Kit and Tara entered the cargo bay. Rex and Quinn turned toward them as they made their way across the deck to the loading ramp where the two men were standing. With a single look at Rex, Kit could tell he knew what she had just found out and was already coming up with excuses to try and placate her. Quinn simply appeared baffled by their presence.
“What’s up?” Quinn asked.
“Have you seen anybody yet?” Kit asked.
Rex said, “Just a liaison officer. The inspection team will be with us shortly.”
Kit ignored Rex, keeping her eyes on Quinn. “Do you know what we’re carrying?”
Quinn looked around the room. “Medical supplies.”
Tara laughed. “I wouldn’t give that shit to a stuck pig.”
Quinn raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”
“These aren’t medical supplies,” Kit said, waving her arm at the crates filling the hold. “They’re narcotics and if one of those inspectors open up just one of these crates and realizes that, we’re all going to spend the next couple of decades rotting in some very dark holes.”
Rex shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Relax Kid. They ain’t going to open those crates and as long as you and your friends keep your mouths shut, they ain’t never going to know what’s inside them.”
Kit scowled at Rex’s cocky smile. “And how do you figure that? Are we bribing someone to make sure of it?”
Rex chuckled. “Bribery is a risky business. Fortunately, I’ve got transport papers from LX Pharmaceuticals that confirm we’re transporting an authorized shipment of medical supplies to the colony on Rasa. If any of these inspectors opens up a crate or box marked with LX’s ID code, they’ll be in violation of government contracts and in a hell of a lot more trouble than we’d be if we were found to be knowingly transporting illegal products.”
Tara stepped forward, getting closer to Rex. “It sounds like you’ve done this before.”
Rex nodded, tipping his hat’s rim in her direction. “I work for anyone with legitimate transport papers and I don’t peek inside the boxes. If these aren’t medical supplies, I don’t know it because I’ve got papers that say that’s exactly what they are.”
Kit said, “You know exactly what’s in these crates and you knew it long before you ever conned me into letting it on board my ship.”
Rex said, “Don’t get all high and might with me little Miss. If you care about what you were going to be transporting you would have come along to the pick up or at the very least have asked me before agreeing to do the job. The fact is you liked the money and didn’t give a damn what you were doing to earn it.”
Kit raised her voice. “You said this was a legal transport.”
Rex raised a finger to his lips and made a hushing sound. “You don’t want to attract attention.”
“I ought to drop kick your ass out the airlock if we get off this station,” Kit said.
Tara smiled. “Can I help?”
Rex shook his head. “I told you this was a legit job and it is. These papers,” he said, waving the papers in the air, “say so and that’s all that matters.”
“How do I know you aren’t trying to screw me and get your ship back?” Kit asked.
“You don’t,” Rex said. He tipped his hat back so his eyes were clearly visible. “You’re just going to have to trust me, because if you don’t and you tell those custom officers what you think you know, you’ll only be causing yourself trouble. Of course, I think you already know that.”
Tara said, “I vote we just tell them and take our chances on these people believing this scum bag set us all up.”
Quinn shook his head. “It won’t play out that way. We get caught here, confessing or otherwise, and we’re all done for. Trust me, I know how these things work.”
Rex nodded. “Listen to the man. You two little ladies should just go on up to the mess hall and fix us all something to eat. We’ll handle the big bad inspectors and all you need to do is keep your mouths shut until we’re off this station. Think you can handle that?”
Kit said, “This is my ship. I’ll give the orders and if you don’t like it I can leave you and your cargo right here.”
“Suit yourself,” Rex said, “but if you two don’t get your game faces on and change your attitudes, none of us will be leaving here.”
The bay doors opened and a small army of white coated inspectors walked up the ramp led by a man with an orange collar showing up through the top of his coat. He stopped in front of Rex and didn’t even glance at the others. Kit figured the two men knew each other and that made her even more nervous, but she kept the expression off her face. Tara put on a smile like she was welcoming old friends only the look in her eyes spoke of fire and brimstone.
The orange collar man said, “Ship’s manifest?” He held out his hand.
Rex handed over the papers. “Appreciate it if you can make it quick. These supplies are needed yesterday on Rasa.”
The man nodded. “Sure thing, Captain Rex.” He turned back to his army of inspectors. “Skip the cargo hold boys and give me a quick check of the passenger areas.”
The white army marched aboard and head for the stairs and elevator in equal numbers. Kit, Tara and Quinn stood off to the side and watched as the inspectors disappeared from sight. Each of them wanted to make Rex pay for his subterfuge, but it was only possible if they were willing to sacrifice themselves as well. Rex grinned at them, leaning comfortably against the ship’s frame at the top of the loading ramp. If he had nerves or a conscience, he had buried it so deep and so long ago that even he would have trouble recognizing it. Willing or not, they were all smugglers and that gave Rex every advantage.