19 Dec

Standing alone

Captain's log, 21:14, 8 May 2214
Location: Approaching FTL corridor to Corsica, edge of Alpha Centauri system
Status: Sublight transit


This is Captain Warwick reporting. We are on our way out of the Alpha Centauri system, heading for the next destination on our list: Corsica.

The first phase of the refit has been completed. Engineer Monaghan is refining the calibration of several systems; he tells me that we need to increase the buffering on the hull, but overall it is going well. Once he’s done with that work, we’ll move on to the second phase of this endeavour. Most of the rest of it can be done in transit, between FTL jumps. We have a long way to go, so that’s what we’ll do.

The plan is to get the weapons systems and the other adaptations to the ship completed before we get to the Alpha Apodis system in Apus. I want to be fully armed and armoured before we get anywhere near the base of the pirate fleets. Hopefully we won’t encounter them but I can’t plan for hopeful. I have to keep this ship in one piece for as long as possible.

The crew is pulling together behind our plan. The changing of the ident marked the first tangible step on the journey, and the test run through the asteroid belt proved that we could pull off the sort of thing we’re aiming for. We won’t be battling asteroids when it comes down to it but there’s no harm in an easy win. Monaghan and Cameron both promise that we’ll do better next time, once the systems are tweaked.

Over the past couple of weeks, the biggest change I’ve seen has been in Dr Cirilli. She has been withdrawn since we found out what the Star Step drive does to the stars it manipulates, and worse since we decided to end the project. Her project. Lately, the ship and I have noticed that she has been getting privately drunk, more frequently than is healthy. Starry has been more worried than she has said explicitly and so have I. Lorena won’t talk about it. She brushes me off whenever I try to bring it up, and when I ask her outright, she tells me it’s none of my business.

I’m the captain of my ship; the well-being of those on board is my business. But it hasn’t impacted her work and Starry has been keeping an eye on her. I spoke with Dr Valdimir and he advised me to leave it alone – she was showing some of the classics signs of grief, he said – so I haven’t taken any further steps to intervene. We hoped that she would come out of it on her own, and now it seems that she has.

She came to me this morning with some proposals for ways we can tackle the dismantling of this project of hers. She knows where her project’s data is stored – she has the locations of the backups for projects in the R&D sector of Feras, among other sites – and she has been giving the matter some thought.

The electronic side of this fight is not one we’ve given a lot of attention so far. Getting the ship battle-ready was more immediate and important, and we don’t have some of the skills we need on board to deal with the advanced electronic issues. Our electronic security expert was SecOff Lou Tripi, and look how that turned out.

I pulled Chief Cameron into the meeting with Lorena to discuss her ideas and we began to draw up plans for how we might infiltrate the backup system to remove all traces of the Star Step project. There is the central archive on Feras itself, and the offsite backups that Is-Tech holds in a secret location. Lorena found out that the backups are on a ship that patrols the region, but she doesn’t know which one it is. There’s also potential that they have copies of the data – or at least progress reports – at the company headquarters on Earth, but I doubt that will be a problem. One of the first things that was destroyed in the Fall of Earth were the electronic networks. If there’s data there, it won’t be salvageable by anyone for quite some time. Though it pains me to admit it, the emergency situation there is playing to our advantage.

So where does that leave us? We know what we need to do and where we need to attack. But the how and who is still in question. We could infect the project’s data and let it replicate through the backup systems, but we’d have to find a way to get around the company network’s protections. Is-Tech didn’t get where it is by having lax security, particularly on research projects that would be worth a fortune to a competitor. While it’s more common for a rival company to try to steal information like this, we’re hardly the first people to want to destroy it; preventing a competitor’s progress is almost as valuable as taking it for yourself.

There are other, more direct methods of removing the backups. Destroying the backup ship and planting explosives on Is-Tech’s central archives and filestores on Feras, for example. That’s an option, if we can’t find a more elegant solution.

We’ll have to destroy all of the project’s equipment and prototypes as well, both in the main lab on Feras and at the research outposts by the stars Lorena analysed and tested. Chief Cameron has stocked up on ordinance for the job, and I know she has some plans in mind to get them in place.

Lorena has been helpful there, too. She has some suggestions about how to get into the labs on Feras: the company doesn’t know our intentions, so her ID should override most of the security protocols and get at least a few of the crew into the main lab. We might even be able to use Ebling and Swann’s ID tags, though that will be harder to pull off; there’s no way we’ll pass the biometrics. They’re unlikely to scan equipment we bring in too closely if it looks like project prototype material. From the looks of it, we won’t have a problem with getting into the lab with enough explosives to destroy it.

Our head scientist is remarkably eager to destroy her own project. On the surface, it seems like she has come around to the morality of the issue and is behind us all the way. I should be pleased; relieved, even.

But I’ve come to know Lorena over the past few months and I’m not comforted by this turn of intentions.

She was there for me when I needed someone, when I was struggling to come to terms with Danika’s death and the truth about how Starry came to be. Lorena was steady and strong when I wasn’t, and helped me to find my way. She helped me to learn how to stand on my own.

Now that I think about it, I’ve seldom had to truly be on my own. I married my wife right out of school, and we were together through all my training and working my way up to captain. She died and I was lost. Then there was Danika, who showed me I was ready to move on. Later, Lorena and I were together for a time. When it ended, we both knew that the relationship had run its course and neither of us fought its natural end: I didn’t need her support in the same way any more, and she wasn’t looking for a permanent partner. We simply drifted back to where we were before.

I have tried to support her the way that she did for me back then, and she has allowed me to try, but I don’t think she has ever truly let me in. Lorena has been standing on her own for a very long time and I don’t think she knows any other way to be. She hasn’t leaned on anyone else in her life. Even now, she’s trying to fix this situation by herself, spending time working out her own solutions even though she has a crew here that is working towards the same end.

No, I’m not comforted by this change in her. There’s something fragile in the way she was talking, as if she was treading the very edge of her tolerance. As if she’s a slip away from falling. But she’s trying to pull herself back onto safer ground, trying to solve this problem we’re in, and this new enthusiasm of hers seems like a move in the right direction. Perhaps she’s stepping off the knife edge and just needs more time to feel more secure in her new position.

At least she doesn’t seem to be drinking any more.

I have to let her try to find her own way. Her suggestions were solid and useful, and I know that Cameron was pleased with some of the information. But I worry for Lorena. Perhaps it’s because we were together and I don’t want to lose another person that I care about.

She isn’t the only crewmember that I worry about, but with Lorena, I worry for her sake, not for ours. My concern about some of the others is for the rest of us and our purpose. That’s quite a different matter.

Which brings me to the next task that we must accomplish. The crew have all had sufficient time to adjust to the deaths of Ebling and Swann. Chief Cameron’s lack of hesitation over killing them sent a clear message: this is not a game. Now we have to ask ourselves just how committed we are and what we’re willing to give up to do the right thing. Because we’re all standing alone together and it could mean everything.


STARRY: (voice only) Captain?

CAPTAIN: (sitting back in his chair) Yes?

STARRY: We’re ready for the first FTL jump.

CAPT: Good, good. Take us out, then.

STARRY: Okay, jumping in ten seconds.


This could all mean everything.

Captain out.

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6 Responses to “Standing alone”

  1. Francsico Says:

    I suspect Dr Cirilli is going to end up dying in this venture and, somehow, I don’t think she’d be opposed to that outcome.

  2. Medic Says:

    Either that or she’ll find a new obsession to play with. Typical mad scientist type thing. ๐Ÿ˜€

    You are right though. She may not be suicidal, but she won’t fight to stay alive either.

  3. mjkj Says:

    Wow, lots to think about…

    Dr Cirilli really needs to be watched — after all this is her life’s work that is about to be destroyed (and must be) — and also all her meaning and purpose and accomplishments in life. She might get depressed and as Medic and Francisco said may not live through it…


    PS Typos suspected:
    “…he tells me that we need to increasing the buffering on the hull…” => increase instead of increasing => “…need to increase the buffering…”

    “Thatโ€™s an option, if we canโ€t find a more elegant solution.” => can’t instead of canโ€t

  4. Melanie Says:

    I can’t comment on Cirilli’s likely future (no spoilers for you!), but rest assured, I have a thing or two in mind. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thanks, mjkj. Those typos are all fixed up now! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. JN Says:

    Oh dear, I’ve caught up to the comments…. Soon to be waiting for updates with everyone else.

    Been quite a nice run so far. Thanks for the story.

  6. Melanie Says:

    JN – hi and welcome to the blog! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the feedback. So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the story! Hope the wait for updates doesn’t torture you too much.