Day 16. 62 pages, 27,652 words.
W’Tan sat back in the Captain’s chair. Most of the other officers avoided sitting at the main command console when they were filling the role of Acting Captain. As if some vengeful God of Rank would smite them for daring to have ambitions above their station. It was pointless symbolism at best. At worst, it was defeating the design purpose of the bridge. They put that seat, those controls and overrides, in that location for a reason. Sitting somewhere else, at some auxiliary console, was functionally handicapping yourself.
Drago Barducci’s pulse whisper, in the absence of any real comms, was a perfect example. Of course the enemy ship had nullified their communications. Even if the crew of the A-Mod 400 had been stupid enough to attempt to communicate on common channels during an armed conflict, the enemy would want to prevent it. Preventing it was less problematic than tapping into it. But Barducci’s little tag was one of those things that could really only be efficiently used from main command.
“Is that all, Commander?” Glorious Providence (Sarcasm) asked from the comms station. Providence was a relatively competent Blaran of some neutral political creed or other, her entire body striped horizontally black and white. W’Tan knew it was her entire body, because Providence was in the habit of dancing naked at crew gatherings.
Apparently performing a carnal act with her had been dubbed ‘ticklin’ the ivories’ by some wit down in the maintenance pool. Probably that cretin Varies-Wildly-By-Day. He loved a good bit of rumour mongering, and the shipboard gossip was that Providence was not averse to a bit of fun with the weaker species. Nothing wrong with that, of course. You just had to be careful, with humans. They fell in love and died very easily.
“Yes,” W’Tan replied.
“Your orders?” Zoran Krader, Acting Chief Tactical Officer, asked crisply. Krader was human, probably put in his role by that reprobate Barducci … but he was passable at the job.
“Stand by,” W’Tan said.
“It is ‘Acting Captain’ at this point,” W’Tan said. “And ‘stand by’ means you await orders. Unless you would rather go to the rec dome and run around pretending to be an aeroplane? It may be a better use of your time than standing here pretending to be Chief Tactical Officer.”
Krader subsided huffily. Another ten, then twenty seconds dragged by.
The ship was silent, no sign of trouble. No sign of attack, no evidence of the Black Honey Wings preparing her weapons to fire upon their modular.
But that message from Barducci…
“Check on the medical arc airlocks,” she said.
“The … copy that, Acting Captain,” Krader said, displaying the surprising ability to learn. He was passable. “Locking and decompression agents,” he confirmed after another ten-second pause, sounding disgruntled. “I should have expected that.”
“Yes,” W’Tan said, “but next time you will. Our goal at this point is to ensure you get that chance,” she keyed in a closed shipboard comm to select units. “Evidently, our hosts would like us to remain docked,” she said, “until such time as they can incorporate our ship into their own. While this will bring some greatly-needed symmetry to their vessel, this will not come as much consolation to us. Not only because we have our own mission to continue, but because in the event of a takeover the competent crewmembers will be coerced into indentured servitude and the incompetent ones will be executed. Therefore, to save the lives of almost everyone on board this ship, we will need to break dock immediately.”
“The Captain and his team are still in there,” Krader protested.
“Perhaps you missed the part where I said we were doing this to save your life,” W’Tan said.
“We can’t leave them in there,” Krader insisted.
“I know you didn’t miss the part where I am Acting Captain, Mister Krader,” W’Tan said, “because you just called me ‘Acting Captain’,” she sat back and tapped the control panel near her lower left arm. “We’re leaving. Now.”