|Forum Home > Now This Ain't No Frak > It's the Bishop! (Part 3)|
The two of them got off the troop transport the same way they got on—they joined the line of haulers and simply stepped off the ship. Gabrielle figured that on a ship the size of the Poseidon,there was no one on board would possibly know everyone on board. Thankfully, she was right; no one really batted an eye towards them.
The bishop was overwhelmed by the size of everything. The shuttle bay, big enough to hold a battlestation, actually formed clouds in the empty space above them—the hallways were large enough to drive hovertanks down them and leave plenty of room for personnel… in both directions.
But while she was taking in all the space, the friar noticed, “Where are all thepeople?”
“We haven’t run into a single person for five minutes.”
Gabrielle suddenly realized that the reason she was admiring the ship’s architecture was because there were no people to obscure it. “This ship was a floating city back in Clarke’s day. You’re right—there should be more people. Maybe the pirates don’t have the personnel?”
“Maybe,” he shrugged.
She stopped and turned towards him. “All right, say it.”
“Say what?” the werewolf looked confused.
“Tell me what’s on your mind, Stumbles.”
The friar shrugged and looked around for an escape. Finding none, he admitted, “It’s too easy. I led us towards the service decks to make sure we weren’t being followed.”
“So it’s really not surprising that there’s no one here?”
“There should be someone. Waste disposal, quartermasters… I mean, who’s keeping the mess running? Even corsairs have to eat.”
“Well,” the bishop sighed, “there’s always two ways to find out. The bar or the bridge, which do you think we should choose?”
“Neither,” Stumbles decided.
“We need information,” Gabrielle demanded.
“Do you want to die fast or die slow, Gabby?”
“Neither,” she answered, “don’t you trust me?”
“With my life, Gabby, but I want to protect yours. A bar has regulars, regulars who would ask questions of new faces, and we can’t pretend to be corsairs for very long.”
“And a bridge has a smaller group of regulars, plus signs that say Keep Out.” The bishop finished his thought. “I wasn’t born yesterday. So you’re saying the bridge is the best place to get information?”
“If we don’t get shot. Use the dataport, like we did before.”
“Like that one?” She pointed to the hole in the wall. “Looks like Admiral Roquefort took them out in the unused areas.”
“That’s not the only thing missing,” Stumbles pointed to several other holes in the deckplates. “Hmph. What does it mean?”
“We need answers,” the bishop decided, “and I’m going to find them on the bridge.”
The werewolf sighed. “I’ll try to get you back to Fayza in one piece. The lift’s this way.”
“It’s a pile of crap, Rocky!”
“It’s a symbol,” Aaron Roquefort, dressed in sweatpants, a classic Gun Metal Gray t-shirt, and an old Earth Fleet admiral’s jacket. “And like it or not, we need the Poseidon, Charlie. Unless you’ve got another grav drive in your tool kit.”
The balding engineer grumbled. “You know I don’t. But there’s only so many parts I can cannibalize to keep this crate moving. Sooner or later, we’re going to be stuck.”
“And then what?” the pirate admiral asked. “Deal with the cats?”
“They’ve got a grav drive…”
“…and we’ve got nothing to pay them with.” Aaron admitted. “My crew has families, and those who don’t, have needs. I can say we’re fighting to defeat the Empire, but without food, without clothing, without creds, I couldn’t keep them around.”
“Then sell the Poseidon,” Charlie wouldn’t give it up, “now, while it’s still got some value on it. If we had enough men, we could run all five of the fusion cores instead of two, but I don’t see that happening, do you?”
“What’s going to frighten an Imperial convoy more? Our regatta of thirty-year-old ships or a star control ship? The last food convoy surrendered without a fight.”
“And if we run into real trouble? Like a squadron of those wicked Horadrim ships?”
“We’ve got the shield.” As he saw his engineer’s mouth open up again, Aaron beat himto the punch. “Let’s face it, even if we had a working battlecruiser with a grav drive, it would only be a matter of time before the Emperor caught us. With the Poseidon, we have a chance.” The pirate admiral stood up taller. “Get me those parts, Charlie.”
“You’re the boss,” he muttered as he left the vacant bridge.
The engineer was so preoccupied that he didn’t notice two people huddling in the shadows near the door. “Looks like my cue,” Gabrielle muttered. “Cover me.”
“With what?” Stumbles shot back.
But the bishop was already at the door, stepping onto the bridge. She pitched her voice a little higher, smiled brightly, and made sure she seemed excited to bethere. “Um, sir?”
The admiral raised an eyebrow as he looked up from his datapad. “Yeah?”
“Skipper says they’ll be done unloading the ship soon.”
“The Don’t Give…”
“What?” Aaron looked confused for a second and then clarity shot across his face. “Oh, the Adam Selene. Butch Clawson finally settled on a name, did he?”
“Enough with the sirs, already,” the pirate admiral groaned. “Call me Rocky.”
Gabrielle gave an unintentional (but actually intentional) giggle, as if she was a fan girl brought in to the inner circle. “Okay… Rocky.”
“What did Butch want?” he went back to poking at the pad.
She sighed in relief, thankful that the disguise was working. “Skipper needs you to double-check the invoice.”
He looked up at her again. “Why?”
“Says you called him a cheat last time,” the bishop blushed. “Took it kinda personal.”
“Why doesn’t he just put it in the comp?
Gabby thought fast and remembered, “No dataports. They’ve all been removed.”
“Removed?” Rocky put down the pad and glared at her. “Why would they… oh. Charlie. I told him to take out the dataports for the cyberframe material.” He grunted in disgust. “I thought I said only the servicedecks. Fracking engineers…”
The bishop continued her smile, uncomfortably, as if she wasn’t sure what to say in front of her idol.
“Well, come on. Let’s not keep Butch waiting.”
As Aaron waved for her to lead the way, her plan to download the pirate database after she got him to leave was falling apart. Especially since she hadn’t told Stumbles about it; after all, she came up with it in the last few seconds. “Who’s gonna watch the bridge?”
Rocky turned back to look at the empty bridge. “Why would we need to?”
“The Imperial Fleet…”
“Doesn’t know we’re here,” the pirate admiral dismissed her fears, “and if they did, it would take an hour or more to get here.”
“What about the Horadrim ships?”
“Damn it, what has Butch been feeding you?!” Roquefort slapped his forehead with his hand. “Clawson is a liar and a cheat!” He threw down the datapad. “Come on, let’s talk to your skipper.”
Having run out of excuses, she followed him down the hall to the lift. Gabrielle glanced at where Stumbles should be hiding, but she couldn’t see anything. Unable to signal to her bodyguard, she blindly followed along.
It took only minutes to reach the giant transport ship, and as soon as Roquefort stepped into the cavernous space, he yelled out angrily, “Clawson!”
A man stepped out of the milling group of people working on the transport. He came out of central casting for ‘space pirate;’ he hadn’t shaved in days, wore mismatched pieces of Imperial Fleet uniform, and even sported a eye patch. No one bought the eye patch—it was a disguised netfeed relay, used mostly so he could catch up on Impball games. “Rocky?” Butch replied in a practiced gravelly voice. “What thruster are you firing on?”
“Why are you telling your crew spook stories about tunnel ships?!” the pirate admiral demanded. “Do you know how hard it is to keep good personnel?! The tunnel ships are all off doing inter-system duty—we haven’t seen them once in all our raids. So the last thing we need is rumors of the Emperor jumping down our ass with demon ships from hell! Copy?!”
“Rocky, you’re off your rocker! I haven’t been telling my crew squat about the black boats!”
“Then why is your crew giving me spook stories about it?!”
“What crew? Name ‘em.”
“This one…” Roquefort turned to Gabrielle, only she wasn’t there. The admiral looked around for her, but she was nowhere to be found—at least, not on the ship bay.
Stumbles ran into her as she reached the lift. “What happened?”
“Change of plan. We need to get to the bridge, download the database, and get off the Poseidon as fast as possible.”
“We had a plan?” the friar mocked.
“We do now,” Gabrielle shot back, “and it’s not going to take ‘Rocky’ long to come looking for us.”