25 Jul

Dust settling

Captain's log, 20:19, 2 April 2214
Location: Orbit around Terra Sol, Home system
Status: Maintaining orbit
Log location: Captain's cabin

 

This is Captain Warwick reporting, three days after… they’re already calling it the Fall of Earth.

The beacons have been sent out to every colony and outpost. They fled past us a couple of days ago, calling for ships and aid.

Judiciary ships hover over the battered planet like angry dogs over a wounded master. We’ve tried to get information about what’s going on down on the surface, but it’s tricky. Most of Earth’s satellites are gone, knocked out of orbit or destroyed by the pulse from the flare; the only data relays available are from the Judiciary ships now. We don’t dare to connect with them in case they realise we might have been involved in what happened and we don’t dare get close enough to take our own readings. There are already alerts about us out on the network.

Which leaves us blind here. We’re sticking close to the sun’s aura; its radiation will mask us from passive sensor sweeps and we’re staying on the side furthest from Earth whenever we can. Our work pulls us around to the other side periodically, but nothing untoward has happened yet.

Dr Cirilli and her team are monitoring the star around the clock. So far, we’ve had to suppress three more flares, though none of them approaching the severity of the one that split Mercury open and hit Earth. Each time, it has taken several hours of frenetic scurrying and prodding to settle the solar tides down. They tell me the flares are getting smaller in magnitude; they’re not far off ‘normal’ now.

The crew have been asking how long we should stay here. They know that this system is about to host an influx of ships, civilian and Judiciary, and it’ll be a focal point for the entire human race. The longer we stay here, the higher the risk of detection and that awful word: blame.

It’s not as if we don’t blame ourselves enough already. We did everything we could to prevent this very thing from happening and it still wasn’t enough. It’s hard not to think we caused this or, at best, just plain failed.

I am the captain; if this ship is at fault, the responsibility is mine. Right or wrong, my decisions brought us here.

I’ve gone over the path that led to this place a hundred times. I’ve tried to work out what we could have done differently, though my mother would have told me that such answers won’t make anyone happy. Hindsight is a wonderful and dangerous thing, she used to tell me. And maybe we could have tried to find a safer place to put Kess down, maybe we could have moved faster to defend them or get them back on board. But none of that changes what’s happening down on that planet right now.

It’s still a heavy weight to bear.

Starry has taken this to heart, the way she does with everything we do. After the beacons shot past us, calling for aid, she stopped asking if we should go back to help. Partly because we had an indication of just how bad it was down there, and partly because she knows she doesn’t have enough cargo space to make a difference to everything that’s wrong. I think she’s afraid to look too closely at Earth now.

I’m worried about Lorena, too. She has been withdrawn since Kess came on board, and after this emergency started, she has been pure business. I respect her work ethic and always have, but she has avoided every attempt I’ve made to talk. I think she’s taking this harder than she’s letting anyone know. As her captain, I can’t demand that she confide in me about personal matters unless it’s getting in the way of her work, and it’s not. Since we stopped sleeping together, I lost the ability to ask as her lover, maybe even as her friend. But I’m still worried about her.

I should put the bounds of captaincy aside and ask her anyway. She means a great deal to me; she helped me through a bad time, when I’d lost Danika and we were discovering Starry. I owe her for that. Maybe we shouldn’t be involved any more, but I can be her friend.

Spirits know that she doesn’t have many on the ship. She told me many times that she has to watch herself with Ebling; she fears that he seeks to take this project out from under her. She respects him professionally but she won’t admit to being weak in front of him. It’s the same with Lang Lang, though I can’t imagine why; Lang Lang would never betray anyone. I think Lorena has been bitten before, and now her caution is driving her away from everyone.

This doesn’t help me decide how long to stay here.

We’re all hurting right now and trying not to think about the reality of disaster. Lives lost, history obliterated, so many spirits torn loose before their time. Some have family or homes on the planet…

Lorena’s daughter. She visited just weeks ago, when we were in Hong Kong. We haven’t dared to contact the Judiciary for fear of detection, and Lorena hasn’t asked, but… John, you are an idiot. Of course that’s affecting her. And of course, we should find out what’s happened to her daughter if we can.

Priorities. It’s all about priorities. We’re all hurting and the crew is looking to me. This is what I’m here for. So it’s time to make a choice and move forward, because circling around this star isn’t getting us anywhere.

 

Internal comms

CAPTAIN: Comm, connect me to Lang Lang.

LANG LANG CARTIER: (voice only, after a moment) Yes, sir?

CAPT: How long would it take to put together a simulation of the sun’s tides?

LANG LANG: We’re running several parallel simulations now, if you’d like to see, sir.

CAPT: Not of the current situation. Of the sun from before we started making changes.

LANG LANG: From before… you mean, as if we hadn’t done anything?

CAPT: Yes. Can you do it?

LANG LANG: Yes! Yes, of course. It won’t be pretty, though, sir.

CAPT: That’s sort of the point.

LANG LANG: (hesitates) Oh! Oh, I see. Yes, I’ll get on that right away.

CAPT: How soon do you think it can be ready?

LANG LANG: A couple of hours, maybe a little more.

CAPT: Let’s aim for tomorrow morning, shall we?

LANG LANG: Yes, sir.

CAPT: Thank you, Lang Lang.

 

CAPT: Starry?

STARRY: (appears before the captain’s desk) Yes, sir?

CAPT: Everyone is very formal today. Can you have everyone in the Bridge at oh-nine-hundred tomorrow, please?

STARRY: (tilts her head to the side) You complain about formality and then issue an order?

CAPT: (rubs his face) It’s been a long day.

STARRY: Then you should get some rest. I’ll have everyone there for you. Science geeks too?

CAPT: Yes. Though you really shouldn’t call them that.

STARRY: Well, I don’t do it to their faces.

CAPT: (gives her a quelling look.)

STARRY: (sighs and shifts her feet) Okay, I’ll stop.

CAPT: (smiles at her tiredly) Thank you.

STARRY: You need anything else?

CAPT: No, that’s it. Everything all right with you?

STARRY: Radiation levels are good. I haven’t detected any damage from our… activities. No alarms bells yet.

CAPT: (hesitates, watching her) Good to know, thank you. (He nods.)

STARRY: (nods and touches her forehead, then disappears.)

 

That wasn’t what I meant. Is everyone on this ship withdrawing into their shells? We won’t get through this if we do that. A crew that doesn’t talk isn’t a crew at all. We might not have been the closest group of people before but at least we spoke to each other before. Complaints are better than silence.

 

CAPT: (sighing) Comm, get me Monaghan.

ELLIOTT: (voice only) Something wrong?

CAPT: How’s Starry holding up?

ELLIOTT: Integrity’s good, no real damage to speak of. She could do with a fresh coat of paint – had a few close calls with that corona – but otherwise…

CAPT: (before the engineer can go off into more technical detail) No, I mean, mentally.

ELLIOTT: Uh.

CAPT: She seems all right to you?

ELLIOTT: Well, no. Are any of us? I mean, this is big shit.

CAPT: She talks to you, Monaghan. If you notice anything off about her, I need you to let me know immediately.

ELLIOTT: (frown carrying through in his voice) You think she’s a danger to us? ‘Cause I’ll tell you now, she’s the furthest thing from that in this entire system. The things she did to keep us safe while she…

CAPT: (quickly) I know; that’s not what I meant. I’m not questioning her loyalty or her capability. She needs friends as well as an engineer to help her, and it’s my job to make sure she has what she needs.

ELLIOTT: Oh.

CAPT: I need your help to make sure she’s all right.

ELLIOTT: Uh, yeah, sure. You want me to go talk to her again?

CAPT: Whatever you think is necessary. What do you think she needs?

ELLIOTT: You’re asking me? Fuck, I don’t know. I… (He trails off awkwardly.)

CAPT: What is it?

ELLIOTT: Just, maybe she needs a captain with the balls to ask her himself. Sir.

CAPT: Monaghan…

ELLIOTT: Hey, don’t ask a question if you don’t wanna hear the answer.

CAPT: (closes his eyes for a moment) I need to know that you’re looking out for her, Monaghan.

ELLIOTT: Of course I am! Even the emotional bullshit side.

CAPT: Good. Don’t worry; I’ll be talking with her as well.

ELLIOTT: Uh-huh.

CAPT: Good night, Monaghan.

 

The worst part is: he’s right.

I’m so busy being the captain that I forget to be their friend. But I can’t afford to be their friend, not with the kinds of decisions I might have to make. My decisions might kill them and I can’t let affection and emotion interfere with what’s right.

And yet, I’ve fallen in love with two of them: Lorena and Danika. I let it become affectionate and emotional.

It’s hard not to think about Danika when Starry looks so much like her. She speaks with her voice. I believe that there’s a part of Danika’s spirit in her, even though the woman I loved is dead. It’s hard not to see the child in Starry. Sometimes, I feel more like her father than her captain, and in those moments, I understand my own father a little more.

I should regret forming those relationships. Bonds and ties between me and my crew, me and my ship. It’s making things so difficult now, but I can’t imagine any other choice. I can’t wish away what was – and is – between us.

No regrets. Here is where we are and tomorrow needs to be a new start for us. We need to start building ourselves a future out of this mess, and that means new relationships for some of us.

Monaghan may be an oblivious little shit about people most of the time, but he’s right about this. Starry and the crew need a captain who’ll ask the right questions of and for them. We’re on our own here.

 

CAPT: Comm, get me Lorena.

DR CIRILLI: (voice only) Yes, captain?

CAPT: Do you have a moment? I think we need to talk.

 

End log.
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7 Responses to “Dust settling”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Wow, great one 🙂

    They are really quite tense — I hope the captain finds the right words “tomorrow” at the meeting.

    I believe that presentation of what would have happened will definitely help.

    I wonder if Lorena will accept the captain’s invitation and be his friend again…

    I do so hope that Starry is ok and not getting her guilt processors overclocked *hugs her*

    mjkj

  2. mjkj Says:

    PS: thanks for the early update 😀

  3. Targetdrone Says:

    @mjkj: tomorrow? i thought the meeting was scheduled for next wednesday 😛

    and yep, a lot of tension floating around, time for some serious talk… as i see it, it either tears them apart, or they grow a lot closer as a team/friendship unit…

    as allways, nice read, looking forward to the next installment :p

    *hugs starry* just because she needs it 😛

  4. mjkj Says:

    Yup, like I said “tomorrow” 😀

  5. Melanie Says:

    Thanks guys! Glad you liked it. Poor Starry and her overclocked processors. 🙂 Luckily, she gets hugs!

    I’m sure ‘tomorrow’ will come around soon. Speaking of which, I’d better get writing! 😉

  6. mjkj Says:

    Well, I guess suddenly “tomorrow” is today 😛

  7. Eduardo Says:

    How will they leave the system? Not by step drive, I suppose.
    Can they go back in time and undu everythig?