30 Jun

Puzzle pieces

Captain's log, 14:23, 30 June 2213
Location: Corvus FTL Corridor, Minkar System
Status: Unknown


This sabotage business is taking entirely too long, though it looks like we have a prime suspect now. Lou Tripi, one of my own SecOffs. It’s hard to believe – the company vetted all the crew thoroughly before assigning them to the project, and I did my own checks when I got their files. She has a particularly exemplary record, not a whisper of trouble. Her methods might not be standard SecOff, but for a cyber-specialist, not much is standard. There certainly hasn’t been any hint of her being compromised before, which doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. It just means that she’s never been caught or that it’s new.

To be clear: it isn’t confirmed yet. It’s still just suspicion, though the factors are lining up against her.

A week ago, all the screens in my cabin started to flash with warnings. I was on my feet grabbing my shirt before I saw the little text messages in the catastrophic depressurisation warnings – Starwalker had used the automatic alert system in diagnostics to route a message through to me. That system is supposed to be for emergencies only, but she clearly thought the situation qualified. There wasn’t actually a hull breach about to depressurise the entire ship.

She didn’t say what was happening except that Tripi was doing something to Monaghan and I had to hurry. Naturally, I took off at a run. She mentioned a pheromone implant and that should have told me what ‘doing something’ meant, but I was still surprised when I arrived in Engineering. As captain, it never looks good to come to a sudden stop and stare, but that’s what happened. Lucky for all of us, they had finished and were getting dressed, and I hadn’t called Cameron in with the other SecOffs. That would have been harder to explain.

Starwalker was right – Tripi has a pheromone implant. I could smell it as soon as I walked in the room, the weight of chemicals and sex in the air. They both turned to gape at me, everyone froze in mutual horror, and all I could think was that those pheromones had better not start to affect me.

The SecOff blushed as she finished getting dressed, but there wasn’t a hint of guilt in her. She didn’t look smug or self-satisfied, the way I might have expected. She just looked like someone who had been caught doing something intimate by her captain and hurried to wrap herself up.

Monaghan looked stunned and embarrassed, but he wasn’t hurt or complaining. I reprimanded her for having sex while she was supposed to be on duty and for distracting our busy engineer in the process. She apologised and retreated to her duties, and I let her go. As much as I’d like to lock her up, I need cause, and I just don’t have it. With no complaint from Monaghan, a minor infraction like that just doesn’t cut it.

Monaghan didn’t want to talk about it. He went quiet when I told him about the implant, then told me that it was none of my business. He has refused to speak about it since, and as far as I’m aware, hasn’t been in the same room as Tripi again.

I’ve managed to talk to Starwalker since then, through that text interface she’s got working. She didn’t say much, just that she was sure that Tripi was up to something. She doesn’t think that it could be anything as simple as Tripi wanting to sleep with Monaghan – I’m not sure which of the three of them that opinion says the most about.

She’s convinced that this is a sign of Tripi’s guilt. Monaghan’s apparent regret isn’t enough. It’s not that easy; on missions like this, it’s not unusual for the crew to blow off steam with each other. It might be officially discouraged, but any captain who’s been on a long-range mission knows that it’s better to let them do it. Pent-up emotions and frustrations can be more damaging to a ship than a meteor storm. There are lots of reasons why she might have manipulated a man into having sex with her and not all of them have anything to do with sabotaging the ship. I have to keep a balanced eye on this.

If we arrest Tripi without solid proof, we’re likely to all end up in a cell when we reach the JOP. The companies claim that it’s to prevent mutinies and unlawful imprisonments on long missions, and thanks to a couple of high-profile cases, it now carries hefty penalties. Without proof to nail her down, she’ll go free, those of us responsible for locking her up will wind up in jail, and the lawyers will have a field day.

Part of my doubt in Starwalker’s assertion is that I’m not sure what Tripi might be hoping to gain from sleeping with Monaghan. Some women might find a way to circumvent conception blocks to trick a man into fathering a child, but a baby isn’t very sabotage-friendly. She might have distracted Monaghan from battling the sabotage for a short time, but if that was her goal, it backfired. His reaction to the situation was the same as it always is to something that makes him upset or angry: he threw himself into his work. He got done in one hour what would normally take him three and didn’t stop until he fell asleep on his desk. So what else could the interlude have done for her?

Her motives are as blurry as those of the saboteur’s. We can see the actions but I still can’t see what she hoped to gain by any of it. There are more pieces to this puzzle than we’re aware of, and that’s part of the reason it’s so hard to move on any of this.

Let’s start with the first instance of sabotage. The pilot’s chair, which left us crippled and limping back to the JOP. The AI was shut down and we were wide open, and yet, there was no follow-up, no attack. Not until we returned to the Corsica system to try again. Then the pirates attacked and there was no sabotage to slow us down; Starwalker took over and got us out of there.

Now we’re being sabotaged again, with an eye to taking out the AI, trying to force me to shut it down. Doing that would leave us defenceless and limping again. How would it be any different to the first time? How would her friends know where to find us once we’re disabled? Is she even allied with the pirates, or another faction? Is a return to the JOP what she wants? But what would that gain her?

And now this thing with the engineer. None of it makes any sense.

Either this saboteur is a lot smarter than I’m giving her credit for and has a bigger game than we can see, or she’s just not very good at it. As much as I’d like to believe the latter, I don’t quite dare; it’s a big risk to take and all of our lives are at stake. If it really is Tripi, I know she’s smart enough to have a plan.

It’s the sort of situation that makes you second-guess everything and everyone. The only thing that’s clear is that we don’t know enough to know what to do next, and letting this go on only endangers the ship and everyone aboard more every day. Yesterday morning, I talked to Cameron and she agreed; we’re not gaining anything by playing ignorant. It’s time to stop the games and battle this head-on. I ordered Monaghan to get Starwalker out of her box as quietly as possible. We’ll keep up the pretence for now, but it will only be a pretence.






Captain! Can you hear me?


Oh, this again. Now my heart is beating way too fast – reactions to Level 1 Alerts are too ingrained to ignore. Damn her for using them.


SW: Captain?
CAPTAIN: I'm here, Starwalker. Do you have to set off the critical alarms?
SW: It's the only way to get a message to your cabin. 
It's an emergency!
CAPT: What is it?


This had better not be about those two having sex again. Or anyone else having sex.


SW: It's Elliott. Something's wrong.
CAPT: What's wrong with him?
SW: I don't know. We were talking and he just... stopped.
CAPT: You can't tell what's wrong with him?
SW: I'm not out yet! He was still working on it. I can't-- 
I can run diagnostics. I'm running a test on the sensors in Engineering.
CAPT: All right, tell me when--
SW: The medical protocols have been disabled on the whole deck.
CAPT: The entire lower deck?
SW: Yes. Trying to access sensor logs.
CAPT: Get back to me when--
SW: Oh no. He's lying on the floor. Captain, he's just lying there.


SW: Captain?
SW: Captain, are you there?
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5 Responses to “Puzzle pieces”

  1. Belial666 Says:

    Is it possible with that level of technology to have an implant or even a genetically modified immune system that can produce viruses and other pathogens on demand?

    Theoretically speaking, our own body can already produce new cells from non-differentiated proto-cells so something like that would only be a matter of DNA engineering.

  2. Melanie Says:

    That is a distinct possibility! With this level of tech, an implant could do something like that. On the flip side, how common would an implant designed to battle this be? (I don’t have answers to all of these questions yet.)

  3. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Puzzle pieces -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by G L Drummond and Melanie Edmonds, Sharon T. Rose. Sharon T. Rose said: RT @Kessbird: New #Starwalker post! The captain muses over the situation, and the ship breaks in with news…. http://fb.me/F4uwPqUx […]

  4. Xirena Says:

    Oh no, whar happened to the captain, wait, he probably just booked it out of his room on his way to Elliott.

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