13 Aug

Last ditch

Ship's log, 15:50, 13 August 2213
Location: Intersystem between Corvus FTL Corridor and the JOP
Status: Adrift


Recording: 14:02, 11 August 2213

STARWALKER: (sounding strained) Elliott, my engines are offline. All of them.

ELLIOTT: (in Engineering with his head down over a holographic interface) Yeah, I know. I can hear them not humming.

SW: I can’t get them to come back up again.

ELLIOTT: I know.

SW: It must be a hardware issue. But it’s taken out sublight and thrusters – they’re separate systems. A single fault wouldn’t do that.

ELLIOTT: I know.

SW: Has anyone been down there? Elliott?

ELLIOTT: (lifts his head and sighs) No. (He turns and heads for the door.)

SW: Where are you going? Aren’t you even going to take a look?

ELLIOTT: (shakes his head and leaves Engineering.)


Recording: 14:02, 11 August 2213

SW: Captain, we have a problem.

CAPTAIN: (looks up from his terminal) What is it?

SW: All propulsion systems are offline. We’re adrift.

CAPT: What’s the problem?

SW: I don’t know – I’m looking into it. It’s not a software issue – I’ve checked the systems and protocols three times. Diagnostics are reporting a mechanical failure.

CAPT: Then why do you sound so worried?

SW: Because the chances of all of my propulsion systems being offline at the same time are about the same as finding a dustbunny dancing on the tables in full light. It would take a synchronised fault in four separate circuits.

CAPT: (sits up straighter) You think this was done on purpose.

SW: Dustbunnies don’t dance in the light, do they!

CAPT: All right, all right. Get Cameron here. What does Monaghan have to say about this?

SW: He knows there’s a problem, but he’s…

CAPT: He’s what?

SW: (dismayed) He’s on his way to you.

(The cabin’s door bleeps and the captain waves it open. Cirilli walks in, one finger flicking through the information on the digisheet in her hand. Behind her, Elliott is stamping up the corridor, but she hasn’t noticed. She walks inside without glancing up and the door closes behind her.)

CIRILLI: I was just checking to see if you’d completed that report that–

CAPT: Lorena, not now.

CIRILLI: (stops and blinks at the captain) What?

CAPT: (waves her to a chair on the side of the room) We have a situation.

CIRILLI: (doesn’t move) What kind of situation?

(The cabin door bleeps.)

CAPT: (looks at Cirilli.)

CIRILLI: (sits down unhappily.)

(The captain waves the door open again and reveals Elliott’s scowling face. Cameron arrives behind him and follows him into the cabin.)

CAMERON: (gives the captain a querying look.)

CAPT: (gestures for her to wait, then looks to the engineer) I hear we have a problem with propulsion.

CAMERON: (stands by the door quietly, all sharp eyes and creases.)

ELLIOTT: (folds his arms over his chest) Yeah, we do. In that it doesn’t work.

CAPT: You know what’s wrong with it?

ELLIOTT: It’s missing some vital parts.

CAPT: (hesitates) Did you do this?

ELLIOTT: (tensely) Yes.

SW: (quietly) Elliott?

CAMERON: (eyes unfocus for a moment as she relays a silent message to her team through her implants.)

CIRILLI: (jumps to her feet, gaping at Elliott) What? What do you think you’re doing?

CAPT: (still seated) You’re the last person I expected to be working with Lou Tripi.

ELLIOTT: (scowl deepening) Don’t be fucking stupid! I’m not working with her. What makes you think that has anything to do with this?

CAPT: You sabotaged the ship.

ELLIOTT: And the bitch nearly killed me, too. Don’t lump me in with shit like her.

CIRILLI: Then stop acting like it!

ELLIOTT: (rounding on the scientist and waving his arms around) I am nothing like fuckin’ cow! I’d hardly do it and then come and admit it if I was, would I!

CAPT: (sharply) Monaghan.

ELLIOTT: (subsides and moodily returns his attention to the captain.)

CAPT: (when he has everyone’s attention again) Why don’t you tell us what this is about.

ELLIOTT: (takes a stubborn breath and folds his arms again) This ship is gonna drift until you make a decision about Starry.

CAPT: (frowning) What decision?

ELLIOTT: You know what. She thinks you’re gonna wipe her when we get to the JOP. And she’s right, isn’t she? I’ve asked you four times for a goddamn decision about this, and you keep avoiding it. I want a straight answer.

CAPT: And if the answer is that she’s going to be wiped?

ELLIOTT: Then that ain’t fuckin’ good enough!

CAPT: There are protocols in place for this. The law is clear.

ELLIOTT: Bullshit! They don’t apply to someone like her.

CIRILLI: She’s just a broken AI. We need a ship that works properly.

ELLIOTT: (rounding on the scientist again) Ungrateful bitch! She’s the only reason this stupid experiment of yours has worked at all! She did your Step for you, and you still want to get rid of her?

CIRILLI: (hesitates, absorbing that) She’s dangerous. Look what she did to Tripi.

ELLIOTT: To save us. You just don’t like her because she’s his ex. (He jerks a thumb at the captain.) I think you both just want her out of the way.

(The temperature in the room falls about five degrees.)

ELLIOTT: (continues anyway) She’s not just an AI. You all know that. You just don’t want to admit it because it might be inconvenient.

CIRILLI: (coldly) And you have an unhealthy attachment to her.

ELLIOTT: (takes a deep, angry breath.)

CAPT: (cuts in before the engineer can speak) That’s enough, both of you. (He waits for them to subside.) What do you want us to do, Monaghan? Lie to the Judiciary? If we hide something from the Judiciary, it puts our whole case against Tripi in danger. We might have been able to hide what she is if she hadn’t attacked Tripi, but now…. (He spreads his hands.) We can’t guarantee Tripi’s silence.

ELLIOTT: (glares at the captain) You could try.

CAPT: What would you have us do? Kill her?

ELLIOTT: Maybe! She was willing to do it to us. You’re gonna just let her kill one of your crew? Twice?

CAPT: (firmly) We are not going to murder a prisoner.

ELLIOTT: Well then, you’d better find an alternative! Unless you really do just want to get rid of her. Do you? Because without Starry, we’d be dead. Not just me: all of us, four times over by now. You don’t even know half the stuff she’s done to save our asses. Stuff no ‘regular’ fucking AI could do. Now you don’t even want to look for another option? (He throws his hands up.) Would you abandon all of us so damn quickly?

CAPT: She’s not a crewmember, Monaghan.

CAMERON: (from her place next to the door) Actually, sir, she’s your Executive Officer. AIs took over that role after the Kruschev case about forty years ago. There’s a whole cadre of lawyers on the JOP who employ themselves solely in the argument of exactly what that means for the position of AIs.

CAPT: (looks to Cameron) Do you think they would help us?

CAMERON: (shrugs) If the company pays the bills.

CIRILLI: And just how long would we be tied up in court cases?

CAMERON: AI rights can take months to argue, and this case is more complicated than most. Monaghan’s right – we don’t have a regular AI. She’d blow the argument wide open, and we’d have more than just the pirates and Is-Tech’s competition after us. I can name six organisations that would do anything to get their hands on her, including the entire colony of Dyne.

ELLIOTT: (swears under his breath.)

CIRILLI: (firmly) She belongs to Is-Tech and the Star Step project.

CAPT: I don’t think that the chief means that they would take her legally, Lorena.

CIRILLI: Then what are we supposed to do! She’s a danger to us and the project.

ELLIOT: Hey! She the only reason you’re still alive and your project is still going.

CIRILLI: (subsides unhappily.)

CAPT: (looks to Cameron) What are our legal options?

CAMERON: If we try to hide Starry, Tripi’s statement will expose all of us. If we tell the truth about her, we’ll be putting ourselves in even more danger and probably lose her anyway. Either way, the project ends and we’ll be stuck under the Judiciary’s thumb for months. Or we wipe her before it becomes an issue.

ELLIOTT: No! No fucking way!

CAMERON: (spreads her hands.)

CAPT: Thank you, Chief. Everyone, I need a moment alone. Dismissed.

ELLIOTT: No, you can’t do this! You can’t just kill her!

CAPT: Monaghan, you’re dismissed.

ELLIOTT: (glares at the captain, then turns and stamps out of the cabin.)

(Outside, Rosie and Tyler are flanking the door. Cameron gives the captain a querying look, but he shakes his head. The SecOffs leave Elliott unmolested and the captain’s cabin empties out. Cameron hesitates at the door.)

CAMERON: Are you sure you don’t want us to hold him?

CAPT: (shakes his head) Monaghan isn’t an idiot. He’s made his point; he won’t do anything until he gets his decision now.

CAMERON: Fair enough. Do you know what you’re going to do?

CAPT: Exhaust possibilities.

(Cameron nods and leaves. The captain looks at his workstation and sighs, running his hands through his long hair.)

The captain has barely emerged from his cabin since. Cirilli has visited him, but she hasn’t stayed for long. He has asked for a drone to deliver his meals, but otherwise, he hasn’t spoken to me at all.

The privacy locks aren’t back in place yet but I haven’t been able to bring myself to spy on him. I don’t want to know what he’s debating in there; this whole thing makes me feel ill enough already. I know that he sent an FTL message back to Is-Tech at Feras and he’s been leaning on the communications array a lot, searching for relay buoys to hook up to.

Elliott has refused to fix the engines until he gets an answer from the captain, and that answer hasn’t come out yet. The captain hasn’t pushed him for it. We’re all waiting, drifting here in limbo, helpless to choose our own paths. Every hour brings us closer to the JOP – we were heading in that direction when I lost propulsion and I can’t turn away. The tide is still rising. Inexorable.

Elliott. I should be furious with him for sabotaging me. He scared me so badly; he could at least have warned me about what he was doing. Of course, I would have tried to talk him out of it, and tracked where he hid the components he removed. He knew; that’s why he didn’t tell me. He’s frightening when he’s determined about something.

Right now, all I want to do is hug him and tell him that everything will be all right. I can’t do either of those things.

Instead, I waited for him to calm down and move on to less percussive maintenance. Then I sent Waldo to him. The llittle fella snuck in and put a mug of cocoa next to his elbow.

Recording: 23:26, 11 August 2213

ELLIOTT: (looks down at the mug with surprise.)

WALDO: (whirrs and shuffles back, folding his hands in front of him. He looks up at Elliott.)

SW: (quietly) Thank you, Elliott.

ELLIOTT: (scowls) What for? Didn’t fuckin’ work.

SW: For trying.

ELLIOTT: For being fuckin’ useless. (He snatches up the mug and sips at it. Still scowling, he turns back to his work, poking at it one-handed while he drinks his gift.)

Cocoa and waiting; that’s all we have now. I miss cocoa.

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7 Responses to “Last ditch”

  1. Xirena Says:

    I am so glad Elliott finally went to bat for her, I just wish Cirilli would face the facts, people like her make me want to propagate violence upon their being

  2. Xirena Says:

    Went to bat for Starry if that wasn’t clear, lol

  3. Melanie Says:

    Aww. I’m just glad that Elliott didn’t go to the captain carrying his favourite wrench. 😉

  4. David Says:

    The pressure is building… Love it!

  5. Benjamin B. Says:

    Found this story via write.blog.fiction and am so very glad I did! It took me until the day before this post was released to catch up, but it’s been well worth it. Very captivating story all the way through and it’s very easy to get emotionally attached to the central characters (I think I’d even hug Waldo, given the chance!).

    Looking forward to where this one goes. Melanie, thanks so much for writing this!

  6. Melanie Says:

    Hi Benjamin! Welcome to the blog, and thank you for commenting!

    Wow, great feedback. All wonderful stuff to hear. I shall try to keep it up! Thanks for reading. 😀

  7. Ashley Says:

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work