Monday, September 26, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 17

Quinn stepped in front of Kit, placing himself between her and the orange collared man. “Is this really necessary?” he asked.
Kit laid a hand on Quinn’s shoulder. “It’s alright,” she said, “he just wants to prove he’s the one with the power.”
The orange collared man produced a leather strap from inside his white coat. The smug confidence sparkling in his eyes proved beyond any doubt he had done this sort of thing in the past. Rex’s grin and stance indicated he not only knew it, but had counted on it. Tara recognized the signs, knew with the right words she could probably end the whole thing right then and there. She remained silent, afraid to draw attention to herself, afraid she might make matters worse rather than better. Because that’s what always happened when she tried to do the right thing.
“Get your clothes off,” the orange collared man said, looking at Kit.
Kit reached inside her jacket and lifted both pistols from her waist. She kept them pointed at the deck. Her eyes pointed at the orange collared man.
“D-don’t d-do,” the orange collared man said, “an-anything you’ll r-regret.”
Kit said, “I’m not getting naked for you.”
The orange collared man straightened his spine. “You agreed to a spanking.”
“Yes, I did,” Kit said. “I didn’t agree to humiliation.”
“Well it’s not a spanking if it’s not on the bare,” the orange collared man said.
Kit glanced at Quinn.
Quinn shrugged. “The man’s got a point. I’m sure you can just bare your bottom though and that’ll satisfy everyone.”
Kit handed the pistols to Quinn and shook her head at the orange collared man. Her fingers unfastened her belt and opened the front of her jeans. She let the jeans fall to her knees and slipped her finger into the waistband of her panties. Her eyes glared into those of the orange collared man. She yanked her panties down until they rested inside the top of her jeans around her knees. Her hands folded together, covering herself in front.
“Let’s get this over with,” she said.
The orange collared man nodded and stepped up to take position beside and behind kit. “Bend down,” he said.
Kit leaned forward resting her palms on her knees. The air in the cargo hold felt sticky. She could hear the breathing of her friends, of Rex, of the orange collared man, and of the arm of inspectors watching from outside the cargo bay. It should have turned her face bright red. Embarrassment should have flushed her skin from head to toe. The recent events in her life had changed her. She felt nothing about her predicament, not even anger.
The strap tapped against her exposed butt. It was soft and worn with use and age. The orange collared man drew it back and snapped it through the air, cracking it against her bulging flesh. Her buttocks wobbled and bounced. A red stripe rose to the surface of her white skin. Kit blinked and breathed like normal, like she was still waiting for the first stroke to fall.
“You know I’m doing you a favor here,” the orange collared man said.
Kit looked through her arm at him. “I agreed to a spanking not a lecture. If your finished, I’ve got a delivery to make and if you’re not, you’re wasting time.”
The orange collared man raised the strap and slashed it down on her buttocks. He didn’t wait for the next stripe to raise, but instead raised the strap again and whipped it through the air toward her waiting backside. His arm began to blur with the speed of his motion as he strapped her naked butt with all the vigor he could muster. The cargo bay echoed with the crack of leather snapping against raw skin and the labored breaths of the orange collared man.
Kit blinked in tune with each impact. She maintained her breathing, controlled and even, unaffected by the sting of the strap. Her butt turned from white to red, to dark red. The redness rose in stripes identical in width to the strap and each stripe brought with it a warmth that built steadily on stripe after stripe until her bottom felt ready to ignite in flames. A tickling sting spread across her naked, bouncing flesh. She felt no remorse and there were no tears in her eyes.
Having landed at least fifty strokes, the orange collared man stopped swinging his arm and consequently, the strap. “We’re done.”
He tucked the strap back inside his coat. Kit straightened and pulled her clothes back into place with her back still to the orange collared man. From the corner of her eye she caught a nod between Rex and the man. It served only to confirm the suspicions already circulating in her head. The orange collared man descended the ramp and joined his army of inspectors. Without a backward glance they left the docking bay.
Kit looked at Rex. “I ought to throw you out the airlock just as soon as we clear the station.”
Rex laughed. “Suit yourself, but you’ll only have yourself to blame when you find yourself being hunted all over the galaxy.”
“You’re not that important,” Quinn said, “or that well liked.”
Rex said, “No, but our cargo is. You get rid of me and you won’t know where to deliver it or to whom, but the people who are expecting it, know who you are. Throw me out the airlock and you might as throw yourself out too.”
Tara said, “We aren’t actually going to deliver this shit are we?”
Kit scowled at Rex. “We don’t have a choice. We’ve accepted the job and money has already changed hands.”
Rex nodded. “Yep, I had you pegged from the moment we met. It’s always all about the money.”
Kit’s hands pressed against her tender backside. “Let’s just get out of here and get the job done.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 16

Fifteen minutes is all it took. The white coated inspectors returned to the cargo bay and reported two at a time to their orange collared leader before lining up at the foot of the loading ramp. Kit watched the flow of traffic with suspicion tainted eyes, but other than the smug grinning of Rex on the opposite side of the loading ramp, she saw nothing amiss. Nothing, until the final two inspectors made their report and a small sealed package exchanged hands ending inside a large pocket in the orange collared man’s outer coat.
The last two inspectors exited the bay, joining their comrades at the bottom of the loading ramp. Kit watched the orange collared man as he too approached the ramp as if he were going to exit. At the last moment, he veered off-course and stopped only inches from Rex. The orange collared man lifted the package out of his pocket and waved it in the small space between himself and Rex.
“I’m sorry Rex, but it seems we have problem,” the orange collared man said.
Rex cocked his head at the package. “What you got there?”
At the orange collared man’s touch the package turned from solid orange to transparent. Inside a small syringe was the only visible object. Tara drew a quick breath at the sight. Kit’s jaw tightened and her instincts screamed for her to run. She stood her ground, having no place to go. Quinn watched with impassivity and Rex kept grinning.
The orange collared man said, “I’m going to have to take you into custody.”
“I was hoping not to have to say anything,” Rex said, his eyes looking over the man’s shoulder to meet Kit’s, “but I’m afraid I ain’t the Griffinscape’s captain no more.”
“And who is?” The orange collared man asked.
Kit stepped forward. “I am. What’s going on here?”
The orange collared man turned around to face Kit. “My inspectors found this syringe and their scanners confirmed it is filled with an illegal narcotic, Zumena.”
“The only drugs on my ship are right here in these crates,” Kit said. “If your inspectors found that syringe on my ship, it could only have come from right here and I think we both know if they’ve opened one of these crates, they’re the ones in trouble here.”
“They found it in your medical bay,” the orange collared man said. “I have to place you under arrest.”
“Why me?” Kit asked, glancing around at her companions. “I’m not the only one here and that syringe is definitely not mine. In fact, I’ve never even seen it before.”
The orange collared man said, “You are the owner and captain of this vessel. That makes you responsible for any contraband found on your ship.”
Rex smirked at Kit. “You wanted to keep the ship.”
Kit glared at Rex. Her instincts told her he was responsible for the mess, but she also knew Tara had been inside the crates. Given the location the Custom’s inspectors said they had found the syringe, it was possible Tara had just been careless. She hadn’t known they were about to dock with a Custom’s station.
“How do I know your inspector’s didn’t just plant that thing?” Kit asked. “How do I know they didn’t open one of these crates and just take a syringe out to create a problem?”
The orange collared man said, “My inspectors know better than to open any of these crates and their search of the ship is completely documented on video.”
Kit said, “Video can be edited easily enough. Why don’t we check these crates and just make sure none of them has been opened.”
“Are you suggesting this syringe came from one of these crates?” the orange collared man asked. “Because if you are, it would appear then that you’re confessing to knowingly transporting illegal narcotics under the guise of legally protected pharmaceuticals.”
Don’t be reckless, Jade’s voice taunted in Kit’s ears. Pushing too far could be disastrous, but Kit knew she needed leverage if she hoped to leave Custom’s station any time soon. An open crate would create doubt regarding the conduct of the inspectors. Doubt gave Kit room to bargain. The only problem remaining, centered on the contents of that open crate which Kit feared would be an exact match for the packaged syringe. If the inspectors learned the crates were full of such syringes, Kit and her crew would find themselves caught up in the midst of a criminal investigation directed by politics, not facts.
Kit said, “I don’t know the exact contents of these crates anymore than you do. What I do know is I don’t trust your inspectors.”
“Your trust, or lack of it, is irrelevant,” the orange collared man said.
“What evidence do you have that the syringe in the bag has ever been handled by any of us?” Quinn asked, stepping forward to offer Kit support.
The orange collared man looked to Quinn. “None. The find is documented as occurring in the ship’s medical bay and the contents are identified as narcotic. However, no DNA, fingerprints or fiber particles were found on or around the syringe.”
Quinn raised an eyebrow at the orange collared man. “And that doesn’t strike you as odd or the least bit suspicious?”
The orange collared man said, “Those are matters for the courts, not me.”
Rex cleared his throat and tipped his hat back. “Surely we can find a way not to involve the courts in this little mix up?”
The orange collared man glanced over his shoulder at Rex. “What do you have in mind?”
Rex said, “You already have the syringe, keep it.”
Kit said, “And we’ll just be on our way without causing you more trouble.”
“Alright,” the orange collared man said. “We’ll handle it your way with one condition.”
Kit shrugged. “What?”
The orange collared man looked her straight in the eye. “You take a spanking for having the audacity to accuse my people of corruption.”
Kit’s face reddened with anger. “We all know that evidence was planted, the only question is by whom.”
The orange collared man shrugged. “Well, if you don’t like my suggestion, I suppose we’ll just have to let the courts sort all this out.”
Consequence aren’t just for other people, Jade taunted in Kit’s ear.
Kit sighed. “Fine, I’ll take your spanking, but fifteen minutes from now, my ship, crew and cargo had better be back on our way.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 15

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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Jade Runner, Part 14

Tara rode the elevator up to the control center fuming over the evidence of betrayal she found in the cargo hold. The doors opened and she stormed forward passing the ship’s library on her right until she stood in the doorway of the helm and navigation center. Kit sat with her back to the door, studying the controls and making course corrections as they approached the docking bay of a large orange station. The navigation chair sat empty and no one else could be seen or heard.
Waiting until the delicate maneuvers needed for docking were complete, Tara stood clenching and unclenching her fists. When Kit’s hands left the control and the ship sat docked in the bay, she asked, “So how much are they paying you?”
Kit spun fast in her chair to face Tara.
“What?” Kit asked, startled and confused by Tara’s presence and accusatory tone.
Tara planted her hands on her hips and shook her head, like a scolding mother. “I just want to know, how much was my life worth?”
Kit blinked. She had planned on telling Tara everything, but she hadn’t counted on Quinn telling her first. The timing could not have been worse. Kit said, “It wasn’t like that.”
“No?” Tara said. She stepped forward and glared down into Kit’s eyes. “What was it like then? Don’t tell me you and your merry band of petty criminals really thought you were doing me a favor?”
Kit looked up into the angry face looming over her. “I’m just trying to make things right.”
“For who?” Tara asked. Her hands twitched at her sides with a growing urge to wrap her fingers around Kit’s neck and squeeze. “For LX? For you and your shipmates? Cause you sure as hell aren’t doing anything good for me.”
“What else can I do?” Kit asked. “I never intended for you or anyone else to get caught up in my mess, but I can’t change what’s happened.”
Tara shook her head. “So you are the thief.”
Kit lowered her gaze. “I am, but it’s not that simple.”
Tara rolled her eyes and laughed. “It’s not that complicated, little girl. You either thought you needed the money or thought you needed the high. Either way, you didn’t stop and think about the consequences of your actions.”
Kit blinked. Tara’s words weren’t adding up to the reality Kit understood. “I’m not a druggie,” Kit said.
“User, dealer, or smuggler,” Tara said, “you’re all part of the same fucked up soup to me.”
Kit stared up into Tara’s eyes. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t play stupid,” Tara said. “I looked in the cargo hold and I know you’re running narcotics for LX.”
Kit’s eyes opened wide. She glanced around behind her, looking out the window to the docking bay beyond. “I’m going to kill him.”
Tara read the truth of shock in Kit’s eyes. “You didn’t know did you?”
Kit shook her head. “I would never do business with LX. They killed my sister.”
Tara blinked as her mind raced to retrace their conversation with new understanding. “What the hell did you steal from them?”
Kit said, “The drug money you were convicted of stealing.”
Tara shook her head. “I wasn’t convicted of stealing drug money. I was convicted for stealing pharmaceuticals. They would never bring anything to do with their narcotics trade to the authorities.”
“But you didn’t steal them?” Kit asked.
“Of course not,” Tara said. “I found out about the narcotics they were slipping into hospital pharmaceuticals and they framed me for theft to discredit my claims with the authorities trying to investigate them.”
Kit nodded. That was exactly how Jade had got caught up in the mess that killed her. There was never enough proof for the authorities to do anything and now it was clear why no one would step forward. Those that even though about it, would end up like Tara did. Kit said, “I’m guessing their tactic worked?”
Tara nodded. “I don’t know for certain, but it’s a good bet the authorities I was working with will find their case falling to pieces without me to back things up.”
“Maybe we can do something about that,” Kit said, “but first we’ve got a more immediate problem.”
“What?” Tara asked.
Kit stood up and signalled for Tara to follow her as she headed toward the elevator at the back of the ship. “We just docked with a customs station and if the inspectors look inside our cargo and see what you saw, we’ll be spending the next twenty years digging ore on some miserable asteroid.”
Tara said, “You’re really not very good at this, you know?”
Kit glanced at Tara as they stepped inside the elevator. “At what?”
“Smuggling,” Tara said. “First of all, you should never go anywhere without knowing what you’re carrying in your hold and second, if you’re carrying illegal goods, it’s a good idea to avoid customs or at least have a plan for getting past them.”
The elevator descended through the ship toward the first level. Kit shook her head at Tara. “You’re starting to remind me of my sister. She always had a load of good advice too. And she had a penchant for offering it up right after the shit hit the fan too.”