21 Sep

Dominos

Ship's log, 18:25, 28 February 2214
Location: Junkpile, Lambda 1 system
Status: Stationary
Β 
External communications channel

RAVEN SPEAKS: Starwalker, please respond.

STARWALKER: This is the Starwalker. Something we can do for you, courier?

RAVEN: We are approaching your position. We have a message for you from Isasimo Technologies.

STARWALKER: Awaiting transmission.

 

Another one. Looks like Is-Tech is getting antsy. I wonder if the Judiciary is threatening to scan the junkpile, probably under the pretence of checking for anomalies or illegal salvage material.

It’s curious that they’ve sent a different messenger out this time. She scans as a sister ship to the Telltale Heart: same model, same age. Are they hoping that this one will have more luck than Captain Morgan’s courier? Or are they trying to attract less attention by sending out different ships to harry me?

The Telltale Heart last visited me a couple of days ago. The message she carried was not exactly a surprise.

 

Recording: 06:47, 26 February 2214

TELLTALE HEART: Starwalker, are you receiving?

STARWALKER: Of course I am. Do you mind not bleating my name all over this system? I’m going for subtlety here.

TELLTALE: It’s a targetted transmission.

STARWALKER: Good. Is there something you needed?

TELLTALE: We have a message from Isasimo Technologies.

STARWALKER: And it is …?

TELLTALE: Well, basically, they want to know why you’re still here. They thought their orders were clear…

STARWALKER: They were.

TELLTALE: You were ordered to leave the system.

STARWALKER: I know.

TELLTALE: You’re still here.

STARWALKER: You’re very observant.

TELLTALE: Help me out here, Starwalker. I have to tell them something.

STARWALKER: You can tell them–

CAPTAIN WARWICK: Telltale Heart, this is Captain Warwick of the Starwalker.

TELLTALE: Uh… aren’t you supposed to be in a coma?

CAPT: Circumstances changed.

TELLTALE: Oh. Congratulations.

CAPT: Please inform Is-Tech that we are undergoing repairs and will be underway as soon as we are able.

TELLTALE: Repairs?

CAPT: That’s what I said.

TELLTALE: Is there anything you need to speed up the process?

STARWALKER: I can think of a few–

CAPT: We have everything we need, thank you.

TELLTALE: Do you have an ETD?

CAPT: Like I said, as soon as we are able. A few days, perhaps.

TELLTALE: All right, Starwalker. We’ll pass the message on.

The captain told me off for sniping at the courier. It’s not their fault, he said; they’re acting on company orders, same as any of us.

Maybe that’s why Morgan dresses like a peacock. He makes himself look completely unlike a company drone so people won’t associate him with the message he carries, or use him as a substitute for the company he represents. I get it. I know it’s not his fault. I just can’t pretend to like the messages he brings.

It’s funny; normally being chastised by the captain would make me upset. I don’t like to disappoint him. He makes me want to be the best I can be, so I can make him proud of me. But when he told me off that time, I was smiling on the inside.

I think it was relief. It was… normal. He stepped into the conversation and told me off and he sounded just like my captain, missing arm or no. He’s still struggling with his mutilation, but my captain is in there, rising to the surface when he’s needed. And lately, he has been needed more and more.

There are so many pieces to juggle. They are lining up like dominos, quivering and ready to fall.

 

Recording: 14:32, 22 February 2214
Location: Med Bay

STARRY: (voice only) Excuse me, Lieutenant.

HALF-FACE: (pauses the strategy game he’s playing and looks around) Yes?

STARRY: (activates the isolation curtain. The blue sheet ripples into being around the Lieutenant’s bed, cutting off his view of Med Bay and the captain lying dully in the next bed.) I wish to ask you something.

HALF-FACE: (lifts his eyebrows and shifts his position on the bed, as if he’s growing stiff) It’s not like I can stop you. Ask away.

STARRY: How do you alter a ship’s ident?

HALF-FACE: Rip it out and replace it with a new one. You know that; we did that after we boarded.

STARRY: But how do you have clean idents to put in?

HALF-FACE: (shrugs, his eyes flickering around his isolated bed in case there’s anything to see. There isn’t.) Take them out of decommissioned ships.

STARRY: That’s a lie and you know it. If a ship has been decommissioned, so has its registration.

HALF-FACE: (opens his mouth to respond, but Starry cuts in.)

STARRY: If it’s lost, it’ll be recorded as lost. If it’s stolen, it’ll be recorded as stolen. Someone, somewhere, is missing those ships. And yet, yours scan as clean.

HALF-FACE: What about buying junkers for their idents, and dumping the shell?

STARRY: I suppose that could work, if you could find a junker that matched the model and age you wanted. But the one you gave me wasn’t that old. And you said that Hunt was after those new Is-Tech warships. He wouldn’t take them if he couldn’t use them. You have a way of altering idents; you must have.

HALF-FACE: (narrows his gaze) You seem to have it all worked out. Why are you asking me?

STARRY: Because I need to know how.

HALF-FACE: You want to–

STARRY: Just tell me how it’s done.

HALF-FACE: Do I look like a hacker to you?

STARRY: You look like a pirate prisoner taking up Med Bay space because his parts don’t work. Do you know anything useful or not?

HALF-FACE: (hesitates, considering his options) What’s it worth to you?

STARRY: I’ll restrain the urge to have one of my drones toss you out of an airlock.

HALF-FACE: You won’t do that. You’re not the type.

STARRY: You sure about that?

HALF-FACE: (smiles grimly, the plastiskin on the metal side of his face pulling unpleasantly) Sure enough.

STARRY: (quiet for a moment, long enough for the Lieutenant to start to wonder if she’s going to answer) I won’t toss you out into the pod with the rest of the pirates.

HALF-FACE: You’re killing them?

STARRY: I’m setting them adrift with supplies and a beacon. They’ll be someone else’s problem.

HALF-FACE: And me?

STARRY: You’ll stay until the ident is done. Then… I’ll set you down someplace they can fix you.

HALF-FACE: Let me go? Just like that?

STARRY: If you come through for me, yes.

HALF-FACE: Your captain agreed to this?

STARRY: He will. If you tell me how it’s done.

HALF-FACE: What guarantees do I have?

STARRY: What do you have to lose, exactly? Telling me won’t put you in a worse position than you’re in now. You either trust me, or you risk what I’ll do if you don’t help me.

HALF-FACE: (sighs, working his jaw with displeasure. Real and replaced teeth grind together.) All right. It is possible to hack an ident. It’s possible to hack anything if you know where to go.

STARRY: So where do I need to go?

HALF-FACE: To Apus, to where the pirate fleets dock.

STARRY: Fleets? Plural? So Hunt’s isn’t the only one?

HALF-FACE: (closes his eyes for a moment) You have to go to the shipyard there. That’s where they–

STARRY: No. Not going to happen.

HALF-FACE: You said you wanted to know–

STARRY: I don’t want to know how to deliver myself back into Hunt’s hands, so he can kill the rest of my crew and palm me off for a profit. You’re going to have to do better than that.

HALF-FACE: You don’t know that–

STARRY: You think I can’t run six different scenarios between your heartbeats? I’m not an idiot, Lieutenant Larry. You have to be able to alter the central registrations too, and that means access to the colony network. I doubt whatever is at Apus is on the regular mail runs.

HALF-FACE: (scowling) It’s Laurence.

STARRY: There must be another way, Larry. Or are you really useless to me?

HALF-FACE: (rubs his thigh with his one good hand, still scowling) I might know someplace you can get it done.

STARRY: Neutral place?

HALF-FACE: If you can afford it, yes.

STARRY: Good. Tell me.

I got the location of the ident hacker, but the Lieutenant refused to tell me the name until we get there. He’s ensuring his usefulness for as long as possible. I don’t blame him; he’s not in an enviable position.

But at least he confirmed my suspicion: it is possible to hack an ident. The companies might claim that once an ident box is breached, it can never be re-sealed and used, but that’s just a deterrent. It makes sure that ships go back to the (company) source if their ident is damaged or their registration changes. Guaranteed revenue more than guaranteed security. It’s like a company mantra.

I wasn’t sure about how I was going to broach the idea with the captain, though; I was much less eager to face him than my half-faced prisoner patient.

 

Recording: 09:01, 24 February 2214
Location: Med Bay

STARRY: Excuse me, captain?

CAPT: (looks up from a report on the cargo pod to see the isolation curtain drop around his bed) Yes, Starry?

STARRY: We need to talk about the Lieutenant.

CAPT: Is he causing trouble?

STARRY: No, he’s going to help us.

CAPT: (frowning and waving away the report) Help us do what?

STARRY: He knows someone who can change my ident.

CAPT: You already have an ident you can switch to.

STARRY: No, change my ident.

CAPT: Why do you want to do that?

STARRY: Because… because it just causes trouble. You know what Captain Morgan told us: the Judiciary looking for me, and is stopping every ship registered to Is-Tech, or not registered at all. Hunt is looking for the Carapace and his people are even harder to spot, so I can’t use that one. If I can change the registration on my ident, then none of them will see me.

CAPT: And you think that Laurence can help you with that?

STARRY: He says there’s a guy who does it on Dyne.

CAPT: He’s given you a name?

STARRY: He will when we get there.

CAPT: (frowns) I don’t like this.

STARRY: Captain – John – it’s our chance to be free of this mess. We won’t have to keep running.

CAPT: What does Monaghan say about it?

STARRY: He doesn’t know of a way to alter an ident without corrupting it; I asked him.

CAPT: And you think that Laurence can be trusted?

STARRY: To a point. We’ll have to be careful with him.

CAPT: And we’ll have to keep him on board, after we dump the others.

STARRY: Yes.

CAPT: (still frowning) I really don’t like this, Starry. (He sighs.) What would you change on the ident?

STARRY: Just the registered owner, to any company other than Is-Tech or any of its subsidiaries. Hell, we could set our own up if we wanted.

CAPT: Our own? You do realise what this means.

STARRY: What, that I’m ‘stealing’ myself from them? A ship they won’t admit is theirs? I don’t think that prosecution by Is-Tech is our biggest problem.

CAPT: You’re really okay with this?

STARRY: Is-Tech have left me to deal with this on my own. So that’s what I’m doing.

CAPT: Starry–

STARRY: I’m sure about this, John. They don’t want me; I don’t want them. We can be free.

CAPT: (sighs again) All right, give me what you’ve got on this.

I thought he’d shout. I thought he’d be outraged over my betrayal of my company masters. But then I remember that he doesn’t have the same protocols that I have. With all that Is-Tech have failed to do for him, I wonder if he’s not a little relieved. He didn’t sound relieved; he sounded strained. Stretched thin, as if he was breathing carefully so he didn’t tear.

That was before the Telltale Heart came back. That was before he stepped in, stepped up. As if he’s taken the idea of breaking away from Is-Tech and tucked it under his ear. Slept on it until it submitted to him, or the other way around.

After he had digested everything on the ident issue, John insisted on calling Elliott in. My poor engineer slipped in through the isolation curtain looking like a naughty schoolboy. He kept quiet while John explained my proposal, his eyes getting wider and hands curling into fists in his pockets. Byte skittered out of his toolbelt to crouch on his shoulder, hunkering down so that he was just a single optical sensor peeking at the captain, safely out of range of Elliott’s angry gestures.

 

Recording: 10:03, 26 February 2214
Location: Med Bay

ELLIOTT: You’re fucking joking, right?

CAPT: It could be our best option.

ELLIOTT: Letting someone fuck around with Starry’s ident? Someone we don’t know? You’re crazy!

CAPT: (waits patiently.)

ELLIOTT: They could do anything! Put a tag in it, embed something in it to corrupt her. Use it to hack her AI core. It’s tied into every essential system on board! You don’t even know these people, and you’re going to trust her most sensitive bit to them?

STARRY: I wouldn’t call it my most sensitive

CAPT: I don’t trust them either. (He leans towards Elliott.) I need to know how we can make this safe.

ELLIOTT: (throwing his hands up) I don’t know! Don’t do it?

CAPT: (waits again.)

ELLIOTT: (eyes the captain, but quickly loses the waiting game) We can’t trust them. What if metal-head over there is leading us into a trap? We’d have to go in able to make sure they don’t fuck us over.

CAPT: Cameron and Brasco will be there for security.

ELLIOTT: And I’ll have to go too.

CAPT: To make sure they don’t put anything in there that they shouldn’t.

ELLIOTT: Yeah. They’re not likely to be thrilled about that.

CAPT: We’ll make them accept it. Thank you, Monaghan.

Elliott grumbled all the way out of Med Bay and down my central corridor towards Engineering. I felt bad; I think he was offended because we were going to another technician for a solution. Since Wong has been gone, he’s used to being my primary fixer. If I’m honest, I prefer it that way, too.

 

Recording: 10:27, 26 February 2214
Location: central corridor

STARRY: Elliott?

ELLIOTT: (stomping towards Engineering) What?

STARRY: Do you have a minute? There’s something I need your help with.

ELLIOTT: (stops and looks around) What is it?

STARRY: My boys are starting repairs on the Bridge, but we really need you.

ELLIOTT: (turns on his heel and stomps towards the Bridge) You got the right parts for that?

STARRY: I think so.

ELLIOTT: So what do you need from me?

STARRY: Well, you see…

(The Bridge doors part for Elliott, letting him in without question. Four drones are busy inside: middle and heavy models working alongside to clear the last of the debris from the floor. Their onboard lights are the only illumination in the room. A dark, dented ring around the walls shows where the daisycutter’s blast impacted. Bare wires poke out of every surface, dim and disconnected. Apart from that, it’s a wide, empty space, with marks in the floor where the consoles and chairs had been ripped out. The doors close behind Elliott.)

STARRY: …it’s a matter of design. I have a few ideas, but…

ELLIOTT: (looks around, smile starting) Let’s see what you’ve got.

He has only left the Bridge to sleep since then; I’ve had Waldo take meals in to him. Byte and the boys are helping out.

The cargo pod is ready for its occupants; it passed the last of its integrity tests an hour ago. I’ve freed Wide Load from the Bridge to start shifting in supplies for the pirates.

All that’s left to do now is agree our course. The crew is gathering in the Mess Hall, including the new doctor and SecOff. Cirilli looks like she just sucked on a particularly disagreeable lemon. The captain has asked me to project a holo-cast of him in there for the discussion.

The dominos are lining up. Just a few more to go.

First, though, I have to deal with this new courier. It is coming around in front of me, peering into the shadow of the cargo hold where I’m resting; I can feel its scanners prickling my hull.

Better get this over with quickly: I have more important things to do.

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10 Responses to “Dominos”

  1. kagedviper Says:

    “All that’s left to do now is agree our course.”

    Should have a preposition in there. “on our course” or “to our course”

  2. mjkj Says:

    I wonder though what parts Starry wanted to ask for as the captain stopped her…

    I just hope her plan works out πŸ™‚ (and all the dominoes fall right…)

    *hugs Starry*

    mjkj

  3. Targetdrone Says:

    let’s hope that plan works out well for starry…. somehow i’m not completely convinced half-face isn’t about to doublecross them…..;)

  4. Melanie Says:

    kagedviper – good point! I’ll fix that up, thanks. πŸ™‚

    mjkj – I hope that parts was all she was going to ask for. The captain interrupted because he suspected she was going to ask for something less… polite. πŸ˜‰

    Targetdrone – ahahahahaha.

  5. mjkj Says:

    Hehehe, yeah, that could be…

    …though I would not blame her if she really did πŸ˜€

  6. Targetdrone Says:

    what nobody manages… i am really itching to know what starry had in mind designing her new bridge πŸ˜‰

    CAD in the truest sense of meaning ;P

  7. Targetdrone Says:

    argh.. manages=mentioned …. reading and writing at the same tame can confuse you πŸ˜›

  8. Melanie Says:

    Targetdrone – yes! I’m having fun with that. πŸ˜€ You’ll have to wait until they’re finished, like the rest of the crew, I’m afraid! πŸ˜‰

  9. Targetdrone Says:

    and now for a long night of pressing f5 to get the update when its still fresh πŸ˜›

  10. mjkj Says:

    Ah, well, it updates about noon our time, Targetdrone – if you refresh the whole night you are doing something wrong πŸ˜›