The hallway crowd was disbursed the next time Leo looked toward the door, but tension in the room still prickled at his skin. Below decks was as quiet as when people were watching, and the lead shift crew members Leo worked with were each as focused on their panels as they had been a few cycles ago while still learning.
He felt just as focused in this moment, and knew it was because – half an hour ago – their part in this exploration had been only as Dockland’s crew: Coalition employees and contractors working on an old and refitted scanner ship. With the conversation between Captain and Daions, these people in the below decks control room had been elevated from random, low positions to lead crew members of a pre-InterStel gunship tasked with upholding the reestablishment of a vulnerable population; their jobs now could even include defending those who were landside. The last half hour had completely changed each person’s situation from knowing they were an unnoticed one of many who worked together into a single entity crew.
Each person here now owned part of the potential to alter the course of what would become recorded history.
It was a lot to take in. Especially considering that, even if not altering recorded history, they’d at least get a detailed footnote as having existed beyond a few decades of census records and a questionable ship registration history.
Unless, Leo thought, their support of this Central World and the Agreement of One Cause turned into an utter failure and the part Dockland was playing out on behalf of Coalition re-establishing positive relations with Daions saw all of them erased from every record by greedy bolts in Senior Coalition like Ahonnon and Shaverrim... His mind raced quickly to the risks and negatives, everything bad forming into long a mental list as fast as he could think things up.
The readouts on the screen in front of him stabilized into NavCom’s predictable scrolling for being in orbit around Daion Central World. Leo tuned out his inner dialogue of everything that could go terribly, horrifically wrong and tapped his smart to bring up news pages as a distraction.
The first article was about how Public Face had disbanded every Advisory Chair of Senior Coalition based on investigation initial findings. The investigation had elevated into a full probe, and the disbanding had only happened three standard hours ago. The related vids showed Coalition Tower Defenders escorting Advisory Chairs off of Senior Coalition properties, and had repeating images of Public Face announcing temporary replacements would be the winners of previous public elections on all but the five Central Worlds (which Public Face would represent herself). Rather than appointing internal Senior Coalition members, Annise was assembling the heads of planetary governments as selected in free voted elections to represent their worlds among the highest Senior Coalition level.
The next page’s head article was twenty minutes old and boasted many leaders had chosen to remain on their planets, and then listed the names of whom those leaders were sending to Senior Coalition seats as hand-selected officials in their steads. The bottom of the article noted Shaverrim and at least thirty others were still targeted by the probe even after being dismissed from Advisory Chair positions.
Leo whistled quietly at this bold move by Public Face. He couldn’t remember ever before a time when Coalition had seen the most senior members replaced in a single cycle.
Except that one time.
That one other time had been a mass assassination, and the whole Tower’s population had been killed and replaced. But that time hadn’t been initiated by someone internal to Senior Coalition, they’d just all been killed in the morning and the building fully occupied with rebelling forces by the afternoon. The event was recorded as the final stage instigating the Fifty Year Revolt prior to the establishment of New Coalition. That was the only other time Leo could recall where the most senior members were replaced in a single cycle.
His hand was shaking as he scrolled to the next article.
The next page confronted Leo with the latest in Coalition Games world medal counts as the head article, followed by the announcement of Advisory Chairs being purged and the resulting re-population. He shook his head at the ridiculousness of the two things competing for article space on the same page.
An hour before the end of the shift, Captain saved a written, full ship announcement to everyone on board that all personnel not willing to be a part of defending Daion Central World would be provided with faultless lifeboat transportation off Dockland and out of Daion space. The announcement was endorsed by Public Face.
Leo stared at the offer, wondering how many people would leave. Trecker, the crew member who’d attempted to claim Leo and Trevor’s relationship was a lie, was in the hallway outside the below decks control room again and loudly announced his decision to depart to the few others who were there; that his life and career were too important to waste on Daions. A few people in the control room stood and picked up the things they’d brought with them for this shift.
“Really, Danny?” Lastin asked one of the people he’d picked and trained over the past five cycles.
“I have three young kids and a husband waiting for me outside Dock,” she said. “My dad is sick now, too. I can’t risk not going home because this situation goes really badly and I’m in prison somewhere, and I can’t afford to lose this job if it only goes moderately badly. My family needs too much right now.”
Lastin’s imposing posture reduced to a slouch and his flare of anger drained away when confronted with her reality. The others who were leaving the below decks control room wore the same tight expression on their faces as Danny did. He shook her hand as she passed him and wished her good luck with her family.
She pulled him into a hug and thanked him for the opportunity of training down here, which had given her the privilege of hearing first hand Captain’s conversation to establish Daion reclamation of their Central World. History might be re-written to remove Dockland and all of these Daions if this situation didn’t go well, but Danny promised it was an honor she would always remember.
By the half-way mark of the next shift, ninety-two of Dockland’s five hundred and sixty-eight member crew had chosen to report to the first lifeboat designed to comfortably fit one hundred people for up to a month. All of Dockland’s lifeboats were capable of over distance travel using the same routing systems as Dockland, as well, so anyone taking up Captain on her offer would be safely in Dock after three weeks at most. From there, and being faultless, they’d be able to sign on to different ships for other explorations. Most wouldn’t even lose funds, and their employment records would only show that they were transferred.
Two lifeboats had been prepped for launch during the shift when Captain made the announcement. Both were kept ready and in hold until the end of the following shift, in case of anyone deciding slower that they didn’t want to risk career and potential, personal ruination. Only one more person joined the ninety-two. The second lifeboat was being returned to a ready storage condition as the first one launched.
Leo couldn’t help smiling when he woke up to the ship-wide, open hold warning alarm. He and Trevor had filed their Established Relationship Registration and Captain had issued them a shared cabin an hour later, so he was waking up curled with Trevor in a bed actually big enough for them to sleep side by side without being squished. Plus, Dockland felt lighter with the knowledge that negative voices would no longer be weighing down conversations. It might be part of what Trevor liked to call his sensitive, landsider emotions, but as he looked around their shared cabin and saw their few personal effects combined, this old gunship felt comfortably home.
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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!