"Listen bud, put the gun down." Tyler had the shotgun trained on Riley's belly, Riley in turn had his trained on his brother. "You're only going to get yourself shot."
"Joe?" Dru turned away from The Blackstone's lone gunman as if he wasn't even there, which only made the man itchier. "Joe? Get the power up. Get it up, now. Time's a-wastin' and our sky's gonna get mighty crowded with feds the longer we're drifting here."
"I'm not putting nothing down." Riley was cool and collected. "Tables have turned, haven't they?"
Jackson looked from Riley to the each of the brothers. "I should get back to Alice, see what I can do about getting us out of here."
"Things have turned, but nothing's turned in your favor." He took a step closer to the man. "Instead of us being cool and pleasant, we're now irritated and a might bit short on temper, what with the time factor. Look in my eyes and ask me if I won't shoot you where you stand if I need to."
"He'll shoot you." Durden answered for him. But he wasn't looking at his brother or Riley. He was looking at Jackson. An uncomfortable amount of coincidences had been mounting up, and he didn't like it.
Joe looked around for a minute. He had never been in a situation where the immediate lives of people he had begun to care for were at stake; or his own for that matter. Once his brain had kicked back in, he noticed that there had been an odd metallic smell filling the area. There were several things that could have caused that and he got right to work. He fumbled with the comm a moment before speaking in it, trying to keep the unsure sound out of his voice. "Um, yes. I'll fix this. No problem. I'll have us up and runnin' in no time."
Durden jammed his thumb on the com. "There's a good lad." His eyes, however, lingered on Jackson Carter. Time was of the essence here. He nodded to the mechanic. "Do it."
"On it," and Carter turned to bolt back to the ship.
As soon as his body turned, Riley's barrel swiveled away from Durden and aimed for Carter's back. "Nobody moves!" Without hesitation, Tyler's gun discharged as soon as the first mate's finger itched that trigger. He was thrown aside by the force and screamed in pain. He clutched at his leg, which pooled blood across the metal flooring.
Jackson stopped dead at the sound, at first wondering if he'd been the target, he swiveled back. Tyler was closing in on the man laid out on the ground, shotgun carefully aimed, and Dru was bending down to pick up the scattered firearm. "Go!" Dru shouted back. Jacks leapt to the stairs and took them two at a time.
Tyler kept his eyes on their victim. He struggled on the floor. His hands were coated in his own blood, holding his wound. "Was that smart?" he asked his brother.
"Probably not." Picking up the pistol and stuffing it into his belt, Dru put the com to his lips. "Joe?"
Joe popped the cover of the console with a jerk of his screw driver and laid it aside. Peeking into the mess of wires and electrical bits, he answered the comm. "Y-yes Dru?"
"Listen to me, and listen to me very carefully. When you get the power up under no circumstances does Alice go anywhere unless you hear from my brother or myself directly. Do you understand?"
Joe frowned at the comm. "Uh, no, please explain move to me." The sarcasm came across the comm crystal clear. "I may be young but I am not stupid. She won't move an inch 'less one of you gives me the order."
Tyler looked over. "The pilot."
Dru nodded. "Are you still in the cockpit?"
"Yes. . . "
"Good. Seal yourself in and don't open for nobody but Tyler or Me. Nobody. Not Jackson. Not even the Preacher. Only leave if you have to to get her up and running. Clear?"
He was sure that they had a good reason that he would have to ask them about later. "Uh, sure thing guys. Just make sure you come back so I am not stuck in here. . .
"We will. We'll be knocking on that door soon." Dru took his thumb off the com and stuck it back on his belt.
His voice drifted up from Dru's hip. "Good, if you take too long then you are cooking for yourselves for a week. . ."
Jackson flew through the airlock between Alice and Blackstone. As he rounded the corridor, he pulled the comlink from his belt and flipped it on, "Joe where are we at?"
"Um, well. . . Space, I'd say."
"I mean with the gorram ship."
"Well, I am in the cockpit and you are not."
"I mean with the status of the electrical systems," Jacks said through gritted teeth.
"Oh, umm, gimmie a minute," Joe's side of the conversation fell silent.
"Da shiong la se la ch’wohn tian."
His attempt at easing the stress of the situation didn't help him much. Joe was still scared. He crossed the room quickly and bolted the door, hoping that he would be able to open it to one of the Kokezarus soon. Following his nose, Joe dug through Alice's innards with the care of a surgeon. After some inspection, he found a burned wire. "Well, that shouldn't have happened. Joe followed the wire through the jumble looking for the source of the short. He was halfway in the console before he found the real mess. An entire panel was melted to the mount. "How did this happen if the-" His eyes caught the glint of light shining off the heat sink laying on the floor. "Well, I guess that will do it. . . "
"Please tell me you fixed it. I'd at least like to have some light trying to find my way to the engine room," there was a large crash coming from Joe's comlink as Jacks tripped over a stray container in the dark and landed hard on the deck, "Son of a bitch!"
"I told you he'd shoot you," Dru pulled the belt off the unconscious federal soldier and tightened it above Riley's wound, "So you can't say you weren't warned. You walked right into that bullet, friend."
The wounded man's head looked up from the cold ships floor. "You're all dead. Your whole ship."
"Yeah, yeah. We've all be killed."Dru shook his head, wiping the blood from his hands on the man's shirt. He stood and looked around the cargo room. The blue tinted light of the infirmary caught his eye. "Back in a sec." He rushed off toward the light.
Tyler stripped the sleeve from the shirt of the Blackstone's first mate, helping to stop the pooling blood, "Now that's no way to talk to the men who aren't letting you bleed to death on the ground." He double wrapped it and tied the bandage tight. Blood seeped through the cotton, but the flow across the ground slowed.
"They'll find you. We've got your registration." His dry throat swallowed. "After they find us, every federal ship in the verse will be looking for you."
Tyler gritted his teeth. "Are you asking us to make sure they don't find you? Cause that could be arranged." Their eyes met. It took the briefest moment before Riley averted his gaze. "I guessed as much."
"He still with us?" Durden knelt back down, setting the white box beside Riley's head. Tyler nodded as his brother popped it open and took out the syringe. He gripped the sterilized bag in his teeth and tore it open. "Alright." He jammed the needle into Riley's neck. His body relaxed and his eyes rolled back.
Joe crawled back out, bringing the burned out electrical panel with him. "Not fixed so much. But I found out what went wrong. . . I can fix this. I think I can fix this. I hope. . . never mind. I can do this. Just give me, um, five maybe ten minutes. All i have to do is completely rebuild a panel. . . How hard can it be?"
"Oh I'm fine by the way," Jacks grunted as he stood up, "Double time it if you would I really don't want to miss a step and break my neck on the gorram stairs."
"Okay, just let me rush this and blow that engine you love so much." He huffed a bit. "and be careful."
Joe pulled his bag of tricks out from under the chair. A few of the components were melted beyond recognition so he would just have to recreate them from a good guess. He assembled the components he thought he would need and dug his soldering iron out of his bag. He needed to work quickly. Diodes here, capacitors there, a transistor and a rectifier all being linked with silver pen in the pattern he hoped would bring life back to Alice. From the looks of it, this piece sent the signal from the fuel governor to the engine. Without it fuel would not flow and they were dead in space.
After almost 10 minutes of sitting on the floor hunched over his project, he carefully laid down the soldering iron. Holding the two pieces up next to each other, he inspected them to see how similar he had gotten them. After he was satisfied with their similarities, he finished it by securing a shiny new heat sink to the piece. "Well, I guess this is as close as it's gonna get." He grabbed a wire of approximate gauge to replace the shorted one and crawled back into the console. The new piece clipped right back into where the other was before it. He smiled, forgetting for a few precious seconds the situation they were in. He finished the job quickly by replacing the wire and closing the panel.
Keeping out of sight through the front windows, he slunk over to the pilot's seat and said a quick prayer. Where was Shepard when you needed him? Joe turned the power key and hit the ignition button. Nothing. He hit it again. Nothing. It was as he had feared, the engine had to be manually primed before they were going anywhere. It was getting cold again. Dru had told him to try and stay in the room if at all possible. The tone in the brother's voice had scared Joe. Why were they so afraid? What had happened? How wrong had things gone? Hopefully he would see one of those two similar faces soon to answer all his questions. He especially wanted to know what had happened for them not to trust Jacks or the Preacher. He sighed and flicked the button on his comm, once again keeping the fear in check.
Jacks finally skidded to a halt in the engine room, "Okay baby what's the matter?" Jackson fired up a flashlight and started poking around. He pulled the communicator off of his belt, "Okay Joe what's our status. And this time gimmie a real answer."
"I am all set here. Replaced the governor panel and the wires, apparently the heat sink just up and fell off. Anyways, I am all set up here, you just need to prime the engine and we should be running. If you don't mind, it's gettin' a might chilly up here. . . "
"On it," Jackson groped around for a flashlight and walked to the back of the engine, "alright baby I know you're hungry. Let's get you some of the good stuff and we can get the hell outta here," Jacks pressed the primer button but nothing happened right away. He pressed it again.
"You want to take a look?" The brothers stood on opposite sides of the cargo, looking down at it. The plain steel box stood about knee high. It was completely nondescript. No markings, no federal imprint, nothing. There was only the small console on the side, registering the environmental controls.
"Terribly." It was too small for a person, that much was obvious. Still, the idea of what the Alliance would move in such a manner was, to say the least, unnerving. The looked back at each other, both feeling that clock counting down.
"That's creepy, Jacks
"Not exactly the best time to judge. The primer's not getting juice."
"Do we have fuel?"
"Yeah, looks like the boys fueled up before we left. It's gotta be...Wong ba duhn!"
"That sounds bad"
"Goram right. I smell something burning."
"That's never good. Can you find it?"
"Hold on." Jacks put the flashlight in his mouth and pried open the panel, "Found it. looks like one of the wires burned out."
"Um, alright, is the wire crunchy all the way back?"
"Looks like about six inches. You better get down here."
"No can do. You are a big boy, this is easy stuff. Do you have some wire?"
"and electrical tape?"
"Mmmhmmm," Jacks was getting a bit annoyed.
"Well, then, take your wire cutters and go back about two inches from where it is crunchy and cut it. Then replace the wire with new, making sure that you leave about an inch of bare wire to twirl around the ends, cover that with electrical tape and she should fire right up."
"Alright," Jacks got to work. He followed Joe's instructions to the letter, cutting, stripping, twisting and taping back together the wires. Once he was done, he closed the panel, "Okay here goes nuthin'." Once again Jack's pressed the primer button. The engine sputtered, wheezed and finally came to life, "Hot Damn!"
"What, no tearful reunion?"
"Oh ha ha, just get the boys back over here so we can get the hell out of here."
"Sure thing, Jacks." Joe sat in the pilot's seat and entered settings to keep Alice still before flicking her comm over to the brother's frequency. "Dru? Ty? You guys still alive?"
"Do you have the ship back online?"
"Then we're still alive," he reached down and grabbed the handles of the crate. "Why don't we examine the booty back on the boat?"
"Now that's a plan that can't fail..." he hefted his end and they made their exit.
Once the cargo was secure, Ty sprinted back to the cockpit and Dru went to work retracting the dock arm. Joe saw him coming and had the hatch open, partly because he was ready to get underway as soon as humanly possible, but mostly because it let in more warm air. Ty slipped into the pilot's chair and started flipping switches with practiced ease.
"Jacks," he punched the intercom to the engine room. "How long of a full burn can she give me?"
"It's kinda like she just came out of a cold start, Ty..."
"Did you hear anything in my voice that sounded like I care that she just woke up?"
Dru stepped into the cockpit and slid into the other pilot's console, "Docking arm's secure. Why aren't we moving yet?"
"I wouldn't give her more than fifteen or twenty seconds, Ty... we don't want to run the risk of really losing her." Jacks' voice crackled over the com.
"Dormice?" Dru offered.
"Dormice." Tyler agreed. They both began flipping switches and entering commands. Outside on the hull, several hatches slid open to reveal small pods. One-by-one, lights began to flicker on the pods as they were shot off in all directions.
"Wait, what was all that?" Joe asked from his seat in the communications console. The board had lit up with close to a dozen automated ship registration pings with varying degrees of strength.
"Dormice," Tyler replied - as if that was enough of an explaination - and went back to manuvering the ship and laying in the coordinates for their rendevous with the buyer.
He looked at Durden as if appealing for more information. "Comm relay pods, modified to transmit our altered registration."
"So when the Alliance comes out here to investigate, they'll get multiple readings from a buncha diffrent directions," He concluded.
"And since most Alliance commanders refuse to stray from their regulations manuals, they'll be forced to investigate every one."
"And we'll be halfway across the sector by then."
"You're picking this up pretty quick." Dru said, giving the young man a grin.
"Not nearly fast enough," Ty remarked absently, to which Joe simply stuck out his tongue at the surly pilot. "Jacks, can I hit the go button now?"
"As long as you don't hold it down too long," came the reply. Without any preamble or warning, Tyler accelerated Alice on course for Regina...