07 Dec

Steam and secrets

Ship's log, 17:00, 10 March 2214
Location: Offshore docking, Hong Kong, Earth
Status: Docked and powered down


It’s been a full day now. Over 24 hours since John stepped out of my airlock and he’s still not back.

If I could, I’d pace. As it is, if I get too antsy, I just wind up creating a big cloud of steam. Not exactly the subtle presence that John asked me to be before he left.

I did that earlier. The first delivery of supplies that Elliott ordered arrived and I had to breach the surface enough to allow access to my cargo holds. Underwater thrusters caused a churn of bubbles that tickled at my hull, sweeping up and around me. The seawater boiled against my sides and wrapped me in a fluffy cloud as I rose.

From a distance, it was probably quite impressive. Up close, I think I freaked out the delivery boat’s captain. I moved as gently as I could, so he wasn’t rocked about too much by the water streaming off my sides, but that just created even more steam. He stared at me like I was a mythological leviathan or something.

Then there was Elliott in my cargo hold, waving out through the airlock like nothing was wrong. I think that delivery was done in record time.

It’s not like I’m the only submerged ship around here; there are several parked like I am, just under the surface. It helps the Repulse Bay port skiffs and delivery boats have more room to move around. Did I just not do it right?

Everyone else has been back at least once. Cameron and Swann returned for the night but left again first thing this morning. Elliott had to go visit some more suppliers again today. Even Cirilli came back, though she left again this morning, too. Ebling went out today too, to ‘stretch his legs’, whatever that means. Apparently, it involves shopping, because he visited a consumer-heavy district and came back with more than he left with.

Whatever business they all have to do, it’s taking time. Maybe Hong Kong doesn’t work as quickly as we’d hoped. Maybe its processing systems are as clogged as its traffic lanes, all fighting against the tide to get where they’re going.

I just wish John was back already. He hasn’t left the hospital – I’ve been monitoring his feeds, and he has barely moved. They have him on the fifteenth floor, occasionally shifting between rooms, but mostly he’s staying in the same place. I’m pretty sure they’ve put him back in a coma for whatever procedure they’re performing on him. I’d guess that they’re doing their work in stages, from the way he’s being moved around: surgery, recovery, more surgery, more recovery.

No danger signs yet. He hasn’t woken up since they put him under at 20:41 yesterday. But his life signs are strong and steady. He hasn’t faltered, not once.

Dr Socks and Rosie haven’t been back yet, either. I got a call from Rosie late last night, just before 22:00, to tell me that it was going to be a while and not to worry. A few more hours than they had anticipated. Something about hospital schedules and surgeon availability, nothing to be concerned about.

Hard not to be concerned. He’s my captain. It was my fault he was hurt, at least partially. And I… care about him.

Rosie and Dr Socks left the hospital shortly after the call and went down the street. According to their destination, Rosie dragged the young doctor out to a bar. They got their bodies blurry with alcohol and then Rosie got into a fight. Either that or she was screwing someone, but knowing her, probably the former. If she was screwing someone, it wasn’t Dr Socks; his biorhythms were dozing by then. They left the place pretty quickly after that, more stumbling than walking, and spent the night in the hospital waiting lounge.

They haven’t left the building since then. This morning, they went up to the twenty-seventh floor and that’s where most of their day has been spent. According to the hospital schematics, that’s the cybernetic augmentation department. Rosie could be getting a tune-up, but I’m not sure why Dr Socks is there. Observing, maybe? Who is keeping an eye on whom, I wonder?

The doc did keep returning to the fifteenth floor to check on John. His pulse has barely fluttered since he took the anti-hangover shot this morning, so I don’t think he’s worried about anything that’s happening to my captain.

Extrapolating stuff like this is annoying. I should send Casper over to monitor the situation directly. But I’d worry about him in Hong Kong traffic and the drones don’t do well if they’re too far away from me. I might not control them directly but they still use a lot of my resources to do what they do. No, it’s too risky. And stupid. And unnecessary.

I could also go hover by John’s window, but that wouldn’t be right or easy either.

Why is this so hard? I know he’s okay. I can tell that much.

There’s a skiff coming this way. I’m starting to be able to pick out the ones that are heading in my direction, in the way they sweep around the shuttle at the end of the row and angle up towards my starboard side. The patches aboard belong to Cameron and Swann, back at last from their tasks in the business district.

The top hatch is open for them; they can hop down easily enough. I keep it closed as much as I can. The air here isn’t exactly ‘fresh’ – full of engine fumes, chemicals and yesterday’s smoke – and the slapping water had a tendency to spray into the airlock if I’m not careful. It’s easier on my air scrubbers and cleaning drones to just keep myself running on my own systems right now.

Water vehicles are so clumsy. They bounce around on the surface erratically as if water is a beast they haven’t quite learned how to tame yet. The skiffs ride on a cushion of air but they’re not very accurate. Is it because ofΒ the pilots they have running them? But even skiffs have safety protocols and dumbed-down AIs that could help with control.

Once they have established the correct docking position, they can lock it down steadily enough for passengers not to break something in a transfer. And yet, they still bump and scrape against my hull when they come in for a landing, as if I’m slippery and tough to locate. I keep getting the urge to mag-lock them into place and lift them clear of the water, but that’s not standard procedure and I think it would just make everyone angry with me.

At least Cameron and Swann are steady enough when they step onto my hull and over to the top hatch. The former takes the time to turn and thank the skiff’s pilot; the latter simply hops down through the open doorway and strolls off towards his quarters, rolling his shoulders as if he needs to work out some tension.

Cameron’s step is much lighter. She has finer control than he does, possibly some implanted help. She has a case slung over her shoulder – she didn’t leave with that this morning. What did she pick up? From the way her arm guards it against her side, it’s important.


CAMERON: (on the upper walkway, glancing up to make sure that the hatch is closing behind her) Starry, I need one of your drones.

STARRY: (materialising beside her while the airlock snicks shut) Waldo is on his way, Chief. Can I ask what you need him for?

CAMERON: (patting the case) This needs to be put in a safe place. Don’t tell me where unless I ask you, and don’t tell anyone else even if they do.

STARRY: What about the captain?

CAMERON: Even him. Bring it to him if he needs it, or me, but no-one else.

STARRY: (lifting her eyebrows curiously) Can I ask what’s in it?

CAMERON: (turns and starts to walk towards her quarters) The fruits of today’s labours. This is what we will need at Dyne.

STARRY: (following just behind the Chief) Everything is set up now? The company and everything?

CAMERON: It’s on its way. The groundwork is laid; the rest will grow in time. We’ll need to hurry some of it along, but don’t worry about that. It’s in hand.

STARRY: All right. Anything else I can do?

CAMERON: (shakes her head) No, thank you. Is everyone back?

STARRY: (expression falling) No. The captain is still at the hospital, with Dr– Valdimir and Rosie.

CAMERON: (frowning) Has Rosie checked in yet?

STARRY: Not since last night.

CAMERON: If she hasn’t checked in by eighteen hundred, contact her and ask for a report.

STARRY: Yes, ma’am.

CAMERON: (stopping at the door to her quarters and turning to face the avatar) And Starry?

STARRY: Yes, Chief?

CAMERON: (smiling) Good to see you again. (She heads into her quarters and the door slides closed behind her.)


Another hour until I can check for an update. Still no movement in the positions at the hospital. I could call Rosie now, but I’d only have to call her again at 18:00 as per Cameron’s orders, and you’re not supposed to open comms lines inside hospitals any more than is necessary. They start blocking your signals if you do it too much. I’m lucky they haven’t found the monitoring patches’ signals yet.

I hate this. Oh well, maybe I’ll just catalogue all the hiding spaces I have that can take Cameron’s case. I wonder how many I have that will conceal something of that size and shape. Waldo is picking it up from Cameron’s quarters now, measuring its dimensions and weight as he trundles out of her room again. Let’s see how creative I can be about how I hide this thing.

You know, now that I think about it, there was something missing from that conversation with Cameron. There was something she forgot, and my Chief of Security doesn’t forget things. If there’s something she is always careful and clear about, it’s orders.

She didn’t order me not to open it.

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6 Responses to “Steam and secrets”

  1. mjkj Says:


    …nice indeed to see her again πŸ™‚ *hugs Starry*

    She really is worrying about everybody – I wonder what she would do if she did not have those patches on everybody – she might be fidgeting by now…

    Yup and we all want to know what is in there also πŸ˜€


  2. nobody Says:

    apropos of nothing, i stumbled across a filk song that might almost be starry’s theme, and it’s purely by coincidence too. search youtube for “julia ecklar phoenix”, it’s a pretty good one.

  3. Joe Says:

    @ mjkj a fidgety spaceship…thatd be uhm…interesting to see lol

  4. mjkj Says:

    Indeed πŸ™‚

    That would indeed be … interesting … one could only hope someone else in command being there to calm her down enough to not letting her run amok… πŸ˜›


  5. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – I agree about the patches! She might not have been able to resist going and ‘peeking’ in on the captain… by hovering outside his window at the hospital. Unless Elliott or Cameron could get her to sit still! πŸ˜‰

    nobody – Sorry, your comment was buried in the spam! All approved now. And I have that song – I know the one you’re referring to. πŸ™‚ Interesting that you link it to Starry, because for a long time it was a character song for another character of mine. That one *SPOILERSPOILER* — oh, you guys will have to wait and see. πŸ˜€

  6. daymon34 Says:

    Yes there was no order about openning it, and I am sure Cameron knows Starry by now and how much like a cat she is.

    Good thing John ordered Starry to be good, or he just might have a ship floating outside his room right now. That wouldn’t be keeping a low profile.