07 Jul

The nightmare box

Ship's log, 22:01, 7 July 2213
Location: Corvus FTL Corridor, Minkar System
Status: Stationary


Since my last log, Elliott has been floating in and out of his dream-state. Each time his neural activity rises, it gets worse, spiking towards dangerous levels. My medical files give me enough background to read that much from his readouts. He’s getting more and more agitated, sometimes shivering, sometimes struggling against his own unconsciousness. Something is tromping around in his subconscious, and it’s not doing it kindly. And every time it comes back, it hangs around longer than before.

To be fair to Maletz, the doctor has been trying to find out what’s going on. He hasn’t slept much and has spent hours upon hours poring through both my databanks and his own medical library for a clue. I haven’t seen him work like this before.

Elliott last fell into a nightmare twelve hours ago and it’s not showing any signs of abating.


Recording: 06:58, 7 July 2213

CAMERON: (arriving in Med Bay) Dr Maletz, the captain asked me to look in on your patient.

MALETZ: (looks around from the readings over Elliott’s bed and scrubs a hand through his mussed, greying hair) He asked you to take a look?

CAMERON: Tripi is SecOff and he thought I might be able to help. Assuming she’s responsible for this.

SW: She is.

CAMERON: (to Maletz) The captain said that Monaghan is trapped in some kind of dream-state, and you have found no biological factors?

MALETZ: That’s correct.

CAMERON: (looks over the readouts with a thoughtful frown) I’ll need all of his records since he fell into the coma.

MALETZ: (gestures towards an unoccupied terminal) Knock yourself out.

Recording: 21:13, 7 July 2213

CAMERON: (sighs and shakes her head slowly, sitting back from the data hovering in the air around her. She waves the display off and rubs an eye.)

SW: None of this means anything to you, Chief?

CAMERON: There are biological agents that can cause a coma easily enough. Bespoke drugs, genetically engineered viruses. But there’s no sign of that. And this dream-state… that’s different.

SW: (frustrated) The bitch boxed him, just like she did to me, but she added pictures.

CAMERON: (looks at the monitor sharply) No, that’s not possible.

MALETZ: (lifts his head from his own data examination and eyes the Chief of Security) Then why do you sound like it might be?

CAMERON: She’s a cyber-specialist. She hates biological tactics – always favours something technological. Are any of his implants active?

MALETZ: (reaches up an arm to activate the holographic display of Elliott over the bed. He flips through the layers until the implant layer is visible. Flickers show the activity moving between them and his nervous system.) Most of them, yes. I checked them for malfunctions – they’re clean.

CAMERON: (frowns at the display) Maybe not. There’s maybe something it could be. A way to manipulate someone’s implants, developed out of Dyne.Β It plugs into the subconscious mind, manipulates fears, that sort of thing.

MALETZ: The implants are being used to cause this? But they have built-in safeguards against tampering….

SW: She’s a hacker; she made mince-meat of my safeguards. You think she can’t get past an implant’s protections?

CAMERON: The official word is that the research was stopped, because it endangered Dyne’s core business. No-one would get implants if they knew they could be subverted.

MALETZ: But they went ahead and did it anyway.

CAMERON: (nods slowly) Scuttlebutt is that the tools were sidelined, not destroyed. For security purposes.

MALETZ: How does developing a way to compromise implants help security?

CAMERON: So we know how to combat it. And once you have a tool, someone’s bound to find another use for it.

SW: Like what, exactly?

CAMERON: Sometimes, security isn’t just about protecting information. A direct route into someone’s head like this….

MALETZ: Oh, shit. (He looks at Elliott with dismay.)

SW: What? What do you mean?

CAMERON: Information retrieval.

SW: …torture? You’re saying this is a torture device?

CAMERON: (presses her lips together grimly.)

SW: How do we stop it?

CAMERON: (lifts her hands emptily) I don’t know. It’s not supposed to exist.

SW: You said they developed it so you’d know how to fight it.

CAMERON: They never actually released the information. Not even unofficially – Dyne’s keeping the lid nailed down on this one. And we don’t actually know that’s what this is – or how Tripi might have got her hands on it.

SW: But it fits everything. Doctor, what about you? What have you got?

MALETZ: It’s not like we can just switch off the implants. If that is what she’s done, we have to know how to deactivate it.

SW: What’s she hoping to get from him?

CAMERON: She’d have to be here if she wanted to retrieve information. Unless she has hacked into his feeds?

SW: (pauses) …no. Med Bay is clear. She hasn’t even tried.

MALETZ: (scowls) She wasn’t after information. Just used it to disable him.

SW: So he’s stuck this way? For how long?

MALETZ: (gesturing towards the neural activity display) The human body and mind isn’t designed to run at that kind of stress level for prolonged periods.

SW: He’s stuck until it kills him?


SW: Isn’t there anything you can do?

MALETZ: (gruffly) I’ve told you a hundred times, ship – not without damaging him.

SW: There must be something! Either of you!

MALETZ: (shakes his head slowly.)

CAMERON: (frowns at Elliott’s body thoughtfully.)

SW: (with a hardening edge to her voice) You two might not be able to do something about this, but I can.

CAMERON: (looking up) What does that mean?

SW: Someone on board this ship knows how to fix this. I’m going to find out.


(He waits, but there’s no response. He exchanges a look with Cameron, who turns on her heel and heads out of the door.)

MALETZ: (over internal comms) Captain? I think we have a problem.

CAPT: (sleepily, in his cabin) What is it?

MALETZ: The ship has gone to find out what happened to Elliott.

CAPT: What does that mean?

The captain is demanding that I explain myself but I haven’t answered him. It won’t take him long to figure it out; I have to move fast. I think Cameron is already on her way.

I don’t have time for a law that stops us from doing what we know is right. It might bind my crew, but it doesn’t bind me. They can put me in prison if they like when this is all over, but I don’t think they have a cell big enough for my metal ass.

I have to go; Waldo and his two big brothers are almost there. Tripi has some nasty algorhythms protecting the door to her quarters, but who needs to fight a lock when my boys have blowtorches?

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7 Responses to “The nightmare box”

  1. Starwalker posting update : : Adventures in Text Says:

    […] today’s postings – Unquiet sleep and The nightmare box – both cover only one week of actual plot-time. It’s going to take at least a couple […]

  2. Xirena Says:

    “Go Starry, Go Starry, Kick some ass, get yo boy back, uh-huh!” Wooo! I love it when Starry goes into uber protector tough girl mode. Need more data!!! πŸ˜‰

  3. Melanie Says:

    More posts coming soon! Well, next week. But there’ll be more than one going up then, too. πŸ˜€

  4. Belial666 Says:

    So I was right, in a way. It was a form of biological warfare.

    Though if I were Dyne, I wouldn’t go for dream torture. I would go for the more boring memory repeat dreams, the standard patterns for confirming memories applied to old memories so while the mind rehearsed old things, I could overhear them.

  5. Melanie Says:

    That’s not a bad idea, Belial! It would require you to know what memory you’re looking for, and where in the brain it is stored. You’d have to map each person’s brain before you could use it. And be really, really careful that you don’t influence the memories when they’re replayed, or you could wind up accidentally altering them.

    This system is somewhat simpler and more straightforward. Break into the implants, use them to hook into the brain, close off outside influences, and have a party.

    That would be a good future enhancement of this kind of device, though.

  6. capriox bovidae Says:

    “Who needs to fight a lock when my boys have blowtorches?”

    Love that line SO MUCH. Awesome awesome awesome update.

  7. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, Capriox! πŸ˜€ I adore that line too. Starry’s so cute when she’s pissed off and determined about something. I guess that’s what happens when you mix a hands-on girl with a ship with no hands. πŸ˜‰