“Gorram it!” bitched James Kelly. “They’re rabbiting, Bully.”
Hicks, the only female on the crew of the HARD BURN, giggled. “Don’t fret, Shanghai.” He smiled at James. “We’re faster than that hunk of junk. We’ll just hound her down.”
“I likes me a good chase, capt’n.” murmured Bunko.
“No pursuit,” ordered the Captain. “We let them go for now. We move on to Bravo Protocol.”
Spider Johnson sighed. “Tian-Ling-Ling, Di-Ling-Ling.”
Hicks giggled again.
Captain “Bully” Hayes looked over the security feed from Eavesdown Docks. He smiled, his face glowing blue in the light of the screen in front of him. There are two stories as to how Hayes earned his nickname “Bully”: one explanation is that “Bulli” is Samoan for “elusive” or “evasive”; the second explanation is that he was called “Bully” because of his behavior towards his men during The Unification War. He was a large man who used intimidation, although he could be very charming if he chose to be, as well as being capable of generosity to civilians in need during combat operations.
A second man, this one displaying the rank of Ensign, sat at a second screen opposite Bully. He spoke with a robotic voice due to his electrolarynx. “We got a pos on a retinal from the fed security feed– smug man carrying bags for the Princess is Benjamin Clemson , captains the Firefly-class transport ship, “LIBERATION“. Series Three. Bound by law three times, smuggling, tariff dodge… never convicted. Lawyers dream. Nothing here that would –“
“LIBERATION.” Bully smiles. “How quaint.” He leans back in his chair, still focused on the screen in front of him. “The ship isn’t important. Lynx reference Benjamin Clemson. Data-mine.”
Lynx, the Ensign, raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”
Bully turned to look at the other man with an odd smile. Madness seemed to gleam in his eyes. “Hack the system – data-mine it. I want to know more about this man Clemson.”
Lynx nodded, his fingers moving fast along the datapad. “Got it, Bully. Sending it to your screen.”
Everyone turned to look at the Captain’s screen. It was covered with text, and a picture of a Independence Army Sergeant wearing the typical red vest and brown coat.
Bully smiled. “Serenity Valley. Bloodiest battle of the gorram war. The Independents held the valley for seven weeks, two of them after their high command had surrendered and ordered ’em to lay down arms. 68% casualty rate.” He chuckled. “It was beautiful.”
“We was there, too, you known Cap’n.” Hicks giggled again. “So what?”
“You lack imagination, Hicks. That’s why I tā mā de love you, girl.” He stood up, turned to face the Crew, and slung one arm around Bunko’s large neck, hugging the man. “The what … as Hicks so eloquently put it … is that our prey is a Browncoat officer.” He turned back towards the screen, touching it. A secondary file – a military one – opened to reveal several screens of text. He scrolled down a few pages, and then smiled. “There.”
Lynx shook his head. “If the ever bothered to crossref datamine justice files with war records… they’d be dangerous.”
“Yes.” Bully’s voice held a bit of excitement. “Our Mr. Clemson was a sergeant, 57th Overlanders. Volunteer. Highly decorated. Led his own detachment of Elite Special Forces. Fought at Serenity till the very last. This man is an issue. This man is a rebel war hero. This man despises the Alliance. And he hates us.”
Spider Johnson, accessing the same information through his augmented goggles, add his two cents. “First Mate Quinn MacLoch, formerly an Alliance cadet, now a drop-out and fugitive. Career destroyed, looks like. Assisted Clemson in making an escape from a skyplex before the Fed could pick him up.”
Hicks moaned playfully. “I’m starting to like this guy.” She smirked and twirled her hair around an index finger.
“She’s followed him far … into the belly of the beast.” Bully glanced over at Lynx. “Give me the crew, registered passengers — known allies. Our Captain is a passionate man, no room there for subtlety. He’s bound to have some very obvious … weakness. An albatross.”
Lynx nodded and glanced towards Spider. “Let’s get to work, mate.”
“In the meantime, get a read on the tracking device planted by our associate. We gave them a shot across the bow, and they rabbited. Next time, we’re all business.” He glanced over at the large man, Bunko.
Bunko grinned. “No quarter, boss.”
Hicks sat up, grinning insanely. “We locked on to the ship’s pulse beacon the moment it lifted off the dock. It was old, and out of of date. Feds prolly couldn’t track it. But I sniffed it out. I can speak a word and send a missile to that exact location inside of three minutes.”
Bully nodded. “In time, my dear. For now, give them a long leash.”
NEXT: INTERLUDE #2