“Three … two …” the Chiny’ll continued counting.
Haley knew there was good reason to believe that when he hit the number one, he’d pull the trigger, reducing her to space dust. He would then turn back to Trelax and continue to berate him for bringing him into this mess. He knew she had a tracking beacon in her, all members of The Service did. Eventually they would track her back to this ship and to him. There would be some very uncomfortable questions he would have to answer, and there would be repercussions for his actions. But he had money and influence and as soon as he could, he would be out of the situation. Bribes and favors would see to his eventually making it through the trouble caused by vaporizing one human girl.
“Wait, I accept,” Haley said. She put her hands up in a sort of surrender.
“See, I knew you’d come around.”
“Okay, that was a little tense,” Trelax added.
“You’ll go to Earth, kill the target, and then return Trelax to his Mothers’ house on Bagoria?”
“Agreed. You agree to let me go?”
“As I promised, Earth girl.”
“So, who is the target? What did he do to get you hot under the collar?”
“What he did is of little concern to you. Who he is—”
“Governor David Sikes from North Dakota.” Trelax offered up with a grin.
“I’m sorry, what did you say?” The Chiny’ll turned back towards Trelax.
“Governor Sikes from North Dakota. The assassination target.” Trelax suddenly seemed unsure of himself.
“By the power of Zolthor, Trelax, you could screw up a one spaceship convoy, you know that?” The Chiny’ll put his hands over his eyes, holding his head. “I seriously need to do some more research and find out which one of your mothers’ contributed to your idiot gene. No, Trelax. It’s not a Governor or North Dakota. The target is the Underworld District Commander from Tal-Severn.”
“Wait,” Haley interrupted. “Are you telling me you didn’t even have the right guy, Trelax? I mean, I know I’m new to this whole enterprise, but I would guess knowing the correct target is sort of … well, important.”
“Whatever, I would have gotten it straightened out eventually,” he said bitterly. “And now that my Dad has assigned me a babysitter, I’m pretty sure the chances of success are around one-hundred percent.”
“Oh, Trelax, not a babysitter,” The Chiny’ll siad. “Haley, please return to the Splendid Two. I’ll make sure the ship has been completely resupplied and readied. You should take some time to get used to the ship. We are about four days away from Earth. I’ll file a landing request with The Service, but the rest will be up to you. Please give me some time to talk with my son.”
Haley knew that she was walking away from a negotiation with the The Chiny’ll, and that almost never happened. Usually, after he killed you, your remains were swept away with a broom and dustpan or sucked up by a vacuum. Killing an underworld boss would be a small price to pay for her freedom. Not that she relished the idea of assassinating an alien, but The Chiny’ll made it clear, it was either he dies or she does. Things could go very wrong. Maybe something would happen to make killing the district commander unnecessary.
She was a little worried about the possibility of having to spend the next week with Trelax. He was an idiot. On the balance, he’d done more things wrong than right. They’d be lucky to arrive back at earth in one piece.
Walking through the tunnel connecting the Splendid One and Splendid Two, she took a few moments to look out into the galaxy. It was an amazing place really. She always wondered how far she could go if she had her own ship and could just keep on going. Oh well, maybe a few days trip back to Earth would cure her of the space travel bug she had always felt.
Stepping back onboard the ship, she heard the plucky voice of Mike. “Oh, I’m so glad you are not vaporized Haley!”
“Thanks Mike. I have to say, I’m pretty happy about that too.”
“The Splendid One ship’s medical computer told me it was still reading your life signs.”
“I am glad you cared enough to keep track of me.” She was touched by the ships concern.
Haley sat down in the navigator’s chair on the command deck. She touched the control panel and it instantly came alive. It was amazing how intuitive it was. With a touch of a button, she could see everything from the exterior sensor array to the ships diagnostics. She pulled up a map of galaxy and found she could easily work out a course for the trip back to Earth. It even gave her some rudimentary control of the ship. She could likely get them most of the way to Earth just by touching a few buttons. But the ship was set up for Trelax to work on his own so most of the controls were at his fingertips.
“Carl, are you listening?”
“Yes, I always am. Anything you need, just feel free to ask.”
“How did Trelax control the ship from his Captain’s chair. This is too big a ship to be run by one person.”
“Yes, well, this ship is a kind of hybrid. Mike and I are sentient beings, in a sense. My programs are run on a bio-electric system. Essentially I work as navigator as well and Mike does some of the other work.”
“Mainly tactical,” Mike said.
“Wait, the medical program is responsible for targeting and destroying vessels? Isn’t that against your programming?”
“Fortunately, I’ve never had to kill anyone.”
Haley was a bit worried about this. The galaxy wasn’t known to be a safe place and if they did actually come across any difficult situations, she didn’t want their fate tied to a computer program whose primary function was to do no harm.
“Tell you what guys, as long as I am here, why don’t you leave tactical and navigation up to me, okay?”
“Anything you want Haley,” Carl said. “Trelax won’t mind, he isn’t even aware how much we have to do to keep this ship running.”
Haley brought up a diagnostic of the ship and several things were flashing red. She didn’t like the look of it, but questioning Carl indicated that generally the things flashing red weren’t likely to get any of them killed in the next week so she should be fine. Not very reassuring, but she had little choice but to accept it.
Just then the pneumatic door of the bridge flew open and Trelax stomped in. It didn’t take a family counselor to see that whatever the conversation he had with his father wasn’t very positive. He flopped down in his Captain’s chair.
Glancing over at her, he sneered at her. “Make yourself comfortable, by the way.” Then he opened a communication channel to the Splendid One, “Trelax to Splended One, release docking clamps.”
A voice on the other end of the channel responded. “Releasing docking clamps, have a great day Prince Trelax.”
“Oh Zothor, get me out of here!”
She could hear the docking clamps release from the ship and the thrusters automatically put some distance in between the two ships. As they moved away from each other, Haley could see how large the Splendid One really was. Easily, it was at least three football fields long and maybe one and a half fields wide. Maybe she could get a tour next time she was on board. Good God Haley, what are you thinking? A tour? No, you want to get as far away from The Chiny’ll and his idiot son as you can.
Suddenly the voice of The Chiny’ll came over the intercom. “Remember what I told you Trelax. Haley, take care of him, please.”
“Gee, thanks for the pep-talk, Dad. Your comms are getting bad, can’t here you. Splendid Two out.” Trelax hit the communications disconnect button.
“So,” Haley said, “the talk with your Dad went well?”
“You know what Haley, I’m really not in the mood to talk. I’ve got this so I would just rather be alone.”
“Okay, I was just trying to help. You know, I have a father too and he can be—“
“Everything was fine until this happened.” Trelax suddenly turned towards her. His face was red with anger. “Now you are my babysitter for the next week. So, let’s just make the most out of this and maybe we can all go on our separate ways.”
“Wait, you’re blaming me for all of this? You came to a planet with the wrong target, botched the job, and you kidnapped me. Don’t blame me for you being such a screw up. You were probably one before I met you. And now I’m just trying to be nice to you and you decide to be a complete dickhead to me.” Haley practically jumped up out of her chair. “You know, fine, you can be up here all by yourself. I’ll go find a room and stay there until we get to Earth. You spoiled brat.”
How dare he speak to her that way after he was the one who kidnapped her off of her own planet. She stormed off of the bridge section of the ship and into the corridor.
“Haley, are you alright? The vitals I’m reading are off the charts.”
“Well, Mike, file that data away. That’s pissed off bitch mode right there.”
“I’m not familiar with that, but I’ll take it that you are upset. Is there anything I can do?”
“No, not unless you have a spare spaceship handy.”
“A spare would take fourteen Earth days for delivery form the Bagorian fleet headquarters. Shall I file that request?”
“No Mike, I was being sarcastic.”
The main corridor was ‘U’ shaped. Doors on the right side led to berths and a small galley. The ship was never designed for extended space travel, but that’s how it was being used. She wondered if that is why there were so many areas flashing red on the ships diagnostic readout.
She quickly found one room marked ‘Cabin 1’, and opened the door. It smelled like a dirty dog kennel, but not as pretty. Clothes were strewn everywhere and there was a collection of old food cartons from all over the galaxy. This had to be Trelax’s room. Further down the hall she found a cabin with a bed, dresser, and a small bathroom. It would suffice for their trip.
She was still angry with Trelax. How could he be such a jerk, and how did she get saddled with him? The Chiny’ll’s disruptor started to look better and better all the time. Suddenly a computer panel came off the wall on an articulated arm. A computer generate face appeared.
“Hello Haley, Mike said I might try cheering you up. How about a game of Chess?”
“Thanks Carl, but I’m stuck on a space ship, in the middle of the galaxy, with the biggest loser this side of the known universe. I think I’ll skip the board games for now.”
“I can see how that would be upsetting. I’m sorry you’re in this position.”
“Thanks Carl, but I think I’d like to be alone now.”
“I understand, but before I go, can I tell you something.”
“Sure, why not.”
“I have been a part of this ship since the day they connected the first power coupling. I’ve seen many Captains come and go. Some of them were pretty good, but most of them were forgettable. Trelax is the only one who’s ever treated me as a real crew member. Being bio-electric, I have feelings and he doesn’t talk to me like I’m just a program. He talks to me like I am actually a living breathing crewmember. I’m not sure why he is mad at you at the moment, but I’d just ask you to give him a chance. He’s actually a pretty good guy. Maybe not the smartest being in the galaxy, but his hearts are in the right places.”
Haley studied the computer version of Carl. She never thought of computers having feelings. But this one seemed to be a fan of its current owner. “Thanks Carl, I’ll keep that in mind. But he has a lot of apologizing to do.”
“Well, it looks like he may be on his way to do just that.”
She got up from the bed and Carl’s computer screen retracted into the wall. Walking over to the sink, she found a glass and poured herself some water. As she took a sip, she heard a knock on the door.
She let out a heavy sigh. “Come in Trelax.”
“How’d you know it was me?” he said, stepping over the threshold into the room.
“Carl and Mike don’t have hands to knock.”
“Good point. I brought you something.”
Haley was seriously hoping it wasn’t baby poop. “What?”
From behind his back he brought out a pint of Ice Cream. “Look, I’m sorry I barked at you like that. No, the talk with my father didn’t go well. He thinks I am Bagoria’s biggest screw up. I just try so hard and he never sees any of that. He only sees when it goes wrong.” He sat down on the bed next to her. “I just don’t … I just don’t know how to make things right with him.”
She had to admit, even though the ice cream wasn’t her favorite flavor, his apology was her favorite kind. Sincere. “You know what, Trelax? That may be the best apology I’ve ever gotten from anyone. I’m sorry I snapped at you too. You and I are going to have to work together if we are going to get home without killing each other.”
“Glad to hear you say that, do you know how hard it is being on that bridge with only Mike and Carl to keep me company? Don’t get me wrong, they’re great, but it’ll be nice having someone else to talk to for a change.”
“And you have no idea how great it will be to have someone else to talk with as well,” Mike said.
“Hey, don’t you have some scanning to do?” Trelax said.
“Well I do, but—“
Haley was suddenly, and violently, thrown across the room. The last thing she remembered was wondering if the navigation route she planned back to Earth had suffered from some fatal flaw and they had run into a large asteroid.