Old Wounds Chapter 04 Part 2

Penny leaned in towards the camera some more. “So what’cha callin’ for Dylan? Official Ranger business is supposed to be run through Seera.”

Sundance smiled slyly. “Well you know me girlfriend. I trust that glowing pixie as far as I can throw her little digital behind. No I heard through the grapevine that a certain Ex-ranger had holed up on a particularly unpleasant periphery rock and was leading the local resistance there.”

Penny’s composure remained largely the same, but Wu saw her hands on the console snap into fists.

“Who’d you hear this from?”

“Ranger Wayne just rotated out of duty in the Pantheon of Saints. When I caught up with him he said the Black Mask Society have been making a major push in that area. Especially on St. Aloysius.”

Wu perked up at that. “Aloysius? The locals there hate us almost as much as the Feds.”

“That would be the first thing that caught my attention yes.” Sundance replied. “I dug into it a little and it wasn’t long before I found this:”

A still image appeared in the corner of the screen. It was blurry from movement but the resolution brought out the details in the black ranger armour clear as day.

He’d even left his name tag on.

“Rodgers.” Penny muttered.

“I figured you’d want first dibs on this. But with your perp in tow I guess…”

“No.” Penny said suddenly. “He’s mine. I’ll put in a course for Aloysius and head out there immediately.”

“Really?” Wu asked, one eyebrow raised. “What about me?”

Sundance tipped his hat to Penny. “You do what you gotta do Ranger. I’m just passing on your intel like you asked. Sundance out.”

Penny saluted the camera. “Thank you Dylan. Dreadful out.”

And with that the screen returned to the progress bar, which reported that the scan was complete.

Wu rounded on Penny. “What the hell Ranger? You won’t go against your orders when a life is on the line but this is okay?”

Penny grabbed the collar of his jacket and pulled his face up to hers. “You know damn well I said if you could give me anything on Rodgers I’d have let you go back on Ernutet. Now I know he’s on Aloysius, I am NOT letting him get away again.”

Penny released him and Wu returned to his seat. He shook his head at her. “Typical fed. Your needs come before anyone else. What about Hae Lee? You think she’ll be happy you’re keeping this ship for however long you want?”

Penny summoned a vid-window displaying the navigation data in her augmented vision. Without so much as a sidewards glance she said. “If it means more time to spend with you, Hae Lee would let me take this thing on a round-trip of the whole spiral arm. If you want me to give her this ‘nudge’ of yours you’ll sit tight and keep the whining to yourself.”

Wu seethed quietly, his jaw clenched. But he pushed away from the pilot’s console before he did anything he would regret.

“Good.” Penny said, then she put enough emphasis on her next words that Wu knew she was putting a new command into his collar. “Stay in that chair.”

Sure enough, Wu heard the collar ping to indicate it had received the new command.

Penny turned back to the console, made herself comfortable in her chair and turned her attention towards her own Headspace.

 

When Penny opened her eyes again she was standing in a field of sunflowers.

She’s modelled her personal Headspace after the fields out the back of her parent’s property on Bast.

Being surrounded by the places she used to run and play through for hours as a kid never failed to calm her.

But right now Penny had work to do.

“Summon Seera.” Penny commanded the air.

There was a flash of light beside her and Seera’s feminine form appeared in a glowing outline of electric blue.

“Good day Ranger Dreadful, how may I help you?”

“I need you to relay a message to Ranger High Command.”

Seera nodded. “Go ahead.”

“I believe I’m being followed by the Black Mask Society, who are likely attempting to retrieve their companion. I have considered my options and I believe my best course of action will be to Run Silent for the next little while. At least until I can lose them.”

“Are you sure Ranger?” Seera said, not a hint of suspicion in her voice. “Would you prefer we coordinated with the navy for additional protection?”

“We’re too far away from any naval vessels in the immediate area. I need to go quiet and drop out of sight for a while. Maybe take a long detour, see if I can shake them off.”

“If you believe that is wise Ranger, I will pass that on.”

“I believe it is essential.”

Seera nodded again. “Very well Ranger Dreadful. I will pass this on to Captain Harrison for you. Be advised that you will only be granted three weeks of silent running, after which you must report in to Ranger High Command with your exact location and the current status of your mission. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary charges being laid against you.”

Penny nodded back to her. “I’m well aware of the risks.”

“Understood. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No Seera.” Penny saluted. “That will be all.”
“Then good luck, Ranger.”

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Old Wounds Chapter 04 Part 1

Chapter 04

Wu parked himself in the copilot’s seat and waited for Penny to finish locking him out of the controls. She’d put his personal area network on the exceptions list shortly after she’d taken control of the ship, but now she was locking him out of the manual controls as well.

She hadn’t done this already for safety reason. In an emergency, if Wu needed to steer the ship out of danger and Penny and Hae Lee were unavailable he would need access to at least the manual controls. The perils of deep-space travel made the trade-off in security more than worth it. But right now Penny was of sound mind and body and she needed to make sure Wu didn’t touch anything she didn’t want him to.

“Alright. That’s that.” Penny said. “You make yourself comfortable there Mr Wu. And I’ll go back to the exciting life of software checks and system scans.”

Wu swept another mouthful of stir-fry into his mouth with his chopsticks. “Mmm-hmm.”

Penny slumped her armoured body into the pilot’s chair and stared at the status monitor for a moment, watching the system scan itself for errors and bad sectors.

Penny started on the noodles first and tried to make as little a slurping noise as she could.

“So…” Penny said after a moment. “This is riveting.”

Wu chewed on his bamboo shoots for a moment. “Yup.”

Penny let that hang in the air while the progress bar at the bottom of the screen inched forward again.

Then she turned to Wu and asked. “So how far have you and Hae Lee gone exactly?”

Wu smirked and got his food down before answering. “Foul two.”

Penny blinked for a second. “What?”

Wu fished around in his stir-fry for another broccoli. “Baseball terms.”

“Yeah I know that.” Penny said. “But that’s measured in bases. First base is kissing…”

“Exactly.” Wu replied. “But we haven’t made it to first base, she keeps hitting fouls.”

“Really?” Penny took another look at Wu. “Because I got the impression you and her…”

“Nooo.” Wu said, shutting her down. Then he nervously glanced towards the door. “But I would like to talk to you about that. It’s just… could we have this conversation ‘in private’.”

Penny knew what Wu referred to. Private Chat meant the two of them speaking over the Personal Area Networks on their nanoputers instead of speaking aloud.

Penny reached into her nanoputer’s system and set up a secure channel, one that Wu could only manipulate through audio and with severely restricted volume limits.

[Okay, how’s that?] Penny asked when the connection declared itself complete. Wu heard the words as though Penny were throwing her voice right behind his ear, though her lips never moved.

[Loud and clear Ranger.]

[So what did you want to talk about?]

[I need you to give Hae Lee a gentle nudge. She’s kind of throwing herself at me. I’ve walked in on her in the shower three times and yet she keeps ‘forgetting’ to lock the door.]

Penny shrugged. [She’s making sure you get a look at the goods.]

[Oh… I’ve seen them.] Wu nodded. [And they are indeed good. But she reminds me of an ex I had in university.]

[Hey hang on, that ain’t really fair on Hae Lee now. You can’t punish her for your ex’s mistakes.]

[She reminds me because she’s doing the same things that annoyed me about my ex. She wants me to settle down, start a family, change the direction of my entire life to better suit the idea she’s got in her head. I’m a revolutionary, I’m going to spend the rest of my life fighting the Federation or rotting in prison, neither of which is going to mix well with her dreams of a white picket fence.]

Penny noticed the progress bar was just over three quarters of the way through, she kicked back and put her boots up on the console.

[Alright, I’ll talk to her. I don’t know what I’m gonna to say but I’ll take a whack at it. Gotta warn you though, if the promise of running her own ship isn’t enough to keep her from helping you, there may not be a way.]

A melody of beeps, the consoles’ hailing alert, cut Wu off before he could reply. With the system in maintenance mode the ship’s backup computer was handling the systems and its AR interface burned out years ago, according to Hae Lee. No-one ever remembered to replace it.

Penny checked the screen for the hail I.D.

“Mmmph?” Penny said aloud.

Wu tried not to look like he was reading the I.D. out of the corner of his eye. It wasn’t an official government channel, he could tell that much.

Penny smirked at the screen and hit the receive button.

A voice like that of a cartoon chipmunk blared out of the speakers.

“Hiiiiiiidddeeee Hooooooooe.”

Penny laughed. “Dylan!”

“What’s up girlfriend?” The speaker asked, now sounding like a defensive linebacker mimicking one of the cheerleaders.

“Eurgh.” Penny made a show of rolling her eyes. “It’s a long story. I’m haulin’ in a perp to headquarters.”

“Ooooh, well aren’t you just the eager-beaver. Who ya got?”

“See for yourself.” Penny slid her chair to the side and beckoned Wu over. “Wu, may I introduce Ranger Sundance.”
Out of sheer curiosity, Wu rolled his own chair over to the pilot’s console.
“Dylan, this is Wu Gang Shu, bodyguard of the Incense Master to the BMS’ Tang Sing cell.”

As Wu had expected, the figure on the other side of the screen was a man in ranger armour. Everything else was a bit of a shock. He wore his helmet open, so he could perch a white ten-gallon hat over his head of radiant blond hair. Upon seeing Wu he beamed a friendly smile, revealing perfect teeth. He tipped his hat to him. “Pleased to meet’cha Mr Wu. I hope you’re looking after my girl here.”

Wu smirked at him. “This may shock you, but she and I are not friends.”

Ranger Sundance winked. “Give our some girl time, she grows on you.”

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