Tiger Moth - Chapter Five
Monday, September 20, 2004

The Job Begins


Joshua typed in the code, after investigating the lock to his own satisfaction. He'd insisted, something about traps. Jessamy didn't argue with him - for all she knew, he could be right.

He pulled the door open, revealing the crates inside the old bunker. Jessamy wondered if it was some sort of leftover from the war. She wondered if Persephone even saw any fighting. With a mental shrug, she dismissed the thoughts, and started handing out crates.

Three at a time, they loaded them into the cargo bay. Once they were all aboard, Jessamy took the helm, and they left Persephone behind. Joshua and Maurice got everything tucked away in the 'mouse-holes' as Maurice insisted on calling them.

She put in the course for Niobe, and set the Oberon on autopilot. Niobe was a good week away. Small planet, one major metropolis and several small outlying communities. The major city was still fairly small, and that was where the contact was to be met. When they arrived in orbit, the nav computer would alert her, or Obi, and she would manually land the ship.

The evening meal was nice, another meal where she laughed as much as she ate, listening to Maurice and Joshua go back and forth, arguing and talking, and annoying each other good-naturedly. She laughed at the way the two teased each other, and to her surprise, Obi spoke up several times.

That night, she slept well, and dreamed about the Man Who Smiled. When she woke up, her head ached, and she couldn't remember what she'd dreamed. She got up, got dressed, and grabbed her brush on her way out. When she reached the hall above her cabin, she started brushing her hair, and turned left toward the cockpit.

She pulled the brush through her tangled black cherry curls, until it lay shiny and smooth over her shoulders. Her eyes roved over the readouts, pleased to see they would be arriving very soon. She dropped the brush down into her cabin as she passed, and went into the common area.

Maurice had a pot of coffee on, and she poured herself a cup, adding sugar and powdered cream and stirring it well. She sipped at it as she wandered through the room, stopping to stare out a window at the passing stars. A noise behind her caught her attention, and she turned to smile good morning to Joshua. He yawned his hello back, and went for a cup of coffee himself.

Jessamy watched him moving stiffly over to the table and sit. She hid her smile as she joined him, "Stay up too late talking to Obie again? I can ask him not to keep you up so late, if you like."

Joshua shook his head, "No, no.. Obie's no problem. I just lose track of time sometimes, ya'know?" He slurped at his dark black coffee, sighing deeply as the hot liquid slid down his throat. He imagined he could feel the caffeine suffusing his blood stream. He knew it was silly, but it was a nice illusion, and helped him wake up.

Jessamy nodded, turning as she heard another nise. Maurice was approaching from the direction of the cargo hold, and he looked grim. He met Jessamy's gaze as he entered the room.

"Look like one o' those crates got itself a leak. Look like orange swamp muck leaking out o' one o' the walls," He went to a storage cabinet near the kitchen, and took out some cleaning supplies. "Better come check crate. I clean up swamp muck." He looked resigned, but uncaring about the inconvenience, and he turned heading back toward the cargo bay.

Jessamy left her coffee forgotten on the table, and hurried to follow after him. Orange swamp muck? What the heck was she hauling? If this stuff messed up her ship, she was going to strangle that little weasel - no, Badger. She followed Maurice to the cargo bay, and stopped dead when she saw the deck in front of the corner mouse-hole.

"Ta ma de. What a mess!" She stepped closer, sniffing delicately, "Wait, Maurice. There's something about that smell," She Looked at the ooze, and sniffed again. Suddenly, a brilliant white flare of pain filled her sight and her mind, making her gasp, whimper, and stumble backwards, grabbing her head.

***On The Battlefield***

She slammed the cartridge into the rifle, and whipped the barrel back down, hovering centimeters above the ridge. She eyed down the sight, seeing the flash of purple against dark. Her finger tensed, and suddenly, the soldier she was aiming at signaled and she saw a large cylinder being settled into a hollow. The soldiers then began to retreat. She watched, curious, as they retreated completely. She lowered her rifle, turned, and sat, back against the ridge.

She saw movement not far away, and grinned as a man threw himself down next to her on the ground. He gasped a bit, catching his breath, and he turned a grin to her, blue eyes bright with mischief, "What're they doin' now?" He asked, rolling over to peer over the ridge. She sighed, and joined him, lying close and pointing to the cylinder.

"They left that barrel thing. I don't know what's in it, but they didn't even..." Her voice trailed off as she noticed the ground around the cylinder. "Mal, look. On the ground. It was like that before."

He looked, and frowned. Before he could say anything, Jessamy reached over and pulled on his sleeve, pointing. Three independent soldiers were moving through the valley, toward the cylinder. When they spotted the yellow metal amid the bushes, they pointed, and went to investigate.

Jessamy glanced at her companion, "Should we warn them?"

Mal gave her a look, "Warn them of what? Look out, there's some, um, orange goo on the ground? I don't know what that stuff is." He looked back, hoping nothing bad was about to happen.

The first guy leaned over, sniffing. He stood straight, gesturing and talking to his companions, then he finally picked up a stick, and poked at the goo on the ground. There was more gesturing, and pointing at the container. The stick, coated in goo, hung nearly forgotten in his hand as they discussed whatever it was they were discussing. Suddenly, the man let out a pained yelp, and dropped - well, threw - the stick away from him. He held up his hand, clutching it with the other, and making little noises.

His friends looked frightened and concerned, hesitant to touch him. After some snarling comments back and forth, the man with the injured hand turned, and open fire on the goo. The results were surprising. Especially to the three men next to the barrel. The force of the ensuing explosion rolled Jessamy and her companion down the hill in a tangle - but not before she saw the effects it had on the men standing nearby. When they rolled to a stop, she was trembling and squeezing her eyes shut tight.

***When it hurts to remember***

Maurice was holding her by the shoulders, keeping her from falling flat on the deck. He looked from her to the goo, keeping her well away from it. With his big dark brows drawn close over his eyes in concern, he presented a nearly-frightening sight when she finally blinked her eyes open. She reached up again with one hand, holding her forehead with her hand, she groaned.

"Ohhh... my head. That was so... strange. That stuff... stay away from it.. and be careful, I think it's flammable," She looked up, her eyes clouded with pain and confusion. "Ooohh.. Maurice. I saw what it did to them. It was awful."

Maurice's frown deepened, "Cap'n?" He helped her to lean against a crate a short but safe distance from the mess. "What is that muck?"

Steel reeling slightly from pain, Jessamy looked at the stuff, "It's something.. a weapon, I think. It works like an acid on skin and it explodes if you... well, I know it explodes if you shoot it. I.. I remembered something. It's like that sometimes." The memory was fuzzier now, but mostly accessible. She wanted to pore over it, examine it, but she didn't have time.

She pushed herself up away from the crate, grateful for Maurice's nearby arm for support. Her knees felt a little weak, but she pushed on, "We have to get this cleared up, and fast. It's messy and entirely too dangerous." She watched the wall, seeing that the oozing had slowed - even stopped. That was some good news at least.

"Maurice - I'll be fine," she said, "Go and get the chemical cleanup kit from the crate over there," she gestured to one of the clusters of net-packed crates in the corner of the cargo bay. Maurice nodded, setting her up against the crate again. She watched him unzip the net-pack, and remove a large crate from the stack. He had it open, and was carrying an armload of equipment towards her when the ship shuddered and listed port. Toward the goo.

Jessamy's voice was sharp, "Obie! Joshua! What's going on!?!?"

Obie's voice answered first, "Something is interfering with my port side, Captain."

Joshua's voice came second as he bounded down the stairs from the engine room. "It's like all the connections have been cut, Cap'n." His feet made a thud as he landed on the deck of the cargo bay. He finally skidded to a halt as he spotted the orange goo. "Oh. Think I might know what the problem is."

Jessamy braced herself on the crates, not realizing a thin trail of blood had trailed from her nose, and had by this time nearly reached her chin. "Maurice! We need to get this stuff cleaned up fast! Who knows what effect it has on Obies insides! Joshua - help him!" Something tickled, and she wiped a hand absently along her jaw, removing some of the blood and leaving a smear by her chin. When she moved her hand away, she saw the smear of blood, and she turned sharply away from the two men. Hastily, she wiped at her face, not wanting to alarm them.

Maurice and Joshua moved quickly, spraying some kind of foam on the mess. It reacted quickly, absorbing the goo into chambers in the foam. Joshua used part of the kit to suck up the foam, into a special chamber where it could be safely disposed of. Jessamy moved slowly, getting a slightly better handle on her body. She moved to help Joshua, until it looked like the mess was contained. Joshua got down on his knees, and removed the cover to the mouse-hole. More foam was required, and they cleaned out the cubby. The leaky crate was easy to spot - part of it had burst.

Joshua pulled the damaged crate out, going back in to look for the damaged connections in Obie's systems. Jessamy and Maurice looked at the corner of the crate. Maurice frowned at it, as if seeing something more than was obvious, and not liking it one bit. Jessamy bit her lower lip, then looked up at Maurice.

"What do you think? We should check the other crates - if they're all full of this stuff, I want them off my ship." She looked up, "Obie? How long till we make landfall on Niobe?"

Obie's voice came over the vox, "We should be there in about 8 or 9 hours, Captain."

Jessamy nodded, "Looks like we might just get paid. If we can get this repaired, I think we can make it to the rendezvous."



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Tiger Moth - Chapter Five
The Job Begins

Tiger Moth - Chapter Four
The First Job

Tiger Moth - Chapter Three
Josh, The Mechanic

Tiger Moth - Chapter Two
Maurice The Cook