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.
Leo looked at the screen in his hand, supposedly showing the latest scan he and Trevor had completed. He scrolled to the top of the report. It had the first date and time of being submitted to Captain, and the second date and time of having been submitted to Coalition Oversight.
The handheld was system linked, so Leo swiped out of the report and opened the ship’s system to look into recent archives. The original report saved in records was uncorrupted. The copy of the report saved in Captain’s backups was also uncorrupted. Trevor had been reading over his shoulder and tapped the corner tab of Captain’s backup copy to see the file transfer details. The file size after transfer was less than half of what it should have been, and the time in transfer was almost three seconds longer than usual.
Trevor used the handheld she was holding to look up the copied report and found zero anomalies in the details. The original report from five cycles ago was uncorrupted.
“Well?” Captain asked when they both stopped going through the information at hand.
“You go first so mine makes sense,” Trevor said. She and Leo each walked around opposite sides of Captain’s desk so they were standing on either side of her, taking turns leaning forward as they explained the quick findings to prove the transmission to Coalition had been corrupted and not any of Dockland’s systems.
“How did this even get caught?” Trevor asked when they were done.
“The report came up as a redundancy error after being submitted and we were advised to re-preform the scan. We’ve had to do it before, but never for you two. When I queried the advisory, the bolt from Senior Coalition who just spoke to you requested a secure holovid to inform me three other ships had been affected for a similar shift offset so far. But only in our exploration group, none of the others have reported a clustered disruption.”
“And you said it’s only affecting the ships in line for scanning planet seventy-four?” Leo asked Captain. She nodded agreement. “What’s wrong?” Leo asked Trevor.
Looking at Captain had put Trevor in his line of sight on the other side of her, and the handheld Trevor held was shaking. Leo hesitated in reaching around Captain when Trevor quickly hunched, dropping the handheld onto the desk and shoving her hands into her pockets.
“Go ahead, Analyst. Not having a relationship registered isn’t the same as keeping it a secret,” Captain said to Leo with half a smile.
“I’m fine,” Trevor argued. She wasn’t able to glare at Captain, and likely didn’t want to anyway. Glaring at Leo would have meant looking at him. Her tone dropped the temperature in the bridgeside and her eyes could’ve burned holes into the desktop, though.
“Really? You’re fine?” Captain asked, dropping sarcasm like tossing lead-acid batteries into low orbit. “Say ‘planet seventy-four’ without clenching a fist,” she added. “Your behavior the past month has been noted and for the past two weeks flagged as out of normal for you, Analyst. Both by monthly mental health reviews and by crew observations.”
Trevor hissed out a quick breath as if she’d been punched. The accusation in the glare she threw at Leo felt like a punch.
“Wrong target. He hasn’t said a thing. But in case you forgot, you usually have onboard friends and they’ve been worried enough about you to talk to me.” Captain’s glare was sterner than anything Trevor could plate because grandmothers who also earned exploration-red Captain’s stripes on their shoulders had a lot of practice at that kind of thing.
“I’m fine,” Trevor stated through gritted teeth.
“Maybe it’s a latent Daion defense?” Leo asked quickly. It was a desperate attempt to get Captain’s attention off of Trevor. Trevor didn’t like anyone but close friends and family seeing her upset, and being centered by a person in authority because of being upset would only make things worse for whatever was going on inside her head.
“What?” Captain asked, spinning her chair so she could stare in confusion at Leo. Her mind mostly likely still focused on Trevor’s behavior and so his question made no sense.
“The altered reports. I was doing some reading about the history of planet seventy-four before Trevor and I were called here, and Daions went fully defensive at the end of the plague. There have been other defense systems that exploration scans have triggered unknowingly. Maybe this one is latent rather than assertive?”
“How do four altered reports grow into a defense system in your mind?” Captain demanded. Leo swallowed. The theory he’d thrown out there was only half an idea wrapped up in a gut feeling, and the gut feeling was only the caring one about getting Captain’s attention off of Trevor.
“Well, delays and stall tactics could be something to give a longer preparation time for an assertive system to start or… something?” Leo finished vaguely. Captain stared at him, waiting silently for an intelligent theory to come out of his mouth. “I mean, I’m just saying so far the corrupted reports have only affected ships after they’ve communicated the forty-eight hour notification of scan completion to Coalition, right? We’ve all gotten the response with solar system coordinates and planet location per solar order for planet seventy-four. A passive system that monitors communication regarding this Daion world could be capable of interrupting transmissions –”
“And potentially corrupt with misleading reports as a delay tactic to provide time for a large scale planetary defense system to power up,” Captain interrupted to finish the sentence. She leaned back in her chair and stared up, folding her hands in her lap. “Well. This line of thought is more ominous and precarious than anything I’d wanted to deal with on this shift,” she told the ceiling.
“Was there any consistency in the shifts used to make the corrupted reports?” Leo asked.
“The only consistencies were each corrupted report being from within the past eight cycles, and replacing the most immediate completed shift.”
“So all the corrupted reports were copied from among the earliest scans for the planets we’re each at,” Trevor added.
“Exactly,” Leo agreed. “I’d assume from that, the delay was meant to pick the maximum believable separation between reports.”
“But then it’s not a Daion defense system,” Trevor stated. “Whoever did this needed to know ships would be required to repeat scans, so this had to be set up after Coalition started maintaining redundancy checks. That means this was set up after the fiasco with Coliander.” Trevor shook her head to the negative as she spoke, the half-formed idea Leo had suggested taking up residence in her own thoughts and not making sense.
“Coliander’s Captain sure destroyed the best way for having a cycle off work without anyone in Senior Coalition noticing,” Captain lamented, sharing a quick grin with the crew members standing on either side of her. “Did you two know those redundancy checks run for every new report and go through verification against every report filed since the RedunSystem was implemented? Senior Coalition is even paying for people to manually submit older reports so they can catch data previous to RedunSystem initiation being submitted. But you’re right, the RedunSystem has only been operational for twenty-something standard years, and Daion worlds were depopulated long before that.”
“But the corruption is still only affecting ships given lists with planet seventy-four. So… if it’s not Daion, what else could it be?” Leo asked.
“I’m trying to figure that out,” Captain said. “Give me something short and in writing. Summarize our thoughts on this in a way I can support as Dockland’s position during more communications with Senior Coalition,” she ordered. “The only recommendation I have right now is for Coalition Oversight to include planet seventy-four in their canned response to more ships in our exploration group, and maybe a couple of ships from other explorations. If the clustered disruption spreads to those ships for their next ReadScan reports, we can start theorizing about some kind of possible Daion defense system. Anything you two can think of to add, include it in your summary.” She nodded to herself and waved a dismissal at them. “Oh, and,” she said, stressing the ‘and’ so much that both Leo and Trevor stopped and looked back from half-way to the door. “You two should probably register before we recall at the end of this exploration. There is zero way of ensuring you get assigned together if you sign up for the next exploration and you’re not registered.”
“File saved,” Leo said quickly, sliding in the agreement before Trevor could say something he wasn’t prepared to hear.
There were a few happenings this week that seem – in hindsight – to have been Universe-given wake-up slaps to take care and provide self care. Not in a bad way, and thankfully not that hard, but still. Definitely a couple of brain dustings.
Last weekend was good. No big, extra chores and no extra outings. And that arm stretch I'd found was still helping reduce nerve pain in my left elbow to an amount letting me almost function normally, too.
Then on Monday morning, only about an hour after drop-off, the school called and asked me to come pick up my 6 year old. She'd told her teacher she felt like throwing up, and the sweet lady who runs our school's front desk said my little one was pale and shaking. My youngest has been dealing with anxiety since the pandemic started (her teacher has been so amazing and understanding with the kids in her class), and Monday morning her anxiety monster got a hold of her and gave her a stomach-turning, heart-racing, tear-inducing attack in the middle of class. She was fine once we got home, and over the rest of the day we brain stormed some new coping skills which got teacher approval for becoming part of class. Things have been going pretty well for her for the rest of this week, and my youngest now has key word sentences and a comfort fidget. Total win!
On Tuesday I was talking on the phone with my uncle, who also has chronic pain, and I realized (through a bit of nudging from him) that I don't have to "earn" feeling better. We have benefits right now through my husband's work and I can go for a physio treatment when my arms aren't working. I can also go for an extra chiropractor appointment to deal with the new issues my neck has given me during the past few months. I currently feel like I was beat up, due to going to both a physio and a chiro appointment one day apart, but feeling post-treatment "bruised" (because of muscle tension release) is a lot better than the nerve and muscle spasm pain.
So, because the Universe decided I needed these three reminders, please take this blog post as your reminder that self care isn't some big, grand thing. It can be discovering you have fifteen minutes of unexpected time to enjoy the first sips of your morning coffee and actually using those fifteen minutes to enjoy your coffee. It can be creating a free day by not filling up a day off with chores, or taking an extra day away from your regular duties to get all the chores done that have been piling up.
Self care can be giving yourself new coping strategies, remembering you can ask for help if you need to, reaching out to an understanding ear when there isn't help available, or binging your favorite shows or books for however many hours are needed until you can engage reality again. For me, whatever I can do across a moment to recharge my battery, accomplish in a day to refill my spoon count, and/or use in a heartbeat to balance out the dark monsters in my mind with some light, those are my best self care... as long as I remember to use them. (Reminder to self: use them!) I hope you have a good weekend! :)
Leo pushed back from his desk. He needed some air and his personal cabin had gotten very small during the research he’d been doing. The bland walls surrounding his desk and bed broke for the closed door to the main hall and then for the open door giving a view into his clean, the mirror above the sink taps reflecting clearly the nausea he was feeling. His name and Trevor’s were announced on the intercom before he had a chance to stand up, and the ship-wide message requested both of them to the bridgeside immediately.
Leo quickly changed back into his uniform and hurried to the bridge. The bridgeside was Captain’s private and was segregated from every other place on board. Leo waited on the bridge, outside the bridgeside door, for Trevor. They’d both been called so were required to enter the Captain’s private together.
It was a challenge not to pull nervously at his sleeves as the minutes stretched out. In his head, Leo tried to come up with good arguments for not registering his and Trevor’s relationship yet. It was the only reason he could think of that they’d both be called on.
Trevor entered the bridge, looking even more worried than Leo (if such a thing was even possible) and took up her station beside him as their arrival was announced through the bridgeside intercom. But she didn’t stand too close beside him. They walked in when the door opened, Trevor first as she was the senior member of their scan team, and then stood awkwardly side by side as the door closed behind them. They were facing two people, Captain and… a stranger?
Captain was sitting at her wide desk, the wall of transglass windows behind her seat providing the same planetary horizon view as on the bridge. Removed equipment for system interfaces now controlled by the upgraded desktop had left even more extra room, which was currently filled by a large plant and a small, separate work station, but none of the holes in the walls from removed securement bolts had been covered or filled, and the sterilpoly flooring had mismatched new patches where removed equipment had left gaps. Leo remembered Captain had ordered the small work station, but Dods, Chief Navigator, had put the plant in here to try and add something with colors other than the grey floor and walls or the dark beige uniforms everyone wore.
With silvered hair cut short, skin a lighter shade than her uniform, and no jewelry to be seen on her person, Captain Tallishen Os matched her bridgeside decor perfectly. Her shipside decorating didn’t hold function over fashion, there simply wasn’t a ‘fashion’ part included. The lack of decoration in the surroundings made the colorful, expensive, and extensively flamboyant outfit the pale-skinned, bald stranger was wearing appear so out of place as to look ridiculous.
“Explain this,” Captain ordered Trevor and Leo, tossing the handheld she’d had in her lap onto her desk and not bothering with introductions.
As the senior member of their team, Trevor stepped forward and picked up the thin frame holding an active holoscreen. She scrolled it and then handed it to Leo, a question on her face he didn’t know how to answer yet.
“This is the scan report from our most recent shift,” Leo said quietly, only to Trevor.
“Louder, please, for the rest of us,” Captain ordered.
“This is Dockland’s ReadScan report from our most recent shift,” Trevor said clearly, setting the handheld on top of Captain’s desk.
“What about this?” the stranger asked, pointing at another active handheld on the desk. Trevor picked it up and looked at it, scrolling slowly. Her eyebrows were pinched together when she looked at Leo. He stepped closer and read over her shoulder.
“This is our scan report from five cycles ago, just after we arrived in this orbit, but…” Trevor’s voice trailed off as she scrolled the report. Leo completely agreed with her confusion. He picked up the handheld Trevor had just set down so they could compare the data side by side. “These are identical?” Trevor asked.
“That’s the same question I had,” Captain said. She frowned up at the stranger when he inhaled to speak, her quick hand gesture stopping him from interrupting the collaboration between her two Analysts. His face reddened from the pressure of unsaid words building up angrily behind pinched lips.
“No, wait, this says it’s ours, and has our time and info stamps, but look,” Leo tapped a finger to the screen he was holding, highlighting what he wanted Trevor to see.
“That’s not the reading we had a few hours ago,” Trevor said. “I remember because you pointed out how high the reading we got was. How high it should be in this report, but isn’t.”
“This has the correct date and time stamp, but it isn’t the scan report from our last shift,” Leo said, looking at Captain after a glance at the stranger.
“So what happened to our report?” Trevor asked Leo, and then also looked across the desk to Captain.
“We were expecting you would tell us,” the stranger accused, glaring at them.
Leo and Trevor scrolled through the identical reports again, seeking something else they could add from more than thirty seconds of observation. Some of the spacing in the corrupted report wasn’t a perfect match, indicating whoever had copied it hadn’t had access to an original file. That appeared to be good, as in at least it looked like Dockland’s new control systems hadn’t been corrupted into the records. But their latest report being a forge of their old one implied the live part of the system was corrupted.
“Have anyone else’s scans of their most recent shifts had this corruption?” Trevor asked.
The stranger glared at Captain but she didn’t look up to notice. “No,” Captain said. Leo and Trevor stared at her, both of them with their brows creasing together. They’d heard the hesitation in her answer but didn’t know why the hitch was there. She sighed and shook her head. “Not from Dockland,” she added. The stranger frowned harder at Captain for divulging this extra bit of information. “I need to speak to my team in private.” Captain didn’t look up at the man beside her.
“This holovid has the highest security in –”
She tapped a control on her desk and the stranger blinked out of existence. “Dockland’s new systems came with a life sized holovid upgrade I’m finding I regret agreeing to more every time I have a vid with anyone Senior Coalition.” Captain sighed heavily. Before she could continue her desk controls chimed for another holovid request. She declined and muted the keys.
“He was Senior Coalition?” Tevor asked, her voice as shaky as Leo’s guts suddenly felt.
“Don’t lose too many skin tones over it. He’s low tier, mostly annoying, and only represents the small group overseeing explorations. What I wanted to tell you two, and that small group doesn’t want me to, was that this has happened on four ships so far. Influences don’t seem to extend to all fourteen ships involved in this exploration, yet, but I noticed a pattern he disregarded as soon as I said it,” Captain said.
“What’s the pattern?” Leo asked.
“So far Buccaneer, Oscareous, Dockland, and Shiner are the only affected ships.” Captain’s steady gaze shifted between the two analysts in front of her.
“Those are all the possible ships close to being assigned to scanning planet seventy-four,” Trevor said after only a moment. Leo was close enough to hear her swallow after speaking, as if she had planned to say more and then barely stopped herself. She’d done that twice during their shift earlier, once each time she’d said something to him.
It's going to be a short personal blurb today. The first reason is because writing is going well, but I can't share any of the things I want to gush about due to it all being in first draft condition and I refuse to subject you to anything before it's edited. And edited. And edited again. And that process repeated multiple times. Lol.
The second reason is because I've had eczema my entire life and currently the skin on a few of my fingertips is dry and cracked and typing hurts more that it should. I'll keep using my cortisone cream and have better fingers in a few days. Today, however, there is ouch and I don't want to suffer.
Content Warning: I know I said I'd do warnings for the big terror attack and the violence / injuries in this story, and those are still at a distance from now, but I feel there needs to be a warning here for the history of the Daions because of the plague and then mistreatment the survivors went through. These happenings are not presented as detailed accountings and this summary of the history in this story's universe forms part of its current politics. This warning is here so you know the flavor of this chapter.
Leo shut off his personal comp hours later. He’d been good at history, but the refresher he’d just given himself left a queasier feeling than he could attribute solely to the quickly eaten galley meal.
The last two worlds with signs of habitation Dockland had scanned were Daion worlds. The first was one of their historical First Landing Colonies, and this one Dockland was scanning right now – planet sixty-eight – had been a home world. Planet seventy-four had also been a Daion home world but, more than that, it had been their Central World.
The very first explorations out of Coalition controlled space had been one-way. The ships had been huge, designed to separate into components capable of landing on habitable planets and becoming shelters for the explorers. They’d carried building materials, housed active, mechanized farms because seed foods were all that were available at that level of technology, and they’d contained stable populations of all the living things needed to establish colonies and then enable them to thrive and grow. Early forms of Advanced Cryo were utilized so living beings could survive the dozens of standard years required for interstellar travel prior to modern over distance technology.
During the Fifty Year Revolt, many colony communications were disrupted and some lost, and a few entire colonies were lost along with the records of them. Some of the most distant lost colonies were close enough together they began communicating with each other when they lost contact with Coalition. They formed their own system, evolving into a people who called themselves Daions after multiple generations passed.
Scientists, innovators, farmers, artists, teachers, adventurers, every discipline deemed necessary for a colony’s survival along with the natural progression of expanding technology, medicine communication, and education… Daion worlds flourished just as well as Coalition worlds. Some historians argued Daions ended up better. A few hundred standard years after the Fifty Year Revolt, New Coalition started calling itself Coalition and history reduced those tumultuous centuries into a few pages within childhood school books. A few hundred standard years after that, new explorations were started – with more advanced technology – and Coalition ships travelled back out into what they thought at the time were uncharted and unexplored sectors.
Stumbling into Daion controlled space had been a chance encounter. Voice and vid communications, as well as history data exchanges once political relationships became friendly instead of tentative, confirmed Daions as descendants of Old Coalition lost exploration colonies. The news was top page for weeks, and search results now still brought up pages and pages of articles. The first formal meeting, face to face, was between allied political leaders for signing the Agreement of One Cause. Coalition Public Face travelled to meet Daion Voice, their highest members of both governments in the same room for document signing, vid ops, and still vid and still holo images. (Leo even found an announcement about a planned holocinema, but it was never made.) Daions were publicly recognized as equals, although there were thick private opinions about ‘upstart colonizers’ on more than a few Coalition worlds.
Some Daions had started getting sick before that first formal meeting, though. Over twelve hundred standard years had passed since those colonizers had left Coalition sectors for their one-way journey, and the immune systems of their descendants had been exposed to so many other things Coalition peoples hadn’t encountered that Daions were hailed as a better evolution. It was true their immune systems were heartier, something medical exploration had planned to study because of the benefits to populations the galaxy over, but their immune systems weren’t impervious.
The initial people who got sick barely raised any attention because they weren’t prominent people, and their sicknesses were the results of in-person meetings for trade business which wasn’t entirely legal. Due to the business being illegal, and Daions being descendants of lost Coalition colonies, proper isolation and cleansing protocols for meeting new species or visiting unknown planets were ignored.
After the agreement was signed, due to the large number of high profile people at the week-long schedule of meetings, the much higher number of sick started to get a lot of attention. Viral warfare verbiage was thrown around and denials were just as loud. It turned out a common cold virus in Coalition space was an airborne, lethal plague in Daion space. A vaccine was developed as quickly as possible, but the kill rate had been… beyond count. Daion civilization collapsed and survivors were (as the history books written by Coalition stated) absorbed into Coalition.
Not absorbed in reality, though, Leo thought glumly. The thick opinions on some worlds reared up in ugly ways throughout Coalition, running rampant that Daions viewed themselves as superior because Coalition medical scientists admired their immune systems. Daion culture was different, their ways deemed other, and the people were ostracized on some worlds and subjugated on others. Radical factions of Coalition populations simply assumed lies and opinions as fact, their point of view dictating that Daion people had been rightfully punished through the plague by some higher power for the original colonies having never returned after losing contact. It became a normalized view on some worlds that medical reports stating Daion immune systems were superior was publicly admitted self-proclamations of secular superiority over all Coalition peoples. The radical factions argued it was due justice to undermine, degrade and abuse the plague survivors for the opinion-based views many Radicals imposed.
To Leo, the whole argument against Daions was a bolt situation, but it had the partially positive outcome of bringing about Coalition’s response of New Wave. Radical factions were – and Leo had to quote his dad on this one because the history, surprisingly, wasn’t as polite – as isolated as they should have been in the first place. Daions who survived the abuse on those Radical worlds were granted refugee status on other worlds, but the damage had already been done.
So much damage had already been done.
Populations in the billions had been reduced to thousands. Those thousands had been marked irreparably when their worlds were placed under Non Settlement laws, meaning they weren’t allowed to return home. Radical views were thinned on Coalition worlds which claimed to offer safety, but radical opinions had been advertised enough to become ingrained through repetition. To admit being Daion now was an immediate track to a life of the lowest caste in Coalition space. Many made the best they could but, overall, it was apparent in the census reports for the past five standard years that Daion people were disappearing. Probably into extinction, Leo thought sadly.
Leo and most of the crew on Dockland hadn’t been born yet when New Wave started, but nobody on board was dumb enough to think New Wave planning for isolating radical groups would actually fix the situation. Now there were rumors of even more radicalized beliefs than had gotten the Radicals isolated, with the gossip and hearsay working into New Wave sectors. That’s why a lot of people – Leo included – had volunteered for these explorations.
Senior Coalition could call explorations whatever they wanted to, and right now they were going with something pleasant like ‘New Colony Viability’, but every planet on the list for being scanned had been discovered before and each one had a reason for having military viability. Daion planets were extremely valuable due to having so many developed assets left behind, and enforced Non Settlement laws protecting them, so Senior Coalition wanted to get to everything before any of the Radicals could. Planet seventy-four had the potential to be a world of opportunity as long as nobody acknowledged they were rooting through the hundred standard year old mausoleums every building had become.
Planetary grave robbing was, apparently, a great way to accumulate developed resources and technology.
It's Friday again! This week seems to have flown past, and been productive in spite of hours flipping by at what feels like an accelerated rate.
I finished the first draft of my sci-fi side story, picked at a few edits in my big manuscript, and not much else because my left elbow is still whingy and doesn't like too much typing. Thankfully a few of my physio exercises are specifically for releasing the nerves throughout the whole arm and I no longer have the extra stabby-stab of nerve pain now that the elbow is moving properly again.
I've still been able to do my small cardio workouts despite the whingy elbow (with appropriate icing and stretches / physio exercises after). I do a half hour of Just Dance three times a week because, although I'm happy with my body shape and weight, the amount of loose jiggle I experience while doing basic activities is getting out of hand.
For those of you confused that I have good self body image and knowing I have an eating disorder, my E.D. is (luckily) not tied to body image. Mine is tied to anxiety and control, which makes exercising a part of it. This means working out – for me – is pretty dangerous to my mental and physical health if I don't constantly monitor and check my activities (which personal history has proven becomes the mental load of a full time job). Activities I enjoy will auto-trigger an E.D. compulsion which spirals really fast into an unhealthy mental state and self-harm. (I have chronic injuries. Overdoing any activity can hurt me a lot, but controlling pain = control, and my E.D. is a control thing so... I hate my brain sometimes.)
I'm actually working out! The control trigger in my brain to DO MORE hasn't switched on automatically because I don't like the activity I'm doing for workouts. My fight against this part of my E.D. is rigged for me to succeed instead of it having the upper hand. It's a struggle, of course, but one I've set up so I can win in mentally and physically healthy ways. Plus, once I get bored in the game with one version's songs, there are so many more to get for new songs, and oodles of videos free on YouTube. (I do think the game needs to be rebranded as Just Tried to Kill Me through Musical Cardio, but only because I'm kinda old and kinda fat :D...). Working out is fun and I hate it. This is perfect for me!
Speaking of Friday cardio sessions, it's time for me to get to it. Today the kids don't have school so they'll likely sit on the couch and heckle me like the old men in the balcony on The Muppet Show. That's what they've done previously when they didn't have school and I did my Just Dance workouts. It's hilarious! Half my core workout today will come from laughing about their "critiques" while attempting to fling my limbs and groove my torso in a coordinated manner. I hope you're staying safe and well! Have a good weekend :)
Leo smiled at his smart. <I will definitely get back to you when I have a solid answer> he wrote, and then smirked as he deleted the last part to edit the message so it said <I will definitely get back to you when I have a hard answer> before sending it to Trevor.
Her reply was fast and just a sound file: the ding-ding of a bicycle bell. Leo laughed and decided to have a shower. By the time he dried off, finished his usual nightly routine and climbed into bed, he already knew he wanted to take up Trevor on her offer. First, though, he needed to talk to her about how serious she was for this relationship to get to a point of being established. With her qualifications and status, losing her contract on Dockland only meant she’d likely get another, similar contract or hourly job within a week. For Leo, losing this position meant being sent home and likely never working for Coalition again, so his only option would be the same unreliable jobs his parents had and a lowest caste, landside life weighted by poverty-enforced debts.
A bad sleep and another of Hodahvay and Mollin’s pranks made the start of the next shift miserable. Getting a chance to talk to Trevor seriously, despite that she was tossing around bicycle puns like free candy at a Central World parade, improved the cycle considerably. She agreed it was a good idea to wait a bit longer for sex as they adjusted to their new situation of being together in a budding relationship. Then, a couple of weeks later when they decided to become established, Leo didn’t have any hesitations.
The cycles and weeks passed easily into months. The only irritant being Hodahvay and Mollin’s pranks becoming progressively more complex, and thankfully less frequent, as Captain changed their security access permissions for the systems they targeted. Once Leo and Trevor weren’t being forced to fix systems before Captain’s shift multiple times a week, they started to use solving the pranks as games to break up the tedium of planetary scans and over distance travel.
When the audit arrived, Captain had more than enough evidence to support Dockland getting upgraded, and to get the new systems and equipment on an expedited schedule. It put the exploration on hold for two standard months, but as much of Dockland as possible was upgraded to current interfaces and system sets.
Trevor’s contract was extended for the additional months, and her experience as an installer meant she was working the entire time in Dock. Using her connections, she even got Leo a temporary apprentice position so he could learn the fine arts of stripping cables and carrying equipment and tools to the right locations for the people actually doing the work. The hours were long and the pay was identical to his Analyst position, but he saw Trevor more often than just after her shifts, and he didn’t have the reduced wage from being on standby that most of the crew received.
Dockland’s new systems had the same generation holoscreen console interfaces Leo had learned with at Academy, and the console supports were the same smoothly transparent pillars as had become standard in the past thirty years. The console interfaces displayed between supports came with the optional vertical holoscreens projected above when needed.
Surprising to Leo, the upgrades were unfamiliar technology to Trevor, and he found himself in the strange situation of training her. It only took one shift for her to get comfortable with the interfaces and she learned the systems way faster than he ever had. He proclaimed it was because she’d grown up shipside and knew every previous generation of the systems back-to-front and front-to-back, even if she teasingly argued her ability to learn so fast was because her intelligence was a great deal higher than his.
Six months into Dockland’s exploration, and eight months working together, her question about how exclusive they were made him laugh. Not because of any secret doubts he was harboring, but because the cycle before he’d filled in his information for the Exclusive Relationship Registration submission and had been mentally stumbling over the timing of when to ask her to add her details.
She’d laughed about the form and said “not yet”… which wasn’t a ‘no’. Especially when she threatened to gut him and anyone he might look at as relationship material going forward because she hadn’t signed. He was pretty sure she was kidding, because her next question had been if he’d put any thought into stopping repression, but she’d been holding a knife while cutting some snacks so joking about gutting him at that moment was the right level of mean added to dark humor he loved about her.
The one standard year completion for the exploration loomed a little closer every cycle, the half-filled registration waiting patiently for Trevor’s info, and their exploration routing taking them further from recognized Coalition sectors where every planet was already scanned. They came to a world that had been home to an ancient colony, long disappeared, and completed their scans to include the useless technology that was found. Trevor was quieter than usual during those ten cycles in orbit.
Dockland travelled to the next planet, uninhabited and without any historical signs of life, and took up scanning. Leo couldn’t help but notice that Trevor continued getting more distant and professional whenever they were working. He tried to talk to her about it, first jokingly and then seriously, and she brushed off and avoided every attempt.
They came to another planet with evidence of more recent but still abandoned habitation. As the required orbits were finishing up, Captain received Dockland’s list of possible next planets to scan and – as she usually did – saved it to Dockland’s announcement file so every member of the crew could read it.
Leo tried using the list of potential planets they could be going to as a way to start a conversation, but Trevor stopped reading at planet seventy-four (or ‘LXXIV’ in the numbering Trevor had introduced him to and Leo pronounced phonetically as ‘Lexxive’ to try and make her laugh). She didn’t speak to him for the rest of the shift except for one or two words relating completely to work. After a full eight hours of silence, with only two months left in this exploration, she went back to her cabin alone and locked the door.
Walking to the galley by himself, Leo’s brain recycled over the past month for what he’d said and done with a fine filter, looking at everything for anything which would make Trevor shut him out. Mollin and Hodahvay passed him in the hallway, too embroiled in their own conversation to notice anyone was around them, and Leo mumbled his usual apology when Mollin accidentally bumped his shoulder. They were talking about planet seventy-four, wondering excitedly if Dockland would finish ReadScans here on sixty-eight in time to get assigned to seventy-four because three other ships were also near completions.
Mollin and Hodahvay were way too excited. Their conversation broke through the Trevor-shaped fog clouding Leo’s thoughts. He decided while he was in line at the galley he should look into planet seventy-four a little closer because, now that he was listening to things outside of his head, almost everyone in the galley was buzzing about the possibility of going there.
It wouldn’t be hard to look up the information. After all, everyone had access to the existing research about the planets all the exploration ships were scanning. Not much use to Coalition for someone on the crews to not notice something important or to ignore regulation protocols regarding first contacts.
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!