By Vicky Morgan-Keith
Wiping grime off his hands with a utility rag, Sparg scrutinized his work a final time before replacing a panel over the locking mechanism of the damaged hatch. He’d removed his coat while working and picked it up after tossing the soiled cloth in his tool bin. The air had become a bit chilly and he shrugged the duster back on, welcoming its warmth. Captain Paz had powered down as many systems as possible during repairs to conserve their fuel. She hadn’t said anything, but Sparg knew she was concerned about the delay in getting the Mako’s Run back underway.
The Illyrian pilot was just grateful he’d been able to get the hatch repaired and the access tube connecting them to the pirate vessel to release from the Mako. They’d salvaged what they could first–spare parts, foodstuffs, medical supplies, fuel cells and the like. Mrrowl had even showed Captain Paz several crates of quality bot parts well worth taking. Perhaps that was why she’d offered the big Shrinaar an option to take the pirate ship, his freedom, and leave. He’d surprised Sparg by declining the offer, although Mrrowl had insisted on retrieving a small arsenal of weapons before they finally cut loose from The Last Chance, setting it adrift. Sparg wasn’t sure why Mrrowl had decided to throw in his lot with them. He didn’t think the Shrinaar meant them harm, but he intended to keep his eye on him–at least for a while.
He entered the cockpit which had been restored to relatively normal operations. He found the captain busily studying star charts while making calculations on her techpad. She looked up.
“Entry hatch is secure,” Sparg told her. “Locking mechanism is operational again, but it’s just a patch job and should be replaced as soon as possible. Pressure’s holding and outer door seals check out, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to give it a more thorough going over when we put into port somewhere.” He eyed the charts before her. “Speaking of which, you got a plan for where we’re headed, Captain?”
Paz tapped the chart thoughtfully. “I’d considered continuing on our scheduled route, but I don’t think that’s wise after the attack. I’d rather go somewhere closer and check our damage first, but I’d also like to make some profit during the stop if possible. Sure wish we had the facilities to take that jump drive shutdown gear, that’d bring us enough to keep us running for a good while.” She sighed. “We’ll have to make do with selling those bots Mrrowl pointed out to us. I don’t see a lot of options, though. Any ideas?”
Sparg looked the maps over, shaking his eyestalk. “Not much out here, that’s for sure.” He tapped a point on the chart with a stubby finger. “This our current position?”
“There’s an ultonium mining outpost on this planetoid near the trailing edge of The Scattered Sands–or there was. We could maybe sell the bots there,” he suggested.
“How do you know that?” The Alanti asked.
“Fresh out of school, I was an engineer for the Illyrian Ship Works,” he replied. “They have a huge database of ultonium mining operations and suppliers located all over GCW space.”
“Well, you’re right about the bots; the miners could probably use them, but there wouldn’t really be any facilities for us to make repairs,” Paz pointed out.
“Hmmm…,” Sparg mused, pointing to a different location on the map, not too much further than the mining outpost. “I’d discounted this at first, but it occurs to me we have Mrrowl for security now. Maybe we should go here.”
“Aron 5?” Paz asked. “Why? What’s there?”
“Fringe settlement,” he replied. “Not frequented by the authorities much, which is nice for those trying to keep a low profile. They’ve got a small trading outpost. Even have rocket bike races sometimes. We should be able to find a buyer for the bots as well as check our repairs.”
“You’ve been there before?”
Sparg nodded. “It’s been a while,…but it was part of my old circuit, back when I was racing.”
Paz glanced at the planet’s data file, then looked back to her first mate. “You think it’s safe?”
“Not really, no,” he conceded. “But with Mrrowl and his intimidation factor..,” the Illyrian shrugged. “…we should be safe enough.”
Paz waved him to the pilot’s seat. “All right, I’ll set coordinates. Let’s go!”
“Aye, Captain…just one other thing….”
“What?” Paz asked, annoyed. If the ship was ready to move, she was anxious to get underway. They’d lingered here far too long.
“Shre’ka,” Sparg said simply. “What’d those pirates want with her?”
Paz grimaced, then shrugged. “Slavers, I guess. You heard Mrrowl. How in the Freezing Fathoms should I know?!”
Sparg snorted, giving her a dubious look. “Come on! Looking for Shre’ka in particular?”
Paz sighed. “Yeah, I know,” she muttered. “It’s got me concerned, too.”
“Wish Mrrowl said more. Think he’s holding anything back?”
Paz shook her head, uncertain. “I’m not sure. I don’t think so…The information he did give us checked out, but I’m not ready to trust him completely. Maybe we can find out more at this fringe settlement of yours.” She gestured impatiently to the pilot’s seat again. “If you would kindly get us under way?”
But Sparg didn’t budge. Her irritation increased.
“Yeah…” he drawled, “…so why did you think the pirates were after you?”
Paz’s face darkened ominously. “That’s two things,” she grated. She pointed emphatically to the pilot seat. “Now shut up and fly!”
Sparg gave her an impudent grin as he practically leapt into the chair. “Aye, Captain!”