16 Dec

Never again

Ship's log, 04:12, 3 November 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit


It makes sense now. All those indeciferable actions of Tripi’s have a discernable purpose. It was all leading to this moment, this place. I managed to put it off, but I couldn’t avoid it entirely.

I was right about Levi. He had locked himself into the pilot’s chair and adjusted the nav systems so it wasn’t obvious what he was doing. It took Lang Lang three days to figure out what he’d been up to. The readings were all off, but only by a tiny bit: just enough to send us off-course after a month at full sublight speed.

Until I realised what he was doing, I hadn’t noticed that he had hardly been out of the pilot’s chair since we left the JOP. The chair is built to supply nutrients and keep the pilot comfortable for as long as necessary; he had only taken time out when he absolutely needed to sleep – just a few hours every three or four days. He was desperate not to let me be in charge of my own helm for long, and to keep me away from that compromised nav data.

I should have noticed anyway. I should have paid more attention. How could I let this happen?

Levi knew when we’d found the navigation alterations, because Lang Lang automatically started to correct them and it showed up in his datafeeds. We didn’t realise what she was doing in time to stop her. I was already locked out of the navigation and propulsion controls – the chair automatically takes that over when a pilot is engaged – and he disabled the emergency chair shutdown once he realised we were onto him. That was the final confirmation that we were right about him.

If I had hands, they would have been shaking with tension and fury. I managed to feel sick without a stomach or the ability to vomit. I shouldn’t have let it happen.


Recording: 18:47, 30 October 2213

CAPTAIN: (over internal comms from the Bridge, glaring at the pilot’s chair) Monaghan! Shut him down!

ELLIOTT: (over internal comms from Engineering) I can’t – he’s disabled the disconnect.

CAPT: I want him out of that chair, right now.

ELLIOTT: Gotcha. Cutting off his arms and legs now. (In Engineering.) Starry, shut down the engines.

STARWALKER: I can’t, Elliott. The pilot’s chair overrides my controls. I need time to strip out the firewalls – it’ll be quicker if you do it manually.

ELLIOTT: Fuck. Okay! Get Waldo and Casper down here.

SW: On their way.

ELLIOTT: (goes to the main sublight core and flips open a panel. He reaches inside and starts to yank wires out, flicking quickly through the lines before he pulls them. Lights begin to flash as decapitated cables slither around his feet.)


Malfunction detected.
Sublight engines disabled.
FTL drive engaged.


ELLIOTT: Starry! Stop that bastard from jumping us!

SW: On it!

ELLIOTT: (runs over to the FTL drive system down the side of the Engineering bay.)


Inertial dampeners offline.


ELLIOTT: Starry! What– you’re gonna kill us!

SW: I know what I’m doing.


Emergency protocol engaged.
FTL jump aborted.
Inertial dampeners offline.


ELLIOTT: (grabs a wrench and wedges its head behind a pipe running into the FTL drive housing.)

WALDO: (arrives and trundles quickly over to Elliott’s side.)

ELLIOTT: (points to the wrench) Give me a hand here.

WALDO: (wraps two of his four hands around the wrench’s handle and pulls down on it, levering the pipe away from its connection under the FTL drive. The pipe comes free with a pop and gases hiss.)

ELLIOTT: (jumps away from the spurt of gas and goes to smack at a control until the flow is cut off.)


FTL drive malfunctioning.
FTL drive disabled.
Malfunction detected.


CAPT: (over internal comms) What the hell is going on down there?!

ELLIOTT: (over comms) Not now!

SW: (to the Bridge) Hooking you up to the Engineering sensor feed, captain.

ELLIOTT: Dammit Starry, you could have killed us.

SW: No, the failsafes are still in place. Can’t jump without inertial dampeners.


SW: He can still manoeuvre, though.

ELLIOTT: On it. (He runs around the sublight engine’s bulk in the middle of Engineering and down the other side.) Waldo! Yank the feeds for the starboard thrusters!

WALDO: (trundles up to the thruster controls and begins disconnecting the feed lines.)

ELLIOTT: (fumbles over the collection of slender cables and hurriedly starts to unplug one in every three.)


Starboard thrusters malfunctioning.
Starboard thrusters disabled.


ELLIOTT: (stumbles to the side as the ship lurches wildly, tearing free a handful of lines in the process) Fuck! Starry!

SW: I don’t have control! Hold on, Elliott!

ELLIOTT: (clings to the lines that are still plugged in, losing his footing entirely as the ship spins.)


Port thrusters malfunctioning.
Port thrusters disabled.


ELLIOTT: (still clinging to the lines. Another one tears free.) Now we have no way of stopping this spin!

SW: Brace yourself, I’m turning the IDs back on.


Inertial dampeners enabled.


ELLIOTT: (falls full-length to the deck as the inertial forces of the ship’s movements are negated. He groans and lifts his head.) But we’re still spinning.

SW: Venting gas to counter it.

ELLIOTT: (pushing himself hurriedly to his feet) Wait, there’s still the forward–


Forward thrusters malfunctioning.
Forward thrusters disabled.


ELLIOTT: (stops and stares at the forward thruster section of the Engineering bay.)

CASPER: (stands there. He lies the disconnected lines for the forward thrusters on the floor and turns to face Elliott expectantly.)

ELLIOTT: (exhales slowly) Fuck.

CAPT: (on the Bridge) Monaghan, report.

ELLIOTT: (still staring at Casper, who doesn’t move a metal inch) All propulsion systems are offline. We’re not goin’ anywhere.

CAPT: Are we still spinning?

SW: The rotation is minor, captain. Nothing to worry about. I’ll fix it once I have control of the thrusters again.

CAPT: Good. Now cut off his access to navigation and let’s get him out of that chair.

ELLIOTT: (lowly) Be my fucking pleasure.

We pared down Levi’s access and control a piece at a time, hemming him in closer and closer to the pilot’s chair. The navigation systems were last, and then Elliott went up to the Bridge to cut the power to the chair to force the bastard to disconnect.

There are safeguards and protocols in place to stop that kind of thing from happening – it’s dangerous to have half of your mind involved in something outside of your skull when the link goes down. It can do permanent damage; some people don’t come back right, or at all. We tried to push Levi back to himself before we dropped the hammer, but he didn’t make it easy for us. He got himself deeply involved in trying to launch one of my emergency buoys despite all of our warnings. I clamped down on that, though; the buoy didn’t go anywhere.

His body convulsed when the cerebral links went down, orphaning his mind from my systems, and the shock of the disconnect knocked him out. I don’t feel bad about it. It was an emergency and it’s not like Levi wasn’t expecting it; he knew exactly what we were doing. Plus, the bastard betrayed us.

Maletz was there and stepped in as soon as the chair’s cradling arms unfolded, revealing Levi’s sweaty body. Cameron and her SecOffs looked on, hands ready on their weapons, until the doctor confirmed that he was unconscious and unlikely to wake soon. He summoned a hover-litter from the Med Bay and took the bastard back for monitoring. One of the SecOffs has been standing guard inside the Med Bay since then.


Recording: 19:04, 30 October 2213

CAPT: (watches the hover-litter head off down the corridor braced by the SecOffs and the doctor.)

ELLIOTT: (watches as well, gripping his favourite wrench so tightly that his knuckles turn white.)

CAPT: (takes a breath and lets it out slowly) All right. Good work, everyone. Monaghan, can you get us back up and running?

ELLIOTT: Yeah, yeah, ‘course. (He stomps off the Bridge.)

CAPT: Starwalker, do you have full control now?

SW: Yes. The chair’s influence has been removed from my systems.

CAPT: I want full diagnostics on everything it has interacted with.

SW: Diagnostics running.

CAPT: Lang Lang, can you please check all navigation readings.

LANG LANG: (looking stunned after everything that has happened, with a bruise on her cheek from being thrown around the bridge when the inertial dampeners were offline) Of course, captain. I’ll do that now.

CAPT: Thank you.

My diagnostics have all come back clean. I’m running them again, just in case, on the deepest scan level. I’m scrubbing my own code as well, ripping out anything that Levi might have touched and resetting it. I won’t have a repeat of Tripi’s influence.

Levi is still unconscious. Maletz says that his readings aren’t dire, but they aren’t too promising either. I suspect that the doctor might be keeping this new saboteur in a coma so that no-one on board is tempted to punish him. Quite a few of my crew would like to get their hands on him. So would I, if I had any.

Elliott and the drone brothers have my main propulsion back online – it takes a lot longer to hook it up than it did to rip it apart. Recalibration alone is painfully tedious. I have stabilised my position so that I’m no longer spin-drifting towards the debris cloud, and now I’m holding my position while Lang Lang resets the nav system.

Right now, everyone is asleep. It’s just me, stewing in the awful feeling that I failed my crew. But I won’t fall for that again. I won’t fall for any of their tricks again. I can’t anticipate everything they might do, but I can learn from my mistakes.

I don’t have hands, but Big Ass and Wide Load do. They also have cutting tools. They’re good boys – they put all those things to work for me.


Malfunction detected.
PIlot control systems damaged.
Pilot control systems disabled.
Pilot control systems disconnected.


ELLIOTT: (sleepily, from his bunk near Engineering) Starry? Wassat?

SW: Nothing to worry about, Elliott. Go back to sleep.

ELLIOTT: (groans and pushes himself up to check the display next to his bed) …what’re you doin’?

SW: Something I should have done months ago.


Dammit, he’s getting up anyway. He looks worried – about me, or the damage I’m doing? Still, it’s too late. My two big boys are on their way to the main airlock with their burden, carrying the tumour they cut out of my heart.

Elliott knows what they’re doing. He’s not even bothering with pants – he’s just running off after them, the tops of his boots flapping around his calves. He won’t make it in time. Wide Load is already placing the package into the airlock. Big Ass is closing the door behind him. There’s no stopping me now.


ELLIOTT: (arriving at a skid in front of the main airlock doors, almost piling right into the big maintenance drone) Starry! What is this?!

SW: I told you, Elliott. I should have done this before; I should never have let the damn thing stay.

ELLIOTT: (pulls up the display of the airlock.)

(On the other side of the doors, Wide Load shifts to the side and wraps a couple of hands around one of the airlock’s anchoring bars. Sitting in the centre of the airlock is the pilot’s chair, its feeds and cables wrapped around its neck as if strangling it. Its severed feet make it list to the side.)

ELLIOTT: Fuck, Starry.

SW: (voice trembling) It’s been nothing but trouble, Elliott. It’s hurt everyone who’s been in it. It’s hurt everyone on this ship every time it’s been used.

ELLIOTT: (scowling at the chair) Yeah, I know.

SW: We don’t need it. Never again, Elliott.


SW: No, I have to–

ELLIOTT: (hurries to where Big Ass has a metal hand on the airlock purge control and places his own flesh hand over the top) You never needed that stupid thing anyway.


Purge initiated.
Main airlock doors open.
Venting airlock.


(Wide Load is lifted off his tracks as the airlock is exposed to vacuum, but his grip on the anchoring bar stops him from being sucked out. The pilot’s chair has no such tether; it shivers and slides, then tumbles out of the gaping hole in the hull in a rush of gas and dust. Distant light glints off its edge as it spins away from the ship.)


Venting complete.
Main airlock doors closed.
Purge complete.


It’s gone. I’m free. Elliott is grinning and slapping Wide Load on the shoulder. I wasn’t expecting him to be so pleased; I guess he understands more than I gave him credit for. I’d hug him if I could, but not with those metal arms.

The chair is drifting towards the debris cloud. Now that my engines are working again, I can head away from it, angle off towards where we were supposed to be going. Full sublight, as fast as I can go outside of an FTL corridor. The nav system isn’t fully fixed yet, but I don’t need precise star readings to know which way is away from danger right now.

The captain is asleep, otherwise he’d be asking me what I was up to right now. Sorry, John, but I have a bad feeling.

I have all my sensors peeled so sharply that they’re raw. The comet’s trail is a wound across my vision, its dust choking up my eyes. I think that cloud is looking back at me.

We didn’t get to Levi in time. I know it. I feel it – don’t ask me how. My hull is prickling with it, even before it pings my sensors.


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3 Responses to “Never again”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    Well at least they have control of the ship again. Casper is a sneaky one that is for sure, I hope the FTL is brought online shortly or they will have problems.

    Good riddance to bad rubish, that chair was an eye sore anyway.

  2. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Never again -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joyce Chng (JDamask), Melanie Edmonds. Melanie Edmonds said: New #Starwalker! The repercussions of betrayal are felt. http://www.starwalkerblog.com/never-again/ http://fb.me/DyJInMf8 […]

  3. Eduardo Says:

    And now we have a big cliffhanger.
    I will be cheking this site frequently to find out what ship was detected.