19 Jan

Body image

Ship's log, 16:43, 24 November 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit, half speed

 

We’re almost to the Corvus FTL corridor now. I’m being taken there in case Is-Tech is keeping track of me. This was our planned destination, so we’ll go there. As soon as we hit a star, we’ll take a left turn, and then they’ll never be able to track me.

I don’t know where I’ll end up. Could be anywhere – that’s the point of Stepping. We can go anywhere, anystar, in the time it takes the heart to beat three times.

Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but it’s more poetic that way.

In the meantime, I’ve put together some more of that log. The one that got me here.

 

Ship's log, 05:52, 3 November 2213 (Reconstructed)
Location: Comet debris cloud, 
Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Stationary

 

I am ruptured, but instead of bleeding out, I’m bleeding in. I have to accept this taint into myself and seal my lips shut so I don’t complain. I thought it was bad trying to stay silent before; this is worse.

My airlocks are open and here are the mercenaries, spilling onto my decks with a chilling kind of order. Crouched, all guns and eyes first, scanning corners and side corridors, through doors and into crevices. Still expecting resistance, even though we welcomed them on board.

It’s an effort to stop myself from sealing the doors to the Bridge and Engineering. I want to protect my crew from them but I can’t. It’s too late for that, and there’s a bitter taste in the back of my ducts.

These mercs are a strange conglomeration to watch. Their uniforms are so inconsistent that they can’t be called uniforms at all – it looks like each one of them took pieces of whatever body armour might fit and attached them together. It gives the pirates a freakish, stitched-together appearance, in a smattering of styles personalised by a fresh coat of paint.

Some wear helmets; some have partial head protection; others seem to think that an awesome, multi-coloured hairdo is protection enough. It’s certainly distracting. Some wear complete pieces or sets – a whole jacket or a matching pair of boots and gloves – but most have been augmented in some fashion. Like their ships, the standard was taken and adapted to be more badass than their original intent. And like the ships, they were already pretty scary to start with.

Some of them have even adapted the shell-like armour that the Justiciars wear, and in a couple of cases, the guns have been built into the arms themselves. I think those fellas have prosthetic arms with weapon attachments, though there’s so much metal that it’s hard to tell without a deeper scan.

I don’t feel inclined to scan them too deeply. Let’s face it, I’m freaked out enough without looking at these people any more closely than I am already.

The weirdest part is how they move. Despite their varying appearances, it’s clear that they’ve been working together as a unit for some time. Their clothing might not be uniform, and they all seem to be carrying a different model of weapon, but their standard operating procedures are consistent. They’ve nailed the discipline down in a way I didn’t expect from mercenaries.

 

CAPT: (turning to face the entrance to the Bridge) Stay where you are, everyone. No sudden moves.

EVERYONE: (turns to wait for the pirates to arrive.)

(The patter of feet approaches up the corridor, stop-start as the side rooms are checked in their methodical progression. The captain isn’t the only one to straighten his shoulder as the first pirates puncture the silence of the Bridge, fanning out from the door and sweeping around the room so that their guns can be trained on all of the crew at once.)

 

The mercs aren’t saying anything as they take up their positions. They’re taut, knife-edged as they wait for someone to do something foolish. My crew are better than that. Everyone waits for the officers to arrive, and they come last, of course. As if making everyone wait begins a pattern of superiority. It’s a cheap tactic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.

From the tension in John’s jaw, he knows that trick too. He’s not going to fall for it. Good for you, John. Me neither.

There’s nothing particularly special about the way that the officers look compared to the other mercs, but they’re still easy to pick out. There’s two of them, one from a shuttle at each end of me, coming to meet at the Bridge in the middle. They bring up the rear of their respective groups, issuing low orders to direct the flow of their people. A couple peel off towards different parts of the ship – Engineering and the Med Bay. I put them up on the monitors so that my crew knows they’re coming.

On the Bridge, it looks like the officer of the aft group is in charge – he’s taking the fore. He’s missing half of his face and had a botch job done on the prosthetics – the metal of the replacement cheekbone and jaw show through the plasti-skin. He didn’t even bother with a human-looking eye: it’s a metal fitting that swivels in a very non-organic way. It still matches the movement of his fleshy right eye, though. I can’t decide if that makes him more or less creepy to look at. You’d think a merc leader who could afford to carry a latest-model hand-cannon could afford a better facial reconstruction.

Unless he really cares so little about his body image that the half-metal reflection doesn’t bother him, which is a disturbing level of disconnection that I don’t think I’m going to pursue right now. As an ex-human, half-AI hybrid, I am probably not one to criticise.

 

HALF-FACE: (checks a readout on his suit’s forearm display and eyes the captain) Captain John Warwick?

CAPT: (looking him directly in the eye, unflinching) Yes, that’s me.

HALF-FACE: I’m Lieutenant Laurence of the Bountiful. You and your crew need to step away from your stations and disarm.

CAPT: (turns his head and nods, without looking away from the Lieutenant) Do as he says.

BRIDGE CREW: (step away from their consoles with a mixture of wary and nervous glances at the mercs. Behind them, the holographic consoles disable themselves and shut down. Weapons are removed from holsters and laid on the ground, slowly and carefully. Only Cirilli and Lang Lang don’t have anything to give up; the former folds her arms over her chest and the latter looks lost, as if she’d like to have something to give to them.)

HALF-FACE: (gestures, and two of the mercs break out of formation.)

(The entire Bridge crew are scanned for hidden armaments – even the two scientists – and the weaponry is removed from the Bridge floor. A couple of sacks have been brought for the purpose of collecting them up.)

HALF-FACE: Well done. You are now property of the Bountiful.

CAPT: (watches the Lieutenant unwaveringly.)

HALF-FACE: SecOffs, up against the bulkhead. (He gestures towards the rear wall of the Bridge and consults his forearm readout again.) Warwick, where are the rest of your people?

CAPT: (knowing that the readout is telling the Lieutenant exactly where they all are and that his answers are obvious to anyone with a brain) My Chief Engineer is in Engineering, my medic is in Med Bay, and the rest of Dr Cirilli’s team is on mid-deck.

HALF-FACE: (glances up at the captain’s face sharply) And your pilot?

CAPT: You said you wanted to know where my people were. He’s yours, not mine. (He waits a beat for his point to sink in.) He’s in Med Bay.

 

I am so proud of him right now that I could burst.

 

HALF-FACE: If he’s in Med Bay, then who was flying? And where the hell is the immersion chair?

CAPT: (hesitates) The ship was flying itself.

HALF-FACE: (frowning, which twists the metal side of his face in a disconcerting way) No AI can fly like that. What did you do, disable all the safeties?

CAPT: (turns his head suddenly to where his three Security Officers are lined up against the rear bulkhead of the Bridge, with mercs in a row facing them, guns levelled. He stiffens.) What are you doing? We were promised asylum.

 

What? What’s the problem? …oh god. Oh no. Firing squad. My faithful Rosie. Sly Tyler. Solid Cameron. No. They can’t.

 

HALF-FACE: (shrugs) We’re here to secure the ship.

CAPT: It’s secure! You don’t need to do this.

 

No.

 

HALF-FACE: Sorry, orders. (He lifts a hand, preparing a deadly gesture.)

STARWALKER: Fuck your orders.

HALF-FACE: (freezes, hand still held up, and his eyes narrow: one eyelid and one adjustable aperture) Who the hell said that?

 

Who said it? Who am I? Fine. Fine. I’ll show him. I’ll show him, and I’ll tell him no. Computer says no.

 

(In the main holographic display in the centre of the Bridge, the representation of the comet trail, ice shards and the ships holding position disappears. A different image coalesces, attracting the attention of everyone on the Bridge except for the firing squad, who keep their gazes nailed on their targets. The Lieutenant checks the expresions of the crew, but even the captain of the Starwalker looks puzzled.

It starts at the feet and spins up, weaving orange-gold light into the shape of a person. Sensible boots resolve first, then the form-fitting pants of a pilot’s shipsuit. Splayed fingers are held out to the sides as the light weaves up her arms and torso. The head is bowed slightly, eyes closed and face partially obscured by the short, choppy hair.

It is the image of Danika Devon, except for a few minor details. There are golden streaks etching the lines of her shipsuit, like the filaments that are embedded in the ship’s hull. Her dark hair has tiny lights in it, as if it’s a starfield that bounces with her movements. And her eyes, when she opens them, have bright swirls in them.)

STARRY: (turning her head and looking directly at the Lieutenant) I did.

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10 Responses to “Body image”

  1. Nomen Nescio Says:

    well. about time!

  2. Kodes Says:

    Love it!
    That was worth the wait.
    I hope things are improving at your end.

  3. daymon34 Says:

    And Starry now has a look, I wonder how half-face will take this. At least they know the infomation on Starry has been kept a secret, since theses guys didn’t know about her.

  4. Melanie Says:

    Kodes – thanks! Glad you liked it. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Things are going better here. Settling back into a more normal routine. Thank goodness!

    Daymon34 – very true! They have another player to deal with now. Some adjustments all around, I think.

  5. Benjamin B. Says:

    That was awesome! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Now, Starry has more than a voice. Rather suits her ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Tweets that mention Starwalker ยป Body image -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe E. Whitten, Melanie Edmonds. Melanie Edmonds said: #Starwalker update! The pirates are on board, and Starry does something unexpected…. http://fb.me/Gj9vWz1V […]

  7. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, Ben! ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Brandee Altenhofen Says:

    I will not normally publish but I enjoyed your weblog a whole lot.

  9. mjkj Says:

    Wow, finally she is coming around…

    I just hope that no one of the crew is getting injured.

    I really love that story – it was quite agitating to not be able to comment before, though.

    mjkj

  10. Melanie Says:

    Hi mjkj! Welcome to the blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Sorry, I have comments turn off for older posts. Keeps the spam levels down. This way, it’s only mildly insane.

    Glad you like the story! Hope to see you around here. ๐Ÿ™‚