13 Jun

Ousted

Ship's log, 23:41, 27 March 2214
Location: Wide orbit near Earth Moonbase, Home System
Status: Stationary

 

When we first came to this system, we avoided the Moonbase. I had forgotten about that until 15.4 seconds ago. More precisely, I had forgotten about why we had avoided the Moonbase, and 15.4 seconds ago, a sensor contact reminded me.

 

Location: Captain's cabin

(The lights are out and the room is still. The captain is a lump in the bed, breathing low and deep. His augmented right arm is flung out to the side; the other is tucked under his head.

A buzzer sounds, loud and insistent.)

CAPTAIN: (shifts, groaning.)

(The buzzer sounds again, louder.)

STARRY: (appears next to the bed. The lights come up.) Captain, you need to get up.

CAPT: (rubs his face and pushes himself into a sitting position) What’s going on, Starry? I just got to sleep. We have an emergency?

STARRY: Four Judiciary ships, incoming. Fast.

CAPT: (blinks, then launches himself out of bed) Hailing us?

STARRY: (glancing down at him, then back up to his face) No. They’re en route to the Moonbase. But their course will bring them right past us.

CAPT: (rakes his long hair back over his shoulders) Have they picked up our ident?

STARRY: (rigidly looking him in the eye) I don’t think so. Not yet. But they will and we haven’t changed it yet…

CAPT: Get SecOffs to the Bridge. Wake Elliott.

STARRY: (frowns) He’s not asleep.

CAPT: Good. Now–

STARRY: That’s not good! I have to talk to you about that.

CAPT: (hesitates) Right now?

STARRY: …no. But I have to talk to you about it. Soon. He’s not well.

CAPT: Not well enough to do his job?

STARRY: Not well enough because of his job. (She folds her arms over her chest.) Which you knew about or you wouldn’t have had the doctor monitoring him.

CAPT: Starry, we’ll talk about this later. One crisis at a time.

STARRY: Fine.

CAPT: (starts for the door.)

STARRY: (turning to watch him) Uh, captain?

CAPT: (pausing) Yes?

STARRY: You might want to put some clothes on.

CAPT: (glances down at himself) Right.

 

I should have let him wander out naked. He would have deserved it. Not that he would have been embarrassed; he doesn’t get shameful that way. Dismayed, perhaps. He would have been dismayed at the error.

Half of the crew have probably seen him naked already anyway.

Maybe that’s unfair. Danika was the first one he slept with in this crew. And after her… was there anyone else before I woke up? It took them months to get back to port and initialise me. Did he take comfort with anyone then? Or was Cirilli the next one to fall into his bed?

I wonder why she did it. I’m pretty sure I know why he slept with her, but what were her reasons? Did she really love him? She didn’t seem all cut up when they stopped sleeping together, and I’m pretty sure it was him who ended it. She doesn’t seem like the kind of woman who’d sleep with someone just for fun, or to manipulate him. She doesn’t seem to need a partner the way he does. So why did she do it? Did he mean more to her than she has shown? Could she be that good at hiding her emotions?

That’s been over for a while now. I’ve been a little surprised that he hasn’t had anyone else in his bed yet. Not that he’s a manslut or anything, but… he doesn’t seem to like being alone. I keep wondering if I’ll pop in on him and find one of the new girls here: Sasha, or even Kess. Kess might be an avatar, but hers has a physical presence, and she seems to get on well with my captain.

I shouldn’t be thinking about him like this. Danika was a long time ago and my captain… he seems happy enough. With that stuff. It’s none of my business.

And I have way more important things to worry about, like incoming Judiciary ships.

It must be all the unrest on Earth; they must be coming to offer aid. Four huge battlecruisers, angling in towards the Moonbase from a high vector. The Judiciary doesn’t have jurisdiction on Earth; the Moonbase is as close as they can get. Which means I should have altered orbit days ago, as soon as I had control of my propulsion again.

Stupid ship. I’m supposed to protect my crew, not sit here and lick my wounds where the damn Judiciary can see me.

People are arriving on the Bridge. Pay attention, idiot ship.

 

Location: Bridge

CAMERON: (striding to the console to the right of the captain’s chair) Starry, report.

STARRY: (brings up data on the console for the Chief, and activates the holo-display in the centre of the room.)

(Earth dominates the image, while the moon turns into view along with the small, golden light that shows the Starwalker‘s position in orbit. Other dots show the locations of other ships hovering in various orbits around the planet and her satellite. A stream loops from the edge of the system, around the South Pole and up towards the equator, representing the main traffic path into and out of Earth’s orbit and landing paths. Four red dots approach from the opposite direction, coming in from the sunward side and angling down towards the moon.)

STARRY: (voice only) Four battlecruisers. They’re hailing the Moonbase.

ROSIE and SWANN: (hurry in and fan out, each heading to a weapon’s console and dropping into a chair. The displays pop up before them.)

CAMERON: Have they spotted us yet?

CAPT: (strides in, wearing pants and tucking his shirt into his belt.)

STARRY: I haven’t detected any sweeps in this direction yet. They’ll be in range to pick up our ident bleep in twenty seconds.

CAPT: Can we suppress it?

CAMERON: That’d only make them more interested in us, sir.

ROSIE: Do we know they’re even looking for us?

CAPT: Maybe not right now, but I’d rather not stick around and take a chance on them recognising us.

CAMERON: Is-Tech were sure we were in enough trouble to hide us.

CAPT: (nods and sinks into his chair, watching the holographic display in the centre of the room) Starry, can you shift us into wide Earth orbit, and keep us out of their range?

STARRY: Yes, though it’s gonna be tight. Unless you want me to look like a startled rabbit.

CAPT: No, slow and easy, if you can.

CAMERON: (nods in agreement, her gaze fixed on the ripple of sensor data coming in off the Judiciary ships.)

STARRY: I still have a couple of drones outside, making repairs. Should I bring them in?

CAMERON: No, secure them outside and keep them working. It will look less like we’re running that way.

(On the hologram, the mote of light that represents the Starwalker swings out from its position and curves around the moon towards the transit lane. It’s a painfully slow progress, and the fast-approaching four dots sprout a bubble around them. It indicates their passive sensor range, and the Starwalker skitters away from it as casually as possible. The Bridge is silent as everyone present watches and waits.)

 

Look less like we’re running away. Should I start whistling?

There are a lot of ships hanging around in orbit, waiting for room in a safe port to land. No others are sidling away from the incoming Judiciary mammoths. Hopefully they won’t notice me anyway. Nothing to see here, just switching position. Just wasting fuel.

 

(The Bridge doors swish open and Kess hurries onto the Bridge.)

KESS: What’s going on?

CAPT: (turns to frown at her) Nothing you need to worry about.

STARRY: How did you know something was going on?

KESS: We’re moving. Why?

CAMERON: Incoming Judiciary ships.

KESS: (looking over the hologram in the centre of the room, where the little golden blip is barely staying out of the Judiciary’s sensor bubble) They’re looking for you?

CAMERON: Not actively, but we don’t want to attract their attention. Best we stay unnoticed.

STARRY: Because someone told them our research was unsanctioned.

KESS: That’s true, isn’t it?

CAMERON: But hardly helpful or convenient if we’re going to help you.

KESS: (nods with a thoughtful frown) They’re here to offer aid. They’ll try to negotiate with Earth’s Security Council to get Justiciars onto the planet. To ‘keep the peace’.

CAPT: Hopefully their politics will keep them busy enough that we can slip away.

STARRY: Uh, captain. Doesn’t that mean they’re going to be staying for a while? We’re gonna run out of places where we can escape notice.

CAPT: (nods grimly.)

CAMERON: If we’re going to drop anyone off, we should do it soon. (She glances meaningfully towards Kess.) Those negotiations might not hold them back for long.

KESS: (keeps quiet, but watches the exchanges with interest.)

CAPT: Starry, hail landing control. See how fast you can get us planetside.

STARRY: What landing site should I request?

CAPT: (looks to Kess.)

KESS: Northern Europe. Any available landing site there is fine.

STARRY: Hailing them now. Bringing us around towards standard holding orbit.

 

At least we have an excuse for our movement now: requesting permission to land. And I can’t say that I’m sorry at the prospect of getting Kess off my decks. As much as I’m coming to like the star, she’s unsettling to look at. Her radiation fluctuations blur my sensors, and she always seems like she knows more than she’s telling.

She says she’s like me. We both have charges that we want to protect. We both want to fix this. We both have avatars, but mine is made of light and hers is real.

She makes me feel guilty. She’s an amazing being, with an existence so vast that my filestores aren’t big enough to hold everything it means, and I hurt her. She’s willing to forgive us and that almost makes me feel worse. She’s giving us a chance, giving us the benefit of the doubt, giving us the opportunity to do the right thing. And, dammit, I don’t want to let her down. I want her to think well of me, and of all of us.

I want to resent her, but she confuses me. Frightens me, sometimes. Even so, I want to please her. I want to make her proud of me.

I wanted the same thing from the company that built me. They abandoned me when I needed them. They left me to face the wrath of a star alone.

Things will be simpler once she’s not on board any more. Easier. I can stop wondering if she’s going to get angry and explode, and I can focus on what I need to do to fix her. We were going to drop her at the Moonbase, but Earth will do. It’s just as good, right? Better, maybe. No Judiciary down there. Yet. We’ll have to be quick to drop her off before they get planetside.

It feels like dustbunnies are skittering around in circles in my ducts. I’m off-balance. The Judiciary are blindly roaming up behind me, their sensors pressing so close across the vacuum. Earth’s landing control is babbling about delays and holding patterns. Just give me a damn number and let me take my place in the queue.

I feel like a piece in a chess game, manoeuvring into position. But which one? Knight, queen, or pawn?

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7 Responses to “Ousted”

  1. Francisco Says:

    I’m curious what Kess’s plan is and how being on Earth is going to help them.

  2. targetdrone Says:

    hmm.. i’m not totally convinced that its an improvement for humanity to have an unstable avatar of sol on earth as oposed to have her far away from earth in space 😛

    but i belive in starry, she will not let kess down, so no need to worry…

    and as an afterthought…. kess and the captain? now that has some interesting possibilities right there….. well, until she goes through her first PMS 😛

  3. mjkj Says:

    *lol* 😀 Starry want to start whistling I really would like to be there to see all the startled people *grins* 🙂

    Will Kess and Captain work out? Would he not be in danger from her radiation? 😛

    Well, if Sol gets worse – and Kess is planetside then it would be a fast end for Earth…

    I hope Kess somehow can get the Judiciary from Starry’s tail – and maybe someone can make that change to Starry’s ID in the meantime…

    mjkj

  4. targetdrone Says:

    hmm.. so far there wasn’t a problem with her radiating affecting the crew and people around here, was it? … in any case one could asume she has a radiating smile should she choose to show it 😛

  5. Francisco Says:

    I’ve got two theories as to why Kess may want to be on Earth:

    1) All out publicity: Use the publicity to get Earth and everyone else to give Starwalker and her crew the space to work.

    2) Feeback problem: She may need to be off the ship for the process of fixing her to work.

  6. Melanie Says:

    Francisco – I love your theories! I shall neither confirm nor deny any of them at this point. 😉 I will say that you’re close on the feedback problem, though; Kess is uncertain how the process will affect her avatar, and being aboard the ship responsible might be… dangerous.
    Their original plan was to drop her off on the Moonbase, but… well. Complications are fun, right?

    targetdrone – hee hee. Yes, Starry will do her best, bless her hull!
    And yes, it’s interesting that Starry thinks that would be a possibility. Does the captain, though?
    You’re correct: Kess’s radiation hasn’t damaged the crew at all. She pretty much only lets light/heat through her avatar, so there isn’t any chance of anything other than ‘regular’ burning if she gets uncontrolled.

    mjkj – I can just see Starry blaring music out of her speakers as she flies (in atmosphere, where others can actually hear it). Oh, the fun she could have with that…
    So many problems to solve! Kess may well be able to help with some of them. Watch this space. 😉

  7. mjkj Says:

    I certainly will 😀

    Well, music is one thing – imagine her whistling… 😛

    …and in the city beneath everybody turns around… 😉

    mjkj