“I never took Scorsby for the blackmailing type, how often does he strong arm you into doing his dirty work?” Aurora asked with a sympathetic nod.
“Not often, really. Occasionally I almost forget he’s there, and then I’ll get some call in the middle of the night.”
“Scorsby might actually feel it’s penence, some kind of justice to do whatever good he tells her to in order to make up for not saving whoever he thinks could of been saved.” Estella pointed out. “From his point of view he might be making her do some kind of community service to pay for a crime the courts let her get away with, even if the reality is different.”
Jessica’s eyes got big. “I… I swear, I didn’t mean to kill him…” She started sobbing and dropped her face into her hands. “I save lives…”
Estella shrugged. “Still, we need to know what kind of data he has in order to steal it back, hard to take something when we don’t even know what we’re looking for.” She puts an arm around Jessica’s shoulders in understanding. “Hey, it’s okay, we believe you, Scorsby just.. He’s a bit of a hard head.”
“He never actually told me what it was. Just… heavily implied he had some footage that wasn’t good.” She enacted a double quotation mark around the words ‘wasn’t good’.
“Footage, sounds like a video file,” Aurora looked thoughtful. “You were in his office recently Sam, did you see a safe anywhere? Stands to reason he’d keep it locked up.”
“There was one against the wall but the old boy is crafty. That might be for looks.”
“We could always just confront him about this, ask him straight up about the data, and what he wants for it?” Estella suggested. “If he’s all about her doing some kind of penance for her alleged crime, he may just give it over if he thinks she’s working for us and we’ll keep making sure she does good?” She gave Jessica a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, I promise once we get the data we’ll let you destroy it yourself.”
Just in time. Jessica had stark terror on her face for a split second before it was replaced by relief.
Aurora nodded in agreement with Estella. “We’re not interested in having leverage over anyone part of us, equality of membership is what makes our ship run so smoothly.”
“I… I would be so grateful. I have no words. Umm…, I’m so sorry to keep going on about myself. This BBQ is delicious. Who is the masterful chef?”
Estella gestured with her chopsticks towards Sam. “She’s the mastermind behind the feast.”
“Thank you Sam. I don’t usually have time to eat properly. I can’t remember the last time I had something so delicious.”
I waved her off. “You should take care of yourself more, girl. Then again you are the doc.”
She chuckled to herself. “Don’t you know? We’re so busy saving everyone else, we forget about ourselves sometimes, you know?”
“You should have more free time being part of us, things are usually kind of laid back on board, when we’re not being overrun by hostile plant life anyway.” Aurora said with a chuckle.
“Hostile plant life?”
“Part of our recent adventure, you are about to see it for yourself. Well, perhaps not. They might have become friends now.” I told her.
“It’s a long story. Before we got Vines here part of us we had some other plant people trying to set up shop.” Estella gave a quick summary of our recent adventures.
Jessica listened intently, eyes wide. “You mean they were, err, are intelligent?”
“Vines certainly is, he’s become Hue’s new assistant, and a good one at that.” Aurora gave H squared an approving nod. “We’re not sure just how smart they are, but they seem smart enough to follow instructions, make tools, and learn from mistakes, so high level animal intelligence at least.”
“A symbiotic relationship if ever there was one.” Estella grinned and I followed her sight towards H squared and Vines tangled together, the man sketching some kind of circuitry perhaps and the plant alternating between stuffing food and beer into his mouth. I was getting used to that by now.
“Careful you don’t pig out too much, otherwise you won’t feel up for playing in the red goo later.” Estella reminded Guppy. Guppy was about to stuff a large piece of pie into her mouth and froze for a moment. Smiling shyly, she took just the barest nib from the corner.
“What do you think, Sam? Should we break into Scorsby’s office and search for a hidden safe and steal the data, or do you think talking to him will get us results?”
“Well, if we are stealing it, who does the job?”
“All of us?” Estella shrugged. “Except for Hue and Vines I mean, two of us to ransack his office, two on lookout to deal with anyone who might interfere and to run interference if Scorsby turns up before the loot team is done.”
“That leaves one extra.” Aurora pointed out.
“True, we can put the third person over watch on a roof with a rifle, they can shoot through windows and give covering fire if things really go nasty and keep an eye out for any ships or large groups incoming.”
“We are actually looting the old boy’s office? I was thinking more along the lines of hacking but figure we don’t really have any hackers amongst us.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Good angle,” Aurora nodded thoughtfully. “You’re right, I don’t think any of us have the skills for that though.”
“I also doubt he’d keep the data somewhere someone could just remotely hack in and delete, a smart man like him would keep a back up copy in a safe or something.” Estella added.
“I figured with hacking, we can get rid of the original first and then get at the copies. But it’s tough finding someone to do that job. The old boy is well connected. Words in the wrong ears, it would go back to him.”
“Yeah, which is why I thought maybe we should just talk to him about it, we ransack his office and he finds out it’s us, we’ll burn him as a friend and contact for life, along with anyone who likes him more than they like us.” Estella pointed out.
“We talk to him and he says no, then what? The data goes missing and he’ll know we’re behind it, and he may just make a back up and hide that to be safe.” Aurora pointed out.
“This is too confusing. We don’t even know what the old boy means by doing something like this. We need a way to loosen up that old boy’s tongue without putting him on alert.” I blurted out. I hate back and forth like this, they always do my head in.
“Hmm..” Aurora smiled suddenly. “Maybe one of us could invite him out drinking for a night? Pump him for information while someone else cases his office to see how hard it would be to break in?”
Estella nodded. “It has potential.”
“I can get him drunk but not sure about the pumping him for information part.” I volunteered.
“One of us could go with you then, help steer the convo?” Estella offered.
“Yes, that would be better.”
“I’ve been in his office numerous times. I might be of use there.” Jessica offered.
“Sounds like two teams then and sounds like we have volunteers for each one already,” Aurora looked over at Guppy, “Want to join me and Jessica to case Scorsby’s office?” She almost nodded her head off.
“Sounds like we got a plan, though I’m thinking we should probably land in a different city and buy a small truck or something for us to use to travel overland, and then land a few hours drive from where Scorsby lives, that way we can hopefully avoid another welcoming committee convoy.” Aurora suggested.
Estella nodded. “Probably a good idea, whoever is gunning for us is probably going to be on the lookout for our ship, so if we land after dark and park it a little ways off near a treeline we should be able to spend some time in the city before they catch on we’re back.”
Jessica was looking between all of us. “You seem like a pretty soild team. I’ve been working solo so long, I didn’t even know what I was missing. But now I definitely want in.” She smiled.
“Welcome to the team.” I told her.
“Thank you all.” She held a bottle up in a toast.
“Welcome aboard, yet again.” Aurora raised her glass with a smile.
“Cheers.” I raised up my own glass.
“Cheers!” Estella echoed my action. “My talent for sensing emotions should help us get to the bottom of Scorsby’s feelings about Jessica, especially after Sam gets him to start knocking back shots.”
“I’d love to get to work, but since nobody has any holes in them that needs sewing, is there something else I can do to pull my weight while we’re traveling? I’m pretty well rested.”
“We have some spare rooms on the ship, maybe you could try to set one up as a sickbay?” Aurora suggested. “Be nice to have a place to bring injured crew for treatment rather than clearing off the dining table and hoping for the best.”
“Yes, that sounds like a wonderful idea.” Jessica frowned at the table. “You fix people up on this thing? That’s… well, brave”
“We make do.” I shrugged.
“Make an inventory of supplies you need too, and we’ll pick them up when we buy the truck,” Estella added, “We have some first aid kits around here you can use to get started with. “We get by, now we can get by even better.”
“Working the way I have, with very little in the way of funds. Well, I get the making do”
“Guppy and me will get started on the torpedo upgrades and casings for the spore mines, hopefully these things will overrun their ship and leave us alone now you’ve bleeded on them.”
“Ooh, torpedoes! Yes! Can I shoot one, Aurora?”
“I think the guess that they’re some kind of alien security system and I added us to the approved list is the right idea, we’ll find out when we harvest the plants, you all may need to bleed on them a bit if they’re still hostile to the rest of you.”
Aurora grinned. “You betcha! You’ll be down with me in engineering and the torpedo bay, Sam here usually mans the gunnery station for the plasma cannons, she’s a pretty crack shot.” Guppy threw me a thumbs up at that.
“I will show you a few of my special tricks one of these days.” I winked at the kiddo. She nearly fell over with excitement, like literally.
“I’ll be on the bridge if anyone needs me, I want to make sure our tail doesn’t lose us completely, and give us enough time to harvest and prep our bio weapons before they can catch up.”
“I’ll get started on the med bay.” Jessica jumped up.
“If you need a handy with anything just give a shout, we’re all here if you need us.” Aurora reminded her.
“Yeah, and don’t just do the med bay, you might as well prepare your own room at the same time.” I added.
“Will do. Sounds like we have a little time before we arrive.”
“About a day or so, depends on the speed I need to keep because of our tail.” Estella said, “Several hours at any rate so no need to rush about.”
“Sounds like plenty of time.”
Guppy pulled Aurora’s sleeve. “Lets go make mines…”
Aurora grinned, “Sure thing, I’ll show you how to make a mine casing that has a magnetic sensor, these ones will detect the enemy ship when it gets close and home in on them stick to their hull with a hollow spike and then spew spores inside the enemy ship.”
Guppy couldn’t grin bigger herself. The two of them were starting to get the same expressions, that was some bonding.
“The torpedoes will have the actual vine creatures in the warheads, so when they penetrate the hull they blast the vines everywhere, together they should overrun the ships defenses in a real hurry, letting Estella swing behind them and Sam to blast their engines out with the cannons, then they’ll be sitting ducks and we can board them at our leisure.” Then she added in an afterthought. “We should also set up a space in the cargo bay to put any prisoners.”
I volunteered for the job and got it.
“Don’t worry Jessica, we’ll treat any prisoners humanely, though they’ll certainly be made to think differently about what will happen if they don’t cooperate.” Estella told Jessica with a wink.
But the girl wasn’t one for humour much, or at least not our kind. She turned a little pale. “I… I’m not sure that I can be in there. I take my oath very seriously”
“Nothing wrong with threatening some bullies with a short walk out the airlock if it loosens their tongue.” Aurora agreed.
“Like Aurora said, threats, if they think we’ll do horrible things if they don’t talk they’ll start talking, truth though the worst we’ll do is stick them in the hold with bread and water until we can dump them off on some colonized planet with the clothes on their backs and a few promises of what will happen if they come after us a second time.” Estella explained.
“Ok, I still don’t think I can be there for that. I don’t have a very good poker face.”
Aurora nodded. “We’re not in the business of killing those who we don’t need to. And Sam is pretty intimidating, she’ll probably want to take the lead on asking questions, she can be scary when she’s angry.”
Jessica looks over at me. “I can believe it.”
“Or we just have her throw another barbecue, and tell the prisoners they get talking and they get a plate of her cooking, that’ll loosen anyone’s tongue.”
“I guess it worked on me.” she blushed. “I don’t tell that story easily.”
Aurora chuckled, “Good food and good company has that effect on people.” She nodded to Guppy. “Let’s go mind our own business and make some mines.” Guppy giggled.
“Baaad pun,” Estella laughed and headed to the bridge. We all went our separate ways.