JB02: Plugged In

Hello! I’ve decided to continue this silly sci fi story I started a while ago, eventually I’m going to try to work it into a sort of episodic thing, once I get the current plot dealt with. So expect more of this goofy shit on a regular basis. Enjoy! Part 1 is here.

 

 

“This is your house?” Jack looked up doubtfully at the dilapidated building as he and Shrim climbed out of the cab.

“Uh, no it’s a hotel.” Shrim clutched his case and pushed through the door into the dimly lit lobby. It smelled of cigarette smoke and body odor. He waved at the clerk.

“You live in a hotel?”

“Well for a few nights I do. Not everyone can afford to buy a house on every planet they visit. Or twelve shots of Jimm & Swiff gin…” Shrim gave Jack a sidelong glance and smirked as they walked down a hall between doors stained yellow by nicotine. Muffled grunting or yelling sounds could be heard behind most of them.

“That Chippy fella was damned con artist,” Jack said halfheartedly. He couldn’t handle looking down at the sickening pattern on the carpet in the hall, so he peered at the spackled ceiling instead, his upward gaze defying his mood. “Weren’t we just at a hotel? What was wrong with that one.”

“Um… I’m not a millionaire?” Shrim stopped at a door and swiped a keycard, then punched in a 9 digit code in the keypad, then swiped his wrist. The door clicked and he pushed it open, revealing a small room with a single bed, a small tv built into the wall, and a desk and simple folding chair. There were no windows.

“Well what were you doing at the other hotel then?” Jack said as he followed Shrim into the room.

“Rich and powerful or famous people are much more likely to be found there.” Shrim tossed his case onto the bed and undid a zipper that ran along its edge.

“Ah, yes, that’s why you were looking for me there.” Jack swiped a hand through his hair. “If you really are a man who knows things, you’ll know that- what the hell is that?” Jack stared as Shrim pulled a tablet out of the black case. A bulky apparatus almost half the size of the tablet itself jutted out from one edge.

“My tablet.” Shrim began pulling wires from various holes and crevices in his long coat, and stretching them to plug into the thing clinging to his tablet.

“Wires?” Jack gaped. “What the hell, is this the nineteen hundreds?”

Shrim stifled a grin. “Its USB, which stands for ‘universal serial port’ funnily enough. No one uses it anymore, obviously. I had my optic and audio drives wired with these things, I don’t think most people these days even understand the concept of plugging in. So good luck to anyone but me uploading my day’s catch to anywhere it can be used.”

“Catch?”

“Like I said, I deal in information.” The fingers of his right hand flew over the keys on the touch pad of the tablet. Loading bars popped into view, filled up, and disappeared.

“You type with one hand.” Jack stated.

“I told you, I don’t want this… thing… attached to me.” Shrim held his left arm limply away from his body. “And you owe me now, that’s the only reason you’re in here, you know.”

“Owe you!”

“Yes.” Shrim unplugged the wires and tucked them back into his jacked. “I told you your target’s name.”

“Yeah, after he already left to steal my ship.”

Shrim shrugged and sat back down on the bed typing some more on his tablet. “Not my problem.”

“Yes, well…” Jack crossed and uncrossed his arms several times while Shrim continued his one handed typing. “Well I could have… uh… solved your problem… easily, if I had my ship.”

Shrim’s typing paused for a moment, then continued. He didn’t look up. “Oh yeah, hows that?”

“I told you my ship was top of the line, didn’t I? Well, I’ve got these force-fields installed, in case of a hull breach they’ll activate and seal the hole off from vacuum, and shear clean through anything in their way to do it.”

Shrim looked up. “And you’re going to bust a hole in your precious ship?”

“No no,” Jack held up a hand. “I can override the security, make it trigger without a hull breach. And if you’re standing in the right spot with your arm held out,” Jack clapped his hands together. “Boom! Arm off. Clean cut. Might even cauterize it for ya. Though, I wouldn’t worry anyway, I’ve got a top of the line medical bay as well.” Jack winked.

“That…” Shrim stood, a grin appearing on his face. “That sounds like it could actually work.”

“Of course it’ll work, my ideas always work.” Jack straightened his jacket.

“If I get your ship back,” Shrim said, holding pointing a finger in Jacks face. “After you get rid of my arm, you’ll still owe me.”

“Hey now-”

“I gave you the name, and Im gunna get you the ship. You’ll still owe me.”

“All right, jeez. What do you want from me?”

“Transport.”

“Great, sure! Where to? I’ve got the fastest ship in the sector you know.”

Shrim sat down and began typing again. “Dartham.” He said, in a tone one might use to say ‘across the street’ or ‘to the pub.’

“What- you…” Jack sputtered, thinking of the countless stories he’d heard of ships never returning from Dartham, and tales of the pilots of those missing ships appearing briefly in spots around their home planets, behaving oddly then vanishing again. He’d heard that no one could sent messages there, but sometimes broadcasts of gibberish would be sent out on all channels from a certain point on the planet. Rumors said if you listened to it you’d go mad and fly to the planet regardless of the risks.

Shrim looked up at him, raising an eyebrow. “Too much for the great Jack Blastwave and his awesome ship?”

“No…I, no. I’ll get you there easy. Cake.” Jack folded his arms and nodded, looking anywhere but at Shrim.

“Good. Then I’ll find your ship.” Shrim continued typing and sliding his fingers around on the touch-screen of his tablet.

“Right, good. How?”

“How many times have I told you? I deal in information. I’m finding it right now.”

“Um…”

“I know people, all right? I’m asking around.”

“Well I could do that.” Jack rolled his eyes.

“Could you?” Shrim snapped, looking up. “And what would you pay or trade for this info, should you somehow manage to find someone who had it?”

“A ride to Dartham, I guess.” Jack sighed and turned to stare at the wall. He’d never heard the supposed Dartham broadcast before, but he was starting to think Shrim must have, why else would anyone want to go there unless their brain had been messed with? Shrim was a pretty wonky guy, some mind control effect would make a lot of sense. Jack reminded himself to watch his back closely when they got nearer the planet.

Several minutes later Shrim spoke up. “All right, I’ve got it. A scrapyard on Taris has been contacted about buying a ship that matches The Real Fast One’s description.

“A scrapyard!?”

“It’s the easiest way to get rid of stolen goods,” said Shrim with a shrug. “Individual parts are way harder to track than a whole ship. And I’m sure our pal Blue is not worried about selling it for less than it’s worth, he just wants it off his hands for a quick credit or ten thousand.”

“Ten thousand? It’s worth at least ten times that!”

“He might not know about your special engines. Who knows. It hardly matters, once it’s sold to the junker, it will be parted and resold, or rebuilt into something unrecognizable.”

“Well we gotta get there and stop him from selling it,” said Jack, perking up. “Let’s go!”

“And how do you suggest we do that?” said Shrim, unplugging the wires from his tablet and securing them away in his jacket again.

“Hire a ship, come on man, you know I’ll pay you back.”

“A ship faster than yours?”

Jack’s face fell. “Ah, right.”

“Not to worry,” said Shrim, tapping away at his tablet again. “I happen to know the second fastest ship in the sector, and if luck is with us, Blue doesn’t know how to fly as well as she does.”

“She?” Jack arched an eyebrow. “Got a picture?”

Shrim held his tablet up for Jack.

“Not the ship, you smartass,” said Jack. “The pilot!”

“That is the pilot, and the ship.”

Jack looked at the tablet again. On it was a massive, metal plated starship twice the size of The Real Fast One, and way uglier. Jack saw no windows or viewing ports of any kind, it looked like a solid hunk of metal. “This thing pilots itself?”

“Landa is the pilot.”

“But you said-”

“Look, you’ll see when we get there. I’ve already been talking with her and she’s agreed to pick us up here in a few hours.”

“Wow, you work quick.”

“I do,” said Shrim. “And none of this is cheap, I’ve been spending very valuable nuggets of information here.”

“Don’t worry,” said Jack. “You’ll get your end of the bargain.” He glanced at Shrim’s awkwardly hanging left arm and grimaced. “Weirdo.”

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