“Jao gao!” Worth said, his eyes widening in shock. He had all but written off Wild Sky after she had disappeared into the dead-end alleyways of the Eavesdown Docks back on Persephone.
Doc Tulsa cracked open his medical bag as he knelt beside Wild Sky’s prone form. “I need to stabilize her before she slips away completely,” he said to Jonah, who was staring at the woman’s grievous wounds.
Jonah stood and walked out of the hotel room, pushing past Worth’s bulk to cross the hallway. He found Ying Johnson staring at the window with a distant look on his face.
“Jing Chai, Captain,” Jonah said. “We’ve found Wild Sky.”
His revelation had a less than impressive effect on his captain. “That’s great,” Johnson said distractedly, not taking his eyes off whatever it was he was looking at.
Jonah stepped over to the window and followed YJ’s gaze. He stared blankly at the pall of black smoke streaming from the south end of the island.
“Is that the…yeah, it is,” Jonah exhaled sharply. He forced himself to rip his gaze from the smoke to the approaching hurricane. “Ai yah tien ah!” he exclaimed as he watched the roiling clouds make their steady approach. Jonah shook his head and called over his shoulder. “Worth, we need to check the ship!”
The burly mechanic poked his head into the room. “Why, what happened to her?”
Jonah pointed out the window. Worth’s face fell as he saw the smoke from the foot of the island. “Oh, Darla,” he muttered under his breath. Then he caught YJ’s eye. Without another word, the pilot and mechanic both bolted towards the elevator, leaving Jonah to gaze out at the gathering storm.
Jonah turned away from the unpleasant scene outside the window and made his way back to the room where the Doc was attempting to stabilize his newfound patient.
“I need to move her.” The Doc said.
Jonah frowned and looked around at the blood-spattered walls. “Where are we moving her to exactly, Doc?”
“Shelter,” The Doc replied.
“Seems like we’re standing in shelter,” Jonah said. “Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a storm coming.”
“Yeah, and there’s a rather large hole in the wall.” Tulsa said. As if on cue, a gust of wind howled through the ragged opening at the end of the hallway, and the entire tower groaned in protest right down to its foundations. “I can’t operate on her out in the open.”
“So it’s Shenmue or the basement?” Jonah said.
“That would be preferable,” the Doc said as he attached a blood pressure cuff to Wild Sky’s unbroken arm. The cuff began squawking insistently. The Doc read the results, blanched, and then rummaged through his medical bag until he came up with a plasma pack. “Find me a stretcher, or something we can use to move her,” he said as he put needle to vein, allowing the blood booster to begin its work.
Jonah ran back into the hotel room overlooking the courtyard and found a few spare cots in the corner. He grabbed one and dragged it back across the hallway, careful not to step in any of the gore leaking from the bodies of the Sundeen Seven. He then helped the Doc carefully transfer Wild Sky from the cold concrete floor to the cot. The Doc tossed his shotgun back into the depths of his medical bag and shouldered it as he picked up his end of the cot. Jonah lifted the other end and they maneuvered it into the hallway, heading towards the elevator.
Outside, Worth and YJ raced through the rubble of the courtyard in the direction of the landing pad. Heedless of both the approaching storm and the many hazards offered by the uneven terrain, they covered the distance in minutes. They both stopped at the edge of the landing area and took a glance at the extent of the damage before descending the stairs.
“Crap,” Worth said.
The missile had struck Shenmue’s dorsal side amidships, just aft of the gravity rotor housing. There was a blackened rent in her hull, and debris was scattered in a wide semicircle across the landing pad. Smoke still puffed from the damaged superstructure, whipped away by the increasing wind. The immediate good news was that her main engines and primary thrusters were still intact. If the missile had blown off one of the engine pods or penetrated the bulbous drive assembly that made up Shenmue’s stern, nothing short of a stint in a fully equipped dry dock facility would get the transport back in the air.
That small mercy didn’t help either Worth or YJ’s moods as they bounded down the stone steps towards their ship. Worth got there first and hauled open the passenger entry hatch at the centre of Shenmue’s sealed cargo bay doors. Stepping into the cargo bay, the men were hit by the competing smells of ozone, burnt wiring, and the tang of the ship’s onboard firefighting system. Aside from a few crates dislodged from their resting places, there was no sign of immediate damage in the cargo hold.
The pair split up; Worth headed towards the engine room while YJ made a beeline for the bridge. The mechanic took the stairs two at a time and rounded the corner. He skidded to a halt as he reached the top of the stairwell leading to the aft corridor.
He could feel a breeze.
This was never a good sign on board a spacecraft where, generally speaking, hull integrity mattered a great deal. In addition, the way forward was blocked by shin-high drifts of fire extinguishing foam on the deckplates. As he slogged through the foam, he could see bits of smouldering insulation drifting from the deckhead above, and he could see sunlight streaming in through a ragged hole in Shenmue’s hull large enough to drive a mule through.
The missile had penetrated the ship’s skin and dug a furrow through some vital components before exploding. Viscous reactor coolant dripped in slow gooey rivulets down the walls of the corridor, evidence that the warhead had ruptured the dorsal coolant storage tanks when it blew.
“Uh oh,” the mechanic said. He grabbed his ship-linked handset. “She’s been holed,” Worth called up to the bridge. “Looks like she took a hit near the coolant tanks. From the smell of things, avionics damage is likely.”
“Can we get her in the air?” YJ asked hopefully.
“Well, her engines are still intact,” Worth said. “That’s gotta count for something.”
YJ reached the bridge and was greeted by a cacophony of warning alarms. Shenmue was crying out in pain; a dozen red lights blared angrily on the dashboard. YJ cut the alarms as he fell into his seat. He quickly scanned the damage readings. He was surprised to note that the landing gear was reading as intact and functional; they had absorbed the shock of the missile’s impact and explosion without buckling or collapsing. That was the good news.
“We’ve got a hull integrity warning, no reading from the coolant levels, and lots of electrical error messages,” he said. “You’re probably right about the avionics.”
“Don’t forget about that broken communications array,” Worth replied.
YJ cursed as he stared out the bridge viewports. The dark grey clouds of the hurricane’s eyewall were blotting out sunlight at an alarming rate, swallowing both sea and sky as they approached. He brought the ship’s sensor system online and used the ground radar to estimate the time that remained before the hurricane made landfall. His heart sank.
“We’ve got 60 minutes before it gets ugly, Worth!” His screen showed a bright red curve along one side of the display moving inexorably towards the island, which showed up as a white dot in the centre.
Shenmue had to get out of the path of the hurricane, but where could she go with a hole in the hull? YJ started checking for a listing of settlements on the moon. Those residents who had not fled Branson’s Mark after the war had migrated to a handful of tiny settlements at the poles. Unfortunately there was nothing significant listed in the database; certainly nothing with proper repair facilities.
YJ took another look out the forward viewports and watching lightning play through the swirling clouds.
Worth passed warily beneath the damaged area and entered the engine room. Smoke hung heavily in the air. “Let’s see if I can get the engines up in a safe, non-explodey sort of way.” he said. He checked the reactor’s core containment levels, and then began to feed power to the radion accelerator core. “Come on Darla, do it for me, baby.”
Shenmue’s gravity rotor slowly began spinning, and an unsettling grinding noise rang through the ship’s guts. The accelerator core sputtered, and then slowly began turning. Worth grimaced as Shenmue chirped a low coolant warning, repeating in English and Mandarin.
On the bridge, YJ set up a countdown timer so that Shenmue would bleat an alarm before the hurricane arrived and set the clock running down from sixty minutes. YJ thought for a moment, and then grabbed his handset. “Doc, get your patient moving, I’ll meet you with the bus!” YJ bolted down the catwalk stairs and hopped into the driver’s seat of the hover mule.
“Way ahead of you,” the Doc replied as he and Jonah, carrying the cot between them, stepped out of the elevator into the shattered lobby of the hotel complex. The pair manhandled the makeshift stretcher through the rusted revolving door frame and made it out into the open.
The wind had definitely picked up since they had gone inside just a few minutes before. Jonah’s smoke grenade was down to its last bits of payload; the wind was dispersing its contents as quickly as it was belching them out in fits and starts. Smoke, however, was not the only thing blowing across the hotel complex courtyard. Debris from the recently collapsed outbuilding was beginning to get picked up and tossed around by the rising wind. Johan and the Doc had to shield their eyes from the torrent of dust and soot billowing out of the sandwiched floors of the crumpled structure. Although not visibly swaying, the remaining buildings were beginning to emit tortured groans as the winds steadily increased. Here and there, windowpanes gave up the ghost and fell loudly to the ground, where the shards would soon join the airborne hazards already flying around. Or worse yet, they broke apart in mid-air and were immediately carried away, striking the sides of the taller buildings and shattering into many more razor sharp pieces.
Part of the collapsed building’s roof, a squarish piece of corrugated metal, suddenly took flight and skipped end over end across the courtyard, slicing through the air with a reverberating whoosh. Jonah gulped. The metal fragment scythed into a low concrete wall with a clang, taking a considerable chunk out of it.
“Now or never!” shouted the Doc. He braced himself for a run of the gauntlet.
Then the howling of the wind was replaced with the howling of the hover mule’s engine as it soared over the piles of rubble, YJ at the wheel. He brought the bus around with something less than his usual skill behind the controls; the hover mule handled quite differently than the transport he was used to piloting. The front end of the mule scraped against a chunk of exposed foundation, leaving a streak of yellow paint behind, but Jonah chose not to comment as he and the Doc wrestled Wild Sky aboard.
Jonah motioned for YJ to get out of the pilot’s chair, and the captain acquiesced without a word. Jonah gunned the engine and spun the hover mule about, leaving the increasingly chaotic air of the courtyard behind. Soon they had arrived in the relative calm of Shenmue’s cargo bay. As Jonah and the Doc took Wild Sky into the secondary hold, YJ mounted the catwalk and made his way towards the engine room.
Worth breathed a sigh of relief as the sounds from the gravity rotor and the accelerator core fell into acceptable rhythms. Shenmue was alive but keening; the ship was not happy with recent turn of events. The mechanic couldn’t blame her.
“At least we’ll have power.” He said as he put the accelerator on standby. There was no sense in wasting coolant.
YJ appeared in the aft corridor, staring at the hole in Shenmue’s hull and the damaged components hanging down from the deckhead.
Worth strapped on his tool belt. “What should I be focusing on here?” he asked the captain. “What’s the game plan?”
“I figure we fly to the poles, get her fixed up proper,” YJ replied. “Right now all we need is thrust and lift. Just the essentials.”
Worth nodded. “If we’re staying in atmo, we can seal off the engine room and corridor bulkheads to keep the rest of the ship pressurized.”
He was interrupted by the crack of thunder, and rain began pattering down through the hole, dispersing what was left of the firefighting foam.
“We’re not going to be able to get her in the air without the avionics connections being restored.” Worth continued. “Not to mention the coolant issue. We lost a lot of it in the explosion, and we’ll need more if we want to maintain core containment, and, you know, not get fried in the meantime.”
“I’ll see what I can do about the electrical problems,” YJ said. “I’ve hotwired a few things in my day.”
“Get Jonah to help you, and I’ll focus on the coolant.” Worth replied.
The Doc hooked Wild Sky up to the infirmary’s monitoring unit and frowned as the results started rolling across the screen. There were a number of things wrong with her; a dangerously elevated temperature, a potentially gangrenous gunshot wound, a broken arm, and blood loss. However, the most pressing issue was her EEG reading. There was evidence of cell death in Wild Sky’s brain, consistent with a lack of oxygen due to a loss of blood and near-nonexistent circulation.
YJ climbed into the ship’s avionics bay and started tracing the short circuits. He pursed his lips as the number of tripped relays began to show up as glowing red X’s on the schematic readout that represented Shenmue’s electrical systems. The missile’s impact, so close to the ship’s reactor, had sent out an overloaded pulse that fried entire lengths of cabling. If communication could not be restored between the bridge flight controls and the engine room, he was going to have better luck steering Shenmue with a blunt pole.
“Jonah, I need you to scare up some wiring. Pull it from anything we’re not using and start dragging it up here.”
Jonah tore off the nearest access panel and started yanking cable, stripping wiring from anything non-essential.
YJ made note of the new electrical error messages and rerouted the ship’s power flow away from the temporarily disconnected systems. “Lift and thrust,” he repeated to himself. “Lift and thrust.”
In the infirmary, the Doc reached for the ship’s supply of cortical steroids; medicine intended to treat onboard cases of hypoxia, reversing the cell necrosis that occurred when the brain was deprived of oxygen. Combined with emergency stem cell therapy, it was possible the medication could repair the damage. Tulsa frowned as he came up with a single IV bag of cortical steroid solution. He double-checked: it was the only one in the drawer. He was going to have to work fast.
Jonah appeared at the foot of the maintenance ladder with an armload of wiring, ranging from internal comm cables to heavy-gauge wire used to power Shenmue’s external spotlights. YJ waved an industrial multimeter at Jonah and indicated that he should start patching reclaimed links into the damaged avionics conduit. Jonah grinned, pulled out a black roll of electrical tape, and climbed the maintenance ladder, trailing varying lengths of wire behind him.
Worth was already in the access crawlway checking the levels on the remaining coolant. As he had suspected, the tanks had been peppered with shrapnel and the vital fluid used to cool the ship’s main reactor had leaked out to form a number of goopy puddles between the decks. Worth worked feverishly to patch as many of the holes as possible.
The backup tank appeared intact, but Worth figured he was going to have to transfer the surplus coolant into the active containment area, which meant diverting the backup through a flexible conduit that looked as though it had been weakened in the fire. Worth squeezed it in his hand, and decided it would hold.
He turned on the auxiliary valve and was rewarded with a spray of coolant as the neoprene tube burst under the pressure. In an instant, half the available coolant disappeared through the maintenance deck grating, showering down into the corridor where it pooled in congealed grey-green splashes.
“Crap!” he shouted, wiping sticky liquid from his face.
Shenmue’s proximity alarm sounded, indicating that the island was a mere 30 minutes from being completely inundated by the hurricane.
Jonah was cutting scorched lengths of wire and clipping fresh leads in, eyeballing lengths and wrapping each connection with liberal twists of electrical tape. YJ followed behind, checking each new circuit with his multimeter.
Clenching his cigarette tightly between his teeth, Jonah gripped one frayed end of spare wire, twisted the filaments into a narrow point and forced it into the receiver slot on an optical relay. The relay suddenly sparked and a jolt of electricity arced out in the confines of the access crawlway. Jonah cursed and crawled backwards as a fire blossomed out from the melting relay. Shenmue’s fire suppression system kicked in, white retardant spraying the offending source of the blaze. The flames were soon smothered.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be smoking while you’re doing this,” YJ said over the noise of Shenmue’s fire alarm.
“Crap!” Worth shouted again as the smell of scorched wiring wafted in his direction.
“Sorry,” Jonah said. “I’m used to disabling devices as opposed to the other thing.” He shook his head at the melted cabling. Several precious minutes of work had been undone in seconds.
An eerie howling echoed throughout the ship. Wind whipped over her fuselage and found its way through the rent in the hull. The rain began to intensify, seemingly with each flash of lighting and attendant crack of thunder.
The Doc hooked up the IV and started the medication flowing, monitoring Wild Sky’s vital signs as he did so. The cortical steroids would take some time to begin counteracting the damage done to Wild Sky’s brain cells. Tulsa scraped skin off Wild Sky’s arm and prayed he could isolate some stem cells in time to begin injecting them.
Jonah worked double-time, skittering up and down the length of damaged components like a trapped rat in panic mode. He fished around for his last spare alligator clip and patched in what bits of reclaimed wiring he could, and where he couldn’t, he reinforced damaged wiring with tape.
Worth used the ship’s wet vacuum to pull the remaining coolant from the backup tank and transferred it to the active containment area. Then he set about vacuuming up the coolant that had splattered everywhere else.
“I think that might be it,” Jonah said as he made a final connection, first making sure the relay could withstand an onslaught of incoming voltage before clipping the wires together.
YJ’s multimeter concurred with Jonah’s appraisal of the situation. The pilot wormed his way out of the maintenance crawlway and dropped to the deck, hightailing it for the bridge. His first order of business was running a diagnostic on the damaged systems. Heart pounding, he watched lights turn from red to yellow to green, all save for the coolant readings and the hull integrity.
The approaching eyewall contained the hurricane’s most powerful thunderstorms, and the high winds were beginning to drive against the surface of the ocean surrounding the Resort, causing powerful surges that began to overwhelm its high concrete seawalls. The landing area was soon awash in a swirling pool of trapped seawater. Worth mopped ocean spray from his brow as a wave crashed entirely too close to Shenmue for comfort.
YJ strapped himself into his pilot’s chair. “I think we might have it!” he shouted over the internal comm. He noted the remaining distance from the hurricane. “With ten minutes to spare, no less!” He looked out the window at the dark roiling clouds that even now were beginning to envelope the furthest reaches of the island. He didn’t need a timer to know that they were cutting things damn close.
Worth checked the reactor coolant level. It was uncomfortably low, but within acceptable operating parameters. “I think we can start her up without being a centre of a nuclear explosion,” he told the Captain as he took the radion accelerator core off standby. The core started slowly spinning. The mechanic grinned; so far, so good.
YJ breathed a quiet prayer, and slowly began feeding power to the ship’s engines. With another grinding protest, Shenmue’s gravity rotor began to increase its rate of spin, offsetting the ship’s thrust and providing the gravity buoyancy necessary to achieve lift.
“All right,” YJ said. “Clear out of the engine room, Worth. We’re going to pressurize and lift off shortly. Please make sure your seats and trays are in an upright position.”
Worth and Jonah closed the bulkhead doors to the engine room, aft corridor, and the stairwell leading to the deck below. Rain and seawater continued to spray into the ship through the hole in Shenmue’s hull.
YJ grabbed the control yoke and pulled back gingerly. He was rewarded with a whine of protest from Shenmue. The ship did not want to go into the air.
“C’mon, Darla,” Worth said under his breath. He could feel the increasing engine vibrations through the soles of his work boots.
“C’mon girl,” YJ pleaded. He engaged Shenmue’s engine thrusters into their VTOL positions, the scream of their turbines barely audible over the hurricane’s howl. Rain and spray splattered across Shenmue’s viewports as a new shade of darkness began to fall over the ship.
Shenmue slowly began to lift off from the landing pad, its landing gear emerging from the green water as waves continued to crash over the seawalls.
“We’ve got thrust and lift!” YJ shouted as he took Shenmue up, careful not to redline the engines or reactor core.
“You’re welcome,” Worth said over the engine room intercom.
It was not the smoothest liftoff in YJ’s career; Shenmue was shuddering more than usual, buffeted by both wave and wind. YJ decided to keep pace with the hurricane’s eye while slowly increasing altitude.
Shenmue pulled away from the Resort, leaving the island in her wake. The hurricane’s eyewall swallowed the artificial island, sweeping across its length in an unrelenting maelstrom. The rubble from the shattered building leapt skyward, ripping into the remaining structures and causing catastrophic damage. Then the island was completely blotted out by the storm.
Over the noise of the weather and the rattling of deckplates, Jonah shouted at Worth. “Worthless, grab your valuables and we’ll hang out in the shuttle. If it all goes south, that’s where we’ll be.” He called up to YJ. “Captain, if you see any readout indicating that the shuttle is powering up, don’t pay it any mind, it’s just a crossed avionics wire.”
“Don’t make me turn this thing around and go home!” YJ shot back.
The Doc stared nervously as he rigged an infusion pump to get at the last bits of fluid trapped in the IV bag. The cortical steroid fluid bag began to shrivel as the last of the fluid dripped out into Wild Sky’s veins. He slowly pushed the needle containing the stem cell solution into the woman’s head, wishing that he’d paid more attention in neurology class.
Shenmue’s sensors told YJ that the hurricane was right on his tail, but he laughed derisively at Mother Nature’s attempt to swallow him whole as the ship gained altitude, easily keeping pace with the storm’s progress. He popped the ship over top of the hurricane and headed for the moon’s polar regions.
Miraculously, the ship was holding together.
“Great work everyone,” he said as Jonah and Worth joined him in the bridge.
“Not so great,” Worth said, shaking his head slightly. “None of our fixes are permanent,” he explained. “It’s like we put broken pottery back together with tape; it won’t hold forever. We’re going to need extensive repairs, and that means coin.”
YJ sighed heavily.
“But hey, we’re not going to die, yet.” Worth shrugged.
In the infirmary, the Doc breathed a sigh of relief as he watched Wild Sky’s EEG readings begin to improve. Sweaty and exhausted, his hands were only holding steady by sheer force of will, and he realized it had been some time since his last dose of self-medication.
Shenmue soared through the upper atmosphere of Branson’s Mark over the deceptively calm white clouds of the hurricane that seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon. The storm gave way to calmer blue ocean waters, and soon Shenmue’s ground radar began picking up a large landmass.
“The plan is to land, patch the hole in our hull, and see if we can barter for supplies,” YJ explained to Worth and Jonah.
They won’t have drydocks up here, or manners.” Jonah said. “Remember what happened the last time I tried to bargain with hillbillies? I got punched in the face.”
“Which time? You’ll have to be more specific than that,” YJ joked. “We’re going to set down on the first patch of land we find, and find a settlement; see if we can’t trade for some essentials.”
The terrain beneath Shenmue was rocky, peppered with expanses of coniferous trees and vast stretches of tundra. YJ picked out a likely landing spot; a patch of flat ground covered with a light dusting of fresh snow.
Jonah and Worth started shifting Shenmue’s supply of scrap hull plating out of the cargo hold, using the articulated graspers on the hover mule. While Jonah held the pieces of hull in place with the hover mule, Worth welded it into place. It was hot, sweaty work even in the cold climate of the polar region.
The Doc moved on to the still pressing injuries that covered Wild Sky’s body. He set her broken arm and began fighting the infection that had taken root in the bullet wound. As he worked, he noticed that this was not the first time that Wild Sky had been under the knife. All over her body, there was evidence that she had been worked on before, and by experts at that – some of her surgical scars were almost invisible to even his trained eye. Newtech bone grafts and vatgrown tissue spoke to the professional efforts that had been made to take care of past injuries.
“We need to talk to the Doc,” Jonah said to Worth while they worked. “The whole reason we brought Wild Sky back on board is that we’re concerned the ship is bugged. We don’t want to bring Whitaker back on board until the ship is debugged.” The conversation continued as they entered the infirmary, where the Doc was tending to some of Wild Sky’s more superficial injuries. Jonah shut the infirmary door.
“The only person who can un-bug the ship is Wild Sky here,” Jonah jerked his thumb at the prone form lying on the operating table. He rummaged about in the supply closet and came up with a large hypodermic needle. “Now I’ve seen enough Cortex vids in my day to know that one shot of adrenaline to the heart, and she’ll be fine.”
“I would recommend against that technique,” The Doc said firmly.
“Well, that’s the issue, Doc. How long until she’s awake and able to help us?” Jonah said.
Tulsa pondered for a moment, checking Wild Sky’s vital signs. “Look, she’s in a pretty fragile condition. I basically pumped her brain full of regenerative stem cells and cortical steroids in order to reverse some pretty frightening damage to her cerebral cortex, so she’s not going to up and around changing light bulbs any time soon, if you get my meaning.”
“Her injuries are severe, and she might require extensive rehabilitation,” the Doc continued. “At the rate she’s healing, now that she’s stable and on the mend, she’s going to be down for the count for a couple of weeks,” the Doc continued. “I can shave that time through a combination of surgery and medication if need be.”
“Get on it, Doc.” Jonah said.
“Seven days,” the Doc said. “Give it time. She’s going to need constant attention.”
Jonah put the adrenaline needle back into the drawer.
“Do we have the resources to give her that attention?” Jonah asked. “We’re almost through the supplies we liberated from the Breaker Morant.”
“We might need to stock up,” The Doc admitted.
“Plus she’s not the only patient you’ve got, Doc,” Worth said, indicating the scabbing burn on his chest. He pointed to the captain’s wounded hand. “YJ might need stitches.”
The Doc washed his hands. “Form a line,” he told his patients. Tulsa neatly stitched up YJ’s hand and spent about a half an hour treating Worth’s bullet wound. “Take it easy for a few days,” he told the mechanic.
Worth grunted. As he stomped away from the infirmary, he started to notice an unevenness in his gait. He stopped, leaned against the bulkhead, and inspected the soles of his boots. Sure enough, a large piece of jagged metal was embedded in the heel of his right combat boot. He yanked it out and took a close look at it. It was a piece of one of the droids he had shot in the lobby of the hotel; the “jaw” covering that protected the droid’s voice synthesizer. Worth pocketed the souvenir and headed for the showers.
With the work done, the crew cleaned the concrete dust, dirt, blood, and engine grease accumulated over the last couple of days off and caught up on some much-needed rest. Over a pot of tea in the common area, they took stock of the situation.
“We’ve got avionics wire held together with duct tape. These wires run pretty hot and are already damaged,” Worth said. “Shenmue’s functional for now, but honestly she’s barely holding together. Maintenance is definitely a priority now.”
“What about the hull?” YJ asked.
“Jonah and I pounded it in pretty good,” Worth replied. “It should hold for a few re-entries anyway.”
“We need to come up with some higher-grade components.” Jonah said.
YJ nodded. “What about the reactor coolant?”
Worth grimaced. “I was getting to that. We’re down to the dregs. If I had access to an industrial-sized centrifuge I could purify the coolant I was able to recover with the vacuum, but otherwise, contaminated coolant is a recipe for a criticality accident.”
“Can’t we just use water in the meantime?” Jonah asked.
Worth chose not to dignify that with a response. He turned to YJ. “I’ve been keeping a running tab. All in, we’re going to need about three thousand to fix her up proper, not including labour, and we’ve only got about a thousand in the bank.”
YJ frowned. “I plan on flying her really gentle.”
Jonah placed a teakettle on the galley burner and waited until it was whistling loudly.
“So how can we pick Quinn and Whitaker up without tipping off the Feds?” Jonah asked conspiratorially, using the noise of the kettle as cover.
“Wild Sky’s not going to be giving us any debugging advice for about a week,” The Doc said.
“We can reach the two of them easily enough,” YJ said. “But there’s news to report. We received a wave; it must have downloaded while we were otherwise engaged fighting for our lives."
He read the wave from his databook:
- To: The crew of Shenmue, c/o Captain Ying Johnson
- From: Wesley Ferris, Esq.
- Subject: Repossession of Desdemona
As per our most recent discussion, I hereby forward you the parameters of your assignment.
Baron Lucius Otello, a client of Mr. McKittrick’s, is more than 60 days in default of payment on a Quicksilver-class cruiser, designated Desdemona (see attached repossession warrant).
Mr. McKittrick would like you to repossess Desdemona at your earliest convenience. Once she is in your hands, you will be sent coordinates for delivery. Please send a wave to the following Cortex address [attached, encrypted for single-use communication] as soon as you are in possession of Mr. McKittrick’s property and you will receive further instructions.
Baron Otello has a permanent residence on Osiris, where he operates the bulk of his business enterprises. He also holds properties on Pelorum and an estate on Bellerophon.
Should you successfully retrieve Mr. McKittrick’s property from Baron Otello and deliver it in the condition in which it was found, I have been authorized to normalize your current outstanding arrears of five hundred, eighty-eight credits and eighty-eight microcredits.
Mr. McKittrick asks that you be discreet. Starship repossession is technically legal, but the courts do tend to take a narrow view with regard to collateral damage and the ancillary extralegal activities that often accompany legitimate starship repossession. Tread lightly.
YJ looked up. “So this is another possibility, using the Desdemona to ferry Whitaker around, because the ship will be clean, as it were.”
“Do we have time to do that?” The Doc asked.
“Osiris ain’t far,” Jonah said. “I figure, the guy’s a rich high-falutin’ coward, we can walk in, smack him around a bit, and take the ship. Ought to be no trouble at all.”
“Well, we need the money,” Worth reasoned.
“Yes we do, but we’re not making any money from this, but he’s forgiving the amount of payments we’ve fallen behind on.” YJ said.
The Doc smiled. “Well, that’s good too.”
“And, it gives us a ship to carry Whitaker in for the moment.” Jonah said.
“All right, let’s do it,” The Doc said.
YJ nodded. “So we go to Osiris and take care of this. We’re in the neighbourhood anyway, and I figure Whitaker could use the show of good faith.”
“Right,” Worth said.
“And while we’re on Osiris, we could get Shenmue squared away,” YJ continued. “Worth, prioritize the list of repairs and maybe we can get those done while we’re repossessing Desdemona.”
“So let’s send our friends another wave saying that we’ll be in Osiris imminently and will be ‘attending to this matter.’” Jonah grinned. “Looks like they’ll be pissing in a can for a couple more days.”
YJ chuckled, and then gave the rest of the crew a severe look. “Except Osiris is a Core planet and we happen to have made the acquaintance of a detective with a keen interest in Wild Sky.”
“Now, he seemed to be concerned about her, but…” Jonah said thoughtfully. “He was all, ‘where is Wild Sky?’ I have a sense that he was generally interested in her wellbeing rather than trying to hunt her down.”
“Professional concern,” growled Worth. “They didn’t confiscate anything of hers from this ship.”
“Interpol’s an investigative body, they’re not the power of arrest and seizure types,” the Doc said. “We should go ahead and do it anyway, seeing as we just paid our core transit fee, so we’re not up for a search and seizure for a while, at least. We can fly under the radar.”
“I think we’ve got to do it,” YJ agreed. “It’s a situation where we can’t transport Whitaker without the Desdemona.” He did some mental arithmetic. “Quinn and Whitaker have got about eight days of air left. That’s plenty of time.”