28 Sep

Hang their hats

Ship's log, 18:53, 28 February 2214
Location: Junkpile, Lambda 1 system
Status: Stationary
Β 
External communications channel

RAVEN SPEAKS: Starwalker, this is the Raven Speaks.

STARWALKER: I hear you. You have a message for me?

RAVEN: Isasimo Technologies would like to know what they can do to expedite your departure.

STARWALKER: Do you have another one of those credit chits for me? Or three?

RAVEN: It can be arranged.

STARWALKER: The quicker you ‘arrange’ it, the sooner I’ll leave.

RAVEN: Noted, Starwalker. Is-Tech will want some guarantee that you will leave if you get the chits.

STARWALKER: Like what? I can give you my word.

RAVEN: That will have to do. I will relay the message and return.

 

I’m not going to tell them that I’m leaving soon anyway – a few hours at most – because they don’t need to know. Let them sweat. Let them beg and plead. Hell, let them pay me off (again) if that works for them. They’re kicking me out and I don’t owe them a damned thing.

I’ve got better things to worry about. My crew is assembled in the Mess Hall, with the captain joining by holo-cast. I’ve made the projection just his head and shoulders; he’s not eager to show off his truncated arm. I could show his full, unmutilated body if I wanted, but I think that would be cruel of me, for him and the crew.

 

CAPTAIN: (projection hovering over a table at one end of the room, with the crew spread out over tables and chairs facing him. Some slouch, some stand upright.) I think you all know why I’ve asked you to come here. It’s time to decide our next steps, and where this project is going.

DR CIRILLI: (stiffens where she sits) What do you mean, where this project is going?

CAPT: Is-Tech have left us to our own devices; we have to decide on our own course now.

CIRILLI: Just what are you suggesting?

CAPT: (to Cirilli) I suggest that we take this one step at a time and see where it takes us.

CIRILLI: (subsides, frowning.)

CAMERON: What’s the first step, captain?

CAPT: We have a number of challenges ahead of us. One of them will be solved when we drop our guests off in Apus – that is our next destination. Then we have to solve the problem of our various pursuers. Starry has suggested that we alter her ident to avoid detection by the Judiciary and Hunt’s people.

ELLIOTT: (scowls but says nothing.)

ROSIE: Sounds straightforward. What’s the catch?

CAPT: It means altering our registration. Replacing Is-Tech as our owners with… someone else.

EBLING: (starting) You’re selling the ship?

CAPT: Not exactly.

STARRY: If we’re going to be safe, we have to cut ties with Is-Tech. They won’t protect us, so we have to do it ourselves.

CIRILLI: (coldly) And just who are you giving this project to?

CAPT: No-one. We’ll set up a company ourselves and register the ship under its name.

EBLING: So you’re stealing it for yourself?

CAPT: (sighs) No, we’re not.

 

I hadn’t figured on Cirilli being loyal to the company. I especially hadn’t figured on Ebling supporting her; I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in so much agreement.

Elliott is sitting there quietly, chewing on a sweetbar as if he can’t see anything else in the room. I haven’t seen him outside the Bridge for days and I’m not sure what side of this issue he falls on. I know he’ll back whatever the captain chooses but that doesn’t make this any easier.

Rosie is frowning like she’s not sure what to think about it yet. Ebling’s grating tones make her want to oppose him on reflex; from the way she grips the edge of the table she’s leaning against, she’s restraining herself. She keeps glancing sideways at Cameron for guidance, but the Chief isn’t giving much away. She’s mulling the suggestion over, examining it from every angle before she commits herself to an opinion. From her hesitation, I think there are angles she’s still waiting to be revealed to her.

Lang Lang looks both lost and discomfited. She’s the most straight-arrowed of my people, the one I expect to object to this idea on moral grounds. I suspect that she’s waiting for the heat to die down before she enters the conversation.

The new guys are curiously quiet. I wasn’t expecting them to wade in like full crewmembers – they haven’t earned that right yet and they know it – but even their expressions are reserved. I’ve done some poking around on them and I don’t think they’ll object to our defection too strenuously.

Dr Argyle ‘Socks’ Valdimir is as young as he looks – barely over twenty years old but with enough intelligence and knowledge to make up for the lack of years. He has an IQ well into the ‘genius’ range and Is-Tech-sponsored library implants to give him the data to make the best use of that resource. It seems that he wasn’t quite as controllable as the company had hoped, however; I don’t have any information on what happened, but it was embarrassing enough to the company to make them put him where he won’t attract too much attention. Like on an illegal project that they’re pretending doesn’t exist.

Riley Swann’s dossier has even more holes and classified stickers on it (I have some hack-hounds worrying at the encrypted parts with their teeth, but it’s going to take a while). I’ve been able to deduce is that he’s not actually on the company payroll – not directly, anyway. He’s a mercenary, or possibly from a black-ops sector of company security. Either way, he’s used to operating outside the rules.

I don’t trust either of them an inch. However, I think their loyalties might be flexible and we can use that.

 

STARRY: (firmly) We’ve been left out here on our own. It’s time we recognised that and went our own way. If you’re not comfortable with that, a courier ship will be returning soon and you can disembark. None of you are obliged to stay.

EBLING: But what the hell would Is-Tech do to us if we left?

CAPT: If Is-Tech sort out the legal issues, then we can return. In the meantime, this is our best course of action.

CAMERON: So what do we need to do for this?

CAPT: Is everyone willing to stay? And risk being prosecuted for betraying your company and contract?

 

I’m having a shiver of deja vu. We asked this question five months ago at the JOP. Stay or go. Laws breaking, morals slipping. How far is too far?

John won’t reveal too much about our plans without knowing their answer; we can’t risk Is-Tech being told if one of them does choose to leave. The company might not want to claim us, but they will try to stop us from leaving them. They won’t want to admit that they can’t deny their cake and eat it on the sly too.

The Mess Hall is silent. I can feel the nanoseconds ticking by in the thrumming of my air circulation. Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.

 

ROSIE: (looks around the room and shrugs) Judiciary already has plenty of reasons to come after us. What’s one more? I say we protect ourselves any way we have to.

ELLIOTT: (scrunching up the sweetbar wrapping in his fist) Fuck ’em.

CAMERON: Is-Tech has already made sure that we won’t be able to get any legitimate contracts after we’re caught. We can’t really make our position much worse.

EBLING: (looks meaningfully at Cirilli, but she’s avoiding his gaze. He huffs and folds his arms over his chest.) This is a bad idea.

CAPT: (to Ebling) Do you want to leave?

EBLING: (scowling at the hologram) I didn’t work all these years to miss out now, dammit. You’re not taking this away from me.

CAPT: (glancing to Swann and Dr Socks at the back of the room) Anyone else want to weigh in?

DR SOCKS: (lifts his chin) They put me here to get rid of me. Sounds like a great solution all ’round.

SWANN: (grunts) Can you guarantee we’ll get paid?

CAPT: We have enough credit.

SWANN: (nods and leans back in his chair.)

 

Silence again. I can feel uncertainty resting on the air, like a weight holding their words down. How many of them want to leave but don’t want to be the first one to stand up?

Lang Lang is looking around with that wide-eyed expression she gets when she’s trying to process something upsetting. Teeth worrying at her lip. Oh, no. Not my navigator.

 

LANG LANG CARTIER: (clearing her throat softly) My mother used to say that two wrongs don’t make a right.

CAPT: (turns his head towards her) It’s okay if you wish to leave, Lang Lang.

 

What’s he talking about? No it’s not. It’s not okay.

 

LANG LANG: My papa used to say that there was no point in being right if you were dead.

CAPT: (frowns at her.)

LANG LANG: I don’t think that either of them were correct. I went to my priest for guidance once, and he told me that we should try to make the best of what we are. Sometimes, the best path isn’t obvious until you’re already past it. But you have to choose and move forward anyway, or you’ll never find the right way.

ROSIE: (looks around the room; everyone is focussed on the navigator with puzzlement) So which is it? You staying or going?

LANG LANG: (gives Rosie a calm smile) Being here hasn’t been wrong yet. I trust the captain and Starry to do what’s best for all of us. And this is… my home.

 

Log awaiting input...
Log awaiting input...
Log awaiting input...

 

No-one has ever called me that before. Home. I’ve spent so long searching for mine that I never thought about theirs. They packed up their lives when they signed up for the project, and now…

Is that how she really thinks of me? What about the rest of them?

Elliot has lifted his head and is staring at Lang Lang. He’s surprised, but from the lopsided quirk to his mouth, he’s pleased too. Rosie is grinning. The line of Cameron’s shoulders has eased, like that word took the crust off the air and it can move again.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can do anything, go anywhere. I feel like I might be running to something, instead of away.

On the Bridge, Waldo is eavesdropping and clapping two of his hands together, a lone metallic applause.

I feel like I’m swelling, my hull expanding to try to hold that concept within its protective walls. Home.

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14 Responses to “Hang their hats”

  1. Targetdrone Says:

    awwww… Lang lang definitely earned a hug there *gives out a hug*
    finally a much needed confidence-boost for starry..

    Guess for a ship there’s not much higher praise than to be called home…

  2. mjkj Says:

    Seconded…

    Great one, Melanie πŸ˜€

    I am just wondering about the awaiting input lines – they show up quite suddenly – is that the response of the recorder for the lack of input for a few moments? But usually that is somehow Starry’s computer programming that is saying stuff like that – but why would it await input?

    mjkj

  3. Medic Says:

    I think you have it right mjkj. It’s the recorder awaiting input because Starry is silent for so long. Sort of a stunned “holy crap I never thought of it like that” moment.
    Now Starry needs to send one of her children (drones) to give Lang Lang a hug for her.

    Oh, and Hi. Just started reading two days ago. This work is awesome!

  4. Targetdrone Says:

    @mjkj: my guess is, starry was so surprised that her processing cycles got out of sync with the auto-log…. after all that was quite a shaking moment for her… it was bound to rattle her algorythms to the core for some nanoseconds πŸ˜‰

  5. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – yeah, I wasn’t sure how that would work. It’s Starry’s little *speechless* moment – it was either going to be a big empty gap in the log or the autolog saying ‘HELLO? You still there?’ πŸ˜€

    Targetdrone – I like that explanation. Let’s go with that! πŸ™‚ And yes, Lang Lang – she surprised me when I was writing it! It’s always the quiet ones.

    Medic – hi and welcome to the blog! So glad you came to join us, and happy you’re enjoying the story! πŸ™‚
    I suspect that Waldo will give her some cocoa later. He’s busy doing Bridge repairs, so just a little drone clapping for now. πŸ˜‰

  6. mjkj Says:

    Yeah, thank you, I thought that might be it, it definitely is a speechless moment for her – but it does not really fit the flow, because you only show the recording and the recording would not record itself – so I would somehow clarify that.

    Like:
    – Autolog recorder: Awaiting input…
    or:
    – Starry mentioning the “Awaiting input…” of the autolog finally getting to her consciousness… – nah, I think that does not work … she would have to narrate her narration

    mjkj

  7. Targetdrone Says:

    actually, the only thing that might need changing is the font of the autolog lines …. aside from that there were autolog lines in between starry’s thought process lines in the past… for example right in the first post….

  8. mjkj Says:

    Well, those were not the lines of the autolog (as in the device autolog) – those were the lines of Starry as “proper” AI, her core programming so to speak without the Dannika (sp?) influence…

  9. Targetdrone Says:

    “Oh, I’m talking to my own autolog. That’s like talking to myself but with less chatback. ”

    taken from the awakening post….

    the autolog there was giving its reports right in between starry’s thought-lines….. so i’d say it is very possible for the autolog to wait for input from her….

  10. Melanie Says:

    Changed the wording to ‘Log awaiting input’ – does that help? πŸ™‚

  11. mjkj Says:

    πŸ˜€ Yeah it does πŸ™‚

  12. Targetdrone Says:

    i guess it should do πŸ˜›

  13. Medic Says:

    Something I just noticed while re-reading:

    “CAPT: If Is-Tech sort out the legal issues, then we can return. In the meantime, this is our best course of action.”

    Shouldn’t that be, “If Is-Tech -is to- sort out…”?

    Sorry, not trying to be nit picky here, but it interrupted the flow of the reading. Not sure, I fail when it comes to grammar.

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