Campaign of the Month: January 2011

Honour Among Thieves

Nine Tenths of the Law Session One

Shenmue makes the crew sick, and jobs fall like rain.

The Doc wheeled the stretcher containing Whitaker into the portable fold-out surgery module that served as Shenmue’s infirmary. His patient was bleeding quite heavily from a pair of deep wounds given to him by the late Mr. Chen. Tulsa scrubbed up and prepared his instruments for the task at hand. Picking up a scalpel, he expertly sliced away the bloody remains of Whitaker’s shirt, letting it fall to the floor in a sodden heap. Whitaker was drifting in and out of consciousness, moaning while face-down on the operating table. Doc Tulsa quickly ran an IV and inspected the stab wounds. He then rearranged the overhead surgical lighting to get a better view of his patient. As the lamp swung to its new position, the doctor’s keen eye caught a flicker across Whitaker’s exposed back.

Tulsa frowned. The skin on Whitaker’s back and arms seemed to have been treated at some point in the recent past. The doctor could trace the faintest of lines, almost like spiderwebs, beneath the outer layer of the man’s skin. He could discern no logical pattern to them, but they definitely reacted to the shifting light. Strange, the Doc thought to himself. Then he remembered that Whitaker was bleeding to death on his watch, and threw himself into his lifesaving work.

Jonah made his way to his cabin, the new passenger very much on his mind. He grabbed one of the Reuben, Rosen and Wong shopping bags, and grabbed a pair of pistols he had picked up some time ago, and then went back to the cargo bay.

Quinn decided to check in on the patient, intent on having a look at Whitaker’s glasses. The nervous fugitive had been fiddling with them a little too conspicuously for his liking, and he wanted to examine them. He leaned against the surgical unit’s door and watched the doctor work. When he sensed the moment was right, he picked up the glasses from where they lay next to the Doc’s array of surgical instruments. Immediately, he felt that the glasses had more heft than they reasonably should have. Along the temple arms, he noticed a series of small, slightly recessed buttons. Ah, an eyetap computer, he thought to himself.

“So, are you going to have him down for a while?” Quinn asked the Doc, smoothly slipping the glasses into his shirt pocket.

“He’s probably going to be down, yes.” Tulsa said absently as he applied a hypoderm to Whitaker’s neck, still trying to get a good look at the man’s odd skin condition.

Quinn strolled back out into the main hold. “What do you make of these?” He asked, pulling Whitaker’s wearable computer out of his pocket and flashing it at Worth and Jonah.

“Eyeglasses.” Jonah replied.

“Look a little closer,” Quinn said, rolling his eyes. “It’s a computer.”

Jonah took the glasses from Quinn and started tapping the tiny buttons arrayed along the arms. He looked through the lenses, squinting. Aside from slightly darkening the shade of his surroundings, the glasses did nothing to modify his view, and the buttons did not respond to his touch. “They’re not corrective or anything,” Jonah said.

“He was playing with his glasses an awful lot back there on the train,” Quinn reminded his companions.

Jonah handed them over to Worth, who took the delicate frames in his meaty hands. He eyed the eyetap computer and made note of the I/O port on the bridge of the glasses.

Suddenly the three men all felt a strange rippling run through their bodies, like an unsettling wave that caused them to shiver involuntarily. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it ceased. Worth and Quinn noticed Jonah turn a slight shade of green, but succeed in keeping his lunch down. Jonah sagged back into his nearby wheelchair and lit a cigarette.

As the odd sensation faded, Quinn shrugged. “Now, on to more important matters. Where did the case end up?”

“Whitaker’s case?” Jonah replied. He looked around. “Must be around here somewhere. We should secure that.”

Worth spotted the valise where it had been discarded beneath one of the cargo bay’s stairways. He retrieved it and tossed it to Jonah, who examined it for booby traps.

“We should see what the take is,” Quinn continued.

Satisfied the attaché case wasn’t gimmicked, Jonah popped opened the latch. Inside the snakeskin briefcase were a matte black plastic eyeglasses case, and a sheaf of Alliance banknotes secured by a silver money clip. He thumbed through the stack of bills and estimated that there was about 1500 square, all told.

“Worth, you ever have a money fight before?” He waved the wad of cash at the mechanic.

Worth winced and rubbed the bullet wound in his chest. He headed back to the infirmary.

Back in the infirmary, the Doc was mopping blood off Whitaker’s back, and he noticed a flesh-coloured belt secured around the fugitive’s waist. It was elasticized, but had a fair bit of substance to it as he tugged on it.

Worth stepped into the infirmary and caught the Doc’s attention.

“Say Worth, I’m a little busy sewing this guy up, you mind having a look at this thing?” He ripped the belt off which gave way with a tearing of Velcro and tossed it to the mechanic.

Worth snatched the belt out of mid-air and smiled.

While Jonah arranged his wares atop a cargo crate, Quinn picked up the takeout containers that lay scattered around the cargo bay and took them up to the galley. Placing all but one inside the fridge, he walked up the gooseneck and handed the container to YJ, who was sitting at the pilot’s station.

“Hey, nice flying,” he said.

“Thanks,” Johnson replied. He started to dig into the takeout, keeping one hand on the controls.

Quinn returned to the galley and tore into another one of the takeout meals, savouring every bite as he realized this was probably the last time he’d be eating anything but protein paste for a good long while.

Suddenly he was beset by another wave of intense nausea, and his food, which had tasted very good going down, came back up violently. He leapt to his feet involuntarily as the contents of his stomach gushed across the galley table, then sat back down unsteadily, tear-filled eyes wide with shock as he clutched at his spastic midsection.

Jonah had turned the corner into the galley just in time to witness Quinn’s sudden, violent gastric evacuation. Jonah gulped and fought back the urge to vomit himself, stumbling out of the galley and retreating downstairs towards the infirmary.

In the space between the infirmary and Wild Sky’s workshop, Worth examined the belt. Payday came early, Worth thought to himself. It had three zippered compartments, each pocket holding a fair bit of cash. He rifled through the money and figured it was about four large. Some of the cash, about two hundred, was discreetly transferred into his own pocket before he sealed the belt back up again and stuffed it inside his suit coat.

The Doc pulled out a sealed package of self-sealing sutures looted from the Breaker Morant and opened it, discarding the packaging in the nearest trash can. Laying the suture strips on either side of the knife wounds, he pressed a small tab and watched with clinical satisfaction as the tiny stitches closed the wound automatically.

As the Doc completed his work, he was suddenly struck by a magnetizing ripple through his innards. It was gone quickly, but not before he was possessed by the powerful urge to eject the contents of his stomach into a nearby trash can. He gave in to that very urge.

“Aww, doc!” Worth shook his head sympathetically, and Jonah turned on his heel, gulping down breaths of air as he beat a hasty retreat to the cargo bay.

Doc Tulsa sat heavily on the stool nearest the operating table and took a few moments to perform some self-diagnosis. Satisfied that his body was reacting to some sort of external stimulus relating to gravity or balance, he reached for the intercom switch. “Is there something going on up there?” he called up to YJ.

“Huh?” YJ said around a mouthful of bao. The pilot was busy eating the meal Quinn had provided to him. At the Doc’s request, he checked the status readouts at his control station.

“Well, what do you know?” he said aloud. The ship’s internal diagnostic system was picking up some anomalous readings from the grav drive.

“Worth, you need to check on the grav drive,” he called to the ship’s mechanic.

Worth obediently walked into the engine room, his home away from home. As he was inspecting the grav readings, he felt a slight tickle of dizziness that passed after a few moments. The burly mechanic scratched his head, then shrugged and got down to work.

Sure enough, the ship’s grav matrix had begun to detune after many months of deferred maintenance. Worth wiped away the thick layer of dust on an engine panel and frowned. The fluctuations in the ship’s gravity were to be expected when the drive was knocked out of phase. Luckily, it wasn’t the sort of problem that needed extra parts, instead requiring some elbow grease and spare time. The good news was that it wasn’t going to get much worse. Worth set about recalibrating the matrix.

The Doc had to wash up again, but soon returned to work, applying the final set of stitches. But he found himself distracted by the subcutaneous markings on Whitaker’s skin. The doc theorized that they might be photo-reactive tattoos of some kind, or perhaps the remains of such cosmetic modifications since removed. That kind of body modification was a popular core-based fashion, or so he had heard.

Jonah poked his head into the infirmary. “Doc, I was born and raised on ships and I’ve never gotten space-sick before without a damn good reason. Something’s up,” he said.

The doctor hummed distractedly in response. Jonah noticed the doctor closely examining the fugitive’s skin.

“You ever see anything like this?” the Doc asked Jonah, pointing to the faint lines on Whitaker’s body.

“Ai yah tien ah! What is that, doc, psoriasis or something?” Jonah wrinkled his nose in disgust.

“No, it’s not psoriasis, but I don’t know what it is,” the doctor said as Jonah came up along side him to stand next to the unconscious Whitaker. “Something’s been inserted under his skin, or he’s had some kind of tattoo removed, or something.”

Jonah gave Whitaker a poke, which prompted the Doc to slap his hand away.

“Chui Se!” Jonah snarled. Frowning, he stomped out of the infirmary, knocking over the I.V. stand on his way out the door. He lit a cigarette and blew a smoke ring into the infirmary, which was immediately sucked away by the conditioner units.

In the engine room, Worth repeatedly hammered the grav matrix with a heavy wrench. The clanging could be heard throughout the ship.

Quinn exhausted Shenmue’s supply of blue paper napkins cleaning up after himself and headed to his quarters in the passenger dorms to change his soiled clothes. He pondered Shenmue’s laundry facilities or lack thereof. I paid 400 credits for this? he asked himself.

Back in the main cargo bay, Jonah began using old Shenzhou tricks to counteract the grav-induced space sickness – deep breathing and placing a bullet under one’s tongue usually did the trick.

On the bridge, YJ eyed the anomalous grav readings as he made for high orbit. “Are we still spaceworthy?” he asked Worth over the comm.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Worth replied as he applied more brute force to the grav matrix.

YJ made some quick calculations and parked Shenmue in an orbit that would see the planet’s gravity well largely counteract the ship’s gravity problems. “The ship’s all squared away, everyone,” YJ called over the general comm. “She’ll be good for the next little while.” He locked in the controls, activated the autopilot and headed down to where the action was. He could see Jonah in the cargo bay sitting with his head between his knees, taking deep breaths.

Worth smiled. “Guess that worked.” He tossed the wrench into his toolbox and strode out of the engine room.

Whitaker began to stir as the Doc touched up his superficial face laceration. “W-where am I?” Whitaker asked unsteadily.

“You got cut up pretty bad son, but you’re going to be okay.” Tulsa said in what he hoped was his best bedside manner. “I’m going to give you something to help with the pain.”

“Ohhh,” groaned Whitaker. “W-where am I?” he repeated groggily.

“You’re onboard the Shenmue. We got you off that train and we’ll get you safely to where you’re going.”

“That’s nice,” Whitaker said.

As he made his way back to the infirmary, Jonah could hear the doctor talking to his patient, and called up to YJ. “Whitaker’s up and running again.”

“So, I couldn’t help but notice your tattoos.” The Doc prompted.

“Ah, a youthful indiscretion,” Whitaker slurred. Then he blinked repeatedly and looked about. “Where are my glasses? I need them back.”

“It’s not like you need them to see,” Jonah said as he leaned against the infirmary door.

“I do need them to see,” Whitaker insisted.

Quinn stepped out of his bunk as Worth passed by. He followed the burly mechanic into the ship’s infirmary, several steps behind YJ.

“So, Whitaker, where do you suppose we should be taking you?” YJ stood at Whitaker’s beside, his arms folded.

“Lilac,” Whitaker mumbled. “I need to get to Lilac.”

YJ nodded, doing some quick mileage calculations in his head. “One ship to take one man across the Verse? You know that’s going to cost you, right?”

“Where is my briefcase?” Whitaker queried.

“It’s safe, we stowed your gear in your cabin.” YJ said soothingly.

“Did you now?” Whitaker said, still dazed. “That’s nice. Now where are my glasses?”

YJ had no idea what Whitaker was talking about. “Good question. Your glasses are…?” He eyed the greedier members of his crew.

Worth started, and then handed them over. “Just making sure they didn’t get broken.”

“Thanks,” Whitaker put them on, and fiddled with the buttons.

“So, we were talking about passenger rates,” YJ said. “It’s a big trip out to Lilac.”

“What’ll it take for you to take me there?” Whitaker asked.

YJ did some more figuring. “Well, you’re looking at about fifty days direct,” the captain said. “That’ll cost you a cool 3500.”

Whitaker’s hands moved down to his waistline and groped for a belt that wasn’t there. “Aha,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “Have you guys seen my briefcase?”

Worth smiled faintly.

“Still in your room.” YJ countered.

“Well, I should, uh, have enough, um, to be able to pay you 1500 up front.” Whitaker said.

“And where’s the rest?” YJ asked.

“It’ll be at my bolt-hole on Lilac. Unless of course you happened to find a money belt lying around, perhaps.” Whitaker said hopefully.

“A money belt?” YJ asked. His eyes immediately shifted back to Worth.

Worth grinned sheepishly and pulled it out of his coat pocket. “Maybe you can afford to pay it all up front,” he juggled the belt and tossed it to Whitaker.

“Whew, I didn’t like where this was going,” Whitaker said, obviously relieved. “I can definitely cover your transit costs. I need to get to Lilac.”

“Well then,” YJ smiled expansively. “Welcome aboard Shenmue.”

“Now, there’s a little matter of your medical expenses,” The Doc said cheerfully.

“Yeah, bear in mind, that train may have been all-inclusive, but Shenmue isn’t.” Jonah’s smile was a little more shark-like. “We have amenities like a casino room upstairs.”

“Oh dear,” Whitaker said, fiddling with his glasses. “Have you got something more comfortable to lay on than this operating table?” Gingerly, he got up off the operating table and limped out of the infirmary, Jonah at his side. “Sure, let me show you to the guest room.”

As they walked, Jonah said. “So, these the only clothes you’ve got?”

“Yeah, unfortunately.” Whitaker was suddenly conscious of his shirtlessness.

“Listen, I can help you with that.” Jonah steered him towards the cargo bay. “You can’t go flying around through space for a month and a half in tattered clothes,” Jonah said.

“Fair enough.” Whitaker said warily.

Jonah picked up the shopping bag from where it sat on a nearby crate and showed Whitaker the business suit folded inside. “For a reasonable ten credits, I can furnish you with a lovely suit, cool in the summer and warm in the winter, very stylish.” Jonah read off the tag of the stolen suit.

“Well, I may have to take you up on that,” Whitaker replied. “Do you have a tailor on board?”

“No we don’t, but it’s either this or your rags.” Jonah grinned.

“That’s fair.” Whitaker said, trading ten credits for the shopping bag.

Jonah moved on to his impromptu firearms display. “So listen, your piece sort of melted after you shot my friend.” Whitaker stared at him blankly. Jonah tried again. “You know, your iron?”

“Oh, right, right,” Whitaker smiled uneasily. “I did apologize to him for shooting him, didn’t I?”

“I don’t know if you made it around to that,” Jonah said. “But listen, if you’re going to dress in style, you’re going to want to defend yourself in style. A man with powerful enemies like you ought to carry a piece that doesn’t melt after shot number one.”

He indicated the first pistol sitting atop the crate. “So can I interest you in the Jan Vries Armaments Liberator? It’s a nice piece, durable, an Independent manufactured weapon issued to officers so I wouldn’t carry it around on Alliance planets.” He worked the pistol’s action for Whitaker’s benefit.

“Fair enough,” Whitaker nodded tiredly.

Jonah put the pistol back down. “On the other hand, if the Wei Shin Technical Solutions PL-28 is more your style, I happen to have one in stock.” He picked up the second pistol. “It’s a really good piece, simple, sturdy construction, shoots straight as an arrow, you will never miss. My favourite gun.” He spun the pistol about on his finger.

“I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to fly with a salesman,” Whitaker smirked, and then winced, bringing up a hand to press on his recently closed facial wound.

“Listen, The captain said you’ll have a full service deal while you’re on board.” Jonah smiled. “We like to see our passengers happy.”

“Let me think on this awhile before choosing,” Whitaker said.

“You’ve got a month and a half before we get there, but I’d suggest you use more than just your wit and courage to defend yourself when you get there.” Jonah said pointedly.

“Defend myself on board this ship, is that what you’re saying?” Whitaker arched an eyebrow.

Jonah smiled. “No, you’ve got a month and a half to buy one, unless we make planetfall.”

Worth shouldered his way in to the infirmary and sat down at the operating table, opening his shirt.

“Seems like I got shot somewhere along the line, can we do something about this?” He fingered the bullet hole in the lapel of his fine sports coat. “I’m bleeding all over my good shirt.”

“Let’s see what I’ve got here,” the Doc said, looking for his extractor.

“Well, at least we got paid,” YJ said to the remaining crew. “And I can think of a couple of identical twins who want to get paid off themselves.”

“Yeah, dealing with them before we fly clear across the Verse does have its advantages,” Quinn replied.

“We’ll be flying for a month and a half,” Jonah said. “Do we need anything else before we go?”

“Why don’t we see about contracting some more cargo, along Lilac way?” YJ asked.

It was decided that Jonah, the Doc, and Quinn would drop back down to Beaumonde’s surface in one of Shenmue’s shuttles.

Worth decided to return to the engine room to check on the grav drive.

YJ returned to the bridge and took note of an incoming text wave from none other than Wesley Ferris, Esquire. He punched it up and scanned the text.

To the Crew of Shenmue:

Mr. McKittrick has considered your offer of the Alliance gold and platinum bars. He appreciates the gesture, but declines.

However, he does have a counter-proposal for you to consider. Please return to my office at your earliest convenience for a briefing.

YJ waved the message down to the shuttle. “Doc, add another stop to your rounds, and Quinn, if you want to pour on some of that charm, see what you can do.”

The shuttle landed in the Atoll Plaza and the trio made their way to the Maidenhead. Things hadn’t changed much in the day and a half since they had first arrived, and in fact, many of the same patrons were crowded around the small scattering of tables and the bar. The bouncer at the gun check was different, however – a bit taller and wider than the man they had dealt with previously.

The twin crime lords were still there as well, in the same booth as before, chatting up a different pair of fancy ladies.

After getting past the guncheck, Jonah descended the stairs to the main floor of the club and ordered up two of the fruitiest drinks in the house, sending them over to Fanty and Mingo. “As many umbrellas as you can cram in there,” he urged the bartender.

At the delivery of their ridiculous drinks, the twins started looking around, and then nodded as they saw Jonah standing near the bar, beckoning the trio over.

One of them, Fanty perhaps, looked them over. “It’s a regular revolving door with you guys, innit?” he smiled.

“Well, we’re a dynamic and exciting organization,” Jonah explained. “We employ a lot of young and upcoming thieving types.”

Quinn did his best to look hurt.

The other twin spoke up. “Didn’t expect to see you so soon. Did you retrieve our mutual friend?”

“He made it out mostly in one piece,” Jonah said reassuringly. “Turns out his disgruntled associates didn’t wait until the train showed up at New Dunsmuir to make a play for him.”

“Ah,” Mingo said. “Well then, it don’t figure that you’d be hanging around here, now does it?”

“We figured we owed you your due and then we’d make our way out of here.” Jonah said.

“Speaking of which,” Fanty stretched out a hand, palm up. Jonah handed over the shopping bag containing the wad of Alliance cash.

Fanty passed the bag to Mingo, who opened it up and glanced inside. “So he did have some walking around money on him, didn’t he?” He smiled at his brother, who bounced the smile back to Jonah, Quinn and the Doc.

“Seems that he did, yeah.” Jonah said.

Mingo nodded to the trio. “Thanks for the service gentlemen, we hope you get him where he needs to go.”

“That’s the notion,” Jonah said. “Pleasure doing business with you gentlemen as always. You wouldn’t happen to have any work on the other side of the Verse, now would you?”

“Unfortunately, no we don’t have much interest in that region,” Fanty said knowingly. “But we’ll send you a wave if anything comes up.” Mingo added.

As they left the bar, Doc turned to Jonah. “We’re going to be on the ship for a while, is there a pharmacy nearby?”

Jonah shook his head and smiled.

That left them with one final appointment. Yet again they found themselves above the noodle restaurant in front of Mr. Ferris’s deceptively thin-looking door. The door swung open, and they were ushered into the vault-like, airless chamber. The desk was immaculate as usual, the only light coming from the green-shaded lamp sitting on it and from the noodle hut’s neon sign outside the fogged window. Ferris sat behind the desk, reading his Chinese newspaper.

“Welcome back,” Ferris said, folding his newspaper as he stood to greet them. “I appreciate your promptness, Mr. McGavin, and I don’t believe I’ve met you.” Ferris narrowed his eyes at the doctor.

“Tulsa,” the Doc said.

“Tulsa, a pleasure,” Ferris said extending a hand with ink-stained fingertips. “Wes Ferris, Esquire.” He turned to Quinn. “And you were here last time, weren’t you, Mr…?”

“Demar,” Quinn replied. “Sev Demar.”

“Ah, Mr. Demar, nice to see you again. Very well. I understand you saw the contents of the wave.”

“I skimmed through it.” Jonah. “Heard something about work.”

“Oh yes, the job.” Whitaker folded his newspaper again, and set it on his desk blotter at just the right angle.

“Mr. McKittrick has many clients, as you may or may not know. One of these clients is a man by the name of Baron Otello. Some time ago, the good Baron purchased a starship from Mr. McKittrick and unfortunately he has become somewhat delinquent in his payments of said starship.”

The Doc eyed Jonah uneasily.

Ferris continued. “Mr. McKittrick would like you to repossess the yacht that Baron Otello has seen fit to cease making payments upon. He asks that you retrieve the ship from the Baron and transport it to a location that will be agreed upon at a later date.”

“What would the Baron’s last known location be?” The Doc asked.

“Baron Otello has a permanent residence on Osirsis, which as you know is a Core world. However he also has properties on Pelorum, the high-end resort planet, and Bellerophon, where he owns a floating estate. We can provide you with certain intelligence about his whereabouts but he is likely to be in one of those places.”

The Doc nodded. “The reason I ask is because we’re somewhat booked up for the next month or so with our own business, and how soon would you need this ship back?”

Ferris thought for a few moments. “The Baron needs to be taught a lesson, however he doesn’t have to learn this lesson immediately. It remains to be seen whether or not his payments will resume but at this point Mr. McKittrick feels that he is irredeemable. So certainly at most this a medium-term proposition given your own current situation with Mr. McKittrick.”

Jonah shifted his feet. “And what sort of recompense is Mr. McKittrick offering in return for this job?”

Ferris glanced at Jonah. “Well, as you may or may not recall, you are still 588 credits behind in your current account,” With that, he waved at one of the walls and the concealed abacus rack swung out. He walked over and found the abacus corresponding to their account. “So in this situation, Mr. McKittrick has authorized me to normalize your current balance with the understanding that this repossession take place at your earliest convenience.” Wes Ferris looked on expectantly.

“I understand,” Jonah grinned. “I think there’s a pretty good chance we can get to this in the very near future. We’ve got a, what’s the expression, our sticks in a lot of fires. Er, irons.”

“A lot of irons in the fire.” Ferris corrected.

“Thank you, Mr. Ferris. Make no mistake; Mr. McKittrick is our top priority. We’ll do what we can to get this resolved in a timely fashion.”

“Mr. McKittrick is very happy to hear that. I will forward you relevant details.” Ferris went back to his newspaper.

The crew headed out. The Doc checked the jobs database for runs leading from Beaumonde to Osiris. He found what sounded like a promising job – rolled titanium sheeting to be sent from a foundry on Beaumonde to a manufacturing facility near Osiris. It was above board, a legal run, and paid reasonably well.

As they met with the shipping agent, Quinn stepped in to negotiate. “So let me tell you about the fees we’ll be able to cancel or give you a discount on. The ancillary retrograde fuel surcharge for example, we can take 15 per cent off for you right there. And here are the exclusions on the contract.”

The shipping agent smirked. “Well, you have to factor in that our asking price doesn’t include the government tariffs, which we are taking care of at our end, and the usual port handling fees.”

“Fair enough,” Quinn said as the conversation wound down to the previously named figure, 1750 credits, payable upon receipt of delivery.

The crew decided to do a little shopping before returning to their ship. Jonah picked up a camera, intent on changing the ID photos of the Alliance feds, while Quinn bought himself a couple of new suits to fill out his wardrobe. The Doc thought about calling in a favour, and started asking around for a ship mechanic’s crew that did house calls.

“Well, what do you think, Worth?” the Doc called up to the mechanic.

“What, letting someone on board to check out our ship?” Worth asked when he heard about Tulsa’s plan. “Hell no!”

The Doc gritted his teeth. “Well, what do we need to get this ship squared away?”

“Time,” Worth said. “She needs a few things fixed up or replaced.”

“Well, we don’t have a lot of time,” Jonah interjected. “We need to get moving, and fast.”

As they were walking, they passed a bank of Corvue screens. They saw the familiar face of Ivan Matthews being interviewed by a reporter, his bodyguard standing next to him. The scrolling headline read: “BREAKING NEWS: multiple passengers disappear from luxury train in mid flight; two men claiming to be federal marshals now in custody.”

“Who were those masked men?” Matthews was in the middle of pronouncing. Then he turned to his bodyguard. “Stig, I’m asking you a question?”

“I’m sure they weren’t wearing masks.” His bodyguard offered.

“Weren’t they, Stig? Weren’t they?” Matthews asked solemnly.

“Actually, sir, no.” Stig said.

“Ah,” Matthews nodded sagely.

As the Cortex news moved on to another item, the Doc frowned. “Yeah, we’d better get moving.”

Jonah found a pilot of a Wren-class transport barge willing to ferry the goods up to Shenmue. Once the goods were transferred on board, Jonah went about ensuring that the cargo of rolled titanium sheets was safely secured, strapping the pallets to the deck plates.

YJ laid in a course for Osiris and the crew began to settle in for their long haul.

About sixteen hours into the journey, the flight was suddenly interrupted by a terribly loud bang that shook Shenmue to its core. The transport ship staggered, deckplates rattling beneath the feet of the crew, and the ensuing safety alarm was drowned out by a fierce roaring sound originating deep within Shenmue’s guts.

The Doc sighed. “Maybe we should have hired those mechanics.”

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