01 Mar

The questionable couch

Ship's log, 20:49, 1 March 2213
Location: Corsica system
Status: Sublight transit

I am one month old today. It feels like longer than that, even though I haven’t been counting the nanoseconds. It seems like we should have achieved more in that time, but all we have done is establish that my systems work and my crew know what they’re doing. We have almost made it to the centre of the Corsica system, too.

Right now, we’re arrowing directly for her star. The captain shouted at me when I took a small detour through the asteroid belt that wraps around this system, but he has no problems with a suicidal tack taking us directly to the heart of a star. At least, it will if I don’t turn at the last moment and put us into a tight orbit around it, closer than any planet dares to stray.

That explains that golden sheen to my hull; heat-reflective paint has been layered up on me so that I can get in nice and snug to the warmth of a star. Right now, I’m gaudy and shiny, but after a circuit or two around Corsica, I’m sure it will be dulled into something less tacky.

The captain keeps grumbling about timekeeping. We’re behind schedule and have been playing catchup since before I was born. I haven’t stopped rushing since my engines were unfettered; if I was organic, I would be out of breath and gasping by now.

I offered to do a little FTL jump across the system for him. Just a short one, enough to cut out a few days’ travel. It’s dangerous, because what we see isn’t where we see it (light speed and time is a curious subject and I wonder how humans without my processing capabilities keep track of it all). But Corsica is a relatively debris-free system; there isn’t much around that might drift into our path before we could see it. I’ve done the calculations and I’m sure I could do it safely.

He said no. Of course he said no. Then he started tapping his fingers on the arm of his chair, the way he does when something has disturbed him but he’s not letting it show on his face. He can order his expression to do what he wants, but he can’t suppress his emotions entirely; they sneak out around his edges.

He thinks there’s something wrong with me. Not just a minor glitch, either – something bigger.

He might not be wrong.

I think that maybe–


TECHNICIAN WONG: (on the Bridge) Ship, connect the immersion couch.

STARWALKER: (checks.) All immersion couches are connected.

WONG: This one isn’t.

SW: Which one are you referring to?

WONG: The one right here! On the bridge.

SW: (checks.) My sensors do not detect an immersion couch on the bridge.

WONG: That’s why I’m asking you to connect it!

SW: I can’t connect something I can’t sense, Technician Wong.

WONG: (swears.)


Weird. Ray Wong doesn’t usually talk to me. He has avoided speaking to me directly since I shut him down that one time. He’s abrupt and abrasive, and there’s a sneer just behind his teeth when he talks, so I don’t mind his silence towards me. He orders my drones around occasionally, but that’s all.

I wonder if I should give my repair drones names. It would be easier than just their numbers. But I wouldn’t know what to call them.


ELLIOTT: (leaving Engineering and heading towards the Bridge) Hey, Starry?

SW: Yes, Elliott?

ELLIOTT: Everything all right?

SW: Yes, I believe so. Why? (Her voice follows him down the corridor, as if she’s walking with him.)

ELLIOTT: Wong’s bitching about the couch on the bridge.

SW: I don’t detect a couch there.

ELLIOTT: (frowns.) What? I installed it myself. It’s not on any of your systems?

SW: No.

ELLIOTT: Probably something that’s come loose. Don’t worry, I’ll get you all fixed up.


Why would they have an immersion couch on the Bridge? It’s an odd place to put one. They’re supposed to keep the entertainment restricted to the crew areas.

Elliott’s dealing with Wong now. I feel bad for my engineer; I might be glad to be ignored by the technician, but that doesn’t mean I wish his attention on anyone else. I’d lend a hand if I could, but I can’t see what they’re doing in that little corner of the Bridge.

At least I know Elliott will soon tell me if he needs anything from me. He’s good and unshy that way.

Maybe I should send a drone along to help him out. Nameless Drone 3. Poor thing, it deserves better.


ELLIOTT: (on the Bridge) Starry, can you check the feeds to the Bridge, please?

SW: I’m not detecting any errors or malfunctions, Elliott. Are you looking for something specific?

ELLIOTT: There seems to be a blockage somewhere. Focus on the nav and piloting systems?

SW: (scans.) Everything seems normal.

ELLIOTT: (sighs and sits back on his heels.) It doesn’t make sense. It’s hooked in, it all looks fine. But it’s like it’s not there.

WONG: (standing beside Elliott with his arms folded and his mouth in a sour line.) You got a faulty one, that’s all.

ELLIOTT: I did not! I ran a full integration test when I installed it. It worked fine!

WONG: Well, it doesn’t now.

ELLIOTT: No wonder you call yourself a genius. D’you always state the obvious?

WONG: Hey–


They’re going to descend into bickering now. Wong gets defensive and tall, while Elliott bustles around with his tools, kicking struts and waving a spanner around while he swears. I guess it’s tough being the little guy, especially around spacers who tend towards longer dimensions.

I wish I could help him and fix whatever is wrong here. I feel like I’m failing him, but I can’t even see the problem. I want to be what they need me to be, but I don’t know how.


ELLIOTT: (stops stomping around the Bridge and frowns at the portside entryway.) Uh, Starry?

SW: Yeah?

ELLIOTT: Why are all the drones here?

SW: I thought you could use some help.

ELLIOTT: I don’t need drones! I need to know why it’s not working!

SW: (quietly) Sorry, Elliott.

ELLIOTT: (closes his eyes.) Fuck. No, Starry–

WONG: Are you apologising to the ship?

ELLIOTT: Hey, shut up.

WONG: But it’s just–

ELLIOTT: (loudly) Shut up!

SW: Elliott, it’s okay–

ELLIOTT: You too! How about you all just leave me alone, all right?


He’s just tired. And frustrated. Wong uses any excuse to prod at him and make him feel insignificant, and he’s angry with himself for not being able to figure this thing out.

It’ll be okay. He’ll stay up all night and pull half the Bridge apart. He’ll bitch and swear about the mechanics that built me and do a better job as he puts me back together again. And then it’ll be fixed and everyone will be happy.

I’m sending all the drones away, like he asked. Except one. He likes it when I have one look after his tools for him, picking them up and handing them to him when he can’t find them. I’ll just hide it in a corner until he’s a bit calmer.

Maybe I should let him name them. It might cheer him up.

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