Sorry for the late update! This week has been busy enough that I'm feel like I'm back working on field construction sites lol. It makes for short hours and long days, but so rewarding because the work is ours. Making candies and shirt decals is a lot better than steel construction. (At least it is for me!)
“Dockland exists,” Captain’s voice interrupted Leo’s thinking. “This exploration exists. All Coalition worlds exist! You are in violation of Coalition non-settlement law by claiming this sector!” Captain was shouting again.
Shiner’s readings were smaller and smaller as the distance between Shiner and Dockland read smaller and smaller.
“Come on come on come on,” Leo muttered, hitting his fist to his forehead in an attempt to clear his thinking so he could figure this out. Why did Lissa want him to hear this right now?
“Coalition exists therefore the Agreement of One Cause stands!” Captain declared. “Your claim to speak on behalf of an unrecognized New Alliance for control of this sector is illegal. Recognized, legal, Daion settlements on this Central World ensure Coalition protection of this world!” she continued.
The situation clicked in his brain and Leo grabbed Mollin by the shoulder and shook him. Lissa wasn’t playing the argument for Leo! “Mollin?” Leo said, but Mollin had the same blank stare as almost everyone else in the control room. “Mollin!” Leo yelled. The Analyst blinked and focused on Leo. “All of Shiner’s readings are decreasing,” Leo explained. “All of them. Energy, velocity, range, activity… everything. Why?”
“I don’t… I don’t know,” Mollin stuttered.
“Coalition is your Public Face and she no longer exists,” Shiner’s Captain interrupted. “You’re a trespasser in New Alliance territory,” the stranger’s voice announced boldly through the intercom.
“Your list! The evil genius stuff,” Leo reminded Mollin, shaking him again. “Everything decreasing but size. Everything but size! Why?” Leo demanded.
“That’s… it’s…” Mollin swallowed hard. His fingers started wiggling as his eyes blinked faster, as if he was operating an invisible screen. “Controlled shutdowns reboot faster,” he blurted.
“Your skull is hosting a space rotted bolt if you actually believe Coalition is limited to and defined by one person,” Captain retorted over the intercom, her voice clear.
“What?” Leo asked Mollin. The reply didn’t make any sense.
“Controlled shutdowns,” Mollin repeated as if that explained everything. “Uncontrolled power failure requires more time because systems aren’t prepared but a reboot is fast.”
Suddenly it made sense. This system corruption had been on Mollin’s evil genius list, one of the top three. Leo spun and stared at the readings around Shiner. Each scrolling number was already starting with zeros. Leo leapt into a five-stride sprint that threw him into the wall beside NavCom. All the decreasing readings but one hit zeros on his third stride. Everything in the control room went silently dark in the blurred moment his hand slammed to the small, triangle-shaped panel the paranoid pre-InterStel designers had constructed into this control room specifically.
Somewhere in Dockland on this level, someone screamed. Everyone’s smarts were off. All of Dockland’s systems – lights, life… power – everything was gone. The count Leo started in his head the moment his hand hit the small pressure panel on the wall above NavCom continued silently until the screaming panic in the halls leaked into the voices of people around the below decks control room.
“Eight, nine, ten, eleven,” he yelled, the numbers evenly spaced and spoken strongly enough to hold back the terror surging in from the hall.
“Twelve, thirteen,” Mollin added his voice to the count.
There wasn’t any way for anyone else to know what they were counting about because Mollin and Leo were the only two who’d read the page stored in the antique handheld, but Lastin joined starting on fourteen. By twenty the entire lead crew was calling out the steady increments loudly enough that – when Mollin and Leo stopped at thirty and Leo lifted the pressure off his palm – voices echoed the counting from down the hall along with the rest of the below decks control room lead crew.
“Come on come on come on,” Leo murmured in a rush.
Every panel in the below decks control room flashed on, their back-lit switches flickering and their screens’ initial start-up progress bars shining as dim lights against the darkness. The usual humming of antique electrical equipment filled the silence. Leo let out a loud whoop and sprang away from the wall. Mollin jumped up from his seat and caught Leo into a tight hug, both of them laughing hysterically.
“You are the greatest evil genius!” Leo yelled, pounding a hand into Mollin’s back. A chorus of questions demanded to know what had just happened, and why only the panels were turning on, and Leo and Mollin ignored them. “We need a relay yell to the bridge,” Leo said, releasing his friend from the hug.
“What?” Mollin demanded.
“Shipside childhood games. You’re not allowed to play using the intercom, so you have to relay yell messages to your friends,” Leo explained quickly for the simple shipside communications system Trevor told him she’d used as a kid before she and her friends were deemed old enough for smarts.
Lastin was the first to nod understanding and then looked at Leo. “Saying what?” he asked.
“Uh… Power interruption pressure panel triggering battery system shielding was successful and… no, that’s too long, um…” Leo wracked his brain. “Relay yell to bridge. Below decks is live. Captain and Lissa needed,” he said. Someone in the hallway yelled the message away from the control room as Leo powered on the old handheld for more light.
“Handheld,” Mollin said, freezing in place and pointing at the clunky frame and glass screen in Leo’s hands.
“What?” Leo asked. The screens around them loaded, most flashing errors because they were tied too tightly into Dockland’s new systems and could no longer function independently.
Mollin darted around the control room from panel to panel, nodding to himself and laughing triumphantly when he encountered screens showing the errors he apparently wanted to see. “This is perfect! We can only control life support and weapons,” he said, stopping in front of Leo and beaming a wide smile at him.
“I’m not following,” Leo admitted.
“Me either. At all,” Lastin agreed.
“Shiner modified their scan system. They did a controlled shutdown and then used the scan system to project an electromagnetic pulse to wipe out our electrical in an uncontrolled shutdown. They can reboot quickly, but we need more time. It’s not hard to do, really, if you just –”
“Less evil genius, more solution,” Leo interrupted. “You, get life support stabilized,” he said to the crew member stationed at that panel as Mollin collected his thoughts. She nodded and got to work, the ticks and tones of her actions a sudden comfort causing a ripple of reassuring whispers in the hall as circulation fans quietly buzzed into action.
Mollin inhaled deeply, still smiling at Leo. “Dockland is a registered Coalition ship. All our onboard handhelds are programmed for standard Coalition links. It takes an hour to get Dockland fully online from an unplanned shutdown, but handhelds can reboot in thirty seconds at most,” Mollin said in a rush, pausing to breathe and holding out his hands in a gesture for Leo to finish the idea.
“And that means any standard, linked handheld on Dockland will power up and link to the nearest online Coalition control system.” Leo felt the smile spreading across his face.
“Shiner did a controlled shut down.”
“So they’re going to reboot in a few minutes!” Leo whooped again. “Go! Find a handheld!”
“But, if Captain is coming down shouldn’t we wait for her to decide –”
“She will want you already hacked into Shiner’s systems and ready to corrupt,” Leo interrupted. “She’s an evil genius, too. Just go.”
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!