01 Dec

Lone tree in the wood

Captain's log, 12:16, 20 October 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit


This is Captain Warwick reporting. We’re almost a month out of the Jumping-Off Platform, heading back to the Minkar system. There, we will backtrace the last Star Step we did, aiming for a contemporary Grisette rather than the historical one we visited before; the experiment is focussing on point-to-point travel, not journeying between times. I’m sure we’ll get to the time aspect soon, but first we have to nail down whether or not we can reliably travel between systems without bouncing around history.

All systems are green and we haven’t had any problems since we left the JOP, apart from a brief brush with a Judiciary patrol. Nothing untoward happened there; they seemed happy with our credentials. If the Judiciary has a warrant out to pull us in, it hasn’t been distributed to their patrols yet.

There hasn’t been any word from the lawyer, Sten, or anyone else from Is-Tech. All signs point to our research status remaining a company secret, but I don’t want to assume anything at this stage. We’ve had too many unknowns crop up, too many secrets jump out to bite us, to relax now. Our plan to steer clear of the JOP and the Judiciary for the foreseeable future remains intact.

Yesterday, I had a discussion with Dr Cirilli about the future of the project. I needed to know where she planned to take the ship and what the phases of the project were. Previously, I had only been given the details of the first phase: using the Starwalker to test the Star Step drive to see if it would work. I was told that it was impractical to construct a complete plan because the drive might not work or it might kill us all, and there were so many unknowns in the process that the steps necessary to make it into a marketable product were impossible to predict.

After the deception surrounding just the first phase, I decided that it was time to see what the full picture looked like. The managers in Is-Tech clearly have one, despite their protestations. It turns out that I was right: Is-Tech’s reluctance to share their plans wasn’t from any kind of pessimism or reservation; it was so that they could keep the unsanctioned nature of the project to themselves. The latter phases of the plan include more secret tests, establishing a hidden production line to investigate the commercial viability of the drive, and many other measures to keep the project under wraps until the official sanctions can be secured.

All that secrecy. Ridiculous measures, considering that we ended up in front of the Judiciary and any one of the crew might have slipped up under the pressure of an official interview. We all know that we’re not supposed to talk about the details of the project, and that the Judiciary didn’t need to know about that in order to prosecute Tripi, but none of us is perfect. The wrong word here, a tiny slip there, and the secret would have been out. If we had known, we could have prepared for it. Constructed our stories more carefully. Even Sten should have known better than to keep it to himself after he knew what the situation was and that we were about to go under the Judiciary’s hammer. But no, their precious secret was too much to tell us until it was almost too late. We had no idea what was truly at stake.

And then there was Tripi. She could have blown it all wide open if she’d wanted to. If her employers know about the project, it’s safe to assume that they know it’s unsanctioned. Again, we were completely unprepared for what would have happened if she’d opened her mouth. We’re lucky that she didn’t, but only in the short term, I think.

The only reason I can think of for why she’d keep it to herself is that she wants us out here, free for her employers to catch. If the Judiciary locks us down, everyone loses, including whoever hired her to sabotage us. If she’s keeping us in play, that means the game’s not over.

That secret endangered all of us in so many ways. It makes me furious: how can I keep my crew safe and the mission on-course if I don’t know all the pieces in play? I was expecting something like Tripi to turn up; I was prepared for that kind of battle. Corporate warfare is nothing new. But not knowing that I should be keeping an eye out for the Judiciary as well? That’s too big of a gap to forgive.

That Dr Cirilli kept it from me – that just rubs salt into the wound. The rest of her team I can understand: they were following her lead and they weren’t sleeping in my bed. But Lorena, she was privy to my closest facets. I shared my concerns with her, my plans and fears about our situation. She didn’t speak up once, not once. Not until she was forced to.

I didn’t know she could keep information to herself that well. Even now, even after nearly a month out here and several meetings about where we’re going next, I’m not sure I believe her when she tells me that she doesn’t have any more secrets up her sleeve. I look at her and her expression is just as honest as it was before. I want to believe her. I want to trust her like I used to. But I had no signs then, no reasons for reservation, and I let her in.

I can’t take that risk again. Not for my crew, my ship, or my heart.

Oddly enough, I’m more angry on behalf of the crew and Starry than I am for my own sake. My heart’s not broken, and I thought it would be. It should be. But as close as Lorena and I had become, I don’t think I was in love with her. Not like I was with Danika, or the family I lost those years ago. I loved Lorena, and I needed her at times, but I wasn’t in love with her.

There’s something liberating about that realisation. I feel freer than I have in a long time. I thought I needed her to be the man I wanted to be, but maybe I don’t.

After I lost everything I loved, I had nothing to hold onto. Nowhere to go, nothing to strive for. Then I met Danika and she showed me what life was like again. She was completely unlike the wife I had loved and let fall out of my hands, and I think that was part of what I needed her to be. It’s impossible to replace something like that, but Danika helped me see that I could move on to something else. With her, I did.

Then she was gone and I was adrift again. I lost my grip on what was important to me, because trying to be that man without her hurt too much. All there was was the work, this project, and this crew that missed her too. Once again, I tried to believe that that was all I needed, but I knew it was a lie. Danika had shown me that and I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t know, not even to myself.

Lorena was there for me. She listened when I needed to talk about the things that mattered to me, those private things I can’t share with the crew because I have to be their captain. She lay with me when I needed a body beside mine to feel whole. She did her best to soothe me when Danika turned out to not be so dead after all, and she helped me to work through the confusion when I didn’t know whether I wanted to cling to the ghost in the machine or delete it.

I think she knew that she was competing with Danika’s ghost all the time we were together, even before we realised what – who – Starry was. She seemed okay with that. Now that it’s over, she seems okay with that too, and that baffles me. I’m sure she was invested in the relationship almost as much as I was, but since I made it clear that it was over, she hasn’t said a word about it. She just accepted it and walked away. I guess she’s dealing with it in her own way. I hope she is, for her sake.

I’m still confused about Starry, but it isn’t as painful any more. We talked about Danika’s spirit recently, and I said that she seemed more like Danika’s daughter than the pilot herself. I think that’s true. Put in those terms, it’s easier to accept that this ship is both part of the woman I loved and not her at the same time. Our relationship is still strained occasionally, but we’re getting there. I think we’ll be all right.

That’s the overriding sentiment sounding in my head now: we’re going to be okay. It’s the first time I’ve been on my own and able to say that. The first time in my life. Before, I’ve always had family or partners with me. My parents, my wife, my own family. Danika, Lorena. I’ve always had their support to lean on, but not any more. Now it’s just me and I have to figure out how to make that work. Not the captain stuff – that has never been a problem. I have to be me, John Warwick. The man who is also a captain.

It’s time I did this on my own. Despite everything that’s going on and hanging over us, I believe I can.

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4 Responses to “Lone tree in the wood”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    John found that he can be alone and it’s ok, hopefully he can find a reason to be happy by himself as well.

    Ok so plans to make more ships like the Starwalker, only if they can travel between the planes and hit the correct time. And of course avoid problems with the law, jumping out of time can help with that but only leads to hug questions down the road no matter what time you end up at.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Yup, they have a lot of challenges in store. Some of them aren’t even on that list! 😉

  3. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Lone tree in the wood -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Becka Sutton, Melanie Edmonds. Melanie Edmonds said: New #Starwalker post! The captain considers his position, personal and professional. http://www.starwalkerblog.com/lone-tree-in-the-wood/ […]

  4. Belial666 Says:

    They’ll probably get captured and have to escape at some point.

    There must be a reason this “book” is called ‘slave’ after all.