02.22.2002 – 20.01.2003 Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 02.11.2002 at04:44: Meeting of the Minds Ragnar‟s arm twitched. His stolid eyes faltered immediately. Friggin‟ knew it. He mentally cringed as he turned his upper body and lowered his gun halfway to the ground, listening to the man he hadn‟t seen (made the same mistake as the woman, I did) beside him, obviously a crew member. He turned to face the tall gray-haired man, even wirier than he. He felt his sweat glands tearing wide open as he realized he‟d made quite a mistake. The fellow, which seemed to know him (“Argoth,” eh?), had made him well aware of that much. After the Atevi‟s polite remark (especially compared to Rewedyk‟s), and mentally taking down Rewedyk‟s name, he slowly holstered the gun. Almost shamefully. He had been reamed by a crewmember about leveling an un-saftied weapon at another crewmember. It didn‟t matter that the Atevi was a recent addition; it didn‟t matter that Ragnar had lost his memory (though only temporarily, as Ragnar thinks). He probably would have leveled a gun at any unknown screwing with the ship‟s controls (though „screwing‟ wasn‟t exactly what Salfiri was doing, as Ragnar saw). The black-haired man took note of what he had caused because of his gut reaction , and didn‟t think he‟d do it again. Listening to the intercom, he took down Donen‟s name (now I can fake remembering all of them for the time being, if that was all of them), then proceeded to turn over to Rewedyk. In his most level tone (though his current state made it sound a tad on the tired side, maybe a little soft), he said, “Sorry. Umm, truthfully, I didn‟t notice you there. I just woke up, I reacted on impulse, and I feel like I‟ve been hit by an interstellar freight. And though I really didn‟t know you were a crew member,” he turned to Salfiri and the figure in the tank, “I probably shouldn‟t have reacted exactly in the way I did. So…” Ragnar nodded at Rewedyk with a small hint of apology in his eyes before proceeding forward toward the Atevi. With his right hand, he thumbed on the snap for the Vultenna on his hip, almost wincing as the button clicked home. Ragnar waited a moment, until the one seated at the console spared a moment for him. He said, this time more calmly and levelly than before (not as tiredly or softly as he‟d been just a second ago), “Ragnar Argoth.” His slight accent, amplified by his slightly lazy speech pattern at the moment, made it sound like Ragnah Ahgoth. “I‟m the mechanic on the Heart (which always came out haat) of Gold. You are?” He extended his hand with a bit of self-disdain, his eyes a bit hopeful. He wouldn‟t be surprised if the woman told him to fuck off or the like, though Ragnar admitted that he‟d never met an Atevi. Sitting back in the preheated chair he‟d been sleeping in, this time with his matte black synth-leather SL jacket on, Ragnar rubbed his temples. He then heard footsteps, very faint, from down the hall. It turned out to be a large Valertrez. Probably the esteemed Captain Winters. Ragnar chuckled at his thought, then reconsidered and stopped altogether. For all he knew, this guy was a pirate, or an assassin. Though Ragnar preferred not to deal with those types, if they were running a good, secure ship and the guy was trustworthy… Not wanting to get ahead of himself, he listened to the man speak. Ragnar left the bridge silently shortly after the captain, though to his own acclaim, he didn‟t look nearly as tired as the other. What the hell am I going to do for fifteen minutes? Maybe I‟ll take a look at that maintenance bay I saw on the floor plans earlier, then maybe ask Winters a few questions. Thankful for having marked his quarters earlier on his electronic copy of the ship hunt map, he instead went there after looking at the maintenance bay for a quick minute. A lot of work needed to be done on it, so Ragnar assumed either this was a new ship (and, hence, crew), or there hadn‟t been a maintenance bay onboard before (and, hence, no previous mechanic). And since the second option was quite unlikely, he concluded that he hadn‟t been on the ship more than a week, at the very most. Not that it mattered now. Once he went to his quarters and took a few minutes to meditate (which he rarely did), it would all come back to him… …or not. Ragnar stood up from the floor with stiff legs in the black room. He hadn‟t gotten anywhere in the minutes he spent in his rather spacious quarters (larger than the captain‟s, he assumed, though minus the amenities and plus the possibility of future roommates), though he‟d cleared his emotions a bit and the pain in his arm had gone from dull to rather sharp. His body did feel more awake now, however, than when he‟d left it on the bridge that undetermined amount of time ago. Wondering how long he‟d been out (probably an hour or two), Ragnar began toward the door, pulling the black jacket over his left arm gingerly and feeling surprised that Goldie hadn‟t come and asked him about his actions back there. Who‟s Goldie…? Ragnar headed into the briefing room with ease, not bothering to see if he was the only one there. It had only been ten minutes or so (though it‟s not like I‟m counting the seconds, he added to his thoughts sarcastically), but as he‟d heard before, it could only hurt to be late (Ragnar just knew he‟d disprove his own saying one of these days). Counting on Winters taking a position on the desktop, Ragnar crossed his arms (right arm under the left arm, which he was used to, and thankfully it didn‟t hurt that much to do so) and leaned on the center of the wall opposite the desk casually, closing his eyes as he did so. Wonder how much a good pair of headphones would cost me…gotta get some as soon as we hit port, as well as (probably) take care of that requisition list I was sent earlier by the good captain. Posted by Salfiri on 02.11.2002 at10:02: Salfiri watched Ragnar, expression completely neutral, as he seemed to realise his mistake and slowly holstered his pistol. It was obvious, and understandable, that he had not expected to find her here. She listened patiently as he made his explanation, perhaps what passed for an appology, introductions, and finally extended his hand. She was familiar with this ritual, and reached out to accept the offered truce, her large dark hand dwarfing his in a firm grip. She added a formal bow to the guesture in the Atevi fashion. "Salfiri, of house Bari'igena, nadi Argoth, now Security Officer aboard this ship," She said smoothly, "one remembers you from your ID check." She added, when he gave her his name. "And one must beg to differ, given the presence of an unknown and potentially dangerous individual aboard your ship, nadi, your reaction was entirely appropriate." She inclined her head in acknowledgement, then released his hand. "However, if you had taken a moment to further assess the situation, nadi, and note your crew-mate's apparent ease," she gestured to Rewedyk, "you might have seen that in this instance it was unnecessary." Admitedly, her expression and tone were pleasant, and her words sounded more like advice than a reproach. She acknowledged Captain Winter's arrival with a silent nod, and sat down against the back wall of the bridge when he told then to strap themselves in, since she didn't fit in any of the chairs. It was sufficient. Exactly fifteen minutes later Salfiri strode into the briefing room, presenting rather a different picture then when she was on the bridge. She'd moved her gear from the corridoor where she'd dumped it into the first empty room she came across, and taken the time to change out of her civies, re-braiding her hair as well. The first impression one got when she walked in was black. Black with silver studs, which was a good way to sum up the jacket she was wearing. There is something universal about security jackets; they're warm, bulky and heavy, but this one was jet black and made of what looked like real leather - which would stand to reason since up until recently Salfiri had lived planetside - and every piece of metal on it was chromed. Black trousers were tucked into knee-high black leather boots with chromed studs for buttons up the outside, and toe-caps. Her weapons belt with her holstered pistol was slung low across her hips were it was both visible and easy to get at. Her thick black hair was in the typical Atevi ruler-straight braid down her back, reaching almost to her belt, and had several colourful ribbons woven through it, the only colour in her outfit. Said outfit was definately not a Stargazer uniform, and presumably came from Shai-san, the Atevi script on the shoulder badges confirming this. It was a particularly un-feminine outfit, designed to be practical and intimidating. She stepped inside, nodded politely in her fellow crewmate's direction, "Nadi Ragnar," and leaned against the wall where she could see the doorway, stance relaxed, but golden gaze searching the room, taking a mental inventory, no doubt. Her espression was, as ever, entirely neutral. Atevi were renowned for their reserve. Posted by Galen Winters on 07.11.2002 at22:03: Stalking down the corridor, Galen met the curiously exploring Nadia near the door to his cabin. Answering her angry queries with an upraised hand, Galen regarded the fiery- tempered woman with a very tired expression on his face. "Crew briefing in fifteen minutes, that door. I'll explain everything and make introductions all around at that time. Right now, I need a kylemol and a drink." He said gruffly, before opening his door and entering his spacious cabin, leaving Nadia to fend for herself in the corridor. The first thing he actually did was to unwrap the parcel he had discarded in the cabin on his way to the bridge. It was somewhat heavy, around two kilos, and very solid under his touch. Reverently removing the cloth of the spare t-shirt he had used, Galen at last laid eyes again on the prize he had removed from the dropship he had stolen from his would- be assassin. Nice to see you and I have the same tastes, Walter. Only the best he mused, holding up a very new, and very lethal caster pistol. So nice of you to leave that on the ship, my friend. It's probably what you shot me with, too, you prick he thought, the irony of it not lost on the grey-eyed valertrez. The holster fit the weapon like a glove, and even had belt loops for the full set of filters for the pistol. Each of the spares had engraved markings on them, filled with tritium inserts. The zigzagging arrow indicating the one which could prove the most fun, in Galen's opinion. The other two were marked by a radioactive hazard symbol and an arrow drawn through a perpendicular line, the latter having been used to drill through Nadia's desk and a good potion of his left leg. He sat down on the edge of his bed, wincing a bit as he felt his bandage shift over the wound. Biting back the pain, he went about removing his now-underpowered Vultenna from its shoulder rig, and set about strapping the caster about his waist and right thigh, the low-ride tactical holster fitting him well, in his own admittedly biased opinion. Standing again, Galen shambled over to his hygeine area, and rummaged about for the bottle of pills the medic Donen had given him. Gulping down a double dose with a handful of tap water, Galen threw his head back and let out a sigh, before flicking his ears fitfully, if only to hear the gentle chime of his spacer rings. At least that was his intention, and Galen found himself looking at his own face in the mirror, wondering if it was the correct one to be wearing. Shaking his head vigorously, and getting a nasty headache in the process, Galen tried to regain his composure and his sense of self. God damn, I need to find our friend the doctor, or I'm going to go nuts he mused grimly. If I haven't done so already he concluded pessimistically. ----- Galen limped into the ready room slowly, ignoring the remarks and looks that such an obvious injury garnered. Settling quickly into his chair, the grey-eyed valertrez regarded his assembled crew with a nervous gaze. There was friction inherent in his hiring practices, and he hoped that he could defuse any interpersonal conflicts before they got out of hand. At least Salfiri shouldn't be giving me problems. She's too damn polite to offend anyone, outside of her showing up unannounced he mused silently, before clearing his throat to begin the briefing. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, we have two new people on board. First, I'd like to introduce our new security officer, nand' Salfiri. She handled herself quite well during our hasty departure from Stargazer Station, and I think she will become a valued member of this crew. Our other guest is Miss Nadia de Vries. She's along for the ride, and the closest thing we have to a client at the moment," Galen said, only having to fudge the truth slightly at the last statement. "Secondly, I would like to apologize for our hasty departure from Stargazer. It was entirely necessary, I assure you. As a matter of fact, if not for Salfiri's quick actions, I doubt Miss de Vries or I would even be here right now." "Thirdly, our current mission. We're trying to track down Miss de Vries employer, a Doctor Steven Lundquist. He was also a colleague of my grandfather's, and he seems to have gotten himself into a spot of trouble. He's headed to Anuurn, and we're following. Speed is of the essence here, people, so outside of a possible replenishment stop in the Alkes field, we'll be running hot the whole way there." "Heart of Gold can get us to Anuurn inside of two weeks, so we'll have some downtime in flight to get things situated and ready, should things go into the shitter again. With that in mind, I have some work for all of you. Ragnar, aside from getting the bridge stations fixed as best you can, I want you to keep an eye on the engines and reactor. I don't know how well Goldie can hold up to such a long trip at high speed, and I want to make it there in one piece, and not glowing and sterile if that's not too much trouble. By the way, how did your shopping trip go?" he asked, shifting gears for a second before continuing to pass out assignments to the crew. "Rewedyk, I need you to go down to the shuttle bay and conduct a total computer sweep of our new dropship. Here are the security override codes," Galen said, sliding a PDA across the table with the relevant data on the display. "Make sure we don't have any tracking devices, viruses or worms floating around that thing before we hook it into HoG's systems," he continued. "Salfiri, I need you to do the same with the Heart of Gold itself. Many of the factory default codes are still running around in there, and I need to make sure that can't be used against us at any time in the future." "Lastly, Mister Krell, as you have no doubt noticed, I happen to have one more hole in my body than is standard, so if you wouldn't mind meeting me in sickbay after we finish up in here?" he asked, trying to bring some levity to Donen's face. "Nadia, if you could come along as well, since you were the one who patched me up over there, and I have no idea what you used," he said sheepishly, not liking to reveal ignorance of any subject if he could at all avoid it. "Once I'm done down in sickbay, I'll probably be in my quarters or on the bridge. Feel free to call me if you have a question or need some help. Anybody have questions?" he asked, dreading the answer he would surely get from the very diverse crew. Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 09.11.2002 at00:59: Ragnar nodded to the Ateva as she walked into the room, briefly feeling stupid all over again for his earlier action. Yes, Ragnar mouthed as he recited an old friend‟s quote, always remember to keep one hand on the butt of your gun, the other one on your head. I‟d do well to keep the second in mind… Minutes later, he shrugged to himself in his dull black jacket as Galen Winters entered the room. The man was favoring one leg quite obviously, which made him wince. He knew all too well what it felt like to be operating on such terms. So well, in fact, that it made his arm ache just looking at it. He‟d have to find out exactly what happened to the man a bit later. After Galen had sat down, Ragnar returned to look up at the rest of his shipmates. Aside from the female Valertrez (Terrans can‟t look that good, Ragnar mused), he thought he could correctly name everyone in the room, which was a good thing. On the other hand, everyone except the placid Salfiri appeared to be discontent about one thing or another. Shit, was it like this when I signed up? Ragnar‟s attention was brought to focus when Galen got to the more important words. His brow furrowed slightly, as it usually did when actively listening, as he listened to the crew addendum, their little emergency on Stargazer, and their current course of action. Then, he looked up to Galen as he heard the captain‟s voice turn to him. His assignments were things he would have done anyway, but it was good to see that Galen (as a captain) seemed to be in control. The mechanic nodded, and replied to the other‟s question. “Finally got myself a nice armored jacket, as you can hopefully tell. I also purchased a good deal of clothes, and a few other items. Though I didn‟t get that requisition list taken care of, it‟s my top priority once we hit port again.” Interested to hear that they had recently acquired an Icarus (Ragnar deducted this because there weren‟t many other brands used, and in his mechanic‟s opinion, as well- built), Ragnar interjected at an opportune moment. “If you don‟t mind, captain, I think I‟ll take a run down there later today and take a diagnostic of the shuttle. I don‟t have more than three days‟ work to do anyhow.” Posted by Donen Krell on 09.11.2002 at02:03: Donen still didn‟t have much of a clue about why he felt drugged and hung over. But that has been more or less a constant state in my tour of duty aboard the HoG anyway, so nothing new there, Donen, he mused sardonically. The best guess he could come up with about his current physical state of affairs was that he had experienced some sort of allergic reaction to something in Atevi food. Well, that’s an experiment not to be repeated anytime soon…at least not until I understand a bit more about it. Maybe my new crewmate can help me out on that, he chuckled and then immediately regretted it as another stab of pain shot through his skull. Gingerly, Donen ducked down to the medbay and found a few of his newly delivered pharmaceuticals which should blunt the edge of his headache, and downed a liter of some concoction designed to rehydrate his body and balance his electrolytes…hopefully helping to clear out whatever substance was in the Atevi food that disagreed with his blood chemistry. His head finally sorted out, Donen tried to think through his current situation. Quick exits from docking bays is becoming quite a disagreeable pattern of events. What is our swashbuckling Captain Winters all about anyway? And which side of the law have I ended up on in the process of allowing myself to be shanghaied by him? Donen shrugged. Despite appearances, he never picked up any hints of evil intent from the swaggering captain and the rest of the angst-ridden crew. A touch of anarchy here and there, perhaps, but that wasn‟t unusual for a shipload of Valertrez. "And one Atevi," he corrected himself out loud. Looking at the ship‟s chronometer on the medbay‟s wall, Donen noted that it was time for Captain Winters‟ briefing in the ready room. This ought to be good for a laugh, thought Donen, with an ironic chuckling, one unaccompanied by shooting pains in his skull, which meant that at least one thing was going according to some logical plan anyway. He proceeded to the ready room and slumped against the back wall, his arms crossed and a somewhat sarcastic smirk stuck on his young face. He noted the two new faces in the small gathering. The Atevi was indeed the senior security officer who Donen had met upon docking at Stargazer Station, but there was also a human female. A strikingly attractive human female, despite the blue hair. Her taste in clothes was a bit…well, showy…for Donen‟s taste, but everything it showed seemed quite appealing to him. Down boy! Donen chided himself, you know nothing at all about the woman. Keep your hormones in check. Probably the captain’s girl in any case. Just then Captain Winters limped into the room. Right on cue, thought Donen sardonically, mentally beginning to prepare his checklist for the anticipated minor surgery the good captain would be needing. The Atevi was known as Salfiri and was to be security officer for the HoG…an odd post for an odd ship, and an alien to boot…yep, should fit right into our happy little crew was Donen‟s first reaction. The attractive blue-haired young woman was Miss Nadia de Vries, who Captain Winters identified cryptically as „the closest thing we have to a client at the moment‟ which effectively said nil about who she was or what work Captain Winters was in. Donen perked up and became a bit less cynical, when he heard Captain Winters talking about helping to find a Doctor Steven Lundquist, Miss de Vries employer and apparently a colleague of his grandfather's. Donen understood about family ties. When you spent your life bottled up in tin cans floating through vacuum, family meant something. Whatever else Winters was, helping family or friends of family was something to which Donen could relate. Then hearing that they might stop over in Alkes Field before heading on to Anuurn gave Donen a bit of a twinge. His mothers lived in Alkes Fields, mining asteroids, which was more or less what he had run away from to discover the wide-open universe. He suddenly felt a bit ashamed of himself, partly for running out on the family business, and partly, quite frankly, that he still felt guilty about “running out” on them rather than a legitimate search for his own identity. He loved his mothers, but they had just given him too short a leash…everything had to be right and proper, and all according to their own very narrowly construed religious beliefs. It was all just a bit too confining for Donen. And now, less than a month from having left Alkes Fields the young Valertrez was heading right back, not with some grand job making a difference in the universe, but aboard some renegade ship doing god knew what, with an unusual assortment of…well, odd...crewmates. Oh god! Back to Alkes Fields…What do I say to Lisa & Jayne? Do I let them know I may be stopping near home? What do I tell them about what I’m doing or do I just avoid notifying them at all? thought Donen in an emotional quandary. He had just about concluded that the least said the better, when he heard Captain Winters call his name and suggest a trip to the sickbay. Donen missed the levity in Winters‟ voice preoccupied as his mind was at the time, but since the trip was not unexpected, Donen nodded distractedly and went back to his mental prep list for the surgery he had started earlier. Posted by Salfiri on 09.11.2002 at07:56: "-Nadi- Salfiri, nand' Captain." The eight foot something Ateva corrected gently when Galen introduced her. Her golden gaze met those of her fellow crewmembers and she nodded to each in turn, and listened as the Captain continued to speak. Captain Winters and Nadia she already knew from the station. Ragnar and Videlius she had met on the bridge under.... interesting circumstances, and now she could put a face to the Donen and the voice she'd heard over the com. The man didn't look very well, although since he was a medic she was sure that if it was any more than a hang-over he'd be able to deal with it. She bowed her head in acknowledgement as Captain Winters gave her her orders for during the trip. "One is aware, nand' Captain, that is how one gained entry." She fully intended to rectify that problem, as well as several other protective measures she could put in place. There were a number of inherrent security issues within the ship that would keep her occupied for the duration of the journey to Anuurn. Her gaze moved to each of the crew members in turn, studying them and they way they reacted to each other. Ragnar looked jumpy and suspicious whilst trying not to, but if he was concerned enough for his welfare to purchase the protective jacket then it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. She remembered an expression one of her co-workers at Stargazer had once used. Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean I'm wrong. Videlius seemed quieter, more relaxed, though the man had a sharp tongue and judging from his words on the bridge to Ragnar a nasty sense of humour to go with it. Donen looked unhappy, but he also looked unwell, which would excuse his expression. He was the one she knew the least about. Captain Winters she'd already seen to be at least more thourough than she'd feared, although impulsive and head-strong. Interesting numbers there. Deveriis she didn't know much about either, despite having spoken with her. Resourceful in her own environment, how she would fare on ship remained to be seen. But the males reaction to her unpractical outfit was very obvious, their faces were so expressive. She didn't know if they were Terran or Valertrez, but it was largely a moot point. She simply listened and watched, trying to get a feel for their personalities, and thus how they were liable to react in a crisis. When Captain Winters asked for questions, she waited for a moment to pose her own. "Accomodation, nand' Captain." She said simply. "If our previous exit from Stargazer Station is anything to judge by, nand' Captain, it would be safer for all if luggage were properly stowed." She said in her accustomed polite tone, expression as always carefully neutral. Posted by Galen Winters on 11.11.2002 at19:34: sorry this isn't exactly the greatest Galen nodded silently at Ragnar's assessment of his workload, another project he had put on the back burner for the past week begging for attention from him. "Nice to hear that, because once I get done with our fair medic, I have another job for you. Fairly easy mechanically, but large in scope. I'll help you out with the more complicated bits." He said to the older mechanic, allaying his fears of a massive mechanical nightmare boiling away on Galen's thoughts. "And speaking of accomodations, Rewedyk, I'm afraid we'll have to move you down the hall a bit. I'd like to give the two ladies their own head and shower, if you don't mind." He said warmly, not wanting to argue with the grey human at the moment. His leg was really beginning to ache now, and Galen's thoughts drifted a bit until he realized that the ready room was silent. Donen was occupied with his own thoughts, Rewedyk doubtless sitting in sullen silence rather than blow up at Galen's order to vacate his quarters. Ragnar and Salfiri were the only members of the crew who seemed to be in the moment, and Nadia was just burning a hole in Galen's forehead with her deep blue eyes. "Nadia, yours and Salfiri's quarters are directly across the corridor from this room, I'll let you two hash out which one is which, I don't think there's that much difference between the two size-wise. Now if there are no other questions, you all have your assignments. Dismissed." Galen said curtly, waiting a few moments for people to clear the room before slowly getting to his feet, the injured leg making a steady walk difficult, even in Heart of Gold's relatively low gravity. Galen shambled slowly to the nearest ladderwell, and hopped down one deck to the level of the ship's medbay. He only had to stop and lean against the bulkhead once, which Galen was amazed at, given how much trouble the leg was giving him. The door to the medbay hissed open easily, and Galen stumbled in and sat down on the nearest examination table. Taking a few breaths, the grey-eyed valertrez removed the holster from his right leg and painfully removed his boots and flight suit. This revealed the tightly wrapped bandage which held the large gauze pad secure, and the fact that the whole assembly was soaked with blood. Hissing lightly, Galen sat back down, before addressing Donen. "High-powered plasma weapon, most likely from that caster there. Maybe some small metal fragments, he was shooting through a desk at me. Don't worry about making it look pretty and scar-free, just get me mobile again." He said shortly, before lying back on the table to let Donen work. Posted by Salfiri on 15.11.2002 at01:32: Well if you're all going to be quiet, I'll just have to be "Dismissed." Salfiri bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement, and after allowing a moment for those closer to the door to exit, she ducked under the lintel of the hatch and out into the corridoor. She peered into both the rooms opposite the ready room, noting that the accomodations did appear to be identicle, and solved the problem without discussion by retrieving her stuff from where she'd stashed it and depositing it in the room closer to the bridge. End of story. Given that they had ample time to perform their tasks during the trip, she took a few moments to make her room more home-like. She opened her bag and put her clothing - what little she had brought - away in a locker, as well as a few items she had brought from Shai-san, mostly just for memory's sake. But even as she arranged things she was doing complex mathematics in her head - which is situation normal for an Ateva - to determine the most felicitous arrangements within the room, taking into account the stats of the ship and her own personal numbers. She set a few personal items on the tiny desk, pausing a moment at the equisite wooden carving of a wi'itkiti, the flying reptiles human mistakenly called dragonets. Her security partner Tairo had given it to her just before she left. The wi'itkiti always comes back to the cliff, Salfiri-ji. He'd said. You'll come back to us. There were times, out here amongst these aliens, that she longed to be back on Shai-san, within her association, those within Remo- ma's man-chi. She blinked, mentally shook herself, and set the tiny carving on the desk. Now was not the time. She would go back when Lord Remo ordered her to return, not before. She was still within his man-chi and would do what he asked of her. But for now there was one last thing that needed doing before she would begin her work, or when she finished it she would not be able to sleep. She made her way down to the cargo bay, sitting on the edge of the ladder wells and dropping down them rather than using the tiny ladders, until she came to the mess of crates. She could see the one she wanted, she remembered it from the inspection she and Arron had carried out. It was quite small, and contained tins of food, but it was perfect for her requirements. Hefting it with ease that a human would have envied, she carried it back to the ladder well, pushed it up onto the next level and boosted herself up after it, ascending in this manner. She carried it to the mess room and stacked the contents neatly into one of the lockers, then took it to her room. There she took the lid off, turned it side-ways, and jammed it into the box, so that it divided the box neatly in half. This she then turned on it's side, so that it now had two shelves, and shoved the resulting form against the end of the bed. It was exactly the same height as the frame. She then took from her bag a small box which contained what looked like four shiny black rolled up socks. She pulled one out, flipped it out of it's cover, and the thing expanded into a large, soft cushion, the inner fibres absorbing the air. If sufficient force were applied it was in theory possible to return to thing to it's original compacted shape - and Salfiri had done it once - but it took a lot of effort. She dropped the cushion onto the top of the crate, thereby extending the mattress by three feet, enough to accomodate her. The other three cushions she deposited about the ship. One in the computer bay, one in the mess room, and the third she stowed in a corner on the bridge. She had discovered early on that she didn't fit into human-sized chairs, and that they put her at the wrong height for the computer panels any way. The cushions were a much easier option. That done she returned to her room and retrieved a small computer disk. Donen should have had enough time to treat the Captain by now, so she should not be disturbing his work, unless he was treating Ragnar. She headed for the medical bay. Posted by Donen Krell on 16.11.2002 at01:21: Donen followed Captain Winters silently down to the medbay, still very much distracted by his own thoughts: at first with his mental surgical checklist, and then the more distressing musings on returning to Alkes Fields…so much so that he had forgotten his misgivings about his current assignment and his brooding crewmates. He had not even been fully aware of having made the journey from the ready room to the medbay when Captain Winters spoke. "High-powered plasma weapon, most likely from that caster there. Maybe some small metal fragments, he was shooting through a desk at me. Don't worry about making it look pretty and scar-free, just get me mobile again." The sight of the blood soaked bandages brought Donen back around into a full and focused professional mode, his personal problems would have to wait. Donen quickly assembled everything he had thought of from his mental checklist, adding only a few other things he noticed as he laid everything out on a surgical tray, then joined the captain at the exam table. ”Okay, Captain. Let’s have a look at the damage,” said Donen, gingerly removing the blood-soaked elastic bandage and exposing the sterile dressing and tape beneath, also stiff with dark maroon-colored congealed blood. Knowing there was no way to gently removed the tape from Captain Winter‟s hairy thigh, Donen ripped it off quickly with a practiced jerk. ”Sorry, Captain. Tape makes a great depilatory, but it hurts like hell, doesn’t it?” he said lightly, hoping to deflect the expected outburst. Donen whistled appreciatively at the size of the hole in Captain Winters‟ thigh. ”Quite a hole you’ve given yourself there, sir. You should play more carefully with your toys, or pick nicer playmates,” said Donen, still trying to keep things light. ”A tad more to the inside, Captain, and we might have been sending your cold stiff body out the airlock into deep space. Had your femoral artery gotten nicked, you could have bled out pretty quick. Hey, could you just roll over that way a sec? Thanks.” Donen quickly injected Captain Winters with a potent, fast-acting and short-term nerve blocking agent at the first lumbar region of his spinal column, then rolled him onto his back again. ”That was to help us both get through the surgery a bit quicker, Captain. You will be completely numb and paralyzed from the waist down for a couple of hours, so don’t try to leave the medbay…in fact, don’t even try to get up from the exam table until I tell you. I pretty much figured you would nix the idea of general anesthesia, and I don’t want to have to put up with any macho bullshit when I’ll be working so close to the femoral. This is a compromise, so don’t give me any grief about it, okay, sir? Oh, and limit the gab if you want to keep all your own original equipment, alright?” Since Donen was aware that casters could have special filters that fired some kind of radioactive plasma, which could be very difficult to heal, he did a scan that fortunately came up negative. Just a clean and stitch job then…what a relief, he thought, as he projected a sterile field focused on the wound site. He prepped the wound, and dug around inside it with various types of instruments to remove the few metal fragments still imbedded in the captain‟s thigh. After a final scan to make sure everything was out, he began to stitch everything up from the inside and working out until everything was neatly closed. He finished up by applying a sterile bandage. ”You won’t have to worry about pulling out any hair when that bandage comes off,” said Donen. ”I’ve removed all the hair from your thigh. Don’t worry, it’ll grow back eventually.” The Valertrez then began to collect all the tools, supplies and debris from the surgery. ”All done, Captain Winters,” Donen said brightly. ”But you still have some time before that nerve block wears off, so you might as well take a nap,” he added, handing the captain a blanket and turning down the light in that portion of the medbay. Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 16.11.2002 at02:03: Meeting adjourned. Ragnar left the briefing room first, looking like he had work to do when he really didn‟t. True, he always felt the need to get done with any work as soon as he could. But this urge was most certainly not the big thing on his mind at the moment. He had to conceal his worry for the rest of the crew. Let‟s face it, he had thought, these folks don‟t seem like the most secure bunch I‟ve ever worked with. That, and the captain has a god damned hole in his leg. Given time, I hope these guys can work out everything. Either that, or I‟ll be finding myself a new ship. Ragnar made the short trip to the maintenance bay with little trouble, though the pain in his arm was beginning to act up again. He thought he could bear it and get some work done, though he wasn‟t sure how much. Entering the large room, he worked his way amongst the bolted-down tables and the stacks of sorted boxes strewn about the otherwise plentiful floor space of the bay. Tipping a plastic-wrapped gasket rubber over, he finally settled to the back of the shop, where everything had been cleared away. He studied over the drawings and words scribbled in his handwriting on the table for a moment before realizing what they were. Looking up and scanning the room, he noticed a computer terminal halfway down the aisle he hadn‟t come. The aisle leading to the screen was empty, save a large mound of various things right at the entrance (which would explain why he didn‟t see it before). Special job. The captain wants me to do a special job. I realize he doesn‟t understand this, but if I don‟t have the tools set up to do this „special job,‟ I can‟t do it. And seeing as there‟s a helluva lot more work in here to do than I thought, I just might have to get some details about it so I know what to bring online first. A single window was open at the terminal. A very neatly-done computer layout of the shop (as Ragnar had wanted it to look, no doubt) filled the screen. Along the wall along the bay were all the stand-alone machines in one row. The tables were efficiently spaced, and a note at the bottom read THREE EXTRA WORK TABLES IN BAY. Not bothering to note this, he licked his upper lip absently. With a half-shove, Ragnar pushed his torso up and off the table. He began working his way to the rear of the room again, to start installing the floor-mounted machines in the rear of the room. After a half hour of tedious and basic work, Ragnar admitted his defeat; those machines were quite heavy for him, given his current physical condition. He hadn‟t done much in that time, and what little he had done had cost him. Sweating and heaving, he looked down his partially bare chest (the green shirt had a low collar) to see the bandage around his arm in need of a change. Fucking machines. Maybe I‟ll go back to my room and do something a little more fitting, like unpack my new clothes and maybe get a new wrap. Also, I could use plenty more sleep… Despite the „oh well‟ sigh he let out, Ragnar was quite irate at the moment. He felt so aggravated that he couldn‟t perform up to his usual standard that he almost obsessed over the fact. He knew, and had known for some time, that it wasn‟t in him to simply shrug it off and do what he could. He knew he‟d be back here in an hour, trying to work again. But for now he‟d retreat to his own cabin (which was just about as spacious the captain‟s quarters, he mused, along with the fact that it wasn‟t furbished nearly as nicely). He‟d regroup while he milled about, doing such docile tasks as doing some laundry or getting some sleep. Then, after he‟d rallied all his forces, and maybe talked to Donen for a bit, he‟d finally- Whoa there, cowboy. With all that drivel you were thinking back there, one would think you actually might care about something. And from the looks of it, might you actually be trying to…impress your crewmates? “The hell would I do that for?” He (literally) said to himself, lucky that no one was in the bay at that moment. Because you care. Because you take pride in your self-image and the things you do. Ignoring himself, he smirked oddly and exited the bay as quickly as he could manage, almost falling flat on his face as he hurtled a higher stack and caught his foot on the corner of one of the tables. As the door hissed open, he burst out into the hallway. His jacket hung casually from his right shoulder, held in place by his operable hand. Ragnar strolled slowly along the hallway, made his way up the ladder, and then headed toward his private (for now, at least) cabin, the one nearest the common head. Listening to the door hiss closed behind him. Now in the silence, he slung the jacket onto the bed, which he could faintly see the outline of in the near-complete darkness. Standing in the darkness, and letting his eyes adjust (which they did quickly), he heard and felt the faint hum of the high-end reactor core mere meters away. He reminded himself he‟d have to go take a look at the reactor every few hours (upon Galen‟s request, though he‟d have done it anyway). After a lengthy yawn, which ended in some stretching, Ragnar bent down to prep all his clothes for the closet, removing tags and such. First, though, he removed several packages of hangars from their wrapping and set them inside the open locker nearest the door. Having done this, he returned to the new wardrobe on his knees. Time to regroup, Ragnar unconsciously thought. Less than ten minutes later, he had a pile of clothes waist-high that needed a good washing. Wondering, but not caring at the moment, where the clothes washers could be found, Ragnar instead decided to satiate his captain‟s (and his own) desire for the ship‟s well-being, and set out to close the short distance to the power core he‟d been listening to for the past few minutes. Ragnar left the black room without his jacket. Now inside the engine room, he could feel the powerful field the core generated within the room. It made the atmosphere pulse (to him, anyway, though he‟d always thought it was some insane delusion of his) as it generated enormous amounts of usable energy for the Heart of Gold. It was almost as if this were the heart of a living, breathing entity. And one that you can talk to, no less! Ragnar added sarcastically. “Fuck you,” he told himself as he slid down the ladder to the base of the large blue core. He‟d heard the color called „sea blue.‟ Though he‟d never seen any sort of sea before, except from hundreds of kilos above them, he had never doubted that this is what they looked like. At least in coloration. He did doubt that they lacked the vibrant feel the core in front of him radiated. “Anyway.” Ragnar snapped out of his trance and began going over all the readings on the console at the base of the core, making sure that nothing was out of the ordinary. Posted by The Serpent on 17.11.2002 at19:01: *gets 'self out of the way* So, after a while of glaring at the nav station and reaching the holly understanding that this was out of his league, at least considering his mental stability at the moment, Rewedyk gave up and slump in the chair. The recent happenings had left him quite cold, he was not surprised that the captain arrived with a hole in his leg and rush in his tone of voice. The lurch that the hackers frail form had gone through was not all that nice either, he did not like to meet such changes all the time. Gravity changes were such a torture. He had listened to the rest of the crew chatter about for a while, when he was idly sitting in the chair and cursing himself to a black hole and back for hid breakability under the pressure that gravitation was. All that he caught of the conversation was that there would be a crew meeting held soon. After that, he had continued playing with the machinery that had so kindly been given to him and it was made quite obvious that he would need to spend an impressive amount of time on fixing the dainty thing up if he wished to use it for a longer while. The minutes brushed past him with haste and soon it was time to show his dull mug in the briefing room. He strode in there in a slow and calm way, guessing that there was enough tension in there already. He wasn‟t the last to arrive but certainly not the first. Sulkily, he dropped down on one of the chairs, resting his weary body and mind. He noted Ragnar in the room, who was set in the little box of question in his head, not knowing what to think about the man. Ah well, stranger things had happened, spacers were known to crack at the strangest of times…The others strolled in one by one also and when the meeting started, Rewedyk forgot to pay any more attention to it than he had given to the captain‟s entrance earlier. The only times he took note, was when he was handed the databoard with the codes and he was told to move his gear. He had nothing against either of the requests that had made upon him, moving was not a problem and he would be happy to get his thoughts off of the navigation problems. So, as soon as they were released, the grey male grabbed the board and scampered out of the room. His way led straight to his soon to be former room and with a sense of strange familiarity, he opened the door and stepped into his now freshly smelling room. He scrambled about, gathering his few things before scooting out again and closing the door. His new apartment was found soon, a spacey room also ment for a few others besides him that was still relatively close to the bridge. Fun. He randomly threw his bag on one of the beds before strolling out again, in search of the bays and his new task. Posted by Salfiri on 18.11.2002 at01:37: There was a polite rapping of knuckles on the door jamp even as the automatic door to the sick bay hissed open to reveal the Heart of Gold's resident Ateva in her security uniform. Her hair was, as always, in it's tight braid and she wore her babelfish UT in one ear. She fiddled with it a moment before glancing at the Captain where he lay on a med bad, then turning her impassive golden gaze to the ship's Medical Officer. She held out her hand, the high-density computer disk diminutive in her large fingers. "A precaution, nadi Donen, though one hopes that it will not be needed." She said. Donen would immediately recognise what the disk was. Although some medics were well versed in various alien biologies, others were more accustomed to their own species, or simply had had no cause to put other theory into practice. Therefore some collection of medical geniuses had prepared a series of texts that detailed how medical practices translated - and which one's didn't - from one species to another. The one in Salfiri's palm was the Terran/Valertrez to Atevi volume. The things could be bought in packs, either from one race to every other, which was common for medics, or from every other race to one, which was no doubt the pack that Salfiri possessed. "One acknowledges that you may already be well versed in Atevi biology, nadi," Salfiri said carefully, fro Atevi were always careful not to give offense, "but one thought it best to be sure. Although our races appear more similar than, say, the Hani, our physiology is very different, nadi Donen." Although in most situations it meant that you could be rougher with Atevi, since they had an amazing metabolism for alkaloids, habitually eating things that would rapidly poison any other race, and their large body size helped dilute anything did poison them. But there were some drugs they could not be given. Her turned her attention to the Captain for a moment. "Nand' Captain. One will begin work on the ship's security systems presently. One made inquiries and Dr Lundquist is not known to the Guild, nandi, and a potential non-Ateva target must be registered before Intent can be filed. They have no interest in him, nand' Captain." She said. That at least was something of a relief. She paused a moment, then added, "One trusts you will be well presently." She said with a slight nod. It was as close to a formal 'get well soon' as you got from an Ateva, since she did not know him well. Also in Atevi society it was honourable to continue dispite pain or discomfort. To succumb easily to injuries was showing weakness. Salfiri's opinion of Galen had gone up a notch when he staggered into the bridge and then briefing room, despite the fact that he could have sought medical aid straight away. Not wishing to discomfort the Captain by observing him when he was not at his best, Salfiri returned her golden gaze to Donen. "One is aware, nadi Donen, that nadi Ragnar is injured, and posibly his concentration is affected." She said matter-of-factly. "One is also aware nadi that some are reluctant to seek medical aid when they require it. One can understand this. Should you require any assistance nadi, you have but to ask." She offered politely. Posted by Donen Krell on 21.11.2002 at21:56: Donen heard a polite rapping of knuckles on the door jamb, and then the automatic door to the sick bay hissed open to reveal the new Ateva security officer, Salfiri. Her gold, pupil- less eyes seemed to take in the whole room at a glance. She held out her hand. In it lay a high-density computer disk, diminutive in her large fingers. "A precaution, nadi Donen, though one hopes that it will not be needed." Donen immediately guessed what the disk was, and placed the disk at once into the nearest terminal. ”This is great, Salfiri!” he said, like a kid opening a present on a holiday. Donen had always been fascinated by xenobiology, but had never really had much of an opportunity to work with other species before. The disk was a virtual treasure trove of information indexing Terran/Valertrez. medical practices to Atevi physiology. "One acknowledges that you may already be well versed in Atevi biology, nadi, but one thought it best to be sure. Although our races appear more similar than, say, the Hani, our physiology is very different, nadi Donen." ”Oh yes…very different,” said Donen distractedly, remembering his unfortunate excursion into the realm of trying to eat Atevi food on Stargazer Station, as he skimmed through the index of the disk and highlighting several chapters for later study. Although intent on the computer terminal in front of him, Donen was vaguely aware that Salfiri had shifted her attention away from him and was talking with the captain. He quickly became engrossed in his reading. It was only when he heard Salfiri mention his name again that he was roused enough to acknowledge that there were two others with him in the medbay. "One is aware, nadi Donen, that nadi Ragnar is injured, and possibly his concentration is affected." She said matter-of-factly. "One is also aware nadi that some are reluctant to seek medical aid when they require it. One can understand this. Should you require any assistance nadi, you have but to ask." ”Huh? Oh yes,” said Donen, finally turning away from the terminal long enough to attempt to engage in conversation again. ”Yes, Ragnar really should report to the medbay, if he isn’t doing anything critical. I need to get him into surgery for his arm, as soon as he will let me. Uh, is there anyone else that seems to need medical attention? If you do, it will take me a bit of time to read up on everything maybe a day or two at least, but I could be ready sooner if you know what you need. We really should sit down and talk sometime also. I think it will help me to understand the material on the disk you gave me, if I can talk with you about it some.” Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 22.11.2002 at01:59: “Looks like everything‟s green…” Ragnar said to himself absently. The reactor was holding up quite well to the high strain on it. It was operating at 79%, according to the readouts. Tapping his rit-toed boots against the side of the reactor‟s main console, Ragnar contemplated his next move. He hadn‟t used the gravity modifier in a long time, and though it gave him a headache and made him cranky when he used it, he was quite impressed with the way he‟d improved while using it. But working out was really out of the question at for the next few days, taking into consideration all the other things he had to do, and beside that his injured arm. Knowing he couldn‟t do that, his mind returned to the machine shop. Though he didn‟t exactly feel up to strenuous physical labor at the moment, he still felt the nagging need to do something productive. Impulsively, Ragnar shot his arms down to the console and worked to bring up a map of the ship again. A few seconds passed. “Laundry facilities,” Ragnar read as he located them. Not but a couple steps from my own quarters…I‟ll have to take care of that then. His work done in the engine room for the time being, Ragnar headed back to his quarters to proceed in washing all his new garments. As a matter of fact, this shirt is old and stinky. I gotta change after I shower. Having completed the mundane task of loading not missile batteries but clothes washers, and setting aside a plain gray t-shirt and a pair of socks for his own use later, he felt he should shower. Now topless, Ragnar had a towel draped over his left shoulder as his sweat-wrinkled bare feet padded along the hard grated floor. Leaning against the door of the shower, the water beside him humming in its pipe, he slowly and gingerly unraveled the dripping bandage. It hadn‟t come off easily before, so he‟d soaked in the shower water. Now it came off easily enough, after the adhesive tape had been dealt with. Finally reaching skin, he felt the gauze underneath sticking slightly as he wrenched the rest of it off. He‟d seen his share of his own wounds, and had plenty of experience in removing his own casts, splints and bandages, so he barely gave it a thought as he ripped off the already worn out bandage. Discarding this over the door, he gently massaged the area around the inflamed skin and the burn itself. He‟d been waiting for quite some time to give his forearm some time to breathe. The thing itched to an extreme, though Ragnar had self control enough to keep the impulse at bay. While stepping into the same pants he‟d gotten out of, Ragnar nearly lost his balance. He yawned loudly, then proceeded down the corridor the short way back to his quarters. There, he distractedly donned one of the more simple shirts, a plain black tee that extended halfway down his thin but protruded bicep. Yawning again, he slipped on some fresh socks and the same old drab brown boots he‟d had on before. He thought little. The shower had relaxed him considerably, and his arm was feeling a bit better. Ragnar debated sleeping. The urge to complete mass amounts of work had diminished considerably, and he did feel like a rest. But his instinct told him better. He‟d always been the non-procrastinating type. He‟d always figured that he should do it now, while he had a definite chance of getting it done. Even if it could be done later. “Mr. Argoth?” came Donen‟s voice from his left ear. He almost looked around, but he knew from the tinny sound that it was his earpiece. Hey, we were just talking about you! Weren‟t we! the voice inside him said cheerfully. “Ragnar works just fine. Now what‟s up?” “If you‟re not doing anything terribly important at the moment, would you mind coming down to the medbay so I can finish surgery on your arm? The sooner, the better…” “Certainly.” Ragnar said quickly, though heartily enough. “I‟ll be down in a nano.” With that, he stood up and started toward the door of his cabin. There‟s a decision maker… Posted by Galen Winters on 27.11.2002 at21:22: No, I'm not dead Galen was glad for the local anesthetic, for it let him watch Donen work on his leg with rapt, if a bit morbid, curiosity. Even as a child he had been fascinated with how things worked, and the human body was certainly no exception. Once he had disassembled the entire secondary weapons console on the Diamond of Rahel, just to see what made the pretty lights blink. Reflecting on that indiscretion still made his backside itch, even if it did bring a smile to his face. Galen had almost tried to get into medical school, from his curiosity mainly, but also from a redemption standpoint. He had been unable to save those he cared about when they needed him, regardless of how helpless their situation had been. That in the intervening years no solutions had been found to his mother's illness, nor the rather unusual means of his father's death. Tetsuo Masahiko's death, he might have staved off had he the knowledge at the time, but even Galen knew deep down that this was not so. Having several major organs perforated simultaneously did not bode well for chances of recovery. And Elena . . . well, that wasn't exactly a curable malady either. The only thing that had stopped him from applying was his utter lack of warmth towards his fellow man, for he had lost the ability to truly care long ago. His bedside manner would have been terrible. Not like it stopped Donen Galen reflected sarcastically. He is trying to do his job though, which is commendable. And he's definitely got the skills this ship will need. Let's just hope I do too. he thought idly. The soft light and lack of witty banter with the valertrez medic had allowed him time to think, another of Galen's favorite activities, which he rarely got to do these days. His life had become filled with this ship, this crew. Captain Winters listened to Salfiri's report with due attention, being outwardly polite to the ateva, as well as having genuine interest in the subject. "Very well, nadi. Carry on," he said in as professional a manner he could, given he was lying in bed in a t-shirt and boxer shorts. Damn it, I can't let them down,, nor allow them to fail if I can do anything about it. he thought quietly in an almost universally known Captain's lament. Now to do something about that second part. he thought, remembering an idea he had set on the back burner for the past few weeks. Pulling his PDA from the rumpled pile of his flight suit, the grey- eyed valertrez began sketching out the details of the indoor firing range he had thought of. If any member of the crew didn't know how to adequately handle a firearm, they would by the time they reached Anuurn. Even Nadia, whom Galen thought of as part of his crew, even temporary as it may be. Galen's design called for reactive targets, for use in conjunction with the droid he had purchased before leaving Stargazer Station. Each would also have indicator lights for shoot/no-shoot drills, be able to have variable sensitivity to hits, and be able to turn for short-duration exposure. This was something he didn't have experience with, but knew instinctively would work. If he had reflected upon this, Galen would surely have thought it strange. Unfortunately, he had no spare time for such miniscule details, as muddled as his memories were at the moment and as busy as he was just running the Heart of Gold. Ritelanium plate for the impact surface, plus enough weight in the base to keep it stable. Magnetic perhaps? Two servo motors, one for turning, the other for remote fall and reset. Place the sensor in the middle of the target, variable sensitivity controlled by the computer. Separate microtransmitter for each for coordination through the control module. Second hit sensor for head shots? LED lights on the border so we don't lose them easily. I'll have to get Rewedyk to help me with the control program. And talk to Salfiri when I get a spare moment, she'll likely have some input. Galen mused as his fingers moved the stylus over the screen of the device, listing the specifications for the target modules and the components required to make them. He also had a rough sketch of how they would be put together drawn up just for Rags. Rags? Galen thought inquisitively, wondering how he'd picked up Goldie's nickname for the older mechanic. Well, no matter. Now if I can just track the gent down, and . . . speak of the devil. Galen mused as Ragnar obediently showed up to be treated by Donen, the burn on his arm still not properly tended. I'll just wait till Donen is done. Don't want a mechanic with a useless arm, and I need to refine some of this anyway he thought quietly, before going back to scribbling furiously on the small touchscreen. Posted by Salfiri on 02.12.2002 at03:06: Me either, just started a new job. Salfiri nodded once to acknowledge the Captain's words, even if he was in turn only acknowledging what she had told him. But it did not mean they were out of danger. They had ruled out the Atevi Assassin's Guild, but other species had similar organisations. The Guild was simply the most well known, for the simple fact that it was entirely legal, and thus did not have to operate in the shadows. In Atevi society, assassination was a perfectly acceptable method of keeping the peace. Of course, around her it was business as usual in the med bay. “If you‟re not doing anything terribly important at the moment, would you mind coming down to the medbay so I can finish surgery on your arm? The sooner, the better…” She heard Donen say. “Certainly.” Came the quick response. “I‟ll be down in a nano.” Giving the Captain his dignity, Salfiri returned her attention to Donen, who was avidly skimming the disk she'd given him, enthusing about the information. She simply stood, watching him, until he posed his question. "One is quite well, nadi Donen." She said evenly. "And to the best of my knowledge, nadi, nand' Captain Winters and nadi Ragnar are the only personnel on board that require medical treatment." And the Captain had already recieved it. "One would be pleased, nadi to speak with you when one's immediate duties are complete. One has never worked with a fully human crew before," she admitted, "and it would be in my best interest to discuss the contents of the disk." "However, nadi Donen, one believes that nadi Ragnar's arrival is imminent, and one will not distract you from your work. There is work that needs to be done on the ship's systems. If you will excuse me, nadiin." She finished, using the plural. She bowed first to the Captain, then to Donen as rank dictated, then turned and left as quietly as she had entered, despite having to duck under the edge of the hatch. She turned then and headed for the bridge, which being the command centre of the ship was the best place to reconfigure it's protocols from. Posted by Galen Winters on 14.12.2002 at03:14: It lives... Galen watched Salfiri depart with a deep appreciation for her dedication and etiquette. Now all I have to do is find out if she's any good under pressure he thought silently as Donen began the rather messy work on Ragnar's arm. Blood and muscle were one thing, but necrotic tissue and the debriding thereof was quite another, and Galen excused himself from sickbay as soon as he got dressed again. The repaired leg supported his weight well enough, even if he still felt numb there, the muscles responding well to his commands. They didn't have to go far, as his destination was the machine shop across the corridor. Argoth seemed to have really settled in here, the heavy bench tools set in a precise arrangement about the room. The tall valertrez pulled up a stool and set his digital notepad on the workbench, sketching out further the complex firing range that he and Ragnar were to build in the forward cargo bay. Galen worked for another few hours without intteruption, as Rags was probably resting in sickbay as he had after his operation. Running into a programmer's block with a portion of control code, Galen got up from his perch on the work stool, stretching his lengthy frame for several seconds. That done, Galen decided to work out his frustration in metal, picking up the welding apron, goggles and gloves, dragging a blank sheet of ritelanium over to the bench. The sheet was fifteen millimeters thick, lighter than steel, but twice as strong. He set it upon the raised surface with a hollow clang, the smaller work surfacefalling just inside his intended silhouette. The metal yielded begrudgingly to the plasma cutter as Galen wielded it, the rough outline of a man-shape taking form slowly. With a great commotion and ringing tone, the outer horseshoe-shaped piece of scrap fell to the deck, leaving a fairly well cut target on the bench. Galen shut the cutter down, and removed his goggles, turning his head this way and that to examine his handiwork. Satisfied for the moment, he put the cutter away and retrieved an angle grinder from a large tool cabinet, setting up the sound dampeners at the door before dropping similar apparatus over his ears. These, like the larger ones at the doorway, projected white noise computed to precise anti-harmonic with the noise of the grinder, effectively nullifying the considerable racket it generated. The tool vibrated in his hands as it removed the sharp and slag-caked edge of the target face, leaving gleaming brushed metal and a shower of sparks in its wake. Again the grey-eyed human took a moment to appraise his work, before dragging the silhouette to the drill press, quickly putting three pairs of holes in the base for the mounting brackets, located as precisely as he could make them. The dark silver shavings fell from the bore holes like ritelanium snowflakes, Galen intent upon his work. He was trying to get it precise enough to match the plans he had already drawn out, and enable Ragnar to continue where he started, once he had an example to work from. At last satisfied with his work for the time being, Galen propped the prototype where it would be impossible to miss from the doorway, and pulled a permanent marker from his pocket. Marking carefully the distance between centers for the mounting holes, Galen stood up from his crouch and scribbled a large 'x 35' in the center of the target, indicating the quantity he desired. This was going to be quite a project, apparently. Galen returned to his seat, attempting to beat the integration routines from his newfound knowledge of computer programming. He had long since decided to put that little quandary on the back burner, instead focusing intently on the rapidly degenerating situation at their destination, and preparing for it. I hate to admit it, but I think I'm going to have to see Kendra. If it's half as bad as they say on SC9, we're going to be walking into a nasty situation, to be sure. he mused darkly. He likewise put these thoughts out of his mind, trying to figure out exactly how to get the training droids to work properly with the target management program. After several minutes of peering at the lines of code, Galen dropped the pad to the table in disgust, the work already saved in its memory the only reason he didn't throw at the nearest bulkhead. Fuck it. We've got a week at least until we get to the Alkes field anyway. I can get Videlius to help with the coding, once he's done with that dropship we acquired. And speaking of acquisitions, I wonder how pissed Nadia is. he mused thoughtfully. The woman was certainly resilient, if a little temperamental, and Galen found himself liking her, despite her . . . irregularities. Posted by Salfiri on 14.12.2002 at13:18: It moved! Kill it kill it kill it! Salfiri pulled the large black cushion from the locker she'd stashed it in, dropped it infront of the primary console on the bridge and lowered herself gracefully onto it, thereby putting herself at just the right height to use the controls which were obviously not intended for being just shy of nine feet tall. She shook her head gently to make her braid swing back to it's accustomed place, and then began on the task of hunting down and removing all the Heart of Gold's access codes and then substituting new ones where they were still needed. This meant that there was now only one code to gain access to the ship, one code for basic computer access, one code for upper level acces, etc. And of course an override code for the Captain. These she then sorted into categories, and sent each crewmember a brief electronic message detailing the codes that they would need and the instructions to memorise them and not write them down. She also programmed the messages to delete themselves five minutes after being opened. In truth, that was the easy part. The far greater challenge was installing protection protocols into the computer system, above and beyond the standard stuff every ship's systems comes with. Protocols that would ward off casual hackers, stump more determined ones and even give Engreia a run for it's money. This was where she excelled, computer language was all based on numbers, and Atevi had a talent for numbers that was unbelievable, accurate, and genetic. "Hey, that's not bad." Goldie commented, appearing in the holotank in her indecent flight suit. "Where'd you learn that stuff, hun?" She asked. --------- It should be noted that numbers theory is central to Atevi culture. Their religion is based on felicitous and infelicitous numbers and their unfluences. Their language has not just the undefined plural, but also specific plurals for things occuring in multiples of two, three and ten. Different word forms were used depending on the numbers of a situation, and Atevi were constantly doing complex mathematics in their heads to avoid using infelicious numbers as they spoke, taking into account the topic, the location, and who and how many they were talking to. This has led to two major phenomena in Atevi science. The first is that, of their own accord, Atevi advance very slowly, as every idea and invention must be tested and examined for infelicities before it is allowed to proceed. The second is that, once an idea or invention has taken hold - or in the case of modern inter-species interactions, been introduced - it mutates ten times before the sun goes down that day. Atevi computers had been quite primitive when they first encountered humans, but now they were leading the field in programming and designing. With one important exception. Because they count their numbers carefully, everything has to add up (which also makes them wicked accountents). Everything must be accounted for and balance, and thus the idea that something artificial can be more than the sum of it's parts was completely alien to them. The concept of an artificial intelligence, a program that was more than it's bits, was an anethema tio the Atevi. Every race has it's delinquents, and the Atevi contribution to the world of computer viruses had included ones that specifically sought out and destroyed AIs. Of course, other races had protected their computers against such things, but the belief persisted. Salfiri had at first assumed that the person in the holotank was in fact in another part of the ship, but as Goldie yattered away behind her as she worked, realisation began to dawn. ----------- "Galen! GALEN!" Goldie's voice shrieked out of Captain Winter's headset. "Get that big, dumb bitch off my bridge now!" She demanded. "She's shutting me out of my own systems! Galeeeeennn..." The last was more a wail than a shriek, Goldie was obviously extremely upset, to the extent that she had lost all composure, something she probably wouldn't forgive people for later. Posted by Donen Krell on 20.12.2002 at06:07: OOC: Rags, since you never managed to get your skinny little ass down to my medbay, I'm gonna hafta bunny you here. I have been waiting for you to post for DAYS!! LOL IC: Donen, his nose still buried in his monitor soaking up Atevi physiology, grunted his goodbye to Salfiri without a pause in his reading. He wasn't even aware when Captain Galen recovered from his neural block and wandered off. Donen was like that when interested in a topic: he would just soak up information like a sponge. Of course, it was hell to try and get him to focus on anything else when he was in such a mood. Gradually, like someone awaking from a dream, Donen picked up a telepathic sense of someone in a bit of pain coming down into his medbay. Focusing the sensation, he could discern that it was the exhausted Ragnar Argoth coming down at last for the repair of his arm. Reluctantly marking his place in the Atevi med disc, Donen arose from his work station and began prepping for his second surgery of the day. Without turning around from the surgery table, Donen greeted the ship's mechanic as he came through the medbay doors. "Mister Argoth, 'welcome to my parlor' said the spider to the fly," said Donen chuckling at his own private joke. "I will need you to strip down to your shorts and jump up on this table. Come on, don't be shy." As the ship's mechanic stripped down, Donen explained what he was planning to do. "Well, I have good news and bad news," said Donen, in the time honored tradition used by all practitioners of the healing arts and sciences. "Our Captain didn't authorize expenditures for a micro regen unit, so the best option for your arm is out. And I also didn't get funding for a cybernetics kit either, and they wouldn't sell me any synth skin separately, so that option is out too. But, you will be happy to hear that the old tried and true method of skin grafts is something I can do, and you should get better results from that than the synth skin anyway, and maybe as good as the regen unit, but of course the results take longer and there may be some scarring. I do have some new drugs for you that will minimize that for you though. So the balance is in the plus column, don't you agree?" Seeing that Ragnar had finished undressing and had seated himself on the table, Donen removed the bandage from the mechanic's arm. The wound looked raw and angry, but didn't seem infected. There was a significant amount of necrotic tissue that had started to slough off and needed debriding before a skin graft would take. "It doesn't look too bad...just need to clean things up a bit. Just lie down for me, please. I just need to give you this injection," and with that Donen placed a small device against Ragnar's jugular vein that hissed sharply, forcing a small amount of a powerful paralytic agent into his blood stream with an icy cold aerosol jet. "That should keep you still while I perform the necessary surgery. You should not feel a thing, though you will be conscious throughout the operation...I know you macho types don't like general anesthesia...but unfortunately, well for you perhaps, you won't be able to speak until the operation is over either," said Donen, grinning mischeviously. "Oh yes! one other thing I forgot to mention...I will need to take a few layers of skin off the back of your thigh for your graft, so you will have a little discomfort on sitting for awhile as you heal, but that's a small price to pay for getting your arm healed at last, eh? I knew you'd understand." With a wink at the mechanic, Donen set to work debriding the man's arm and preparing it for the graft. Donen was meticulous and careful, as usual, in his work and was soon ready to begin stripping skin from the man's thigh for the graft. The process was a bit time consuming since Donen had to do all the work without the benefit of an assistant...Man, it would be good if Ms. DeVries were around to make herself useful. It sure would cut down on the time needed for stuff like this. The grafting process itself was even more time consuming: skin grafts took really tiny stitches if you wanted to minimize scarring. The graft completed and both wounds dressed, Donen injected the anti-paralytic into Ragnar's neck, along with a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-inflamatory agents and analgesics. "All done, Mister Argoth," said Donen brightly. "You are good to go. Drop by and see me if you need anything for pain or need your dressings changed. You should be back to normal in no time now. The stitches will just dissolve on their own, so we won't even need to pull them out. And I'll watch the scarring and give you the other treatments if it seems necessary, but I think you'll like my work." Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 21.12.2002 at10:15: (…You were waiting for me to post? *scratches head*) After hearing Donen‟s joke and was given the gist of the situation, he promptly followed the doctor‟s instructions to remove his clothes. He was in a sort of zombie-like state, lost in thought. Ragnar would have just as thoughtlessly shot someone‟s head off if asked to at that moment. That odd tense feeling he felt just below his stomach had come around once again. He knew the feeling; he usually felt it right before he was about to be worked on. Though it had been dozens of times, and he was nowhere near as flat-out jittery as the first time he‟d done it, the feeling never had never really gone away. He clenched his teeth tightly to keep from being able to tell whether or not they were trembling, and looked past it to a few hours from now, when he‟d be doing something else entirely. Besides, skin grafts can‟t be that tough, can they? Forget about trying to recall if he‟d ever had one, Ragnar knew it would be difficult to impossible to remember all of his trips to the hospital over the years. Instead, he passively nodded his head when he heard Donen finish in a questioning tone. Then he was jolted back to consciousness when the injection came. Painless, for the most part, but it was enough to break his trance. He didn‟t feel any different afterward, so he kept on listening to Donen. Then he prepared to speak. “Macho? I prefer general anesthesia anyway..” Of course, it came out as just a minute twitch of his jaw and throat, then nothing. Damn. Paralyzed. After a few minutes (or hours, it made no difference to Ragnar in his current state) of blank staring and groggily clouded thoughts, he felt his control return to him steadily. He eventually sat up slowly. Though he still couldn‟t hear much, he discerned what Donen was saying easily enough and nodded. “Yeah, I‟ll keep that in mind…” After readjusting his jaw and tongue a bit, he tried to continue. “Thanks, makes things a lot easier when I don‟t have to worry about that.” He rubbed his right thigh absently. “Think I‟m gonna go get some sleep soon, so I‟ll see you around.” On the second attempt, he stood up fully without the table. He stretched loudly, then trudged out of the medbay with one final nod. No harm in trying my hand at progressing with the maintenance bay before I take a quick inspection of the ship then head off to bed for a few hours. His rather sharp memory brought to his attention the metal plate leaning against one empty wall as soon as the doors opened. He recognized it for what it was, and looked at the request for 35 of them. The hell‟s he making, a shooting gallery? With a slightly furrowed brow, he looked over the thing quickly and decided what the quickest way to produce 34 copies of it would be. He looked toward the photoetching machine laying on the floor. He hadn‟t bolted it down yet, but it was in position. With that, he could outline the target and then simply cut along the lines. Well, might as well start now… Posted by Galen Winters on 26.12.2002 at02:54: Galen's weary gaze didn't flicker from the data display at Ragnar's entry to the maintenance bay, so intent was he on getting the balance right on the target mounts. However, around a telepath like Galen, unseen did not necessarily mean unnoticed. Breathing a wordless exultation at the completion of his drafting work, Galen turned about to face his ship's mechanic. "That's exactly what we're making, Mister Argoth. A well- trained crew is a happy crew, don't you think? Besides, I don't want to get caught in a firefight with crewmates who don't know the business end of a gun from their own ass. Self-preservation is a very useful instinct, don't you think?" he asked coyly, trying to sell Ragnar on the merits of such a complex and extensive firing range system. "All those target plates will be reactive, fall down when hit properly, making for realistic training and a much more realistic and entertaining experience. You can't tell me you like burning holes in paper for practice, can you? Now, once you get the targets cut, I've left the diagram in your system files as to where to attach the other pieces. Two impact sensors, one at center mass, the other in the head. They register electrical flux, sensitivity adjustable to widen or narrow the detection area. LEDs around the perimeter, red/green switchable for friend or foe identification. Cheap enough as it is, and after a week or two, they shouldn't be taking hits anyway. Now the base units are single servo units, with a shaft that bolts to the base of the target. They rotate ninety degrees to edge the targets or present them. Exposure set forth by the control computer. I still have to get the more advanced subroutines worked out, hopefully with Rewedyk's help. These base units can be set up nearly anywhere in the forward cargo bay, or any large space for that matter, to provide an easily erected firing range within an hour or two. I'll be back down to help you with the electrical work on those, once I take care of a few things on the bridge. Do you think you can handle GAHHH!" Galen shouted, cupping his right hand over the small comm/UT set affixed to his ear. The lids over Galen's grey eyes were squinted shut in a grimace of pain, before he plucked the electronic nuisance from his ear. He straightened a bit, opening his eyes again, wearing an all-too-familiar look of exasperation upon his face. "Rags, if you could take care of the target plates for now, I'll be back in a bit," he said, bolting for the hatch. The jaunt to the next deck up was much quicker with his newly-repaired leg, and soon the door to the bridge was sliding open in front of him. Taking in the rather placid expression upon Salfiri's face, and the near panic shown by his ship's AI in her holotank, Galen was neither happy, nor cognizant enough of the situation to be angry. "What in God's name is going on up here?" he demanded testily, lack of knowledge an almost inexcusable situation for a ship's captain such as himself. Posted by Salfiri on 26.12.2002 at11:05: [COLOR=sandy brown]"What in God's name is going on up here?" [/COLOR] "Nand' Captain?" Salfiri turned to look over her shoulder at Galen, expression calm and golden eyes unreadable, though they shifted slightly to follow Galen's gaze as it flicked from her to the holotank and an irate Goldie and back again. Seeing that the Captain obviously wanted an explanation and now, and yet not quite sure what was wrong, Salfiri explained her progress thus far in a calm and collected manner. "One is carrying out the Captain's orders." She said simply. In Atevi culture, it was quite normal to refer to the person you were talking to by their title in the third person, indeed was considered a gesture of respect. "As you requested, nand' Captain, one had removed the old access and opperating codes and replaced them, issueing each crewmember with the codes they require. One has now begun the task of securing and safeguarding the ship's computer." She continued with that almost maddening calm, her low, mellow tones seeming to be the voice of pure reason, save for the figure all but foaming at the mouth in the nearby holotank. "One has had much success installing security protocols, however, nand' Captain, one discovered a major security risk that one was, quite frankly, surprised to see in such a fine ship. This unusual glitch allowed access to all file areas seemingly at random, and indeed initiated program sequences without the command being issued from a computer terminal. One determined that this was an unacceptable security risk, and I am now in the process of isolating this embodyment of baji- naji from the ship's systems." Her lips pursed in a faint moue of displeasure as her Babelfish UT beeped, telling her that it couldn't translate that phrase, which meant literally 'chance-fortune'. "That is, nand' Captain, the demon in the design." She failed to find any recognition on his expressive features, so she gestured with one long dark hand at the holotank where the 'glitch' was still screaming and carrying on, albeit silently since Salfiri had cut her access to the comm system. "The ghost in the machine." Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 27.12.2002 at11:48: Ragnar jumped. He most sincerely hadn‟t noticed Galen sitting at the terminal a few meters down the aisle, albeit half-hidden by miscellaneous items. The target hit the floor with a clatter, but he deftly replaced his hand on the top of it before it settled. Though he‟d known who the voice belonged to, and where it was still coming from, he nevertheless felt the need to see his company. After standing straight again and seeing his captain, he replaced the ritelanium sheet and started for the photoetching machine. He nodded at Galen and looked at him, saying, “Well, it‟d be nice if a couple of us didn‟t have to run around protecting the rest..” Listening to Galen continue, he sniffed his nose and started tinkering with the machine. He knew he could use it to print the outline of the target on 35 other sheets of ritelanium, which would make the whole process much easier. As Galen continued with his plans, he turned and looked at Galen while he listened. As he was preparing a few questions of his own, such as whether or not they actually had the knowledge (and materials) onboard to construct the mechanized training room. He snapped back to reality with a jolt as he saw Galen himself shake and yell. After Galen left the room, Ragnar, with a slightly puzzled expression on his face, said, “Certainly…” And what the hell is with that name Rags? Whatever, might as well get used to it, seems everyone‟s using it. How fuckin‟ trendy. He returned to the machine. After hooking it up, he‟d need to check out those specs Galen gave him. He‟d feed the info into the machine, then start the metal rolling… You must be getting tired. You didn‟t notice that big guy in the same room as you? Tsk- tsk, you shouldn‟t let yourself get so tired. Or have you…let your guard down? Ragnar wondered just who was asking these damned questions. He wondered if he could make it stop. Let my guard down…I haven‟t done that in over ten years. Fuck you. Go away. I don‟t need any of it. Any of it. He stubbed his thumb hard on a break in the surface of the machine. A burst of numbing pain shot up his forearm as he withdrew it from its position. He muttered a curse, holding his thumb with his other hand. Maybe I do need some sleep, after I have a talk with my good man Winters. Posted by Galen Winters on 28.12.2002 at05:18: Twice in two days? Alert the media! Galen barely understood the specifics what the ebon-skinned woman was talking about, but did get the gist of the problem at least. Goldie was rightly furious and defensive, considering the ateva was trying to erase her, or at the very least render her impotent within the Heart of Gold. "Goldie, could you give us a moment? I promise I'll get this settled, and get you back online in a few minutes, okay?" "But she said you told her to do this, Galen. She's trying to lock me out of everything!" the holographic image pleaded desperately with the valertrez. "This is all a big misunderstanding, Goldie. Just give me a few minutes alone with Salfiri here to straighten things out, okay?" The ephemeral woman in the 'tank stood silent a few moments, chest trembling, eyes rimmed with fearful tears. It was a mark of her true desperation that Galen's comment about 'a few minutes alone' didn't draw any kind of innuendo-laced comeback from the Artificial Intelligence. Her eyes, however told that she was still unsettled, drawing a sigh from her Captain. "Listen, Goldie. Remember when I promised I'd get you that paint job? I did it as soon as we got back. I keep my promises, you know that. I promise I'll get this settled right away, all right?" Galen asked, exasperated. "Promise?" she asked plaintively, the corners of her mouth perking up in a hopeful semblance of a smile. "Promise," Galen responded warmly, sensing a temporary victory in the making. "Okie dokie, sweetie!" she bubbled, before winking out of sight. Galen sighed heavily, before slumping into a seat at the navigation console. He cradled his face in both hands, a muffled groan emanating from under his palms. He was kicking himself mentally for not having told Salfiri about Goldie, but she was so much like another member of the crew, that he barely thought of her as an A.I. any more. The beleaguered spacer's hands clapped lightly onto his kneecaps, grey eyes opening once again to behold the still-puzzled ateva security officer. "Salfiri, that," he said, pointing to the holotank in the center of the bridge, "is Goldie, ship's artificial intelligence. Please don't take her out of the loop, she's the only reason we operate this smoothly. If she wasn't around watching over everything, we'd need a 'round the clock bridge watch, sensor watch, a crewman on the comm unit, plus someone in the reactor spaces. This ship is designed to run with eighteen crewmen, yet we only have six. Well, seven, just one os them isn't a carbon-based life form. Goldie does the work of our missing twelve shipmates, and sometimes more than that. Plus she's saved my life more than once. If you feel the need for added security, do it from an external point of view. Goldie is quite well-protected from direct outside tampering. Besides, if you haven't already noticed, she's temperamental to the extreme. Keep her happy, and things run smooth and hassle-free. Tick her off, and . . . well, get used to cold showers for a while," he said cryptically, remembering the first, and last, time he had hurt Goldie's feelings. "Besides, she was programmed by my grandfather, who taught advanced computer studies for over fifty years. Anything short of a hardwire cutout, she'd get around eventually. And she'd be triply pissed at all of us when she did." Galen added, knowing how bad Goldie's mood could get. "Now bring her back online, nadi. And let her do her job, for all our sakes?" he added, trying to appeal to Salfiri's even keel of common sense. Posted by Salfiri on 28.12.2002 at07:10: Salfiri was silent while Galen argued with Goldie, expression impassive as the figure in the tank finally gave in to his request, grudgingly, and dissapeared. That same neutral expression was turned on Galen when he flopped down into the chair at the navigation console and displayed a surprising lack of emotional control. Humans... so strange... But though she may not have understood his reaction to the situation, she did understand what he was saying. "One is aware, nand' Captain, that the piece of programming in question is temperamental in the extreme, one had to deactivate the weapons banks during our exit from Stargazer Station to prevent an agressive incident." The fact that Goldie had been about to take out a portion of the station would not have gone down well with the people who lived there. "One judges that being our able to loose control of the ship in such a manner is a severe risk to the safety of the ship and her crew, nand' Captain." Not to mention any other unlucky bastards who happened to be in the vicinity. Still, she could see the sense in what Captain Winters was saying. She'd experienced Goldie's efficiency herself, when the AI piloted them out of Stargazer. And if the ship was indeed run in the manner that he described, then it would appear that this interesting piece of programming was invaluable, and compulsary. Unfortunate, she was a terrible risk, but it would appear, a necessary evil. "Now bring her back online, nadi. And let her do her job, for all our sakes?" he added, trying to appeal to Salfiri's even keel of common sense. "As the Captain commands." Said Salfiri, but the hard lines her face was set into and the flat tone of her voice said that she wasn't pleased. However, if Galen knew anything about Atevi he'd know that that was all the insubbourdination he'd see from her on the matter, and that she would follow his orders to the best of her ability. Even though her man'chi was to Lord Remo, not Galen Winters, the habits of a life-time die hard, and in a species where loyalty is both biological and instinctive, one does not question one's orders. She turned her back on him, not waiting to see if he stayed or left, and began undoing the work she'd done, re-connecting Goldie to the ship's systems, exactly as she'd been before. Before long the sound of Goldie giving Salfiri the ear-bashing of a lifetime could be heard from the bridge. ---------- That was one advantage of not having a crew headset yet, when Salfiri walked out of the bridge, if Goldie wanted to continue her harangue, she'd have to do so on the PA system. Thankfully the AI thought better of it, or perhaps she was simply tired after a half-hour rant. Either way Salfiri was glad when the bridge door hissed shut behind her. In the mess hall she filled a compact pot with hot water and tipped in two spoons of dried herbs from a box she'd brought from her room, then opened a locker and eyed the contents, tins from one of the crates in the hold. She lifted one down and read the label, then popped the lid. It was apparently some sort of stew, containing vegetables and processed meat. Salfiri couldn't help but wrinkle her nose. It was disgusting in the worst possible way, but she'd learned early on that aboard anything but an Atevi-owned vessel, and wealthy one at that, she'd have to eat it. Shai-san was a beautiful planet, and one of the things that humans - when they finally got to see it - had commented on was the large number of wilderness sanctuaries. They applauded the Atevi for their conservation of their environment. Then the Atevi had pointed out that those were hunting preserves. Before the advent of the space industry, there had only been one province on the whole planet that processed meat, and even now it was used largely by space-farers and foreigners. A true Atevi ate only game meat, and every one of them hunted. Traditionally there was a calendar which dictated which game was hunted (and therefor eaten) in which months, to prevent over exploitation, with only a few things allowed all year round. But Salfiri had grown heartily sick of egg salad and fish sandwiches, and had started trying to aquire a taste for the processed foods other races ate. Thus far she wasn't having much success. So she poured the contents of the tin into a bowl, heated it and kicked her cushion over to the table where she could sit down. She poured herself a cup of the tea, which had finished steeping, and as the spicy aroma became apparent, she smiled faintly and sipped it slowly, savouring it. She didn't have much with her, she'd have to stock up next time they were in port. Posted by The Serpent on 02.01.2003 at16:50: The trip to the bay was quite weary, as it took more than one stop and reroute to finally find the damn place in the over-achievingly large ship. Why it needed 4 decks was beyond him. Rewedyk finally found the right –well, at least he hoped he did- door and almost punched a hole through the lock mechanism, trying to make the blooming thing open. The Heart of Gold‟s mechanic should certainly take a stroll about the ship and check all the little details that made the ship-life go around. On the moment at hand, Videlius was much too busy with thoughts concerning the dropship to take note of the faulty station, though, and report it to someone who could do something about it. Which would probably include him also, electronics were his thing, weren‟t they? When the doors slid to an opening before his lanky self and the dull individual had stepped in, his eyebrow raised a bit. To his great amazement, the ship was still in one piece. Well, this is a first. he mused sardonically, reflecting on the hole that had found itself into his dear Captain‟s leg. He would have hoped to see at least a few missing pieces and shattered details, considering that it was piloted by Galen Winters‟ himself, a man who Rewedyk was yet to see come through anything with all health intact. It usually doubled for the equipment he used. With a flabbergasted sigh, the male covered the gap between him and the miniature ship and after fumbling a bit with the security codes at the „front door‟ he finally got into the darkened ship. In a moment of the opening of the door, the lights switched on and the sight that greeted him was not all that bad. It looked pretty clean, all items placed professionally and in an easy to reach way, making working in the miniature thing probably as pleasant as it could be. Rewedyk carried on towards the cockpit in ominous silence, the only voice disrupting his solemn stroll being the screaming volume of his scrambled thoughts. There was much to filter through. He slumped down behind the main piloting station, where everything was in good reach and easy to handle. It did not take much of him to issue a general override, after he had gotten into the mainframe computer, before starting to clean up each and every system separately and all but manually. Of course, dealing with the codes was just the easy part. There was the bugs, worms and trackers issue he had to deal with later, which worried him somewhat. Gruesomely boring job, but it did give him a moment or two away from his tiring persona and the mood that came with it. The all-mighty, all-consuming work of a hacker. Posted by Galen Winters on 09.01.2003 at22:59: Galen cringed at the tirade launched by Goldie by way of every speaker on the bridge. It wasn't the language, Galen was used to that from being around asteroid miners for most of his life. The sheer volume however, was enough to nearly rupture his eardrums and give him a splitting headache. He watched the rereating form of his security officer, wondering if he had been a little harsh. Goldie certainly had. Though I doubt that the ateva's sexual orientation has come up in conversation any time in the past decade, he mused with flat humor. The door hissing shut mercifully ended the shouting, a holographic finger pointed menacingly at a closed door. His hands covered his face in resignation, a muffled moan escaping into the recycled air of the bridge. "Goldie, you could have been at least a little more gracious. She's looking out for my well-being, as well as the rest of the crew. She just didn't recognize you for what you are." "Which is?" she shot back testily. Gods save me from having to do this for too long he thought miserably, before commencing to stroke the A.I.'s sizable ego. "You're an integral part of this crew, Goldie. I honestly don't know what we'd do without you." Nice thing that she's not a gods-be telepath, or we'd all be in trouble. "Now could you watch the bridge a while longer, I'm going to go get something to eat." he said tiredly, wanting to talk to Salfiri in the process as well. "Sure thing, hon. I'll let ya know if anything happens up here." Goldie said with a smile, her mood swings as fast as her processor speed. "Good girl." ----- The door to the galley slid open quietly, and Galen stalked heavily through the open hatch. Shoulders slumped, from fatigue both physical and mental, and he desperately needed sleep, rest, food, the whole lot really. But he also needed to talk with the ateva, which was his most important reason for being down here. He retrieved one of the tins from the locker, clicking the door shut against the powerful magnetic latch. He popped the lid off, the aroma of cold beef stew bordering on nauseating. He placed the open container into the large transfer oven, and shut the door, punching keys for thirty seconds. He watched the stuff bubble away silently through the glassteel door, not wanting to interrupt his conversation with the Ateva once it started. The digital display ticked down to zero, and a cheery triple beep was heard, Galen opening the door and removing the hot styrofoam from the sterile white box. He placed it on the counter a moment, and retreived a fork from the package of plastic utensils someone had thoughtfully thrown in the appropriate drawer. He likewise obtained a napkin from the same drawer, and used it to keep from burning his hands as he sat at the table with Salfiri, on the other side and a little ways down from her. He didn't want to crowd her, and figured that if she responded favorably, he could move closer as the situation dictated. "I'll try and get better food the next time we have an extended layover. Not like I'd choose this stuff either. I'm actually a pretty decent cook, when I have the time," he said, trying to make some idle conversation and avoid dropping abruptly into more serious matters. He paused a bit, blowing on his stew to cool it, tendrils of steam curling in the air. "I know why you did what you did, nadi. I'm not angry, if that's what you're wondering. I hope you understand why I did what I did. Though, if you wanted to keep one or two backdoor cutouts on her, I wouldn't be averse to it. I know damn well that she can get out of control at times. Just make it look like a mechanical failure when we do have to use them, okay?" he asked, trying to keep both women happy, and quite probably failing miserably when it came down to it. Posted by Salfiri on 10.01.2003 at02:12: Salfiri had managed to down a fair portion of the lumpy sludge that the can had claimed was beef stew, as was on her second cup of tea when the door hissed open and Captain Winters entered the mess hall, apparently on a similar mission to her own. She largely ignored him while he got his food, but once he sat down at the table she turned her face towards him, and her golden eyes moved in such a way that it would be safe to assume that she was looking at him. The lack of iris or pupil meant that it wasn't always easy to tell. "Nand' Captain." The tall Ateva nodded politely to him from where she sat, amused behind her neutral expression at the distance the Captain had chosen to sit. She had noted that other races usually gave Atevi a wide birth, either because of their strangeness, or because they assumed that since the ebony-skinned aliens were larger, they had a larger personal space. In fact, the opposite was true, due to the fact that the fundamental instinct of man-chi, that which all animals of Shai-san displayed, was the urge to be close to the leader, and surrounded by those of the same man-chi, one's association. Another concept that Atevi had no word for was privacy. Of course, few aliens understood Atevi psychology. "I'll try and get better food the next time we have an extended layover. Not like I'd choose this stuff either. I'm actually a pretty decent cook, when I have the time." Galen said. "One does not mind the flavour, nand' Captain." Salfiri said. "But one is adverse to processed meat unless it cannot be avoided." She said, contemplating her meal. "We Atevi traditionally do not process meat, and even now it is only used on low-budget space ships, and until one left Shai-san, one had never travelled in space." She admitted. "However, nand' Captain, if we are to visit a planet where hunting is allowed, one would be happy to suppliment our supplies." She said evenly. "I know why you did what you did, nadi. I'm not angry, if that's what you're wondering. I hope you understand why I did what I did. Though, if you wanted to keep one or two backdoor cutouts on her, I wouldn't be averse to it. I know damn well that she can get out of control at times. Just make it look like a mechanical failure when we do have to use them, okay?" In what was probably a surprising move given that Salfiri's expression was almost always carefully neutral, a slow, faint smile spread across her face. "One has already done so, nand' Captain." She said quietly. "One believes that Goldie-daja," so at least Goldie had become a person again, "was too irate to notice, and as yet has not discovered them. However, one believes that there will be a persistant and surprisingly unsolvable fault whenever the weapons systems are charged without the propper protocols." She said smoothly in her deep voice. And chances were, that wasn't the only fail-safe. It didn't mean they couldn't be charged in a hurry, just that Goldie couldn't do it without going through the propper procedures, thereby avoiding near-dissasters such as the one at Stargazer. Salfiri's smile faded and her expression returned to it's accustomed neutrality. "One understands, nand' Captain, the usefullness of an artificial intelligence, given our lack of crew, and one witnessed it first hand during our escape from Stargazer Station." She conceeded. "One trusts that you have some understanding of the importance of numbers in Atevi culture, nand' Captain, and given the importance of those numbers adding up and being predictable, you can understand why we do not use artificial intelligences, and thus why I failed to recognise that the Heart of Gold is equipped with one. They are unpredictable, nand' Captain, and many are impulsive. I have met two in the course of my work for Remo-ma and his involvement with alien races." She admitted, and Galen might also note that she had switched from third-person to first-person, indicating a lowering of barriers. She sighed faintly, and for a moment that faint smile reappeared, though now with a wry twist, before vanishing again. "I must admit however, nand' Captain, that those ones appeared as lifeless automatons compared to the nokhada-baji that inhabits your ship." She said. "However, I will attempt not to irritate it further, providing that it does not become a hazard." She promised. She ate a few more mouthfuls of the stew, and washed it down with a mouthful of tea, the pleasant, spicy taste taking away the taint of the food. "One would know what the Captain intends once we have located Dr Lundquist." She said at length. "One is aware of the existance of 'Winters Transport', nand' Captain, and one would know if the Captain will continue to require the services of a Security Officer, once the danger of the current mission is over." The extreme formality of her words, referring to them both in the third person, belied a concern and perhaps even nervousness that were not evident in her calm expression or even tones. Posted by Ragnar Argoth on 11.01.2003 at06:21: *There* he is! Still in the machine shop, Ragnar continued automatically feeding metal plates into the machine as needed. A faint swish-clack came from the other side as the processed plates, these with the silhouette and small crosses for the sensors printed on them, piled into a rack. Wonder what that whole thing was about. He yawned loudly, but his right leg was uncomfortably numb. Not quite a pain, just enough to make him annoyed. And his arm throbbed sedately. And aside from that, my eyes burn and I probably should have been in bed an hour ago. Out of nowhere, he remembered having cursed the loss of his memory several hours ago. Of course, by now the corners of the hole were rounded, somehow blurring any precise recollection. What exactly had he lost? Had it seeped back into his consciousness without him knowing about it? Ragnar, still droning on with his task (but fortunately almost finished), decided it didn‟t matter much. He might stumble upon the hours his mind had misplaced, and suddenly remember that he had once forgotten them. He believed it more likely, however, that he might look back on those hours vaguely and never remember that they had been missing. Either way… What does it matter? I‟m just a skinny, no good, rundown little mechanic on a…Pulsar. A Pulsar. How else can I describe it when I know nothing about it? Of course, Ragnar saw that the vessel had been a custom job from the first time he laid eyes on it as the Yamato. The vessel obviously had little expense spared on it (in most areas, anyway), and some of the innovations money alone couldn‟t have bought. Sure, Ragnar thought as he finished stacking the carved sheets of ritelanium next to the drill press, the ship stands out like a star in the black. But who‟s she got? (Oh, by the way, „she‟ is a maniacal AI that can turn her supernova temper on and off with a switch-almost literally.) Galen, Salfiri, Donen, Rewedyk…and myself. Is that Des Vries a part of our crew now or what? Either way, I don‟t know about the rest of them (Well, maybe…), but… After having stuck the earplugs in their respective holes, Ragnar began drilling 1cm holes where the crosses indicated. He forced his thoughts to turn on something else. What the hell are we doing here, anyway? We sure did leave in a hurry, and Galen was shot when he came in with that new Icarus, which I still have to check out. I remember him saying something about some sort of transport/courier service. Fine with me… Ragnar looked dolefully down at the target he was boring a few holes in. …But he‟s been attacked by pirates before…or something. Why else would he want his crew to be able to shoot? Again switching topics with little transition (something he was used to doing in the detached conversations he had), he continued mindlessly drilling holes in the to-be targets. So what are we doing, anyway? I reckon we‟re out to Alkes, but why? After mulling this over in his mind for several minutes, he decided to drop it. Ragnar figured it wasn‟t really any of his business (he was just the *mechanic*). And besides, the old „what does it matter‟ bit worked quite nicely. Posted by Galen Winters on 20.01.2003 at10:25: Galen pondered Salfiri‟s question with the attention it deserved. Even he had to admit that the future, beyond finding Lundquist anyway, was fuzzy at best, completely incoherent at worst. Recent events with the Hani, well Mahdi now, government presented both opportunity and danger in that sector of space. With the shift in power to the spacefaring clans, one could hardly expect that trade with the rest of known space would decrease. Perhaps a nice fat priority contract, given HoG‟s speed would be just the ticket, the grey- eyed spacer thought, trying to stay away from the more hazardous, and barely more profitable hunter duties that called to many in the void. Though we‟re certainly laid out for it he added mentally, remembering just how capable this ship could be once everything was slotted into its place. Heart of Gold was sleek, fast, and stealthy, but at the moment was also completely toothless. The Artemis and Ravager racks were perfectly functional, if empty of ammunition, but the only things on board that even resembled high-powered weapons were the various sidearms carried by the crew, his own and Ragnar‟s especially. An errant wisp of memory rose from the murky depths of his mind for a moment, demanding attention. He couldn‟t even be sure that it was his own, given the precarious nature of his grip on sanity these days, but he decided to give it due consideration as well. Without yet answering Salfiri‟s question, he slid down the bench to the end of the table, where a small touch screen display was linked to the ship‟s computer network. He quickly called up their current course, which was a fairly straight line until they reached the Alkes field, when hard vacuum gave way to dust clouds, rocks and other navigation hazards; ones capable of thought and with an itchy trigger finger. Seeing the corridor Rewedyk had chosen, Galen smiled widely, remembering a certain small stopover point there, and a certain person who collected things. The whole operation was (barely) covered as a legal salvage operation, but Galen and anyone with half a brain knew that Kendra was at the very least affiliated with, if not a member of, one of the pirate houses. One didn‟t get their hands on that much stuff alone, or with such speed after the various ships had their „accidents‟. Certainly a risk, but no more so than flying around unarmed these days he thought quietly, before conducting a search for recent reports of missing ships in the area. The most recent entry made Galen‟s jaw drop, not for what Kendra would likely have for sale, but the sheer audacity of hitting something that big. Looks like somebody‟s getting very ambitious these days he mused, not knowing whether to be impressed or afraid. “Well, nadi, in answer to your question, I would wager to say that we‟re going to need a capable security officer for quite some time to come, especially at our next stop. Though once we‟re done there, we‟ll be much more able to take care of ourselves in a fight. Being a high-speed priority courier isn‟t exactly a walk in the park. The higher the priority placed on a package‟s safe delivery, the greater the probability that someone else will try to stop you.” Galen said, trying to sound more knowledgeable than he actually was. His first (and to date, only) run had involved a cat that had been born somewhere in the seventh circle of Hell, and nothing of apparent import. “You are quite good, Salfiri, and it would be an honor to have you on board Heart of Gold for as long as you would stay.” he said, extending his hand as warmly as he could. He appreciated the steady competence of the Ateva woman, and would be loath to part with it if he could help it at all. +++++ Galen headed up to the bridge quickly, altering course a hair, to get them into the approach lane to the Hole, as the locals (and residents) called it. A small supply station for various and sundry mining operations in the Field, the Hole used to be called IMC-7, before a recession had forced Interstellar Mining Corporation to abandon administration of the small base in a particularly vicious round of budget cuts. It had fallen into disrepair, and was inhabited by all sorts of unsavory and downright nasty people. Pirates walked openly along the corridors of the Hole, and Engreia didn‟t exist here, not openly anyway. It went without saying that the more secretive wings of that organization had their claws into the Hole as well, but any semblance of law and order was under the threat of hot plasma which stood three nanoseconds from flying through the stale, recycled air. Galen thought of that, and quickly remembered one other thing which he had been working on in his fertile imagination. He triple checked that everything was running smoothly on the bridge and left for the maintenance bay, both to check on Ragnar and cobble together a nasty little surprise for anyone who thought him unarmed. He stopped by his quarters a moment, retrieving the hideously expensive trench coat he had bought on Scorpion Seven, grey sharkskin rasping softly as it slid over the top of the chair. The weight of it was perfect for what he wanted to do, and the synthetic cloth making up the liner would accept the modifications he had planned. The door to the maintenance bay slid open silently, given the white noise field masking the machine tools‟ noise from the rest of the ship. Draping the coat over the handle for the plasma torch‟s cart, Galen retrieved a length of kevlar cord from supplies, some small grommets, a spring, micro servo and a forty centimeter length of narrow conduit. Cutting a few holes in the liner with the small laser cutter on his multi-tool, Galen applied a line of grommets around the inside of the waistline, about ten centimeters apart. He then drilled three holes crosswise in the conduit, a pair that went completely through both sides at one end, and a single hole near the other end. Galen threaded a length of cord through one end of the coil spring, letting it fall to the center of the cord before tying a knot to keep it there. This was then allowed to slide into the conduit, a small cotter pin securing the spring within the metal tubing, passing through the second pair of holes from the end. Galen tested the pull on the cord, finding the tension adequate to the task, and let the spring resume its resting position, half the cording now pulled into the conduit tubing. Next came the micro servo, tack welded onto the opposite end, a latch-type pin slotted into the single hole he had made there. This was partially connected to a small power source, which would later be secreted in a pocket somewhere. Having the core of the device now essentially functional, Galen again put tension on the spring, pulling the cord taut until a soft click could be heard, the latch pin catching and holding the loose end of the spring. He released the Kevlar cording gently, fearing that the latch wouldn‟t hold, but it did, on the first try no less. Galen couldn‟t help but feel a little proud of that. Activating the servo by completing the connection to the battery, Galen smiled as a tiny click heralded the release of the spring, pulling the cord once again back into the rigid tubing. Satisfied with his creation, Galen took a deep breath before going about installing the curious device in his coat. Another, much shorter, length of cording went through the last, unoccupied, hole, and the tube was secured to the coat liner, between the liner and the leather shell, tied with more cord through yet more grommets. The loose ends of cording were then threaded through the line at the coat‟s waist large knots securing the ends through the last of the metal- reinforced holes. With no small amount of pride, the grey-eyed spacer donned the heavy garment, shifting it about until it rested appropriately upon his shoulders. He pulled on the waist of the coat, resetting the spring in its housing, his fingers holding the battery pack and its connector in a pocket that had access from the inside of the coat as well. He again applied the power, and the oddest feeling swept over him as the spring hauled back on the cord, now attached to the inside of his coat, the waist pulling back around his waist entirely, like the curtains of an old-style vid house parting for the feature, but much more quickly. The most obvious benefit was that this gave instant access to his holster, and kept the coat out of his way during a firefight. Yes, this will do very nicely he thought, smiling widely. Now how to activate it… he mused, before hitting on a novel idea, which he set about implementing as well. Posted by The Serpent on 20.01.2003 at21:27: Roar. Ever seen a pale grown-up Valertrez hanging bat-style from the top of a dropship, mumbling and cursing at various big or small parts of the corrupted universe while trying to make two titbits of code comply to each other? Come to the Heart of Gold and ask for a certain Rewedyk Videlius, currently stationed in one of the fighter bays of the formerly mentioned ship. Look around, you‟ll see one of the new wonders of time: ‟When machine beats man.‟ Anyone with the least bit of insanity would find it mildly amusing, seeing as the male trying to impersonate Batman was a good 6.2 feet tall and as average as they got, save for the inferno red eyes he sported. You see, our favourite hacker was appointed with a task to change the security codes of the Dropship the strange captain had lately „illegally acclaimed‟ from some poor soul who left his keys in the ignition and that, surprisingly, brought some complications in the burdened life of the Valertrez. Anyway, Serp wasn‟t a very happy man. As it came out, after he had removed the codes for a patch of safer ones, he went on a random little check-up on the vessel before him and what does he find? Around 15 worms, holes and trackers in the system he just repaired, none made by him. So he growls, spits fire, grumbles some more and removes them all again, being extra careful this time. As he was just about to sit back and marvel at his work, another blip caught his eye and, lo and behold, the worms were all back, wiggling and taunting the annoyed man. He removed them for the third time, of course, he had come to the obvious conclusion that they were not there thanks to his immediate sloppiness but thanks to something else, a pirate in the system. After awhile of trailing the messages, radiuses and everything else imaginable submitting from the tricksters in the ship, he trailed them to one of the smaller power hubs on the top of the ship. He was quite intrigued by it so he did the next logical thing, climbed up on he top of the slippery ship. The site before him had not been all that pretty after he tapped his way into the router. It only took some de-ghosting to reveal a series of trackers in various joints of the ship, which were conveniently hid from the lower type scans his Wrist DB was able to send, thus leading to the point that there might have already been someone close to the Heart of Gold just waiting to step on the tail of the grand ship and claim back what was theirs, and a bit more. You could never know. Rewedyk left the trackers be as they were in the beginning, as he sensed something more in there, something causing the wormholes to spring up all over the inner coding core. So the hunt continued. Sadly, he had quite the clear idea of what was waiting for him, already. He slid lower and lower, his long fingers playing over the hull of the ship as his eyes were locked on the screen of his computer until he found what he was looking for. The signals coming from under the deflective defence grid in one particular place of the near middle right side of the ship, much stronger than he had found on any other part of the ship mind you, spoke a clear language to him, as they twisted and turned before him on the screen, confusing the machine he had on his wrist. I should have known…No-one‟s dumb enough to release such a beaut without at least some safety measures above locking the goddam door. After the young hacker had crawled back on top of the ship and sat down, a worried scowl on his face, he sent a small message to the resident mechanic of the ship, Ragnar Argoth. “Ragnar, could you please bring a Repairer Toolkit in the bay where the dropship is, quick? I‟d appreciate it…” He closed the comm and sat back to wait, while idly nicking away at one of the topside bugs.