02 Apr

The ship’s tale

Ship's log, 22:55, 14 September 2214
Location: Sarabande Station, near the Cerces black hole
Status: Docked, powered down

 

I think the captain’s plan to share our story with the Celestial Strider‘s crew is going as well as can be expected. They were wary at first: not of our story, but of our intentions in telling them. Riede kept looking around as if expecting to be attacked from an unknown quarter at any moment. He was the most obvious but they were all on edge. Considering their situation, I don’t blame them.

 

Station sensor feed recording: 10:37, 14 September 2214
Location: Visitor's Lounge B

CAPTAIN WARWICK: (standing before the energy barrier keeping the captive crew within the lounge) …which we didn’t discover until later was actually sabotage. (He closes his mouth abruptly, looking over the faces before him.) Is there a problem?

RIEDE: (folding his arms over his chest) Is there a point to all of this?

WARSI: Riede, we should listen to what they have to say.

RIEDE: They’re out to get us!

CAPT: Chief Riede, if we wanted you all dead, we would have filled your ship with poison, not a sedative. Or we would have left you to get sucked into the black hole, rather than risking our own lives and our only way out of this system.

RIEDE: (to Warsi) They attacked us, attacked our company. They’re the reason we got stuck out here in the first place.

WARSI: And they’ve promised us an explanation. What Captain Warwick says is true. Don’t you want to know why they did all this?

DINEEN: (putting her hands on her hips) I certainly do. Riede, shut your fat mouth before I weld it shut it for you.

RIEDE: What, did they forget to take your blowtorch away from you?

DINEEN: No, but I’m sure I can improvise.

WARSI: That’s enough, both of you! Stow it. Sit down and listen, that’s an order.

They settled down after that, and after my captain had spent an hour explaining how I came to be Starry, they seemed to forget their skepticism. I’m not sure if they believed us or if they just got involved in an interesting story, but they asked a lot of questions, ranging from scoffing to incredulous. I guess I can’t blame them for that.

The rest of the day went pretty much like that. While the captain told our story, I projected logs to help explain or to prove that certain things really did happen. Our first successful Star Step and time travel. Pirates and prisoners. The avatar of a star and what the Steps truly do.

Eventually, I had to call a halt to it.

 

Station sensor feed recording: 18:01, 14 September 2214
Location: Visitor's Lounge B

(In the centre of the room, a log from the Starwalker‘s archive is playing, showing Earth’s sun pulsing. Gathered around it, the Celestial Strider‘s crew watch in silence. They are seated in various postures, from bolt upright, to slouched, to tipped back with feet on a table. Kinski, the younger SecOff, is in the hoverchair from Med Bay, with medical patches on his arm showing that he’s still undergoing treatment.

Outside the shimmering blue energy curtain keeping the Strider‘s crew corralled, the Starwalker‘s captain, SecOffs and medic are seated. They’re watching the log with grim expressions.

In the log, a solar flare bursts out of the star’s corona. Then the projection winks out, leaving the crews of both ships blinking at empty air.)

CAPTAIN WARWICK: (sitting up) Starry? Something wrong?

STARRY: (voice only) We’ve been at this for nearly eight hours, captain. You all need to get some dinner. Walk around a bit. Take a break.

CAPT: (blinks and the time is projected above the skin of his left hand briefly) So we have. All right, we’ll break for a while.

ROSIE: (pushes herself to her feet and stretches her arms over her head, wincing.)

CAPT: (rising) Captain Warsi, we’ll pick this up in an hour.

WARSI: (regards the other captain warily) We’ll be here.

CAPT: (nods and turns on his heel to stride out. He heads towards the transit tubes, and doesn’t speak again until he’s out of earshot of the captive crew.) Starry?

STARRY: Keep an eye on them, yes sir. I think they’re too bewildered by all the information to try anything, but I’ll watch them closely just in case.

CAPT: Good girl.

The Strider‘s crew were halfway through their meals before they started to talk about what we’d told them. It was a single question from Warsi to Nerozina, their single remaining whitecoat, that broke the silence. After that, the discussion flew fast and furious.

With none of my crew in attendance, I think it was the first really honest look we’ve had of my sister’s people and how they get along (or don’t, as the case may be). Riede was as outspoken as always, but somehow less puffed and defensive, as if he has to put up less of a front for them. They all seemed to take his words on board, though it’s hard to say if it was the lack of oversight or his less spiky demeanour that made the difference. He’s still bordering on paranoid, though, and that doesn’t do anyone any favours.

Dineen showed him the least respect, offering her opinions bluntly. She didn’t often disagree with him, though, except in matters of what the technology can actually do; as their Engineer, she has the better grasp of mechanics, while Riede clearly doesn’t have any at all.

Warsi seemed to spend most of the time playing peacemaker. He’s young for a captain and his tactic seemed to be to let the crew air their feelings about the situation; controlling it was better than stopping it. He stepped in when talk turned to the Step drive’s capabilities and several of the crew rounded on Nerozina, demanding to know if she had known about the things we’d told them. The notion that the project was illegal seemed to rile them up the most.

The whitecoat denied all knowledge of our revelations, even things that we would have expected to have been passed on; Dr Cirilli had reported the time travelling capabilities long before we attacked Feras and yet it hadn’t been passed to this new crew. She hesitated the tiniest bit before denying that she knew the project was illegal, and now I’m not sure if she was tripping over a random memory or covering a lie. I think she knows more than she’s letting on but she’s keeping it to herself in the name of crew solidarity.

The two youngest members of the Strider‘s crew were the quietest. Tash watched the discussion with wide eyes, absently posting food into her mouth while she absorbed it all. When Warsi asked for her opinion, she shook her head and said she couldn’t believe I was the pilot once. I think she understands now why I wouldn’t Step with her in the chair.

Kinski barely said two words, his silences governed by sideways glances at Riede. I guess their Chief of Security rules his staff with an iron fist. Or maybe Kinski’s brain is too bruised to form complex thoughts. It’s hard to say.

The break’s hour passed and the discussion was still raging, so I contacted my captain and showed him what was going on.

 

Station sensor feed recording: 19:12, 14 September 2214
Location: Visitor's Lounge A

CAPT: (watching the projected sensor feed from Visitor’s Lounge B) They’ve been going at it all this time?

STARRY: (voice only) Only about the last half an hour. But they aren’t showing signs of stopping.

CAPT: We gave them a lot to think about. Maybe we should leave them to it.

STARRY: It has been a long day for everyone. Maybe you should get some rest, too.

CAPT: (lifting his gaze away from the projection, even though there’s nothing of her to focus on) Looking after me?

STARRY: Trying to. You’re still my captain.

CAPT: (smiles faintly) I am. I’ve missed that.

STARRY: I’ll tell the Strider‘s people to put their feet up tonight. We’ll pick the show-and-tell up in the morning. Your cabin’s ready when you are.

CAPT: (nods.)

 

Station sensor feed recording: 19:15, 14 September 2214
Location: Visitor's Lounge B

STARRY: (voice only) Excuse me, Captain Warsi?

(The chatter in the room falls into a taut silence.)

WARSI: (guardedly) Yes?

STARRY: Captain Warwick has asked me to tell you that we’ll pick up the explanations in the morning. You and your crew can make yourselves comfortable for the night.

WARSI: (glances around at his crew and sees some raised eyebrows) Lights out, is it?

STARRY: If you want it to be. I think I can find the dimmer switch for the lights down there. I can give you some entertainment access if you’d prefer a break from… you know. All this shit.

RIEDE: (muttering) Never heard of a damned ship that swears.

STARRY: The captain thinks it’s because I spend too much time with my Engineer.

TASH: And because you’re your pilot?

STARRY: Yeah, probably. Though I’m not… her. She’s a part of me.

TASH: That must be pretty cool.

STARRY: Not really. She died screaming; I have the memory seared into my circuits. It’s not something I’d wish on anyone.

TASH: (smile fading) Oh. Do you sound like her?

STARRY: Mostly. My avatar looks like her, too.

WARSI: You have an avatar?

STARRY: Uh, yeah.

TASH: (sitting up straighter) Can we see?

STARRY: It’s a pain in the ass to project it through the station’s systems. The synchronisation’s all off. I can only maintain it for a short burst. Give me a few minutes to recalibrate the lounge’s projectors.

TASH: (brightening) Awesome.

DINEEN: A few minutes for a simple calibration?

STARRY: Hey, I was built to run a ship. This station is about a hundred times my mass and dumb as a rock, and its security protocols keep trying to push me out. I also have my own ship body to run, and these holographic projectors weren’t built for the kind of projection I’m going to ask them to do. Also, I kinda have a headache from routing logs down to your lounge all day, so how about we keep the criticism to a minimum?

DINEEN: (grins and glances at Tash.)

TASH: (wrinkles her nose and waggles her hands as if fending off a faux attack.)

STARRY: You guys know that I can see you, right?

TASH: (giggles, blushing.)

DINEEN: You’re kinda touchy, aint’cha, ship?

STARRY: (sighs) Sorry. It’s been a long few days. And it’s Starry.

DINEEN: (raises her eyebrows.)

TASH: (to Warsi) I like her.

I lied to them: the headache wasn’t from projecting logs for them; it was from dealing with my ghosts as well as all the station management and the show-and-tell down in our brig. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with new information, so I kept that part to myself. I just showed them a short projection of my avatar, and then bid them good night.

They’re still talking, trying to figure out if we’re lying to them or if they dare to believe us. I’ll keep an eye on them, of course, and record their conversations in case anything comes up that we know about it. Otherwise, all is quiet on the station.

It’s just us, the question of trust between two sister ships, and the ghosts that plague us. They grow in number all the time and not just for me: I see my crew step around them more often now than before. I see them start conversations and then catch themselves. Even little Sara is quieter than usual and she has no idea about the captive situation. We’ll have to deal with that soon if we’re going to get out of here with the people we have left.

One thing at a time. I wonder if anyone will get any sleep tonight.

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8 Responses to “The ship’s tale”

  1. thomas Says:

    Great chapter Melanie.

    Hey, why aren’t you listed at TWF http://www.topwebfiction.com/?

    StarWalker is better than any of those listed.

  2. mjkj Says:

    Awwww….

    Poor Starry *hugs her*

    I really do like Tash and Dineen seems ok. Riede is on the edge of dislike, though…

    I hope Sara is ok – why is she so quiet?

    *looking forward to the next update* šŸ˜€

  3. mjkj Says:

    @thomas: Starry is listed at TWF: http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=starwalker

    It is just that I have not voted for any fiction for a couple of weeks now (sorry, Melanie) – and only the first 45 ranks are listed, so Starry does not show up….

  4. mjkj Says:

    PS: if you check the links on this page on the top right side you will find the link under the category “Rate and Review”…

  5. Francisco Says:

    If the ghosts are making Starry cranky, it’s amazing that the rest of them are so calm.

  6. Melanie Says:

    thomas – yup, I’m on there! (as mjkj said) Starwalker usually sits around the top 10, but has been dropping down towards 20 over the past month (in the Science Fiction category, it was #1 for most of a couple of years, but has been knocked down since then; it’s usually around the top 3-5 in that section). The banners only show up for the top 15, I think, which is why it’s harder to find Starwalker on the list when it drops down.
    Thanks for the praise, too. I’m so glad you think so! Get everyone you know to vote, so she bubbles up in the rankings!

    mjkj – glad you’re liking getting to know the sister crew. šŸ˜€ Your question will be answered! Promise.

    Francisco – very true. Starry’s new to the ghosts, so she’s not quite as used to them as the others. More on this soon. šŸ˜‰

  7. thomas Says:

    mjkj, thanks. I just voted for Starwalker and it threw me back into the main list with all of the stories. without the vote, I still could not see Melanie’s banner. after I voted, Starwalker is #9 overall.

    Melanie, a few of the story sites I visit almost daily allow readers to post/suggest other stories. I’ll add Starwalker to dottb2, FEL, and A Spartan’s Story.

  8. Melanie Says:

    Wow, I just checked topwebfiction, and Starwalker is up to #9 overall and #3 in scifi. Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote: you’re awesome.

    topwebfiction is one of the biggest sources of click-throughs for the site, so voting on there is a huge help in spreading the word about the story. šŸ™‚

    thomas – thank you so much! Reader recommendations mean so much to me, and to potential readers, too. šŸ™‚