[ISS] Escort (Tab 3.5)


At 0400 on the dot, you receive a high priority message on your Navi, administration.
Tabitha Raja Smith,
The Administration has determined that you will be valuable
in assisting the ISS Tsiolkovsky in a small matter which will
require your presence outside of quarantine.
Report to the airlock at 0420.
Do not worry about informing your fellow students, your
corporal has been advised of this request.
You are perfectly safe.
You will not be tested for the virus.
You will be fitted into a vacuum suit for the travel into the
adult section of the ship.
Non-compliance will result in harsh reprisal.
Compliance will be rewarded richly.

Thank you,

What do you do?


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    I'm pushed out of some kind of heated dream by my alarm a few minutes before the message comes through. I read the message while lacing up my boots. 'You are perfectly safe' is the exact kind of stomm that would make me run and hide if Dana hadn't spoken to me. I make my bed the way I do every normal morning.

    I tuck my Navi into pocket mode and bring it with me to the airlock. Who knows, right?

    Admin gave me just a little extra time to get there, time I probably need to spend getting into the vacuum suit. I jog some of the way to keep my blood moving, once I'm away from the rooms where my podmates are sleeping.
  • edited July 2016

    You jog through the corridor at a very early hour. Nobody else is around. When you come into the airlock section, you see a pair of adults in spacesuits, and a third one here, waiting for you.


    The adult on the left is Shimizu. How do you know them? Or rather, how did Ioanna know them?

    image The adult on the right is Dr. Lancome. She offers you a smile when you recognize her, "Good morning, Tabitha. Thank you for being prompt." She gestures to the suit, "We're here to help you get into the suit. It's a little tricky, but I know you can make it work. How are you feeling this morning?" She moves sluggishly in the suit, each gesture is deliberate.

    What do you do?
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    Shimizu..I'm startled by how clearly familiar he is to me. He worked with Ioanna as a technician, someone who kept the interfaces up and running, ran sensors and report. My mouth is a little dry, remembering something I've never experienced.

    At least I have proof Lancome is a flesh and blood person. "Good morning Doctor Lancome. I'm tired. This morning."

    I can anticipate the weight of the suit from Doctor Lancome's actions. It won't be like a speedball suit, which is a shame.

    She says they're here to help me put on the suit..which I'll need. But they've also got to escort me to another airlock. I figured that out as soon as I got my walking orders. No way they're perp-walking me in a spacesuit through the ship proper to the Gate - I'm going on a spacewalk.

    I take off the helmet and gloves and open up the back of the suit, undo a few buckles and loosen harnesses. "How many times. Have you done this before?" I'm asking Lancome but looking at Shimizu.
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    Dr. Lancome moves up with Shimizu to help you step into the suit and Shimizu starts to pull it up.

    image As she fiddles with a hose, the doctor answers, "Counting last night? Three times." She offers a tight smile, "Shimizu's got a dozen trips. It will be fine. There's no reason to be worried, Tabitha. It's a quick walk, and these suits are very well made."

    The process of getting into the suit takes almost twenty minutes, including the insulation, the placement of the biofeed, the seal check, gloves, helmet, the works. Right after the helmet clicks in, you hear a tiny fan come on inside the suit. The heat is noticeable regardless.

    Shimizu heads for the airlock, moving to open it. You're absolutely right, Tabitha. You're headed into space. Dr. Lancome affixes a cable to herself, the to your suit. She runs down instructions on the use of the mag boots, the propulsion, the process to switch over oxygen tanks. "We will guide you, Tabitha. You won't need to do much besides follow, and stay calm."

    Shimizu, who keeps looking at you, but refuses to say anything, enters a code, and you see the interior airlock door open. He steps into the airlock proper, and waits for you and Dr. Lancome.

    What do you do?
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    "Understood." I'm kind of excited. If it's a short walk, well..I'll still be the only one in my Pod who's done one, right? Plus I have more than one tank. We're tethered. There are probably tether points outside.

    I want to see it. Space, our home ship from the outside.. I follow Shimizu without hesitating.
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    Dr. Lancome walks behind you, the clomp clomp of your mag boots on the deck sound heavy. There's a particular way that you have to lift your foot while wearing mag boots. While Dr. Lancome is clumsily moving, you find the twist and flick action natural, and move easy.

    The internal airlock door closes, leaving the three of you standing in the middle, between the ship and space. After a moment, Shimizu punches a few buttons on the wall panel. You see a thirty second countdown on the display. Outside the airlock window you see stars, Tabitha. Not sims. The real thing.

    image With some nervousness that she pushes mostly out of her voice, Dr. Lancome says, "I am your tether, Tabitha. Shimizu is our guide. We will not abandon you. We will..." she looks at you for a moment, curiously. "Are you smiling, Tabitha?"

    Shimizu chuckles, and the moment seems to relax Dr. Lancome as well. "We should be out there for just over twenty minutes, tops. It's going to be fine."

    The display flashes an amber warning when the counter hits 10.

    When it reaches five, the amber turns to red.

    Dr. Lancome reaches for your hand, Tabitha. Probably for your sake.

    The display hits zero, and you hear a whoosh of air and a slight tug as the vacuum of space pulls all the air out of the lock. Shimizu walks forward, then grabs a rung at the edge of the airlock and pulls himself upright on the side of the ship, waiting for you.

    What do you do?
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    I push my face back to a neutral pose, which is probably funny by itself. While the countdown goes on, I check the lockpoints on each end of the tether between Lancome and myself, one last time. I guess I should be pretty scared, but ..either something bad will happen or it won't, right? We have the suits and boots and preparations. The rest is on us.

    I keep Lancome's hand and follow Shimizu, getting my first real, unvarnished view of the stars. It's not easy to tear myself away and start really watching how Shimizu is traveling, planning out my steps. I wonder why they sent the Doctor here.
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    The vista of space passing by is breathtaking. As you move closer to the edge, the enormity, the sheer speed of this vessel hurtling through space is unreal. Zipping by silently are hundreds of particles from the asteroid field Captain Rivas is piloting your home through.

    The mag boots hold as you crawl outside, holding the rungs on the exterior until you feel safe enough to stand. Dr. Lancome offers encouragement over the comms, the only sound you hear besides your own breathing.

    Ahead is Shimizu. Behind is Dr. Lancome. Below you is your home. Everywhere is the enormity of the universe, Tabitha.

    To perform a spacewalk in dangerous territory, roll with Volatile. On a hit, choose options. On a 7-9, choose one. On a 10+, choose two.
    - You do it impressively or stylishly
    - You don't get hurt
    - Nobody else on your team gets hurt
    - You learn something important about the universe. State what it is and take an XP
    - Ask the universe a question about yourself and it will answer truthfully

    What do you do?
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    Rolling with Volatile; (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 1, 1. Total: 4)
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    Walking along the surface of the ISS Tsiolkovsky slowly, the cooling fan is barely up to the task of keeping your body temperature down. Sweat starts pouring down your back, and a couple times the clear mask fogs up slightly on the inside. Luckily, it's treated and only lasts for a moment.

    Ahead you see Shimizu reach the airlock near the bridge. You know that spot from Ioanna's memory. You've been in a position like this before. Replacing parts on the sensor array. It was when you first joined the crew. It was when the ship called to you. During a routine docking refuel, you left the crew of the Stalker Jane to join the ISS Tsiolkovsky. You told your captain it was for the experience of joining the Farstrider Colonial Experience, but it was for Dana. She intrigued you, it was love at first sight.

    Your reverie is interrupted when you see a beachball-sized meteorite just before it slams into you. Tabitha, you slide just out of the way, the angle of the thing missed Shimizu, he didn't even see it because he was securing the airlock. you hear through the comms a sound of surprise, and looking back, you see Dr. Lancome was hit.

    It looks like maybe she tried to move out of the way, but it clipped her at an odd angle, and her mag boots slipped. You feel the tether yank at you as she floats away.

    You could cut the tether and you'll be perfectly safe, but she's lost. Or you can try to pull her back in, but that's going to take some effort, Tabitha. You might get pulled away yourself.

    What do you do?
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    Drokk, this suit feels manky and old just one minute after wearing it here. I take things slow with Lancome mostly so neither of us gets overheated.

    It's weird how palpable the memories are out here..I can travel them like a visitor with a map. I'm looking for the sensor array, in fact, when the scant shadow of a meteorite in my vision makes me swerve out of the way. I have a lot of practice avoiding 'headers' in Speedball, I guess.

    I honestly don't think about cutting the tether until I'm already braced to try and pull Lancome back in, holding the tether steady with one hand, clamping down on a handhold with the other, boots as flat as I can get them. I could cut her free but that seems pretty drokking brutal. I don't hate her or anything.

    And uh I don't know that they gave me a cutting implement of any kind. I think I'm stuck with her.

    I'm gonna have to hold on until her momentum from that rock is spent. Then I can think about reeling her back in. The tether might have some elasticity, if it does it'll bounce her towards me. Sounds good at first, probably bad.
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    You grab a rung on the outside of the ship and hold on. The tether pulls taut, and Lancome slams into the side of the ship, then drifts out again, pulling you hard away from the ship. You're able to keep your grip, just barely. Reeling her in will take some serious effort and time.

    As you're doing this, Tabitha, what is it that you hold onto? In your mind, what's the one thing you focus on, what memory that's all yours, that gives you strength?
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    I gasp and grunt into the comms, unheeding of anything but the strain and what it demands of me.

    I've got to not drokk this up and get us both loosed into space. I settle in, not trying anything fancy.

    I'm thinking of my Speedball tryouts, like a year ago. People told me I couldn't, so I wanted in really bad even if it was an Ioanna thing. My unschool time the month before was just..

    I would report to unschool tasks, which were all simple, low-motor things. Push this. Wash that. Hold this up. Pull this other thing down, but NOT SO HARD dammit. Things would break for rec time and I would watch video on my Navi and copy key motions until I thought I had them. Or I would find a place to run and just do that until someone told me to stop.

    I made a game of it; I was trying to crash. I'd rate my days on my big physical failures - 'Dear Diary, today was a two crash day' sort of, except I've never kept a diary. If I hit zero I'd have to try newer, harder things.

    Speedball tryouts was pretty zero crash. Gwen showed me some tricks. Mark was awkward but nice. Rys made a joke about my running demerit. Jace and Zola basically left me alone.

    I think I stopped crash rating my days when Gwen died. Today's a two so far.
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    The tether line bites at your fingers, not from friction due to the gloves of your suit, but from pressure. It hurts as you hold onto the ship with one hand and pull with the other. For a moment, it's like you're being drawn and quartered.

    Through the haze of your efforts and memories of crash days, you hear Shimizu's voice on the comms, "Smith, keep holding on! I'm coming!" Seconds seem like hours, and you're able to get Dr. Lancome's unconscious body close enough for Shimizu to tether you to himself so you can pull her in.

    Body aching, you work with Shimizu through an old tandem routine that you, no Ioanna, wrote. After several more minutes, you're pulling Dr. Lancome into the airlock and she begins to stir as Shimizu punches in the codes to close the exterior doors.

    image Dr. Lancome coughs, her shoulders move as well as her legs. "What..." She tries to sit up, groans and lays back down. The red lights flash as the room begins to pressurize. "What happened? I saw a. A rock?"

    Shimizu answers as he checks the displays, "Smith saved your life. Didn't cut the tether with her safety knife, just held on and reeled in." He looks at you, meeting your eyes for the first time. It's obviously not comfortable for him. "You owe her big time, Arissa."

    The airlock is pressurized and the lights pass to amber, then green, and the interior door slowly opens. You see a pair of Science Department techs come in to check Dr. Lancome over. Then Dana appears at the doorway. She is looking for you, Tabitha. When your eyes meet, she smiles and catches her breath.

    What do you do?
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    I'm tempted, just once, to let go of the ship and drift away. Suffocation's a pretty quiet way to go, it's nice out here. But I promised Pris I wouldn't give up. This sucks, it hurts, but I'm learning. A pretty solid crash, and then Shimizu is helping and we pull it through together.

    I lean against the wall inside the airlock and let my arms go slack. "A meteorite," I clarify for Arissa. Waiting for the lights to go green is hard, I want to at least get the helmet off pretty bad. "That thing went after. Both of us. Bad luck." I don't hold Shimizu's gaze longer than it takes to accept whatever appreciation is there..it's weird.

    Dana's really here. I reach up to the collar that locks my helmet on and disengage the lock urgently. I'm sure I'm grinning as I let the helmet dangle on my fingers. Drokk, I'm all gross and sweaty. Should have worn something plain.
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    When you reach for your helmet clasp, one of the Science techs, Hardigan, you think, he gasps, yelling out, "Smith! You are not to remove your pressure suit!" He's moving over to re-secure your helmet, like a Medical Tech heading into the danger zone to keep everyone else safe.

    image "Zane, stand back." Dana says in a clear, commanding tone. She masks her smile and assumes a stance of authority. "Take Dr. Lancome to Med Bay Five. Shimizu, thanks for your help, you may all leave me here."
    They hesitate, and she gives them a very stern look. "I will make sure Smith's suit is secure before she leaves the airlock. Now make it snappy, people. We have stomm to do here." That gets compliance, and they leave the airlock and shut the door.

    Dana exhales a breath and nods for you to continue taking off your helmet. "Captain Rivas is on his third stim, he's starting to wear out. We don't have long." As soon as the helmet's off, her hands slide up to your neck and Dana holds you there. You meet her wet eyes and she smiles, "My gods, Tabitha. You are so beautiful."

    What do you do?
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    Oh, for drokk's sake. I freeze when Hardigan goes gung-ho on me, leaving my hand on the collar, sizing him up. Does he expect me to pilot in this thing? Hell.

    I stay still while everyone else leaves, watching them. I give Shimizu one last look and a small nod.

    With my helmet off I take one deep, cool breath. "I don't want to keep him. Waiting." I don't like being treated like a grenade, either, but whatever.

    I freeze again when Dana touches me. I'm thrilled and I love it, I love the smell of her and the sound of her praise. I swallow, also feeling like a thief or a fool. I'm still reeling from the space walk, too. Whose feelings am I sorting? "Dana. You're really here." I rest my hands on her shoulders, not knowing what else to say or do.
  • image She laughs like the words bring her comfort and no small measure of joy. "I am." For a moment, she touches your cheeks warmly, in a familiar gesture, one you've felt a hundred times. She breaks the contact to bring you into a warm hug. "I'm so glad you made it. I saw what happened on the screens, my heart dropped." She speaks low into your ear.
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    I squeeze her gently. "You saw that? Stomm. It was. Probably as bad as it looked." We're lucky it was a three person walk. My fingers still sting pretty badly.

    Maybe I'm shaking a little. And I'm trying to connect in my head some kind of line between the Dana who loved Ioanna unconditionally and the Dana here, who might be ready to love me. It feels a little like I'm still dreaming. It feels like I'm close to understanding the ocean in those poems.
  • edited August 2016
    image "Bad? Not really, Tabitha. You were a hero. You saved Arissa's life. When I saw you clinging to the ship and reeling her in, I jumped for joy!" She smiles broadly, her eyes crinkling as she does, "Also, my tummy did flip flops, but most of the time I was cheering." She looks at you adoringly and you're both so close, her hands on your arms, only millimeters apart.
    After a beat, she smooths your arms and steps back, clears her throat, "But, ah, we should give you a moment to catch your breath here. You've got to fly the ship, you need time to focus."
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    Gwen's the only other person who's said that to me. "I just. Did what came to mind."

    "Erm,right." I take another deep breath, flushed and confused. "What do I need to do?"

    I touch Dana's hair, coiling a curl around a finger. My hair's like this because it's clean and I can keep it this way by myself. I used to get shaved for, like, sensors and things.
  • image Your touch causes Dana's eyes to flutter lightly, she revels in the moment before answering, "If you can tie into the AAU, then you can get us back on track easily. Nobody's been able to do that since Ioanna passed. Barring that, you have the reflexes to be able to pilot the ship back onto the Beacon. I can help, if you don't mind me on... your bridge." Dana reaches a hand up to run fingers over your trimmed hair, responding in kind, and smiling as she continues looking at you.
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    I nod. The call of the ship and the AAU connection, they must be the same.

    "Sure." It'll be..my bridge. That feels so strange. I hold my helmet in my hands as Dana touches my head, hesitant to get sealed back up. I smile back. "You can come onto. My bridge."

    When the moment's over, I lock the helmet back on.
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    After donning your helmet, Dana keys in a sequence to open the airlock to the interior of the ship. You walk down smooth white hallways past adults, for the first time in your life, but not the first time in your memory, past people who seem to recognize you, or you them. Like passing through a hazy dream.

    Dana follows you, letting you stroll without directing you. Perhaps she's testing you, but you find the bridge easily.

    It's changed.

    First of all, there's only Captain Rivas, a man who'd just started flying when Ioanna was last here. You can see how he's aged, though the effects of three rounds of stims have had a toll as well. The bridge still has marks from the uprisings, the riots when people accused each other for the plague. Scoring from laser fire, the smoke damage from an electric fire long since extinguished.

    Captain Rivas is wholly focused on piloting, hasn't noticed your arrival. He's sweating buckets and his eyelids look heavy. He's flying unassisted, of course, which means he's managing dozens of subsystems.

    What do you do?
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    I try to ignore the people we walk past. Remembering who they are, their looks as they 'recognize' me, it's all dizzying and uncomfortable, and I can't hide from it. I just want to get to the bridge and make this stomm happen.

    The scars that remain on the bridge are a contrast to the purity of the halls outside. Everything but this bridge seems unused and alien compared to the halls of the quarantine pods. Makes sense. This was a location worth fighting for and the hallways were not. No fallbacks into the corridors? Or the paneling was replaced.

    Either way, I make my way around without engaging Rivas. "Where is the aux station? I can settle in. And Rivas can be relieved. Seamlessly." They've moved things around..unused stations colonized by random stomm with nowhere else to be, apparently. I'm probably standing right next to it, aren't I?
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    image "Over here, Smith." Dana says in a curt tone. Not rude, but direct, moreso than earlier. Captain Rivas sits up straighter in recognition of her arrival. Dana moves over to a terminal, and taps a sequence to wake it up, "This is a functional aux station for now, but the full suite is better accessed where the captain sits, of course." She drops her voice slightly as you settle in, "Will this work, Tabitha?"

    The aux station is to the left of the captain's chair. There are cables you can use to plug in computer interfaces, or on the off chance of cybernetics, plug directly in. Without that interface connection, or the AAU, you have enough access to fly the ship, but it's inefficient, and cumbersome.

    What do you do?
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    I take a seat at the aux station, carefully. Try to think of what Ioanna would be doing in this space, what would make her valuable here. It makes me feel haunted. What I want to say to Dana is 'I think so', but what comes out of my mouth is what I think she needs to hear; "I'll make it work."

    I reach for one of the cables and look over screens, absently spreading the fingers of my left hand and sliding the end into a nearly invisible seam in the webbing between my pinky and ring finger. I look at it. Swallow. Keep my face straight.

    Once, I got some blood in it and I thought I was going to have one hell of an infection. I slid a toothpick in..basically all the way. It came out dry. I never really made the connection until just now. I mean, Pax's connections look like metal.
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    You're trying to interface with the AAU, right? It "went down" for a reason. Let's use our fancy, schmancy custom move here.

    When you try to circumvent the ship's systems, roll with Dark. On a hit, you get past them. On a 7-9, choose one:
    - You attract unwanted attention
    - Take a Condition for your hard work
    - You take 1-Harm in the effort
    - You're so thrilled or guilty by the success, you have to tell the first kid you see about it
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    Custom Movement; (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 4, 1. Total: 7)

    Marking XP (4)
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    You feel a thousand synapses fire and everything comes into focus at once. Multi-tasking is a snap, and that odd sensation of hesitating when you speak, it's gone. The AAU infuses you, Tabitha. The barriers fall away between your body and the ship and you feel one with the vessel. Systems long dormant come alive, and you are aware. You can easily steer the ship through the nebula and avoid the asteroid field's dangers. If you wish, that is.

    Welcome back, Ioanna.
    You feel in your head as the AAU's "voice" senses your presence. It sounds happy, if you were to color the brief phrase with emotion.

    You may ask one question of the ship at this time, Tabitha.

    You now have the condition Addicted to AAU interface
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    Drokk, this is even better than simulation. The Tsiolkovsky feels like coming home, like a missing heart, and I reach deeply into it. I would navigate the ship through the field safely just to do it, even if no one asked me. The stars are even more beautiful, the nebula like a tapestry they hang on. I love it.

    It's Tabitha now. How have you been?

    I'm just matter-of-fact with the AAU's voice. I can't be mad at it right now.

    Marking 5th XP, taking Hungry Ghost as my advance
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    You feel the ship responding to your commands, soaring along the warm embrace of the Beacon and the Feed, dodging between collision sensors and soaking in the solar rays from a nearby sun. You vaguely feel Rivas disengage from the captain's chair and exist the bridge, leaving you with Dana. And the AAU.

    Tabitha? That is a very nice name.
    All logs will be adjusted.
    I am well.
    It has been a very long time since we interfaced.
    The records show that you are terminated.
    Should I adjust them?
    Or should I begin a new record under Tabitha?
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    I suppose I could be playing closer attention to my body and what's going on around it, but I'm focusing on the ship and our movement. It's not important right now.

    Please begin a new record under Tabitha Raja Smith.
    Thank you.
    It should be almost two years since we interfaced?
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    Tabitha Raja Smith record created.
    You are most welcome.
    Correct. It has been 795 days since our last interface.
    I am rarely exacting in communication of the passage of
    time with users. It is often a subject of consternation for them.
    Thank you for traversing the nebula and asteroid field.
    Captain Rivas was unable to perform the task adequately.
    He does not possess the interface capacity that you do,
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    I'm not sure I understand their consternation.
    Speaking of time, how long do you estimate we'll be in the asteroid
    field? Go ahead and be exact.

    From what I understand, the ship is low on talented individuals.
    I admire the Captain's endurance. He was holding the worst off with
    what he had on hand.

    What can you tell me about the nebula?
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    We can exit the asteroid field in three
    hundred eighty minutes and forty second seconds
    of continued travel at maximum impulse.

    The roster is severely depleted. In fact, I
    have been disappointed with the crew's attempts to
    manipulate the ship since Ioanna left. I am very glad
    you are here, Tabitha.

    This nebula is a stellar nursery. The gravitational pull
    led the crew off the Beacon's path and into this
    asteroid field.

    There is something else of concern, Tabitha. The
    temperature in the nebula exceeds safety protocols.
    The Beacon path did not account for this nebula. If we
    continue on the Beacon Path, we risk systems failures.

  • edited August 2016

    Could you show me the data on the nebula's temperatures,
    and the systems failures we would be risking? I'll need it to justify
    the course change decisions that I make.

    We should be off the Beacon Path for as little time as possible.
    About how long would we be diverted from our course in order
    to ensure the ship's safety?

    I should probably start relaying some of this to Dana. What would the ideal method be? Should I just talk? My own body feels so foreign right now.

    A whole nebula seems like a pretty big thing to miss. Quite the drokk-up. I dip into the feeds to take a look at the Beacon Path itself, focusing on placement dates for the beacons we're heading towards.

    "Dana, it's working. We should be out of the field in a little over six hours. But the AAU is telling me that the nebula's temperatures are too high. I'm researching, but we should divert." In the end, I say this over speakers instead of puppeteering my body while I'm interfacing.
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    image "It's working?" Dana repeats excitedly. "I knew it. We wasted so much time. Six hours isn't bad, better than I expected. The temperature's been rising, we knew that, but the readings were so off we couldn't risk leaving the Beacon's Path." She reaches a hand over to your shoulder, squeezing once, for comfort and support, but she pulls it back, reluctant to distract you.

    The AAU feeds you all the readings available, visuals outside the ship, everything. It should be overwhelming, but you're able to parse what it seems to be communicating. Getting anything specific will be difficult, though. Finding a single shrimp in an ocean.

    Tabitha, you would be helpful in guiding us
    without the Beacon. However, the ship needs a full
    crew to navigate successfully without undue risk.
    Working together, we should be able to leave the Beacon
    Path and return to it after the nebula within two standard
    However, if there is the slightest deviation in our
    calculations, the ISS Tsiolkovsky could be lost. Adrift.
    Alternatively, there is an M-class planet within two months'
    flight past the nebula. It was a finalist in the selection
    process, but was not chosen by the committee.
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    I send a few readout reports to my own Navi for later. "We're risking more system failures if we stay in the nebula. But if we divert we'll need a crew at full strength to navigate..if we can muster it, we'd be back on track in two days."

    I can feel myself wetting my lips nervously. "Also..we could try to go to this planet..apparently we almost chose it for colonization." I bring up the finalist planet on a nearby screen. "It's two months away, but off the Beacon Path. Not a decision for me to make." My guess is it was a longshot and a challenge to get me in this room, even with the crew down to one pilot. So me swinging in and suggesting that we wildly change course is probably not going to be popular. But it might be the least risky thing to do, if we lack the talent.

    "What sounds feasible to you?"
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    image "We haven't had a full crew in a..." Dana answers, then hesitates. You're vaguely aware that it's just the two of you in here, but surely you're being observed. "In a while."
    She licks her lips, thinking. "Zeti-5 is coming up. There's been a small number of us lobbying to alter course. The planet doesn't have the mineral deposits that the backers wanted, so it's not in the charter. If we choose to land there, we would be fending for ourselves with the food and supplies on the ship and what we could find there. We could survive, eventually prosper there, but only on an agrarian societal level. The discussion was tabled due to the plague."
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    A year, at least. Isn't that how long it's been, Dana?

    "..so..if we don't alter our course, how long will it be until we reach our approved destination?" Probably too drokking long for us to all make it, if things don't change soon. When will the next navigation crisis, like this one, happen, and will we have more crew by then?

    "And is there anything waiting for us there besides beacon access and minerals?" Anything else worth the long haul? Minerals are kind of a big deal, I get it - in whatever length of time it will take settlement expansion to reach us, they'll have zeng tech and guns and we'll have vegetables. Unless we find some surprising new resources, our future colony would be exploitable.
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    image "At our current speed," Dana answers dryly, "Thirty four years. There is a prefab compound waiting for us, heavy mineral deposits, and a string of other colony ships following in our wake, resupplies once we arrive. All meticulously planned a hundred years ago." She rattles this off as a litany of what's been shared for generations.
  • edited August 2016

    I'm quiet for a while, focusing on maneuvering the Tsiolkovsky and picturing that future in my mind. I need to think clearly about this. Diverting to Zeti-5 won't necessarily solve any of our problems besides keeping us from being lost. Which isn't a small thing, but..

    "We need to at least make it to the next beacon. We have to warn the next ships about the nebula, offer them our navigation results, and tell them if we're changing course."

    Could you review for me the bridge positions that need to
    be filled? If it's a temporary, high intensity course
    correction we're in for, I have some thoughts.
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    Dana agrees with that assessment, of course.

    I have the roster list already, Tabitha.
    Captain - unfilled
    Chief Officer - unfilled
    First Pilot - currently Tabitha R Smith
    Second Pilot - unfilled
    Relief Pilot - Oren Rivas
    Chief Navigator - unfilled
    Assistant Navigator / Lookout Officer - unfilled
    Communication Officer - unfilled
    Bridge Administrative Assistant - unfilled
  • edited August 2016

    Seven out of nine positions unfilled. What the drokk has been going on over here?! I can't keep myself from groaning.

    "Dana, take a look at this list with me. Tell me what you think."

    The following loads into a window on the same screen as Zeti-5.
    Captain - unfilled
    Chief Officer - unfilled
    First Pilot - Tabitha Smith
    Second Pilot - Cressida 'Pax' Redmond
    Relief Pilot - Oren Rivas
    Chief Navigator - Ourania Fabre
    Assistant Navigator / Lookout Officer - Andru Shimizu
    Communication Officer - Temperance Johns
    Bridge Administrative Assistant - Aiden Gamble

    "This would bring us from 7 positions empty to two positions empty."
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    image Dana leans over as she stands behind you while you're in the chair. You feel her warmth against the back of your left arm. She turns slightly after reading, "That's a solid crew, I've seen the test scores of those students. If the plague was cured, it would be worth considering. As it is, all of them would have to work in containment suits. Would they agree to it, Tabitha?"
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    For a moment I'm so aware of how close Dana is. I want her to stay this close. I'm glad she's stayed on the bridge with me..

    Would they agree to it? I guess it isn't a guarantee. "Containment suits aren't that hard to wear." Well, that was kind of flippant. It's not the suits they'll care about. "Dana.."

    "..maybe I'm just assuming they'll all feel like me, but here's what I think. Living in the quarantine is like being condemned. Every day is just a notch on a wall while you try not to think about being executed. Everything you do, you're doing to take your mind off of it, or you're doing it because not doing it would mean you waste your time and suffer.

    It's purposeless. Everyone I've picked, I think they're good for the position and I think they want their lives to mean something. If you're straightforward with them about how the ship needs them right now, make them feel trusted, I think they would do it.
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    image Dana slides around so she can sit against a nearby console and look at you while you discuss this. She's close, her right thigh tantalizingly near your arm. "I hope your assessment of your classmates are accurate. If you get their agreement, I'll submit a proposal to the Commandant and Mr. Johns and the rest of the council."
    She peers at you for a long moment, "Your speech pattern's changed, Tabitha. Is this the AAU, or something else? I noticed that when you read me, ah, when you read me poetry that you spoke more clearly and confidently. Like now."
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    "Me? I'm not someone with the authority to make needed promises.." I protest, but we both know I'm going to at least try it. There's not enough people on their end to do something as critical as pilot the ship, so I guess that removes negotiating, too. Maybe Dana will help me. Maybe that would make me look compromised to my peers.

    "Ah. It's probably the AAU. I experience similar clarity in a virtual environment." I remember chatting with Pris again, and I hope she's well. I could probably use the AAU to find her..but it's probably best that I don't know right now.

    "When I'm reading poetry, the words are already laid out for me. When I'm speaking on my own, I have to make sure I'm using the right words, and that my reflexes are engaged correctly. I 'know' all the words Ioanna did but.."
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    image Dana studies your face, listens intently. She's near you, it's intimate, but the scientist in her has stirred and she's making mental notes. "If the AAU can help with your speech, it's possible that there's a disconnect in your synapses that are medically adjustable, Tabitha. It would take some study since initial tests came back with nothing substantial." She places a hand over yours, "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you, Tabitha. You have a beautiful mind, and if you're comfortable with how you speak normally, I'll drop this line of thought and never bring it up again."

    What do you do?
  • edited August 2016

    "I..don't like the way I speak normally." I turn my hand over and hold Dana's gently. "I'd like to talk about this more later."

    I should just get started on requesting that people join my bridge roster. Internally, I assemble a Navi message under my own comm code.

    Staffing on the bridge is short and we're coming to a serious
    navigational crossroads. I'll be piloting for much of it, and
    I'd like you to take up the Chief Navigator's role. I'll be asking
    more people from our pod for help, as well. Once we're out
    of the nebula and back on the Beacon Path, I don't know
    where this will go.

    I know this is a difficult thing to ask, but the impact of your
    assistance would mean a literal world of difference.


    I send similar notes to Pax and Aiden and so on..

    Staffing on the bridge is short and we need volunteers.
    This will amount to a two-week project where we try
    to shore up the bridge crew and get the ship through
    the nebula and back firmly onto the Beacon Path.

    I don't know you very well, but you have a reputation for
    making connections and reading people. I'd like to have
    you on the bridge as the Chief Comms officer, keeping the
    Bridge internally and externally informed.

    If you can't or won't, I would appreciate any alternatives
    you had in mind, but please consider it.


    Ugh this is more than I write anyone in a standard month.
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    Dana squeezes your hand, then lets you focus on flying and working. She heads to a console to work on her own projects, but is close if you need her.

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    I wonder, idly, what Dana is working on. It's still so strange to be here with her, on the adult side of things. Feeling the cracks in my self filled by the AAU. Still, I'm holding my breath just like I always do. It's not just waiting for Navi responses.

    Is there something I can call you? Just saying 'AAU' feels..

    Should I just call you Tsiolkovsky?
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    There's a long pause. Three seconds or so.
    AAU is my designation. It is short. It is accurate.
    I had never considered my name as artful or artless.
    It is artful, Tabitha? If so, you may use it.
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    I think so. I will.

    I continue to work and my mind wanders. Would the quarantine end after a few bouts of us filling up the bridge, doing vital work? They let this problem go so long..now that things are pivoting, how do I make this..better? More helpful? Not just a patch job.

    Not temporary, like..oh.

    Tsiolkovsky, do we have any mechanical style bodies
    on inventory? I'm curious..beyond myself..what the state of
    body replacement is on the ship.
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    The AAU replies quickly:
    You are the last female replacement model.
    The previous ones were discarded as utter failures to clone Ioanna.
    During the riots, several key members of the staff were cloned as
    well. There are two remaining mechanical style bodies on inventory.
    One is an ottermode. The other is athletic build.

    You get a visual of both bodies, both in very good shape with attractive young faces.
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    Oh. Discarded. Of course they made more. Of course they resyced the ones they didn't use. Or who knows, maybe they drokking wasted them entirely, like they almost did to me. I refocus entirely on piloting for a while.

    I wonder who else was cloned? Were they transferred over, or are their bodies waiting mutely for them, empty and doomed?

    Well. None of them would be suited for Gwen, even if I'd like to deny somebody. But the ottermode, the machine. It's skinny like she likes. It looks fast. I wonder where it is. How could I get it to her, or her to it? I reach through my connection curiously.
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    When you try to circumvent the ship's systems, roll with Dark. On a hit, you get past them. On a 7-9, choose one:
    - You attract unwanted attention
    - Take a Condition for your hard work
    - You take 1-Harm in the effort
    - You're so thrilled or guilty by the success, you have to tell the first kid you see about it
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    Rolling with Dark; (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 1, 3. Total: 6)
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    As you slip through a few tertiary systems to find where the replacement bodies are being warehoused, you run into a couple dead ends. That's when the AAU, I mean Tsiolkovski, inserts itself
    I see that you're looking for the ottermode replacement model.
    Would you like access? I can grant that access to you.

    You see a HUD display with the body, right in the Science Department, near Dana's office.

    The AAU now has a string on you.
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    I didn't want to involve Tsiolkovsky but I guess I should have known better, wasn't thinking clearly.

    Yes, thank you. I..think I need to get it here.

    Or to my room.
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    Your room? Very well.
    Should I schedule a body transfer for you?
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    No! No, I'll be staying with this body. Thank you.

    Better the devil you know? No! I calm myself. This body is mine. Not hers.

    Will Gwen like it? Will she be able to safely use it? I should find a way and tell her about it first. But I haven't seen her since she panicked at whatever was tormenting Lucas.
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    Are you in here? It's Gwen.
    Someone dethed Ourania.
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    I'm here. Let me look into it.

    How have you been? I found a body for you. It will
    be in my room soon, I hope.

    That would explain why Ourania hasn't gotten back to me. She's usually prompt about messages.

    What's happening to her right now? Ourania of all people getting dethed doesn't make sense. Balancing my focus, I try to reach out, to know.
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    A body? Already? That's great.
    I'll go wait for it. Tell me about it, Tabitha.

    Sounds like you're circumventing the ship's systems again.
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    If it isn't broke, keep hitting it until it is.

    Rolling Dark; (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 4, 5. Total: 11)
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    It's slim and attractive. I think you'll be fast in it.
    It is a masculine body, though. There were no feminine
    units left. But it's whole, and it isn't a clone.
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    A masculine body?
    You can't hear a tone, but you know Gwen well enough to "feel it".

    It can be altered like Mi Sun. Right?
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    I don't see why it couldn't be altered. Apparently I was
    the last female body available. They discarded the rest.

    I'm sorry.

    I wasn't really sure if it would be a problem. I guess it is.
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    Don't worry, Tabs. I'll make it work.
    Thanks for your help. At least I'll learn about
    peeing while standing up. There's that.

    You get back a few sets of results from your searches. There are four active clones on board. Temperance's father is one of them. The other three are a student in Pod Eight and two members of the Science Department, under Dana's direct supervision.

    Ourania, being dethed, isn't easily found. You switch to some cams and find her going into Torrence's room, a dead zone. The dething was not signed off by a Corporal, it looks like a hack. Red Five.
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    Doctor Lancome owes me, now that I think
    of it. So I'll ask her for help when I get a chance.

    Still, you'll need to tell me if peeing while standing is
    any more fun than the regular kind.

    My results surprise me. Another clone student? I'm fascinated but not sure I want to meet them. If I haven't already. Temperance's father..that makes sense, since he's important..and two of Dana's subordinates. I send some of this packed in a Navi message to myself for later.

    I keep track of the camera outside of Torrence's room and wait. The timing on Ourania's hack makes me nervous. Either someone doesn't want her to respond to me or someone doesn't want her to be able to message her mother about something that's about to happen. Or they just want her to suffer, but that's a little petty for a good hack like this. I'm not seeing anything about other dethed identities, either.
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    I promise I'll tell you.
    But even if it isn't, I'll probably still tell you it is.

    The video outside Torrence's room and the most recent footage shows that Temperance and her crew went in, only she stayed there. Mark went in to the bathroom from his side, and hasn't come back out. Seems like a group thing. And nobody's replied to you.

    Ourania's dething was just flipped.

  • image

    Okay, good. We'll work something out.

    Ourania just got rethurrected. I'm keeping an eye on her.

    Hey Gwen, what were you interested in doing when you
    got out of quarantine?

    I'll keep watching. The dething flipping is a good sign. Temperance and Ourania are in there..maybe they're talking with each other and Mark.

    This is the part where I'd huff and lie down on my bed reading or try to sneak in a run if I were back in my Pod. The wait is getting to me. Not even Aiden has responded?
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    You find a few replies have been queued behind your conversation with Gwen. Piloting with the AAU does limit your focus a bit. Or maybe the AAU is limiting access?

    From Aiden
    Administrative Assistant? I thought I'd rate higher.
    Regardless, it's an excellent opportunity. Count me in.

    Shimizu accepts his role. Oren Rivas is asleep.

    From Gwen
    When I get a body, I want to shiv Lucas first.
    Then maybe kiss you for real?
  • edited August 2016

    Maybe the way Gwen uses the Navi network has this effect. Maybe it's just a server hiccup. Maybe I've just been doing half a dozen things.

    Thank you for agreeing to this. I can see a need for a lot of
    support on the bridge, so I wanted someone smart, flexible
    and reliable. This plan has to be proposed to admin, so I'll
    get back to you when there's news.

    I'm kind of relieved that Rivas hasn't responded, it would be pretty bad if he were still awake. I thank Shimizu as well..he's got experience and a level head.

    You can kiss me for real, I'd like it.

    Be careful how you deal with Lucas. He deserves it but
    I don't want him getting in the way of you keeping
    your body.

    I smile at the thought of getting to kiss Gwen again. Well. Did we ever kiss? It'll be different anyway. I'm looking forward to it.
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    End Scene
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