“Shaak-Rom! Are you done?” Crimson yelled up the catwalk. If her electrical components would allow her she probably would have anxiety. As it was, the elevated heart rate only irritated her and made her ornery. Earth II hornets would probably steer clear.
“Done!” said the red and striped, tribal devil. He tripped over his own boots squeezing out of the tight workstation behind the cockpit. Sometimes they called it the Archive. If the cockpit ever snapped off at the neck, taking the bridge crew with it, whoever was left had a chance of being able to run most of the rest of the Rival’s business and some critical systems from emergency backups in the Archive. Just so long as they didn’t want to fly anywhere. But it wasn’t built for convenience. Fortunately Shaak-Rom was a master of several martial arts; he broke his fall with a graceful stumble and rebounded off the passage way’s opposite bulkhead with the heel of one hand. He trooped towards her. “Gator, Andross, and Clidjitt never existed on this ship. Gator had a lot more disk history to rewrite…”
“Fine. We have visitors,” Crimson growled, not waiting for him to reach her before she turned and stalked off; he’d catch up to her cybernetic stagger quickly.
“Who’s on deck?” Shaak-Rom asked, nearly there already.
“Tager. Cort.” She needed friendly, ignorant faces. No one was ignorant, so friendly would have to do. Mog Mog and Jumondo looked like bouncers. Keffler and Braevel were busy. Micron was illegal in 17 systems. Of Krevvenar, P’Xak, and the Vizavians, only Tager tended to smile. And Cort was short and fuzzy.
“I’ll call them,” Shaak-Rom said coming even with her.
Outside the Shuttle Bay they waited for the air pressure to normalize. The police corvette sat in the hanger, glimmering with reflective polish. The long body and engines confirmed Crimson’s suspicion that running a police blockade had never been an option. The amber lights inside the bay rotated, mesmerizing.
“So. This is fun,” Cort said. The space-rat cracked his rodent knuckles.
“So many visitors,” Shaak-Rom contributed, showing his pointed teeth with an ironic smile.
Tager smoothed his black hair with both hands, using the Shuttle Bay’s pressurized window as a mirror. He cocked his head right and left, checking out the glints of gold from his facial jewelry. “It’s like a parade through here. We should charge admission for this party. What’s our story this time?”
Crimson’s hard eyes never left the confusing contours of the sleek corvette. She couldn’t ascertain if the reflective curves were for additional visibility in the vacuum of space or a precursor to cloaking technology. “No story. We’re deputized GP bounty hunters, looking for bounties in the Pinchava system. We don’t know what set off their drug alarms. We’ll comply fully with them as they search our ship.”
“What if they find Rullorrg’s surveillance devices?” Cort sniffed, twitching his whiskers. His large black eyes were honest and practical. Crimson tried once again to find an Earth II parallel for the space rodent. He had a furry tail, not fleshy like a rat’s….
“Then they’ll have searched better than Vaken Rae, a drug dealer with something to lose.”
Cort pointed his nose at the corvette and sniffed as though trying to gauge the Pincho Police. “Let’s hope not.”
The lights clicked green, and klaxons signaled it was safe to open the Bay. Immediately the ramp to the corvette opened with a hiss. Cort keyed open the door and hopped down from his electric cart, leading them in.
Booted feet descended the corvette’s ramp. The Police uniforms looked like white, trimmed-down EVA suits, crisscrossed with black hoses. The figures themselves had ruddy faces, and their heads were crowned with strange formations where hair might be on other humanoids. It looked like coral.
Most cultures put the leader at the front. But the collection of different coral-shaped heads parted and the commanding officer strode up from the back. A large asymmetrical rack of porous Elkhorn coral circled his skull.
“I’m Captain Ratu Tallar of the Pinchava System Police. Are you the commander of this vessel?” His eyes pointed to Tager, who stood last in line.
The Vizavian smirked and straightened his black leather jacket.
“I am,” Crimson grunted. “I understand your scanners thought they spotted something illegal on my ship.”
Captain Tallar shifted his attention to the cyborg female. “We detected trace evidence of something that could be illegal substances. Are you in possession of any intergalactic drugs or weapons, as banned by the Galactic or Pincho Precinct?”
“We’re deputized by the Galactic Precinct,” Crimson continued, her voice as flat as a monk fish. “Why would we have any contraband on board?”
Tallar shifted his weight, resting both hands on his utility belt. He was packing heat. “That is for me to determine.”
“Of course,” Crimson grunted, “You’re free to search the vessel. All our optipad-work is in order.” She waved a pad with her human hand.
Tallar gestured to his men. One came forward and took the optipad from Crimson, while the others began to pull scanning equipment off the corvette. Tallar gave the pad a cursory glance and stepped up to Crimson and her people. “Is this your entire crew?”
The smile on Crimson’s face was fake; it disappeared as soon as she spoke. “No. They’re at work.”
“I’ll need them assembled.” Tallar sighed and looked around routinely. He was comfortable with control.
“I’ll have everyone gather at the Circle. Would you like to follow me?”