The hallway at the base of the wide ladder up to the bridge was lined with brightly lit privates, single work stations available for anyone to use, the broad windows into each giving the hall an illusion of being wider. Leo and Trevor stepped behind the thin transglass of the first empty one and rolled the hanging door closed. It was a neutral space to work in. Otherwise they’d have to go to one of their cabins and…
The silence in the private was almost thick enough to have a flavor when Leo walked further in to stand behind the desk with Trevor. She was already working on the report. It only took a few minutes to draft a summary Captain could use, but they both hesitated on saving it to her shared folder.
“The worst that could happen is we’re right and there’s some kind of strange Daion defensive threat someone else will have to deal with,” Leo said. His hands were stuffed into his pockets and his stomach was twisting at the thought of sending the summary. For some reason, it felt true about the stall tactic, but calling it a threat felt…
“Daion defense systems were set up for defensive reasons. They were never the threat,” Trevor stated quietly.
“I know, right?” Leo agreed.
The quickness of his reply startled Trevor into looking at him. He didn’t notice, though, because he was staring at the screen and rereading their summary.
“A whole civilization was wiped out due to not following proper first contact protocols, and the survivors abused and then othered so badly that now they’re dying off or hopefully going into hiding,” he said. “All because of the crass assumption that recent evolutionary divergence must mean resilience against the same viral infections. Everything built back then meant to protect Daions from coming into contact with Coalition populations is treated like some big threat now, as if they’d been aggressors and are now doling out posthumous offensive strikes. I keep thinking we need to word this summary differently so it doesn’t even hint at snippets of Radical conditioning, but other than recommending Coalition leave the planet alone…” His voice trailed off and he shrugged, shoulders slumping further down after the motion was complete than they had been before.
“Maybe we should recommend that?” Trevor asked carefully.
Leo scoffed a single laugh and cocked half a smile at her. “If there’s a weapon on that planet, or even the potential of one, Senior Coalition is going to want it. Our recommendation of leaving planet seventy-four alone would be deleted by the first member to read it.”
“You’re right,” she admitted, her posture slouching to match his. “Unless it is just a useless, latent defense. Something set up in the final days in preparation that Coalition ships would come back one day and meant to stall scanners and give remaining Daions time to evacuate?”
“That” –he stopped after the first word of starting to argue, her idea sinking past his initial theory and deeper into the history he knew– “that actually sounds more like something Daion culture would have developed.” He took his hands out of his pockets so he could cross his arms at his chest. It was his usual pose when thinking. “Dockland’s new control systems didn’t replace or corrupt the below decks operation room. The system linking to the old satellites predating modern NavCom still works fine. I bet we could do a search and be able to see if there are any active, automated evacuation or launch preparations occurring if we use the consoles down there.”
“How do you even know the below decks system is active?” Trevor asked.
“You’ve been avoiding me fairly often the past couple of weeks so I’ve had a lot of spare time,” he admitted without looking at her. He held his arm over the desk to transfer the file to his smart and then swiped his hand through the holoscreen to close the comp. “Come on. I’ve only ever seen Lastin in there and right now he’ll be sleeping. He’s the one who showed me how to run the satellite console. If there are satellites around planet seventy-four, we can do a sweep and add any findings to our summary. It’ll only take an hour.”
Trevor was still at the desk when he rolled open the door.
“Or I can go myself and save the file to your personal to review before saving for Captain,” he mumbled toward the floor.
“Only someone using an old satellite system wrong would think it takes an hour,” she said, coming around the desk. “Obviously I need to set up the sweep.”
He smiled at the floor. This conversation was the most she’d said to him in the past week, and calling him incompetent with the antique system was the closest she’d been to getting mean in the past month.
He led the way down to the below decks control room. The consoles were a much previous generation to the old control system recently upgraded out of the bridge. Equipment down here was thick, clunky, and closely packed, each panel for the satellites hummed after being turned on, and all of them actually required physical touch and pressure to operate. Everyone on the crew was fairly certain the reason Captain hadn’t upgraded this room was because it was now a Coalition Historical Site and there were laws against disrupting those. Even the floor in here was covered by old fashioned sterilpoly tiles, cut to fit with glue in the seams, instead of the usual spray-in-place sterilpoly flooring that was everywhere else in Dockland.
Trevor sat in the rigidly affixed seat in front of what Leo thought of as Satellite Viewing and Control and flicked on the switches to power up the panels. She was smiling about using the hands-on equipment, and chuckled as she pointed to the transglass screen providing a progress bar for how long remained until the system became completely live. A ridiculous four seconds passed before the screen flickered and the panel menu options appeared on the backlit display.
“Imagine living in a time where this was considered top-notch technology,” Trevor mused, shaking her head at having to use a combination of a remote, pressure sensitive pad on the console top and the touch activated transglass screen to navigate the menu options. Every selection she made had an audible tick noise, as if the visual highlight of selecting the option she wanted wasn’t verification enough of the choice. After setting up commands for what they needed, she still had to use the manual keypad, switches, and pressure pad to finish approving and initiating the commands.
Honestly, Leo loved the old equipment. He wasn’t adept at using it, but had found the laughably clunky handheld which contained the control room’s user manual – and had an actual glass screen, not even transglass – tied to one of the other consoles. And that didn’t mean tied as in the usual meaning of being linked; it was actually locked in a case welded to a physical chain which stopped the handheld from being taken further than one meter away from the console. The whole below decks control room was like stepping into an interactive museum simulation, except all the equipment for operating the outdated satellite system was functional and remained part of an old, refitted ship deployed as a scanner on exploration.
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!