In which the ladies have a private chat and we learn more about the mysterious object in the Cobra.
“Hey Sammy, you down there?” The voice came echoing down the maintenance conduit in the Eagle.
Startled, Samantha Mcleod cursed as she bumped her head on some ducting.
“Is that you, Paulssen? What the hell are you doing down here?”
“Looking for you, dumbass. Got something for you.”
Sammy backed slowly out of the tight conduit, making sure that her tools were secure in her overall pockets. “What, you couldn’t message me?”
“Uh-uh. Didn’t want to trust this one to GalNet,” said Paulsen as she extended a hand and helped Sammy out of the access hatch. “You got somewhere we can talk?”
“Sure. My office?”
Rosie Paulssen walked with the lithe bouncing stride of one used to low Coriolis gravity. She’d been born on Cook Ring and had the long skinny limbs and elongated neck that differentiated those birthed in low-g from those born on Earth. She kept her dark hair cropped short for convenience, and her smart communication officer’s uniform was a stark juxtaposition to Mcleod’s grease-stained coveralls... Read More
It is dark here. I feel alone, most of the time. Lost. The sounds of my brothers so far removed that I cannot be sure that they are real or just my imagination. The smell of the cloud sea is gone; these smells are unfamiliar to me. I do not know where I am, or how I came to be here. I was swimming with my brothers, I saw a strange light above me, and then nothing until I woke up here.
I stretch out, feeling the confines of the space where I am. It is small and angular, confined and hard. I drift, expanding my awareness. I can feel unfamiliar pathways connected with strange beings, some close, others far distant. I try to talk to the closest ones but they are mute and unresponsive. Reaching out, I explore the distant pathways. The other things are not intelligent, but there is a basic complex that links these things together into something called a ‘ship’, and I extend myself into its network, exploring its limits and abilities. It becomes my senses, letting me see and explore this strange ocean. It is a sensation I am not used to, but I learn to work with this body until it becomes my own and responds to my commands. It is a strange feeling.
After some time, I do not kno... Read More
Samantha Mcleod slouched in the co-pilot’s chair of the Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear, her feet up on the console. It had been a long day, and although she loved her work she didn’t particularly enjoy spending all of what was supposed to be her free time working on someone else’s ship, even if that someone was her some-time boyfriend, currently abroad exploring and ‘road-testing’ his new Diamondback Explorer, the Slippery When Wet.
Commander Calvert’s Cobra lay hidden in maintenance hangar 00, an unlisted dock that on occasion did double-duty as Sammy’s unofficial personal workspace. The diagnostic terminal in her hand was linked to the ship’s computer, which was resolutely refusing to provide the expected results from her routine power-management test.
“Alright, baby. Let’s try this one more time,” she said, as she activated the power-up sequence of the Cobra.
“Reactor power – nominal. Power Distro – check. Life Support – check. Shields – charging. Frame Shift Drive – check. Sensors – check….” Sammy carried on through the list, at each stage confirming the readings on her terminal as the Cobra hummed into life around her... Read More
Void fever, you say? Let me tell you about void fever. Everybody thinks it’s just commanders getting a little jumpy from being too long out in the black on their own with no-one to talk to. Yeah, right. I’ve been there, pal. If that’s all it was I wouldn’t be so desperate to get back into inhabited space and get the hell out of this cocoon of a ship, to walk on a station, drink in the Star & Garter, see other human beings again. There’s got to be something else going on here.
At first it was the noises at night when the ship was cooling and I was trying to sleep – little taps, squeaks, pings, scratches, other weird sounds. The demons in the darkness, I call them. Sometimes I would hear fragments of their voices that sounded like they might be parts of words, other times just monosyllables, clicks and insect-like sounds, like cicadas at sunrise. Then came the visual flashes, even when I had my eyes tightly shut – coloured streaks prodding at my consciousness, prismatic, coruscating flashes that seem to be probing into my mind... Read More
It’s been just two weeks since I felt the need to make myself scarce for a while and head out into the Big Black. I needed time to think about things, time to find some greater meaning, justify my existence, who knows what? Maybe I just needed to find myself.
It was a real wrench having to leave Sammy though. She’d been a real bright light in my life since we’d hooked up. She kept me civilised, stopped me getting blind drunk in the Star & Garter every night, gave me a reason to get up and carry on each morning. Plus she was a damned good Chief Engineer. She could take your ship apart and put her back together for you without having to look at the manual. A real old-school, hands-on kind of girl. I’d found her when I was looking for somewhere out of the way to stash the Cobra on Cook Ring. She’d been supervising the maintenance crews who’d been patching us Dragons up after battles, and we’d been gently flirting with each other over the manifests for a few days before I finally asked her out. Maybe she just had a thing for Commanders, but it felt like there was real chemistry there, that she was someone I could trust... Read More