08 Dec

Wild card

Ship's log, 20:31, 27 October 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit

 

I’ve been so caught up in myself lately. Elliott is adamant that we shouldn’t risk exposing my true nature so close to the JOP, so I’ve been stuck playing the automaton AI. It’s surprisingly dull, and far too tempting to let the systems just run in their preset loops. Less chance of me slipping up if things really are automated.

I’m keeping an eye on things, of course. Nothing is running into the red. As long as we stay safe, I can stay in the background.

It has its down-sides, though. Levi has taken a liking to the pilot’s chair and the pretence means I’m in no position to argue with him. He keeps taking control of my navigation and propulsion.

I still don’t like the pilot’s chair being used, but then, I don’t think I ever will. Sometimes, it’s an effort to keep the memories of Danika’s death from rising to the surface and scorching the connection to the chair. It’s suffocating if I think about it too much.

Plus, I don’t like the feel of anyone else’s hands on my controls. I keep wanting to correct thrust and trajectory, but I can’t; I’m locked out. And, dammit, I like to drive. Even in these long straight-line hauls.

Then there’s the dissipating trail of a comet on the edge of my sensors. The pieces of debris left behind by its passage through this sector years ago are still spinning out towards nearby gravity wells, drifting ice shards and dust. Passing through it would be so much fun; it’s been ages since I got to dodge something! Levi will probably just plot a course around it, though, avoiding all the really interesting parts. His record says he’s that kind of careful, safe pilot. Solid. Exactly the sort of pilot that Danika wasn’t. Why the company chose him, I don’t know. Did they really think they got it so wrong with her?

I suppose that they didn’t know at that point that she was murdered. Maybe they thought it was something she did that caused the surge. It doesn’t make sense; they didn’t have anything that might have told them that. It was declared an accident! A malfunction! It was never her fault.

Maybe I just don’t like Levi because he’s the sort of pilot that made Danika roll her eyes and indulge in aerobatics. Just because she could. Because it’s what ships were made to do. If she could think in the right dimensions, she could get a ship to do amazing things. It’s why she made such a good combat pilot and landed contracts to test new ship designs to see what they could do. She was given this job because they believed she would need to think outside the box in order to fly outside the universe.

And then they chose Levi. Without even knowing what we’d find on the outside of reality. It doesn’t make sense.

Something doesn’t feel right. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s definitely something off.

On the plus side, we weren’t given a replacement for Tripi. No-one has mentioned it, but I don’t think anyone on board was eager to welcome a new crewmember to the roster. Too many unknowns, and too many spots scraped raw by Tripi’s betrayal. And now, we have too many secrets and we can’t make a stranger keep them for us.

Besides, how would we know that Tripi’s replacement wouldn’t turn out to be the same as she was? Whoever hired her could take advantage of our need and send us another SecOff just as bad as – or worse than – our two-faced hacker. We already suspect that someone on board was helping her – or that she was helping them – and we don’t need another one to worry about.

It’s so easy to forget all of that when things are quiet: we’re supposed to be keeping an eye out for anyone who might have been working with Tripi. I have subroutines set up to monitor the sensor data and look for anything suspicious. I don’t know what that would be, exactly, but I’ll know it when I see it.

I wonder what her ultimate goals were. It’s so hard to pin them down. We haven’t seen the mercenary ships since Corsica – what else was she trying to do? Why disable me? What or who was she trying to set up? Was anyone else on board really involved?

The only crewmember we can discount is Levi. He didn’t join us until after she had committed her first act of sabotage.

Wait, can we discount him? The only reason Levi is here is because of that sabotage: it forced him to be brought on board to replace a dead pilot. If a replacement for Tripi could be a plant, what about him? What if that was the point of it all? We had always assumed that Danika’s death couldn’t have been predicted because of the involvement of the Star Step portal, but what if Tripi was aiming to kill all along? What if that was all she had meant to do? What if she was getting Danika out of the way so that Levi could be brought on board to take me exactly where her true employers wanted me to be?

It makes a gut-wrenching kind of sense. Levi was supposed to be in control when the mercenaries attacked; he could have helped give us up to them. He could have given them exactly what they wanted.

But I kept getting in the way. I wouldn’t let him get into the pilot’s chair, wouldn’t let him fly the Step, not after what happened to Danika. To me. I wouldn’t let him fly at all. I took control and I sped us away from danger. I did something crazy. I took the route that no-one was supposed to.

I was the wild card the saboteurs couldn’t predict.

That was the part of Danika’s death that Tripi didn’t mean to happen. First, it broke the AI so badly that they had to limp back to port, and then it created me. Every time we’ve been exposed, I’ve done all the things that an AI shouldn’t be able to do to protect my crew. I’ve melted my own engine housing to save us. We should have died or been captured by now, but I wouldn’t let it happen. I’ve been wrecking their plans without even meaning to.

I think my temperature sensors are off. It feels like there’s ice in my pipes. Hugging all the stars in the galaxy couldn’t warm my insides right now.

So that’s why Tripi attacked me after my unorthodox Steps were done. That’s why she tried to shut me down, wipe me out; she wanted to get me out of the way. If I’d been shut down, there would have been no-one able to protect the crew in such unpredictable ways. Levi would have been in charge of flying the ship. He could have taken us anywhere.

Oh god, what have I done. He’s in the pilot’s chair right now, steering me.

This whole time, all Tripi was trying to do was put Levi in the pilot’s chair. And despite everything that happened, after defeating her and coming out the other side, after everything, I let him fly me anyway. After all this time of keeping them at bay, I’ve finally done exactly what they wanted. I trusted him.

I haven’t been monitoring him too closely because I don’t like to look at that chair; there are those memories of the surge, and dying. But we’re on course right now. The captain didn’t give us our destination until we were a out of comms range of the JOP. There’s no way Levi could have let anyone else know where we were going, and I’d know if we were off-course. Wouldn’t I?

Oh, shit. That’s what’s been bothering me, that’s what felt off. We’re supposed to be retracing our steps back to the Minkar system. We didn’t pass near a comet’s tail on the way from there to the JOP: it was clear space all the way. And yet, there’s one pinging the edges of my sensors. There shouldn’t be an old comet trail on the way to the Corvus constellation.

Shit shit shit.

 

STARWALKER: (on mid-deck, calmly) Excuse me, Navigator Cartier?

LANG LANG CARTIER: (leaning back from a holographic representation of the map of the other side of the Step portal) Yes, Starwalker?

SW: I need to make sure that my navigation system is properly calibrated. Would you mind checking the navigation system’s readings, please?

LANG LANG: Of course. (She turrns to the navigation console next to her and begins to manipulate the display.)

 

Goddamn computer voice. It’s not me at all. Everything takes too long. My pulse is racing and I am fighting the urge to babble. I want to bump us to Alert Level 1.

Can’t. Have to do this right. Can’t screw this up. One step at a time, Starry.

I’m still the wild card. They think I’ve been disabled, but I’m not. I’m still in play. It’s not too late. It can’t be.

 

SW: (in the captain’s cabin, tensely) Captain?

CAPTAIN: (pausing a report from Cirilli by raising a hand) Yes?

SW: I need a word in private, please.

CIRILLI: (annoyed) Can’t this wait?

SW: No, it can’t.

CAPT: Dr Cirilli, please give us a moment.

CIRILLI: (gapes at the captain, then eyes the nearby screen distrustfully) Very well. (She turns on her heel and walks out of the room.)

CAPT: (lets out a breath once she’s out of the room, steadying himself) What is it, Starry?

SW: I think we’re in trouble.

CAPT: (sharply) What do you mean by ‘trouble’?

SW: I think we did exactly what the saboteurs wanted us to.

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4 Responses to “Wild card”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    Starry could be right, being off course isn’t good. I just hope that Lang is able to find out quick enough they aren’t going the right way.

    Maybe she will have the box removed and able to sit tight till she can prove he isn’t there friend.

  2. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Wild card -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe Whitten and Becka Sutton, Melanie Edmonds. Melanie Edmonds said: New #Starwalker: Starry puts pieces together, but is it too late? http://www.starwalkerblog.com/wild-card/ http://fb.me/PJmjIvJM […]

  3. Melanie Says:

    I am saying nothing. Tune in next time! 😀

  4. Belial666 Says:

    They are so gonna get captured now. 🙂