Dust: Chapter 09 Part 1

Chapter 9: Shipping Sardines

[Hey Tachi. If you were to make a recipe for ‘humble pie’ what do you reckon you’d put in it?]

Tachi gave the matter serious consideration. Which only went to show how long we’d been sealed in here. [I would have to say that only pure, unadorned tofu could possibly be bland enough for ‘humble pie’. Though you would have to prepare the filling and the pastry separately, so as not to contaminate the cold tofu with any flavour from the pastry.]

[Wow.] Kitty said. [That’s… actually that’s perfect. It’s technically good for you, but so hideously bland that you could only really enjoy maybe the first couple of mouthfuls, after that the punishment is that you just have to keep eating.]

[That sounds horrible.] Atom said. [Why would anyone want to eat that?]

[No-one wants to eat humble pie, it’s a punishment.] I told him.

[Actually it’s a metaphor.] Tachi helpfully explained. [Someone who is eating ‘humble pie’ is actually just admitting that they were wrong.]

[Dust asked because it’s his fault we’re here in the first place.] A smug Kitty said to Atom.

For shits and giggles I had a timer running in my Neupro. Every time Kitty made a snide comment about this all being my fault I reset the timer, which kept a record of the longest time in small red numbers above the timer. She was slowing down, that had been a whole 54 minutes and 32 seconds since the last one.

We drove our rental car all the way from Melbourne to Albury-Wodonga. For those of you who aren’t from around here it is not so nice they named it twice. It’s so nice it crosses the state border between New South Wales and Victoria, known as Albury on the New South Wales side and Wodonga on the other.

A-W has almost no CCTV network once you step off the train platform. We went straight to the nearest used car lot and drove off with the machine the owner looked keenest to get rid of.

From there we filled her up with biodiesel, pointed her north and stomped on the pedal.

As slow as metropolitan Australia is to keep up with new trends in tech, the rural parts of the country are even worse. An electric car would have got us all the way to Queensland, but unless you’re travelling from one major city to another the infrastructure for recharging the batteries simply isn’t there. The way hydrogen fuel cell tech kept wafting its scent under the public’s nose without actually producing anything encouraged the government to hold off on rolling out a charging station program to get country Australia off chem fuels. Neither of the major parties were willing to risk laying out the funds only for the whole thing to get superseded by the new tech.

So we got us a ratty old bomb that only needed to last a week and pushed her as far as she’d go.

Had Tachi and I been whole we could have handled the driving in shifts, which would have cut our travel time down to only a couple of days. As it stood, Kitty had to do all the driving, something she was not in the least bit impressed with. An acidic ‘Thanks Dust’ became Kitty’s response to just about everything Tachi and I asked of her and inspired me to set up the timer.

She kept bugging me to let her talk to Atom, seeing as that was apparently her payment for this job. It became harder and harder to argue with her, so by the time we were driving through Sydney I relented. At our next stop she could chat to Atom for a couple of hours.

Kitty pulled over right on the side of the highway and declared that our next stop.

Fucking hackers.

I put my feet up and tried to get some sleep, which was surprisingly easy considering she’d parked us right beside the morning rush. The last traces of yesterday’s adrenaline were now completely tapped out. The last thought I clearly remember having was that I was surprised Kitty didn’t need any sleep. She’d gone through everything we had and she drove all night.

Our journey didn’t get any easier as by Sydney we still weren’t halfway there. Another couple of days of Kitty pulling twelve-hour shifts behind the wheel and further three-hour chat sessions with Atom and we were in Cairns. My home-town.

I didn’t have time to feel nostalgic about the place and the only real advantage being on my home turf gave me was that I could give Kitty directions without using my GPS.

On the way up, starting around when we first crossed the Queensland border the day before I sent the word out to my ‘redistribution’ contacts in Australasia. I was hoping one of them might be in the area, or at least in a position to charge us over a barrel for passage on their vessel. Sadly it was one of the those rare occasions where every one of my smuggling contacts and everyone they knew were all out of the area and wouldn’t be back for a fortnight at the earliest. Even considering I knew my way around town, I wasn’t keen on holing up anywhere within the jurisdiction of the Federal Police for that long.

The closest thing we got to a break was when one of my people told me they’d left ‘the container’ in town and could arrange for it to be transported out of the country. Once we’d got it ready.

Breaking that particular piece of news to Kitty was all sorts of fun.
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