It’s been a long time, but it’s finally happening. I have been redoubling my efforts to tell the story of Riker, Johnny and Pauline. Chapter four is written and just needs to be edited.
This is a work in progress! Feel free to notify me of errors or things you don’t think make sense.
Excerpt from Chapter Three
Johnny left the briefing after a few awkward moments with Sharon. He chuckled to himself. The woman seemed decent enough. Oddly, he felt guilty giving her the cold shoulder. When Li finally returned to consciousness and made it back to SS Diligence, he would have a lot of explaining to do if he wanted to keep Sharon around. Of course, after Johnny sprung Riker free, Li would have bigger concerns to content with. If the plan went off without a hitch, it would initially appear as if Li had freed a high-level criminal. Once he and his brother safely rendezvoused with Sean and the kids in the outer system, Johnny would encrypt an anonymous comm claiming responsibility. Including a convincing amount of detail should exonerate Li from any guilt. He didn’t want any bad karma following him.
Walking toward the launch bay Johnny heard someone running up quickly behind him with a heavy step. Before he could turn around he felt the hearty slap of Pedro’s hand on his back.
“Man! You always seem to land the best assignments. Damn you and your luck.”
“Thanks.” Johnny answered dryly.
“Aw…I can’t remember last time I flew down into Jupiter. Love the murkiness!”
Pedro rubbed his hands together with eyes far off in reverie.
“What’s your assignment?”
Pedro’s face quickly morphed into a look of chagrin.
“Blasted escort again! Escort for Diligence, mind you. Boring.” Pedro drawled out the last word rolling his eyes. “That’s the second time this month!”
“I’ll swap with you.” Johnny found himself blurting out.
“Think command is still pissed about the the mishap I had flying on Saturn. It’s not like anyone got hurt. The ship came home with only a little scratch!”
Pedro looked exasperated.
Johnny chided himself. He couldn’t help feeling for other people. An admirable trait to have, but not while on convert assignment. He was relieved Pedro didn’t take the offer to switch seriously. He doubted trading assignments was something you did in the military.
“Well, drinks are on me when you get back. That’s assuming no piece of pirate slag attempts to free this guy.”
“Thanks again, Pedro.” Johnny tried to sound brave and concerned simultaneously.
“Relax, nothing’s going to happen. No one is coming. Criminals like him are expendable. The drug cartels don’t give a shit about nothing, but drugs and money. Now, if your shuttle were transporting a shipment of weapons…that would be different, eh?”
Johnny smiled inwardly to himself. Pedro was in for a big surprise because Johnny’s brother was important enough to rescue.
“Who said I was worried?” Johnny tried to channeled Riker’s legendary bravado.
“That-a-boy. Besides, me and the others will be watching your back.”
“Then what can go wrong?”
Pedro cracked his knuckles.
“Would be fun to have a little action though. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a scuffle. Feel like I’m getting a little rusty. We should hit the simulator soon and run some of the old engagements we fought in.”
“Definitely. Might be all the excitement we’re going to see here. Can’t have you getting too bored.”
Johnny noted how easily lying came to him the longer he was on this mission. For a moment he himself almost believed Pedro and he were fast friends. He reconsidered the value his ability to connect with people had for this mission.
“Last action Diligence saw was a year ago on Ariel. The fools didn’t know what hit em. The rout we handed them was legendary!” Pedro crowed.
“Yeah. But, Pedro that makes the likelihood of illegals making a move this far in pretty slim. Now, if we were out past Titan… maybe.”
Johnny confidently bantered.
Anyone keeping abreast of the news holos knew about the small battle in the Uranus system. Traditionally, Sol Corps took no real notice of the crime syndicates’ activities in the outer system. Humanity had no significant civilian populations that far from the Sun. The territory was unchartered, loosely governed and provided a haven for criminal elements. Until now, most outposts were generally scientific in nature or small private ventures. Although, the allure of cheap raw materials, readily obtained, had fueled a recent spike in larger commercial enterprises. Big corporations clamored for better protection as an ever larger chunk of profits was swallowed up by pirating.
The inner system governments balked at the cost of policing the vast territory past Saturn. Politicians knew the public cared little about corporate losses to the black market. As long as cheap resources continued to stimulate economic growth everyone was happy. Besides, most agreed many politicians were in bed with the major crime bosses.
Yet, hysteria about rumors of an impending Rangari invasion had steadily grown. Despite any credible proof the inhabitants for Alpha Centauri were technologically advanced enough to reach humanity’s star system, the political landscape was rapidly changing. Public concerns were addressed with a slew of new measures increasing military presence in the outer parts of the solar system. Calls were made on the floor of the Planetary Union’s lower chamber to fully incorporated the outer territories into a new political entities. Not a few people felt this was an excuse to exert further control over private interests flourishing in the less regulated frontier past Mars.
Johnny didn’t think Pedro gave a damn about politics or system events. The man seemed solely interested in flying and a good fight.
“Yeah, I think you’re right about that Li. No action for any of us this assignment. Jupiter’s become too tame.”
“That’s supposed to be a good thing.” Johnny playfully admonished.
“I know. I know.”
“You’re right Pedro. Simulator needs to be top of the agenda, once we get some rec time.”
“I’ll be your gunner. Love blowing shit up. Even if it’s holographic.”
Coming upon the launch bay, Johnny held out his hand. Pedro took it, giving it a hearty shake.
“See you in a few rotations, Pedro.”
“I’ll be in my usual seat in the aft cantina. Meet you there. I expect to finally get the whole story about your leave on Mars. Lim stim? Really?”
Johnny grimaced, feigning disgust. He walked away without replying. Scanning the berth numbers for his shuttle, he suddenly stopped short and turned back to Pedro.
Follow the link below to read the rest of Chapter Three.