Chapter Nine

The Star Ruby docked silently in hanger C-8 on Station Forty-Nine without much trouble. The landing had been smooth and the custom security courteous (though it had taken them awhile to figure out that the com system was down, result of the unfortunate incident with the rouge mechanical mouse). It all seemed too easy when you were on the tips of your toes, jumping at every shadow.
"Okay," John Rouse finished shutting down the engines with a flick of a switch, "Lily and I will go find Adrian, and Robyn will stay on the Ruby while we-" Suddenly John bellowed. "Lily! How many times do I have to tell you to keep that- that thing out of the cockpit!"
Lily only smiled. "Don't worry Dad, Nuisance is on shut down for the night. I'm just making some modifications to the system... he's been acting a little odd lately."
John muttered under his breath and glared at the unmoving machine.
"Actually, Mr. Rouse," Robyn put in, taking the silence as a opportunity to but in her say, "I'd rather go with you than stay here on the ship. I'm sure a take of fresh air would do me some good."
Lily grinned. "Oh, yes, I hear fresh air speeds up the healing process remarkably. And anyway, I need to stay with Nuisance and make sure the boot up system responds correctly."
"That settles it! I'll head out with Mr. Rouse to find this Adrian person, and Lily will stay here and watch the ship."
With that, both girls left the pit, leaving behind a slightly amused John Rouse. "Females!" He guffawed to himself. Never the less he left fifteen minutes later with Robyn. "Now listen here, Lily! Don't open the door the for strangers, turn off the lights when you leave the room or I'll be charged extra for the use of the hanger's electricity, and make sure that bug- thing you're making doesn't destroy any more of my ship!"
"Sure thing, Dad," Lily said off handily, already absorbed in gears and microchips.
"Okay then! Love you Lily, see you when we get back." Lily smiled, waved and shut the door with a click. John sighed. "Kids these days, grow up so fast." He blinked, turned to Robyn, and grinned. "Alright now, better hurry! It's dark enough as it is. Curse these artificial time systems! I swear they're different at every station!" And with that he started off into the tunnel labeled "Section Eight".
Robyn followed, having a small difficultly in keeping up with his long strides. "So this Adrian Keeler will be able to help us right?" She said after awhile, slightly short of breath.
John laughed his deep bellied laugh. "It depends on what you mean by "help". But I wouldn't expect much, that way you can always be surprised."
She promptly gave up after that and began to study her surroundings. It was very much like being in a city, but not really. There were some high buildings, some short building all jumbled together like stair steps. But then again, you could somehow tell it was built that way. A projector of some sort was shot at the ceiling, so it produced the illusion that you were on a planet. Though, in Robyn's opinion, it wasn't a very good one. The street were cobblestoned and rather empty for so early at "night". Soon a moon would slide up onto the large heavenly screen, showing the time engraved upon its surface. It was a interesting effect, but it was still harshly synthetic.
"Here were are!" John stopped suddenly. Robyn peeked at the small building in excitement, and she was disappointed.
"A thrift store?" She asked incredulous.
John laughed and pushed the front door open with a hand. "I told you not to expect anything."
Robyn slid inside the well lighted shop, followed closely by John. Inside she saw a boorish looking man speaking with thin blonde headed woman with a mechanical arm. The woman was clearly annoyed.
"-The shipment was in good order, on time, and in perfect condition. And you send it back void with a notice of terminated business! What have I done to deserve-"
The woman sighed. "It was trash, it was incorrectly labeled, and the items weren't even what I ordered! I-" She caught sight of them, muttered something about a bell, and pasted a smile on her face. "Molly and Joseph!" She exclaimed. "How good to see you! How was the trip?" She grabbed hold of their arms and hustled them towards the back room. "I'll be with you in just a moment, but be sure to make yourselves at home!" She shut the door behind them
"Wow, is she always like that?" Robyn commented, rubbing her arm.
"Don't you be complaining! I got her mechanical hand, I'm not sure she knows the strength of that thing." He sighed and plopped down on a nearby couch. "To answer your question, no, she's not, and that's what worries me." He blinked quickly and then smiled. "Stress perhaps?" Robyn looked at him as if he was crazy but remained silent.
They waited another ten minutes before the door opened again. "Lying, stealing, pig.." She murmured under her breath and then glanced up. "Sorry, I had to shut down shop." Another pasted smile appeared on her face. "Joseph! So glad to see you again! How's business?" She began pulling down blinds and locking doors.
"Well," John started, undaunted. "I've got a order of pickles for you, about ten or so crates of them."
"Oh really? I'll be sure to be able to sell to Mr. Edward. You know how he's obsessed with green, slimly things." She punched in a code into a wall panel. "How is, ah, Amber."
John nodded. "Very well, she stayed to watch the ship for me and... to play video games. I believe she's gotten a new one, plays it constantly, she does. I'm not too fond of it as it is. You see it overloaded our system not long back, knocked the com system out."
She nodded. "Understandable. Oh, Molly dear," she turned and looked straight at Robyn. "Please don't sit on the table. It ruins the tarnish."
Robyn blinked quickly. "What-"
She sighed and repeated herself slower. "Don't-sit-on-the-table."
John nodded at her so she shrugged, jumped up, and walked to a nearby wall. "Thank you, dear." She stomped her foot on the tiled floor. The table fell away, replaced by a security panel into which she quickly pushed several commands. They heard a echoed shifting noise, and then silence. She sighed again and held out a hand to Robyn.
"Hey, I'm Adrian." When she had nervously shook it, Adrian continued, smiling. "Bet you thought we were insane there for a minute didn't you?"
Robyn gave her a reluctant grin. "Either that or I was."
"Security measure, you understand, of course." Robyn informed her of a personal lack of any kind of understanding what so ever.
"By the way, I don't believe we have been introduced." Adrian continued as if she hadn't heard.
"Oh, I'm Robyn Arrow... I work for The New World Reporter."
Adrian straitened up suddenly and threw a glance at John. "That reminds me, you said you left Lily on the ship, correct?"
John nodded. "She built a robot a few days ago and is twiddling with it." He grumbled darkly, as if the very thought of it gave him a headache.
"Ah, well, I have come across a warrant recently for the Star Ruby and its crew. For that reason I don't believe Lily is at all safe at the moment."
"But that warrant is for Robyn." John exclaimed. "Why would Lily be in danger?"
Adrian opened up the side of the mechanical arm and drew out a piece of paper. "This here is a warrant for Robyn's arrest. It says nothing about The Star Ruby or her crew." She reached into a nearby drawer and brought out another piece of paper. "This is a warrant issued by a independent source (though still someone who works for the Warlord) for the Star Ruby mentioning nothing about Miss Arrow here."
Adrian placed both papers into the sink and turned the water on. "I'm afraid we have two separate warrants, for two different people and two different reasons." She watched the water run for a moment more before turning it off and withdrawing the sorry remains. They were then quickly deposited into a trash can.
"Why did you do that?" Robyn asked monotonously.
"You've always got to destroy the evidence. It would be, for instance, very strange for a simple, harmless thrift store owner to be in possession of two such documents when she should have no interest what so ever in that sort of thing." Adrian nodded to herself. "Now, I'll go change, grab a few things, and we'll be on our way."
"What are you changing for?" Robyn questioned, incomprehensibly.
Adrian shot her a wary glance. "Are you okay?" When Robyn didn't answer she continued, watching her closely. "A thrift store owner can't openly go against a warrant issued by the Warlord's people, but a black market dealer can. Now, perk up a bit, both of you! I doubt they've gotten to her this fast. You see, they aren't the brightest bunch." She smiled sentimentally and hurried off.
"Don't worry, Robyn, she'll be all right." John said confidently.
"How do you know that?" Robyn asked, before she thought about it.
John smiled wearily. "I don't, but I figure there's just as much of a chance of something happening to her as there is something not happening to her."
Robyn gave him a sideways glance. "And what if something does happen?"
"Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Worrying never solved anything." He sighed. "And yet, as a father, I do it all the same."
"Maybe-maybe Nuisance will protect her?"
John grunted. "Let's hope we won't get that desperate."
Robyn forced a laugh on which she almost immediately chocked. Adrian stepped into the room with two small guns on her hips and a big one slung across her back. She wore black combat boots and a long black coat. The only thing that wasn't black was her top, that was, in fact, crimson red.
"Wow," Robyn sputtered when she could breath, "you look... different."
Adrian grinned. "And I feel a whole bunch better! Do you know how constricting it is to be a honest, law abiding person all the time? I mean it's so boring!"
John brightened. "That's the Adrian we know and love!"
"You mean... you know about this?!" Robyn cried.
"Well, I didn't exactly know. I just kind of... picked up a few hints along the way." He smiled. "Now, let's get moving. We don't have all of this artificial night, you know!"
"Oh! Here, just in case." Adrian threw John a small rifle.
He looked at her in mock shock. "For an honest, law abiding citizen like myself? Now, Adrian! Really.."
"Don't hurt yourself! It's total legal. Well, most of it is anyway." She turned to Robyn. "Now, you." Adrian rummaged through one of her pockets, muttering.
"I really don't want a weapon." Robyn protested.
Adrian grunted. "Of course you don't. This is not a gun. It's a laser." She held up a small, round, silver box that looked a lot like a pitch-pipe.
"A what?" Robyn caught it with one hand and held it at a distance.
"A l-a-s-er. Really, you're slow at this kind of thing." She sighed as she saw the look Robyn gave it. "Look, it won't hurt you. Turn it on and point it at your hand if you don't believe me." Robyn held down the center and after finding it the red beam didn't burn her to a crisp, clasped the cord around her neck.
"What does it do?" Robyn asked, still uncertain.
Adrian shrugged. "Not much, but I figured you wouldn't take anything else. Let's see. I suppose you can shine it in someone's eye or use it to signal someone."
She adjusted her gun belt. "Now that we've finally gotten that taken care of. Off we go!" She open the back door and slipped out into the darkness.
"You know," said John as her followed her, changing his gun to "knock- out", "I've always wanted to do something like this."
"How interesting," Robyn muttered gripping her laser and tagging along after him, "I never have."