In the Shadow of Heaven [ORIGINAL VERSION]

by

javert

Chapter Sixty-Six - In Which Kino Claims She Has No Exploitable Vulnerabilities

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In Which Kino Claims She Has No Exploitable Vulnerabilities

“Don’t get distracted by the inessentials. Always look at the bigger picture, and work backwards from there.”

-from A Problem Solver’s Guide to Entrepreneurship, by Rosalinne Harper

Sid banner

Sid emerged from his room as if from inside a dark cave. He was feeling sufficiently recovered to get out and about his business, and he couldn't leave Kino to have all the fun without him. He found her on the bridge, talking with Captain Wen. Sid lingered on the edge of the room, waiting for them to finish their conversation so that he could snag Kino and get caught up. He saw, to his surprise, on the big display, that they were no longer in orbit next to the station. They had jumped away. Sid reached out with the power and sent a tendril of it toward Kino. Unexpectedly, he felt her power bat it away, like two sparks meeting in the air. He had never felt her do that before, and he looked over at her, questioning. She turned her head a little bit, half away from the conversation with Wen, and her lips turned up in an approximation of a smile. Sid leaned back against the wall of the bridge and sighed, waiting his turn.

Kino eventually got herself out of the conversation and came toward him. Wen looked like he was coming along as well, but Kino grabbed Sid's elbow and led him off of the bridge before Wen could come talk to him. Once they were outside of the sliding doors, Sid spoke up.

"What was that about?"

"What?" Kino asked.

"You sending me away."

"I was in the middle of something. You can't just demand me at any moment." Her words certainly looked haughty, but as Sid glanced at her face, he saw that she was attempting to make a joke.

"You've let the power get to your head, with me being gone."

"The power's always been in my head," Kino remarked. "That's where it lives."

"You're the worst. But really, what's gotten into you?"

"You don't like it?"

Sid sighed, then shook his head. "Let's just get down to business."

"There are other people you could talk to."

"I don't want any information other than what is strictly necessary. I trust you to give me just the rundown. Besides, I need to make sure you haven’t been going crazy without me."

"Thanks."

"Wasn't exactly a compliment or anything."

The pair made their way into a little office. Kino had somehow gotten code permissions to a lot of the rooms of the ship. She must have made some sort of convincing argument that she needed full access. If Sid had been trying to make that argument, he probably would have said that since Cesper, Ervantes, was off duty, he wouldn't be able to let him in to the officer's mess at all hours of the day. It wasn't a particularly strong argument. Maybe Wen had just gotten tired of needing to dedicate one of his crew to escorting around the two wayward apprentices.

The office was on the interior of the rotating ring, and it had no windows to speak of, just a few powered down screens and a long table surrounded by office chairs. Sid and Kino took seats across from each other, both toward the head of the table.

"You missed me?" Sid asked.

Kino shrugged. Sid didn't know what he expected. She was picking at the sleeve of her cassock. This one in particular had seen better days– there were loose threads dangling off it.

"You okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine. I think Sandreas is going to kill me when we get home, though."

"Why?"

"We convinced him that we should go on this trip, and then I went and almost died on a stupid shuttle. Again."

"You survived, though."

"Yeah."

"You did survive, right?" Kino asked again, more pressingly. He didn't really understand the question.

"I didn't do anything other than seal the shuttle back up," he said. "Didn't you watch the recording? There definitely is one."

"I didn't want to see it."

"So you don't even know what happened?"

"I know the results of it," Kino said after a long second. "But I wasn't going to learn anything important from watching the recording. I saw what it was like with the pirates."

"Oh, yeah, I forgot Halen showed that to you. It really wasn't anything like that. Cesper was the one who shot him."

Kino nodded slowly. "Is he okay?"

"I think Fleet training's got him a little messed up. But other than that…" Sid trailed off, remembering what it had been like to kiss Ervantes. That had been nice. He hadn't seen him around, and wondered if he was being avoided, or if he had been reassigned. He should try to get back into contact with him. Sid put finding Ervantes onto his mental to do list for the afternoon.

Kino shuddered. It was one of the strongest reactions Sid had ever seen out of her. He looked at her and raised his eyebrows. "I don't like the Fleet training," she said in explanation.

"Who really does?" Sid asked.

Kino opened her mouth as if to say something, then thought the better of it. "What?" Sid asked.

She considered for a second more before she spoke, and when she did, the words crawled across Sid's glasses with agonizing slowness. "When one of us is Voice, do you think we'll change it?"

Sid thought for a second. "There's probably a reason for the Fleet to be the way it is. It seems to be working. I don't know."

A hint of something flashed across Kino's usually still face. Maybe it was the momentary squint of her eyes, as though she was in pain, or the way her eyebrows twitched a fraction downward, but Sid knew he hadn't given her an answer that she wanted to hear. He wondered why she was so invested in it. After all, the Fleet was a tool, like any other, and it was made and maintained in a certain way. It had been going on like this for hundreds of years– there was no point for him to think about changing the status quo. He tried to cheer her up.

"Got big ideas for when you become Voice?" Sid asked with a smile.

"I don't like to make plans that far into the future," Kino said. "I was just wondering what you were thinking."

"Suppose it's good you don't get ahead of yourself, since I'm probably going to become Voice anyway," Sid said. He grinned widely, flashing his teeth.

Surprisingly, Kino didn't rise to the bait. "Yeah," she just said, distractedly. She was staring into space and pulling at the loose threads on her arms again. Even for Sid, who was usually pretty astute about body language, he didn't know if that was just a thing that she did all the time, or if she only did it when she was nervous or had something on her mind. Maybe she was just perpetually nervous or had something on her mind. He hadn't come here to discuss the far future of the Empire, though, and neither had he come to worry about how many cassock sleeves Kino destroyed in a year. Still, he had to ask.

"You okay? Really?"

She nodded, still pensive. "I'd like to get back to the Empire," she said.

"We're on our way, right?"

"Nearest station's still nine jumps away."

"I keep forgetting just how far out they were building this thing."

"They had to find a moon that was the right size to mine out."

"So it was a moon?"

Kino nodded again. "Don't know what the ethics of disrupting a whole planet like that are."

Sid did consider that the planet the moon had been orbiting would probably suffer some sort of effect as the ship jumped away. It couldn't be good for it. "Did it have oceans?"

"No. It was completely barren. Still."

"Well it's too late now. Not like we can put it back."

"We're going to try to find it."

"Obviously."

"Not right now, though," Kino said.

"We're ditching the prisoners first?" Sid asked.

"Handing them over to the TRA." The TRA was the Transportation Regulation Authority, who were broadly responsible for making sure too many people weren't leaving the planets they lived on. Without a letter of transit from a ship's captain, it took a lot of paperwork, and charges, to travel between planets. Sid had a bad feeling that most of the people on the station with conflicting personnel records were not supposed to be off planet at all, and were perhaps listed as missing. The best case scenario was that they were all willingly employed. The worst case was… Well, he hadn't actually heard anyone admitting they'd been sold into slavery, and he was hoping that wasn't something the Guild would stoop to, but the possibility couldn't be dismissed out of hand.

"Are there any that will get sent to tribunals?"

"Cesper killed the ringleader, but based on some of the information in the station logs, there are a couple people who require further investigation."

"There weren't any more people found hiding or anything, were there?" Sid had not followed the evacuation of the station at all.

"We think we cleaned it out completely," Kino said. "One of the ship's sensitives checked it out."

"Toola or Roth?"

"Toola."

"That's good. And did we get any real connections back to the rest of the Guild?"

"I think a lot of the most sensitive stuff was kept aboard the ship," Kino said. "Either that or they did a better job of wiping the records than they should have been able to."

"I don't get how that giant thing is as habitable and mobile as it is."

"They've been working on it for a long time. Since Ungarti."

"I know." Sid sighed. "Life was a lot simpler when we didn't know what the Guild was up to."

That actually did make Kino smile. "You were the one who begged to be here."

"So did you."

"But I'm not complaining about it."

"You didn't almost die."

"I'll go alone next time, then," Kino said.

"Not on your life." They looked at each other across the table. It was rare that they got to have a private moment like this. Sid, against his better judgement, was having a good time talking to Kino. She could be disconcerting, and odd, and annoying, but she was clearly competent, and could hold up her end of a conversation when she wanted to. That was worth something. And they shared a position. They should start getting along better.

"Can I ask you a stupid question?" Sid asked, breaking the lull in the conversation.

"What?"

"I know you said you didn't watch the recording, but do you know how, um, Willis got onto the shuttle?"

"Yeah."

"Are you going to tell me?"

Kino looked up at him, seemingly innocent. "I thought you were about to use the concept of how he did it as a jumping off point for the rest of the conversation."

Sid ran his hand over the back of his neck and up towards his skull. He could feel hair coming back in. He would have to shave again soon. "No, I was asking because I don't know."

"Didn't Cesper tell you?"

"We were busy with other things."

Kino stared him down.

"Busy," Sid reiterated. "Tell me how it happened."

Sid could just imagine what Kino was thinking: he could have looked up the files himself, he could have asked Hernan, he could have done any number of things other than pester her about it. But Sid was here, and he didn't particularly feel like reliving the moment in the shuttle by watching the video either, and he didn't want to bring it up with Ervantes or Hernan (who he was sure were feeling the same way), and it would be embarrassing to ask anyone else. Kino had to understand that. He tried to broadcast that feeling toward her, both with his face and in the power, just using it as a general carrier of his emotions. He didn't slam her over the face with it, just nudged her a little bit. Again, it was like oil sliding off a hot pan. But Kino relented.

"He was already outside the ship. He jetted over and hung onto the outside."

"So he wasn't a stowaway."

"No. He was just taking the opportunity."

"How come no one saw him?"

"The station cameras were disabled, because of the computer outage. No one was able to fix them for a long time."

"And the shuttle?"

"You saw his suit. Black on black. And the jet he was using was cold fuel. No engine. And the shuttle was launching off the dark side of the station, away from the star."

"So infrared wouldn't pick it up either," Sid said aloud. Kino nodded. "What was his plan?"

"Probably to take the shuttle to whatever the meeting point was."

"And he couldn't take one of the station's own?"

"They were locked down tight."

"What made him think he'd be able to take a whole shuttle full of Fleet soldiers, and me."

"He didn't know who was on it," Kino pointed out, face as mild as ever.

"Still."

"Was anyone actually prepared to depressurize like that?"she asked.

"I mean. No."

"So if you hadn't been very lucky, you would have died."

"I guess? I don't know if it's luck."

"Skill, then."

Sid didn't have anything to say, really. He leaned his chin on his hand. "Should I have been prepared?"

"You were prepared enough to not die."

"That's not what I mean!" He was frustrated, and he waved his free arm. Kino flinched back a little.

"What do you mean?"

"Should I be expecting to die at any second! For someone to leap out of every corner I'm in! No matter who I'm with or what!" He was unintentionally yelling, he could feel his throat start to hurt from the volume. Kino's shoulders hunched up towards her ears. "Sorry," Sid said, taking a deep breath.

"You know Yan couldn't have–"

"God, Kino…" Sid flopped his arms down, laying them palm up on the table. All the energy went out of him. Tentatively, Kino reached across and put her hand on his. Sid looked up at her.

"It's not your fault," she said. Sid laughed, harshly.

"Sure it's not. But maybe if I hadn't had my eyes closed…"

"Everybody has to sleep," Kino said. "Even–"

"I wasn't asleep!"

"I'm not talking about that," Kino said. Sid felt a little bad for continuing to cut her off. He waited for her to say something else, but she didn't

There was a bit of a break in the conversation. Kino didn't seem willing to broach any other topic, so Sid did, steading his voice as much as he could. "What are we going to do after we get to the station?" He knew what he wanted the answer to be, but he wanted to hear what Kino's official plan was before he started proposing his own schemes.

"We're going to wait for updates from Emerri," Kino said. She took her hand off his, and straightened her shoulders in a businesslike fashion. "We might go hunting."

"The ship?" Kino nodded. "What if…" Sid began.

Kino held up her hand. "You almost just got killed."

"I'm not talking about anything too dangerous," Sid protested. "At least let me say my piece." She stared him down, but didn't interrupt. "What if we find out a lot of these people who were on the station hail from the same port? Or passed through the same station. Wouldn't it be our responsibility to shut that down?"

Kino looked at him with an inscrutable expression. "You still haven't given up on going after black stations?"

"I'm not sure what you think is a better use of my time."

"Learning how to be a good leader," she said. "Rather than just someone who goes around the galaxy on a lark."

"It's not a lark. I want to put a real dent in piracy."

"The only way to stop that is to stop the ships. Stations are easy to build anywhere. They'll just come right back up and make themselves harder to find."

She wasn't wrong, but Sid wasn't going to give up that easily. After all, it wasn't as though Kino could possibly be harder to convince than Sandreas. "Yeah, but what if we scope it out and catch it when there are ships docked. We could really do some damage."

"I thought you had had enough of killing," Kino said.

"Why does everyone keep saying stuff like that?" Sid asked. "I just want to do things to help."

"The best thing to do is to resolve things peacefully. I'm glad that we didn't have to fight the ship."

"It probably didn't have a set of dogfighters," Sid grumbled. "That's why it ran away."

"You're acting like you're an expert on space warfare strategy now."

"I go to a lot of Fleet meetings," Sid said by way of explanation. "I'm sure it's much more interesting than hanging out with the council all day long."

Kino frowned, deliberately twisting her face into a disapproving expression. "The council runs the Empire."

"No, Sandreas does."

"The Fleet doesn't. I would rather focus on things closer to home."

"Does the Fleet make you nervous or something?"

"I just don't like it," Kino said. "No other reason."

Sid shrugged. "Suit yourself. All I'm saying is that we have this fantastic ship basically at our disposal, it would be a shame not to use it."

"The Impulse has better things to be doing."

"Not really."

"You want to be responsible for stopping these people from going home to their families?"

"It's not going to be dangerous!"

"We'll see." Kino said, and that was the end of the conversation.


Three days later, they made it into Loyla station. It was a small place, as far as stations went, and relatively uninhabited. It was the central hub of about five different mining operations scattered throughout the star system it sat in. Non-jump capable ships hauled ore and materials to the station, where they were collected by visiting Guild ships. That was the only reason anyone ever had for visiting here. But it was a place where there was access to the citizen's database, and the mystery of the mismatched files could be solved once and for all. But first, there was mail. Sid received his ansible mail package before the ship had even docked, and he read it in his room on the Impuse.

Dear Sid, Sandreas began.

I have to trust that you'll still be alive to read this message. Halen has been angry at me for letting you both go, but he'll get over it when you come back. And I do expect you to come back. Since you're reading this, you're obviously done negotiating with the station, however long that took. You can consider that your new orders are to come home, unless you get in contact with me, personally, and come up with a very convincing reason otherwise.

Halen is reading this letter and telling me I'm being an idiot for giving you a way out.

Sid put his tablet down and flopped back on his bed. Sandreas must be in a pretty good mood, for him to be including such random asides in the letter. He was usually much more to the point. Well, actually… Sid considered this for a moment. Usually, his correspondence was ghostwritten by Halen, and the last time that Sandreas had actually bothered to write a message himself was right after the pirates. So either Sandreas had had a change of heart, and this was his cheerful letter writing style, or Halen was ghostwriting and trying to drive a point home. Both seemed unlikely, but he couldn't tell which was less likely. He decided this was probably Halen. But then again, why would Halen include the 'out' that Sid had been given at all?

Probably he wasn't going to go behind Sandreas's back and not relate his exact orders. But he would go ahead and include notes about his own displeasure. Sid smiled as he thought about it, then returned to the letter.

I'm interested in hearing about your trip as soon as possible. I'll get a mission rundown, but I would be happy if you could include your own thoughts with it. Try to be analytic about it: what went right, what went wrong, what you're going to do in the future. Examining your own work is the best way to learn, so I've been told.

On the home front, I've been unable to open up any line of communication to Wil Vaneik. He's been ignoring every diplomatic missive I send his way. It's been making me think that there was a ship docked at the station which jumped away to spread the news when you arrived. That's just my suspicion, though. The situation with the Guild is more muddled than ever.

Update on Yan is that there is little to report. You may be interested in knowing that the price on your head has increased by about a hundred kilos. You should consider yourself lucky to be such a hot ticket item. Stay away from pirates. The fact that they'd like you alive has me worried. The only other new information is that Iri Maedes, whom I am certain you remember, has embarked on her own trip to go find Yan. This obviously isn't sanctioned by us, but she saw fit to inform us of it anyway. I suppose there's no harm that will come of it. So you may hear from her, as well. Don't be surprised if that pops up in your report sooner or later.

I hope to hear from you that you and Kino have been getting along splendidly, that there have been no disagreements between you, and that you have been sharing the work and decision making equally between yourselves. Perhaps that's too much to ask. I revise my hope to simply say that I hope you haven't taken it upon yourselves to murder each other, and you're both getting some valuable experience out of this.

God willing, I'll hear from you with good news soon.

Yours,

Aymon Sandreas

Sid closed the letter. It didn't say anything he particularly wanted to hear. Apparently things on Emerri were same old, same old. There was no point in him comparing this letter to the one that Kino was sure to have gotten; they were probably almost identical. Nothing in here, aside from the small note about the bounty on him, was information that wasn't equally applicable to Kino. Even Halen, who had the apparent time and willingness to ghostwrite Sandreas's correspondence, did understand the value of keeping written work transferrable and reusable.

Sid left his room and made his way down the hallways of the Impulse to the bridge. Kino was there, along with the standard group of Fleet soldiers that Sid had come to recognize as the bridge crew. Captain Wen was in his central chair, and Ervantes Cesper stood looking over Kino's shoulder as she stared down at a computer console. Sid nodded to Captain Wen, then went over to see what Kino was up to.

"How's it going?" he asked.

Ervantes glanced at him. "Hi, Welslak. Welcome back to the land of the living."

"I could say the same to you," Sid said. It was true that Sid had barely been on the bridge since the shuttle incident, but it wasn't because he had been avoiding things. He just found the actual logistics of space travel, the constant jumping and waiting, to be intensely tedious. He had the thought, often, that it would be easier if the ship could jump infinite distances. He had to remind himself how much better it was that the ships could jump at all. He couldn't imagine living in a universe where the only travel available was sublight.

"Everything's going fine," Kino said. "I'm just watching the results of our search come in." An endless string of faces was flashing across the screen of the computer as Sid watched. He turned his face away, not wanting to stare at it and get dizzy.

"Radio?" he asked, hoping that they'd understand his question. Ervantes nodded.

"It'll get a bit faster once we're actually docked, but for now it's fast enough. Better use of our time than sitting around looking pretty," Cesper said.

"That's true. When are we docking?"

"It's one last jump in close. Should be just a few hours."

"Will we be done searching through the database by then?"

"Almost certainly not. This is combing through billions of people. I'm not sure how long you expect that to take." Cesper looked affronted on behalf of the computer system. Sid shrugged.

"I don't know. I've never tried to search the database before."

"Most people don't. It's at least made a little easier in that we do have DNA from everyone, and we can just compare that. It's better than just having a face photo, or fingerprints, or something like it."

"Why, because people are likely to change those other things?"

"Not really. Almost nobody changes their fingerprints, but time does do a wonder on almost everyone's face. DNA is a little bit more reliable, and we probably won't have too sort through half a dozen lookalikes before we find the right person."

"Unless there's a set of identical…" Sid searched for the word for lots of identical babies, and couldn't find it. "Whatever. You know. What if everybody on this station had a twin brother?"

“Twins are pretty rare. I don’t think we need to worry about that possibility,” Kino said.

“Perhaps your weakness, Apprentice Welslak, is that you are too invested in out of the box possibilities.”

“Oh, I know what my weaknesses are,” Sid said, and gave Ervantes a sidelong look. He smiled a little, but turned away.

“Let’s stay on topic,” Kino said, interrupting Sid’s flirting and, returning to looking at whatever the database had combed through so far.

"Do you have any weaknesses, oh wise and mighty Kino?"

"None that you can exploit," she said, and clenched her right hand against the armrest of her chair, making it clear through her body language that she was not joking in the slightest. Still, Sid couldn't help but laugh, and she looked up at him with a mildly frustrated expression.

"I can't lay claim to being above all things like that," Sid said. "Anyway, I just wanted to know how long we're planning on staying."

Captain Wen, who had apparently been listening to the conversation, broke in. The words registered as tiny letters on Sid’s glasses, barely within microphone range. "The Impulse is due back in her own port for repairs and upgrades as soon as possible, and most of her crew is going home. I'm certain you don't need me to remind you of that."

Sid resisted sighing at Wen's pronouncement. Of course Wen wouldn't want to go out on some adventure further afield, when he had responsibilities to his ship and crew. Still, Sid wanted to have a hope of going somewhere else, just a little. "I'll have to talk to First Sandreas about what our continuing mission is."

Captian Wen frowned at him from across the room, but didn't jump in again.

"So if I don't hear anything from First Sandreas, and we don't discover anything unusual that requires investigating, then we will be returning to port," Sid said. "Although we might want to chase the ship down."

"There's no way we could catch it," Wen said. "Even if we could find it."

"Won't four stardrives leave a much bigger wake than one?" Sometimes, depending on the conditions, the path a stardrive jumped along could be determined based on impressions left in space. It wasn't a reliable method of tracking ships, but it was the only one that existed.

"Trail is far too cold by now," Wen said. "It'd be a shot in the dark. Even if we'd gotten started as soon as they jumped away, I'm sure they're faster than we are."

"Even with old drives? And a heavy ship?" Sid asked.

"The Impulse, as much as I love her, doesn't have a young drive in her," Wen said.

"I kinda assumed that the Fleet would always have access to fresh stardrives."

"We do. It's just good to be frugal. There is only a limited number; the supply isn't only artificially low for the Guild's sake."

"So you admit that the supply is low at least in part because of that!" Sid felt like he had won something. Wen wrinkled his nose disdainfully.

"Can you imagine what the Empire would be like if everybody had unfettered access to stardrives?"

"What would happen?" Kino asked, joining in on the conversation.

"Absolute chaos, I'm sure," Wen said. Kino waited for him to elaborate, and he did. "Anyone could go anywhere, sell anything, establish their own colonies, transport anyone or anything they wanted. It would be impossible to regulate."

"Would that be a bad thing?" Kino asked.

"And you're saying this as a potential future First?" Wen asked. He looked down his nose at Kino. Maybe he was invested because of the sense of elitism that came from being a captain, one of a very small number. "I certainly hope you take an economics lesson before then."

"It's just a matter of control," Sid said, stepping in, wanting to prevent Wen from thinking them both naive. "That, and it does take a lot of effort to make stardrives. Too much to be worth producing so many of them. After all, I mean, we've functioned pretty well on a limited number so far."

"We have the perfect balance," Wen agreed. "Any more and illegal activity would skyrocket, any less and we wouldn't be able to function. Do you agree, Apprentice Mejia?"

"I guess," Kino said, but she didn't particularly look like she agreed. There was a certain appeal to the concept of the skies being full of ships, and everyone having access to them, but Sid could easily imagine the trouble that would cause. They were already having trouble tracking down one missing ship, and a bunch of people from unknown planets. The criminal web would only get that much more tangled if there were more threads, more ships, in it.

Kino was allowed to have her opinions, and Wen was allowed to have his. Sid wasn't going to worry himself about either of them, because there was plenty of time before either he or Kino, and maybe Wen would have retired by then. Not that he wanted to think so uncharitably about him, but Sid didn't want to make enemies who would stay part of his political life for a long time. He was trying to be a little bit more careful about the people he offended. In a funny way, Sandreas was the safest person he could accidentally (or on purpose) make angry. After all, if Sid did become his successor, then Sandreas would be–

Actually, Sid didn't want to think about that. The thought made his mouth dry out. He bowed out of the conversation and made his way back to his room to compose a reply letter to Sandreas.

Dear Sandreas,

Kino and I have been getting along, if that stops you from worrying any. I'm sure you've already looked at the data package we sent as soon as we got into ansible range. Sorry that you had to find out that things have been a little dangerous that way. Luckily, neither I nor any Fleet soldiers were injured.

I know you want me to reflect on what's been going on, but I'm having a hard time taking myself out of the situation and looking at it objectively. You probably honestly didn't actually mean what happened on the shuttle, I'm sure you actually meant diplomatic things. But that's been at the forefront of my mind, obviously. So I'm sorry I don't have anything better to say. I guess one lesson was that I shouldn't have allowed the ship to jump away. If I hadn't given warning, maybe we could have disabled them? Or probably not, because if we jumped in, we would have been on cooldown, and they still could have jumped away without us being able to chase. Since we thought they weren't operational…

I guess we could have waited and observed for longer? But there was no reason to think that the ship would jump out for any reason. From the technical documents we were able to recover, and from what people have said, it is barely habitable at the moment.

I don't know.

I don't

Sid deleted the previous two lines.

I guess we'll find it if it comes back to the station, or we'll hear about it hiding at some other station. The thing isn't equipped for long term survival, so it has to go somewhere that is, and somewhere that it can be finished. I doubt it will show its face at any Imperial station, so what really remains to be seen is how deep in bed with pirates the Guild is. Unless they have a second station of their own hidden somewhere. Maybe the difference between a hidden station run by the guild and a hidden station run by pirates is a smaller one than we want to imagine. While I write this, we're still pulling up the documentation on a lot of people we took off of there. I'm willing to bet some charges on some of them not being in the system.

If anything, I'm mostly frustrated with the Guild. What gives them the right? Nothing, I guess, except the fact that they have ships. I know I shouldn't be coming up with public policy, but this whole trip is giving me no shortage of ideas. Is that a bad thing?

So I've rambled long enough about that. I need you to tell me what to do. We could chase down black stations, see which one the ship is hiding at (that's my vote). We could follow the breadcrumb trail of where all these people came from. We could go back into port (that's Captain Wen's vote) and all go back home and get back to normal life (I'm pretty sure that's Kino's vote). I feel like it's a waste to have me out here with this fantastic ship and nowhere to go– I'm not begging you to come up with some task for me to do, but it would be nice if I had one more thing before I had to come home.

Maybe you're thinking I'm crazy for wanting to stay out when bad things have already happened. Maybe I am. Kino kinda told me that there's no way to be on guard every second of every day, so I just need to be careful when the situation warrants it. I never thought being on a shuttle, surrounded by trained Fleet personnel, on a short trip between the ship, that someone would grab onto the outside and sabotage the shuttle. If I'm trying to be prepared for insane things like that (say, right now, I'm sitting in my bed in my room on the Impulse, and while I'm sleeping the star we're in orbit around has a freak stellar event that kills us all– it feels like the same level of thing you'd never expect– even though I guess a star is a pretty well monitored thing) I'd just go crazy anyway. So I might as well be useful at the same time. I'm sure Halen is wanting to kill me right now for saying all of this.

It's funny, I never used to write letters to my family when I was at the Academy, but now

Sid deleted that last line, too.

Back to slightly more concrete matters. The Impulse is going in to dock, and that means most of her crew is getting reassigned. Who should I talk to about getting someone posted to Emerri? My liason, Lt. Ervantes Cesper, saved my life, and he wanted a planetary position, so…

Anyway, that's all I have for now, at least until the database search comes back, and I'm sure you'll get that information over the ansible the same as I will, so there's no point in me delaying sending this until then. Let me know what your thoughts are.

-Sid

He didn't know what kind of salutation to put at the end, so he just left his name. There was no point in getting hung up in the details over the mail.

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A note from javert

I wrote a good portion of this chapter while /literally/ drifting in and out of consciousness, so here, have the most nonsensical line I've ever written. [this is from when Sid and Cesper are talking on the bridge]

"Unless there's a set of identical…" Sid searched for the word for twelve, and couldn't find it. "Unless there's a whole set of invisible ones, the more you rely on them to sit on your desk and not steer you wrong."

And then I went into a tailspin about a trinket in the shape of a cat that Cesper keeps on his nightstand as a lucky charm. Believe me when I say this makes no sense in context either. I mean, on the plus side, even when I'm spouting complete garbage, my punctuation is still okay. We can all be glad of that haha.

Sid is not a good letter writer haha. He's, I would say, barely coherent. It comes from the same place as his "I'm just going to close my eyes and say whatever I want and there can be no consequences because I can't get any response" thing that he does. Letters take time to be read and responded to, so by time the consequence gets back to him, it feels divorced from his original word vomit. 

Anyway. When Sid says "I know what my weaknesses are" that's Song Lyrics About Being In Love or Whatever . 

Please consider leaving me a rating and/or review. I super appreciate all the feedback you guys give me.

Hope you all have a fantastic week; I'll see you on friday!

update 10/15/19 - added chapter title. we're really scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one 


About the author

javert

Bio: hi I'm noodle, I studied aeronautical engineering in college, then I taught high school math. now I'm [redacted] and [remainder of message lost].

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