A Roman God – Four
May 17, 2010
The next two sites went reasonably well, and the crates were placed smoothly on their intended target. Jacques was watching the third crate settle into the hull, and once it had, turned around to face the shuttlecraft. “What do we do now, then?”
Lince shrugged. “We’re done. We’ll fly back into the bay, get to the bridge, and watch the fireworks. And hopefully not die.”
“Especially hopefully not die.” Kwog muttered.
The three started to trek back across the hull, towards the shuttlecraft’s open hatch. “One sec.” Jacques thought out loud. “How come we had to go plant the nukes? Couldn’t you have sent a robot or something?” To Jacques, that sounded a lot safer than doing it in person.
Lince shrugged again; as if he didn’t really care to answer. “Robots are unreliable. We send one out with a crate of nukes and it’ll probably deliver them inside the ship. And then go crazy, and start maiming things.”
“Your people haven’t solved robots yet?”
Lince definitely look annoyed. “Look, giving something intelligence is harder than it sounds, alright. I mean; look at you.”
“Yeah, well…” Jacques’s retort fell flat.
“Yeah, well, what?” Lince replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Never mind,” said Jacques, clambering into the shuttlecrafts hatch, and sitting down on one of the two thin benches. Kwog did the same, sitting opposite him, and Lince took the pilot seat. Without too much fuss, the craft pulled away from the hull, and started to arc back around to the bay.
Jacques resumed quizzing Lince. “Your people, who are they?”
Lince fumbled for a control lever, and managed to set the shuttle onto autopilot, before swivelling the control seat around and replying. “My people? You mean my race?
Jacques nodded silently.
Lince looked slightly sheepish. “No-one’s really sure anymore.”
Jacques blinked slowly, watching Lince from across the craft. “You don’t know which race you belong to?”
“Not a clue.” Lince shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter what we are.”
“I sup- Lince!” Jacques was pointing straight out the shuttle’s viewpoint, pointing at something that looked shockingly similar to an aerial, and probably served the same purpose, which happened to be right in the way of the craft. Lince swore, swivelled back around, and started hammering buttons and levers, twisting the ship just enough to narrowly miss the protrusion.
“And that’s why we don’t trust robots.” Lince muttered, taking full control of the bus.
Jacques sighed, and glanced at the scaly alien. “How come Lince said that there was only one space pirate?”
Kwog grumbled, and replied in a gravelly voice. “My kind likes to be lawful. We enforce rules,” the alien nodded towards Lince, “that’s how I came to know him. He used to be a bit of a gambler.” Kwog laughed, a sound that grated on Jacques’s ear drums. “He ended up gambling away fifty billion Yoorsian-”
“Credits?” offered Jacques helpfully.
Kwog scrunched up his face. “What’s a ‘credit’? He gambled away fifty billion Yoorsian yills. Of course, he couldn’t pay. So I got sent after him. I managed to catch him, but he showed me a very interesting loophole.”
“Which was?” Jacques asked.
“My species refuses to enforce law against itself. We all love lawfulness so much, that breaking the rules ourselves is simply not something we consider.” He laughed that gravelly laugh again. “That’s why I’m the only space pirate; they can’t come after me. I think they’re still after poor Lince here, though.”
Lince nodded slowly. “They are definitely still after me,” he mumbled.
Jacques frowned. “What makes you so sure?”
There was a dull thump, an odd hissing, and Jacques looked up to see the business end of a harpoon sticking through the roof. He leapt up from his seat, and stumbled over to the viewport of the ship. Where Lince was frozen, staring through the viewport, eyes wide.
“What makes me so sure,” continued Lince quietly, “is that they just stuck a harpoon through the roof.”
“Ah,” said Jacques and Kwog at the same time.
Two more thumps, and two more holes appeared in the roof – holes filled with harpoons. The ship on the other end of the harpoons didn’t look like much of a ship at all. It looked like a rectangle that had been overfed, and refused to exercise, resulting in an odd bulge around the middle. There was no discernible control centre that could be seen from the outside, but nevertheless, there was one, buried deep in the bulge. And inside it, this was taking place;
“More harpoons,” a rasping voice demanded.
“We can’t,” an equally rasping but slightly more apprehensive voice replied. “We have no more harpoon launchers.”
“I thought we had eight?” asked the first rasping voice.
“Well, don’t stand there talking to me about harpoons! Wind them in.”
The control centre was dark, and it was cluttered. It was very much spherical in shape, but with a flat plane across the centre of the sphere, that provided a floor. There were oddly shaped, triangular computer monitors hanging in mid-air above some equally oddly shaped, antiquated computer monitor generators. There was an open hatch right in the middle, which led down to a few bunks for the crew. The rest of the ship was made up of prison cells, excluding the bay for transferring prisoners.
The person, or rather alien, depending on which species you belong to, that corresponded to the first raspy voice looked a lot like Kwog. He had the yellow scaly skin, but he also had a rather more vicious looking face. Not the ‘I’m going to tear you apart so hard your grandparents feel it’ kind of vicious. More a cold, calculating, ‘you didn’t think of that, and now I’ve got you,” kind of vicious. This alien was named Gurl, and it was currently smashing its fist into the control panel for the lift.
“It’s broken! Again! What do I pay you lot for? To fix lifts! I have prisoners to attend to!”
The second raspy voice was shorter, and stouter, than Gurl. He didn’t look particularly bright, but he knew how to fix lifts. That’s why he was given a bridge position. This one’s name was Rirg. Rirg ambled the amble of the cheerfully idiotic, and stopped ambling when he got to Gurl. He flicked the control panel, and the lift doors opened. Rirg smiled, and was batted away by Gurl.
“Good underling. ” And then Gurl stepped into the lift, the doors closed, and he was gone.
Rirg sighed. A raspy, drawn out sigh. His head pounded again; an incessant thumping feeling behind his eyelids. Massaging his reptilian eyes with his hands, he sat down on a chair at one of the consoles, revelling in the quietness of the empty bridge.
The shuttlecraft was silent, even the hissing of the escaping atmosphere long since silenced, and the three, should they wish to, would have to continue to communicate over radio. Jacques broke the heavy, airless silence. “When they capture us, what’re they gonna do to us? Can’t we just activate the engines and fly away?”
Lince shook his head, and shrugged. “They’ll imprison me, and imprison you, and they’ll offer Kwog a job. And if we try to resist they shoot us.” Lince had evaded them for so long! But, as misfortunes tend to do, these intergalactic enforcers had turned up right at the most inconvenient time. There was a clunk, the shuttlecraft shook, and Lince stood up, ushering the others to their feet. A bright, blue line appeared around the hatch, following a neat rectangular pattern, and finally joined up with its tail and faded away. The three waited with baited breath; waiting for the inevitable. With a comical slowness, reminiscent of the fall of a leaf on a breezy autumn afternoon, the square of wall carved out by the blue light fell slowly away from the craft.