Episode 90: The Amber Sting

“The special… ‘seating’ you requested was simple enough to install,” said Amela, looking out from the back of the luggage compartment of the trolley that ferried cargo between ships at the spaceport. A spaceport employee was dutifully driving them both, knowing enough to not listen to the conversation taking place behind him.

“Good,” said Igneous, warily looking out across the open space between ships.

“I hope it’s fine that we put it in the cargo hold instead of with the seating. We don’t offer many passenger seats, and under the circumstances…”

“It’s fine,” said Igneous. “I’m not a big mingler.”

“Naturally, I imagine that you have some contingency plan for retribution in the event that we double cross you while you are indisposed, so rest assured that the Yellow Jackets are professionals and you’ll reach Mandrake safely. Barring the standard risks of space travel and smuggling operations, of course.”

“Of course. Why did you name the vessel Amber Sting?”

Amela blinked, not sure about the change in questioning.

“I’m sorry?”

Igneous pointed one of her coal-red fingers out the side of the trolley at the nearing saucer-style ship.

“I’m curious about the name. You’re the Yellow Jackets, it’s got a yellow hull, so I understand Amber, but none of the weapons look small-but-potent or sharp enough to be called Sting. Unless you’ve got hidden weaponry. Or is it a metaphor for how the Yellow Jackets operate? Sting operations?”

“No, it’s… we’re the Yellow Jackets. It’s an animal from Earth, it has a stinger. Yellow Jackets are like wasps or bees.”

“Ah! I see. I know about bees. Do Yellow Jackets also make honey?”

Amela looked at the saucer as they drew nearer to it.

“I actually don’t know. We just liked the name when we started up, and it’s served us well. Vara suggested it, she probably knows more than I know.”

“Not important. How many others on the saucer?”

“Pilot and copilot, two other passengers, four guards. One of the other passengers is even going to Mandrake.”

“Mandrake? But why?”

“I could ask you the same.”

“Don’t get cute, human,” said Igneous. “I need secrecy.”

“We always assume that,” said Amela. “This client even paid us instead of threatening us like you did.”

“Is your client a human female? Cybernetic reticle over one eye? I wouldn’t expect her, but-”

“Not human, not female, no reticle,” said Amela. “Not that it’s your business.”

“Good. That’s my only concern. I’m sorry, I’ve got some complications that I need to avoid.”

“Don’t we all,” said Amela. “Anyway, if you’re, uh… ‘cold tub’ stops working with the ice, we have liquid nitrogen in a container nearby, as per your request, and all of it will be easily unloaded onto Mandrake. You’ll have to hook up the nitrogen yourself, but it should only take a minute or two outside of the tub.”

“That’s fine,” said Igneous. “If I can’t last a minute like that, then I’m already too far gone. Your pilot has my instructions for where and how to set me down onto Mandrake?”

“Yes, and the Amber Sting will be scanning for any signals like that when it enters an appropriate range.”

“Good,” said Igneous. “Let them know to speak to me if there are any troubles on following my instructions.”

The trolley pulled up to the cargo ramp of the saucer and Amela nodded toward the ice-filled tub.

“I’m ready to lock you up now, safe and sound for the trip. Anything else before boarding?”

“I trust you to be professionals about this,” said Igneous. “And as you said, the warning isn’t even necessary. But don’t double-cross me.”

“Right,” said Amela. “Let’s get you in the tub.”

***

Vox Cul-Dar leaned back into the chair. It was cramped by human standards, but he found it comfortable enough. The pilot of the Amber Sting approached, looking over his itinerary.

“Is there a problem?” asked Vox.

“These instructions for your destination and retrieval, I’m not sure that-”

“Don’t worry about me,” said Vox. “I can survive on Mandrake.”

“Yes, but step one of your instructions for finding the site to drop you only rules out half the planet.”

“The later instructions refine it in greater detail.”

“Yes, but are you sure that you’ll be able to get to where you’re trying to go?”

“Not at all,” said Vox. “But I do believe that I can make do under the circumstances.”

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