Penny flexed her arm without thinking and a dull ache burned its way through her nervous system. The Doc has swapped out the destroyed muscle for a freshly cloned one ten minutes ago and the pain inhibitors hadn’t fully kicked in yet. A wicked scar curled across her arm like a snake and Penny wondered what design of tattoo would best hide the mark. She’d been told not to use the arm too much until tomorrow, but was already getting impatient.
Pity the armour couldn’t be replaced as easily. The plate over her bicep had a hole clean through it. Normally this would be as easy as putting the broken part in storage until she reached a Ranger Station and swapping it out for a spare, but with her ship anywhere up to five sectors away by now that wasn’t happening.
She’d already checked up on Wu, Sheriff Rose was keeping tabs on him in the infirmary while the Doc went over his own injuries. In another couple of hours it would be Penny’s turn. Deciding there was no use fighting it anymore Penny began to compose her report to headquarters.
Sheriff Rose kindly gave Penny access to the HPG uplink in the office. Penny made a mental note to have Ranger HQ send them a gift basket for all their help. She sat herself down on a waiting bench in the lobby and logged in.
When Penny opened her eyes again she was sitting on a park bench overlooking a field of sunflowers. Hints of the scent gently wafted around as the simulated winds jostled the petals.
Penny called up Ranger HQ and waited for the connection to be made.
Seera’s smiling face filled the vidwindow in front of Penny. “Good day Ranger Dreadful. How may I be of assistance?”
“Hi Seera.” Penny said. “I have a report to deliver to Captain Harrison. Can you record for me?”
Seera closed her eyes for a moment and nodded. “Proceed when ready.”
“Suspect: Wu Gang Shu arrested on July 14th, local date. Suspect is a member of the Han cell of the Black Mask Society and was believed to be the personal assistant/bodyguard for ‘Sifu’, the cell’s Incense Master. Suspect sustained a minor wound to right shoulder and another to the right ankle while resisting arrest and is currently recuperating in the custody of the local constabulary.”
Seera nodded. “Am I to surmise that you are beginning with Sifu’s assistant because Sifu herself remains at large?”
That worried Penny. Seera did not normally speak that way. Captain Harrison must have set Seera’s parameters in the event of this report. “Sifu is currently still at large. You can add ‘Grand Theft of Federal Property’ to her charge sheet.”
“What Federal property has she stolen?”
Penny put her head in her hand. “One SC-210 Deep Strike Fighter, registration RPED2109436 ‘Black Bess’. Plus all contents sans one daypack. Suggest ship registration be added to the watch list immediately.”
Seera’s facial expression didn’t change, but a note of disappointment entered her voice. “You have allowed her to steal your own star fighter?”
“Well, I wouldna’ used the word ‘allowed’ myself, but yes the stolen fighter had been issued to me.”
“Have you checked with the Port Authority as to the heading your Star Fighter was on when it left?”
“Yes. Uploading navigation data from the satellite network now.”
“Downloading. Do you have anything further to add?”
“I would like to make an official complaint regarding Ernutet Garrison Captain Hollister. Captain Hollister was openly insubordinate during the attempt to arrest Sifu and Mr Wu. Had Captain Hollister given his full cooperation as was his duty, the chances of Sifu escaping would have been significantly smaller. His men were unnecessarily aggressive with the civilian population and they were proportionally unenthusiastic when it came to apprehending the suspects themselves.
I submit the feed from my nanoputer as evidence of his conduct and of my own in regards to Mr Wu’s injuries.”
Seera frowned. “It is unbecoming of a Ranger to lay blame on the actions of the local authorities Ranger Dreadful.”
Penny felt her face flush red hot. “Ranger or not I’m only one woman, when I’ve got support personnel who don’t even want to do the job they’re paid for even a mixed victory like yesterday’s feels like a miracle. If Captain Harrison reviews my feed and still feels my performance was inadequate he can take whatever action he likes, but as a Ranger with my record I’d appreciate the benefit of the doubt.”
Seera nodded again. “Very well Ranger Dreadful. Preliminary instructions are to detain Mr. Wu and deliver him into federal custody here at Ranger Head Quarters. You are to requisition passage for the both of you on the first jumpship off Ernutet and make your way to Mars with all speed. Failure to complete these instructions will result in disciplinary action. Is that understood?”
Penny grit her teeth. “Yes Seera. Perfectly understood.”
Suddenly Seera’s standard parameters took over again and her usual beaming smile lit up her face. “Good day Ranger Dreadful.”
Penny put her face in her hand and exhaled. “Thank you Seera. Dismissed.”
“I’m gonna get ‘choo son.”
A grin tugged insistently at the corner of Wu’s mouth and he had to fight hard to keep it from spreading across his face.
On the other side of the cell Bristol gripped the bars that separated them so tight the colour drained from his knuckles. Wu kept his eyes closed, but he could hear Bristol shaking with rage.
In the cell on the other side Wu could hear Brook breathing heavily as she completed her third set of tricep dips. She’d been through sit-ups, star jumps, squats, leg-raises, clap push-ups. Wu had only ever seen her rest when she was stretching.
All the other cells on the opposite side held nothing more intimidating than the town drunks.
“You ‘ear me?” Bristol spat.
Wu sat in the middle of his cell with his legs crossed and his palms turned upwards on his knees. He finally found a use for all those meditation exercises and other ‘internal’ aspects of his martial arts.
Wu heard Bristol growl like a wolf with a thorn in its paw and smack the bars again.
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