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.
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.”