27 Apr

Turncoat

Ship's log, 19:47, 26 January 2214
Location: Gienah System, Corvus constellation
Status: Sublight transit

 

There’s a bitter taste in my mouth: I’ve decided to side with the pirates. It feels like someone has flushed acid through my ducts, or there’s a dustbunny in there, spitting with disgust.

I’m backed into a corner. I could just cower there, waiting for the dust to settle, but I’m still tied to a ship getting ready to fight. I’m sure they wouldn’t be stupid enough to maintain the tether through a battle – it would hamper the Bountiful too much – but I’d still like to get far away before anyone started shooting. The chances of being hit by accident are too high. And if I was hit, that means my crew would get hurt, and… no.

I have to do something. It’s not in my nature to just sit here and hope for the best, and if my processors come up with an option, it’s difficult to ignore.

I should check with the captain first. Hostage or not, I need him; I need my captain.

 

STARRY: (in the captain’s cabin) Captain, I need your opinion on something.

CAPTAIN: (sitting in an armchair, facing the pirate guarding him. His hands are placed unthreateningly on his knees.) I don’t think now is the time, Starry.

STARRY: (materialises to one side of the pair) Now’s the only time. I think we need to help these guys.

CAPT: (looks at her thoughtfully.)

PIRATE: Hey, you can’t be in here.

STARRY: (to the pirate) I’m always in here. (Turning to the captain,) I’m running out of options.

CAPT: It’s the smartest choice. Do you have some ideas?

STARRY: (smiling) One or two. I’ll keep you in the loop. (She disappears.)

 

That’s all I wanted from him: confirmation that I wasn’t crazy. Or reckless. Or just plain stupid. I need to know that this was the right choice, because it feels so wrong.

I’m leaving the comms channel to the captain’s cabin open. Actually, I’m going to open up the comms channels to all of the crew quarters; they all deserve to know what’s going on. And Engineering. And, hell, mid-deck too, why not.

The pirate guards don’t know what to do about the open comms, but they’re not shooting at anyone. That will have to do for now.

 

STARRY: (on the Bridge) Lieutenant Laurence? I think I can help.

HALF-FACE: (busy watching the nav data) What?

STARRY: (materialises next to the holographic nav display) If they get much closer, they’re going to be able to check my configuration. They’re Is-Tech; they’re not going to be fooled by a switched ident.

HALF-FACE: (frowns, drawing his brow down over his organic eye and the replacement aperture) The changes we made to the Mandible should…

STARRY: Fool anyone except those who made me. They know what they’re looking for.

HALF-FACE: (holding up a finger) Wait, how do you know that they’re Is-Tech ships?

STARRY: Same way that they’ll know me if they get close enough. I have to get clear of them if we’re going to have a chance of getting out of this.

HALF-FACE: Why wouldn’t you run straight to them?

STARRY: (hesitates) Lots of reasons. What you’ll do if I try. What they’ll do to me if I succeed. I’d just like to get out of this in one piece, and that means working with you.

HALF-FACE: (eyes the ship avatar) I’ll pass your request to the captain.

 

This had better work. While we’re waiting for the pirates to decide what to do, I’ll just swing myself around slightly and tilt as if I’m dangling off the end of this tether. Play dead, play wounded and helpless, as if I’m too damaged to be able to support myself. As if I need the tether to cross the system, rather than the pirates need it to control me. As if I’m not a prisoner.

I’m betting that the pirates won’t let them get much closer. I can just about feel their missile tubes frothing at the lips, wanting to open and start spitting. They’re three warming bodies around me, stretching their muscles before the fight. They’d jiggle if it wouldn’t give them away. They’ve already taken up a battle-ready formation, and the Is-Tech ships have shifted themselves so that both of them have clear shots at the pirates as they approach.

 

CAMERON: (from her quarters, ignoring the armed pirate standing over her) Starry, flicker the ident signal as if your array is damaged. It’ll make it more difficult for them to verify.

STARRY: Good idea, thanks. Adjusting transmission now.

 

It feels wrong to muddy up my comms signal like that. Idents are on their own channel, but still, I’m working just fine and I don’t like playing damaged. It’s… cheating. Dishonourable. Who the hell knew that that kind of thing mattered to me?

Stupid ship. It’s the smart move; go with it.

The Davey Jones is still fencing with Captain Hunt over the external comms. They’re trying to get the pirate to admit something. I wonder if they’re trying to get close enough to double-check the idents; I wonder if they’ve all been replaced, like mine. I can’t imagine that the pirates own those ships free and clear. It kinda defeats the purpose of being pirates if you’re going to go about buying the stuff you need; they’re supposed to steal it and use it to hit the next guy with.

They’re still coming. Are they looking for a fight? That’s just suicidal. Who asks for that kind of thing?

Oh, it looks like someone else has noticed what I’m up to.

 

HUNT: (over pirate comms) Laurence, what’s going on over there?

HALF-FACE: Holding position and awaiting orders, captain.

HUNT: The Starwalker is dragging on the line like a dead fish. Is it functional?

HALF-FACE: (frowns.)

 

Dammit, he doesn’t know I can hear that. Have to wait until he–

 

HALF-FACE: (to the Bridge, peering at the nav data) Starwalker, who adjusted our attitude?

STARRY: (relaying the conversation to the rest of the ship) I did. I’m playing injured so they have a reason for the tether.

HALF-FACE: Injured?

STARRY: Damaged.

HALF-FACE: But there’s nothing actually wrong with you?

STARRY: I’m fine and fully functional, Lieutenant.

 

HALF-FACE: (over pirate comms) Nothing wrong here, captain. We’re just pretending to be malfunctioning.

HUNT: Fine, fine. Look, make sure all your systems are on standby. We’re going to need to cut you loose soon.

HALF-FACE: Aye, sir. We’ll be ready.

HUNT: How much time do you need to get to the star and Step out of the system?

HALF-FACE: (leaning in towards the nav display in the main holo-tank) We have full sublight available, but it’s still going to take several hours to get to the star.

HUNT: Stand by for orders.

HALF-FACE: Aye, sir.

 

They want me to Step? Dammit, Half-face, say something so I can bitch at you about it.

Wait, he knows I can hear his end of the conversation.

 

STARRY: Lieutenant, are we being sent to Gienah Sol?

HALF-FACE: Yes. The cruisers will cover us while we get into range to Step out of here. The Mandible will be escorting us.

STARRY: Um….

 

I think it’s time for him to hear what’s going on outside of the Bridge. It only seems fair.

 

ELLIOTT: (in Engineering) …Fucking hell! We haven’t finished testing it yet!

 

HALF-FACE: (blinks with surprise at the holo-tank as the voices come through, then straightens with a frown, listening.)

 

EBLING: (on mid-deck, straining to get to a console while a pirate holds him back) Put me through! Tell them we can’t do it!

WONG: No way we can do it. The calibrations are only twenty percent complete….

DR CIRILLI: (calmly, to the other guard, who still has a gun trained on them) Please tell your Lieutenant that if they try to Step now, they’ll kill us all.

STARRY: The comm channels are open; they heard you.

EBLING: (huffs and steps back, glaring at the pirate.)

 

CAPT: (from his cabin) Wong, Monaghan, how long do you need to get the Step drive up and running?

WONG: At least a day, and another one of testing, to be safe.

HALF-FACE: We don’t have that long.

ELLIOTT: You broke it, you bought it, asshole.

CAPT: Can you do it in the time it takes for us to reach the star?

WONG: Most of the calibrations require proximity to a star to be properly tuned….

ELLIOTT: The guy with the stick up his ass means ‘no’.

WONG: Shut up, Monaghan, I can speak for myself.

ELLIOTT: But when you talk, all I hear is ‘blah blah blah’.

CAPT: That’s enough, both of you! Lieutenant, our best option is an FTL jump to the star.

HALF-FACE: (scowls at the nav display, the corner of his flesh eye twitching) We’d be gambling on this system being clear enough to jump safely.

CAPT: Starry, anything on sensors?

STARRY: Scans are all clean so far. Nothing to indicate there’s been much activity through this system. There’s a dust ring cutting through sectors one and five, but that’s avoidable. Lang Lang, can you confirm?

LANG LANG: (eyeing the pirate Sec-Offs on mid-deck as she sidles towards a terminal. They look at each other and nod, allowing her through.) Checking now.

CAPT: Starry, how close can you get us to the star with a single FTL hop?

STARRY: Through and out the other side. Not that I’d recommend that.

MALETZ: (drily, from Med Bay) Could we possibly have an option that doesn’t involve suicide and a fiery death?

CAPT: Can you make it look like you’ve jumped into the star?

STARRY: Without the fiery death? I think I can pull that off. Hard to say without knowing how good their sensors are.

HALF-FACE: What do you have in mind, Captain Warwick?

CAPT: We limp out of formation, then jump towards the star. Make it look like we’ve jumped right into it, then skirt the corona to the other side where the star will mask us from their sensors.

HALF-FACE: Ride across the corona? Are you crazy?

STARRY: I’m built to get in closer than other ships.

HALF-FACE: …so that plan is actually feasible?

STARRY: I can’t stay in close for long, but… yes. I can do that.

CAPT: Once on the other side of the star, the team can finish prepping the Star Step drive. It’ll give us a few hours’ clearance before they have a chance of catching up, if they don’t assume we’re dead.

HALF-FACE: And the Bountiful will keep them busy for a while, too. (His lips twitch, the skin pulling over the metal reconstruction on the right side of his face.) Hunt will enjoy the chance to get his hands on one of those new battleships.

LANG LANG: (clearing her throat nervously) Excuse me? I’ve… I’ve checked the system. From my calculations, it hasn’t had a major visitation or natural incident in the last three thousand years. Barring unnatural interference, it should be clear enough to jump.

HALF-FACE: (frowning) What does that mean?

CAPT: That she can’t tell if people put debris in our way.

STARRY: I can’t see any signs of that from here.

CAPT: It’s always a risk.

HALF-FACE: (grunts) Even in the FTL corridors. Lost a ship to that a couple of months ago.

LANG LANG: (makes another little noise) Um, just one more thing….

CAPT: Yes, Lang Lang?

LANG LANG: It’s clear now.

HALF-FACE: What does she…

STARRY: This system is about to be full of ‘unnatural interference’.

ELLIOTT: Yeah, soon as somebody starts blowing shit up.

CAPT: If we’re going to jump, we need to do it before things get exciting around here.

HALF-FACE: (nods slowly, eyeing the nav display. Lines form in the tank, plotting out possible routes. The best one glows green.) I’ll talk to Hunt.

 

He’s doing it now. Hunt is sceptical but listening.

I have no idea if I’m doing the right thing. Is-Tech are my rightful owners and I’m about to run away from them. I keep expecting some hidden imperitive in my systems to rear out of my depths to stop me, but there’s nothing. This feels wrong but there’s nothing to stop me; not a single twitch in the failsafes. I guess they never thought they needed to stop the AI from making its own choices.

What if this is a massive miscalculation? I’m betting on Is-Tech losing this fight. What if they win? Am I giving them even more reasons to wipe me?

We’ll be far away by then. Far away from both sides, with only the Lieutenant and the men he has on board to deal with. Those are much better odds.

 

HALF-FACE: (on the Bridge) Prepare to decouple.

STARRY: I’m ready.

 

Hunt has agreed. I’ve made my choice: we’re going to do this.

No turning back now.

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8 Responses to “Turncoat”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Poor Starry having to make such hard choices…

    mjkj

  2. Um the Muse Says:

    I don’t get it. If they’re going to fight anyway, why let Starry go? Away from the other pirate ships, she could probably come up with an escape. Heck, even if she’s not going to make a break for it, she’s hardly helping the pirate cause here, so why is she so antsy?

  3. Blik Says:

    We’re about to all be outlaws, aren’t we. Hoo boy.

    Starry’s right, and the Captain is too. It’s the only viable option at this point. Let’s hope this works.

    Could Starry jump gazillions of light-years away from the pirates if she gets close to the star? Synchronize the crew and then re-take the ship? It’d be doable, but she’d probably lose at least one crew member. And it’d probably Elliot. So scratch that idea. 🙁

  4. Targetdrone Says:

    while i think starry could probably subdue all pirates aboard her without any loss to her crew, people must not forget that one of her crew still is aboard the bountyful….

    so she has to help the pirates and cant simply make a run for it, or else she would have abandoned him earlier allready 😉

    still keeping my fingers crossed though that starry finds a way out of the situation 😉

  5. Melanie Says:

    Hi everyone, sorry for the delay in responding here. I managed to pull a muscle in my back last week and am still on the mend!

    Um the Muse – Starry’s mostly getting antsy about being caught in the crossfire. She could choose to do nothing and wait it out to see who wins the fight, but she feels the need to do something more than just sit there. She’s not a ‘hope for the best’ kind of girl. 😉

    Blik – definitely possible!

    Targetdrone – I think Starry has her virtual fingers crossed, too!

  6. Eduardo Says:

    The pirates do not know that Stary can jump in time. This is an amazing weapon if well used.

  7. mjkj Says:

    Indeed I wonder if she will use it as that… 🙂

  8. Melanie Says:

    Eduardo & mjkj – ahahahahaha.