The Griffinscape exited the Rasa gateway in a brilliant flash of white light. Standing behind Kit in the ship’s helm and navigation center, Tara watched as Kit accelerated toward the green and blue sphere that was their destination; Rasa. It grew larger in the forward window ports until it filled them. Kit altered their course to orbit the planet.
Rex swiveled out of the navigation chair and jumped to his feet. “I’ll make the final arrangements for our landing.”
Kit nodded. “Good, I just want to get this over and done with.”
Rex left the area through the door at the back and head to communications room on the port side of the ship. Tara followed, closing the room’s door behind her. She had questions and the things she thought she knew weren’t adding up. Kit and Quinn acted like nice enough people, but so did every con artist in the galaxy.
Rex paused at the control and eyed Tara along with the closed door at her back. “What’s going on?” he asked.
Tara looked him over. He wore dusty clothes, worn with age and toil. His hat might have belonged to a farmer, his jacket fit a pilot, and his shirt and jeans would have been more befitting to a maintenance worker in the dark depths of Centora city. Somehow the hodgepodge collection fit the man and gave him the feel of a man hardened in truth and reality. He was rugged with sharp edges.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
“Rasa ain’t exactly civilized territory,” Rex said. “If I don’t schedule our landing we’ll likely be shot right out of the sky.”
Tara stepped forward and leaned on the edge of the console between them. “That’s not what I’m talking about. Why are you mixed up in this dirty drug deal?”
Rex eyed her. He noticed the tone of her voice, the white of her knuckles gripping the console and the sadness in her eyes. “You heard Captain Kid, this mess is all my fault.”
Tara nodded. “Is it?”
“Maybe I underestimated you,” Rex said.
She asked, “How so?”
“I figured you a lost cause,” he said. “She made such a nice little tale out of rescuing you, I didn’t expect you’d see through it.”
“Things just aren’t making sense to me,” Tara said. “First she says she’s responsible for what happened to me, then she says she not. She says she hates LX and yet she’s hauling illegal cargo for them. We could have stopped this whole thing back on that Custom’s station, but like you said, she only seems to care about making her money. I don’t trust her. Don’t misunderstand me though, I don’t trust you either.”
Rex smiled. “Smart lady. Figures you’d be a doctor.”
“So,” Tara said, looking him in the eye, “why are you helping her deliver these drugs.”
Rex nodded. “The Griffinscape used to be my ship. I lost her fair and square to our young Captain cause I was drunk and stupid. She offered me a job as her navigator on this trip with the promise of big money, the kind of money that could help me a get a ship of my own again. I didn’t ask questions, guess I probably knew and didn’t want to know, that anything paying that much had to be illegal.”
“The syringe?” Tara asked.
Rex smiled wider and chuckled. “Yeah. I had to look and when I saw what we were carrying, I thought maybe I could stop us short. Set things right, you know?”
“Why did you help her with the Inspector then?” Tara asked.
Rex stopped smiling. He shook his head. “I thought she’d go quietly, but she was ready to turn the whole deal nuclear. If she’d forced a full investigation with the paperwork she had from LX, all the little lies that the government tells itself would start to unravel and all of us, not just the bitchy little kid, but all of us, would spend the rest of our lives someplace very dark and unpleasant. The kind of place where you can know all the dirty little secrets that make the galaxy spin and nobody will ever listen to you.”
“Maybe she was bluffing,” Tara said.
Rex shook his head. “I played poker against her. She doesn’t bluff.”
“We can’t deliver these drugs,” Tara said. “People will die if we do.”
“If you mean that,” Rex said, “I could use your help.”
“To do what?” Tara asked.
“When we enter the atmosphere and maneuver for a landing, we’ll have to pass over an ocean,” Rex said.
Rex said, “If someone were in the starboard engineering room at the right moment and happened to push the emergency release for the lower cargo bay doors, all those drugs would fall into the ocean and sink all the way to the ocean floor.”
“Didn’t you say you were the only one who knew the buyers for this deal and if we don’t deliver they’ll hunt us down?” Tara asked.
Rex nodded. “They’ll hunt the kid and her gray haired sidekick down. She made me help her set this deal in motion using some of my less savory contacts. Like I said, I should have known this was illegal job.”
Tara considered Rex’s story and found it missing pieces, just like Kit’s. “Why would Kit trust you to keep the contacts from her, if this was all her idea?”
Rex laughed. “She didn’t. I kept the contacts from her because without them as insurance I figured I’d be good as dead as soon she figured she didn’t need me anymore. Given what happened back at the station, I think it’s safe to say I was right.”
Tara nodded. His story wasn’t perfect, but the pieces fit well enough to the facts she knew. People have secrets and sometimes those secrets create gaps in the puzzle of events. She figured if the overall picture wasn’t obscured, the missing bits didn’t really matter.
“And why wouldn’t they hunt us down?” Tara asked.
“They don’t even know about you,” Rex said. “As for me, well let’s just say I have some friends in high places who could make things very difficult for these people if I disappear.”
“You really want to do this?” Tara asked.
Rex nodded. “We can’t deliver these drugs.”
Tara left the room and took the elevator down to the first level. She stood next to the controls for the cargo bay doors and watched on a small monitor as the ship entered the atmosphere on course for its rendezvous. When the image showed nothing but water below, she pressed the button. A red siren flashed and alarm blared over the engine room speaker. The lower cargo bay doors swung downward, opening a hole in the bottom of the ship and dropping the LX crates into the water.