The Silent Serpent by J.A. Dowsett – Part 3

If you missed part one of this sci-fi adventure, click here to start at the beginning…

It wasn’t long before they were all assembled in the cargo bay. Well, not everyone, just those between them Captain Claw and Xendri thought were trustworthy. They needed hands to help with the plan, but the more that knew a thing, the less safe that thing was to know. Xendri faced off against the Captain’s choices; Quattro and the ship’s secondary finance officer, Vox, just as Quattro and Vox were eyeing her choice; Nell.

Xendri shrugged. She hadn’t known any of them long, but she liked Nell. The Pentaurii was a good pilot, and new enough to the ship that she kept to herself and didn’t socialize much with the others. Besides, she had that look about her that said she could keep a secret. Probably had loads of them already.

Choosing Quattro made sense for his skills alone, but Vox she couldn’t figure out. Over seven feet tall, Vox was an Urtax; a genderless being made of crystal. He was sentient, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him. He looked like a hunk of rock, only vaguely humanoid in shape. He could stand still for hours, not doing or saying anything, like he was now. Most found him disconcerting at best, but Xendri didn’t have an opinion on him personally. He was much like any other Urtax she’d ever come across and their species was common enough in her corner of the galaxy.

“If she’s here, then who’s at the controls?” Quattro asked, indicating Nell with a thumb.

“No one,” she responded, shrugging. “Technically a pilot isn’t required in Jump-space, seeing as there’s nothing to hit, but just to be safe, I rewired the alarms to sound down here should anything show up on the scanners. We’ve got hours until I’m needed to take us out of the gate, so…”

“Nell’s right,” Claw agreed, “and the risk is worth it at this point. We’ve got a dangerous situation on our hands, but it’s also a profitable opportunity.” This caught everyone’s attention. “These crates contain what amounts to a sizeable fortune. Provided we get away with this, I’m willing to share it with the four of you in equal cuts.”

“You won’t be dividing the funds through the usual channels?” Vox inquired, his monotonous voice somehow reverberating from his whole body at once.

“No,” Captain Claw stated. “That’s where you come in, Vox. These crates contain unrefined gold. I’m going to need you to quietly and discreetly find someone willing to take it off of our hands in exchange for the kind of currency we can actually use. Xendri, I’m going to have you on top of a crate directing Quattro’s drill with a scanner and your own intuition. Nell, I’m going to have you do the same for me.”

“We’re stealing the merchandise?” Nell questioned. Despite the question, she didn’t seem bothered by that fact.

“More accurately, we’re leaving the merchandise intact and stealing the part they didn’t put on the manifest,” Claw clarified. “I consider that fair exchange for putting armed explosives on my ship without my knowledge. Does anyone take issue with my plan?”

Silence hung in the cargo bay for a beat longer than was comfortable.

“Good,” Claw finished. “And Vox, find us some empty food-storage containers. We’re going to need places to hide this stuff. Remember, the less people find out about this, the less we’ll have to share the profits. Okay, let’s get to work.”

The next few hours were tense but productive. They worked as quietly as possible, so as not to attract attention, and they prayed none of the rest of the crew would wake up and take issue with what they were up to. Before long, sacks and small crates were filled discreetly with gold nuggets and Xendri and Quattro were busy filling the cavities they’d emptied with whatever bits of scrap metal they could find to approximate the weight, just in case anyone should notice a discrepancy on the receiving end.

“We’re nearing the gate,” Nell warned, checking the time.

“Alright,” Claw conceded. “We’re almost done here. Nell, Vox, take what you can carry and find somewhere to hide it upstairs. Even better if I don’t know where it is. We’ll follow with the rest when we’re done here. Then, Nell, take us out.”

She nodded, lifted two sacks of gold, and took off up the ladder. Vox followed more slowly with a crate in his arms, passing it up to her before taking the rungs himself. Xendri fit the last of the cargo container lids back in place before joining Claw’s side. “What about the bombs?”

Claw frowned. “I have some thoughts about that, but for now, one thing at a time, alright?”

Xendri nodded, picking up her crate. “You’ll figure it out.”

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