Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Unexpected Find

Month 6, Day 10
Della Harris
1903 Hours

Della climbed up a ladder into The Core with a stiff back, her lips pressed into a tight line. She jerked the multi-tester from its cabinet and slammed that small door shut. I can’t believe Smythe sent me to do this now! That he sent me! Any tech has enough brains to do this! And I’m on my third shift today! She took a deep breath and let her lips curl into the beginnings of a smile. So I hope I still have enough brains not to muck it up. I’m not Mac, after all. Hope he doesn’t expect all of us to start running on no sleep.
What does Smythe have against Mac? So she hasn’t passed probation; lots of us had trouble with that. Even Ivy. But why hasn’t she passed? Mac knows communications inside out. As long as Smythe isn’t around. Mac clams up as soon as Smythe is near. Won’t say why.
With a shake of her head that freed a wisp of hair from her bun, Della opened the first hatch. I’ll never get done if I don’t start. She began methodically testing every connection within the access hatch. When she was done, she closed that door, erased the out-of-date notation on the metal, and wrote her own initials and date.
Her eyes wandered down The Core into the darkness. The Fireball’s spine was a metal rod 5 feet in radius that ran the full length of the ship and served as foundation. Around that rod were 2 feet of wires and pipes, hidden behind access panels. The Core was an open space, where artificial gravity kept you on the ‘floor’ and your work was done over your head, but it was disorientating to have that floor slope around and also be above you. The artificial gravity field stopped at the access hatches, to avoid any dizziness from being pulled in two directions at once, so a person’s hands worked in null grav, which could leave them tingly.
But the reason Della didn’t like this assignment was because she was alone. The Core was open, but so long that you couldn’t see the other end. I’ve never liked Core duty. This place is spooky. Unless you’re on a date... But I’m not. Don’t remember when my last date was. And I’m not likely to have one for another... a week? Two? Now that is a really depressing thought.
She yawned, shook her head a couple times, trying to shake the fatigue from her brain. Well, much as I don’t want anybody to realize I don’t already work at my best speed, if I want to get this done, I’d better kick myself into high gear.
After a deep breath, she opened the next hatch and worked as fast as she could, hardly giving the tester time to register one connection before she moved it to the next. Finished with that hatch, she shuffled around the curvature of the core, finishing all the A1 hatches before sliding along to the A2 hatches. She didn’t need to look down; the floor was smooth except for the entrance holes like she had come through, and those had a substantial lip around them, so by shuffling, she’d avoid falling into one.
She was all the way into the F hatches when one of her feet briefly contacted something on the floor. She jerked back, eyes wide as she stared at the floor. An empty whiskey bottle slowly spun/rolled along the curved floor.
That’s Mac’s brand. Well, I can’t blame her; the last time she went to our quarters to sleep, we called her back to work. This floor isn’t exactly comfortable, but now I’ve got to look down, make sure I don’t kick her.
A glance down the Core didn’t reveal the redhead. Della’s gaze returned to the empty. This could have been here for days. She glanced at the old date on the hatches. Anytime in the last 5 weeks. Or it could have rolled all the way here from the tail of the ship. This will kill my speed! And she might not even be here! “Mac?” she called in her normal voice, and then a little louder. No answer. She shrugged, kicked the empty bottle as far down the Core as she could. I’ll dispose of it when I get done. She isn’t usually that careless with her empties. I can’t imagine where she keeps the extras, but she seems to have a never-ending supply. Well, back to work, as fast as possible.
Della had almost finished the H hatches when she caught an unexpected movement in the corner of her eye. Leaving that hatch only partially done, she took a couple steps to the side, to look around the ship’s spine.
Her roommate sat on the floor above her, arms propped on her raised knees, a nearly empty bottle dangling from the fingers of one hand by the neck. Her head moved, turning slightly left, and then slightly right, and her mouth moved, as if she were talking. Or... arguing with herself? Definitely not asleep. Why didn’t she answer me? Her hands moved, too. When the head turned to the left, her right hand made grand, sweeping gestures, like some people did when they were trying to make a point. When the head turned right, the left hand made much more subdued movements, pointing or maybe counting, which was more like Mac, but didn’t look effective, since that hand held the bottle.
Maybe she is asleep; her eyes are closed. Could she be sleep and arguing with herself? Well, why not? I swear she sleep-studies! Della smirked a little. Maybe she’s dreaming of telling Smythe off. What I’d give to hear her do it! She needs to stand up to him, at least a little. He does not want ‘yes men’ in his crew.
“If you were awake, I’d ask you to help me with this assignment. That would relieve the boredom and loneliness, plus I have no doubt you can do it even faster than I can. True, it’s not communications. Not all of it. But I know you, and you are a whiz with any kind of testing equipment.” And I bet the old man has never noticed.
Mac continued with her self argument as if Della wasn’t there, hadn’t said anything. With a sigh, Della decided to let her roommate sleep and turned back to her work. Something rolled under her foot, and she barely kept herself from falling, turned in time to see an empty whiskey bottle bump against Mac’s hip.
The redhead bolted to her feet while moving away from the bottle, and only stopped to look back once she was several yards away. Half of her looked relieved to see Della.
“Boy, you’re jumpy tonight,” Della stated. “I didn’t mean to wake you. Do you know security has been looking for you?” How can she not realize it, after all those announcements made all day? “If you’re up to it, Abdulla could really use your help on the bridge. No matter what she tries, she can’t get rid of that electrical charge.” She thought about that again. “No, never mind. He’s trying to help her, and he’s just as frustrated as she is, so it’s probably best if you stay away from the bridge.”
She took a good look at the woman who shared her quarters. The light in The Core was considered ‘sufficient’, but it made Mac look... odd. Her hair was lighter than Della remembered, almost pink. And her eyes were more lime than emerald. She took a step forward in concern. “Are you okay?”
Mac took a step back, and her mouth made exaggerated movements that looked like words, but Della didn’t hear anything. The redhead abruptly turned and ran down The Core, disappearing into the dimness of distance.

Mac was long gone before Della could collect her thoughts and find the nearest intercom.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Month 6 Day 10
1658 Hours

There was no mistaking the narrow passage the redhead found herself crawling through. This is a service corridor, that much is obvious. But what does it service? What is this facility? How did I get here? Who are these people? They look like us, but they are obviously not... us. Especially not the one with scales.
She stopped crawling, looked ahead and behind, and sat down. I don’t know how long I can stay here without being found. Service corridors exist for a reason, and it’s only a matter of time before someone needs to use this one. She studied her strange clothes again, particularly the transparent stuff covering her legs. Okay, so they don’t run around with their legs exposed, but this stuff hardly seems likely to protect their legs. And the men wear regular trousers, not this stuff, so what is it for?
She thought she heard a strange buzzing, like an insect, but she couldn’t locate one. She leaned against the wall and took a deep breath, tried to gather her thoughts. I need to find someplace where these people won’t find me while I try to figure out what to do. But they know this place, and I don’t.
More buzzing by that pesky insect she couldn’t find. Even louder now. This looks like my body, feels like my body, and yet... it doesn’t. The skin is... too dark, the clothes strange. It’s sluggish. She was surprised when the body - apparently on its own - scooted a little further down the corridor. Her hand reached out, opened an access panel, felt around among the equipment and finally pulled out a bottle. And apparently, it has a mind of its own.
That brought back a memory of a news report she’d read of the latest endeavor of scientists trying to transplant the consciousness of one person into the body of another. They claim the theory is solid, but their results, so far, haven’t been good. Their subjects tend to go- She realized she was drinking from the bottle of brown liquid. What am I doing? I don’t know what this stuff is!
Would you relax?
I’m in a strange place, in a strange body, all alone, with no idea what’s going on. It’s not a situation that lends itself to relaxation!
Did you finally hear me? She stopped drinking. Almost half the bottle’s contents were gone. Then consider this. You aren’t exactly alone. The body took another swig.
Who... are you? I must be going insane. Now I’m talking to myself as if I don’t know me.
I’m the owner of this body. And since we’d never met before you... got inserted in here, you don’t know me. How did that happen, anyway? I was working on the bridge, and then... you were with me, but not listening to me.
I don’t know how it happened! I don’t know where I am! I was supposed to meet S’thym at R’ston Station for our next assignment, but instead, I found myself... here! Wait, if this is your body, then where is mine?
I have no idea. Look, this must be some kind of major... accident. We don’t usually kidnap members of other species and shove them into our own bodies. I mean, really, what would be the purpose of that? What you and I need to do-
What about the strange one? The one with scales?
Scales? Oh, you mean Takor. I’ve gotten so used to him, I hardly notice the scales anymore. He’s a member of the crew. An officer. He’s from-
Crew? Crew of what?
Oh. Uh, where you’re at is on a spaceship. We’re explorers. Bottle raised half-way to her mouth, her head suddenly turned to look the way she had come.
What is it?
The body hurriedly capped the bottle. We need to get out of here. She resumed crawling, at a faster pace, but quietly.
Are these people not your friends? It seems odd you would try to avoid them.
If I were by myself, I wouldn’t. Probably. Sometimes I prefer to be alone. But didn’t you notice the flashing yellow lights?
They aren’t yellow, they’re brown.
There’s no such thing as a Brown Alert. Wait, you see the lights as brown?
Of course.
To me, they’re yellow. Your brain must see in a slightly different spectrum than mine does.
If you are not from my world, it would make sense that we are different. Do your people communicate using their mouths?
Yes. That’s one thing we do with them. How do your people communicate?
Also with our mouths. Mostly. I have seen your people’s mouths move. It looks like they are talking, but I have heard nothing. We must hear different wavelengths, also.
Kind of makes you wonder what else is different, doesn’t it?
Kolla made the body stop as it neared an intersection with another service corridor. She could feel an impatience urging her to hurry, but she carefully poked her head out to check the cross-corridor. She didn’t see anyone, and the body suddenly turned to the left and hurried on. Where are we going?
You wanted a place where you could think, right? Where chances were good you- we wouldn’t be found? A place to try to figure out what is happening?
Oh, good, you know of such a place.
I know of a lot of places. Like I said, sometimes I like to be alone. Just do me a favor. The body paused to hold up the bottle briefly. Keep drinking this stuff. Apparently, it helps you hear me.
Ah. Then if I get tired of listening to you, all I have to do is stop drinking that stuff, whatever it is. It tastes very strange.
Either our taste buds are different, too, or your people don’t have whiskey.
I don’t know that word.

Oh, we have a lot of stuff to sort out.