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Seed 2 – The Odd Ship

March 12, 2007

An orange circle appeared in the corner of Devi’s vision, and the conversation in the lounge skipped a beat as the same thing happened to everyone else. A few people, those who had duties when the ship went to alert status, got up and left, but things returned to normal before they had left the room. Devi was almost finished with her coffee when the screen that covered an entire wall of the lounge flickered and changed to a view of the outside. In the center, there was an odd looking ship, a long cylinder that appeared to be rotating on its axis.

“Oh shit!” someone, or maybe several people at once said as they saw two torpedos streak towards the odd ship. The first one hit, and there was the green flash of the shield collapsing. The second one hit, and Devi’s stomach wrenched as the explosive decompression caused by the torpedos ripped the ship apart.

“What the hell was that? It couldn’t have been military.” Kenichi said, military ships were heavily compartmentalized to prevent what they had just seen. He was taller than Devi, she only came up to his chin, and his dark hair was tied in a qeue behind his head, making him look more like a researcher than a tech.

“Why do you always ask questions that I can’t answer?” Devi asked, shaking her head. He had been her shipmate on several occasions since they had first met in Tech School, fifteen years ago, and he hadn’t changed in that time.

“It’s better than the alternative.” He had always been of the opinion that asking too many questions was better than not questioning at all, even if it did lead him to ask some stupid questions.

“Either way, we’ll both be on shift soon,” she said. They were both due on the main Launch Deck in ten minutes.

“Good point.” The two mugs clinked together as he grabbed both of them with one hand to carry them over to the receptacle, always the polite one.

* * *

“Something’s up,” Kenichi said as the two of them walked onto the Main Launch Deck, blending in with the others who were coming on shift as well. “Officers never come out here unless they have to.” He nodded to the black uniforms that were at the center of a large group of orange-clad Techs, all of them clustered around what looked like some sort of shuttle. The entire group of them was dwarfed by the sheer scale of the Deck, grey flooring stretching in either direction, punctuated by various lines and symbols.

“What the hell is that?” Devi pointed at the shuttle. “We don’t have anything like that.” The craft was too large, not slim, like the Tiburon Shuttles, and the wings were too short, as if it were incapable of atmospheric flight.

“What was that you were saying earlier? About certain questions?” he said, smirking.

“Shut it.”

As they approached the Chief for the shift so they could check in, a contingent broke free from the crowd. Two of the officers, and six Security in grey uniforms, who Devi hadn’t noticed before, were leaving the Deck. It looked like they were escorting someone, but she couldn’t make it out from the distance.

“What’s with the Greys?” she asked, gesturing towards the Security contingent, when they reached the Chief.

Chief Hadlin shrugged. “They found that in a sweep of the wreckage. You’re the best Drive Tech I have this shift, so you get the honor of being the first to check it out before the spooks get here.” He turned towards Kenichi. “I need you to check up on Shuttle AX-3.” There was a long-standing rivalry between the Techs and the Research Division, the Spooks, and she would have to work fast.

“I’ll get started, then,” she said, and glanced at Kenichi. Hadlin nodded, and she started to make her way towards the odd ship.

* * *

It turned out that the reason that the ship looked odd was because it was odd. The wings were only there in order to mount thrusters, and the reason it was so bulky was due to it being constructed out of ceramics, rather than a nano-composite. The engines were odd as well, more like ancient ramjets than anything that had been designed in the last millennium or so; it was definitely a short-range vessel. Devi told Kenichi all of this in the lounge after the shift was over.

“So it was archaic?” he asked, taking a sip of his brew.

“Yeah. I couldn’t even find an Interface. That thing would have to be controlled manually, if you can imagine that.” She frowned and shook her head.

“Almost sounds like we should check for it in the Archives.”

“You might have a point there,” she said. “I’d like to see whatever was flying it, though.”

“Command’ll probably keep the whole thing sealed tighter than an airlock.” He finished his brew. “I’ve got another shift coming up, so . . .”

“Sorry to see you go so early,” she said, raising her mug. “I’ll just have to drink for the both of us, then.”

She didn’t get much time to relax, a few minutes after Kenichi had left, Hadlin sat down across from her.

“Chief.” Devi was wary, she and the Chief had never been close, so it was a surprise to see him here.

He took a drink from his mug. “Devi, how many times have you been up for Ratings?” he asked.

“I don’t know, sir. Six?”

“We’re off duty, call me Andrew.” Devi didn’t know what to make of this odd lack of formality, and her puzzlement must have shown, because he immediately started talking again. “Devi, what I’m getting at is that you should have made Chief by now. Years ago, actually. Why haven’t you?”

Devi had had this discussion before, never with Hadlin, but it always came up during Ratings. “You want to know why I haven’t made chief yet? Is that it?”

Hadlin got defensive, sitting back in his chair and letting go of his mug to run his hands through his shaggy brown hair. “Don’t get me wrong, its your career, do what you want with it. But you make my life harder, you know that? You should have your own crew, but instead, I have to tell you what to do, and that pisses me off. Every second I spend with you is a second that I should be spending with some green tech, who, unlike you, I should be telling what to do.”

It was Devi’s turn to be on the defensive. She was used to dealing with the Ratings boards by now, with all of their “help us help you bullshit”, but something about Hadlin’s honesty got through to her. It didn’t last long, though. “Sir, with all due respect, I don’t want to have to hold some green tech’s hand. I like working on stuff, solving problems. I don’t want to have to spend most of my time doing what the Academy should have done in the first place–.”

“That’s not fair and you know it.” Hadlin took a long swig from his mug, nearly finishing it.

“No, its not, but that’s too bad. And I’m sorry if I make your job more difficult than it needs to be, I really am, but that’s too bad as well.”

“I can’t say that I’m surprised, frankly,” he said, his chair scraping the ground as he stood up. “But just think about it, OK.”

“I’ll think about it, sir.” She took a drink, and looked down at her mug. When she looked back up, Hadlin was halfway across the lounge, heading for the exit. As he looked back and frowned, she couldn’t help but think that the conversation she had just had with him would come back and bite her.

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