Another week of unexpected online learning complete! Hopefully next week is the final online week, and then back to in-person to close out the year. That all depends on if the general population can get this current spike under control... and so far people in our province haven't shown that overall level of social consciousness. (Most people here really are trying to mind the needed restrictions. Unfortunately, "most" isn't enough lately.)
Springtime is super hard to stay focused on school under the best conditions, and at home with a backyard beckoning and the sun pouring through the windows is definitely not best conditions lol. It'll likely be harder next week once the kids are free of quarantine restrictions from being close contacts and we're able to go for walks and bike rides again. Friends, I am not strong enough to resist skipping an afternoon class session in favor of taking a bag of spinach over to the duck pond to bribe fuzzy ducklings closer. I remember Springtime in elementary school and, if I'd had the choice, the duck pond would have been my choice, too.
No writing this week for me, but I did get to edit a little bit of the writing my kids are doing. It's very cool to see voice so strongly developed in my 9-year-old's writing, especially because her style is very consistent across her research projects and creative writing. She knows what she wants to say and the presentation is lovely to read. (Yes, of course there's parental bias, but her teachers praise her as well so I'm going to mom-brag a little.)
“Oh, hey, look at this,” Trevor called, grinning at Leo and pointing at the panel she’d just turned on. He came over for a quick glance on his way back to the handheld and stopped to stare.
“Oh wow! That’s got to be first or second generation InterStel!” he said.
“Right?” she asked, as excited as he was. “I bet this even still has signal distance delay!”
“It does! Look, right there” –he pointed at the corner of the display screen– “the option to have messages time stamped. So this is first generation InterStel. Wow.”
They grinned at each other before Leo turned away to get back to the handheld.
“I knew Dockland was old, but I didn’t know Dockland was this old,” Trevor said. “I bet this control room was latest tech when this ship was built,” she added. She’d already moved to the next bank of panels, her angle of sight giving her a partial view of the backs of ones she’d just powered on. She flicked the needed switches and then squinted at the first panels. “Stars align…” she muttered, walking closer so she could look down the InterStel panels’ backs to the flooring.
“What’s wrong?” Leo asked as he walked to the third, completely unfamiliar panel along the bank he was turning on. The antique handheld said this one was called the P.O.R.A.
“These lines have conversion couplings,” Trevor said, tracing fingers along one of the connections on the back of one panel. Her eyes followed the cables to the floor and she saw the dark, half-crescent of an unfilled securement bolt hole at the bottom of the panel backing.
“Makes sense with how many times Dockland has been upgraded,” Leo said, shrugging as he flicked the switches and pressed a button to start power coming into the panel he was turning on. The screens of the first two were still scrolling through their start-ups.
“No, not converting up. These couplings convert down to the hardline tie-ins,” she said, staring at him and holding his gaze when he finally looked her way. “These InterStel panels weren’t an addition to this ship, Leo. They were an upgrade.”
“What? No,” Leo said, shaking his head as he came over to stand beside her. “Every registered ship prior first generation InterStel communication was decommissioned and destroyed as part of New Wave Anti-Martial Items laws back – what? – almost a hundred standard years ago.”
He studied the couplings, his complexion paling as he leaned over the gap between panel backs to scrutinize the cabling Trevor had just been studying. He also saw the edges of multiple bolt holes, and that the hardline cables by the floor looked more like the still images from his Technology History classes than the majority of cables he’d seen when apprenticing during Dockland’s upgrades.
“But… every ship prior first generation InterStel was destroyed by the end of demilitarization,” he repeated quietly, straightening so he could see the look on Trevor’s face clearly. She definitely appeared as close to throwing up as he felt.
“What were those abbreviations you said were for the panels you turned on?” she asked.
“P.D.E.W. and L.R.P.W.,” he said. “The one I just powered on is P.O.R.A.,” he added.
The first panel he’d turned on beeped as ready. He and Trevor slowly turned to look at the dusty screen. Right out of one of Leo’s Technology History classes, the backlit, transglass screen shone dully with a rotating, two dimensional representation of the three dimensional space around Dockland. The nearby planet, when visible, was shown as a skewed horizon.
Readout displays back during the time before first generation InterStel hadn’t been able to maintain three dimensional viewing without time delay for converting data and creating the hologram imaging used in present day, so the rotating disk method had been developed for monitoring near space to take advantage of the instant replay of two dimensional images on two dimensional screens. It was almost hypnotizing to watch.
Leo glanced down the sides and then leaned far over the P.D.E.W. console to look at the panel back. This row of panels fit smoothly against each other and were flush with the curve of the wall behind them... as if made to fit this wall specifically. The P.D.E.W. was at the end of the row and had a snap cover on the exposed side, so he crouched down, snapped it open and looked inside. The dust was too thick to see if there were old bolt holes at the base of the panel, but how the couplings looked like they were installed in cables that were the same on each side instead of the floor side looking older, he doubted he’d find holes if he moved the dust. And he didn’t find any when he did move some.
The second panel Leo had turned on beeped as ready. He snapped the cover back into place and stood up, wiping his hands absently and spreading dust across the front of his uniform. He and Trevor both looked at the backlit transglass. This display was of a directional, three dimensional image of long-range space directly in front of Dockland. Leo didn’t need to walk the two steps and brush away the dust with his sleeve to know what the screen readout would say, but he did anyway.
“What are those?” Trevor squinted at the unfamiliar numbers below the familiar star tags.
“Targeting distances,” Leo said at a whisper. “L.R.P.W. is the abbreviation for Long Range Pulse Weapon.”
Trevor laughed and slapped his arm as if he’d said something funny. Leo didn’t laugh, his arms hanging at his sides as he stared at the screen.
“P.D.E.W. stands for Primary Direct Energy Weapon,” Leo said. The smile fell from Trevor’s face. “And P.O.R.A. is the abbreviation for Primary Optics / Radar Assembly,” Leo added.
“Are you joking me?” she asked, her voice trembling. He shook his head to the negative, swallowing hard.
“Look at the conversion couplings, Trevor. Each connection is what it should be. I’d gamble actual currency there isn’t a standardized coupling in this room, except for the connections requiring them.”
She scoffed and looked at the backs of the InterStel panels again, this time using the little pocket torch she always carried to look at them at lot closer than they had before. “Okay, so they’re all different but perfect for the cables they’re in. So?” she asked, fidgeting with her sleeve and then knocking away dust smeared on her uniform.
“Since when does Coalition do things right when they upgrade?” Leo asked, finally looking away from the L.R.P.W. screen to hold eye contact with Trevor. “We’re only now getting the worst of the hardware problems smoothed out since Dockland’s upgrades, and those were installed in the first half of this exploration. You know as well as I do Coalition does things standardized, even when standard isn’t optimal for systems.”
“These couplings being right doesn’t mean Dockland is a pre-InterStel ship,” Trevor argued.
“That’s actually exactly what it means,” Captain said.
Leo and Trevor spun to face the door. Captain was standing there with a bleary-eyed Lastin beside her; he was in the process of yawning widely and wasn’t in uniform. Red pillow grooves on his face and messy brown hair above blue and black workout clothes proved he’d obviously woken up only minutes prior to being here with Captain right now.
“Dockland is one of two registered ships rushed out of construction backlogs and commissioned into service during final assembly only months before demilitarization was formally announced, a year before first generation InterStel was available,” Captain said. “They returned to the assembly yard for complete refitting and InterStel upgrades. The conversion couplings you two are discussing are all shipyard factory grade, the same as any other assembly yard modification or in-construction revision to include InterStel.”
“Dockland’s records show it was commissioned with InterStel, though. It can’t be pre-InterStel,” Trevor argued, her knowledge of Dockland and understanding of how Coalition maintained ship registrations debunking the thought that Captain was telling the truth.
“Is that what the records say?” Captain asked. “Okay. Sure,” she continued, with no evidence of agreement in her tone, expression, or posture. “Dockland had a revised construction plan which opted to keep every panel bank supporting weapons after Coalition completely demilitarized and made every ship mounted offensive weapon system illegal for newly constructed ships. And then Dockland was commissioned without issue. That makes sense.”
No writing for me this week, but lots of bleach-filled house cleaning planned for my today lol. With an added hope of making time for my physio exercises... I have no idea if my arms are going to hold out for the cleaning I need to do or if I'll have to break it out piecemeal over the weekend. (Because scrubbing bathrooms and extra laundry are super-fun day off activities, said no-one ever lol.)
I hope your week was less hectic and tiring than mine, and that you get to have a very lovely May weekend. :)
“I’m just making sure you remember,” Captain said, a grin pulling up the corner of her mouth.
“Oh please, Tallishen.” The image of the reports flicked away and Public Face’s holo was again standing in Captain’s private. “Do you really think it was a coincidence Dockland, with its antiquated and incorruptible connections to functioning pre-InsterStel satellites, was included in the exploration group for Daion worlds?”
“It’s been twenty standard years since you got politically heavy. A lot can change and get forgotten in that time.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it. I, unlike you, still have my full faculties.” Public Face winked toward Trevor and Leo before holding up a hand against the side of her mouth to block Captain from seeing her mouth moving. “Space rot,” Public Face said in an exaggerated whisper aimed to Trevor and Leo, pointing not very subtly toward Captain with her other hand as her voice came clearly through the bridgeside’s speakers. Leo cracked a grin at the wordplay at the same time Annise’s smart chimed again. “Oh look, Ahonnon’s ‘official’ report is here,” Annise said, even adding the air quotes with her fingers.
She swiped up the report from Ahonnon. It slid beside the report Captain had sent rather than replacing it.
“Dual holoscreens in a smart?” Leo blurted from complete surprise. He knew that development in smart technology was supposed to still be a standard year away from being reliable enough to use!
“This smart is equipped with tri holoscreens, actually,” Annise said, off-handed. Captain peaked an eyebrow at Leo, trying hard to not laugh when he looked like he was attempting to swallow his tongue after speaking out of turn to the highest member of Coalition’s government and single most politically powerful person in the known galaxy (a galaxy of which more than three quarters was known). Annise was busy frowning at the changes in the second report, asking Trevor and Leo to both verify each of the differences she found as she highlighted them.
“Well?” Captain asked impatiently when Public Face seemed to have stopped reading and was only thinking. Trevor blinked in shock at Captain’s tone. Annise sighed and brushed her hand through both reports, closing the files, and then holding her thoughts in contemplative silence for two more long seconds.
“This definitely isn’t the report you sent me, although the similarities lead me to believe there was an extensive amount of plagiarism involved,” Public Face said. “However, this work of fiction by Ahonnon has been sent to” –she checked her smart– “fifteen Senior Coalition members. Will you two agree to be on record?” she asked, looking at Trevor and Leo.
“On record how?” Captain asked before either Analyst could reply.
“On record as in I’ll save this entire vid and use it as evidence for Ahonnon’s attempted corruption of Coalition exploration reporting. Your crew members’ involvement starts and ends with confirmation of reading the initial report and stating its authenticity prior to knowledge of there being corruption, and in denials of authoring the changes found in the corrupted summary.”
Captain nodded her agreement with those terms to her crew members. Public Face was smirking again after Leo and Trevor both independently agreed.
“Perfect. Thank you, all of you.” She moved as if disconnecting, but the link stayed active. “And Tallie? I’d like a reporting for how you’ve trained your crew to this level of loyalty and open disclosure.”
“Ha! It’s a Captain’s secret. Come back shipside and I’ll show you.”
“It may come to that,” Annise said, her countenance growing suddenly serious. “Shaverrim was on the list of Senior Coalition members Ahonnon sent the corrupted report to. In your below decks control room, is Dockland still…?” she let the question hang.
Captain grinned at Public Face. “That’s not even a question you need to ask about my ship, Annise.”
“Good. Break off orbital scans. Route to planet seventy-four immediately and establish communications with the population. Our old agreement states clearly we aide and defend Daion worlds in event of threat” –she swiped up on her smart and put the satellite sweep result on the holloscreen– “and these thousands of people packing into what have to be evacuation centers need to be contacted immediately to determine if I’m dealing with trespassers in a Non Settlement sector, or honoring the agreement to protect Daions against Radicals. History has shown Coalition failing Daions more than once. If those people you found really are the rightful population of that world, I want that habit broken.”
“Understood,” Captain stated, her expression as serious as the one on Public Face. The holovid ended for real and Captain turned to her Analysts. “Do you know of anyone else on board who’s familiar enough with the below decks control room systems to run the sweep you two did?”
Leo and Trevor looked at each other. “I guess… well, Lastin showed me how to work it, but Trevor was quicker with the systems than Lastin or me,” Leo said.
“Who showed you?” Captain focused on Trevor.
“My grandfather, when I was a kid. He’s an installer and had old consoles. I grew up shipside,” Trevor replied.
“All right.” Captain’s fingers danced across her panel and then stopped. A moment later both Leo and Trevor’s smarts chimed. “You’re both now on my shift and your orders are in that message you just got. Go and get all the below decks control room systems turned on and ready for use by the time I get there.”
“I only know how to turn on maybe three of those panels,” Leo admitted hesitantly. His eyes were getting wider with every short sentence he was reading in Captain’s new orders.
“I could maybe power on half of them, but –”
“They all turn on,” Captain interrupted Trevor. “Figure it out. Go.” Captain was already working on something else.
Leo and Trevor left the bridgeside and jogged back to the nearest lift that would take them down to the same deck as the below decks control room.
“Any idea what any of those ones even do?” Leo asked, pointing at the dusty panels furthest from the door. Trevor only glanced and shrugged. She was turning on the panels she knew how to as he picked up the nearly ancient handheld and powered it on.
“What do you need that for?” she asked.
“For this,” Leo said, pausing on a page and reading. Then he left the handheld on the console it was chained to and walked to the dusty panels across the room; the same ones he’d asked Trevor about. He flicked the needed switches to start the process of turning the first one on.
“Neat,” Trevor said. Leo shot her a quick smile and brushed off his hand, leaving white finger smears on his uniform, as he walked back to the handheld. “Does that old thing say what those panels are even for?” Trevor asked him as he picked it up.
“It’s all abbreviations. I turned on the ‘P.D.E.W.’, and now I’m going to turn on the ‘L.R.P.W.’… any idea what those might stand for? You’re the one who grew up shipside.” He was flicking switches for the second panel mentioned when he asked.
“Not a clue,” she admitted.
Is "TGIF" still a thing? Am I carbon dating myself? Do I need to be worried about it, really, if I am? You all know at this point I'm not young, so I guess I'm good with self carbon dating lol. Happy Friday! And thank goodness it is!
It was a fairly good week. Testing out writing and editing sessions on short stories or in time-limited windows has been working okay this week. Frustrating, but working. I was able to inch ahead on some editing, draft up a short story, and then inch ahead on a bit more editing. At this point I really need a USB connection in my temple so I can plug in and think directly into my manuscripts and stories.
Outside of writing, the kids finally broke me. My six-year-old was playing a Roblox game that was simply... happy. That's it. It's just a happy game. There's zero competition, players can go as fast or slow as they want, the levels are all fun and/or pretty to look at, and the controls are so easy that even my dinosaur-level brain could understand them. I'd been on the fence about making an account for a few games, but Be A Bee is the one that put me over. I have a Roblox account, now, and I'm not even sorry lol.
Captain was either still in the bridgeside or had gone back in there when she’d received their short report. Trevor and Leo waited impatiently, working hard to keep the sweep results from showing all over their faces as they were side-eyed by the rest of the bridge crew members on Captain’s shift. It wasn’t odd for people to come in to talk to Captain when they were off shift, but it wasn’t normal for them to come twice, not be requested as present by Captain and yet arriving at a run the second time, and then wait despite being told by lead crew members they wouldn’t be seen because Captain was having an important vid.
It was also really, really not normal to hear Captain’s voice elevate past the privacy sound dampening built into every bridgeside. Leo and Trevor were the closest to the door and couldn’t make out any of the specific phrases she was yelling, but definitely heard the words “survivors”, “no” and “twin star” quite clearly.
They glanced at each other for the last one. Usually in the tone Captain was using, someone’s ears were being referred to as the two stars orbiting the empty space at the center of a bistar solar system. The door to the private slid open. Captain was on her feet and leaning on her fists on top of her desk, poised to yell. Her inhalation paused as her eyes flicked between Leo and Trevor already standing there and staring across at her.
“You two get in here,” Captain barked. She shoved up to a straight posture and squared off with the same Senior Coalition member Leo and Trevor had seen earlier. They hurried inside and the door swished closed behind them.
“Analysts?” he demanded, incredulous, stabbing a finger toward them as they stopped nearby Captain’s desk. “This is a secure meeting between senior staff members of –”
The sound of his voice blinked out a split second after his image did. Captain tore off her smart and slammed it onto her desk.
“Arrogant! Ignorant! Greedy!” Her clipped tirade of elevating insults stopped at the tone of her smart synchronizing with her desk panel. “Annise,” she said. Her voice was nearly calm. The chiming of the outgoing vid request lasted only a second.
“Hi! I…” the finely-dressed woman appearing in Captain’s office glanced at her smart. “I’ll have to vid you back, this is –”
“Because of me,” Captain interrupted. The woman paused in the motion of disconnecting the holovid. “That rotted bolt is trying to vid you before I do. He still hasn’t figured out I have you as an instant contact.”
“Oh, for the love of Tallix! Why am I being brought into another one of your arguments with that petty and greedy little…” Her exasperated voice trailed off as Captain expanded the width of the holovid field to include Leo and Trevor. “Whoops. Please, excuse my language,” she said, her entire presentation of self almost instantly transforming to the same demeanor as on all of the public vids and images of her. As in the images, her skin was a luminous dark brown, her hair silver, and her clothes were as full of color and current fashion as any other member of Senior Coalition, just completely without fringe or decoration. It struck both Leo and Trevor at the same moment that, seeing her here on Dockland, her looks and fashion choices complimented Captain’s sparse bridgeside rather than clashing with it.
Trevor tried to clear her throat and instead made a strangled, squeaking noise. Leo marvelled about her having enough spit left to make an attempt at clearing her throat. He was pretty sure even his stomach acid had dried up.
“You can drop the publicity vid pose, Annise,” Captain said, not even looking up as she continued manipulating her desk panel. “These two are the ones who’ve provided me with the information I’m vidding you about right now, and that – because he’s this exploration’s Reporting Member – Ahonnon is attempting to block getting to you uncorrupted.”
“First off, Tallishen, I need to actually receive the information you’re –” she was interrupted by her smart chiming.
Trevor and Leo watched as the woman Captain called only ‘Annise’ brushed her fingers above her smart and lifted them, transferring the file from her smart onto a holloscreen in front of her. It looked like the summary they had written for Captain. Trevor’s breathing got ragged and Leo felt her fingers slide across his palm and then grip tightly to his hand. He squeezed back just as hard. The impatient pinching at Annise’s lips relaxed as she quickly scanned the summary, and then her eyes widened as she read the sweep results.
“This can’t be right,” Annise whispered. Captain remained silent as Public Face Annise Lillan – the highest member of Senior Coalition – re-read each word of the summary and then scrutinized the sweep results. “This has to be a mistake,” she added at the end of the second time reading through the information.
“It’s a satellite sweep from Dockland’s below decks control room. You and I both know those results can’t be tampered,” Captain stated.
“I’m allowed to say I’m shocked your paranoia paid off for once?” Public Face asked, a very un-Public Face smirk turning up the edge of her lips.
“You can say whatever you want as long as you take this seriously,” Captain replied. “I sent this as an unmarked file within this holovid because of the corruption mentioned in the summary these two wrote.” She nodded toward Trevor and Leo. Public Face glanced at them, the smirk she’d given Captain softening to a polite smile. “I guarantee that Ahonnon scrubbed Dockland’s name from the summary and sweep while I was vidding with him,” Captain continued, “and I know he added his own words into it because I watched him try to look like he wasn’t typing.”
“You two authored this report?” Public Face asked. Trevor and Leo managed to nod agreement. “Is the copy I’m holding accurate?” She twisted the display on her smart and her holovid image was replaced with a large version of the summary and sweep results. The Analysts read the files completely.
“That is our reporting to the letter, Public Face,” Trevor confirmed.
“You both say so?” the voice of Public Face asked.
“That is our reporting, Public Face.” Leo surprised himself by being able to speak a full sentence.
“You know Dockland’s below decks control room is only going to give you facts from the satellite sweep,” Captain stated.
“Of course I do. I sat beside you learning those systems. Or are you failing to recall that far back?” Public Face replied.
It's another Friday! We're here at the end of another week! Yay us! We all deserve our favorite cookies and most comfortable weekend clothes.
Not much new writing from me this week. I found a notebook from ten years ago which contained a few short stories I thought I'd typed up and then lost during multiple computer changes, but they were written longhand and waiting to be re-discovered. They're all typed up now! One needs polishing, another can be rewritten as a perfect intro for adding to a short story series I have going, and a different one is a fun idea I'll likely throw out into the wild for someone else to write. The last was a really abstract and pretty poem brimming with melancholy nostalgia, and I don't know what to do with it other than keep it to read every now and then. Probably it'll end up on my Wattpad lol.
My big manuscript is suffering from too much story and not enough body-functional time to write it. My arms and hands simply will not allow extended keyboarding sessions right now, and dictation software doesn't work well for me (it fizzles my writing to speak because my voice takes me out of the story; I don't sound like my narrator). I'll have to figure out something, but until I do it looks like pain meds and short stories and sporadic editing sessions will be the way of writing for me.
“I never went to Academy, I’m not in any class, and shipside is its own caste.” Trevor’s voice was small. Leo scoffed a laugh and sat in the hard seat next to hers.
“The analogy doesn’t change about you being amazing, and shipside castes are firmly middle as far as Coalition society is concerned.” He lifted her fingers and she didn’t pull her hands away from being cradled between his. “I knew the only reason you and I have been running a relationship this long is because you wanted to stay in it. You’ve got every option, every opportunity to get out of it whenever you want. Call me selfish or a bolt, but knowing this about you now, I feel like you’re maybe a little more willingly stuck with me than I thought. And I guess it’s safe for me to assume this is why you’ve been getting more distant from me the closer we get to planet seventy-four?” he asked, getting the hoped for nod of agreement from her in reply. “Well, I might be a selfish bolt currently saying stuff that sounds awful, but now I feel less like you’re wasting time with someone who’s easy entertainment while you’re on Dockland and more like you actually picked being with me. Maybe even that... you want to be with me for longer than just this year on Dockland?”
Tears leaked out of her eyes in spite of the fact she was smiling at him. “Your brain is a half-full bucket of space rotted bolts if you think anything other than that I picked being with you.”
He smiled, relief flooding over every other sense of emotion. “Probably only a quarter-full on my best day,” he said, the quick joke making her chuckle.
“I’m going to find Lindsay when we’re back to Dock in a few months and punch her. Right in the face. Break her nose and give her a bloody lip. She messed up your confidence fiercely.”
“Yeah, well… it, um…” He paused and took a deep breath. “It’s not, uh, easy to stay confident while you’ve been so emotionally unavailable these past weeks. I guess I can stop worrying now?”
She nodded, pulling both her lips in to pinch between her teeth as she laced her fingers into his, and then she smiled nervously at him. “I didn’t know what your opinion was for this Daion Central World scan. I was scared to ask, especially since we’d gotten so committed that we’d decided to stop using repression a few months ago. I mean, the thought that you might be thinking like everyone else? I couldn’t…” She sniffled and blinked back tears. Leo squeezed her fingers gently. “Everyone on board seems so excited to ransack this planet,” she continued. “It’s like… stars align it is so much like they want to rip apart this whole world and steal everything. Like some ancient pirates discovering a tomb with a few memorial shokes. They only see the gold the shokes are made of, not that the shokes are there to honor and remember the dead. But instead of shokes, its whole cities, whole worlds...” Her voice trailed off.
“Not everyone on board,” he said, squeezing her fingers in his again.
She squeezed back and nodded, breaking into a smile. “You have no idea how relieved I am right now,” Trevor said, sniffling hard and trying to stifle a sob. Leo shook off her hands with a chuckle and leaned forward to pull her into a hug.
“Probably half as relieved as I am. I was really starting to think we were over,” he said into her ear.
“You are not getting rid of me that easy,” she laughed the words, the sentence interrupted by a couple quiet sobs. “Especially now.”
“I know, I know,” he said, rubbing her back. “Two months until we’re done this exploration. Charlotte won’t even be able to beat me senseless in Dock because you’ll have already done it if I break your heart.”
“No,” she said, wiping her face on her sleeve as she sat back from him. “Well yes, but not that. I was trying to wait until after my quarterly physical so I had confirmation.”
“What’s wrong?” he asked, grabbing her hand.
“Nothing, now, I guess,” she said, smiling at him. “I was actually something that happened sometime in the past seven or eight weeks, but I really only realized completely about two weeks ago. But it sounds like it’s not going to be a problem now. Or, at least, not the problem I was worried about.” She chuckled nervously.
“A problem from seven or eight weeks ago, but really only two weeks ago, and you have to wait for your quarterly…?” He stared at her in silence for a moment. “Wait, are you…?” A slow smile pulled up the corners of his mouth. “Are you… pregnant?” he asked.
“I think so.”
“You think so or you hope so or you know so?” he asked in a rush.
“I’m pretty sure. My quarterly is next week. So I guess that’s when we find out for sure,” she replied.
“That’s really exciting news. How excited am I allowed to be? Wait, you need to sign the relationship registration. We need to get that filed, like, yesterday,” he said, every sentence coming out so fast they were nearly on top of each other. She laughed that he was so excited he forgot to use shipside terminology.
“You want to know how excited you can be? Well, I need you to be this excited,” she said. He laughed loud enough someone down the hall looked their way. The crew mate smiled and continued on their way when the couple only kissed. The below decks control room was one of the few places on board with enough semi-privacy to allow for a kiss to be uninterrupted by other people passing by.
The console beeped beside their elbows and Leo and Trevor broke the kiss to look at the screen. The results of the sweep showed much more than what they’d been hoping to see.
“Oh… oh no. That’s bad,” Trevor whispered as the live feed played on the transglass screen.
“That’s really bad,” Leo added after watching a few seconds more.
Trevor’s fingers ticked along on the pressure pad and the screen, converting the data on the screen into a file. She saved the file through the upgrade hardware block bolted to the satellite panel to make the file compatible with her smart. Rather than waste time taking the file up to the bridge, Leo revised their summary and saved it directly to the share folder on Captain’s personal. A moment later, Trevor added the satellite results to the same folder. They shut down the console, the novelty of how much time it took a lot less endearing now, and then raced off at a run to get back to the bridge.
“Here we go,” Trevor said. She already had the system tuned to the satellites in Daion space and was keying in the final code needed to start the sweep.
“Oh, wow. You’re really good at this,” Leo complimented. He watched her fingers ticking quickly on the controls.
“My grandpa kept a couple of consoles this old when I was little. I learned satellites on this stuff.” She tapped a final tick and a progress bar appeared at the bottom of the screen of readouts. “You really don’t think of Daions as being other, do you?” It was a question, but she said it like a statement. Her fingers remained busy on the pressure pad and touch screen, pulling up more options and initiating a background scan so the sweep would be monitored for interference once it started, keeping her eyes busy so she didn’t have to look at him while she was talking to him. Leo hadn’t known the old equipment had the ability to monitor and verify itself; he wasn’t that far into reading the user manual.
“I guess not. I mean, people are just people, right? Coalition history is only one version of what happened back then,” he said, completely absorbed in what she was doing and not really listening to what she was saying.
“I’m not talking about in the broad, historical meaning. You – yourself – you really don’t see Daions as being other, do you?” Her hands stilled on the controls as she waited for his answer. He looked down at her fingers, his grip tightening on the back of the seat she was sitting in as he assembled the thoughts of his own truth into something he could verbalize.
“I can’t see someone as other from having lived inside the same glass jar with them. You know my parents never grew up with anything, and what they could afford after having us kids was more of the same amount of nothing. We’re lowest caste. We got by, but it meant we lived the same caste and class and in the same Central World purlieus as a lot of displaced Daions. I even got standard education with a few in my school and classes. To my family, me getting a scholarship that paid for my Academy education was a really big event. Me coming out here on explorations as Analyst even more of one. I mean, I wear this uniform and suddenly I don’t have security vidcams following me through markets.
“Back at home, though, without my uniform, I’m still lowest caste. I worked the entire time I was in Academy so I could afford to eat and rent a room to sleep in because the scholarship only paid for direct school costs. It’s just buckets on buckets of bolts that Daion survivors were scattered around Coalition space as lowest caste rather than being granted access, rights, and free passage back to their home sectors carried on a big apology. That treaty of equality or agreement or whatever it was… it might as well have been written with water on a hot stone. If Coalition had ever actually honored it, Daion descendants would have returned to their homes on their worlds rather than getting to the point right now where they’re disappearing from my parents’ purlieu and going… away, I guess. They’d be living on Daion worlds and this mock-up ‘exploration’ wouldn’t even be here, in Daion sectors, pretending we’re looking at uncharted worlds. We wouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t be here.”
Trevor was breathing heavier than he could understand when he finished what felt to him like ranting. Her bottom lip was firmly pinched between her teeth and her eyes were searching his face. Her expression stayed pinched even when her lip popped free of her bite.
“You really mean that?” she asked quietly.
“Well…” He paused and did a quick internal scan. “Yes. I firmly believe what I just said.”
“Would you still believe it knowing I was an eleven month gestation? And that my kids will have eleven month gestations?” she asked.
Leo looked at her in confusion. Standard gestation for Coalition babies was ten months. Something in the early forms of space hibernation, during the historical phase of utilizing Advanced Cryo before the technology for over distance travel was developed, altered the genetics of those first explorers way back when explorations were one-way trips. Because of the altered genetics, Diaons had longer gestations for pregnancies. It was theorized as being a main part of the reason for their immune systems being stronger.
Suddenly it all clicked. Trevor had talked about her transient family life and they’d both laughed about her grandfather’s distrust of modern technology despite being a shipside installer. How tightly knit her shipside family and community was. The strange celebrations and slang they had. All those things she’d easily passed off as differences in shipside verses landside cultures because Leo had only lived landside until his assignment to Dockland.
“You’re Daion?” he asked. He kept his voice to a murmur because they hadn’t bothered to close the door and, although this specific room was usually unused, this part of the ship wasn’t. Even trying hard, he also couldn’t keep the note of hopefulness from sneaking into the question.
“You’re asking that like you have some kind of fetish,” she stated.
“What? No!” He held up both hands as if trying to ward away her words. “It’s just… never mind. This would sound so bad outside my head.”
“Sounding like a bolt has never stopped you before,” she reminded him.
“True,” he agreed, straightening up and shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Don’t let sounding like a bolt stop you now, Leo. It’s currently just a fact about you,” Trevor said.
Leo nodded reluctantly. “All right... I guess what I was thinking, and it’s going to sound bad, but you being Daion are makes ‘us’ easier for me,” he said. “I mean, my family isn’t much in the galaxy. You were, and remain, way above my class. You’re this awesome, smart enough to be honors level, beautiful woman from middle castes, and I’m the lowest caste scholarship winner who starved and barely slept for six years while working full time on nights, taking extra classes to keep my points up, and surviving on the hope I’d get to wear this uniform one day. I only got the scholarship because my mom’s work runs a lottery and I met the requirements to enter the draw. I won my scholarship out of a corporate lottery. It’s the only way anyone from my caste gets into Academies,” he explained, folding both hands into a ‘thumbs up’ and tapping the ends of his thumbs into his chest. “We might be the same caste if you publicly admit, I guess, but when it comes to class you and I aren’t in the same one at all,” he added with a shrug, his hands falling to his sides.
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!