14 Dec

Salute

Ship's log, 19:24, 12 March 2214
Location: Offshore docking, Hong Kong, Earth
Status: Docked and powered down

 

Three days. I can’t believe it’s been three whole days.

I’m nervous. Which is silly: I have no reason to be nervous.

I’ve been trying to keep busy and productive. I’ve picked apart Cameron’s package and spread its contents out across four different hiding places (including a digital copy buried in my filestores). I hid the case too, in a separate location. The case was carrying the paperwork and official seals regarding the new company; I’m not sure why she thinks it should be hidden but I’m not going to question her judgement. I can appreciate a paranoid Chief of Security.

I’ve run detailed diagnostics on all of my systems and created a maintenance list that’ll take my drones a week to get through. I’ve packed and repacked the supplies we’ve received so far, seeking the optimum storage arrangement for space efficiency and access. I’ve logged everything I could get my sensors on, and sorted and catalogued the data for further analysis.

My decks are polished, everything is squared away, and I even managed to convince Elliott to change into a fresh shipsuit, the one with the fewest stains on it. I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be.

John is coming home today. Finally, after all this time and much fretting, he’s nearly back. He’s on the skiff right now; I can feel him bobbing and swerving on his way to me.

The whole crew is turning out to greet him: everyone aboard has made their way to the airlock, including the science team. I have lifted myself up out of the water so that he can enter through the starboard-side airlock rather than dropping down through the top hatch. It’s a more fitting entrance for the ship’s captain. Water is still running down my sides and making me glint in the last of the setting sun, and there’s a shroud of steam lingering over my skin, curling up from the thrusters on my wingtips. I hope it’s a sight that pleases him: his ship waiting for him, golden and gleaming.

There was an awful moment yesterday when I didn’t think he’d make it back to me at all. It was when he was waking up after they had finished all of the surgical procedures: his biorhythms went haywire, pulse spiking dangerously and blood pressure surging critically high.

 

Recording: 10:43, 11 March 2214
Internal comms channel

STARRY: (appearing in the Chief of Security’s quarters abruptly) Cameron! Cameron, something’s wrong! John’s dying!

CAMERON: (leaping up from her desk) What? Put the feed through!

STARRY: (nods and the biorhythm data scrolls down the holographic display over the desk.)

CAMERON: It looks bad. Where’s the doctor?

STARRY: (hesitating) He’s… he’s in the next room. He’s not even in there with John!

CAMERON: Call Rosie. Now.

 

External comms channel

STARRY: (voice only) Rosie! Pick up!

ROSIE: Yeah, I hear you. What’s wrong?

STARRY: The captain’s in trouble!

ROSIE: On it! OI, DR CRAPSTICKS! In there, now!

DR SOCKS: (distantly) What?

ROSIE: You heard me! Get in there!

(The sound of doors breathing open comes over the channel, and then the sound of someone struggling energetically. Faintly, there’s a strangled noise.)

MEDICAL PERSONNEL #1: Hey! You can’t be in here!

ROSIE: (boots clomping loudly) What the fuck are you doing to our captain?

MEDICAL PERSONNEL #2: Nothing, it’s all perfectly under control.

ROSIE: Doesn’t look like it to me!

STARRY: According to his stats, he’s about to stroke out!

DR SOCKS: She’s right, he’s reacting badly to the–

MEDICAL #1: Who the hell is that?

ROSIE: (growling) Our ship. And she ain’t wrong, so get out of the way.

MEDICAL #2: (calmly) This isn’t an unusual reaction to the procedure. Please, let us do our job.

(The thrashing noises ease. Feet patter about and liquid hisses through tubes.)

DR SOCKS: You’re not doing very well.

STARRY: Let him help. Let the doctor – Dr Valdimir – let him help.

MEDICAL #1: (sternly) We know what we’re doing. You have to leave. And you have to cut that transmission, right now.

DR SOCKS: The stats are coming down now.

MEDICAL #2: We’re putting him back under. He needs more time to adjust, that’s all.

STARRY: Is he okay?

DR SOCKS: He’s coming out of danger. For now.

MEDICAL #1: Is that seriously your ship?

ROSIE: If you like, you can go over and see how she reacts to people who nearly kill her captain.

MEDICAL #1: Could you take a step back, please? There’s really no need to… loom like that.

ROSIE: (grinning) Looming’s not about ‘need’.

DR SOCKS: (to someone else) I’d like to stay and monitor the situation, if you don’t mind.

MEDICAL #2: Of course, but please don’t touch any of the equipment and stay out of the isolation area.

DR SOCKS: Of course.

It’s possible that I might have overreacted. I’m sure they had it under control. Maybe? I’m not sure. They were already handling it but… I can’t be sorry. What if they hadn’t been in time?

What if I’d distracted them and things had gone another way?

It doesn’t matter now. None of it does. Several hours later, John woke up again and his biorhythms didn’t spike anywhere near as high. He didn’t react well – his body went into a panic again – but it settled quickly and they didn’t need to sedate him that time. Whatever the problem was, they worked it out. He’s okay now.

And now he’s on his way home. The crew is fidgeting in the airlock. Byte is crouching on Elliott’s shoulder, smoothing the hair back behind his ear subtly, so the engineer doesn’t know that he’s being tidied up. Cameron is calm, because she’s always calm, and Swann is leaning against the bulkhead like he doesn’t care much.

Swann just twitched and stood upright. Ah, Casper is behind him, prodding him to behave. He’s looking at the drone like it just materialised there, but sadly, teleportation isn’t the project that we are here to investigate; that technology is beyond everyone, even a reality-bender like me. I dread to think what Casper would do if he could do that.

The skiff has rounded the shuttle at the end of the row and is swinging around to line up to my starboard side, just like they always do. Rosie and Dr Socks are riding with casual ease, their bodies showing relief because their stint in the hospital is over. John’s pulse is slightly elevated, but I can feel it beating solidly from here. His heart is strong.

Here they are. Here he is.

 

(Water foams at the front of the skiff as it back-thrusts gently to cut speed, and it swings around to nudge side-on to the open airlock doors. The little vessel’s motor growls as it fights the flow of the water to maintain position, then the noise dims as the ripples settle. The guard rail slides out of the way on the side of the skiff, leaving an open gap for the passengers to step through.

On the skiff, Rosie and Dr Socks stand on either side of the gap. Rosie grins at the sight of the people gathered to greet the returning captain, pleased, and she gives the doctor a nod. The pair of them shift back to give the captain room to step forward into the doorway.

Captain Warwick stands for a moment and looks into his ship. Cameron, Ebling and Swann stand down one side of the airlock; Elliott, Cirilli and Lang Lang stand on the other. Between Lang Lang and the inner airlock doors, the ship’s avatar stands with her hands clasped firmly behind her so that she doesn’t fidget.

In the cargo bay beyond the inner airlock doors, all of the drones are lined up, waiting patiently out of the way. Except Byte, who leans forward from his spot on Elliott’s shoulder curiously, one hand gripping the engineer’s ear for balance.

Captain Warwick nods to his people, a little smile betraying his approval. Cameron steps forward to offer him a hand and he shakes his head; he doesn’t need help. He hesitates for a moment, waits for the skiff to dip in time with the waves, and steps across smoothly.)

 

CAMERON: (straightening her shoulders and saluting) Captain on deck!

CAPTAIN: (casts her a curious glance, but she doesn’t waver from her pose at attention, standing rod-straight and looking forward.)

 

(Rosie steps over from the skiff into the airlock and moves around to the side. When she sees what the Chief if doing, she stops and salutes without hesitation. Dr Socks follows her into the airlock and looks bewildered.

The skiff sprays water at their heels as it drifts away half a metre, then it turns and zips off between parked ships.

The others in the airlock pick up the salute, one after the other. Lang Lang is the first after Rosie, smiling with tears shining in her eyes. She seems excited to be involved. Cirilli is solemn as she lifts her hand, and Elliott looks rebellious for a moment before he follows suit. Ebling decides not to be left out, while the doctor’s lips quirk with amusement as he echoes the gesture. Swann has to be prodded into action by Casper again; he sighs but salutes at the drone’s nudge.

The captain’s gaze moves around the airlock and down to the ship’s avatar at the back; that’s her cue to add her salute to the crew’s. There’s a metallic ripple behind her as each of the drones lifts a single metal hand to their brow, joined by little Byte up front. She watches the captain steadily, carefully.

Captain Warwick lifts his chin. Then he raises his new right hand to salute his crew in return, acknowledging their show of respect. It’s a flesh hand, pale but familiar, and it moves smoothly back down to his side again as all of them drop the stance.)

 

CAPT: It’s good to be back. (He nods to the assembled crew, then walks across the airlock and into the ship proper.)

 

The gathering is breaking up in his wake. Some of them seem relieved, others are lingering to exchange words. I’ve dissolved my avatar now; it’s not needed there. As they turn away, I close both sets of airlock doors behind them and settle back beneath the waters of the bay. I’m tempted to lock all my hatches down.

My captain is returning to his quarters. He’s not as strong as he’d like us to believe. He’s moving steadily enough but slower than his usual purposed stride. His pulse is higher than it should be right now. His face is pale and drawn, and now that the saluting is done, his right arm isn’t moving very much. He has just had major surgery, so I think he can be forgiven.

He’s pretending to be okay for us. For the crew. He wants to be better. And soon, he will be. He’ll be fine, if any of us have anything to say about it. He just needs some time to get used to being whole again.

I’ll ask the doctor to check in on him later, make sure that he’s okay.

 

CAPT: (as the doors to his quarters close behind him) Starry?

STARRY: (appearing to one side of the room, so that he doesn’t have to walk around her) Yes, captain?

CAPT: (going to sit down at his desk and loosening the collar of his jacket with one hand) Let’s get started with the status reports, shall we?

STARRY: You don’t want to put your feet up for a while first?

CAPT: I’ve spent most of the last few days asleep; that’s enough rest for a while. We should get moving if we’re going to shake this company off us. Don’t you agree?

STARRY: (smiling brightly) Absolutely, Captain Warwick.

 

My captain is back. What ship needs more?

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8 Responses to “Salute”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Indeed what more does a ship need? well, except for hugs that is… *hugs Starry* 😀

    quote: “I dread to think what Casper would do if he could do that.” /quote. I really would like to see that 😉

    mjkj

  2. eduardo Says:

    What can I say?
    … Please continue with this amazing tale.

  3. Medic Says:

    Awww, and poor Starry. She’s programmed to protect her crew and it bugs her when they are not on board. Poor thing has thinks like a human, but still has her programming to deal with.

    *HUGGERS FOR STARRY*

  4. Blik Says:

    Awww! Starry’s subconscious is grooming Elliot! As a male whose girlfriend likes to touch up his hair, this really amuses me. Now let’s hope the Captain sees everything to be as ship-shape as the ship does.

    They’ll be resupplying, and then leaving. I wouldn’t put it past the harbor patrol to introduce complications, though, especially if the doctors reported something wonky with Cpt Warwick’s ship.

  5. Melanie Says:

    Hi everyone! Sorry for not replying much lately – I’ve been sick a lot and generally running around like a lunatic. But the posts have been going up on time, so it’s all good!

    This post was surprisingly hard to write. Lots of bits to get in, and the saluting bit always gets me.

    mjkj – Casper is creepy enough without teleportation, always sneaking up on people. Like a little ninja bot! 😉

    eduardo – thank you! I shall. 😀 There’s a whole Book 3 to come yet!

    Medic – so true! Another reason for her to like being out in space: her crew can’t ‘step off’ and out of her protection. 😉

    Blik – heeee. I think everyone’s lucky that Elliott didn’t notice what Byte was up to; I don’t think he would have reacted well.

  6. mjkj Says:

    *lol*

    Indeed he is, Melanie, but I believe it would be fun watching…

    I think there is a post missing? the one that originally mentioned teleportation where I got my quote from…

    Hehehe, yeah, I think Elliot would be fussing around if he knew what Byte did – though I think he should have felt his touch as he gripped Elliots ear for balance… 😉

    mjkj

  7. daymon34 Says:

    If Casper could port he would make everyone jump out of there skin, little guy can do that pretty good at the moment.

    Now there is a welcome that would make any captain proud.

  8. Melanie Says:

    Yes, daymon34! John was very touched. I love that image of the crew and all the parts of Starry gathered together to welcome him home.

    (Blik – it’s this post that mentions the teleportation; that technology doesn’t exist in this world as yet.)