15 Sep

Freedom of speech

Ship's log, 12:16, 15 September 2213
Location: JOP
Status: Docked

 

They’re forgetting me. My crew, the ones who went to the captain to ask him to find a way to save me. The ones I’ve nurtured and kept safe in turn. They’re getting used to me not being here.

It’s only been a couple of weeks, but already they’ve stopped almost speaking to me. At first, they’d catch themselves and shake their heads, leaving cut-off syllables of my name hanging on the air. Crouching behind the sensor datastreams, I’d prick my ears and wait, but they moved on without me. The only person who does that now is Lang Lang, too deep in starcharts to remember my absence until she’s halfway through the second sentence.

This is worse than being boxed. At least I was working towards a way out then – I had something to strive for. All I can do right now is wait and watch, watch and wait, without even fingers to drum on the tabletop.

There is an end in sight, though. Elliott has finished overhauling my systems – Tripi’s stain has been scrubbed out of every corner. He sent reports on the mess to the Judiciary when he was done, so they’d know the extent of the damage she caused. They dragged him off for a full day of interviews yesterday, most likely to discuss it.

He’s not the only one. The captain and Cameron have also been called in for a second round of questioning, and stayed away longer than the first time. So many hours of questions – I have to wonder what they ask. I didn’t think the matter was that complicated. Maybe Tripi’s lawyer is searching for a crack in the stories to lever open.

I should stop thinking about this. I’ll just worry about it even though there’s nothing I can do, and no way to find out how off-base I am.

There are signs of life in Engineering. After he got back from the interview, Elliott stumbled down there and fell asleep next to the hulk of the sublight engines – he does that when he’s unhappy, I’ve noticed. As if he doesn’t want to face his bed on his own. As if he doesn’t want to let himself be comfortable. He seeks a harder kind of comfort down with the machinery he keeps running.

We’d all die without him. I wonder if he knows that.

 

ELLIOTT: (yawning and patting a bulkhead on his way out of Engineering) Time to wake up now.

 

What?

Wait, I think he’s talking to me. He’s ready to ‘reinstall’ the AI. He’s going to give me my voice back. Mustn’t be too eager, mustn’t push for it, no matter how much I want to run full-tilt towards him with my arms spread out. I want my body back.

Mustn’t wish that he’d waited until after he went to get some food to tell me. Now I’m watching him with way too much intensity as he prods through my galley. Yes, it’s all restocked. Yes, there’s lots to choose from. Come and get me out of this hole already!

 

ELLIOTT: (pokes at a holographic terminal on the galley wall with one hand while he flicks a wrapper open with the other) Captain?

CAPTAIN: (over internal comms) Yes, Monaghan?

ELLIOTT: Gonna reboot the AI now.

CAPT: Heading to the Bridge.

 

This is it! Finally. The captain’s going to monitor from the Bridge and Elliott is heading back to Engineering to kick off the process. When I get out, I’m going to– wait. Something’s happening. What the hell? Visitors now? No, you can’t come on board. Go away! Elliott, give me my voice already!

 

SHARK STEN: (on the docking bridge) …outrageous! It won’t be allowed. (He tries to get in the way of the suited man next to him.)

STRANGER: (grabs Sten’s wrist and waves it near the door sensor) We demand access.

STEN: (struggles to pull his arm free) And I demand that you stop, right now! Let go of me! This is a classified proj– ship.

STRANGER: (steps through the airlock door the moment it opens) My company demands full disclosure.

STEN: (hurries aboard behind the stranger) Tough! Your company isn’t allowed full disclosure. We have confidentiality injunctions that prevent you from–

STRANGER: (presses forward, waving a digisheet) Freedom of the press allows me to do what I want.

STEN: (spots the Judiciary drone and raises his voice pointedly) You’re not a real journalist! You’re interfering in an on-going investigation! You’re violating injunctions! You’re– compromising evidence!

 

Lawyers! All they know how to do is flap their lips. Punch him in the face! Jump on him and sit on him! Someone – anyone!

Dammit, I can’t even send the drones down there. Wait, Maletz is passing by. See them, doctor. Do something.

 

MALETZ: (stops, eyeing the situation, then steps to the side and pokes a holographic terminal) Captain, SecOffs, we have a situation at the airlock.

STRANGER: (tries to head past Maletz further into the ship.)

MALETZ: (stands in the doorway calmly.)

STRANGER: (stops, not willing to physically interact with the doctor.)

STEN: It’s unlawful! You have to leave!

CAPT: (arriving) What is going on here? What are you doing on my ship?

CAMERON, ROSIE and TYLER: (arrive at a jog.)

STRANGER: I am a representative of the press, and I demand–

ROSIE: (steps up behind him and grabs his upper arms.)

STRANGER: Hey!

CAMERON: (takes the digisheet from the stranger’s hand and looks at it.)

TYLER: (nudges the Judiciary drone with a toe) Justiciars are on the way.

CAPT: Well, Chief?

CAMERON: He has a journalist pass. Stamped by Boereque Intergalactic.

STRANGER: (struggles in Rosie’s grip) It’s all legal. Let go of me!

ROSIE: (swings him around and into a wall.)

STRANGER: (impacts the wall and he groans.)

 

Boereque. Who? I don’t have access to my data cores! I think they’re one of Is-Tech’s competitors. What kind of ship-building company has a name that rhymes with ‘wreck’? And they hired a journalist to come find out about me? How did they know about me? How did they know I was here? Were they the ones who set Tripi on us?

Dammit, my sensor feeds need subtitles, for those of us not connected to any kind of database or comms system. This is so unfair.

Boots are clonking down the docking bridge – I can hear them coming. Justiciars. Never thought I’d be glad to see them.

 

CAPT: (crosses to the airlock doors.)

LEAD JUSTICIAR: (stops at the threshold, his helmet turning to survey the cargo hold) What’s the situation here?

CAPT: We have an intruder.

STRANGER: (mumbling into the wall he’s being pressed against) I’m a journalist. I have rights.

CAPT: (firmly) Not on my ship.

CAMERON: (steps forward and holds out the digisheet with the stranger’s credentials) His creds appear to be in order, but they don’t give him the right to violate company privacy. This is corporate espionage.

LEAD: (looks at the digisheet, then speaks in the direction of the man against the wall) What’s your purpose in being here?

STRANGER: Investigating a story about a corrupted AI and some weird tech.

LEAD: (gestures for the pair of armoured clones behind him to fetch the intruder) The AI has been decommissioned. There’s no story here.

JUSTICIARS: (step forward to relieve Rosie of her charge. They hold him by an arm each and turn to march him out of the airlock. Their Lead and the captain shift to give them room to leave.)

LEAD: (turning his helmet towards the captain) We’re not your private police force, Captain. I hope this doesn’t happen again.

CAPT: (levels a flat look at the blank faceplate) I’ll plan not to have any more intruders, then.

LEAD: (spins on his heel and clomps off down the bridge.)

 

Pretty ballsy move. Trying to bluster and bluff a way onto a private ship. Even to the Judiciary. Turns out that the little armoured nubbin sitting in my cargo bay is of use to us after all – it called them in before any of my crew could.

I’ll still be glad when it’s gone. When I’m up and running again, when I have control of my helm and get us the hell out of here. Away from all these things designed to hurt us.

This had better not delay me here – if it turns into another Judiciary case, it just might. They’re not going to take it that far, are they? There’s a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever be free of the JOP’s tethers. And once I’m free, will I ever dare to come back?

The little shark lawyer looks like he’s about to explode. Possibly all over my deck. The captain has locked down the airlock and dismissed everyone except Cameron; the three of them are on their way to his cabin now. Looks like the little armoured nubbin has forced them to seek privacy, which means I won’t know what’s going on.

It’s so unfair.

 

STEN: (as the door to the captain’s cabin closes behind them) ..bastards from Boereque will try again, and they’ll have better creds next time….

 

Shit.

 

Initialising...

 

What now, autolog! Oh, Elliott. He’s starting me up.

About time. Let’s get going already!

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3 Responses to “Freedom of speech”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    Being stuck in your own head and not able to do anything would drive me nuts. And of course the other companies will try and get in, pretty close call on that one.

    Hello and nice story you got going on here.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Hi Daymon! Thanks for commenting.

    Yes, things are getting tight for the poor ship. Glad you like the story! Hope you keep coming back for more. 🙂

  3. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Freedom of speech -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe Whitten and Melanie Edmonds, Lori Titus. Lori Titus said: RT @Kessbird: New #Starwalker! Someone tries to break into the ship, while Starry is still stuck on mute…. http://fb.me/L9PddGhC […]