Special Delivery

Part Three

Vonn was right, she decided two hours later. She’d retrieved the repair kit he’d got for her, but instead of taking off right away, she just sat in space, staring. The infant cooed in the co-pilot’s seat.

He was right, and all it took was seeing Meerta glowing and heavy with their first litter to convince Sal of that. But Meerta cried and Vonn might as well have, big sparkly tears standing on his eyelids. He hadn’t even had to say it, which meant that when Sal’d been the one to say the words, Meerta shook her head slowly and then said no and then threw her arms around Sal’s waist and sobbed into her belly. Meerta had been nearly family to the Lug clan. Saying goodbye was…

Well it was hard. And Snarf wasn’t even there. Sal pulled her feet up into the oversized pilot’s chair and put her head on her knees.

“It’s not fair…” But it’s right. But it’s not fair. “But it’s right.”

She sighed. “But I didn’t do anything wrong…”

But that didn’t matter, not in this world. Not in any. She lifted her head to say so to the tiny baby, and frowned at the console where the Red Light was blipping. She hit it.

“-or prepare to be boarded.”

Sal’s eyes went wide. She hit the comm, not even waiting for it to click before she started saying, “This is Sal Vage Lug of the Mine, Not Yours. We are lawfully in Gora space-” The whole ship shook as something clanged into them from above. “I repeat!” she yelled at the comm, “we are lawfully in-”

The hatch hissed and Sal flew from her seat, pausing only to buckle the baby into the co-pilot’s chair with the comically large buckles. She slammed the cockpit door behind her and keyed the code, then ran full speed the twenty meters to the overhead docking ring.

She skidded to a stop, so as not to run full-front into the boarding party, three human people, not in uniforms, carrying blasters.

“Uhm,” she said.

“You have something that belongs to me.”

The speaker didn’t look anything like Karrlos or Soewn’s mother.

“Uhm, I don’t think so,” she said. “This is a salvage ship. We only take salvage.”

The speaker gestured with his blaster and one of the other human men took a step toward her. Sal took a step back, toward the galley. “Hey, anyone can make a mistake,” she backtracked. “Maybe we picked something up by accident.”

The speaker looked her up and down. He looked a little embarrassed to be shaking down a kid. “How old are you?”

“Eighty-three,” she answered.

“Come on.”

“I’m ten. But this is my ship. I got papers and everything.” She took another step backward toward the galley. The speaker gestured at the other guy, who walked around her toward the cockpit. “Look, all I got is right there in the cargo bay.” She pointed the other way, past the speaker toward engineering. Away from the cockpit. Come on, fellas! “If I picked something up by accident, I’m sorry! You can have it back. I mean I got papers for everything. We’re very thorough. So I’ll need your sigs on- Okay.” She put her hands up when the speaker’s first henchman half-heartedly took aim at her very vital head-parts. “No sigs needed.”

“Get the manifest,” the speaker said to the one approaching the cockpit. That one came back, and Sal sighed in relief. He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her toward the cargo bays.

“I’m going, I’m going,” she said, stumbling a little as he pushed her toward One. She keyed in her code and popped out the datapad to show him. “See?” He frowned and motioned for his boss to come over. All three of them frowned at it and then at her. “What’s wrong? Oh, don’t you read Squibbian?”

“Squibbian,” the leader said. “You’re not a Squib.”

Sal raised her brows. “I’m not?” She patted herself down in apparent surprise. “Well what do you know.”

“Why would you put your - you know what? This is ridiculous. Tear it apart.” The leader guy gestured again with his blaster. The other two pushed past her. Sal rubbed her shoulder where it’d collided with the wall.

“Wait, not all of that is yours! You can’t just wreck stuff! I’m the captain of this-” She put her hands up again and smiled innocently at the barrel of the blaster. “Why don’t you just tell me what you’re looking for, and I’ll tell you where to find it?”

The leader looked her up and down again, brows furrowed. He didn’t even really look like a bad guy, just a guy who’d been in too many fights and drank a little too much and really wanted something. She was starting to think it didn’t have anything to do with her surprise delivery job. Maybe he really did want something she and Snarf had accidentally picked up. She smiled and lowered her hands, slowly.

“It’s okay,” she said softly. “You don’t have to threaten me. I want to help you. You want my help. Right?”

He nodded, narrowing his eyes in doubt. “It’s a - little stasis pod… about this size.” He measured, and Sal tried to school her face as he described the little thing she’d found Soewn in.

“That little thing?” she stalled. “It wasn’t worth anything.”

“It isn’t worth anything,” he agreed. “Did you look inside it?”

“Nope,” she lied. She wasn’t good at lying. She didn’t like how greasy it made her feel. But there was an infant in the cockpit depending on her. “But it couldn’t have held anything too amazing.”

“It doesn’t. Just hand it over, and I’ll… take care of it.”

“And by take care of…”

He smiled grimly. He probably knew she’d been lying. He looked hopeless.

“And you’re gonna take care of me too, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question, but it was quiet enough that the men who’d gone into the cargo bay hadn’t heard her.

The leader’s smile faded. “Tell me where it is.”

“Just let me take care of it,” she whispered. “You don’t have to do this.”

He shook his head. “It can’t get to Dargo. I can’t let it. You don’t understand, kid-”

“I understand,” she said, taking a step toward him. “You got this big decision on you, and it doesn’t feel fair, but you think you have to do it. You think that’s the choice you gotta make. But it isn’t. It isn’t.”

He stared at her. Then the spell was broken by the voice of one of his men, calling out from the cargo bay.

“It ain’t in here!”

Sal’s eyes went wide. Even as the other guy was suggesting it was in Cargo Two, the leader was rounding on her, pushing her against the wall, his hand around her throat, her feet dangling. “Where is it!” he hissed.

“Dunno,” she choked out, then a blaster discharged and they both toppled. He slumped forward onto her, stunned victim of a pickpocket. She pushed him off of her and clutched the little two shot micro to her chest, heart racing. She whirled around to catch one of the other two off guard, but even as he fell, the other one started firing. She threw the spent hold out away and dashed madly for Cargo Two, fumbling with the inside controls to close and lock the door as her last opponent tripped around boxes in Cargo One trying to get to her.

“Where is it, where is it!” she muttered, digging through junk. Snarf had set it up, a trap for her when they were playing, but she’d never fallen for it because she did inventory every week and Snarf’s little control box was never on the manifest. Thank gorbas she’d left it in place though - a HAH. Sal swooped down onto the control box and ran to the far wall before pressing Snarf’s shiny red button. Across the ship in Cargo One, a tiny boom and resulting strangled yelp were heard, followed by the clatter of the third guy falling to the ground.

Sal wasn’t quite out of the blast radius herself, but she’d been shielded by a door and lots of junk, and Snarf was good enough that she wouldn’t have set up a stun grenade that would also take herself out. Sal got to her feet and stumbled to the door. Her nice, clean ship was suddenly littered with snoozing humans. She rubbed at her eye and blinked the dizzyness out of her vision, thinking fast.

Moments later, she was heading back toward the cargo bays. Anything not tied down was floating, including her. She pulled herself along by the walls and then one by one, pushed each human toward the airlock in her ceiling. She pushed the first one through and winced when he caught the other ship’s gravity and thumped into the floor hard.

Oops. But there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She pushed the other two in, turned her own gravity back on, tended to their booboos from falling, and then took advantage of the rest of the time she had while they were out cold to explore a little of their ship, dig into their computer, and finally set the docking clamps on a delay long enough for her to get back to her ship and close off the airlock.

Time to figure out just what she’d gotten herself into.

Part 4

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