03 Apr

Next step

Captain’s log, 15:33, 7 October 2214 
Location: In the system of the Cerces black hole
Status: Sublight transit


This is Captain Warwick, reporting after the arrival on the Starwalker of the consciousness of the Cerces black hole.

It’s hard to believe that I’m committing that sentence into an official captain’s log. But there’s little doubt: stars and black hole are conscious, and they can interact with us through avatars. We first met Kess some months ago, in a body that was at least mostly human, and now, we have Cerces inside the shape of a small, black feline.

The process of making the kitten into an avatar was more catastrophic than any of us knew before we started. Cerces has apologised to us for the damage he caused to the ship; he had never tried doing anything like this before and was barely aware of the impact he was having.

I have impressed upon him that, if he is to stay with us, he had better become aware of the impact he has, or we’ll return him to himself through an open airlock. This ship and her crew have been through too much to fall foul of a kitten sneezing, and his apologies don’t heal our hull.

He appears to be making an effort, though. His communications feel honestly contrite and somewhat bewildered by his new state. He has never had a physical body before, not one capable of interacting with the world as directly as he is now able. Walking is new to him, and he resembles the newborn kitten he looks like as he stumbles around, trying to figure out how legs work.

Sara seems quite determined to carry him around, so I’m not sure how much practice he’s going to get while she’s awake. Cerces hasn’t complained yet, though. He seems as fond of her as she is of him.

She continues to have the strongest connection with him. Cerces is still reliant on mental communication – again, not a sentence I ever thought I’d have reason to put in a log – because of the restrictions of a feline’s vocal setup. It’s possible he will be able to adapt the kitten’s mouth and tongue to produce understandable human words, but considering that he has yet to figure out basic perambulation, I don’t think we should push for that right now.

The communication situation frustrates Starry, because she’s unable to hear him at all. It’s hard to tell how much spoken speech Cerces understands (or how much he’s picking up from our minds), so we’re not sure if she can talk to him directly either. So far, we have had to translate for both of them.

The mental communication with the crew is much easier now than it was before. Cerces no longer has to struggle to reach us, and we can all hear him independently. We don’t need trances or group-minds to establish a proper connection.

It’s still not the easiest of methods. His voice booms inside my head, more fitting for a large, deep-chested man than a kitten. I don’t think he understands what’s appropriate for his current size. A long conversation with him tends to leave a headache in its wake. The doctor is monitoring the situation and reports that no detectable damage is being done. I’m not the only one hoping that it gets easier, though.

We haven’t yet talked about what’s next, where we go from here; that conversation is fast approaching. Now that Cerces is aboard and able to come with us, we should be able to leave the system, but there are many things to sort out before that can happen. Our destination, for one, and the repairs of the ship.

Our Chief Engineer has been working almost non-stop over the past couple of days to get the essential systems back online. We have basic propulsion, inertial dampeners, and environmental systems back now, but we’re still missing a couple of sublight engines, the FTL drive, and weapons systems.

Monaghan’s report states that we have another few days of repairs before we should risk doing anything potentially dangerous, like leaving the system or an FTL jump. Even with the Celestial Strider’s engineer helping, there is a lot to do. The damaged cargo bay has been patched but needs to be made properly secure, and there is a lot of wiring to be replaced. Starry reports that she has lost almost half of her sensors on the ship.

We won’t be returning to Sarabande Station to complete the repairs. We have the parts for the primary repairs, with some patch-work and jerry-rigging, and the parts we’re missing aren’t on the station. Some of them were lost when the airlock blew; others we haven’t had in months. So there’s no reason to go back to the station and, for the crew’s sake, I’d like to move forward as much as possible. Returning to Sarabande now would feel like a step back, a defeat. The crew needs something better.

We are missing one essential piece that, while we don’t need it yet, we are likely to need in the near future. Starry reported some instability in one of her power cores and suspected it was damaged. Monaghan looked into it and confirmed her fears: the core is cracked. It will take us a little further but not much, and we’re going to have to tread lightly until it is replaced, power-wise.

Monaghan says that he doesn’t have the ability to repair a cracked core on board the ship; that’ll take an engineering garage. He might be able to patch it, depending on where the crack is in the core and how deep it goes; if the containment is compromised, it will be too dangerous to keep on board in case it breaches. He was going to look at it now but I sent him to get some sleep. Starry’s drone was hovering around him and I could see his hands were shaking with exhaustion. It would be better for everyone if he tackles the power core when he’s rested.

Once that power core is gone, she’ll have only one to run on. We’ll have fewer failsafes and will have to run in conservation mode; a temporary measure at best.

There was a spare power core on the station; it was one of the first parts we claimed when we were scavenging. Unfortunately, it was in Cargo Bay 1, and was one of the first parts out of the airlock when it breached. We’re going to have to find another one somewhere, but not here.

Monaghan is also reporting that Starry is in need of a dry-dock session. He wants to make sure her bulkheads are still solid after the punishment they have taken over the past year, and there’s other work he wants to do on her that needs a full dock to achieve.

Given our relationship with Isasimo Technologies, who own all of the ship-sized dry docks, I’m not sure how possible that is right now. We might be able to slip in under their radar at an outer colony. I am looking into possibilities and Chief Cameron is assessing our defensive capabilities in case we have to pass near our old company’s reach.

It’s a tricky situation. Our priorities are what they are, however, and we’ll find a way through. We need to return to a colonised system to drop off our reluctant guests from the Strider anyway; I still aim to fulfil that promise. With luck, we can kill two birds with one stone.

I am curious about Dineen’s motives for helping us with the repairs. She could have easily done damage or simply stayed out of it, given that she’s clearly capable enough to evade our security measures, but she chose to aid us instead. Her motives appear straightforward but I have to question her actions. There’s a lot we simply don’t know about her yet.

If she is to be believed, though, this shines a curious light on the Strider’s crew and their potential fates. It’s possible that she’s not the only one harbouring the desire to put their enmity for us aside. Perhaps they won’t all leave us when we find a suitable place to return them to the colony network.

It’s a lot to work out, but we have time and miles to go before we have to make our choices. Then, we will see how the chips fall. It’s too early to make predictions.

Only after all that can we consider Cerces’s request: to find his people. We will be able to plot a course to the systems where they might have gone and put our ex-company and all of this behind us. We have broken away from our old bonds and lives; finally, will be able to strike out in a new direction.

I look forward to that day. We have a long road ahead of us. It’s time to take the next step.

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11 Responses to “Next step”

  1. Targetdrone Says:

    ah.. to go boldly where no man has gone before… now there’s a thought 😉

    aww.. i get all giddy with the possibilities in mind… allthough, they are really in need for that drydock…. a ship cannot run on duct tape and hugs alone…

    *hugs starry*

  2. thomas Says:

    lots of questions, great chapter

  3. Sean Coker Says:

    Hello Starry, hello Melaine, hello everyone.

    Just caught up! Found the story two-ish weeks ago. Man, can I say that it’s fucking awesome.

    Like, wow.

    The settings really cool.

    The plot’s interesting and really engaging.

    The writings really damn solid.

    But, man. If there’s a highlight to this story its the characters. In terms of how relatable and interesting they are incredibly high quality. More than that though, the character development is fucking top tier. Like, up their with the best of the best.

  4. Sean Coker Says:

    Almost forgot:

    *hugs for starry*

  5. Melanie Says:

    Targetdrone – yeah, Starry does need some more substantial engineering TLC. It’s because we (okay, I) like to put her through the ringer so much. 😉

    In the meantime, she needs all the hugs she can get!

    thomas – thank you!

    Sean Coker – hi and welcome! Thanks for coming along and joining us.

    And thank you so much for your comments. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to know you enjoy it so much, and why! I’m humbled and honoured. 🙂

    Almost to the end of Book 4, folks. Got a bit of a break coming up. Just want to give you fair warning!

  6. Targetdrone Says:

    @Melanie … awww you deserve a break, after bringing us such an enjoyable tale week after week… even if it means to go cold turkey for us readers for a while, we have to recognize that our dealer needs to recharge her batteries too from time to time 😉

  7. mjkj Says:

    Oh, wow, poor Starry – only half ok… 😕

    I hope they soon find a place to put her into dry dock…

    *hugs Starry*

  8. Melanie Says:

    Sorry everyone. I fell horribly sick this week, still trying to crawl out of it. Next post will be up on the weekend.

  9. Marcus Says:

    It must be catching, I know several writers down with something this last week.
    Get well soon.

  10. Targetdrone Says:

    aye, get well soon….

    @Marcus … hmm you might be on to something. the first interent-distributed writer’s Virus?

    Johnson&Johnson, Pfizer and Roche are allready rubbing their Hands and the oportunity….

  11. Targetdrone Says:

    *at the oportunity* …. damn autocorrection…