WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR... PT 5
“Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
– Hans Selye
Sixty seconds seemed like a lifetime in witchspace. With the galaxy moving at frightening speeds around the ship, the common perception was that what took sixty seconds felt like a full 24-hour period. To combat the feeling, older ships allowed pilots to “nap” in flight, reducing fatigue. Even with the new technological advances, Amar still felt the lag. Must have been from all the jumps I took in the Federation, he remarked to himself. Slowly, he began counting down, 3, 2, 1… The ship shuddered and lurched forward as it exited witchspace. Looming ahead was the star, glowing with a majestic orange. She sat as a silent guardian, both inviting and terrifying at the same time.
Time to have a chat with our friend…
“Ithora, you have the con! Drop us 300 kilometers from the Nav Beacon. Keep me upraised of any ships that come within 15 kilometers of the Flame. Yves, with me.” And without waiting for a response, Amar left the bridge stepping briskly down the hall. Yves followed, trying to match pace, and although he was a good foot taller than the commander, he struggled to stay on his heels.
As they reached the Turbo lift, a low, deep tone, broadcasted over the PA, announced their exit from super-cruise. The lift was a spacious cylinder with smooth edges, and a stainless-steel finish. A small light fixture cast a bright silver glow across the car, making the inside seem bigger than it was. On the inside left was a panel indicating the Deck numbers, with a key pad for accessing the more sensitive areas of the ship. Amar entered his key and they rode in silence to deck 4.
Yves decided to break the terrible silence, by asking how the commander was feeling.
“I am ok.” He responded curtly.
“Sir, should not the doctiore examine you?”
“She is busy patching Jansen up.” He then added, “Don’t worry about me, I have been in worse.”
This seemed to satisfy Yves for the time being. Then a foreboding tune began to play over the elevator speakers. Amar cocked his head to the side listening, then rolled his eyes. Yves had a rather quizzical look on his face that was becoming more and more concerned as the tune continued playing.
“Knock it off!”
“Sorry sir, just trying to get you into character.”
“Next time just order me an imperial cape and an inquisitor’s armor.” Amar spat.
“Well, I could do that… What was your Bank number again?”
Yves had finally gotten the joke, and immediately a smile broke across his face. What a delayed reaction, Amar thought, but maybe they were due some levity.
“You see?” Patton continued, “At least someone values my comedic genius.”
“Genius my ass,” Amar muttered to himself. Sometimes, the two AI’s stressed him out. Between Patton’s humor sprees and Julles carefree attitude, it was almost too much for him to handle on a regular basis. Only almost.
The elevator had reached the intended deck. Amar stepped off and was followed by Yves who had adjusted and was now managing to keep up, but just barely. This part of the ship was very plain and devoid of adornment. Dark uncolored steel walls, soft florescent lights, Pipes exposed to the corridor with *Caution: Do not touch* or *Warning: Contents Hazardous* raced back and forth along the walls and the ceiling. Every so often, a doorway would break the endless flow of pipes that made this section of the ship so dreary. Arrows painted on the floor guided the lost crewman through this portion of the ship. Amar knew every inch of his vessel by heart and could almost traverse the entire ship blindfolded. Mind the stairs…
He followed his mental map of the deck to the brig. It was what one might have imagined a police interrogation room looking like in the 330th century. Dark colors to unsettle the prisoners, a mirrored glass pane, monitors and cameras sat on the wall below the window. Just right of the door, stood a row of cells, each one had all the “comforts” of home, if your home consisted of a cot, a toilet, and a sink. One of the security personnel sat at the monitors, with a rather bored expression. Hines stood, arms crossed glaring at the prisoner, he had not moved since bringing her on board. Amar entered the room, all crew men in the room moved to attention. “As you were.” He responded. Stopping beside Hines, he asked, “Has our guest said anything?”
“Not a word,” came the response. “She just sits there, toying with the binders and staring at the wall.”
“Anything in particular she iz staring at?” Yves chimed in.
“Not that I can tell. Commander, something doesn’t sit right with me about this.”
“You’re telling me,” Amar said, voice carrying hints of sarcasm, as he reached for the printed file on the guest. “You already read this?”
“I was bored, and I thought I should get a handle on who we have locked up. Why, did I do something wrong?”
“No, good initiative.” Amar passed the file to Yves.
“Je ne comprend le probleme ici.” Yves remarked.
“You’re doing it again,” Hines said rolling his eyes.
“What I mean iz, Zere does not seem to be a probleme with her file.”
“I know, exemplary marks, high aptitude test scores. She not only has the cleanest record, but what was someone with that kind of potential doing serving on a freighter?”
“Maybe she likes the monotony? Some people just prefer a steady routine.”
“Gentlemen, we can always ask ze mademoiselle ourzelves.”
Jess Thames regarded her surroundings with distrust and curiosity. How did I wind up in here? Why am I here? Why am I cuffed? Questions continued to torment her as she sat. She tried to answer the questions in her head, but remembered very little of the day’s events. Waking up in the hospital, then the urge to run. Why was she running? Someone hit her. Tackled her by diving through a hedge?! Who does that? Then, Oh God! No! The horrific images rushed back, the courtyard once full of life and hope, now devoid of those features, replaced by something sinister. Death. She remembered. Tears began to well up in her eyes. Someone had killed all those people. WHY? GOD? WHY? Her mind screamed at the emptiness of the room. The room stared back, the silence screaming in her ears. Her own thoughts transformed it into a living hell. Why can’t I remember more?
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door sliding open. In stepped three men. Uniforms, Federal? No, to unique. Imperial? No, not formal enough. Had to be from an Independent faction. One of the men, obviously the one in charge, stood in the center of the room. The other two went and stood off on the sides. The big one, he stood quietly in the darkest corner he could find. He looks imposing enough without having to hide in the shadows. The other, wearing body armor, stood by the door, leaning against the wall. The leader opened a file, and continued to flip through it. He had brown hair that hinted at shades of auburn, hazel eyes, a strong jaw, and rough features. She took a moment to compose herself and look him in the eye. After a painful silence, he spoke. “Jess Thames, pilot of the Herald’s Ascendancy, Graduate of the Deciat Pilot’s academy, received the highest marks in your class, authorized to fly just about anything.” Wow, how much did these guys know? Wait, how did they get ahold of my file?! Port Authority? Mercs? Hunters? Who are these guys? He paused seeing the confusion in her eyes. “Who are you people?!” She said, her voice riddled with confusion and worry. He began to continue, reading off the rest of the information in the file. “I've done nothing wrong! LET ME GO!” she shouted, interrupting him.
“Do not interrupt the commander!” shouted the man leaning on the glass, except he was no longer leaning. He had started towards her, with a stun gun in hand. Her eyes widened as she looked pleadingly at the other two.
“Hines, stand down.” Said the leader, calmly. Hines complied. God, was he going to let him? Was this just good sec, bad sec? The leader continued, “Jess Thames, welcome aboard the FSS Eagle’s Flame. I am Commander Amarthanor Epsilon. You have already met FSO Hines, and in the corner, is Deck Officer Yves.” He gestured once to each member. Ok, I need to try and act tough. Toughen up! She assumed as defiant of a posture as she could. “Some welcome, Why am I here… Sir?” Pause for affect, and laced with hostility, good start… His reply came shortly afterward.
“You are here, because two days ago, the Herald’s Ascendancy disappeared. Only three people were found, no wreckage, just pods, cargo, two crewmen, and you. No wreckage found, nothing. Ship vanished with all hands except you and the other two. Then today, someone tried to have you killed. So, you connect the dots.”
Bewildered, she responded, “I don’t remember any of that.”
“How convenient,” Hines said or snarled. She could not tell if he was saying that out of skepticism or anger at her for something.
"He is right, it is very unusual for someone to forget all the details like that." The commander said.
"But, sir I truly have no memory of that event."
Amar walked to him and whispered, "If we do not let her get a word in, we won't be able to get anything from her." He turned back to her, "Miss Thames, we need to know what exactly happened two days ago, anything that you can remember. Even if the detail is insignificant."
"Sir, I really do not remember, and you still have not answered my question, who are YOU?"
Amar quietly pulled out his fleet com badge, and displayed it to her. "We are investigating what happened to your ship and following our orders. Now, please recount what you remember from two days ago."
She sat staring at the floor, biting her lip. Why can't I remember? All she could see was the faces from the courtyard, dancing about her, contorted, bloody, jeering, accusing. Her lip quivered, her face no longer hard and decisive, now wrought with fear and dismay.
"All I remember is that courtyard, I just keep seeing them. It's just playing in my head over and over." She wept, tears streaming down her face.
Amar just stood there, unfazed, "Someone wanted you dead, enough so that they took a shot at me, my crew, and you. And were willing to kill a courtyard of people to do so."
His words stung, cutting deep, she started to rock back and forth. Yves, went to her and put his hand on her shoulder. She flinched. He looked straight into her eyes, and then turned to the commander. They nodded, and all three left the room. She was left alone again, in the terrible silence.
"Well?" he asked.
"You certainly know how to pick 'em," Hines said.
"If I recall my université classe, she is suffering from trouble de stress post-traumatique."
"What now?" Hines said.
"PTSD," Amar said, "Yves, are you sure?"
"So, if I understand what you are hinting at, She cant remember because."
"What?" Hines asked, conversation going above his head.
"It means that what ever happened was extreme enough to the point that she cant remember. The events over the past two days are blocked her memory."
Hines finally catching on, "So, whatever happened on that ship was a whole lot worse than anything we have assumed or guessed."
"Il comprend!" Yves exclaimed.
"Yves, go back in there, escort her to medical. Hines, give Yves your keys. Yves you can uncuff her."
Hines began to protest.
"Look at her, there is no way she is going to try anything. She is in shock, and needs to be evaluated."
"Alright, but if she does anything it's on your head commander." he declared as he passed the keys to Yves.
"If you guys need me, I'll be trying to pick up the Ascendancy's signature on the long range scanner."
Amar turned around, and headed back down the drab corridor, Why could things never be simple?