Nineworlds 2013 Short 1

I have now typed up one of the bits I wrote at last years Nine Worlds – there is some more to come in the next little bit, and there will be some more good stuff coming out of this years convention. If you are able I highly recommend visiting!

Jess wasn’t sure what was happening. She had woken up to the ship shaking and rattling round her. She groggily slipped out of bed and into her uniform; she smiled, or was it a grimace, at it. Japanese school girl with a red neck scarf. She wasn’t sure what the navy had been thinking when they did the uniforms. Obviously something not right with that…

Just as she started dressing the alarm klaxons went off, the short burst followed by three longer ones – the alarm for space rock. There should not be any space rock anywhere near their location. As first helm she had plotted the well-travelled route herself. Either someone on the third shift had messed with the helm computer or something had happened – neither of those were good options. She knew third helm – he would not do anything with the program – not unless something serious had given him cause.

She ran down the corridor, she saw the other main bridge crew ahead of her. She dropped into her seat as third helm gracefully moved himself out of the chair. Jess plugged in her jack – that special cable helms had that connected them directly to the ship. Letting use the speed of the brain to give commands – eliminating the seconds taken to process moving limbs to move a lever or press a button.

The display came up on her bionic eyes – projecting directly into the retina.

She could see it was debris; she took the ship under control and changed her left eye to have the display from the scan. It was showing the size of the chunks, the composition, and the note from the scan tech that the debris was from a ship, there was evidence of cannon fire – and data was still coming in. there was an alert showing that weapons were online and ready if they found a target.

The captain sent Jess the order to move the ship out of the debris field and to hold position in a safe location. This was where they were meant to be, to meet a contact. Jess knew what that meant – illegal cargo. It didn’t bother her – she sometimes found it odd that the navy was involved in this – but she knew that the corruption was rife. She knew that almost all captains of lone ships were involved in some way.

She gently moved the ship out, all the while one thought on the jump command – pre-set to take them ten light minuets out from their current position.

She kept an eye on the scan data; she saw the notes suggesting the debris was of the ship they were due to meet.

There was nothing showing yet on scans for what had happened, Jess was carefully holding station now – she had nothing to do while the scan techs scoured space – looking for anything, any change, any sign of ship activity.

They pulled in something, Jess guessed at the flight recorder of the other ship. She watched the scan screen as the data was going into it. Still no contacts in the area. There wouldn’t be – while well-travelled – this route was normally taken in jump – they had dropped out in the middle of nowhere. They were between systems, in the dark where few ships had the engine capacity to jump back out of again. It made the list of potential attackers very small. The navy, or one of the few large pirate ships – which were captured Navy ships. The onship jump generator was a very closely guarded military secret. The name of the debris changed in the scan data – it was the ship they had come to meet. The Renascence – a Navy destroyer; the sister ship to their Radison.

The captain came back onto the bridge half an hour later; he had been looking at the logs and recordings from the Ren. He had the look of a man betrayed, pushed over the edge. Jess didn’t want to know what he had found in the recordings but she was sure she would find out in the not too distant future. ‘Coms’ said the captain, ‘We need a secure channel to the area commander on base X153Y.’ ‘Yes sir!’ replied the little old man that had coms this shift/ Jess could see him working his console, talking to someone when he got an answer.

Jess saw him transfer the com to the captain – who was using his implanted computer to communicate. Jess was sure she would be moving the ship any moment now.

When the captain finished he was red faced and clearly very angry. ‘Helm. Set course for base F15X3. Best speed.’ ‘Sir!’ Replied Jess – they had been called to their own base – not the local one. Jess set the course and as required with all trips to base she sent the flight plan ahead; informing them of the expected arrival, the point of entry and trajectory.

Jess let engineering know they would be jumping – gave the, five minutes to make sure all was ok with the drive. The countdown reached zero and Jess sent the command to jump. The ship lurched just as the thought was sent; the scan screen blurred and adjusted as the Radison entered jump – it showed two ships approaching where they had been, weapon fire had brushed their hull. Where had they come from? There had been no sign of entry, no results on the very active scan they had been using the previous hours. She guessed scan would be having a word with the captain to explain what he had missed – Jess looked out of the corner of her eye and could see the sweat already forming on his forehead, the hurried tapping as he was going through all the data again – looking for the thing he had missed.

Jess would have preferred he was watching if they were being followed into jump – even though everyone said it was impossible – she was convinced you could do it. She had a theory – not that she had any ready way of proving it right now, she would need to talk to her friendly scan second sometime. See if she would help – if they could prove it the navy would only benefit.

Carefully she slipped her copy of the scan screen to the feed – using the various little hooks she had in the system, fuzz. All she got from it. Fuzz. She let the feed slip back to what she was being given by scan first. It would be another couple of hours before they dropped out of jump. The main crew went off shift and second came on. She left a message for scan second to investigate things for her. They would catch up when they were both off shift together next. Jess left the bridge and headed to the galley for food. A quick snack meal, nothing hot and a quick drink of water. She then stopped by the gym and did her required workout; humanity still had issues with muscle and bone loss while in space. Once she had finished that she headed back to her cabin, time to get some sleep and out of her uniform.

She slipped back into her pyjamas and into bed; she knew things would either be calm or mayhem when they dropped out of jump.

This time the klaxons actually woke her – no tell tale shudder thought the ship to give her those seconds to wake up. She was bolt upright, it was the GQ alarm. She checked the clock – they would be about an hour from dropping down from jump. She ran though getting dressed and was on the bridge in less than two minutes. She was the first of the main crew to make it, and the second captain looked relived to see her. She slipped into her seat and plugged into the ship. She pulled the ship scan to her screen – and it wasn’t the fuzz she’d got before. This time there was a very clear indication of two ships close – too close – and they both showed to be ones from the wreckage site. ‘How do we have scan?’ she asked. Second scan replied, ‘I was fine tuning some of the sensors – doing general maintenance – and this is what happened when I pressed a hidden option.’ She smiled and shrugged. ‘Is this real? It’s not a ghost from our last scan data?’ Jess wanted to be sure. She had to know if she was going to try any kind of manoeuvre as they dropped from their jump.

The captain entered and was given an update by his second. He looked at the second scan as first came in. ‘Second scan keep position. First scan – stand down.’ He turned and left the bridge, looking defeated and deflated.

Jess prepped her commands; she prepped an emergency jump drop. Everything she could think of. As soon as they hit normal space the ship was going to start some very erratic manoeuvring.

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