24 Feb

Routines and boundaries

Ship's log, 13:24, 24 February 2213
Location: Corsica FTL corridor
Status: Sublight transit

Only one more FTL jump to go. We’ve made pretty good time, by all accounts, and we should be out of the corridor in a couple of days. If I can get the next jump to go as planned, maybe sooner.

The crew is falling into a routine now. It’s oddly comforting to watch the patterns forming on my decks. They all know what they need to do and they do it. Sometimes the captain has to chivvy them, but most of the time the things he checks on have already been done.

I’m still getting to know them. Not their names – I have files telling me those – but who they are. Most of them don’t speak to me much; I get the occasional request for information, like where someone is or what the ship-time is, but that’s about it. Elliott is the only one who really talks to me, but he’s the engineer; I guess that’s to be expected.

As far as duties go, there are a few members of the crew without any regular ones. Levi Srivastava is one: as pilot, he has nothing to do at the moment. Whatever piloting he’s supposed to do, it won’t happen until we’re ready to test the Star Stepper, so he’s kicking his heels for now. I don’t know what he does with most of his time. I see him jogging around the decks sometimes, still learning my layout and making false turns more often than not. He has been turned away from mid-deck hatches a number of times. He hasn’t asked for my help and I haven’t offered it.

Likewise, my medic has little to occupy his time at the moment. He treated Rosie’s barfight wounds, but she’s fine now and no-one else has been damaged since we left the JOP. Dr Maletz prefers not to bother with physical exercise and spends most of his conscious time hooked up to the virtua entertainment system. He reclines in a couch for hours on end, letting the adjustafoam cradle absorb his twitches and shifts while he treads virtua landscapes in his head.

He’s not the only one: one of my Security Officers also spends a lot of time jacked into a virtua system. Not Rosie – I have three SecOffs in total, not counting their Chief. Rosie prefers more active pursuits: jogging around the decks; beating up the training pads; or sparring with one of her fellows, usually Tyler or the Chief.

Tyler also prefers physical activity to the virtua, but of a different kind to Rosie. He was responsible for most of the traffic in and out of my airlocks while we were at the JOP. So many people were seeing the inside of his cabin that I had to peek to see what all the fuss was about. Now, there’s a file I wish I could erase from my memory.

He’s had a lot of work done over the years; his personnel file says he’s in his 70s, but he doesn’t seem more than 20 years old. He has a sculpted look to him, a trace too much symmetry in his features, androgyny polished into his shape, and appearance-enhancing implants in various places. It all speaks of a lot of time and money poured into creating and keeping this body he plays in. He plays constantly, even when he’s patrolling or doing security scans, and especially when he’s in a room with Levi and Dr Maletz. I’m not sure he knows how to not flirt with someone. He hasn’t taken any of the crew back to his quarters yet, but not for want of trying on some parts.

My third SecOff is Lou Tripi. She spends almost as much effort on her appearance as Tyler does, even though there’s only crew and the science team to see it, though her attributes are less dependent on expensive surgery. Her tactic is a few implants and a lot of time spent on hair and the colour of clothes and bodyparts. She’s smaller than her two colleagues and specialises in less fleshy forms of security; according to her file, her field is technological security. She checks my weapons systems regularly and spends time fiddling with code. I think she might have built the codelocks around my orders back on the JOP. She’s the one who spends her off-time in virtua, preferring the spylike adventures where Dr Maletz tends to enjoy baser entertainment.

Their boss is Gail Cameron, Chief of Security. She’s a solemn creature, spending hours going over data – sensor scans, anomalies, glitch reports. I’m not entirely sure what she’s looking for, but she seems to know so I leave her to it. She has regular sparring sessions with each of her staff and pushes all of them hard. She keeps them in line, even the flirtatious Tyler, and makes sure that they do their rounds on schedule. She keeps largely to herself and spends her off-time reading fiction rather than hooked into a virtua system.

She has been on edge ever since we got into the FTL corridor. The closer we got to it, the more strict she became, enforcing the patrols by her staff until the station-induced lethargy had been scoured off them. I thought they would relax into a routine but instead she’s driving it hard; there’s no chance of complacence here.

Cameron doesn’t strike me as the nervous or paranoid type; she always seems measured in what she says and does. As if she already has a complete assessment of the situation, even when she’s fielding questions in the middle of tearing a strip off one of her staff.

Not one of them has accused her of making something out of nothing, either; they don’t fight her and so far have buckled under with only the mildest of complaints. Even Tyler, the most casual of all of them, is thorough in his patrols of decks and scan data. They have their quirks but there’s no denying the professionalism in them.

No-one bothered to tell me why. No-one told me why a full half of my crew – a third of the people onboard – is security, either. I’m armed to the teeth, both with weapons and fighting personnel. I am a small, spiked ball. I should have ‘don’t touch’ painted across my flank.

So much protection seems strange to me. I know that you can never be too well-defended – it’s not a bad thing – but when the company has pared the crew down to the bare minimum, it is curious that they have spent so much money on security personnel. I don’t think any of them are cheap.

It’s not just to protect the research aboard me from competitors. If that was the case, they would have been on alert at the JOP as well. They wouldn’t have been allowed to lull at all.

So I decided to ask.

 

Recording: 10:36, 24 February 2213

STARWALKER: Chief Cameron, may I ask you something?

CAMERON: (standing on the bridge, examining scan reports.) Of course, ship.

SW: Why are my security people on alert?

CAM: What do you mean?

SW: They’ve been on alert since we entered the FTL corridor.

CAM: (lifts her eyes away from the screen.) It’s standard procedure. This is a prime spot for a pirate attack.

SW: Pirate?

CAM: Yes. A semi-travelled route like this is the kind of place where they like to lay ambushes. They haven’t hit this area for a while, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.

SW: Oh. Thank you.

CAM: No problem.

I checked my files for information, and there isn’t much about pirates. It’s mostly rumours and conjecture; they don’t tend to leave survivors, and money closes as many mouths as it opens.

Some believe they’re freelancers, mercenaries working for whichever company pays them the most. Others claim that they’re just opportunists, taking whatever they can get their hands on and then selling the spoils for the best deal. It amounts to the same thing, though I guess there’s less chance of a random ambush than there is of an attack sent by a competitor, especially in my case. The bounty I carry is worth a great deal to Isasimo Tech’s competition, which means that I’m a fat target to pirates.

From what I can tell, most ships my size have at least two SecOffs aboard these days. My ratio is higher than usual, which speaks of my value. I’d be proud of that if it didn’t mean that my crew is in danger from yet another quarter. I thought the experiment was the worst they had to worry about. The experiment and the usual hazards of space travel – crashing, breaking, being spilled out into the black unprotected. Now we have to add the possibility of attack to the list of things that might hurt them.

I had begun to wonder about the kinds of people who would sign up to a project like this. The scientists have obvious reasons surrounding the experiment itself, but the crew is different. None of them have an interest in the discoveries to be made and boundaries to be broken. The truth is, we may not survive a single Star Step.

Now, their reasons are clearer. With every job they take that ventures out into this darkness, they know the chances of attack and death are fairly high. Like I said, the pirates aren’t known for leaving survivors.

I wish that was a comfort. I suppose it makes them less unhinged than I had feared they were. I wish that someone had told me about this earlier; I hadn’t thought to check for anything like that.

Now my job is sharper. I will pay more attention to the security patrols. Maybe I should ask Cameron what she’s looking for in all those scan reports. Another pair of eyes can’t hurt, right?

If they come, we’ll be ready. We’ll be protected.

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2 Responses to “Routines and boundaries”

  1. Angel Says:

    I’m really liking this so far. Great job!

  2. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, Angel! I’m enjoying the challenge of this one. So different to other stuff I’ve written!