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Intermission

04/08/11

  07:50:06 am, by Nic Wilson   , 3234 words  
Categories: Nexus

Intermission

This is HR Representative Peter Ferguson, filling in as lead officer of the Nexus. I do not have access to the previous captain?s logs. The ship?s AI says that, so long as the captain may potentially return to duty, and their contents remain uncritical to my understand of the mission, they will stay locked. She?s kind of a bitch.

 

The captain's still unconscious. MedDiv are optimistic, and they think that his prognosis is pretty good. He was stabbed by one of those cancer crabs. Penis-stabbed. Stabbed with their penises, not in his- they stabbed him in the back, under the ribs, with one of their penises.

 

Broke the head off in the wound- which SciDiv tells me is probably the norm. Like a bee?s stinger, it would help more of the poison, or semen, as it was in this case, get into the wound. Both he and MedDiv assure me the captain is not pregnant, and that they?ve killed or captured any infiltrating cells. Under duress, MedDiv divulged that this is in fact the second incursion of foreign cells inside the captain?s body. I?ve made a note to discuss this further at a later time.   

 

The captain did a good deal of damage on Oma. I told the Romaleon that we had a whole force of men just like him champing at the bit, which was true enough. So they made a deal. I stopped MilSec from thawing out the rest of the way; only the commander, his executive staff and about a dozen grunts were out and about. He wanted to scorch the entire planet, anyway, said he had his own orders on what constituted a justifiable expenditure of ship resources.

 

I stalled him, while SciDiv built a satellite beacon with built-in commbox tech to warn away curious ships. It didn?t pacify MilSec, but he had a hell of a lot less justification for wasting half of our material reserves attacking a planet when we?d already taken pains to secure mining rights and post warnings. I think that concludes our little game of catch-up.

 

I?m in quarantine, now. And so is SecDiv, just on the other side of a clear, plastic wall. ?Why the fuck am I in quarantine??

 

?Well, because you had prolonged exposure to a group of violent alien rapists who were thrusting their DNA at you. And not to put too fine a point on it, but it?s been brought to my attention that you withheld information on the captain?s medical condition from me- specifically that he was potentially compromised. So I?m not feeling particularly trusting of your read on what?s best for the ship.?

 

?So you?re punishing me??

 

?If you want, you can look at it like that. But there are hundreds of people on this ship. If you and the captain die because you?re idiots, well, I?d be a little sad, but if you murdered the rest of the crew through recklessness, and I stood by idly, well, I?d be a party to it. And that?s not happening. The quarantine cells have all the amenities of your normal room, and at the moment Haley?s the only one watching the cameras, so unless you?ve now become bashful about the AI watching you do whatever, you should be fine to do your whatever here.?

 

?How is he??

 

?Prognosis is good.?


?That doesn?t-?

 

?I know; it?s not very satisfying. But it?s about all MedDiv is willing to tell me. You can always trying messaging him yourself. Might be a little more willing to break doctor-patient for you, given your history with the captain.?

?We aren?t on a comms lock-down??

 

?Can you think of a reason you would be? I?m happy to take suggestions on board; I mean, I?d hate to relinquish my tyrannical dictator pin just because I didn?t do my due diligence, so I?m all ears. Look, the captain?s more? trusting than I am, and it got him dick-stabbed in the back. As soon as the ground crew are through processing, and both MedDiv and SciDiv have cleared you, you?re all back on full duty. No caveats.? I realized then that maybe, just maybe, I didn?t feel qualified to take the chances he had.

 

?Wait; where?s Sam??

 

?I?m taking special precautions with the telepath.?

 

?The fuck does that mean??

 

?It means that I?m not sure yet what to do with her. The captain felt responsible for her predicament, so he made a compromised decision. I?m not compromised, so I?m not rushing to do the same. I?m probing for information.?

 

She hits the wall between us. ?I won?t be in here forever.?

 

?No. But probably long enough that whatever threat you might be formulating is largely irrelevant. But on that note, I should be getting back there.?

 

The Abhijñā was strapped to a metal table in my private conference room, accessible only through my office. She?d lost consciousness shortly after being evacced off the crab planet- MedDiv did a little digging and found some internal bleeding he was able to stop. Part of the reason I left SecDiv as quickly as I had was a memo I?d gotten from Haley; the scanners said the alien?s brain was booting back up. ?What are you doing to me??

 

?I?m not doing anything to you. The company is. I?m its representative, but I?m just the friendly face. Here to make sure that amongst all the glad-hadning and shit-stomping that the company?s long-term interests are being cared for, which usually dovetail with the long-term interest of the Nexus and her crew. In that spirit, I have a question, about your species? physiology. First, how susceptible would you expect to be in the ship?s environment to infection, and second, how quickly does your skin heal from abrasions and bruising??

 

?Why would I tell you that??

 

?Because unlike you, I can?t poke around in people?s skulls for information. So I?m asking, politely. And how cooperative you are directly reflects whether or not you?ll still be welcome in my ship when we?re done- and I have to tell you, your chances don?t look promising. Let?s go over this, point by point, shall we? You?re a telepath, so you?re about the worst thing for a compartmentalized intelligence structure possible. You?re an alien, so your loyalty?s always going to be questionable. You?re carrying a telepathic virus you can give somebody - accidentally- by thinking hard at them- doubling concerns about our information security, even assuming we trusted you personally. And finally, you?re romancing the captain now, but nothing lasts forever; what happens when he doesn?t like having you around any more, or vice versa? Maybe you seek out a way to hurt the captain through the ship. As I see it, your presence here is not in anyone?s long-term interests- except your own.?

 

She?s silent.

 

?Full disclosure: I?m definitely going to have you tortured, and mulling having you killed. It?s nothing personal, you understand. But I have to weigh possibilities here. I?m asking this as a courtesy, because my aim isn?t to have you die accidentally; of course, if you lie to me to try and make it easier on yourself, well, that?s a mark in the can?t be trusted column. And we will figure that out, sooner rather than later. Coagulant factors, or whatever passes for your body?s repair system, that?s something we can measure, after all. You snowball me, maybe even manipulate me- but you can?t lie to the science.?

 

Her skin flashed blue, and moisture began collecting in her plump eyes. ?I know this seems cruel, and I suppose it is. But you know the uncertainty. Maybe you?re getting stronger every day. Maybe, in a day or two, you?ll have figured out the way the human mind works enough that you can take anyone you like over, and then we?re all screwed. You know my dilemma. I?ve seen the tape of you and the captain from quarantine. I didn?t watch the shower scene, but the conversation before was informative. And my conundrum is the same as the captain?s. I can?t decide your fate, because I can?t isolate you as a factor. But I?m also smarter than the captain.?  

 

?Haley, you?re going to be in command of the rest of the interrogation. You can control most of this equipment remotely. For what you can?t accomplish on your own, you?ll have two SecOffs posted outside. But they enter only at your request. It?s your show. If you decide you trust her, she can go. If you can?t, I?m hard-coding this order, right now: she dies. You have no discretion in that matter, Haley, no plan b. If you can?t vouch for her, she?s gone.?

 

?Yes, sir,? Haley said, and she sounded colder than usual, which was odd for an artificial intelligence.

 

As I exit, I?m not sure I made the right call, but it was the only one I could make in good conscience. MilSec is waiting in my office, outside the conference room. He isn?t alone. ?Fuck have you got in there, son??

 

?A big steaming pile of none of your goddamned concern.?

 

?Heh.?

 

?What brings you to my office? Or in your dotterage did you wander in thinking it was your walk-in freezer??

 

?Well, I had me a stroll and I gots to thinking. You don?t have a commander, not a proper one, anyways. What?s to prevent me from declaring martial authority??

 

?The fact that I?d have you shot out of an air lock before you got to the second syllable.?

 

He?s in my face. The half-dozen men from his staff glare menacingly. ?You haven?t got the stones.? I recognize it for what it is: a PR campaign. But I only have two SecOffs in the hall, and the rest are spread across the rest of the ship. I?d be dead before any of them make it into the room.

 

I grab his hand and push it towards my crotch. ?You want to squeeze em, shitbag?? He pulls his hand away. ?Or you just want to assume your little six-man entourage can take out a full complement of SecOffs. Or maybe you?ve forgotten the fact that I?ve got a big red button that will eject the balance of your still frozen foot-soldiers into the somehow even colder clutches of open space.?

 

?Your SecDiv and most of her better Offs are in medical lock-down.?

 

?That may not be the most up-to-date intel,? SecDiv says as my office doors open. Her HUD still isn?t synced back up with the network- or maybe I?d have known she was out. ?So let?s just say that all of that was just idle speculation, you talking out of your ass, maybe with a little dick-measuring thrown in for good homoerotic kabuki. Which means, unless the two of you just want to get it over with and touch penises, it?s about time for your grizzled old soldiery butt to go back on ice.?

 

?Okay,? he says.

 

?I assume the going back to the penalty box, part, not the penis-touching part- because I?m not ready to consent to that; I?d wager real money he?s got freezer resistant dick-lice,? I say as MilSec saunters out of the room.

 

?Didn?t you just try to put his hand on your balls?? SecDiv asks. ?Or are you just pole-shy??

 

?How the fuck-?

 

?I?ve got a bug in your office- or several- whatever. I?d just gotten out of quarantine, and I hear the two of you talking about whipping it out and getting the AI to measure, just quibbling over whether the important dimension was length, girth or mass.?

 

?Gun to my head, it?s girth, though too little of any spoils the whole; and I want those bugs off.?

 

?One, those bugs just saved your bacon. Two, fuck you and your bacon. Three, you don?t actually have authority over SecDiv?

 

?Or your bacon.?

 

?Careful. You?re not the captain, and you haven?t earned the indulgence he has- and I swear to Hecate if you even joke about taking that as an invitation?

 

?The Goddess of necromancy??

 

?To me she?ll always be the patron deity of rectal bleeding caused by severe internal injuries. But our missions are parallel. You temporarily have overall command of the ship, including Nav, Sci, and Med; but I?m in charge of making sure hell doesn?t break loose. Only the captain was on top of me.?

 

?That?s? very Freudian.?

 

?Shut up, because I?m more than happy to invite MilSec back in here to curb-stomp you. I?m going to escort him back down to storage, to make sure he doesn?t try to mark any territory along the way. Then we?re going to talk about Sam.?

 

?Probably not a bad plan. I?ll follow you on the cams, just in case whatever happens; I?d go along if I didn?t think that was more likely to have us refighting the argument from a moment before. This time with probably more shooting.?

 

?I?ll memo on-duty Offs to secure the weapons caches and be ready, in the event.? She runs out of the room, and I watch her catch up to MilSec by the elevator.

 

?I don?t need a babysitter.?

 

?After that little tantrum, not to mention you nearly wetting yourself, you?re lucky it?s only me. HR wanted an armed escort. I told him that would be a diplomatic nightmare, that this way it?s just two colleagues walking through the belly of the ship; but I assure you, I?m more than pissed off enough to slaughter the six of you on my lonesome.? 

 

?Appreciate the sentiment, but I don?t hide behind women?s skirts.?

 

SecDiv looked down at her pants. ?Skirt? Really? That reminds me, I almost forgot to tell you, while you were in storage we received a message for you, from the 19th century. They wanted their sexism back.? One of his staff starts to laugh, but silences it when MilSec catches his eye.

 

They ride the elevator down in silence. The laughing staffer gets into the first pod, probably to avoid any more angry attention. One by one, the rest of the staff get into open pods, and seal themselves away.

 

MilSec hesitates. ?I?m getting goddamned bored of spending my life in a white picket fence simulation.?

 

?Look, I?m happy to kick your papyri balls to powder first, but one way or another you?re going back to sleep. But don?t worry. If the Nexus? mission goes anything like the Argos?, you?ll have plenty of chances to go all cowboy apeshit on some aliens.?

 

He snorted. ?Damn fucking right.?

 

There was a hiss as his cold storage chamber pressurized. ?I?m heading back your way. Samatha.?

 

?Good, because actually, I?d like to debrief.?

 

?I don?t think you need me to air out your balls.?

 

?Heh.?

 

She comes straight back up, and tosses herself into a chair like a fish carcass. For the first time I realize she?s been on her feet, in front of her men or MilSec?s, since that shit on Oma. She relaxes, just for an instant, before she remembers I?m in the room, then she?s back on, steely. ?Where is she??

 

?First, a few things I want to talk about. I know you?re coming off of a bad day, so I?ll try and make it quick, but I?d like to get at things while they?re still fresh.?

 

?I already wrote up my reports.?

 

?And I?ve read your action report from Oma. But I?m also interested in things not in the report, as well as your read on MilSec.?  

 

?We can talk about that after Sam.?

 

?I think we?ll talk about it now.?

 

?Okay,? she gets out of the chair, unafraid to show how much effort that takes, because she?s concealing pulling a holdout pistol until it?s pointed it my nose. ?Put it this way: I?m going to shoot you in the face. Command then devolves to myself or NavDiv, depending on whether Haley rules my shooting you as justifiable or not. At which point whatever you?re doing to Sam ends with your heartbeat.?

 

Haley chimes in. ?The captain placed Vipisana Samatha on the crew roster, and HR did not remove her. Therefore, he has technically been party to torturing a member of the crew, and can be removed pending psychological examination. The shooting?s justifiability is difficult to speculate upon. Exact specifics necessary to rule. Given current information, 43% chance that the shooting would be ruled unjustified, pending PsychDiv examinations of primary participants.?

 

?Regardless, neither me nor NavDiv would keep this shit up. And the captain?s a day or two away from being up and around, at which point you just know he?d murder you in the most horrific way possible. Your option, as of this moment, is to hope Sam and I can talk him down from mutilating you.?

 

?Hmm. I don?t see as I have many options. Haley. What?s the status of the interrogation??

 

?Actually, I was just letting her recuperate for the final test. The plan was to slowly remove the air from the room. MedDiv had monitored her vitals, and was confident he had found the proper threshold, where she?d lose consciousness but not expire.?

 

I interjected. ?And if she went unconscious, fully expecting to suffocate, without reaching into anyone?s head to get away, well, that would have proved both that what she?d said was legitimate, and that she could be trusted. Clever, Haley.?

 

?Thank you, sir, though I admit I largely adapted the idea from an experiment by Welker, with perhaps the trappings of inspiration taken from the Stanford Prison experiment.?

 

?It stops,? SecDiv interrupts. ?Now.?

 

She aims down the pistol at my left nostril. ?Well, since I know the plan, it?s moot, because the telepath knows it?s a nonfatal exercise. And I have grown awfully accustomed to having a face. Let her go, Haley.?

 

I get up, and lead SecDiv through the door at the back of my office. Her SecOffs tense at the sight of the pistol, then relax when they recognize their boss. ?Ma?am,? one says, and they walk off.

 

There?s a hiss as the conference room air pressure equalizes. I lead SecDiv inside. Vipisana is already standing up. She?s covered in lacerations, and bruises, and wobbles on her feet. I catch her, and disgust flashes over her face; she wants nothing more than to shove away from me, but hasn?t the strength. I steady her, and SecDiv helps her back into my office.

 

?Sam,? I say, ?for what it?s worth, I?m truly sorry.?

 

She turns back to me. ?You are? but not as sorry as you should be. You believe what you said about, hiding behind your company?s skirt. As if your actions are absolved, because something larger than yourself can be blamed.? She punches me in the crotch, and I go down to one knee. ?You lied to MilSec. You don?t have the stones; merely weakness.? She leaves in a huff, and SecDiv with her.

 

I push myself up on the edge of my desk. ?That? hurt.?

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