved at us but frowned when he saw Guppy. “You haven’t drowned that rat yet? Well, nevermind, I see you came back to get yer payment. I must say, the boss was mighty tickled with yer man’s repair job. He’s been wonderin where ya all went ta.”
“Where’s the boss? We are here to collect our payment.” I went over and clapped him on the shoulder.
“I got yer money here. Even threw in a little bonus on account of how much trouble ya saved him with the board back at HQ. He says the converter is running better’n before it were wrecked.”
“Give him our thanks.” I took the money off him and passed it to Estella. Aurora and Guppy were whispering to each other and Guppy’s giggles made him frown again.
“Boss wants ya all ta know that he’s good for a bounty on that old friend a yers what got all the kids riled up and messin with our stuff. An extra 5k on top a whatever they’re offerin fer him already.”
“We are working on it. Tell him that.”
“Will do. He’ll be happy ’bout it”
“See you around then.” I waved and walked off.
“Ya all need ta hitch a ride back inta town? I can take ya there, pick ya up later on near shift’s end.” Roland offered.
“You girls catch the ride if you want. I’m going in the opposite direction.” I told him and continued on my way. Scorsby’s area had lots of rundown buildings, many closed. Broken windows. Faces peering out from windows. In sum, one of these neighbourhoods where caution is your lifeline. But perhaps I’ve become too tough, at least in appearance. People looked more afraid of me than being threats themselves. Still, I mained my caution all the way until I arrived. It looked the same as it always had. A set of steps led up to a second floor entry with a flaking-red square sign that had a big yellow S in the middle. I walked up and opened the door.
The office inside was dusty. Scorsby was sitting behind a beat up desk, flipping through some papers in a file. He looked up as I came in and he smiled, showing his yellow, nicotine stained teeth. “Well, hey, Sam. Been a few. I think last time we met it was on that planet… what was it called? Barron’s or something? You ever catch that guy?”
“Yeah, busted his chops. I came here for two things. One, I heard there’s a bounty on Jake Camden. Put us down as being on his trail. Second, I need a lead to blackmarket doctors.”
“You always were always one to stick with a job till it got done.”
I nodded, waiting for the old boy to get to the information I needed.
“Well… let me think. There’s a few here… I think Ol’ Terry oughta know enough to point you in the right direction. He’s got a little shop ’bout three blocks down from me. But you gotta promise me you won’t mess with his business. He’s a good guy, just fell on some hard times not his own fault”
“Sure, I know the street rules.”
“But… before you leave, I gotta ask you. Your ship, that beautiful hunk o’ trash you all ride in, it took off in a hurry some days back but then here you are. Where you been?”
“Nowhere special, just that junk asteroid nearby. But it’s got a secret that only we know.” I boosted. That’s what I do with the old boy. Friendly competition, let’s call it.
“A secret you say? Well, I wouldn’t want to pry. Which direction now? How long did it take to get there? Must have been something interesting about it.”
“What do you mean that you don’t know about that junk asteroid? Everyone knows.” I asked him confusedly.
“Oh, well, there are a few asteroids not far from here. They’re out of the orbital zone, so no worries about hitting us here, but I heard from someone or other that there used to be some other moon or something out there that broke up eons ago.”
“Right, to be honest, we took a detour that we never meant to take. Anyway, that’s more what Estella worries about.”
“This one you found, it has anything special? Seems you were all gone for a spell.”
“We ran out of fuel and food so forced to stay there for a while. The place is plant paradise, not that friendly for a meat lover like me.”
“Oh, that sounds awful.” He patted his belly. “Doesn’t sound like a friendly place to me. Do some sightseeing while you were there? See anything interesting?”
“Well, some. Like a crater edge that doesn’t allow you to breathe. And giant bones all stacked in a room.”
“That sounds like a perilous place to hang out. Good thing you lot are so tough. Won’t find me in a place like that these days. I tend to stick to the safer places these days. I’ll leave that rough stuff to you youngsters”
“Leave it to us.” I winked off at Old Scorby. “Well, I’ll be off.”
“Sure, umm… before you go, I was just wondering. You said something about a plant paradise. Anything interesting about the plants themselves?”
“Well, quite a lot of them could fuse with machine parts. And Estella’s blood managed to mutate one into something else.”
“My, that’s something else. Glad you made it back ok. You think of anything else interesting about the place, feel free to drop by and let me know.”
I gave him a finger wave and walked out to find Old Terry. Three blocks down took me to a doorway tucked into a back alley. The door itself seemed crooked, as in it couldn’t be closed all the way. A classic ambush setup so I took some time to look over things. I didn’t spot anything so I moved in. Apparently the door wasn’t hanging like that due to disuse or anything, it looked like it was partially pulled from the hinges. Instead of entering through the door, I parkoured up to the second floor balcony. The door on that level was nailed shut with wooden boards but I busted them with my fist and pulled the door open.
It smelled musty and moldy and there wasn’t much light. It appeared to be a bedroom. A mattress lay on the floor, as well as some boxes, food, clothing and a few empty bottles of vodka. I searched it briefly but only found more living necessities and medical books. I moved out into the hallway and I could hear some kind of noise coming up from a connecting staircase going down. I tried to peer down without being seen. Not much luck but it sounded like someone was crying or moaning down there.
I tried to make as little noise as I could as I carefully moved down the staircase. But it wash hopeless. It was one of these old creaky stairs so I gave up my attempt at stealth. “Whoever’s down there crying, I’m not here to hurt you. If you are Old Terry, I came from Scorby.” There was a cry and a grunt in reply. I prepared for a potential hostage situation as I continued descending.
It was dark but my Eagle Eyes helped and plus, a little light was coming in through the crooked door. The room has been converted into an operating room, with two beds and a number of old machines. Lots of doctor tools that looked torn for use.
A bulky man was lying on the floor near the door. He was lying in a pool of liquid and not moving at all. And he was basically blocking the door. I heard a grunt coming from my left and saw a man slumped against the wall when I turned.
He had his hands clenched around his abdomen. “Hellll… meeee…”
“Any of you Old Terry? Where has he gone?”
“Meee… Terr… Helll…”
I went over to him and started doing basic First-Aid. “Tell me what to do.” I patched him up all right, that is, he was not going to die on me just yet.
“I need to ask you some quick questions. You able to hold on long enough for that and who should I bring you to?”
He passed out.