“Cort, I need you to load the cargo onto the Boatman.” Crimson’s order came over the intercom.
“Getting ready early?”
“Police scanners think they saw contraband on board. We have no such thing.”
She had that tone of voice. The Ilslavian had been running on the tread-wheel in the gymnasium; it was fun! And it generated energy that fed back into the ship’s systems. But loading the cargo would be exercise enough. The space-rodent hopped down, shook his head and smoothed his fur with his front paws. To the cargo bay.
“See, the Mag-ways run vaguely parabolic orbit-pathways towards their destination. There’s no such thing as a straight light in space. Not for objects.” Andross felt alive for the first time since his idyllic crystal flight had imploded around him when the Creature from the Black Lagoon stabbed him with that wretched anti-drug. Since then every movement dragged with pain, like the cartilage in his joints had turned into sand. But choreographing a dangerous, mid-flight, space ballet at near light speed was enough to gives him chills of forgetfulness. Besides, flying was what he did—with style. He had insisted they give him the pilot seat just so he could call up the nav-display while he talked. “All we have to do is eject the Boatman on the port side, to the outside of the magnetic curve with enough boost to reach escape velocity of the Mag-ways.”
“Can you even escape the Mag-ways?” P’Xak asked.
“’Course you can!” Andross piped. “It’s just very dangerous.”
“Ordinarily cargo wouldn’t even clear the magnetic field,” Clidjitt joined, “it would either be pulled along or get crushed trying to escape the pull.”
“Leaving the Mag-ways early is a bit like trying to reach escape velocity from planetary gravitation while travelling at light speed,” Andross finished, “That’s why people don’t do it.”
“I have a question:” Gator piped up, “won’t they have us on long range scanners by now? Surely they’ll see us if we dump anything, now that they’ve tagged us as potentially having contraband on board.”
“We’re roughly 60 AU* out from Kaldus Major,” Crimson said.
“That’s a ‘yes,’” P’Xak griped, swinging his boomerang head shield away in disgust.
Andross opened his hands. “But they might not be watching!”
“Or they might,” Gator countered.
“It’d be stupid for a vessel to dump their cargo in Mag-flight.”
“Except we’re doing it!”
“Boys.” Crimson’s voice dropped like a flyswatter. “We have to assume that they can see if we eject the Boatman out of Mag. So how do we do it, and not be suspicious?”
Andross leaned heavily back in the pilot seat and blew an impatient breath through his lips. “Do we have a jammer?”
“They’re illegal,” Clidjitt chirped.
But Crimson and Gator exchanged glances. Andross saw it and smiled hopefully. “We have one?!”
“The Doon-tau job,” Gator rumbled as though apologizing for the memory.
“An old one,” Crimson growled, “and dismantled. Can you get it working again?”
It was Gator’s turn to blow exasperated air through his nostrils. “Yeah… a little tape! And luck.”
“Do it.” She turned back to the nav-display that currently showed them clicking forward along a curved blue line. Already they were within the orbit range of two of the uninhabited planets of the system. “Where can we safely eject the Boatman so it can coast the rest of the way in?”
“Without hitting asteroids, or other space traffic?” Andross said, scratching his head.
“… And still close enough they it won’t take thousands of hours to reach Kaldus Major once off the Mag-way,” Clidjitt added.
Andross spun the nav- ball and typed a few commands. The display shifted and another section of the blue line. “I’d say here. Should only take a day/day-and-a-half for the Boatman to arrive. The curve is still good. I can figure out the force necessary to get the Boatman free of Mag-pull.”
Crimson leaned over his shoulder to see. “That gives us… less than 4 hours to get everything ready. Fine. Clidjitt and Andross, you do the calculations on the exact timing on where and when to eject the Boatman. Gator, you dig out the Doon-tau jammer and make it work. Take P’Xak if you need help.”
“I can do myself,” Andross assured her, “When I was a MiPie racer I did crazier stuff than this without computer calcu—”
“You’re not driving.” Crimson growled, “Clidjitt has the Boatman for this.”
Somehow that silenced him.
Crimson hit the intercom. “Braevel, Keffler. Meet me at the Green House entrance, bow-side.”
“What do you need them for?” Gator asked, even as he was squeezing himself around to perform his task.
“The police want to find something that looks like drugs,” Crimson said, following him out. “We need to cook up a legal substitute that could have set off the drug dogs.”
“Ooo, chemistry!” Gator snorted. “Too bad we don’t have any bubble spoors left. I’m sure those are illegal substances most places!”
*(AU = Astronomical Units. 1 AU = 8.3 minutes travel at the speed of light. –doctor nogrod)