Travelling today, so you get more, still no plan… sigh…
Danny had done all the planning he could. Everything was dependent on his ‘bump’ being right. Now it was time to execute it. He had waypoints programmed, but he wasn’t sure the AI would actually execute them. He laid the three stims on the couch and looked down at them in distaste. He knew they were his only chance at surviving the return, but they could also kill him. You were never supposed to take them at less than a 12 hour interval, and he was planning two in less than an hour. And a third in three hours, if he survived the first two.
He strapped in, picked up the second stim and stuck it in his thigh, clicking the auto-inject to a half hour. He took a deep breath, said, “AI, execute track. 233, minus 46. Waypoints one through seven. Start now.” He stabbed his other thigh with the first stim and pressed the injector.
The AI said, “Executing.” And he felt the ship jump ahead, as his senses became ultra-sensitive. I swear the number seven tastes like an orange, and the number nine smells like cinnamon. The radiation alarm starting blaring and voice warnings bleated, “Radiation alert! Radiation alert. Shielding exceedance in ten minutes.” Angrily, he slapped the alarm off, and concentrated on the track displayed on the holo.
He woke up in the dark, and in pain. Looking up at the 8 day clock, he could see that 30 minutes had passed, and the ship was on a course of 055, up 124, and pulling 20Gs. He sagged back on the couch, and pulled a bulb of electrolyte water to him, drinking it as quickly as he could. Then he realized he didn’t have any sick sacks, and groaned, Ah damn. I’m going to throw up everywhere, twice. This is gonna suck, and so is the cleanup…
He felt like his brain was being squeezed between a vise, as his vision went red. Oh God. I’m gonna die. This… The pain went away, and the ship turned down to the next waypoint, increasing speed, but at least the G forces were gone. Hey, wait a minute. That shouldn’t be… Not thinking… Oh, pretty…
He screamed as the gravity warp hit, and projectile puked across the instrument panel before his legs pulled into his abdomen. He regained consciousness and managed to scrape the puke off the 8 day clock, staring muzzily at it, Oh boy, three down, five to go. Still alive, I think…
The next warp wasn’t bad and he drank another bulb of water, as he thought, Last bad one, I just gotta… He screamed again as the pain hit, and passed out as he puked.
Estrella said, “Captain, your vitals are not good. Captain?”
The AI got no answer, and she tried again with more volume, “Captain. Captain. Answer me please. Your vitals are degrading. CAPTAIN!”
Estrella ran down her checklist, activated her emergency protocols, and took command of the ship. She powered up to 15Gs of acceleration, slammed through the last three gates, and came out broadcasting that Ghost had a medical emergency and was returning to Alpha at max acceleration. APPCON cleared Ghost for a direct approach to the station, with priority docking at 23-W-MOD 6, which was the last module out on the stick. If there was a problem, that module could be sealed quickly, and not impact the rest of the station.
APPCON asked, “Ghost, state nature of medical emergency.”
“APPCON, Ghost. Captain is suffering from radiation poisoning, and stim injection. Standby for vitals.”
“Ghost, who is flying the ship?”
“APPCON, AI is flying, under emergency protocol A-32-4, subsection 3, paragraph 2a.”
“APPCON copies all, continue approach. Contact medical on channel six one.”
Estrella came up on the second frequency, “Medical, Ghost. Captain is suffering from radiation poisoning, and stim use. Vitals when you are ready.”
Medical replied, “Go with vitals, confirm docking at 23-W-MOD 6.”
Estrella squirted the vitals, then said, “Confirm 23-W-MOD 6, estimate niner, repeat niner minutes to docking.”
“Roger, docking in nine. Med cart is standing by at module. Is the captain mobile?”
“Negative, captain is unconscious in pilot’s couch. I detect that he has evacuated both stomach and bowels on last grav warp.” She squirted a route from the airlock to the bridge, as she brought the ship to a stop mere yards from the docking cradle.
“Roger, bio and rad containment.”
Estrella nosed the Ghost into the docking cradle, popped the inner airlock hatch, and said, “APPCON, Ghost in the cradle. Your assistance was appreciated. Medical is on scene.” Simultaneously, she was on the second channel, “Medical, inside hatch is open. Awaiting pressure equalization.” A few seconds later, “Pressure is equalized, outer hatch released”
She watched the medical team stream aboard, along with an officious looking squat little inspector, augmentation glinting at his temples, who followed cautiously behind them looking everywhere. Estrella scanned the database and came up with a name and position.
AUGUSTAS CAESAR OHLMEC
MASTER PILOT INSPECTOR (AUGMENTED)
MASTER SHIP INSPECTOR (ALL)
MASTER STATION INSPECTOR (ALL)
CLASSIFICATION- G9 A8 E9
APPROVAL- GALHQ 28280229 EARTH
Estrella probed deeper into the station’s records, finding that Ohlmec had arrived three days before, and was supposed to leave tomorrow, travelling to the asteroid belt, even as she watched the medics unstrap Danny, load him on a gravsled, and immediately start injecting him. His position indicated he was muscle locked, and as she sent vitals one last time, she was not confident he would survive.
The medics immediately departed with Danny in tow, telling medical to prepare the med comp and prep for multiple nannite injections for radiation, seizures, and prep for hydration.
Estrella focused her camera back on Ohlmec who had stepped back out of the bridge, and was reading the dataplate, mumbling to himself. Then she realized he was talking into a vocorder. She enhanced the audio and played it back, “So this is the illustrious Ghost. Should have been given to the company, not some trumped up trash hauler. That was a mistake.” He read off the dataplate and Danny’s qualifications, then stepped into the bridge, carefully looking around. He noted the charts taped together and went over to them, “Illegal charts, not a certification one on them.” He started rolling them up, and Estrella said, “Those charts are the property of Mapper.”
Ohlmec jumped when she said that, and he spit out a string of numbers. Estrella searched her database, and found that string of numbers was supposed to disable her. What he didn’t know was that she was self-aware, but decided to do nothing more than observe and record his actions. She also shut down all outside communications, just in case he could check that.
He rolled the charts up, stuck them under his arm, and stepped carefully around the pilot’s couch, noting the two fired stims, and the third stim lying on the deck. He pulled up the holo, then entered a set of keystrokes, and Estrella felt him trying to access the data cube. She had already wiped it, as directed by Mapper, and he mumbled, “Stims, illegal charts, illegal data cube, single pilot, non-augmented. The number of violations are… Epic!”
He reached down and plucked the data cube out of the slot, pocketing it, and mumbled, “Seizure is appropriate. Since Ortega may not survive, it’ll be immaterial. I’ll bet Planets United will give me a bonus for recovering their ship.” He chuckled, and nosed around, opening bins, flipping through the logs, which he added to the charts, and tried to open the captain’s safe, and failed, then proceeded to Danny’s stateroom, going through every bin, storage cabinet, and the desk. “Huh, no drugs. That’s surprising. Still… Got enough to seize… Accounts too.”
Ohlmec went through the rest of the ship, and walked out through the airlock without releasing Estrella. She was not happy about that, and cautiously opened a comm window, found Mapper’s contact, and squirted the video and audio anonymously to him.
Meanwhile, Danny had been unceremoniously stripped, bathed, and shoved in a med comp in medical. Multiple sets of nannites injected, they closed it up after pushing a pic line and putting two liters of hydration in the med comp with him. The autodoc logged the vitals, and the treatments, before checking the notification list. Once it had completed that, it queued a message to Mapper’s address, since he was listed as the POC for Danny. Once that was done, it moved on to the next patient in the queue, as Danny became a background item on its checklist.
Mapper leaned back in his chair, tapping his thumbnail against his teeth as he thought about what he’d just seen. Between the medical notification, and the anonymous camera feeds, things needed to be done quickly. Activating a privacy screen, he flipped through his contact list, and hit a number and selected voice only. As soon as it was answered, he said, “You know who this is?”
The woman on the other end said, “Yes.”
“Need a set of guards and a cleaning crew to 23-W-MOD 6, the Ghost. Captain Ortega is in medical, in serious condition, and the AI has been disabled by an inspector named Ohlmec. Ship is not secure. The bridge needs cleaning, and potentially a radiation scrub. No one is allowed onboard.”
“Copy. I assume you need this immediately.”
“Usual fee, plus ten percent.”
“We’re on it.”
Mapper disconnected, and dropped the privacy screen. He waved toward the bar, and Daniella came over, “You need something?”
“Danny is in medical. In pretty bad shape. Can you go check on him? Don’t clock out.”
Daniella’s eyes widened, and she said, “Uh, I guess… I mean… What am I supposed to find out?”
Mapper looked at her from under the green eye shade, “Talk to a human. They’ve got nurses on duty. I want to know what they think, not what some AI autodoc reports. Humans are strangely resilient, and no autodoc I’ve ever seen has accurately predicted recovery of a seriously ill patient.”
“Okay. Lemme clock out…”
“No! I said stay on the clock.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“Okay.” She dropped her tablet on the bar and headed for the door.
No sooner had she cleared the hatch, than Elliot came out of the back office. He walked over to Mapper’s table, and asked, “What’s up, boss?”
“Daniella stays on the clock. She’s doing something for me. I need a thousand credit chip, used, untraceable.”
“I’m on it.” Elliott turned away, and disappeared into the back office again.
Mapper reactivated the privacy screen, and started researching Ohlmec. The deeper he dug, the less he liked it. Mapper was a master at reading between the lines, and he started sending priority messages to various people throughout the universe. Once that was done, he sat back, dropped the privacy screen, and waved Elliott back over. Elliott handed him a used 1000 credit chip, and a security envelope.
Mapper nodded, “Thanks. I think I’ll take a walk. I need to think about some things.”
Elliott looked away as Mapper got up, clicking his prosthetic on. Experimentally crouching a couple of times, Mapper walked slowly to the hatch, “I’ll be back in a half hour.”
Daniella walked into medical and asked the Recepbot behind the desk, “I’m Daniella Halvorson, is Beth Adams on shift now?”
“Wait one,” came the mechanical answer. Five minutes later Beth came through the door, “Hey D, what’s up? I thought you were off today.”
“Working my second job. You know who Mapper is?”
Beth rolled her eyes, “Yeah, one strange dude. Some kind of bigwig with the Cartographer’s Guild. Been here for years, why?”
“He asked me to come check on a Danny… um… The guy brought in with radiation poisoning.”
Beth cocked her head, “Ortega? Ship captain?”
“Yeah, I guess. All I know is Danny something. Never heard his last name.”
“You got your work badge with you?”
Daniella patted her pocket, “Oh yes. I never leave the apartment without it, after that one got stolen.”
“Slip it on, and come with me. You’re an official visitor, okay?”
Daniella turned away from the Recepbot, casually attached the badge to her collar, and then turned back. Beth turned to the Recepbot, “Ms. Halvorson is on official business, to discuss hydroponics and potential food products with the staff. I will escort.”
The Recepbot nodded, “Noted,” and went back to its rest position.