Adventures Aboard the Chen Xing- Chapter 24

Jessica came in. “The guard is awake. He’s, uh, pretty upset.”

“Guess one of us better let him know his punishment.” I said. 

Estella nodded, “I’m kinda busy here flying, so one of you should do it?”

Aurora nodded as well, looking over at me, “I’ll go with you and let you do the talking? He probably won’t give you any attitude, you’re a bit intimidating when you want to be.” She suggested with a grin.

“Yep, my specialty.” I said as I proceeded her to the medbay. Before I even entered the room I could hear him shouting. He was pulling at the restraints when I walked in. I heard Aurora sighing behind me. 

“Hey! Someone! Let me out!” He was shouting. 

“Quiet!” I ordered him. 

He looked at Aurora and me and yelled again “Let me go! Why are you doing this?!” I didn’t remember him being the gutsy one. 

“We saved you from being lynched, you ungrateful big baby!” I shouted at him. 

“Lynched?! What for? I haven’t done anything!”

“Remember, he claimed to have no idea what was going on there beyond being a security guard.” Aurora reminded me in a whisper while giving the man a narrow eyed look. “Kidnapping a little girl is nothing?” 

“Tell that to an angry mob. Anyway, we decided to take your word for it and bring you back here so that you can serve your terms here on board our ship and be useful.” I told him. 

“I don’t understand. What angry mob? I was just working some stupid job where I got to sit around all day and chase off some bored kids every now and then. And then you all show up and start questioning me and now I’m locked up. Please let me go.” He was starting to cry. “What are you going to do with me?”

Aurora shook her head, “I think he’s telling the truth, or is more of a milk sop than his boss.”

I sighed. “Nothing, we were just going to let you earn your keep aboard our ship for a while. And then you can go.”

He looked confused. “But… for how long?”

I looked across at Aurora.

“And my cat… Who’s going to feed my cat?”He said out of the blue. 

“A day or so?” Aurora shrugged. “We got some business on the other side of the planet, shouldn’t take more than a day to sort out, during that time you’re going to sweep, and mop, and maybe a bit of painting, then we dump you back at the town near the factory rubble. So I think your kitty will be fine for the next day or so.”

He seemed a lot calmer. “Umm, how much will you pay me? I mean, I don’t think I want to go back to that job again.”

“Are you asking for a job on board?” Aurora smirked in amusement. 

He shook his head. “Too much excitement for my taste.”

“Umm, can you send a message to my boyfriend? He’s never going to believe I disappeared on him because I was kidnapped by… whoever you all are.” He looked a little sheepish as he made the request. 

Aurora sighed, “Keeping him around is suddenly becoming more hassle than it’s worth, any objections to dumping him back at town after we turn the factory into a parking lot?”

I gave her a firm shake of the head.

“Sounds like a good plan to me.” Estella’s voice came over the intercom (amid a faint background of Guppy chatter), I did notice Aurora holding down the intercom button at some point. 

Guppy stopped talking. “Oh, was I supposed ta be listening?”

Estella chuckled. “You okay with us ditching the guard at the town after we bomb the factory?”

“Sure.” Guppy said. 

“Looks like you’re getting off lightly,” Aurora told him. “In the future though, I’d strongly suggest choosing your jobs with more care, you came a hair’s breadth from getting killed today.”

His eyes went wide. “Are you letting me go?”

Aurora face palmed herself. “There’s no way anyone can be that dense and live this long.”

His face fell. 

Estella’s giggle came over the intercom. “See Guppy, this is why you should pay attention on the ship and learn what everyone can teach you, otherwise you’ll wind up like this guy.”

“Does this mean I have to, uh, actually work?” The guy asked us again. 

“No, it means we are booting you out of the door the first chance we get.” I turned my back on him and started walking out of the medbay. Before I throttled the dumbwit. 

“Not, like, up in the air or anything, right? I have a weak back.” Talk about taking things literally. 

Aurora Lieos sighed again. “As tempting as that option is quickly becoming…. You’ll be set free next to the factory rubble, wherein you will never speak a word about us, this ship, or anything that happened today to anyone, or we’ll find you, and relocate you to the farthest, tiniest, coldest moon we can find in the ‘verse.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m moving somewhere far away from here the first chance I get. You’ll never hear from me or about me ever again.”

“Perfect, until then enjoy our medbay’s comforts. If he gets annoying just knock him out again, with sedatives, a handy blunt object, whatever makes you happy.” Aurora was telling Jessica. 

“Hey, Estella, are we gonna go blow up the factory now?” Guppy’s giddy voice came over the intercom. 

“You know it!” Estella told her, “Go meet Sam near the cannons, she’ll show you how it’s done.”

“Yippee!” I heard her running. “Sam, Sam, let’s go blow up a factory!”

“On it, our little trouble-maker.” I told her. 

Guppy met me half way and danced around me all the way to the gunnery station. We split up with the other two gals at this point, waiting for the Xing to get in range. 

“Looks like we got a runner!” Estella announced over the intercom suddenly. “Take it out!”

We were seeing it on this side so I waited. Aurora came on the intercom, “First before we shoot anything, Jess, ask our chuckle head in restraints if that car is his boyfriends and that house is his? Last thing we want to do is blast his lover for trying to bring him lunch.”

“He says his boyfriend never comes to his job.”

“Slag it then.” Estella said. 

“Sam, you and Guppy got first shots, I’ll hold on the torps until it reaches the house, if it’s still intact by then when it stops I’ll turn it into a smoking crater.” Aurora added. 

“There’s no kill like overkill!” Estella said.

“You go first, kiddo.” I told Guppy. 

Guppy got close but just set some trees on fire. I gave her comments on what to adjust for as I took my turn. 

The trees gave some cover but not enough for my skilled eye. Smoke poured out of the craft and from what the IR scanner was showing, it was likely on fire. Still moving, just a lot slower. 

“Solid hit, she’s smoking like Scorsby after scoring a crate of stogies!” Estella commented. 

“Melt it to molten steel, we don’t want the smoke from flames to carry the spores into the forest.” Aurora said. 

“All right.” I took another shot. This time it stopped moving. 

“Looks like it’s dead.” Estella said as she circled the Xing close. 

“No harm in overdoing it with a few more shots?” Aurora wanted to make sure. 

“Let Guppy hone her gunnery on the remains.” Estella suggested.

“You sure we don’t want any survivors? Thinking we might get more information?” I asked them. 

“Good thinking,” Aurora nodded in agreement. “Set us down near it, we’ll see if there’s any one alive.”

“Will do.” She looks for a clearing, or failing that, just has Sam and Guppy blast a clearing for her to set the ship down in.

Guppy said “Awww. I wanted to blow it up more.”

Aurora grabbed her rifle and headed for the hatch, ready to exit as soon as we touched down.

I put my hand on Guppy’s head. “Plenty of chances in the future.”

The craft was smoking when we got to it. Flames were shooting out. 

Aurora hurried forward but before she got there, someone jumped out, fully engulfed, and started rolling around in a panic on the ground. She stopped. I walked up to stand beside her. 

Estella came up from behind. “Bad way to go,” she winced as she eyed the flaming figure. 

Aurora nodded silently. “They want to traffic in bio weapons that’s the risk they take.”

Estella hefted her shotgun with a questioning look. “Want me to put’em down?”

The figure on the ground flopped around a few more times and then went still. 

“No need, let’s check the surrounding area, see if they were alone.” Aurora suggested. 

Estella closed her eyes, using her special ability to scan the area. “That was the only occupant, We should check the house for their comrades.” She told us. 

“Right, we can get some info out of them at least.” Aurora decided. She turned to me, “How do you want to approach the house? Quiet? Kick down the door? Or just turn their lawn into a barbecue with the ships cannons and demand they surrender?”

“I think I will just kick down the door. Last time, the quiet approach didn’t really work for me.”

“Works for me.” Estella said as she followed me right past the edge of the trees. The building was a small structure made from wood, almost like a box with a door. 

“This could be the entrance to a much bigger facility underground.” Estella said to me as she covered the door with her shotgun. I walked up and kicked it open. It was dark inside, but I could see a large vacant space with a side door to a much smaller space. 

“I think there’s a hidden garage or something in the field, it feels off somehow.” Aurora told us as she entered and went back out again. Estella went back out to look at the plants, I assumed. I continued walking up to the side door and opened it with caution. Even darker inside. I could vaguely see the shape of a desk but that was only because my special ability was Eagle Eyes. I looked back over my shoulder to see what the other two girls were doing. 

Estella had pulled out a glow bug stick as she came in, holding it up to illuminate the room. No sight of Aurora and Guppy, I assumed they stayed outside for the odd field. By the extra lighting, I spotted a PC set atop the desk. 

I went over to check out the PC. Estella had also come into the room to give further illumination.

The computer was on standby. I pressed Enter, it came back on but asked for a password.

I looked over at Estella. “Password protected. Guess we wait for Aurora.”

“Eh,” She shrugged, “Try the name of that guy you shot, the name of the coporation he told he works with, or the name of the asteroid. A lot of these things are secured using a password the person and their pals can remember.”

“I’m just afraid there’s this three trial and you are locked business. Better let Aurora handle it.”

“Ooh good thinking, I’ll be right back.” 

Aurora gave me a nod and then looked around. “Kinda dark in here.” She commented and ran her hand near the door. “Bleh, shoddy construction,” she said, came over to the desk and checked underneath it, pulling out the drawer and checking the bottom of it. “Given the room temp I.Q of those goons I’m guessing they have the password written down somewhere close by.”

She pulled out a small folder and looked inside it first. Then she put it aside and turned her attention back to the drawer. This time she held aloft a small sticky note with Freddy237 scrawled on it. 

“Bingo!” She held up the paper with a grin, typing the password into the computer.

“You are the goods, girl.”

“Thanks, and good call not messing with it, some of these will self format after too many wrong entries.”

“I figured.”

The password cleared. Some spreadsheets were open. Dates, quantities, some kind of notation that was not immediately obvious. Some of the dates were in the past, some in the future. 

Aurora Lieos hit print and then looked around. No printer. “Bleh, I need to save this data or..” She grins. “We’ll just take the computer with us.” She skimmed a few more of the files before preparing to shut it down.

“Yeah, we definitely have space to stow it somewhere.”

“Get a move on, this place is crawling with Samurai Salad.” Estella’s voice came through the wall. 

“We better go.” I said. 

“Samurai Salad?” Aurora rolled her eyes. “Right, let’s grab this and get out of here then.”

“Militant flowers, maleficent marigolds, you know what I mean.” Estella explained. 

Aurora powered down the computer and gave me a nod. “Watch my back, I’ll carry the machine?” 

“Sure.” I told her. 

She unplugged the computer and tucked it under her arm. “Lead the way.”

“This place crawls,” Estella gestured with her handgun when we came out. “Let’s glass it with the plasma cannons and get out of here.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice, I found some useful stuff on this computer, shipments and such, and some other interesting bits.”

“Nice! Lead on.” The last was to me. So I led us to the other side of the cabin. The vines didn’t follow but there were some just lying underfoot. I made extra sure that I didn’t step on these. 

Not much more adventure immediately after that: we made it back to the Xing, Guppy got to use the plasma cannons, we dropped our captive off. But of course, there was what awaited with that business about the Old Boy. We debated a little over whether to just drop in at his office or call him first. 

“Let’s invite him out for some drinks, say we want to catch up with him on local news and share with him some of our past jobs he hasn’t heard about yet?” That way he’s out of the office and with us and you can get him hammered while I sip apple cider with ice and pretend to be dunk and use my talent to monitor the truthfulness of his responses?” Estella suggested. “I’ll wear a ring with a sapphire stone in the center I’ll be idly playing with the entire time, if he’s lying I’ll turn the ring to hide the stone, if he’s telling the truth I’ll leave the stone visible.”

“I like it.” I told her. 

“I’ll look through this computer a bit more, and give you two 90 minutes to get Scorsby to the bar and busy, then the three of us will pay his office a little visit.” Aurora said, then seemingly thinking of something, she paused. She folded up a small piece of paper several times so it made a small 1/2″ plug, and passed it to us along with a stick of chewing gum. “Chew this, while one of you is distracting Scorsby in his office, the other can press this paper into the door frame where the latch goes and use the gum to make it stick, it’ll keep the door from locking but invisible from the outside, so we got an easy way in.”

I took the chewing gum from Aurora, leaving the paper plug for Estella.She smiled at the idea. “So Sam, you’ll put the gum in the hole when you step in, and I’ll follow up with the paper when I enter behind you?”

“You’ll need to chew it first so it’s sticky.” Aurora pointed out.

Estella raised the paper towards her mouth. What was she doing? I stared at her. She must have seen the look on my face; she put it down again and said “Oh, right.” and nodded. 

Aurora glanced at her watch as everyone loaded into the skiff. “We’ll give you 90 from the moment we drop you off.”

“Lucky day Guppy, you get more driving lessons.” Estella winked at Guppy. 

I picked up the phone to dial Scorby. 

“Just hang up after he answers.” Estella suggested. “Otherwise he’ll get suspicious that we invited him out in person rather than over the phone.”

I nodded and waited for him to pick up. It rang several times before he finally answered. “What?” He sounded quite annoyed. 

I put the receiver down. “He’s in, sounds annoyed with something at the moment.”

Estella rubbed her hands together with a grin. “Perfect, he should be happy to knock back a few drinks and share his sorrows with a sympathetic ear.”

“You are devious, preying upon an old man’s vulnerability like that.” I teasd her.

Estella chuckled, “What can I say, I need to set a good example for our newest crew member.” She nudged Guppy with a playful wink. Guppy smiled back. 

“Scoundrels, the lot of us.” Aurora said, giving Guppy a nod of approval. “Drive us somewhere they serve pie Guppy, and we’ll kill some time at the diner, then drop by his office in 90 minutes. We’ll drop by the bar around 1am to pick you girls up, if things go bad, just lay low and meet us outside the bar then, sound good?”

Estella gave her a thumbs up. I nodded. 

The Guppy’s driving seemed to have mellowed out as she drove us to Scorby’s office. I led the way in. “Surprise, we thought we would chill out here, wanna come?”

The old boy looked up, surprised. He’s got a bunch of papers across his desk and he looked like he was just deeply focused on something else. “Huh? Oh, it’s you. Sam! Good to see you. I, uh, hope you’re not here to hire me for a job because I’m up to my eyeballs in it already”

I spat out the gum in her mouth onto her palm at that moment. “No no, like I said, me and Estella went by to chill out and thought you might like to come as well. You look like you could use a drink.”

He looked back and forth between me and his desk. “Well…”

“Yeah, we’ll buy the first few rounds for ya since you look like you need it.” Estella bribed him. 

“Maybe I can talk you and your crew into taking on a job or two for me? Take some of the pressure off me.” He said by way of reply. 

I stuck the gum onto the door when he’s not looking. “Well, we can talk while having a drink. But mind you, we are here to chill tonight.”

Estella leaned against the wall and casually added the plug to the gum, “Sure, let’s hear the details, we’re never too busy to help a friend.” She agreed. “We can catch you up on our latest exploits too.”

He shrugged. “Well, if nothing else, I won’t say no to some free drinks. And I could use a moment to relax before I dive back in. There’s a nice spot right around the corner. Been going there for years.”

I signaled for him to lead the way. 

Estella smiled, “Sounds perfect!”

He took a deep breath as he walked out of his office. The door closed behind him and he started heading for the bar. “Ah, fresh air,” he said as he walked down the street. I followed him.

Ít was a quick walk. The bar was small and cozy. Not busy at all, only scattered customers, in pairs at most. The bartender nodded to Scorby as he entered and headed for a booth. 

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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