Once the Iron Hide II made the jump to hyperspace, most everyone filed away from the bridge, Moe toward engineering, and Hobbs back to the weapons lockers. W.B. nodded to Liishi as he wandered back down the hallway toward their room. She hadn’t noticed the narrowness of the hallway on the rush from the white ship, but after its wide passageways, those of the Iron Hide were stifling in comparison.
She hugged the messenger bag to her that she’d slipped the black box in and glanced around at Tariq. He’d dropped into the pilot’s seat, tossing his jacket over the back as he’d settled in.
“Have a seat,” he growled, gesturing at the co-pilot’s chair. He flipped a few switches, dialed a couple of knobs. “Just making sure she’s pointed in the right direction.”
Liishi took the proffered seat, shifting the bag to her lap. “How long until we reach Fayeed space?”
Tariq glanced at the bag, shrugged. “Couple of days from now we pop out of hyperspace, get our bearings again, then slip back in for a few more days. Should be within the week, maybe less if the currents are right.”
She nodded. She knew that hyperflight was faster than normal, sub-light travel, but considerably less than the seconds-there mode of travel shown on cheap action vids. But the time staring out the window at nothing just seemed to drag on forever. So she forced herself to avoid looking out the viewport and kept catching her attention drifting that way. “Good,” she said. “Faster I get rid of this, the faster I can get paid and do something else.”
Tariq finished what he was doing and turned to her, cocking his head to one side and focusing his good eye on her. “You don’t find it curious that you were given some box that holds the key to . . . what? Ultimate power? Immortality? A bomb?”
She jerked at the latter, then shook her head. “I doubt it’s a bomb,” she said. “Besides,” Liishi continued, “you know where curiosity will get me.”
Tariq laughed. “I doubt both counts. A little curiosity is good for you. Likely the detection systems in Iron Hide would have noticed it, but then again, the way that white ship disappeared, I don’t know—”
Liishi nodded. “I think that qualified as spooky, and I don’t scare easily.” She sighed, patted the messenger bag, and stood. “Well, I’ll lug the deadweight back to quarters. Hopefully in the morning I’ll have figured out my next move.”
“’Night,” Tariq said as he spun his chair back around.
Liishi felt the walls were closing in on her as she reached her room. W.B. was already snoring softly in his bunk. She closed the door, stifling a yawn, and collapsed into the bed, hugging the bag close as she did so. She tried not to think about white ships, robots, or black boxes as she drifted off to sleep.
Slick eased the door shut and nodded toward Ice Pick, who was had carefully hiding away a half dozen air scrubbers removed from the ship a few hours earlier. He smirked, removed his wide-brimmed hat, slipped a mask over his muzzle, then replaced the hat.
“It’s show time,” he whispered.
Fleex leaned forward in his chair, cocking his head to stare directly at Spear. “What do you mean you ‘can’t find them’? You’d best do so fast, or I’ll be looking for your replacement sooner than I’d care to.” He clicked his beak shut and sat back.
Spear ducked her head into a wing in an obsequious manner. “Apologies, scav leader, but this sector of space has deeper currents within hyperspace than I’ve encountered. It will be some while before the computers are able to pinpoint the location of the transport.”
Fleex nodded with as much patience as he could muster. “Very well, Spear. Carry on. Time we have in small quantity now the deadweight of most-likely-now-dead Scav Leader Tax and his followers are gone.” He clicked his beak again in quiet laughter. “Find us the transport and it likely will lead us to a bigger prize.”