16 Feb

That thing you did

Chief Engineer's log, 09:20, 29 December 2213
Location: Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: FTL transit (tethered)

 

This is not what I signed up for. Fuckin’ pirates on my ship, calling the shots. Like they know how to do my job. They don’t know shit about engines, or how this ship works, or the fact that they’ve got to stop trying to mess with things they don’t understand. How many times do we have to tell them? They keep saying that they want their ‘package’ intact, but they keep trying to fuck it up.

Maybe I should tell them to attach cables to their nuts and pull on them, if they’re so obsessed with their packages. Stupid mercs.

Their latest trick was to try to hard-link our systems to the Bountiful‘s to control the FTL travel. They do it all the time, they tell me. Yeah, right. They might sync FTL and ID systems with most of the ships they capture, but they’re not going to do it with this one.

She won’t let them; Starry won’t be slave to anyone like that, especially not after what Tripi did. If they tried, she’d freak out and probably hurt someone. Most likely herself again, stupid ship.

When they were preparing the link, she got all angry and started shouting so much I thought she’d pop out her avatar again. Then I asked them if they really wanted to give her access to their ship’s systems, and that shut them up. That kind of hard-link is, by necessity, two-way. Didn’t think about that, did they? Once they realised that our crazy half-human AI might be able to influence their ship, they gave up on the idea of slaving her FTL systems to theirs.

At least she’s standing up for herself again. She nearly lost her nerve after the thing about her name, but she’s answering back like normal now. She makes that Lieutenant look like he has a headache in his metal eye.

So they had to come up with a new plan to control our FTL travel in case she tried anything, like jumping away from the rest of our little fleet. She could pick up her FTL skirts and run like hell for the hills, carrying their men along with her. It’s not like they could stop her if she did; only an idiot screws with a ship in the middle of a corridor. Then again, maybe these morons would try. Luckily, they haven’t.

So what was their great idea? Tie us to the Bountiful‘s belly.

So stupid. Never mind the effect of so many tethers on her hull (I only just got it fixed up!): it’s dangerous. They had to recalibrate their systems to compensate for the additional mass and inertial forces. That alone took forever – lots of tugging us forward and back to make sure we were properly protected from being pasted against the bulkheads or smashed into little tiny atoms. Starry was far more patient that I would have been with them.

At least they didn’t try to blackmail her into making the FTL jumps they want. For a while there, I thought their solution was going to be a gun to my head. It worked once and would again; we all know it.

I’d be paranoid if I thought they believed she cared about me most and was therefore the best hostage to play. I’m convenient, that’s all; everyone else is shut up someplace. The captain and the SecOffs are in their quarters; Maletz is confined to Med Bay (one of their men got his thumb caught in a door, poor baby); and Cirilli’s team is shut up on mid-deck. They took that Levi bastard off to one of the merc ships, still unconscious. Which leaves me to be their leverage. Like I don’t have anything better to do.

I know they have to feel like they’re in charge, but don’t they know how to be anything but heavy-handed?

I keep thinking about Starry’s face when they pulled that shit and the Lieutenant pointed his gun at me. How desperate she looked, and there was nothing I could do about it. Then I think about her face and… it’s confusing.

It’s freaky seeing that avatar out here in the real world. Okay, it’s just a hologram, but the first time I saw it was inside my own head. She appeared in my fucked-up dream world and I thought I was at least partially responsible for the image, because it looks how I pictured her from her voice: almost Danika. Except for her eyes: they’re not how I had imagined they’d be. They make me feel like I could fall in and get lost in the whole universe.

Sometimes I wonder if–

 

STARRY: Elliott, can I ask you something?

ELLIOTT: (standing in front of a counter, adjusting the flowrate on a conduit junction he has removed from its place in the nearby wall. He jumps at the voice and drops what he’s doing. He looks around, in case there is something to look at.) Yeah, sure.

STARRY: Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. What was that thing that the captain gave you?

ELLIOTT: Uh… when? I haven’t seen him in weeks.

STARRY: When we were boarded. He made you go up to the Bridge to get it.

ELLIOTT: (examining the head of his spanner) Oh, that. It was, uh, nothing.

STARRY: It didn’t seem like nothing.

ELLIOTT: It was– look, it’s gone now. Does it really matter?

STARRY: Please, Elliot.

ELLIOTT: (huffs and puts his spanner down before he does something silly with it.)

STARRY: (forms her image in front of a console on the other side of the room. She pauses, then steps herself over to a holo-display closer to him.)

ELLIOTT: (doesn’t see her appear, not until she’s standing by his elbow. He flinches and eyes her up and down.) I wish you’d warn a guy when you do that.

STARRY: (blinks, taken aback) I thought it might– that you’d– Should I put it away?

ELLIOTT: No, no. Just not used to it. (He turns back to the workbench and frowns at his spanner as if he’s contemplating picking it up again.)

STARRY: Look, Elliott… it seemed like it was important, but I can’t figure out why. Please. I- I don’t like secrets. Not with my crew. Not with you.

ELLIOTT: (glances sideways at her face) You sound like you think I’d betray you or something.

STARRY: No! No. I don’t, never. But… but you’re keeping something from me. And… Elliott, please. So many people have lied to me, and I can’t… I need to know if it might be a problem. A danger to us.

ELLIOTT: (looks away from her again) You ever think that maybe I’m protecting you by not telling you?

STARRY: (watches him plaintively, her voice dropping to a murmur) Now you’re scaring me.

ELLIOTT: (grabs the spanner and throws it across the room.)

STARRY: (flinches, even though the spanner didn’t go anywhere near her and couldn’t hit her even if it did.)

ELLIOTT: Dammit, Starry, don’t look like you think I’d hurt you. You know better than that.

STARRY: (switches her image to a projector in his line of sight) I know.

ELLIOTT: Shit. You’re not gonna like it.

STARRY: Then do it quickly. Like ripping off peeling plasti-skin.

ELLIOTT: (huffs and looks around, like he wants to throw something else.) All right. I shouldn’t– all right! Stop looking at me like that. But you gotta let me explain.

STARRY: Okay. I won’t freak out.

ELLIOTT: You don’t know what it is yet.

STARRY: I promise not to freak out until after you’re done explaining. How’s that?

ELLIOTT: Fuck.

STARRY: Please, Elliott.

ELLIOTT: Okay! (He huffs shortly.) It was a kill switch.

STARRY: A… for what?

ELLIOTT: (grimacing and shifting his weight) For you. (He rushes on quickly, before she can speak.) Look, it’s not what you think. I made it back when we thought you were just malfunctioning, before we even knew what– who you are. In case you were crazy or gonna FTL us into a planet or something. Before we knew about Danika and all that.

STARRY: You… you built a kill switch for me? But… I have failsafes, and–

ELLIOTT: You had already got around most of those. The captain wanted a way to–

STARRY: (quietly) To kill me.

ELLIOTT: (firmly) To protect the crew if something went wrong. Don’t go putting words in his mouth. He didn’t know you were you then.

STARRY: He asked you for it?

ELLIOTT: Yeah.

STARRY: And you built it.

ELLIOTT: (wincing) Yeah.

STARRY: Who else knew?

ELLIOTT: (hesitates) Uh, I dunno. I never told anyone. Don’t think the captain did either.

STARRY: And… and you waited until now to get rid of it?

ELLIOTT: Look, I… tell the truth, I forgot about it. I tried to forget about it the moment I handed it over. I didn’t know he even still had the damn thing.

STARRY: He had it on him.

ELLIOTT: And he made sure it was destroyed before the pirates could get their hands on it. He’d never have used it, Starry, not after everything.

STARRY: But he had it on him.

ELLIOTT: He made sure that no-one would ever use it against you.

STARRY: Because he was forced to.

ELLIOTT: No! Well, kinda. But that’s– no! Fuck, he’s not like that.

STARRY: Why would he keep it all this time?

ELLIOTT: I don’t know! It’s gone now, what does it matter?

STARRY: I don’t know, it just does.

ELLIOTT: Starry, c’mon. Please, don’t… jeez, are you gonna cry?

STARRY: I’m a ship; I can’t cry.

ELLIOTT: You look like you’re gonna cry.

STARRY: He was gonna destroy me, Elliott.

ELLIOTT: No, of course not. Don’t be– it was just in case. He never wanted to– fuck. I’m no good at this stuff.

STARRY: What am I supposed to do with this?

ELLIOTT: I don’t know! I thought you’d be screaming the place down by now. (He holds up his hands and continues quickly, before she takes his words as a recommendation.) Look, it’s gone now, and I’m never making another one. I’ll even make it so no-one can build a kill switch again. Okay?

STARRY: (studies his face with bright eyes) You can do that?

ELLIOTT: Hey. I just rebuilt your starboard-side engine from pirates parts. I can do anything. I’m amazing at this, remember?

STARRY: (tries to smile at him, but the expression falters and slides off her face.)

ELLIOTT: C’mon. He’d never hurt you, not now. Neither would I. You know that.

STARRY: (hollowly) Yeah.

ELLIOTT: And neither would the others. Cameron and Rosie. Even Tyler. And Maletz– okay, who knows with Maletz. But you know what I mean.

STARRY: Yeah. I do. Thanks, Elliott.

ELLIOTT: (at a loss) Yeah, no problem.

STARRY: I’ll let you get back to your… thing. (A hand waves vaguely.)

ELLIOTT: Okay.

STARRY: (looks like she might say something else, but instead she closes her lips and bows her head, and disappears. Light rains on the decking.)

ELLIOTT: (sighs and sags.)

 

Fuck. I’d hoped that she had missed the whole kill switch thing in the confusion of the boarding. She never needed to know! But apparently she had other ideas. That’s our Starry – always with her own ideas about stuff.

Now I have to shore up her systems and add in extra fail-back loops so that no-one can reconstruct the damn thing. Great. Like I need more to do.

I wonder how many failsafes I’ll have to rip out. They put in a whole string of the damn things after the Tiny Dancer episode, when the AI malfunctioned and plotted an FTL course through a twin star. Its crew ran around hand-flailing, unable to do anything because the AI was hard-coded into all the systems. It went down like a moth to a fiery flame. And now we have failsafe after failsafe, just in case that ever happens again.

Because no-one ever thinks that we might need to protect the AI. Shit. Just how many laws of nature is she gonna break? Wish I knew.

She’s right about one thing, though: we should never have left it so long to destroy the switch. And I should have shored up her systems as soon as we realised she wasn’t just a regular AI. I should have done this a long time ago.

No system is fool-proof, but, well, she’s gonna have the closest she can get. I’ll make her high walls and a moat. With sharks in.

No idea how long this is going to take or how I’m going to fit it in around the other repairs. The only thing I’m sure about is that she’s never gonna forgive me. Dammit.

I don’t blame her.

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4 Responses to “That thing you did”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Wow, yeah, I had wondered how they were going FTL without Starry skipping out ๐Ÿ™‚

    Poor Starry – I just hope she does not take it too personal…

    mjkj

  2. Melanie Says:

    Indeed! Especially after she just got done being grateful for having her crew still around. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Tweets that mention Starwalker ยป That thing you did -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe E. Whitten, Melanie Edmonds. Melanie Edmonds said: New #Starwalker entry: Elliott faces uncomfortable questions from Starry…. http://fb.me/VlzGVBT9 […]

  4. daymon34 Says:

    Well at least it is destroyed now, and poor Elliott just keeps getting more stuff piled on him.

    Starry has a hard time trusting people, something about treachery bringing her to life and all that.