23 Feb

Spaceboots and scum

Ship's log, 16:12, 5 January 2214
Location: Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: FTL transit (tethered)

 

We are being honoured by a visit today. We’re coasting between jumps, waiting for the Bountiful‘s FTL drive to recharge and spin up again. I’m twiddling my virtual thumbs, waiting for us to get where we’re going. There’s not much to like about travelling at the moment; it’s all holding on tight while we rush through black hallways, with even less control than I had before. I can’t even be sure the inertial dampeners are protecting us properly. I can’t do anything.

It’s been quiet lately. I haven’t felt much like talking to anyone, not after what Elliott told me. The matter of the mystery object had been nibbling at me for a while; there’s so much that happens on my decks that I don’t understand, let alone like, but I hated it coming from my own crew. Now I know and wish I didn’t. I feel like I was holding a closed box and lifted the lid on its dark and hollow insides. It’s too big for my hands.

There’s no time for that now. Something is happening: a shuttle is attaching itself to my main airlock. The Lieutenant has been snapping at his people for the past few hours; he knows what’s coming. Who’s coming. Of course, no-one thinks to tell me. I’m just the ship.

About half an hour ago, I got an order to have all of my crew assemble on the Bridge. Half-face got the same order over his own comm system, because he immediately sent men out to collect my quarantined people from their quarters and escort them into position. Have some of the mercs cleaned their gear? The one with the floppy purple hair looks like he’s actually used a comb, and possibly my hygiene facilities as well. So he knows how to work the shower; I had wondered.

The docking is complete; the airlock’s opening. The shuttle is spitting out more merc minions; they crawl up my corridors like a virus. They’re the same as the others, but the pair following them is different. I don’t recognise them, but one voice is familiar. I think I’ve sparred with him before.

He doesn’t look how I expected; there’s no eye-patch or curled-up sneer. He seems to follow the book on strong, handsome features of an indecipherable age, as if he’d chosen his face out of a catalogue. But he failed to follow through; the upkeep leaves something to be desired. His armour might have plenty of polish, but his hair is shorn as close as his beard-stubble and he hasn’t bothered to have a broken nose reset.

He’s dressed in the kind of expensive body-armour that executives order because they think it’s cool and edgy. Except this is no over-tailored fake: it looks like it’d be able to stop a tank. If I turn my audio receptors up, I can hear the soft whirring of its motors; it’s made of incredibly dense fibres and a lot heavier than it looks, so it has a built-in power system to support its weight and augment the wearer’s strength. Possibly has its own artificial gravity unit built in, too. Takes a lot of practice to move smoothly in a suit like that.

It’s only on closer inspection that the defects started to show. Scuffs from previous battles mar the polish and broken pixels dent the light patterns that chase over its surface. A panel over the right side of his ribs is half a shade off the dark blue of the rest of the suit. That suit has seen some pretty serious action, and so has its wearer. And yet, he just stepped on board a captured ship with his head bare. He isn’t even carrying his helmet. Arrogant bastard.

That has to be Captain Calvin Hunt of the Bountiful. My current lord and master, come to see his prize.

Behind him, a woman steps off the shuttle and scans around. She seems disappointed with what she sees, as if she was expecting something ethereal or battle-scarred instead of my solid, clean corridors. Her nose wrinkles in a way that makes me want to punch it; she’s lucky that I don’t have hands.

She’s a strange one, contrasting sharply to her clean-cut, military-shaped captain. He’s armoured; she’s flaunting so much skin it’s almost indecent, in just a pair of shorts and a bikini top with her boots. Her looks are unconventional anywhere except Dyne; she’d fit right into the home of augmentations and prosthetics. Glowing implants accentuate her cheekbones and brow, colours shifting subtly. She has display tattoos that roam under her skin: sometimes they’re images – like a wolf skulking around her thigh, or a cobra hissing silently from her elbow – or they’re snatches of information. A few lines of poetry drift across her shoulderblades – some awful imagery involving an abused church and a greedy god – and in other places, data readouts.

There’s something weird about the shape of her head, too. It’s hard to tell – she has fake hair follicles embedded in her scalp and the thick snakes are wound up into a complex metallic knot. I’m sure there’s something off about her skull, though, as if it’s been enlarged to make more room inside.

Then there’s the more practical stuff. She has a prosthetic eye or two, much prettier than Half-face’s botched reconstruction; they flick focus too sharply for organic eyes, and at a certain angle they shine. Her left arm is an implant too – it was hard to tell at first, but she has a habit of fiddling with its abilities. It moves more smoothly than the rest of her, and every now and then, a scanner spins out from the back of her hand and peeks around. It probably doesn’t need to but she does it anyway.

I don’t know who she is but she walks on my decks like she owns the place. Or, more precisely, she struts like she owns anyone who might own the place.

I’m holding my tongue, playing the silent ship. My drones have been firmly sent down to Engineering so they don’t embarrass themselves, or me.

Captain Hunt is arriving on the Bridge where my captured crew wait. My people meet him and his companion calmly – she’s introduced as Infiltration Specialist Morra Belushi. There’s no gawking, no staring, no nervousness, not from my crew. I’m so proud. They’re better than that, all of them. Better than him.

Wait. Hunt is sitting down in my captain’s chair. That’s not right! John has stiffened – that’s his seat – but he isn’t saying anything. He should! So should I, but I’m not. I’m afraid of what I might say if I start speaking.

Until this moment, I haven’t felt like someone else’s property. It hasn’t felt like my ownership changed; John was my (somewhat restricted) captain and the company that controlled my fate was light years away. But now, both of those things have been painfully ousted and here is my new master. His boots are propped on a ledge in front of the captain’s chair and I want to send a drone to clean up the mess he’s making. Except there’s no dirt on spaceboots.

 

HUNT: Lieutenant Laurence, report.

HALF-FACE: (standing off to one side stiffly, as if he’s being tested) Propulsion and hull repairs complete, sir. Reconfiguration is on hold. No new trouble to report.

HUNT: (looking over the faces of the Starwalker crew) Aren’t we one short?

HALF-FACE: Everyone is accounted for, sir.

HUNT: Where’s this ship that I’ve been hearing so much about?

STARRY: You’re sitting on my Bridge. I think it’s safe to say I’m ‘here’.

CAPTAIN WARWICK: (winces.)

ELLIOTT: (smiles to himself.)

HUNT: (frowns without anything to focus on) You forgot to say ‘sir’.

STARRY: Did I?

HUNT: You did.

STARRY: Oh. …Sir.

HUNT: Mouthy little thing. What happened to your avatar?

STARRY: Nothing. I just don’t always use it. Would you like to see it? Sir.

HUNT: Yes.

(The empty holo-tank spins up and the orange-etched image of Starry’s avatar appears. She’s dressed in the same shipsuit as before, but this time her arms are folded over her chest. She looks at the pirate captain unflinchingly.)

STARRY: (flatly) Ta-da. Sir.

HUNT: (leans forward, studying her curiously) So you’re the half-human ship.

STARRY: Mmm-hmm.

HUNT: You’ve been causing us some problems.

STARRY: The feeling is entirely mutual. Sir.

HUNT: (suppressing a smile) I think I would have liked to meet your human part. What was her name – Danni?

STARRY: (not bothering to suppress her own taut smile) Danika. And she would have punched you in the mouth. Sir.

HUNT: I see. Now, what are we going to do with you?

STARRY: (smile disappearing) Do with me? What do you mean?

HUNT: (sighs heavily and leans back in his chair again) Like I said, you’ve been causing problems. I can’t have my every order questioned.

STARRY: (expression collapsing into a frown) Then stop giving stupid orders. Sir.

HUNT: Stupid, hmm? (He glances at Captain Warwick.) I don’t know how you tolerated it.

CAPT: (carefully keeping his expression neutral) It’s worth it.

HUNT: (gestures with one hand) I disagree. I’m not prepared to put up with such an… unpredictable piece of equipment. Let’s solve this problem now, shall we? Morra, if you please.

MORRA BELUSHI: (inclines her strangely-shaped head towards her captain. She steps up to the closest console and reaches her prosthetic left hand towards it. Her fingers unravel into fine wires that writhe in the air, manipulating the holo-console faster than human-shaped fingers could. Her eyes take on a glazed expression as she connects her cerebral implants directly with the ship’s systems.)

STARRY: (watches warily, then abruptly frowns) Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?

MORRA: (distantly) I’m in, captain.

ELLIOTT: (uncertainly) She’s not supposed to be able to connect like that from there.

 

I can feel her, worming her way in through the console’s controls. Elliott’s right: she shouldn’t be able to do that. She’s stuck a slimy crowbar into me and she’s levering open a channel.

She’s in my head. Her boots are echoing in my corridors; she walks with confidence, as if she knows exactly where to go. Even in there, she struts like she owns the place. She smiles like she has a secret and I want to slap her across the face again.

Oh shit. She didn’t come empty-handed. Hunt sent her in to solve the problem that is me and she came prepared.

 

MORRA: I see you cleaned up in here. Not a single one of Lou Lou’s little surprise packages left.

ELLIOTT: (narrows his gaze at Morra) You knew Tripi.

MORRA: (turns her head towards Elliott. Her eyes don”t focus on him, lost in the inner workings of the ship’s systems, but her mouth curls up in a self-satisfied smile.) Taught her everything she knows.

ELLIOTT: (goes pale with anger, teeth gritting.)

 

There’s no way this is going to end well.

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6 Responses to “Spaceboots and scum”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Poor Starry…

    I hope she can boot that Morra out of her systems…

    (I thought she put in quite a good firewall to prevent this?)

    *looking forward to the next update*

    mjkj

  2. Eduardo Says:

    If we are lucky she will destroy Morra`s mind.
    This Hunt fellow apparently doesn`t know that the only thing capable of traveling trough star step is Stary.

  3. Melanie Says:

    Wow, you guys are kinda bloodthirsty! 😀 I can’t say much without giving something away, but I hope that you’ll be pleased with how she handles it in the end.

  4. mjkj Says:

    I hope so, too… 🙂

    mjkj

  5. daymon34 Says:

    Well I hope that Elliott was able to get something shored up for Stormy. Of course like Eduardo did say about ripping her a new one.

    Another more fun way is to take over her body, that’s the problem with hooking up to a computer with your brain. It is a two way connection.

  6. Melanie Says:

    Having Starry take over someone’s body through their implants? That’s an awesome idea. It just might come up sometime! I’ll definitely keep that filed away for future use. 😉