Captain's log, 08:45, 28 April 2214 Location: Debris ring, Sconnor orbit, Dyne system Status: Stationary Log location: Captain's Cabin
This is Captain Warwick, reporting on the deaths of Dr Seth Ebling and SecOff Riley Swann. They were killed three days ago while trying to compromise the security and freedom of this ship and her crew.
The two men conspired together and attempted to breach security protocols by sending a message. The message was intercepted by the ship and scrambled, and we have only just managed to decode it.
It was intended for Is-Tech and contained a warning about our intentions. If there were any doubts about Swann’s involvement, this fact sealed the case against him. Dr Ebling has put feelers out to rival companies before, and his conduct during the times we have been docked has led to suspicions that he intended to defect with most if not all of the research on the Step drive.
Swann, however, would have been looking for a way to rescue his contract with Is-Tech and, in doing so, preserve his reputation. Ebling might have been looking for a way – any way – to avoid going down with this ship, but Swann would have been the one determined to maintain faith with our former company. I have no doubt that both men had a hand in constructing and guiding this message.
I regret that this ended with their deaths. They forced our hand when they attempted to escape; both of them knew that we couldn’t afford to have authorities alerted to our situation. The whole crew would have been incarcerated and the ship… the consequences for our ship are not something I want to contemplate. Both Swann and Ebling knew the stakes and chose to act anyway.
If they had told us they didn’t want to be involved, we would have kept them comfortable aboard the ship until the secrecy was done with; we do not have a history of mistreating our prisoners. We would have done what we could to protect them and their reputations. They chose another path.
The two men are in cold storage now. I hope to one day return them to their families, once this terrible business is done with. In the meantime, we must turn our attention to the matters at hand and focus on the living.
The crew are reeling from the events of the past few days. Lang Lang and Dr Cirilli, in particular, have been hit hard. They both worked with Dr Ebling for years and were shocked by the breadth of his betrayal. Dr Cirilli suspected that he might one day try to sell her research to another company – she knew it was a possibility since he joined the project, considering his personality indicators – but she hadn’t thought him capable of damning her in the process. She had believed that there was enough respect and gratitude between them for him to leave her intact in his wake. In her own way, she is naive about these things.
To be fair, her faith may have been justified when this project had a hope of being completed and Ebling had no reason to hurt it. But when we decided to destroy the project, everything changed. We are all still realising what this choice means and the actions of Swann and Ebling have brought that home to everyone aboard. I fear some resolves may be shaken, though none have been voiced so far.
There is, of course, also the possibility that more than Ebling and Swann were involved in the betraying message. Their deaths may have silenced any other parties out of fear of similar treatment. But I look into their faces and defection seems further and further away from their thoughts. I don’t believe that’s all caused by fear.
We still have stars to mend before we take the first steps into true rebellion, before we pass the point of no return. Soon, the crew will have hard words together. Choices will be made. But for now, I am giving the crew some time to come to terms with these events before we forge our way forward.
Our navigator, Lang Lang Cartier, is devastated. Telling her about his death was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. She was coming to give me a report of her findings when Chief Cameron and I were returning to the upper decks, and she is always excited when she has knowledge to share. She has tracked down some old FTL corridors that we can use, particularly to get to the Apus constellation to mend the star we Stepped through there. It’ll be both faster and quieter than the other routes we’ve been looking at. Sadly, that day was not a time for good news.
She has lost a friend in Ebling, both in life and memory now that she knows what he was willing to do. They worked well together and she had a great deal of respect for his work and judgement. And, I think, she’s looking around at the crew and realising just how small her family is becoming.
Monaghan was one of the least moved by the events of the day. He’s still recovering from his illness; I had expected him to be vocal and vehement when he heard the news, but he accepted it with a grim expression and a grunt. There’s no love lost between him and the two dead men. If I was a more cynical man, I would suspect his intentions, but I don’t believe that Monaghan would do anything to hurt the ship. If anything, he seems relieved that they’re gone. And, oddly, more cheerful of late, even though Starry is often badgering him to rest and recuperate.
Dr Valdimir is more disturbed by the happenings than Monaghan. He’s young, barely into his twenties, and I think he has just realised that this isn’t a game. He may have been able to play politics and musical bed-fellows on Feras – which is how he got relegated to his current position – but the stakes we’re looking at are much more severe. It’s entirely possible that we won’t survive this. But we’re also striking out at those who sought to punish him, which suits his agenda, so he has his reasons to stay. He’s one to watch over the next few days, though he’s smart enough not to try anything after what happened to Swann and Ebling. At least for now.
SecOff Brasco, on the other hand, is more committed to our cause than ever. The destination of the message – an Is-Tech subsidiary office – only cemented her sentiments. It might be reactionary on her part, but she’s nothing if not faithful. Her brutal honesty is refreshing.
I am more inclined to worry about Chief Cameron than her single remaining SecOff. If this plan of ours hinges on a single person, that person might well be Cameron. She was millitary once; she has fought in wars. I’ve got some combat experience, mostly in defensive situations, but that’s not the same when it comes to planning a campaign. Without her experience and guidance, this endeavour would founder after we took the first shot.
She hasn’t said a single word against the war with Is-Tech. She has set the groundwork for this plan; she has acquired the equipment we need to pull it off; and she has removed the obstacles in our way. Yesterday, I asked her why she was willing to take all this on, when she left the military to avoid fighting wars. She told me, “Because this is a war that I’ve chosen, that I understand, and that I support.” I can only hope that it is as simple and straightforward as it sounds.
That leaves only Starry. Our ship, our pilot. The ghost of someone we used to know. She is only a little over a year old, and sometimes it’s a shock to remember how young she is. The recent deaths hit her hard, the way that loss of crewmembers always seems to, even though they betrayed us. Maybe that makes it worse for her. She hasn’t had many chances to see the better side of her crew’s loyalty.
She has been quiet recently, but Monaghan seems to think she’s doing all right. He has been checking in on her, which is a good sign for both of them, I think.
Our ship is very focussed on the matters at hand, which is a good thing, though–
STARRY: (voice only) Excuse me, captain?
CAPTAIN: (looking up from the blinking red ‘recording’ light on the log monitor) Yes?
STARRY: (materialising in front of the captain’s desk) Why aren’t we changing out the ident here?
CAPT: It’s too dangerous to do it this close to a busy colony, you know that. If we’re detected while we’re in the process of changing it, or if someone detects the new ident leaving the system, we might wind up with some awkward attention.
STARRY: But what if something happens while we’re changing it out? What if I’m disabled? If we’re too far from help, then the crew’s at risk. You’re at risk.
CAPT: Monaghan knows what he’s doing, and he has verified the new ident.
STARRY: As much as he can without breaking the seals and making it useless. You know it’s not a guarantee that the thing’s going to work.
CAPT: It’s a risk that we’re willing to take. Starry, it’s too dangerous to do it here.
STARRY: (folding her arms over her chest) Couldn’t we at least go somewhere where there might be traffic?
CAPT: That’s the risk we’re trying to avoid.
STARRY: Or beacon range, then? The meeting point of a bunch of unused FTL corridors hardly seems sensible–
CAPT: (sharply) You have your orders.
STARRY: (blinks with surprise) I- I know, I just think…
CAPT: You’re worried about the crew and what will happen when you’re too disabled to help us. But we can’t afford to call for help; if we do that, it’s all over.
STARRY: (shoulders slumping) Yeah.
CAPT: You know that we’re on our own in this. We all need to get used to it.
STARRY: Is that why Cameron set up all those accounts in our new company’s name?
CAPT: We’re going to cut the ties with everything we’ve had before. All we have is each other now.
STARRY: I still don’t like going out into the middle of nowhere and being completely disabled.
CAPT: (rising and coming around the desk to stand before her) You carry us and care for us. Now you need to let us do that for you, long enough for Monaghan to change your ident.
STARRY: (studies his face, wide-eyed) Okay. I’ll try.
CAPT: Thank you. How long until we’re underway?
STARRY: Elliott is still testing the shipment, making sure the rest of it’s going to work. Seeing as we’ll be too far away to return it soon. Another day, he says.
CAPT: (nods and leans against the edge of his desk, running a hand over his hair) Good, good. Head out as soon as he’s satisfied.
STARRY: Sure. Are you all right?
CAPT: (looks up with surprise.)
STARRY: It’s not like you to snap at me like that.
CAPT: (smiles ruefully) It’s nothing for you to worry about.
STARRY: Too late. And it’s kinda my job.
CAPT: Pretty sure it’s your job to follow orders.
STARRY: And look after my crew. Which includes you. (More gently,) It’s Cirilli, isn’t it? She’s not doing so good.
CAPT: (sighs) Yes.
STARRY: She’s still drinking herself to sleep?
CAPT: How did you..?
STARRY: She takes alcohol from the Galley sometimes. And she drinks a lot of water in the mornings.
CAPT: (smoothes his hair back, nodding.)
STARRY: Is there anything I can do?
CAPT: She’s not letting anyone in right now, not even me. I’m not sure that there’s anything any of us can do, other than see her through this.
STARRY: You think she’ll stick with it?
CAPT: I think she’s drinking because she can’t do anything else.
STARRY: (sighs) Then I guess we shouldn’t tell her about the latest news that just came in.
CAPT: What news?
STARRY: (grimly) They just announced the evacuation of Earth.
CAPT: (stares at the avatar, then nods slowly. He closes his eyes for a pained moment.)
STARRY: They’re packing the rescue ships with as many people as possible and getting them off-planet. The first wave of refugee ships is coming through now. Still no reliable survivor lists, though.
CAPT: Keep scanning them anyway, just in case her family turns up. Or anyone related to the crew.
STARRY: (nods) Of course.
CAPT: (looks up at her again) Thank you, Starry. You’re a good ship.
STARRY: (blinks and draws herself a little straighter with the start of a smile) I… thank you, captain.
CAPT: (inclines his head towards her) I’ll talk to you later.
STARRY: (flips a salute and disappears.)
Starry, our strange ship. She doesn’t make being a captain easy, not when she second-guesses everything I do or ask her to do. But she’s the best ship I’ve captained yet. And after all this is done…
We don’t talk about what happens after all this is over. This isn’t the time for long-term plans; this is the time for fixing what we’ve done or might cause in the future. This is the time for mending. The rest will take care of itself, and we’ll deal with it when we get there. Together.