Jones was at ease in the pilot’s seat, monitoring an array of buttons, lights, and knobs.
“Why would Sourcemind kidnap a female for?” he asked. “He doesn’t even have a…”
“That’s what I said.”
Good ole Jonesy. A better friend you’ll never find though don’t tell him I said that. It’ll go right to his head. Speaking of, his was typical of the Vek species. It was big, bulbous and sat atop a skinny, green, three foot tall body, which was rarely, if ever, covered. He wasn’t big on clothing and didn’t need to be, because he was asexual.
In layman’s terms, he had no junk to speak of. Even so, it wouldn’t have killed him to put on pants, but I’ve learned to pick my battles.
Izok’s head sat on the control panel, his eyes still open, it was almost as if my old buddy was staring at us from the great beyond.
“Can you put that away?” Jones asked as he pointed one of the three fingers on his right hand at my trophy. “It’s giving me the heebie jeebies.”
“10-4,” I replied as I set it on the floor. I planned to get up and put it back in the pillow ase, but wanted to rest for a moment. I was exhausted.
We hit a brief patch of turbulence that rocked the ship and sent Izok’s cranium rolling to the back of the ship like a bowling ball.
Jones shook his head in disapproval.
“I’ll get it later,” I said.
A decade earlier, I found this little guy in a dive bar on Andus Magna. He was drowning his sorrows in gorgoza milk, which made no sense to me because the stuff wasn’t even alcoholic. He was down on his luck and so was I. He needed work. I needed a pilot. We’ve been together ever since. And though we tend to bicker like an old married couple, I can tell you this diminutive creature has never once failed to get my back. I can’t even count the number of times he’s saved my ass, and that’s not just because I’m bad at math.
One thing you should know about the Undesiredverse is that the rumor mill works over time. Over the years, I’ve heard little tidbits here and there about my colleague. Apparently, around a thousand years or so ago, he was once the Rakan Collective’s second-in-command, holding the coveted title of “Esteemed Brainy One” on the Mighty Potentate’s Council of Advisors.
But something happened between then and now. I’ve had beings tell me he was a traitor. Others hold him out as a hero. Bottomline, he did something that royally pissed of His Potentositude, leaving him to be cast out of paradise and into the Undesiredverse with the rest of us losers.
Whatever he did, I like to assume it was a good thing, that he had a choice between honor and duty and chose the former. He never offered and I never asked. Had he wanted me to know, he’d of told me.
Either way, I can’t imagine it was easy to be him. The Vek are the ruling species in the Rakan Collective, clones developed by the Mighty Potentate to hold important positions of power. To lose all that and end up driving my sorry hide around could not have left him fulfilled.
“A cool million’s coming our way as soon as we get back,” I said.
“A hundred thousand,” Jones corrected me. “After the Tarazni Clan’s tax, the One World Order’s tax, New York City’s business activities tax, Earth’s exist fee, Malostet’s entrance fee, Kendra’s broker fee, jump station fees, docking fees, charging fees…”
“I told you to bail on that.”
“Like I’m going to rip off some hard working, blue collar charging station manager,” Jones replied.
“I’ll split it seventy-thirty,” I said. “Thirty grand in your hot little hand.”
“Fifty-fifty or you can fly yourself,” Jones griped.
We sat quietly for a moment. I let out a loud sigh.
“It’d be ridiculous to go after that girl, wouldn’t it?” I asked.
“Damn straight,” Jones answered. “We can just take off right now and collect a modest profit.”
“I mean, who is she to us, really? Just some random broad. The Undesiredverse is full of them.”
“True,” Jones said. “And it’s not like I have a…”
“I’m tired of doing the right thing,” I interrupted.
“We ALWAYS do the right thing,” Jones declared.
“And where does it get us?” I asked. “Nowhere fast. Me fistfight a highly evolved, all-powerful, omnipotent artificial intelligence who’s taken control of a killer death bot? Puh-leaze!”
“We’re going to save her, aren’t we?” Jones asked.
“Yup,” I said.
Jones punched a few buttons. “Tracking Ninety-five’s electronic signature now.”