Here comes the fourth and final part for this snippet-story. Hopefully you liked it and maybe I’ll do more stuff like this sometime in the future.
They hurried towards the ship but a metallic clicking caught Hatcher’s attention. He looked back, scanning the crowd. The noise reminded him of maintenance drones – little metal creatures that had tripped him more than once because they made room for absolutely no one – but there was an odd undertone.
Hatcher was about to write it off as noise from some other ship when he saw movement on the floor. A glossy red Model-C drone rattled along the uneven ground, heading straight at him. He froze. Oh, no-!
Ferris grabbed Hatcher’s arm and shoved him towards the Torrent, nearly making him trip over his feet. Hatcher bumped against the side of the ship but he ignored the sting, turning around to see what was happening.
Ferris leaped forward, not hesitating when he kicked the drone square in the center, sending it flying high. It crashed down in the crowd, causing nearby people to shout in surprise. Not stopping to admire the mess, Ferris hurried back to his ship. He opened the door and once they were both in, he locked it firmly.
“Yenna, start the scanner systems,” Ferris said to the empty corridor, leaning close to the wall to peer through the window. “I saw a nasty little bug just now.”
Hatcher kept silent, his heart pounding. Model-Cs were a part of the normal dock image but this one had been a gift from Corday, not only because of the paint. Drones were highly regulated and any modification caused the sound to change, though most people couldn’t tell the diffrence. Hatcher had learned. Fortunately this one hadn’t served an explosive embrace but it proved one thing: Hatcher had pissed off Corday, royally.
“Scanners online,” came a female voice from the sound system. “Bug spray ready. Didn’t we talk about this?”
“I don’t recall,” Ferris replied, still keeping an eye on the docks.
“No risks, no police, no alarms, no bugs…”
Ferris rolled his eyes. He gestured for Hatcher to follow him as he headed into the corridor.
“I’m sorry,” Hatcher muttered, wiping his sweaty palms in his shirt, guilt twisting his stomach.
“Eh, it happens. Not my first departing gift. And it was lame. Who’s this Corday anyway, some local brat?”
“He sort of runs the lower planes these days.”
“And that’s the best he could do? I’m not so surprised he gave you that sphere job anyone. A bunch of amateurs…”
“Would you have wanted more drastic measures?”
Ferris laughed. “I guess not.”
They entered the command room which was small and round, with a large front window and console panels lining the walls. There was enough space for five people but Hatcher didn’t see anyone.
“Yenna, say hi to our new mechanic,” Ferris called as he went for the captain’s chair and sat down.
Hatcher looked around.
“Hi. Welcome aboard.”
Hatcher jumped at the sound. No one else was still in the room but the horizontal panel next to Ferris blinked to life. A hologram of a reiarnian woman appeared on it, her wings neatly folded on her back.
“Meet Yenna,” Ferris said, grinning. “She’s the system admin, navigator, head mechanic… Pretty much anything and everything.”
“Uh… Nice to meet you,” Hatcher said, uncertain. He’d heard of admin holograms and how they could perform tasks on ships, but he’d never seen one in action. What’s more, he’d only ever heard of human holograms.
Yenna nodded, her feather-like hair bobbing around her face. Then she looked at Ferris. “About the bug.”
Ferris typed something on the master console in front of his chair. “It caught us after all? What a drag.”
“It’s crude and no match for our systems,” Yenna stated. “It’ll kill itself if it tries anything, but I suggest we squish it now.”
“Sounds good.” Ferris typed on the consol again and the screen on the left flashed red, displaying lines after lines of information. Soon the generation of lines slowed down and then stopped with a loud beep.
“System cleansed,” Yenna said.
Ferris turned to Hatcher. “Hungry? We could grab something in the canteen. Might even run into our engineer or medic.”
On some level Hatcher was glad the hologram wasn’t their only companion. He agreed and Ferris rose from the chair.
“We’ll head off in the meanwhile. Yenna, you handle that. Take course to Merr Ta Colony.”
Hatcher followed Ferris out. “What’s at Merr Ta?”
“More or less a ship yard. We need to stock up on some parts and I think we could do with better shield systems. After that we should head to a merchant station and then wherever you want. If that works for you. You can hitch another ride at Merr Ta if you wish.”
“Sounds good to me,” Hatcher assured. He wasn’t in a hurry to convince someone else that they should take him across the galaxy without any money or real skills. He just hoped he wouldn’t regret it. So far so good, but he refused to relax just yet. He’d keep his guard up until Ferris proved worthy of his trust. A smile rose to his lip. They were a couple of – more or less successful – thieves. How much trust could there ever be?