13 Apr

Worms turning

Captain's log, 16:24, 19 January 2214
Location: Gienah System, Corvus constellation
Status: Sublight transit (tethered)

 

It feels wrong calling this a captain’s log. I’m not a captain any more; I’m a prisoner aboard my own ship. I’m not prepared to call this a ‘Prisoner’s log’ just yet, though. By the time I’m ready to call it that, I probably won’t be able to log at all.

The only freedom I have is to talk to an upset ship, and even that is discouraged by pirates and ship alike. I’m not sure why Starry won’t talk to me the way she used to. A sense of duty towards her new masters, perhaps, though she claims to feel no allegiance towards them. She won’t explain it to me. As long as it doesn’t interfere with what we have to do, I won’t push her about it.

Being stuck in this cabin has given me a lot of time to reflect. Mostly, on Lorena and the secret she kept from me. From all of us. I can’t condone it, but I don’t think it would have changed anything. If I’d known that this whole project was illegal when I was offered the captaincy of this ship, I still would’ve taken the job. I probably wouldn’t have taken two days to think about it, either; I was looking for something dangerous and difficult, so it would only have been more attractive to me. The truth wouldn’t have changed anything about where we went or where we are now, so I can’t hold it against her.

What that means about the relationship between the two of us… I don’t have an answer for that. I haven’t seen her in person for weeks. I miss her less than I thought I would; I needed her support once but not any more. I’m standing on my own for once, and a part of me says it’s about time. I think I’m finally figuring out the kind of man I can be. Want to be. Have to be.

I’ve been coasting for so long. Since I lost my family; since I lost Danika. I’ve gone where the path at my feet has taken me, even into the arms of mercenaries who would have killed us if Starry hadn’t got in their way.

On board this ship, things aren’t how they’re supposed to be, but somehow, that’s not a bad thing. Even shut away in this cabin, I feel more alive and engaged with the galaxy than I have in years. We’re captured and on our way to spirits-know-where, and it’s the best thing that’s happened to me since I lost everything I cared about.

That’s true despite being a prisoner of Captain Hunt and his pirate brigade. It’s not exactly a highlight in my career as a ship’s captain; this is about as bad as it can get. Dying in battle would have been a step up for my reputation, but lucky for all of us, I’ve never been that concerned about appearances. At least there’s a chance to work our way up from here; there’s no coming back from the dead.

Which leads me to our captors. They don’t like being called pirates or even mercenaries: they prefer Independents. Officially, they’re part of the Independent Corps, according to one of our guards. The men and women stationed here on the Starwalker are relaxed around us enough to indulge in talk now. After what Starry did when their captain visited, I think they respect us just a little more; we’re not the company drones they took us for.

Of course, none of us know what will happen when we reach the end of this leg of our journey. We’re not even sure where we’re heading; Captain Hunt and his people have been tight-lipped about that. Starry has been keeping me up-to-date with the whispers and it seems that they want us to Step somewhere. Partly to verify that the drive works (that must be part of their contract), and partly to make our route untraceable to anyone looking for us. The rest of their fleet can’t follow us that way, but I don’t think they’ve figured that out yet.

They haven’t said what will happen to the crew when we reach wherever we’re going. They could take us to a pirate – sorry, Independent – staging area to prepare us for the handover, and offload the crew there. Or they could just hand us over with the ship and make us the new company’s problem. We don’t even have confirmation of who hired Hunt; Boereque Intergalactic is the likeliest candidate, but even they are an unknown quantity thus far.

Death or slavery: those are our possible fates. I don’t think Starry will allow any either of those. I’m fairly sure that she hasn’t thought about that part yet: she’s focussed on keeping us alive right now, and not so much on the future possibilities.

Don’t get me wrong: I think she’s doing an amazing job. She faced down a pirate captain and managed not to lose her cool with him. I thought she would a couple of times, but she didn’t. We’re all still alive and in one piece. I don’t think any of us could have hoped for this much. People don’t survive encounters with mercs: that’s why there are so few reports about them. Most colonies believe they’re just stories to scare spaceborn kids with. They’ve maintained that ethereal reputation because they kill anyone who might escape to tell others about them and recruited the rest.

Starry has fought so hard to keep us alive, but the more I think about it, the worse our chances are of getting out of this. They got smaller when Hunt showed his face to us; of all the stories to take away, a sensor log of one of their captains is one of the most dangerous. I think Starry’s bound to be disappointed in the end. And heartbroken. She’s going to take all of this so hard.

It’s strange – I hadn’t thought about it much when I said that she was like Danika’s daughter, but more and more, I think that’s true. It’s not that simple, of course, but she’s a child in so many ways, though she’s developing in astounding leaps. Like the avatar: Danika and not Danika. No-one had expected that, least of all her. The only one of us who wasn’t shocked by it was Monaghan, but that’s because he got to see it once before. He saw her before any of us.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by that. No, not disappointed: jealous. I know it’s ridiculous. Danika never paid that much attention to him before, and I still miss that part of being with her. I miss being the most important person in her world and it grates that he got to see Starry’s first smile.

It’s not his fault, or hers. It just feels like she’s… slipping away from me and I’m not sure how to get her back.

Her avatar is made of light, but sometimes I catch myself starting to reach out to her. As if I might be able to take her hand. Even though she etches herself in orange light and doesn’t look solid, I find myself starting the gesture. Old habits die hard. It’d be worse if she looked more real, or more like Danika.

I’m glad she doesn’t. I’m glad she looks like herself, and I’m glad that she was brave enough to show us.

I suppose that it’s up to all of us to deserve her. She’s risking herself to protect us and that’s not something I can ignore. In the times to come, she’s going to need all the help she can get. I know that Monaghan has started to put things in place to help her, when the time comes, but he’s not the only one capable of that.

We’re not far from the star now. This Step is our chance to make things go our way and there’s a lot to do. We’ve been quiet long enough and there isn’t much time left.

 

CAPTAIN: Starry?

STARRY: (voice only) Yes, captain?

CAPT: (smile tugging) You probably shouldn’t call me that any more.

STARRY: You’re my captain. What can I do for you?

CAPT: Is Cameron alone?

STARRY: Yes, there aren’t any guards in her quarters right now.

CAPT: Can you put me through, please? Over a secure line.

STARRY: You don’t want the pirates to know?

CAPT: Exactly.

STARRY: I’ll route you through a diagnostic unit; it’ll look like maintenance data.

CAPT: Good girl, thank you.

STARRY: Connecting now.

 

Here we go.

End log.

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3 Responses to “Worms turning”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Wow…

    I like the captain 🙂 he really cares…

    …I wonder what he has planned now…

    mjkj

  2. Um the Muse Says:

    They’ll probably get away the moment they step, but it’d be an interesting turn of events if they actually become pirates. Sorry, Independents (are they rebels?).

  3. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – glad you like him! I think he’s one of the least-liked characters in the story. Poor John. 😉

    Um – yes, I guess they qualify as rebels, though only because they like doing illegal things like stealing and killing. They’d like to be classed as independent contractors: a name that covers a multitude of dodgy actions.