06 Jun

Health matters

Ship's log, 07:18, 27 March 2214
Location: Wide orbit near Earth Moonbase, Home System
Status: Stationary

 

It has been a long week. Simulations and permutations and more simulations. Calculations so repetitive that I almost miss the excitement of looping. (But only almost. I’m not that bored.)

For generations, scientists have tried to build reliable, predictive models of Earth’s weather. They hope to control it one day, to smooth out its rough edges and eliminate the most violent storms. But even after all this time, their models have a margin of error. The weatherman might say it’s going to be sunny but bring an umbrella anyway, just in case.

There are too many variables, they say. Too many interferences and interconnections and unpredictable factors to build an accurate simulation.

Trying to build a model of the sun’s internal weather is a little simpler. There are fewer variables to deal with: no ships dipping in and out, no machines randomly pumping ripples into the atmosphere of chemicals or heat or power. But even in this weather system, the tides that swirl and clash and suck and pull and try to spurt out… they’re difficult to predict with an acceptable level of reliability.

Cirilli keeps pushing for perfection. She wants this right the first time. For once, the captain and I agree with her completely. Ebling is ready to try it out and see what happens, but the rest of us know that we can’t afford to experiment. We have to get this right.

Kess is still standing on my deck, offering her input and advice. Her presence is a reminder that if we mess this up, we’ll hurt her, and possibly the whole system. She talks about planets changing orbits and warping to fit into a new pattern, and I hear a thread of dread in her voice. It gets worse when she talks about what might happen to Earth.

I think we all know what’s at stake here. Even down below on the planet itself, I think they know the danger that hovers over them. Geostorms knock out power networks every other day and the weather is growing ever more unpredictable. A hundred people died in riots yesterday. Fewer and fewer ships are coming in every day, and the ones heading out are full to the brim with people seeking solace in the colonies.

Even the Moonbase near us isn’t immune: a surge from a small solar flare knocked out one of its power centres a few days ago. It should be buffered against that sort of thing, but it seems that its buffers have been battered into submission. There are reports of unrest and families clamouring for passage out of the system there, too.

I watch the news, gather the raw data of arrest figures and hospital admissions, scrape the transmissions for unedited sensor feeds. It all tells me that while a lot of people are in denial and refuse to believe the doomsayers, there’s a large section of the population who fear the worst. Fear is driving them bloody. While I despise hysteria, in this case they might be justified.

We’re getting closer to an answer. I’ve got the simulations running over and over, trying to get the star’s tides down to acceptable levels without any disasters. I succeeded a couple of times, but the results haven’t proven very repeatable. Each iteration brings us closer, though.

Elliott has been working all hours to assess the capabilities of the Step drive. What we’re proposing to do to the star’s gravity tides will push its limits; it wasn’t made for this kind of activity. Making lots of small gravity ripples and punctures is quite different to punching a single, huge hole. He’s been building out its buffers and running stress tests on my hardware to make sure it’ll hold up.

I’m a little worried about him. Normally, he’d attack this kind of job with grumbling and gusto. He likes a technological challenge, especially when he has to come up with a solution to an unusual problem. He’ll swear and smack things, but there’ll be this little smile lurking around his mouth and a confident air around him.

But not this time. There’s plenty of swearing but only in mutters. There’s no smile and his shoulders are usually slumped, as if he’s slogging through a swamp. Even Byte is stepping more carefully around him.

At first, I thought it was because he’s working on the Step drive. The cause of our presence, our project, and our problems. It was also Ray Wong’s engineering responsibility, and Wong is currently braindead in my cryo storage. Elliott hasn’t had to pick up his work like this before. But he didn’t like Wong, so it doesn’t seem like him to get upset over that.

Today, I caught Elliott suppressing a cough while he was working. Checking over my sensor logs, it was sixth time in fourteen hours. Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that his strange behaviour might be because he’s sick.

Of course, if I ask him what’s wrong or how he is, he just says everything’s fine. That’s my Elliott.

I’m not the only one who has noticed. Since I came back online, Dr Socks has been following Elliott around. Not always obviously: occasionally, I catch a monitoring request sent through my sensor network. Other times, he lurks nearby with a hand-held unit, taking his own readings. I think the captain may have asked him to do it, but neither of them have told me about it. I don’t know why.

I don’t care. Elliott is my friend and I’m worried about him. I deserve answers.

 

Location: Med Bay

(The doctor is standing next to the pirate’s bed. Half-face is, unusually, sitting with his legs dangling off the side of the bed. He’s looking at his feet – one metal, one augmented flesh – and wiggling his toes with care.)

HALF-FACE: All right, let’s try this.

DR SOCKS: (nods and braces himself.)

(The pirate lieutenant claps a hand on the young doctor’s shoulder and hops his weight forward. The soles of his feet slide cautiously into contact with the floor and he eases up onto them. He wobbles and his fingers dig into the supporting shoulder, making Dr Socks wince, but after a couple of uncertain seconds, he steadies himself.)

HALF-FACE: (lets out a relieved huff) See, I told you they felt better than the last time.

 

Looks like the doctor has progressed with fixing the lieutenant’s broken cybernetics. He learns fast; he didn’t know much about augmentations before he came on board.

 

DR SOCKS: (gently prying the hand off him) Still some work to do.

HALF-FACE: (looking down at himself) I might just need to get used to them again. Recalibrate.

STARRY: (materialises near the pair and folds her arms over her chest) Do I need to get a SecOff down here?

DR SOCKS: (flinches at the sudden appearance, then levels a stubborn look at the avatar) There’s no need for that.

HALF-FACE: (shifting his weight with great caution so that he can send the ship a scowl) I’m not going to cause any trouble. Still have this to keep me in line. (He taps the captive collar on his neck.)

STARRY: (eyes the pair of them) Good. Doctor, a word, if you’re done playing with your new friend?

DR SOCKS: (nodding) Of course. (He glances at the lieutenant.) Try not to fall down. You’re too heavy to pick up.

HALF-FACE: (flips off a salute) Aye-aye, doctor sir. (He looks down at his feet, shifting his weight from one to the other.)

DR SOCKS: (looks queryingly at the ship’s avatar.)

STARRY: (waves him towards a bed on the other side of Med Bay, and walks along with him silently. When they’re standing by the bed, she activates the isolation curtain, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the room and giving them some privacy.

She hesitates, then blurts,) I think there’s something wrong with Elliott.

DR SOCKS: (drily) There are a lot of things wrong with him. Did you mean something in particular?

STARRY: (frowns at the doctor) I think he’s sick. You’ve been monitoring him, haven’t you?

DR SOCKS: Yes, I have.

STARRY: And?

DR SOCKS: The captain requested it, but I don’t know if…

STARRY: He’s my crew. I need to know what’s going on with him.

DR SOCKS: (hesitates.)

STARRY: (throwing her hands up) Do I have to get the captain down here?

DR SOCKS: (sighs and shakes his head) All right, all right. He’ll only say yes to you.

 

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

 

DR SOCKS: Monaghan is suffering from exhaustion, mostly. A mixture of sleep deprivation, insufficient rest, and poor nutrition habits. His body suffered a shock recently, and that’s exacerbating the symptoms.

STARRY: Shock? What shock?

DR SOCKS: Psychosomatic trauma, I believe. He self-medicates with stimulants.

 

What trauma? Why wasn’t I told? Psychosomatic… Does he mean when Elliott was inside my head and I came online and he was just lying there? Elliott said he was fine, he said… he said I nearly stepped on him. Was he just covering up?

 

DR SOCKS: …He keeps himself alert and focussed on his work, so I don’t believe he’s a danger to the ship.

STARRY: That’s not why I’m asking.

DR SOCKS: (blinks at her with surprise.)

STARRY: He’s coughing. He’s sick.

DR SOCKS: He has been running this way for some time. It was bound to have an effect on him some time. His immune system could be compromised, or he could be just exhibiting additional symptoms of exhaustion. He needs to take a break.

STARRY: Elliott doesn’t take breaks.

DR SOCKS: That’s exactly the problem.

STARRY: Can’t you do something? You’re our doctor.

DR SOCKS: It’s hard for me to do anything without his consent. Or explicit orders from the captain.

STARRY: Except monitor him.

DR SOCKS: (shrugs) At least I’ll be ready for him if he collapses.

STARRY: (paling) That might happen?

DR SOCKS: If it goes far enough, yes. Hard to say.

STARRY: (nods slowly) The captain knows all this?

DR SOCKS: Yes.

STARRY: (pauses, thinking) Is there anything I can do?

DR SOCKS: (eyes the avatar) Don’t you have bigger things to worry about?

STARRY: (glaring icily) I’m really good at multitasking. Or I might, oh, forget to keep your artificial gravity on. For example.

DR SOCKS: Very funny. Look, I don’t know what you can do. (He shrugs.) Getting him to rest would be a start.

 

Doesn’t he know how impossible that is? Drugging Elliott’s cocoa just pisses him off.

Of course the doc knows that. Dr fuckin’ Argyle. That’s why he said it.

 

STARRY: Okay. Thank you.

(The avatar and isolation curtain dissolve together, leaving the doctor standing alone by the bed. Across the room, Half-face is still moving in tiny, cautious increments.)

 

Get Elliott to rest. Of course he will.

We just got finished with the Bridge – which we were working on between all of the other repairs and upgrades I’ve needed since the bomb went off in there – and he has almost finished fixing the damage I sustained down my starboard side while I was offline. Now he needs to do this work on the Step drive to make sure I’m able to fix the star, so that it doesn’t twitch and kill everyone in the system.

My drones help out where they can, but he’s my engineer. He doesn’t step back and let them do it all; he gets elbow-deep in it. He comes up with solutions I’d never think of, because that’s who he is and how his brain works. I need him.

But he doesn’t look after himself. He’s going to ignore this cough until he’s forced to do something about it, same way he does with every other problem that isn’t technological. In case it goes away on its own, like magic.

 

Location: Mid-deck

CIRILLI: (arriving with hair freshly combed back from her face, ready for the morning) Starry, how are those simulations shaping up with the new parameters?

STARRY: (voice only) Still running, but stability seems improved.

CIRILLI: But still some discrepancies?

STARRY: Yes. We’re not there yet. I’ve marked up the results for you.

CIRILLI: (nods and settles at a console to pull up the readings.)

 

It’s a new day aboard the Starwalker and everyone is getting to work, including the one who has been up all night. I’m sending Waldo to take him breakfast.

If Elliott won’t take care of himself, I’ll find a way to do it for him.

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6 Responses to “Health matters”

  1. mjkj Says:

    *shock*

    Well, at first I thought those “Health matters” were concerning you, Melanie…

    *is partially relieved it “only” concerns Elliott*…

    *sighs* do not do that, Melanie, please, my poor heart… 😛

    Ah, I am glad you are feeling better and those health matters are not concerning yourself.

    I am glad Starry is well, and running to help Kess and earth and all.

    Yes, it is worrysome that Elliott is not taking care more about himself and getting sick trying to fix everything.

    I hope the captain, the doc and Starry can prevent Elliott from exhausting himself too much…

    I think Starry should talk with the captain about him… 🙂

    mjkj

  2. Marcus Says:

    Poor Elliott, every time he fixes something something else up and explodes on him.
    Reminds me of Geordi from TNG, except Elliott only has himself and not a full crew.

  3. Francisco Says:

    It looks like Starry is going to have to have a word with Elliott.

    Marcus, you’re right. However, I suspect the company picked him because they knew he had that sort of personality.

  4. Medic Says:

    Starry should have an accident that … erm … “locks” Elliot in his room for oh, say, 48 hours.

    And I agree with mjkj, careful with the titles. I thought you got worse. Sheeze, playing with our emotions like that….

  5. Kodes100 Says:

    Thank you so much for the update Melanie.
    I can never get enough of Starwalker.
    I am just a greedy fan.
    I hope you are feeling better & things slow down a little bit for you.
    Take care.

    Kodes

  6. Melanie Says:

    Whoops! So sorry, guys – didn’t mean to worry you all with the title!

    This one has been in the works for a while (and most of it was written before I got sick). Silly me, I didn’t think about changing the title before I posted it. But thanks for all your concern; it means a lot to me!

    mjkj – indeed! I think that Starry will have to talk with the captain about this. And, if she’s brave, Elliott. 😉

    Marcus – very true! Poor engineers, they never get a break.

    Francisco – yes! I suspect you’re right.

    Medic – hee. Maybe if she gets desperate, she’ll do that! Or have a drone ‘make him sleep’. Somehow.

    Kodes100 – glad you’re enjoying it! Happy to oblige (when I can!).

    I’m getting better, and I have some time off work coming up (can’t wait!). I’m aiming to get a pile of writing done over the weekend, and hopefully recharge a bit.

    I can’t wait to share the next bit of the story with you guys!