Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 29

CAPTAIN LEWIS AND FOUR ARMED GUARDS WERE WAITING WHEN THE AIRLOCK opened. Amanda almost ran from them, but she was the First Executive Officer on Prosperous and Captain Lewis wasn’t going to intimidate her into giving him the prisoners. She was convinced that Tru wouldn’t want her to back down from this.

“You are not taking the prisoner’s from this ship,” Amanda informed him.

“The hell I’m not. Get out of our way, Amanda.”

“It is XO Wrigley, sir, and if you remove the prisoners, you will be acting against Merchant Raitor regulations. Captain Barnet has the right to interrogate our prisoners before relinquishing—”

Captain Lewis grabbed her arms and slammed her against the wall. He wrapped his hand around her throat, his black eyes glaring into her frightened blue ones. Amanda panicked, dropping her reassurance. He looked down when the pebble hit his shoe and then kicked it away with a sneer.

“Were you going to bludgeon me with a pebble, Wrigley?”

Amanda started to cry, trying to pry his hands off her throat.

“You’re hurting me,” she whimpered.

“I am taking them, and you aren’t stopping me.”

Captain Lewis let her go only to slap her so hard it knocked her off her feet. He walked away, trailed by his guards.

“Computer, tell me how to get to the Brig,” Captain Lewis ordered

“Belay that order, Gracie,” Amanda said.

She got back to her feet, watching Captain Lewis turn. She wanted to run, but Tru would be disappointed in her if she let Captain Lewis get away with this.

“I don’t need a computer. I’ll find an honorable crewman that will tell me,” Lewis told her.

He walked around the corner, leaving Amanda trembling in the middle of the hall.

“Gracie…” Amanda looked down, ashamed of the hot tears running down her face.

Just tell me what you want me to do, Amanda. With Tru incapacitated, I am your ship, not that asshole's.

Amanda looked up at a video node. “Delay him, and I need Kar’esh, Zalet, and Jackie in the Brig immediately. Transport me there now.”

Amanda disappeared from where she stood.

Captain Lewis entered the Brig and stopped. Jackie, all of the ship’s security guards, and the Merchant Raitor Union Rep, Kar’esh, blocked his way. Amanda stood in front of them, her thumbs hooked in the belt loops of her pants. A bruise darkened her skin where he’d slapped her and squeezed her throat. The defiant look on her face only mildly surprised Captain Lewis; after all, she had backup now. It didn’t change his plans. He wasn’t letting a million qubits bounty slip through his fingers.

He motioned his security guards to stop and approached Amanda.

“Are these aliens worth your career, Wrigley?”

Amanda let her head drop to the right just slightly, but it was an action that he’d never seen her do and one that hinted confidence.

“Have you met our union rep?” she motioned to Kar’esh. “Representative Kar’esh?” She stood her full height, crossing her arms over her chest. “He’d like to inform you of a few regulations you’re violating.”

“Captain Lewis,” Kar’esh began, “while a captain is incapacitated, his First Executive Officer is of equal authority to any captain in the fleet while aboard his ship. Striking a fellow officer obeying orders and regulations is an offense that carries a minimum of ten days in the Brig. Under Merchant Raitor regulations, a captain has the right to interrogate prisoners he has captured and if they are still imprisoned fourteen days after their capture, they are to be turned over to Merchant Raitor Patrolmen.”

Lewis laughed with contempt. “You can’t be serious! All this for two lousy prisoners? Wrigley, have you finally lost your mind?”

“Actually, sir, I have never been so clear minded.”

Lewis walked up to Kar’esh, holding his gaze. “Your XO isn’t capable of commanding any ship in this fleet, Kar’esh. She has a disorder—”

“According to the report you filed, in which you recommended Amanda Wrigley to be promoted to First Executive Officer, she had no disorder,” Kar’esh told him, “So if you would like to press the matter about a disorder you failed to report, it would mean I’ll have to issue a request for an investigation into your other reports and your financial records based on a suspicion that you have been illegally supplementing your income while operating a Merchant Raitor Union vessel.”

Lewis turned his glare back to Amanda. “Let’s talk, Wrigley. You and me.”

“I’m listening.”

“In private.”

“Captain Lewis, due to your last outburst, I refuse to be alone with you. If you have something to say, you will have to say it here in front of armed guards and a union rep.”

Lewis smirked. “You’ll wish you never did this, Wrigley.”

“And I’ll add your threat to the report,” Kar’esh said.

“Captain Lewis and his guards are leaving, Gracie,” Amanda told the Oadagan. “Please transport them off Prosperous,” Amanda ordered.

Twenty meters off spaceport, XO? Gracie asked.

Amanda smiled. “No. Onto the spaceport promenade deck.”

Gracie obeyed, but asked, Why couldn’t I transport him into space?

Amanda smiled. “I think people would notice his absence. Jackie, I want you to get to know the prisoners and add their language to Gracie’s translator. I need to talk to them.”

“Talk?” Jackie asked.

“Yes, talk. A foreign concept to you, I’m sure.”

Jackie’s eyes narrowed. Amanda flashed her a smug grin.

XO, Doctor Q’al requested to see you as soon as you are available.

“Transport me there. And thank you for your assistance Kar’esh.”

Amanda was transported out of the Brig and Kar’esh left.

“Return to your posts,” Zalet ordered his guards. “If you need anything, Ensign Rhoades, let me know.”

“Whatever.” Jackie walked over to the cell, smiling at the two Jit inside. She tapped the com outside and started speaking with the male.

Zalet smiled when he realized Jackie hadn’t told Amanda she already knew the language. Most certainly, it was to annoy the XO as usual. At least for a while things were back to normal aboard Prosperous.

He turned away, going into his office. Zalet sat down and stared at the wall for a moment, returning to a trance he'd been in before the attacks. He had to know what he couldn't see yet. He had to see a future that was being written during every breath he took. He only wished that his kind were not the only ones who could see what was coming...

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