As of today there are only two weeks left in the school year. That means only a few months until my oldest hits the age of double digits and my youngest turns the official age of Big Kids. Having my kids be 10 and 7 sounds so... old. I'm not really prepared for this yet. Good thing I still have a few months to wrap my brain around it!
As for writing... I had a few hours where my creativity and my "free" time lined up! Drafted up a new beginning for a short story and loved every moment of creating words. It's going to be sooooo nice when there's a routine again that gives me these hours of writing time a week. I feel like, especially this school year, the unpredictability of school closures and classroom quarantines interrupted so sporadically that it was really difficult to shift modes as needed between in-person and online learning. Fingers crossed that next year will be more predictable. I hope you have a good weekend!
Captain jogged into the control room as her second message finished transmitting. She nodded approval to her Officer regarding the speedy use of the first generation InterStel in spite of the lack of efficiency in the system, and then joined the rest of the below decks crew members in anxiously waiting for the next reply.
It took nearly ten minutes to come, and was in written form. The response was a draft, the production of a final version interrupted by the sudden evacuation, but it was still the announcement the majority of Dockland’s crew had been hoping for and contained a listing of thousands of names. All of the people listed were in Coalition census files as registered Daions, and the announcement legally reclaimed this Central World using recent New Wave changes to historical and hereditary ownership laws. Under Captain’s orders, the document was transferred to the file upgrader so she could save it into her smart. Leo caught a glimpse of her smart display as she saved the document again, this time to the shared file she had with Public Face.
“Open the channel for real time communication,” Captain ordered.
Seconds passed, the hurried ticking of entering commands into InterStel for switching to live data transmission and receipt loud in the quiet humming of the control room. Leo could see Trevor’s shoulders tightening from across the room, her uniform crinkling at the collar. He tapped a finger to NavCom’s rough pressure pad, careful not to activate it but hard enough to jar his aching knuckles until he realized he was hurting himself and stopped.
“Ready for real time communication, Captain,” InterStel Officer confirmed as she passed the first generation microphone to Captain.
“Daions of the Central World, as Captain of this ship I offer the use and service of Dockland in accordance with, and under stipulations per, the Agreement of One Cause,” Captain said into the microphone. It was the size of a smart, but wirelessly tied to only InterStel, and it could only perform voice communication actions. Leo couldn’t help but grin about using such old, clunky technology for something as important as Captain was doing right now. A second passed, and then another.
“Captain of Dockland, I respectfully greet you. Our only request is to be left alone by Coalition.” It was the same voice as had replied to the first message. Leo could see Trevor’s shoulders hunching tighter, but she didn’t turn away from the panel she was at so he couldn’t see her face.
“I understand,” Captain replied. “However, because of the current political climate in the galaxy surrounding Isolated Radicals, I first need to confirm if you’re aware there are three other Coalition ships converging at the coordinates of this world, and that the next ship to arrive has senior crew members known to sympathize with Isolated Radical ideals. With your permission, Dockland could remain in high orbit as a supportive and defensive asset to your construction and assembly yards, and what appear to be your main evacuation centers. This crew also has members who can aide and support construction and assembly should you choose to continue evacuating.”
Another two second delay. And then a further four seconds.
Static crackled for a moment and then the landside voice returned to Dockland’s speakers. “As you’re the first of four Coalition ships, our evacuation will continue. It’s more than somewhat ridiculous for us to stay and be arrested and our presence erased before we can have our Central World reclamation verified and provided with full Coalition support,” he said, the final part about Coalition support obviously mocking. “But while you’re talking to me, Captain, please explain why your Coalition ship would be needed to defend us from those other Coalition ships. Maybe tell me what possible defenses you could even provide,” the voice stated. His tone was unmistakably taut, although he made a good attempt at sounding cavalier.
“As historically proven, Coalition intentions toward Daions have been publicly civil and overwhelmingly abusive,” Captain said. “My orders, the reasons Dockland are here, were to confirm your population met legal, Daion reclamation of this world and, if so, to ensure mistakes of the past are not allowed to repeat. I cannot in good faith ensure the intentions of the other ships currently on course, but” –her smart chimed and she smiled at the short, written message she received– “I assure you that your claim is recognized and supported by Coalition’s Public Face and therefore by Dockland and all of legitimate Coalition. As for what support and defense Dockland can immediately supply, I assume the use of this generation InterStel means you’re using Daion tech current to the time of the plague. Do you have intact records of Coalition technology per the Agreement of One Cause information exchange?”
A two second pause.
“We do,” was the suspicious reply.
Leo watched Captain glance around at each of the people in hearing distance, her empty hand clenching into a fist. It was the most blatant display of a full stomach of nervous butterflies Leo had ever seen Captain exhibit, and it was followed up with a sigh dropping from her lips heavily enough it left a terrified crater in the center of his gut. What could she possibly plan to say which was so bad it was making her look like that?
“Dockland is an original, Class Nine Odyssean Gunship,” Captain stated into the smart-sized microphone.
Leo felt the terror in his stomach solidify and drop all the way down to his feet, sending nothing but cold fear in a ripple back up through his entire body. She couldn’t possibly mean... after letting Mollin learn the weapon systems...?!
“Original construction from Assembly Yard 6 of the Tannis solar system, Aerestarkian quadrant,” Captain continued. “Dockland carries a full complement of long range ammunitions and fully charged, particle beam battery short range offensive systems,” Captain added.
In a unified jerk, everyone in the control room recoiled from everything they were close to. Leo didn’t want to touch anything. He didn’t want to be on this ship. He didn’t want anything that –
The crew member at the long range weapon panels, Teal, shot up to her feet and darted three steps toward the door. Lastin caught her and shoved her back into her assigned seat, his glare only slightly more controlled than her panicked stare up at him. Teal swallowed hard and perched at the edge of her seat furthest from the panels controlling what was, as far as Leo knew, likely a collection of armaments only rivalled by the defense systems of Coalition’s Top Central World.
“How can I trust you not to use your weapons on us?” The landside voice sounded as frightened as the crew in the below decks control room looked.
“At this moment I can only give you my word I and Dockland are here to support and defend whatever course of action you choose, in accordance with the Agreement of One Cause.” Captain’s voice was calm, and nothing about her posture or bearing had changed from before revealing what type of ship Dockland was. Leo put his trust in his belief Captain knew what she was doing and stayed firmly in his seat in front of NavCom, his hands clenched into fists in his lap and as far from NavCom as possible.
“I can’t trust your word,” the voice replied.
Trevor stood stiffly and walked to Captain. She looked like she was about to cry as she approached the most senior officer on the ship, but she also didn’t look like she had any tolerance for argument as she held out her hand for the microphone. Captain’s brows wrinkled together in the middle, concern in her eyes, as she gave the microphone to Trevor.
Dockland established a high orbit above the hastily made assembly yard. The final ships returning to the planet surface disappeared from visual monitoring once they’d slowed enough to lose the flaming tails marking their passage back to the landside construction site.
“I guess that proves there are people here,” Lastin said. He chuckled, first in disbelief but sounding nervous when he stopped, and then ran his fingers through his hair.
Captain had ordered Leo and Trevor not to disclose their report’s findings. Right now was when the majority of people on Dockland were finding out why getting to planet seventy-four was so important that the order to route here had come from Public Face directly. Lastin had been one of the people theorizing settlers being landside, but he’d been a minority of Dockland’s population in thinking so. Most people on board believed a weapon had been found.
The voice intercom between the bridge and below decks control room toned. Everyone hurried back to their assigned consoles, glancing at the intercom speaker nervously and waiting for the expected orders from Captain. Trevor swiped her smart’s holoscreen closed and disconnected from her friend’s vid.
“Bridge crew, scan surface and open comms for all InterStel channels.” Captain was on the bridge for the initial contact with the landside population, so they heard the order through the open intercom link. “Below decks control room, scan and sweep surface, and open comms for both InterStel channels not bridge monitored,” Captain ordered.
Leo glanced a smile at Trevor as he settled into the seat at NavCom. She was trying to scrub the rough feeling of needing sleep out of one eye with her fist while using the other hand to start the satellite sweeps Captain requested. Leo waited from his seat in front of NavCom, watching across the room to where Trevor was working, Lastin beside her and punching in the commands for engaging the old landscan sensors. The odd terminology Leo had only heard before in Technology History of ‘punching in’ commands had finally stopped sounding like a joke now that his hands ached from using the antique systems for more than half the week.
Captain kept the intercom link open. “Initiate message send,” she ordered. The bridge InterStel Officer promptly deployed the pre-recorded message from Captain across all of the bridge channels as the below decks InterStel Officer punched in the commands to send off the message on the first of two channels so outdated they weren’t recognized by the bridge control systems.
Everyone’s smarts chimed with a message from Captain being saved to each member of Dockland’s crew. The file was a transcript of the message she’d just ordered sent landside.
Leo read through it quickly. The message was a goodwill greeting and a warning. It requested viable and verifiable identification of the peoples now apparently inhabiting Daion Central World. The goodwill part of the message was that – if appropriate identification was provided – any action by Dockland would be in accordance with current laws and Daions would be treated respectfully per the agreement signed many, many standard years ago. The warning part stated failure to provide identification would be viewed as evidence of illegal settlement and illegal settlers would be detained landside for removal to Coalition Central Worlds and fair trial.
“Message sent, Captain,” the bridge InterStel Officer stated. The below decks InterStel Officer huffed, muttering about how ridiculously long it took to operate the old InsterStel as she switched to the second channel and began punching in commands to send the message again.
“Message sent, Captain,” she confirmed a few moments later.
Leo closed out of the transcript file. He yawned out of pure exhaustion and swiped the screen on his smart to begin scrolling through news pages. He hoped the distraction of whatever else was happening in the galaxy would stop him from thinking about the all-channel message making its way to the planet and initiating the wait for a response.
For the past few cycles, the news pages Leo had checked were dominated by releases of information pertaining to the latest investigation of corruption in Senior Coalition. The name ‘Shaverrim’, which Public Face had mentioned when Captain first reported to her about planet seventy-four being populated, was popular in the articles and often got mentioned as belonging to a person suspected of being an Isolated Radical sympathizer. But, Coalition Games were also getting underway – the opening ceremonies happened a few standard hours ago – so the news articles Leo scrolled right now were definitely split.
Coalition games happened every ten standard years, but corruption investigations in Senior Coalition were relatively common, happening every three to five standard years. Usually investigations were due to some minor scandal or another coming to light and then quickly disappearing from head article positions. Leo was interested in this investigation only because he had been part of triggering it.
He and Trevor had both also already received written notifications thanking them for their testimony and politely removing them from any further parts of the investigation. Captain had smiled about it when they’d showed her.
“I guess Annise liked you two enough to keep you clear of the politics,” was all she’d said. It felt anti-climactic.
Except now Dockland was here, a full three cycles ahead of any other ship, staring down at the cause of the investigation and as deep into the politics as any crew could get. The next ship to arrive would be Shiner. Captain had frowned about that, but hadn’t shared her thoughts for explaining the expression on her face. Buccaneer and Oscareous, the two starting from furthest away, would both arrive on the fourth cycle.
The bridge received the response to Captain’s message first, but it was a mess of static and tones when they tried to play it back. The second channel of the below decks’ InterStel provided a calm, male-sounding voice requesting identification of the people on Dockland before agreeing to transmit any information of those on the planet. Leo could picture the grin Captain would have after listening to that message. Probably, he thought, it would be the exact opposite of the sickened stare Trevor was throwing at InterStel’s antique panel speakers.
Captain saved her pre-recorded reply into the below decks InterStel Officer’s shared file, and then saved a transcript of this next message to the entire crew. Leo opened it quickly to read that this message provided Dockland’s registration and standard crew information, already complied and prepared for sending landside at a moment’s notice.
Leo quit scrolling the list of crew names and jobs when Captain informed the whole ship in a single announcement that contact had been made with a landside population. She finished by saying she was moving stations to the below decks control room to continue the conversation.
Trevor still looked to Leo like she was going to vomit on a console, but now she was staring at the intercom speaker as if willing Captain to take back the announcement of coming below decks.
“What’s wrong?” Lastin asked Trevor. He was the closest person to her and the way she’d jerked to stare at the panel for InterStel and then at the intercom speaker had caught his attention.
“I… what?” She snapped her attention to Lastin and then shuddered, as if a full-body quiver could shake away whatever thoughts she was having. “Nothing,” she said, clipping the word short of its ‘g’ in her haste to spin back and stare at the satellite screens.
Leo didn’t believe her for a second, and obviously neither did Lastin, but Leo was all the way across the room so couldn’t very well call out for Trevor to publicly share whatever was making her so uncomfortable. Leo was grateful on Trevor’s behalf that Lastin knew better than to ask again.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!