21 Aug

Second chances

Ship's log, 18:05, 4 July 2214
Location: Sarabande Station, near the Cerces black hole
Status: Docked and powered down
Log location: Captain's cabin

 

This is Captain Warwick reporting… though I’m not sure why. There’s no company left to send these logs back to, and I don’t think any court will judge us kindly for them.

For me, then. For the history of this ship and all who come after us. And because this is what captains do: we log, we explain what has happened, and we hope one day it all has a purpose.

I should explain. I should say that we have broken away from our company and masters, and done our best to destroy the project that built this ship and hired her crew. We succeeded in what we set out to do, but we have no real way of knowing if it was enough. We hadn’t planned that far ahead; I suppose we didn’t truly expect to still be alive at this stage or able to wonder about how we verify our success.

We didn’t all make it this far. We’ve lost so many people – my crew, my responsibility. It’s ultimately my fault they’re gone.

Dr Cirilli – Lorena – gave herself to see the end of her project. I don’t have the details of what happened on Feras; we’re still waiting for Lang Lang to come out of her coma and I’m hoping that she can shed some light on what forced Lorena to take such drastic measures.

There has to be an explanation. I knew that she was upset by the end of her project – after all, it was her life’s work – but she wouldn’t have given up her life without a good reason. Would she? It’s hard not to wonder if I missed something. It’s hard not to wonder what I could have done for her to prevent all this.

There are so many questions right now, about what happened and what we do next. In a way, we’re lucky that the Starwalker is so badly damaged; we are forced to stay here at Sarabande to fix her and it’s giving us time to figure out our next steps.

So of course, here I am on board our broken ship, suited up and talking to the logger about the past. I’m staring out at the stars through a hull breach in the ceiling of my quarters. Monaghan hasn’t got to fixing this section yet.

I’ll never get used to seeing the ship this way. The lights are out in this section, so she’s dark as well as airless. It’s as if she’s dead, though I know she’s not. Speaking inside my suit, it’s like she can’t hear me. It’s more likely that she’s ignoring me after the dressing-down I gave her after her last stunt.

Shouting like that wasn’t like me. I can’t explain it; as soon as she docked, I lost control. Sometimes I think I should apologise, but I meant everything I said. I just wish it hadn’t come out it the way it did.

I suppose we all have something to be sorry for now. We all have some adjusting to do. And I guess we all have some healing to do, too.

The stars look beautiful, like the ship is wrapped in a soft, jewelled cloth. I understand now why Lorena was so obsessed with them, how Lang Lang finds such wonder in them. But only one of them will heal to see them again. That still doesn’t quite make sense to me. It’s hard to believe that Lorena is truly gone.

I cannot be distracted by thoughts of her; I have to focus on the living. I have two injured crewmembers in the station’s Med Bay. Dr Valdimir has been working non-stop to keep them alive, and he says that Lang Lang will pull out of her coma eventually. Chief Cameron is not looking so good. He won’t say definitively, but Valdimir’s face changes when he talks about Gail. He doesn’t think he can save her, though from the medical logs, he hasn’t stopped trying yet. He’s too stubborn to give up.

I haven’t stopped him. I haven’t given up hope for Gail either. She’s strong and she has survived many drastic conditions in her career; I’m sure she can pull through this too, given the chance. We owe it to her to give her that chance.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to help the Starwalker‘s SecOffs to secure our situation here on the station. It’s supposed to be a simple thing, but with the station personnel missing, none of us are feeling particularly comfortable. This place was built for thousands of people and there’s no indication of where they might have gone, or why. I located the station logs yesterday, but they’re locked down to station personnel only and we’re still trying to break into the system.

The station’s AI is reporting life forms on the station that are not accounted for by our crew, but there has been no sign of them so far. Brasco and Laurence are still searching. I’ve tried to interrogate the station’s definition of ‘life form’ and can’t rule out that it might be picking up a colony of cats, but the station seems to be in too good a state of repair for that to be true. Someone has to be here.

We don’t know if they’re likely to be friendly or not, and without any evidence, we have to act with caution. We don’t know if they’re hiding because they’re afraid of us or plotting to steal our ship. If they hope to take the Starwalker, they’ll have to wait until she’s repaired enough to be spaceworthy, and Monaghan is reporting that he needs at least a couple of weeks. That’s a long time to hide. It’s also a long time to be vigilant.

We’ll do what we can, I suppose. We don’t have much choice.

There’s also the matter of the Celestial Strider. Both Starry and Monaghan seem to think that we should rescue her from her predicament at the black hole, but to what end? Monaghan is claiming pragmatism but I think our ship has had a crisis of conscience about destroying it. After her recent rebellion, I hope this isn’t a sign that she’s going to do something similar around her sister ship.

I find myself trying to be determined about destroying a ship and everyone aboard her, and that is not a place I ever thought I would be. Violence and death should be our last resort. What does it say when the ship has a greater sense of conscience than her captain?

This purpose of ours has chipped away at the man I was. Maybe I lost the forgiving part of myself when I lost my family and I’ve just been going through the motions since then. Maybe all this business is doing is removing the mask I’ve been wearing.

My mind keeps coming back to Lorena and the last message she sent us. I keep thinking about how wrong it was, and yet, how fitting. She went down with her ‘ship’. I have yet to have that luxury. I must fight on, always. And I am tired, so tired.

There is no point in worrying about the Celestial Strider right now. Her rescue does not become a problem until the Starwalker is repaired enough to risk it and we have more pressing things to worry about in the meantime.

 

Station comms

ROSIE: Captain? We located one of the life form signals.

CAPTAIN: Where?

ROSIE: Uh, sector four-delta. Lifestyle area. But…

CAPT: But what? Have you identified the life form?

ROSIE: Yeah. Maybe. Look, all I got was a glimpse. And it looked like…

CAPT: Like what, Brasco? Spit it out.

ROSIE: Like a child. Little girl. She was only there for a second.

CAPT: You lost her?

ROSIE: Yeah.

CAPT: And you can’t get after her?

ROSIE: I think she disappeared into a duct. I can’t fit in there!

CAPT: Did you scare her?

ROSIE: (darkly) No. She was laughing. I think.

CAPT: You’re not sure?

ROSIE: It was just for a second!

CAPT: Can you track her?

ROSIE: I’ll try, but those ducts go everywhere.

CAPT: See what you can do and keep me posted.

ROSIE: Yes, sir.

 

A child. A little girl. It is hard not to think of–

Stay focussed, John. A little girl here means there must be more people. A child must have someone looking after them. So perhaps not a colony of cats.

 

Suit comms

CAPT: Starry?

STARRY: (voice only) Yes, captain?

CAPT: How secure is your airlock right now?

STARRY: I’m closed and locked up. Only you and Elliott are on board.

CAPT: You’re only opening the airlock to crewmembers?

STARRY: Of course. At all other times, it’s locked down.

CAPT: Good. Make sure it stays that way. We might have company on the station after all.

STARRY: I’ll keep my sensors peeled for any sign of them.

CAPT: (nods) And… what’s that?

STARRY: What’s what?

CAPT: (pulls himself closer to the tear across his cabin’s ceiling, through which the stars glimmer. A shadow blocks part of the view and he tries to see what’s casting it.)

STARRY: Captain, I don’t have many sensors in that area. You’re going to need to give me a clue.

CAPT: There’s something on the hull, on the top of my cabin here. I can’t see what–

STARRY: Oh, that’s Waldo.

CAPT: What’s he doing out there?

STARRY: Assessing the area for repair requirements. Elliott’s almost finished with the other hull breach and the structural damage in my starboard side. He’ll move on to this breach next.

CAPT: I see, thank you.

STARRY: Of course, captain.

 

It’ll almost be a shame to see this breach mended. It’s peaceful here, in the dark and the quiet, watching the patient turn of the stars. But as the docking ring spins, Cerces comes into view. An empty patch in space, completely black, blotting out the stars beyond it.

And I am reminded of the Celestial Strider, even though I can’t see where it’s stuck on the black hole’s horizon. Unable to break free; unwilling to fall in. A failed kill; a second chance.

There is a child somewhere on this station. Our priority must be to find her, and any other survivors. We must focus on unravelling the mystery of this station before it unravels us.

 

CAPT: Starry?

STARRY: Still here, captain.

CAPT: How close are you to breaking into the station’s systems?

STARRY: How did you know I was–

CAPT: It was a safe bet.

STARRY: Oh. Uh. Pretty close, I think. It’s slow going.

CAPT: What’s the problem?

STARRY: I’m not running at full capacity.

CAPT: I see. Let me know as soon as you’re in.

STARRY: Yes, sir. I’ll forward the logs to you immediately.

CAPT: How did you–

STARRY: You can be predictable, too.

CAPT: Right. Thank you.

STARRY: No problem.

 

She hasn’t stopped being my ship, even attached to a station, open to the vacuum and largely offline. She hasn’t withdrawn into her broken shell.

I’ll take that as a sign that she won’t try to leave us again. She’s a good ship at heart and we have to trust in that.

She needs me to be a good captain, and that means making sure that she remains secure. So I’ll go help with the search and see if we can nail this strangeness down.

Captain Warwick out.

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9 Responses to “Second chances”

  1. Medic Says:

    Awww, someone should hug Warwick. Not me, one dude hugging another is more awkward than comforting. :)
    If these, erm, people?… are using the ducts and such to move around, then perhaps they can access outside? With Starry’s sensors down, they could easily sneak into her. Although the lack of atmosphere might make things difficult for them. But the ‘bots could keep an eye on things. But then they wouldn’t be working would they? Craps.
    AHHHHHHHH! I see so many issue’s happening, not enough solutions. My brain hurts now. :/

  2. mjkj Says:

    Awwww…

  3. thomas Says:

    I remember a TV show where a starship found a planet with only children. I think a virus killed all of the adults or maybe caused insanity, which then led to their deaths. Regardless, the kids on the planet were scary little monsters who loved playing tricks on everyone. The kids played ‘hide-n-seek’ with the spaceship crew, always running away laughing. This little girl reminded me of those children. I wonder about her sanity.

    If the 12 life-signs are only children, then who taught them humanity? Are the children safe to be around? Did they kill the station personnel? Is it safe to stick around long enough to answer these questions?

    Run Captain! Run for your life!

  4. Kunama Says:

    If there’s a child someone should be looking after them? I guess that’d be a reasonable assumption… If the place weren’t deserted and creepy.

    So many creepy feelings. The last few chapters, they’ve not gone away. Good writing!

  5. Medic Says:

    @Thomas it was an episode of the original Star Trek. Virus killed anyone over a certain age.

  6. thomas Says:

    Thanks medic, that makes sense.

  7. Melanie Says:

    Medic – aw, I’m sorry I made your brain hurt. Just think how much fun those possibilities will be!

    mjkj – I know, right?

    thomas – hee hee, who knows, the captain might get to that stage yet!

    Kunama – thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying it. :D And we’ve only just begun to peel away the first layer of the Sarabande onion…

    Medic – ooo, it was? I don’t know if I’ve seen that one.

    Other similar instances of ‘adults gone, children all that’s left’ are The Tribe (a TV series in which a virus killed all the adults on Earth), and an episode of Andromeda (space station left to the kids when the adults went off to fight a war, I think). Oh, and Mad Max (3, I think?) – not sure what the deal was there; it was mostly weird.

    Not saying that’s what’s going on here, just throwing those in for fun.

  8. Andrew Says:

    I bet it’s dust bunnies!

  9. Melanie Says:

    Andrew – oh no! You guessed my cunning plan! ;)