Chapter 1 [Section 0.9]

Third Shift on the Bridge rotation was dull work. With Kitty Hawk moored to Venus Orbital Station and most of her crew on short leave, it was pretty dead. So imagine my surprise when twenty minutes into watch the command display lit up with an ‘URGENT ACTION’ alert from engineering.

“Kitty,” I addressed the ship’s computer and cleared the alert from the display. “Call down to the Engine room, please?”

“Of course, sir.” The computer’s voice was vaguely feminine, and carried an undertone one might expect from a teener. There was a click, and a very pale but very shaggy face appeared on my console.

“Engineering, this is Welsch.” His eyes shifted as though he was making space on his display for our conversation. I tried not to react at his subtle wince when he saw my face. “Yes, can I help you Lieutenant Nocona?”

It took considerable effort not to roll my eyes at his feigned formality. “There was an alert, Mister Welsch.” I emphasized the honorific and saw him wince again, this time not so subtly. I softened my tone a touch, and asked, “How’s everything going down there?”

“Oh, nothing big.” He was suddenly distracted by something off to his right, and held up his hand, “just a…”

He left the display’s field of vision, and there were several seconds of loud clanging picked up by his audio feed before he returned somewhat more disheveled than before. “Just a minor coolant leak, sir. I’ve got flow routed around the damaged primary until the Chief can take a look at it in the…”

He disappeared from the display again, and there was a single very loud metallic thud. He sprang back into view, but it took him a moment to remember what he had been saying. “Yeah, no big deal. The reactor’s fine. Everything’s within tolerance.”

I nodded. “Sure thing, Mister Welsch.”

“Look, Cynthia,” he interjected, looking- what, sad? confused?

“Not now, Roger.” I cut him off before he could dig any further. “Be sure to send me a damage report asap.”

It looked for a second like he was going to argue, but all he said was, “yes sir.”

“I’ll leave you to it.” I cleared out the screen, and felt content that the night’s drama was done.


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