27 Jan

Standing up

Ship's log, 12:39, 1 December 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit, half speed

 

I’m not sure who was more surprised by the appearance of my avatar: my crew, or me. The pirates, well. They were mostly bewildered, and that made me nervous; confused people with guns have a tendency to fire. At the time, I was too furious to let fear stop me, though.

 

Ship's log, 06:42, 3 November 2213 (Reconstructed)
Location: Comet debris cloud, Intersystem 
between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Stationary

 

ELLIOTT: (in Engineering, staring at the sensor display of the Bridge on his wall) Holy fuck. Starry?

(Behind him, Waldo and Casper are dismantling the device that the captain told Elliott to destroy. Their welding torches are reducing the components to dribbles of metal and plastic. The door swishes open and a merc slides in, weapon trained on the Chief Engineer.)

ELLIOTT: (squeaks and spins around, hands raised) Hey, go easy, I got nothin’ here.

PIRATE: Step away from the console. Tools down. (He tilts his head towards the busy drones.) Stand them down.

ELLIOTT: (huffs and unfastens his toolbelts) Don’t ask me, ask her. (He nods towards the display of the Bridge and the ship avatar.)

DRONES: (turn off their welding torches and swivel their heads towards the pirate.)

PIRATE: (grunts and steps forward to scan Elliott for concealed weapons.)

WALDO: (as soon as the merc’s back is turned, he zaps a last shard of the device and quickly assumes his previous pose.)

PIRATE: (spins, too late to catch what happened, and eyes the drone.)

ELLIOTT: (completely distracted by what’s going on on the Bridge.)

 

I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m so furious it feels like my hull is on fire with it. I let them on board. I let them get in there, and now they want to kill my crew. I feel like I’m cracking open, clutching and clawing at the walls. A pulse I don’t have rings in my ears.

I don’t know where that avatar came from; I just pulled up the first image that came to mind. No doubt Maletz will have something to say about it. But I had to show them. I had to make them look at me – at me – and listen. I had to make them see what they’d done.

I feel like I’ve taken some kind of step, but it’s too big for me to know what it is. I can’t wrap my head around it. Stepping outside the universe and contemplating the whole of eternity is easier than this stuff.

 

HALF-FACE: (on the Bridge, frowning at Starry’s avatar) Who are you supposed to be?

STARRY: I’m the ship. And I’m telling you to stand your men down.

HALF-FACE: I don’t take orders from you.

STARRY: And I don’t take orders from you. I do, however, control your ability to stand on my deck.

(Abruptly, everyone on the Bridge is yanked down to the floor as the aritificial gravity is cranked up. There are clatters and thuds, and groans. Bodies struggle to twist into less painful positions. The only one left standing is the ship’s holographic avatar.)

STARRY: (putting her hands on her hips and looking down at the Lieutenant) You might not take my orders, but I know who does pull your chain.

 

Warning.
Artificial gravity safety limits exceeded.
All communications channels open.

 

STARRY: Bountiful, you have a problem.

CRUISER: What are you talking about, Starwalker? We’ve accepted your terms; don’t push your luck.

STARRY: You agreed to give my crew asylum, and I’m going to make sure they get it.

CAPT: (struggling to stare up at her face) Starry, what the hell are you doing?

STARRY: (tensely not looking at him) Whatever I can, captain.

CRUISER: They’ll get their asylum once the ship is secure.

STARRY: That’s not good enough! Lieutenant Moron here seems to think that the best way to ‘secure’ me is to kill my crew. You’ve already murdered one of us, and I won’t let you take any more.

ELLIOTT: (in Engineering) Oh, shit.

CAPT: (on the Bridge) Starry….

 

Careful. Can’t lose my temper. I’m balanced on the edge of the knife, and if I fall, I take my crew with me.

But I can’t forget that these bastards are the reason I’m like this. The reason Danika’s dead. The reason Elliott got hurt. It’s suffocating. It rakes at my insides and wants to get out.

I could crank up the A-G fields some more and crush them to death, right here. I’ve already shredded the safeties that might stop me. I could do it. But not without killing my crew at the same time.

My crew. This is about them. Danika is dead, I am what I am, and no blood or broken bones will change that.

Have to keep them safe. I’m doing whatever I can, captain. Whatever might work.

 

CRUISER:Lieutenant Laurence, can’t you deal with this?

HALF-FACE: (eyeing the hologram distrustfully from his prone position on the floor) Not right now; she’s turned up the A-G field on the Bridge. We can’t move.

CRUISER: What? Who the hell is doing this?

STARRY: Visual link activated.

(The sensor data from the Bridge is transmitted to the Bountiful, from the people pinned to the floor to the hologram standing in the middle of it all. There is no return visual feed, just audio.)

STARRY: I’m Starry, the entity in control of the Starwalker.

CRUISER: Entity? What does that mean? Lieutenant, explain!

HALF-FACE: She claims to be the ship AI, sir. All the life signs are accounted for and in custody – this isn’t one of them.

SW: I am the AI. I’m also the woman you had murdered to get me here. (Her image flickers.)

HALF-FACE: You’re a dead woman? How is that possible?

STARRY: (shortly, to the Lieutenant) It’s a long story. (To the external transmission,) The last time we met, I blew up half a moon and warped a star to my will. I’m also the one who outflew you in this debris cloud, even though you damaged half of my engines.

The thing you need to know is that I’m in control of this ship. I’m the only entiity capable of piloting Star Steps and making this stupid drive work. You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to catch me. If you want what I have, then you’re going to have to deal with me.

CRUISER: I don’t think you’re in any position to be making demands.

SW: No? You sure about that? Then let me put it in terms you understand. If anything happens to my crew – any one of them – I will destroy the Star Step drive. That’s what you’ve gone to all this trouble for, right? The A-G fields on mid-deck can reduce that thing to a millimetre-thick pancake if I want.

CIRILLI: You can’t–

SW: Shut up, Cirilli. I can, and I will.

CIRILLI: (rolling her eyes and twisting her head to speak pointedly to the Lieutenant) She’s crazy.

SW: Crazy enough to blow it up if you mess with my A-G controls. Power overload would do it. Or maybe I’ll detonate the sublight engines, or punch us to FTL through a planet. Don’t think you can get around this – all you can do is make the explosion bigger. If you hurt anyone on board my decks, I’ll wipe all of us out if I have to. Is that clear enough?

CAPT: (opens his mouth as if to say something, then closes his mouth again. Starry’s head turns to look at him as if she’s expecting something, and they exchange a look. His lips press into a grim line and he nods slightly, giving tacit approval of her tactics.)

CRUISER: That’s a hell of a bluff.

SW: (pulling her gaze away from the captain) I don’t bluff. Do you want to bet the lives of your men, Bountiful? Or your own? You are pretty close right now.

CRUISER: Are you seriously holding us to ransom right now?

SW: I’m telling you the way this is going to work. You either get all of us and the drive, or you get nothing. Your choice.

CRUISER: Lieutentant, stand by.

HALF-FACE: Yes, sir. (Mutters to himelf,) If I could stand right now.

 

This had better work. It has to work. I can’t lose them. I won’t.

How long does it take to answer me? It’s a binary decision. Couldn’t be simpler: yes or no, you bastards. Win or lose. Pick one. Because I really will rip my own guts out if they make me. I will. I won’t let my crew’s lives be part of my price.

 

CRUISER: All right, Starwalker. We’ll agree to your terms for now.

STARRY: Thank you, Bountiful.

CRUISER: Lieutenant Laurence, stand your men down. Secure the crew in their quarters.

HALF-FACE: Yes, sir. Squad, you heard the captain. Collars and quarters only, once we’re able. (He gives the hologram avatar a pointed look.)

STARRY: (considers the Lieutenant for a moment, then nods.)

(The artificial gravity returns to normal. The mercs scramble quickly to their feet, reclaiming their weapons. The Starwalker’s crew rise more carefully.)

CRUISER: Starwalker, if you fuck with us again, know that we will punish your crew in your stead. You might have secured their lives for now, but it goes both ways.

MERCS: (start to fasten metal collars onto the crew.)

 

Control collars, like the one we put on Tripi. I guess it’s a kinda of symmetry.

What kind of person just carries one of those around? Every one of those mercs has one on their belt.

 

STARRY: Look, Bountiful. I’m not burning with loyalty to Is-Tech. They haven’t done shit for us; I don’t owe them anything. You caught me. I’ll do as you ask, all right? Stop trying to screw me over and maybe we’ll both get what we need out of this.

CRUISER: What makes you think we give a shit about what you need?

STARRY: (frowning) I’m making you give a shit. I don’t care if it’s not how you normally operate; that’s not my problem. I’m protecting my crew.

CRUISER: Just the crew?

STARRY: (hesitates, looking at the captain.)

CAPT: (pauses to glance up at her avatar while a collar is clipped under his chin. He nods at her, almost imperceptably.)

(The crew is being shepherded off the Bridge and escorted to their quarters. Most move stiffly after the encounter with increased gravity and a hard floor. The captain is the last one to be led away. He looks back at Starry one last time before he’s shepherded off the Bridge.)

STARRY: (lifting her chin slightly) Yes, just them. I don’t care who ends up with my drive. Just tell me where you need me to go.

CRUISER: Lieutenant Laurence will inform you of your course.

HALF-FACE: (nods and salutes the comms feed. Then he turns and follows his men out to oversee the incarceration process.)

STARRY: (looks around the Bridge at the vacant consoles, all of them dark and disabled, with their chairs retracted into the floor. She is alone now. She seems to sigh, then bows her head and closes her eyes. Her image dissolves in a quiet rain of light particles.)

 

All comms channels closed.
What do you think of this post?
  • Love it (8)
  • OMG (5)
  • Hilarious (1)
  • Awww (2)

3 Responses to “Standing up”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    Yeah I don’t think Starry does a lot of bluffying, if she had to I think she would make an FTL jump and tow that crusier into something nasty.

    Still now they know that they can’t fly the ship at all, and have to deal with Starry to get the drive.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Starry does have a habit of doing crazy stuff when she’s threatened! I love her brain-snapping temper – it’s so much fun to write.

  3. Jerry Mollenhauer Says:

    Enjoyed every bit of your blog post.Much thanks again. Awesome.