14 Apr

Out of the hands of time

Ship's log, 17:52, 14 April 2213
Location: Grisette system (unverified)
Status: Wide orbit around Grisette sol (unverified)


Lang Lang and I haven’t been the only ones pondering the problem with the charts; talk in the Mess often turns to speculation about our situation. Alternative dimensions have come up more than once – maybe when we stepped outside the universe, we opened a doorway into another one. Perhaps we accessed some place that was just a little ‘off’ from our home. It’s a fascinating and terrifying thought – what else might we find here?

I think the actual solution is more mundane than that (though not something I would ever call ‘mundane’ for its own merits). I don’t think we travelled across realities – we travelled across space and time. Stepped out and then back in again, like hopping out of a pool and running around the edge to dive into a new spot, rather than swimming all the way across.

Space and time. When it was mentioned, the whole Mess went silent. It makes sense. Lang Lang was the first to speak, to say that it could explain the discrepancies in the charts, though she’d have to investigate it before she’d be sure. Then the place erupted, loud in equal parts of amazement and denial. We travelled in time. Never mind that Lang Lang hadn’t confirmed it yet.

That was two nights ago, at dinner. The astro-navigation specialist slipped away quietly with a couple of stim-packs while the reactions were raging, and settled down at her station on the Bridge with a sigh.


Recording: 18:45, 12 April

STARWALKER: Do you need anything?

LANG LANG: (on the Bridge) No, no. I have suspected this for a while; I was hoping they wouldn’t start to ask until I had something to give them.

SW: Oh. What can I do to help?

LANG LANG: I have a few stray stars who don’t match the correct pattern. Let’s start checking the calculation on those, shall we?

Since then, we have been going over the chart data for all of the charts I’m carrying. We’re comparing three charts now: take the stars’ positions from the latest maps, compare them to the earliest ones I’ve got on file, and then to the positions we’re seeing right now. There should be straight lines connecting all three dots, but in some cases that’s not true. Those are the ones foxing Lang Lang.

Over on mid-deck, the conversations have been of a very different nature. Cirilli has had her head down over the Step data, tearing through it as if she lost her favourite penny in there somewhere.


Recording: 13:42, 13 April

SETH EBLING: (on mid-deck, warily) Is there something I can help you with?

DR CIRILLI: (not looking up) We have to know how this happened. Nothing in the probe logs suggested that dimensional travel was possible through the gravitational portals, and likewise with time travel.

EBLING: Maybe the ship just screwed it up.

CIRILLI: I don’t care who’s to blame. (She straightens from her hunch over the console.) We’re scientists, Dr Ebling. We have a duty to find out how this happened. And, more importantly, how we’re going to get back.

EBLING: (paling) Get back?

CIRILLI: No-one has raised that question yet, but they will. And we’d better have an answer.

EBLING: Just how far out of time are we talking here?

CIRILLI: For star shifts that noticeable? Centuries, maybe thousands of years. Lang Lang is working on pinning it down.

EBLING: (stares, then blinks and turns to poke at a console next to him. The information he brings up isn’t comforting, either.) Our star charts are expanded from current readings, so… back. We’ve gone back in time.

CIRILLI: (already bent over her work again.) That’s what it looks like. So unless you want to go visit our ancestors, I suggest we work on figuring this out.

As much as I hate to admit it, Cirilli is right: we need to figure out how we did this. How I did this.

Because let’s face it, this is my fault. I dove into the Step unprepared for what I’d find, and I brought us out into the wrong time. I was so sure that I had the right coordinates to link back into real-space. That’s all I had been looking for: the right star, in the right part of the relativity spray.

I’m fairly sure that I could retrace our steps and put us back at Corsica at the right time, but no-one wants me to do that. There was a reason we had to leave so suddenly, after all; the pirates will still be there. Out of the teeth of time and into the belly of the shark.

I’m sure there’s an answer in the sensor data from the Step. I keep looking at it, but trying to make anything coherent out of it is like trying to grab soap in anti-grav. There are gaps where I simply didn’t have the processing power to translate all the data that was coming in – if I hadn’t been so panicked and determined to push through any obstacle, the influx would have overwhelmed me. We might have been completely lost in there – that’s a scary thought. No wonder the drones had a tendency to explode when pushed through a portal.

I just need to pare it down to the essentials, to just the data we need to be able to navigate back to the correct time. I think I know what I’m looking for – the stars seemed to exist on strands of golden thread out there. If I can get a map of those, and fill in the gaps, that might get us closer to what we need.

Oh, crap. I need to ask a favour. This is going to sting.


SW: Excuse me, captain?

CAPTAIN: (in his quarters, alone) Yes?

SW: I think I know a way to help get Lang Lang the data she needs to finish her map.

CAPT: (looks up from his digi-sheet) Oh?

SW: I’d need to open another Step portal and go through, just long enough to scan for the data. Then come back here.

CAPT: (frowns) What did Cirilli say about it?

SW: You’re the captain; I came to you first.

CAPT: I’d like to hear from her on this. (Over internal comms,) Lorena, can you come to my cabin, please?

CIRILLI: (from mid-deck) Coming, captain.


Perfect. Just perfect. Now I have to twiddle my circuitry while Cirilli slides up a level and slinks her whitecoated ass into the right cabin. As if asking the captain wasn’t bad enough. I feel like a kid asking daddy for a treat, but he has to check with mommy dearest to make sure it’s in my diet.


CIRILLI: (entering the captain’s quarters) What’s wrong?

CAPT: Nothing, nothing. Starwalker wants to open another portal.

CIRILLI: (stopping short) What for?

SW: To get navigational data.

CIRILLI: You didn’t get enough during the Step?

SW: No. There was too much to record and so we only got partial impressions.

CIRILLI: Partial impressions? You couldn’t even get a clean recording of the Step.

SW: I can’t hold the entire library of human entertainment in my databanks – not even all the porn. What makes you think I can hold all of the data from an unexplored region outside space and time which probably holds all of space and time?

CIRILLI: If that is true, what will we learn by opening a portal? More fragmented data?

SW: I believe I know what I’m looking for, what data to collect. Given enough time, I think I can get what we need.

CIRILLI: (looks to the captain) You’re considering this?

CAPT: If it gets us what we need. I thought you’d be pleased at the chance to get more information on what’s beyond the curtain.

CIRILLI: I’m not displeased. I just don’t know if we’re ready to go in there again, not yet.

SW: We might not need to go all the way in. A tethered sensor array might do it.


SW: I don’t know what kind of sensor array would be able to sift through the data out there. That’s what your technical experts are for.

CAPT: What kind of time would you need, Starwalker?

SW: There are too many unknown factors to guess.

CIRILLI: And why are you asking permission this time?

SW: Because it’s not an emergency. I’m trying to help.

CAPT: Is there any reason not to do it?

CIRILLI: If the ship can be trusted not to whisk us off somewhere else, no.

SW: Hey–

CAPT: Lorena, why don’t you get Wong to give Monaghan the specs for the sensor array. We should investigate every avenue.

CIRILLI: Of course, John.

CAPT: Starwalker, maintain orbit until we have everything ready.

SW: Aye aye, captain.


Is it bad that I want to turn her shower water blood-red? Or have a drone poke her in the eye when she’s asleep? Because I could, you know. I could make her cold water hot and her hot water cold… which, okay, I’ve done before, but I’m not going to tell her that.

I just don’t like the way she speaks to me. Or the way she calls the captain ‘John’ now. Or the fact that she hasn’t come out of his cabin yet. The privacy locks are back on, shutting me out; they come down on private quarters as soon as a conversation finishes. I don’t think I want to see what’s going on in there anyway, though I kinda suspect that she’s bitching about me and he’s trying to placate her.

No-one tries to placate me. No, I just have to carry on, business as usual, never mind the human crawling around in my head, making herself at home.

I think I’ll go talk to Lang Lang, explain my theory to her. She’s the navigation expert; she should be able to back me up, just as soon as I have something whole enough to show her. I think she’ll be pleased about the prospect of having something to solve her charting issues.

If I can please just one person today, that will be something.

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3 Responses to “Out of the hands of time”

  1. capriox bovidae Says:

    I now feel the urge to give Starwalker one of those snarky black t-shirts.

    Y’know, the ones that say “I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.”


  2. Melanie Says:

    Hee! I can just see her wearing one of those, too!

    Maybe she should make little additions to the status messages on the screens around the ship. Message of the day: “My nice quota has been used up. Press me at your peril.”

  3. Penny Salma Says:

    Really nice read thanks, I have added this to my Mixx bookmarks.