Swift Fox and the Pirates of the Jackai, Part Thirty
Hangar Bay, Barrow’s Revenge
The Mavericks and Nighthawks returned to roost without any problems. None of them suffered any damage, thanks to the nimble piloting skills of the squadron and due to the fact the Jackai never even had an opportunity to fire. Once the hangar doors were closed, the pilots began unloading the prisoners and their new passenger.
“Fanger,” Talia called out as she saw the extra figures, most in irons. “Gather a security detail and take anyone in irons to the brig.” She studied the Pantheran with the pilots and walked over directly to him. “You’re a long way from home.”
“You must be the chief engineer,” Townes stated, nursing his left arm. His knowledge of the Revenge didn’t come from spying or intelligence reports, but rather the wonder of the ship itself. Most of the crew was well known throughout the space lanes. “I’d like to speak with Captain Clarendale.”
“Not before you thee the doctor to have that arm bandaged properly,” Senia announced. “There will be more than enough time to talk to the Captain after that.”
“Whole heartedly agreed,” Dawkins said as he stepped forward. He looked over the Pantheran Agent, then moved to Senia’s side. “Well done, Left-tenant. Minor injuries and no fatalities. If you were under my command, I’d be giving you a commendation. Fortunately, I still have some pull with the flyboys still in the Royal Air Corps.” Senia nodded her thanks, hiding a slight embarassment. Dawkins then turned to face Townes. “Dr. Re is the finest doctor in the region. A bit of a stubborn chap, mind you, but he does his work well. He’ll have that wing fixed and then you can see Captain Clarendale. No doubt, she has already been appraised of the situation, and is preparing to talk with you immediately as we speak.” Dawkins turned to two of his pilots, giving them a casual salute, which they returned in kind. “Taggart. Edgewick. Escort the Pantheran to the medical bay at once, and then inform the Captain of his whereabouts.” Both nodded quickly and began to lead Townes toward the lifts.
Dawkins looked to Talia and smiled. “Excellent work on the guns, Midnight. Gave us good cover fire. Took that Jackai ship right out of the fight.”
“Don’t thank me, Blackie,” Talia smiled and drapped her arm over his shoulder. “Give credit to Fanger and Snowy. Krillis was helping me make sure the engine was kept in good working order during the fight.”
“Snowy!” Dawkins said as he rubbed his chin. “New crew member. Transient, I believe. Going back home to Canin, is that right?”
“Yeah,” Talia remarked with a sigh, as the two began walking the length of the tarmac back to Dawkins’ office. Behind them, the other pilots were helping the security detail transport the prisoners to the brig and making certain the fighter craft were securely locked down. “Shame too, she’s good on the guns, plus she’s got a knack with a decent dinner as well.” Talia chuckled lightly and the two went off into Dawkins office. As they disappeared, so too did everyone else from the tarmac of the hangar bay.
Snowy and Krillis had finished shutting down their work stations and making sure the weapons systems were powered down. As they began to make their way back to the lifts, they ran into the small duo of Taggart and Edgewick as they were escorting the Pantheran Agent. The Agent only glanced in Krillis and Snowy’s direction, letting out a snort as he passed, compared to the more polite calls of ‘excuse me, coming through’ from Taggart and Edgewick.
Krillis carefully went to the side, shooting Toiwnes a bit of a glare when the large Pantheran bumped him. The Agent turned and looked to Krillis, nodding in an apology. “Sorry about that,” Townes said in a flat voice.”
“Hallways can be a bit thin at times, lad,” Krillis replied. “No worries at all.” Krillis rushed Snowy along, looking back as Taggart and Edgewick disappeared around a corner with Townes.
“I’m a bit curious to find out why someone of his type was on that ship,” Snowy commented.
Krillis looked to her and snorted a laugh. “Could be any number o’ reasons, Snowy.”
“Think we’ll ever find out?”
“Let me tell you somethin’,” Krillis said as he opened the doors to the lifts. He continued his thought as Snowy stepped on board. “There’s only two people on board this ship that Captain Clarendale confides in b’sides the Doctor an’ Mr. Gor’lan.” He nudged Snowy lightly. “An’ that’s the cook. An’ no doubt, because the Captain has called for you in the past couple of details involvin’ these brutes, you’ll probably get first hand knowledge o’ what’s ’bout ta take place.”
“Wait! We’ll be serving tea?” Snowy said in some shock. “How does that guarantee we’ll find out.”
“An Agent like Townes knows Vulpine tradition,” Krillis explained. “Vulpines respect anyone who can offer an’ serve tea, it’s part o’ their culture. Has been since the time o’ the Great Crossin’. Now, Captain knows that agent ain’t gonna serve tea, but she’ll be able ta detect any trace o’ a lie by the way he drinks it.”
“And we’ll be there to serve it,” Snowy added, almost a question, but making a statement.
“An’ Doctor Re will be there, as he’ll most likely be examinin’ his injuries,” Krillis went on. “Take it ya noticed how he was holdin’ his arm. An’ Lonny’ll be there. An’ Dawkins. An’ in this case, most likely the Left-tenant will be there as well.” The doors of the lift opened and Krillis held out his hand to let Snowy off first, continuing as they disembarked. “An’ so will we. So, that means we best get ourselves ready.”
Townes was taken care of quickly, his injuries were minor. Dawkins had a bit of a rest, and the pilots of both squadrons had changed into less official attire, with the exception of Senia, who had changed into her official uniform. The Left-tenant knew that there would be a debriefing, Dawkins had told her. And the Captain would most likely want both their presence during that debriefing. Taggart had taken the communication logs to Griffin to translate. By the time any meeting would be held, the Captain would have a full docket in front of her. They weren’t members of the Royal Vulpine Authority, but they held onto some of the traditions of the Authority. And Captain Clarendale would announce when such a meeting would take place.
“Attention all crew,” Crena announced over the general comm signal that went across the ship. “Would the following please join me in the Captain’s quarters. Doctor Horatio Re, Colonel Artemis Dawkins, Left-tenant Senia Felix, Pantheran Agent Renna Townes, and would Mr. Krillis and Miss Snow please bring refreshments. Thank you.”
With the general announcement made, those called made their way to the Captain’s quarters. Gor’lan was already going over the transcripts with Crena as Krillis and Snowy arrived first. They both went about setting the tea services, and then stood behind the Captain’s desk. Next came Colonel Dawkins and Left-tenant Felix, both of whom took up seats to the right of the Captain’s desk. Felix handed the Captain a report and sat down. Crena thanked her and quickly read over it, nodding her approval when she came to the part that revealed Townes tackled Black Eye as he was about to attack Billings. As they all came in, Krillis and Snowy set out tea for them, which they accepted politely.
Finally, Doctor Re entered along with Agent Townes. A chair had already been placed in front of the desk, and Doctor Re ushered Townes to sit, and then went to his own chair to the left of the captain’s desk. Krillis offered the doctor some tea and he accepted it, while Snowy took a cup to Agent Townes.
Townes looked at the tea cup in front of him, then to the Captain. “I’ve read you Vulpine do take tea, but I’ve never experienced it for myself.” He lifted the cup and sipped it carefully. “Not bad,” he said with a nod indicating he was quite impressed.
“Never been to the Vulpine sector of space, then Agent Townes?” Crena asked as she stirred her tea.
“I’ve never had the opportunity, no,” Townes replied.
“I suggest that sometime you should, Agent,” Crena said as she opened up the files both Griffin and Felix had given her. “You’ll pardon me if I dispense with the pleasantries for now and get right to business.” She turned to Dr. Re. “I assume his injuries were minor. Felix’s report shows minor bruising and a hairline fracture.”
“Yes Captain,” Re stated with a nod as he set his tea down and retrieved his medical chart. “We managed to cast it for now, it came close to breaking. Possibly due to the quick action Agent Townes took in tackling Black Eye as he was about to advance on the Corporal.”
“With all due respect to the Corporal,” Townes offered with a nod as he held up his tea cup. “I saw an opportunity to take down Black Eye, and I took it.”
“I believe Corporal Billingth would underthtand the thituation, Agent,” Felix offered with a nod. Townes nodded in reply and sipped his tea.
“As we have discovered, Agent Townes,” Crena continued. “Mr. Griffin was able to translate the Hyna’s Dread communication logs, and came across something rather curious. There was a signal sent to a Pantheran vessel. Official fleet registration. The Night Sky.”
“I can’t confirm nor deny that,” Townes offered as he set his tea and saucer down on the desk. “I can say, however, it does confirm some suspicions that my superiors within the Central Council have had. There has been a feeling that one or two ships in the Pantheran fleet have been issued secret orders to assist the Jackai. Make things difficult for merchant ships.”
“Do you know how many ships are under the Jackai fleet?” Crena asked and took a sip of her tea.
“From what I could gather,” Townes said with a sigh. “There were nine ships in total. That number is most likely cut down by three or four. Now with the Dread taken out and with Ring Tail in custody. When I stowed away on the Dread, I had heard that one or two others were lost when they tried attacking the Sifter.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Crena offered as she rose to her feet. “Red Streak and her crew would sooner die in battle than see that ship taken. They’d defend it tooth and nail. Just glad we happen to be friends with her.” She walked around the desk and stood beside Townes. “I understand you were on board the Tiger’s Claw when it was taken.”
“Yes ma’am,” Townes replied with a firm nod, a touch of sorrow and anger in his eyes at the mention of the Tiger’s Claw.
“Then, might I propose this to you, Agent Townes.” Crena stood straight and tucked her arms behind her back as she spoke to him. “We have been asked by both the representative of the Pantheran Fleet and the Royal Vulpine Authority to investigate this matter. We could use any insight that you may have. With you on board, combined with the Authority bounty hunters,” she said as she motioned toward Senia. “It will prove that this matter is very serious indeed. Also, with you on board, we might be able to circumvent any prejudices that we might run into from Pantheran fleet officers regarding the Revenge.”
Townes looked directly to Crena and studied her carefully. He thought on her words for a moment, then nodded slowly. “To keep the peace. To uncover the traitor who may be beneath this threat. You’ll have my help. I promise you that.”