Wyatt fidgeted with the pencil, flipping it over and over in his thin, nervous fingers then tapping the eraser against the nearest crate. “Now, captain, those two fellas. I can’t be easy about them. Nor that woman, neither. Something ain’t right about her.” He traced the government stamp branded into the side of the crate. “Awful big shipment. Hate to lose it ‘cause we had to babysit some crazy passengers.”
Kristoff agreed but didn’t say so. No use repeating the obvious. This cargo, stacked audaciously among the legitimate freight, could make their fortune or see them hanged.
But, then, most of the cargo over the past five years was liable to send the crew of the Vega to the scaffold.
He pried open one of the cases and checked its contents—and felt an annoying twist in his gut. It had become a familiar sensation of late. He hadn’t identified it yet. It wasn’t the stomach flu or something he ate. It started about six months ago, when he first agreed to ferry weapons and medical supplies to the Provincial Militia, a group of colonists in the Riva Mountains who were supported by a few wealthy sympathizers posing as government loyalists.
Nothing pirated. Just a standard smuggling job. No cause for fret.
Kristoff tapped the lid back into place. “Find any of Zoltana’s devices down here?”
Wyatt flipped back the corner of a tarp. Five disks the size of government pennies heaped together like tiny metal spiders. He gestured to the blinking light over the cargo hatch. “Alerio’s new jamming device should take care of any others I didn’t find.”
Kristoff picked up one of the spiders, turning it over in his palm.
“Corrigan and Ezra found more and took ‘em to the engine room so Alerio can recalibrate ‘em.”
“I’ll take these to him. Keep looking.”
“Aye. You know I will.” The ship’s steward dumped the rest of the spiders into Kristoff’s hand. “What I think, captain? There’s more than bugs on this ship. I reckon one of our passengers ain’t what he seems.”
This, I believe, will be the last episode. There are three or four more chapters ("seasons," if you will) extant -- and unlike the execs behind Jericho or Moonlight, I can be persuaded to bring back the series -- but I think it's time to move on to other things.
c. 2008, Keanan Brand