A whole week has passed since the volcano on Io erupted. My crew and I are chillin’ on the promenade. Absolutely nothing will disturb us today. Nope. Not a thing that has a chance of interrupting the planned exploration of the latest set of test scores for the pilot’s license that will be posted within the hour.
“What do you think?” Terry asks. “Did we pass?”
Cassie snorts. Even though we’re now officially a couple, I give her a sideways crooked look. So what if she passed that test the first time without breaking a sweat? We guys have to keep up our reputation of not being able to land with those silly rules in place.
We could have passed the second time, or the third. We didn’t have to take the test five times. Really, we could have done a lot better before now.
“Well.” She leans her elbows on the table. “I can always shuttle all of you around.” Cassie giggles. “Until you manage to get it through your thick skulls that you have to use the landing beacon and follow all of the rules.”
“Like you do,” Carl says. “Who bumped the back skids taking off from Jupiter? Huh?”
“That was an emergency.” She leans back in the chair and folds her arms across her chest. “Do you want me to repeat what you said? Let’s see…” Cassie taps a finger against her chin. “If I remember right, it was something like ‘Stop, stop, stop!’ Oh, and you screamed like a girl.”
He turns ten shades of red, and those colors are running up and down his face in waves. I sit back in my chair, preferring to stay out of this fight. Cassie has that tone in her voice, the one she used on me back when I made an utter fool of myself. Ignoring that particular warning got me months of my girl not talking to me, and her hanging out with Lisa Tulane, our worst enemy.
“Better stop now, Carl,” Terry warns. “You know better than to diss Cassie’s flying.”
“Got that straight.” She glances at me. “Nothing to say, BD?”
“Nope.” I nod toward the lifts. “Chief Pelham is heading this way. Wonder what he wants?”
“Sounds like it’s time for a Gut-Buster,” Carl says. “I’ll be back in a flash.”
One of the perks we’ve enjoyed since the whole Jupiter incident, where we busted up a bunch of space pirates terrorizing the station, is how the owner of the Gut-Buster Pizza keeps a special at the ready. My stomach growls in anticipation of a light snack to hold me over for a few hours, until it’s time to eat one of Mom’s healthy meals.
“Hey, guys.” Chief Pelham straddles Carl’s chair. “Where’s your twin, Cassie?”
“Food run,” she says.
“Well, this can’t wait,” he says. “I have a pro—”
“Coming through.” Carl leans past the chief to deposit a Chili-Cheese Gut Buster Deluxe in the middle of the table. “Hey, Chief, long time no see.”
“Uh, yeah.” The Chief backs away fast. “Before the four of you get started on that.” He glances at Carl, Terry, and me. “Or perhaps I should say before Cassie takes on slice and the rest of you plough through that pizza like a meteor through a flitter, I have a proposition.”
All of us freeze where we are. We’re all holding packages of the cure, a sure fire preventative for intestinal gas, which will happen if we ingest this piece of heaven without a bit of help on that side.
“What?” I ask, ready for action, but also hating having to give up good food.
“Sally Wild’s on the station for the trial next week. She’d like to interview all of you,” the chief says. “Do it. For me.”
All of us stare at each other. Chief Pelham doesn’t ask much of us. Usually, it’s something along the lines of “Don’t destroy the station.” That might or might not happen, depending on our current case.
Sure doesn’t seem like much of a request.
Cassie leans back in her seat. “Sally Wild of Inside Galaxy?”
“Yes,” the Chief says.
Okay. That puts a whole new spin on the request. Sally Wild is well known for twisting what someone says and making them look like a fool.
“Ah, come on, Chief,” I say. “We don’t need that kind of trouble.”
“I’ve already warned her that her usual tactics won’t be tolerated.”
“It’ll be okay,” Terry says. “Sally Wild has to know that if she messes up and violates her agreement with Chief Pelham that she can be banned from the station for the trial.”
That’s good in theory, but it could also backfire on us. I’m leaning really hard toward the not only no but not in the galaxy’s lifetime no. There is a cold knot in the pit of my stomach that doesn’t come from eating too much or not enough.
“She won’t violate the terms of the agreement,” Chief Pelham says. “I have her agreement in writing, along with the penalty if she does.”
“Just what is the penalty?” I ask.
Chief Pelham looks down at his hands. He clears his throat a couple of times. My buds and I lean closer, certain this will be very good.
“Ms. Wild agreed to a three million credit fine and a station banishment for six months if she violated the agreement,” he says in a low voice.
That will work in our favor. No reporter wants to be banned from Dad’s trial. Their rating would tank faster than a flitter hit by a meteor.
“Yeah.” I glance at my buds. They all nod. “Sure. We can do that.”
As soon as the words leave my mouth, I get the feeling that I’ve just made the worst mistake of my life.
Chief Pelham stands and starts to walk away. He glances at us over a shoulder.
“All of you got your pilot’s license. Don’t rip up the space lanes.”
“Yes!” I pump my fist in the air.
Carl and Terry copy my move. Cassie grins. Canoples Investigations is ready to expand to the whole galaxy.