Page 1 of 5
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:33 pm
Chapter 1: Administrator
In one of the large administrative halls of the Druuge trade world hung Peeru. Head pointed down at her tiny knee-mounted screens, she was sifting through the logs of a very important customer. This customer was very important not only because it was the customer they were about to do business with, but also because it was the only customer they had had in an embarrassingly long time. It was this customer which might restore meaning to the once-powerful department.
The orange lamps which provided a jaunty illumination to the upper echelons did little to break the darkness below. She had climbed out of the murky depths herself, but she still had a heads-down job. But that was all right. She knew she was moving up. Masters of alien communication were rare, and those with a firm grasp of numbers were rarer still. The combination was powerful. She had job security.
"Peeru! What is the meaning of this?" thundered Foomp, the director of offworld trade.
"The meaning of what, precisely?" Peeru, startled, abandoned the logs, to look up to Foomp's slow, wide, menacing arc above her.
"I just got out of a meeting concering the incoming Precursor vessel. The presentation you prepared on our offers did not convey to the management the quality of the work we do here. Do I need to remind you how this department has been reduced since our major trading partners were eradicated?" Peeru caught a clearer glance at his face, and realized he was not so much angry as afraid.
"Not at all, Director. My report contained everything we have done, and that is quite adequate; if the management is not happy, it is not because of that!" exclaimed Peeru.
Foomp stabilized nearly straight above her, the most dominant position he could take on. "If it is not the report, then why did I receive a complaint about you from a vice president of the Crimson Coporation itself?"
"Er, which one?" Peeru said. Why would any vice president even be aware of me?
"The vice president of acquisitions. You aren't being productive enough, she said. Well, get productive then!" His chain leads had already shifted away, and the motion worked its way down to his end just as he finished speaking.
Normally, he'd close with a compliment on my work, but this time... can't contradict a vice president. What's going on here?
Foomp's admonition had instilled the reflexive need to appear busy: Peeru realized she had brought up a sales chart and massaged it to make it less obvious that the most recent sale had not occurred this year. No time for that; I need to assuage the ire of the top, fast! Can I call Kahso? He's in Development, which is a lot closer to Acquisitions in the org chart than I am, oddly. He owes me at least a heads-down.
Trembling, Peeru keyed her console to arrange a meeting with the assistant director of Development. While she waited, she idly noted that the Precursor vessel was lining up to dock. Foomp can take care of it from here, and while I'll need to analyze, that can be done from the recording. This, though, is urgent.
"Development office. Who is calling?"
"I would like to - I need to speak with the assistant director."
"Who is calling?"
"The assistant to the director of offworld trade."
Of course the secretary would stall, so she added, "In case you hadn't noticed, we have an offworld trader present; if any reverse engineering target priorities have changed, we need to know now or the wrong things will be bought. Say, what's your name?"
A moment later, she had Kahso. He seemed to take a moment to recognize her; and rather than a proper greeting, nervously emitted a formality. This is not good. Everyone knows but me?
While Peeru thought of this, she let her excuse come out; Kahso simply answered in the negative. She hadn't finished thinking when the silence had stretched a few moments longer than company policy permitted. Still, Kahso knew her and gave her a chance before cutting off the call.
"Is that all?"
"No! Do you know the Vice President of Acquisitions?"
Kahso blanched. "Yes. Peeru, we're negotiating a PIRR."
"Congratulations!" If dangerous. She lengthened her chain to him, and can discard him.
"Don't schmooze me. Just because we had a once I had a PIRR with you doesn't mean I'll lengthen my chain again."
What does that mean? First, Assistant director is not significantly higher than Assistant to the director, so even if we were to reopen Preliminary Investigation into Residential Reassessment, which we won't, it wouldn't be a chain-lengthening. Or is he just saying my entire department is worthless?
Peeru, stop quibbling: the main implication is she must be jealous! Distance! Get distance!
"Kahso, there were perfectly good reasons our PIRR terminated with no further contract."
"Yes: I prefer my women more feminine."
The abrasive comment stunned her.
What? Just because I have a knack for languages and and chose to study them long after it was clear I'd end up female doesn't mean I don't have a good egg-pouch and a head for numbers. Does he think assistant to the director is a social position, or that any vice president at all is not? What kind of fuzzy-brained man-thinking is this? Does he need to take the offensive gratuitously? Or is she really so jealous that he is he trying to protect me by insulting me? No. Knowing him, he's just yanking me around.
But the line was dead before she could reply.
This call itself has put me in serious danger. How long do I have before she finds out and just has me fired? Reassignment wouldn't be effective for this. Peeru glanced down to the great funnel that comprised the floor of the vast chamber. She had not considered in years that it might be her destination.
Her monitor of the Precursor vessel grabbed her attention back to her knees. Foomp was speaking with their captain.
"Since this is your first time trading with us, Captain, allow me to explain our standard operating procedures..."
Peeru looked at the other side, to the captain. Might as well do my job vigorously so she has less excuse! Some people have been known to survive the ire of directors in different departments, if they were especially productive. Could the same be true of a vice president?
She jotted down some notes on his reactions, probing for weaknesses, interests. "Seems unwilling to trade crew."
As she prepared to send the note off to Foomp's panel, the captain said, "I will never sell my crew to be your slaves."
She deleted it and sent out "Emphasize object-for-object trades, he should be more willing." Better, but I'm not going to get anywhere like this. Penetrating insight, where are you? Oh no, Foomp is taking the "You have the right" angle. That never works! We'll be lucky if he doesn't just undock.
Peeru scrambled to review their scans. Immediately, she sent: "Vortex Spawner. Mycon fragments." and then, "Incidentally, that VP is personally jealous of me and wants me out of the way. How doomed am I?"
No response. Of course, Foomp was in the middle of explaining the captain's rights to him. Without missing a beat, Foomp injected into the conversation, "We note you possess a Vortex Spawner. In exchange for the simple device we will give you three Mauler starships and fill your fuel tanks, at no extra charge."
Now this is something, even if it's bad news. Well, here goes: "Forget it, he's too attached. He'd only sell for, say, thirty or fifty Maulers, even more than its worth to us."
Foomp went on, "We know that you have Mycon Deep Child egg case fragments aboard your vessel. Would you consider trading them to us for a shiny new Mauler starship, instead?"
The captain seemed confused. Here's my chance! She took notes: "Captain does not seem to know what a Deep Child even is." Oh no. Even if this were a penetrating insight, what profit could be made of it? I'm doomed! Wait! His relief seems to make him even more eager for the sale! Fabulous, we should write this up as a new method! But her hands slipped as the weight on her chains disppeared.
Her scream was lost in the general roar. And then, she stopped screaming. I'm being swung to one side! Not headed to the furnace after all?
The swing finished, and careened through the cavernous halls of the trade center. Which direction is this? I've never been here before, I think. What's going on?
At this moment, she realized she had a message. Tapping her inner knee-toe to accept it, she stuggled to bring her knee closer so she could read it despite the rocking. It was from Foomp, of course: "Very out of the way, isn't it?" Where is out of the way?
Suddenly, the chains slowed, and as the violent rocking subsided she saw a confused captain heading the opposite way. She swung through a bulkhead which slammed behind her, and suddenly, silence.
No, not silence, though close. A humming sound, like the turbines of the great furnaces, but higher-pitched and softer. The walls shook, rocking her in her chains.
There was a soft but resonant sound of metal colliding with metal, and finally her chains settled into more stable positions, though not the one she was used to. As she got her bearings, her displays configured back into a workstation. A quick query: "What is the function of this station?"
"Mauler command station."
Peeru looked up reflexively to ask a question of her boss; but of course there was only the ceiling. Her stomach felt as if it had been sent to the furnace. Of all the dead-end jobs in the universe, mauler captain has to be the worst! No profit opportunity, plenty of expenses, very few subordinates. Foomp, I had something else in mind!
Then, she looked down. Well, let's see who we have here. I see only two crew here. Odd.
A query to the console: "Where are the crew?"
"Three tending the furnace, two realigning the cannon, one on sensors and communications, one on the weapon, one navigator, and one cook. Four are in their resting cubes."
Thirteen. Not bad, I guess. Still, I need to talk to Foomp. Trading should be done by now, Foomp favors the quick deal.
She keyed in a request to talk to her supervisor.
In the moments that followed, she considered what she would say. Complain? A little late now. Thanks? Not hardly. And anyway, what strings could he pull to get me transferred to a starship? He's not naval, he has no authority. Except over the few ships we had for... Oh no...
"Zelnick here. Welcome to the New Alliance of Free Stars, captain!"
Peeru quickly adapted, thinking of a question she would need to ask of her new... supervisor. "I expect you'd like to meet, when would be good?"
"How about in an hour, once we're done with the main burn. We'll release the grav mooring and you can dock. Just *walk* right on up to the bridge, you can't miss it."
"I'm sorry, my translation computer is having difficulty. *Walk*?"
The captain stood up and moved around his chair. His arms are not attached, that isn't a restraint! His feet as well. How does his... Ah, he is not just a captain, he is the head of the whole organization. Naturally. But this... walking. Can I do it?
The captain sat back down again. "Do you ever take those chains off?" he mused.
"They're terribly convenient for getting around." And being gotten around.
"Well, we don't have them here. I can kill the gravity so you can float free, does that work?"
Just like in a resting cube. A meeting in a resting cube -- there's a reason that's a euphemism. But not this time. Thankfully. Or... should I? He is young, serious advantages could be derived. And I'm... unattached. "It should work."
"Okay. You can pop in right... here." The display flashed a diagram of the Precursor vessel with the docking point highlighted; the comm link closed.
Now, I have two problems to solve. First, dock the ship. Second, figure out how to get off the chain network.
Peeru hastily explored the unfamiliar command console. Perhaps it knows how to dock itself. Docking... auto on standard configurations only. No deal. Time to get to know the crew, I guess.
"Navigator, would you bring us to dock, according to the given specification? I need to rig up the custom docking rig." Don't let them know how little I know at first.
She replied, "Captain... I'm just navigator. I don't know how to pilot."
Peeru exploded. "Foomp!" An incompetent crew. Just what I needed.
"Pardon? The captain pilots the ship."
"Who here pilots when the captain is resting?"
"The lieutenant would, but he is, ah, fresh. Captain Faazur had always handled it."
Peeru sent a call to lieutenant... Muugko, the org chart indicated. She tried her best authoritative voice. "Lieutenant Muugko! This is captain Peeru."
A groggy young man shortly appeared, still in his resting cube, though dressed. Odd, they have comm setups in resting cubes? I guess they would, for emergencies. "Yes... captain?"
"Report to the command center immediately."
"If I may ask, where is Captain Faazur?"
"I do not know. Not on board and not your commanding officer anymore, anyway. I was transferred here abruptly."
Muugko absorbed this for a few seconds, and nodded.
"Very well. We will dock in fifty-five minutes." Let him look up the conversion. "I am unlocking flight controls to you. You work out how to get us docked to this thing, I have to make a working mooring."
She then set her chains to go to the furnace room. A mechanical problem. I was always good with those...
(edited to fix the worst second sentence ever)
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:34 pm
Chapter 2: Meeting Zelnick
Peeru felt ridiculous, huddled into her resting cube - to her surprise, it was her actual resting cube with her belongings - and floated up the docking tube. Yet it was the only way they had devised to transfer her that would not set off the ship's revolt-suppression system. Captain Faazur's transfer had been too hasty for the involved process of transferring many command privileges, including the captain's immunity to revolt suppression, to be finished yet. Even the manned extra-vehicular repair system had not freed her.
The cube floated free and into the docking bay of the precursor vessel. Now to get this thing open. Without the ship around, it should be doable.
She saw the captain through the surface of the cube. He jumped up to catch it, did, and was carried by its momentum into the far wall, where he made a soft landing. He knows what he's doing in free-fall.
He said something, muffled by the hard shell. Then his fingers found the release and the hatch was open. A blast of cold air hit her. Only now do I remember that their preferred temperature is much lower than ours. Fabulous.
"I didn't realize you'd toss in a Rosy Cube as a bonus!"
"Your transfer cube... it's red."
She looked at it. Transfer cube? Phew, he doesn't realize how hacked-together this all was. "No, not like this! The Rosy Sphere is an artifact of immense power..."
"I was joking."
He wasn't fooled. Of course, we knew that, since he passed it up for the ship. She got a look around the chamber - it was largely empty, with many exits, each with a heavy bulkhead. Two large spacecraft sat near an enormous cubical airlock inset to the bay. They didn't look so big until she realized how far away they were. A mist of dust hung lightly in the air, scattering the harsh blue light. She was already returning her attention to him when she saw the two very discreetly placed guards.
The captain continued. "So, captain... Faazur, was it?" He extended his hand.
"No, Peeru." She shook his hand in the fashion indicated by their cultural studies.
"Ah. Well, Captain Peeru, welcome aboard the Vindicator. I see you're interested in the landers?"
"I've never..." I was going to say I've never seen a spaceship from the outside before, but that wouldn't sound quite right coming from a captain.
"I hope you didn't mind my doing a little mining in your home system?" A slight fluctuation in his breathing. That was a laugh, right?
"It was legal." We had mined that entire moon, and they find and extract a dozen deposits buried kilometers below the surface in a matter of hours. It's a pity those sensors are integral to the ship so they couldn't be sold... and that Foomp didn't want to insult him by offering to buy the whole ship.
A beat passed, and he wiped his nose with the back of his sleeve.
"What do you know of our Alliance?"
How to put it? I don't want to reveal how much I actually do know.
He continued, taking her silence as admission of ignorance, and spoke in grandiose terms of things she already knew. She remained attentive, asking questions, ignored the cold... and then realized she was floating too far from the wall to reach anything. Zelnick continued for a moment before noticing her situation. "Say, have you spent much time in space?"
"Ever since I can remember. But I always had the harness to hold me in place."
The captain frowned. "Always?"
"Why, yes, except in my..." she would have continued but she was shivering uncontrollably.
"Are you cold?"
Peeru couldn't speak, but nodded. That is also how they indicate agreement.. it wasn't the other way around, was it?
Zelnick opened a locker built into the wall and, among fire suppression and depressurization gear, found a blanket. He pulled a string on its edge, and swung one end up to her. Peeru grabbed the blanket and pulled herself to the wall. Once it was slack, she wrapped herself in it. When she neared the wall, she grabbed the corner of the locker.
"Sorry about the temperature."
Peeru remained silent simply due to the cold, but she was warming rapidly: the blanket was actively heating.
Zelnick took her by the corner of the blanket and towed her to a hatch. A human hovered at the entrance; Zelnick told him, "Fenson, synth up some warm clothing for captain Peeru." They continued on as the other human left.
Peeru urgently asked, "Captain, how much does this cost? And what is the... pay... here?"
Zelnick laughed. "I suppose you would ask that. This? Fits under the clothing ration. We have luxury rations, and that's more like pay; and access to the park and computers. I suppose that could count too."
Rations. Doesn't sound gradiated. "What is the incentive for high performance, then?"
The captain stopped, with the side effect that Peeru gently swung around and bounced off the wall/ceiling in front of him. "Captain. We're trying to save the galaxy here. Everyone else here calls that an incentive. Don't you?"
"This situation is new to me. I don't know. Is saving the galaxy our job now?" But that's a lot harder than saving yourself!
"Bingo! How about I show you our situation." He resumed pulling her, and turned at a branch in the tunnel. No, 'corridor'. They were on the bridge -- she recognized it from the transmissions she had monitored not two hours previously. Looking at the main viewscreen, she was startled by the progress of the ship -- they were already significantly away from the Trade World.
Zelnick put her in a giant chair, and ran a loose strap over her. I could get out of this in a heartbeat. Obviously not intended as a genuine restraint.
He seated himself in the center seat and got to work: gravity gradually returned until it was crushingly heavy.
"A little less gravity, please?" Peeru asked. He seems obliging, might as well indulge.
"No problem. Er." He held out something white and droopy toward her.
"Your nose is dripping."
He actually seems disgusted. Well, with it falling to the ground right here, I can see why. She grabbed what he was offering, and sopped up the excretion.
The display changed to an enormous hyperspace map. There was a flashing mark way off in the southeast corner, and Peeru recognized it as their present location, in Druuge space.
The captain gestured to the map. "These, roughly, are our allies." The viewscreen showed several circles. Peeru read the labels' Druuge transliterations, below, then noticed the English and was pleased to be able to read it: Arilou, Spathi, Pkunk, Zoq-Fot-Pik, and Tanaka. I've never heard of these. By the time she had finished reading, gravity had receded to a tolerable level.
"These presumably would be allies, but they're under slave shields." Notes appeared for Chenjesu, Mmrnmhrm, and Syreen.
"These are our enemies." The screen was inundated. Ur-Quan and Kohr-Ah dominated the map, with Umgah, VUX, Mycon, and Ilwrath rounding out the edges.
"The Ur-Quan were our main enemies when we got started. They want to enslave everyone. On the other hand, the Kohr-Ah want to annihilate all life other than themselves, and they don't even bother to hide it."
Stopping them is a project I can get on board. They wiped out the Gg and Burvix, our best trading partners! I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for them.
"We aren't sure what the deal is with these." Yehat and Androsynth/Orz appeared, and a row of question marks in the far northwest corner.
As the logs suggested - they don't know about the Utwig.
"So, everyone else here is dedicated. I don't know what you are, but I'll settle for obedient if that's all you can muster."
Peeru nodded again.
"Now, tell me about your ship."
For a moment, Peeru panicked, but she recalled the sales pitch and settled in. "The mauler sports a powerful long-range weapon combined with a unique retro-thrust system which helps maintain range."
Zelnick interrupted. "Tracking?"
"Does the weapon follow the target?"
"The targeting system is of unparalleled quality."
He demonstrated with his hands. "After you fire, does the weapon adjust course to hit the target?"
"No. The shots are so fast, there won't be time for evasion."
Zelnick nodded, and she went on. "Also, while many other ships will often find themselves short of energy to use their weapons, the Mauler will never be short. With its unique fuelling configuration, additional hydrogen can be fed into the furnace, providing a rapid energy boost. In this..."
Again, Zelnick interrupted. "What... er... does this involve, ah..."
Foomp used the phrase 'feeding the furnace' again. What a fool. "The captain is understood to be the best one to understand the battle, correct?"
"If the ship will shortly come under fire, which will certainly cause casualties, can the captain take action to minimize those casualties?"
"Of course. Anything else would be..." He paused.
He doesn't want to follow the logic, but he sees it. "Even if that means choosing the casualties?"
"How effective is your ship without 'feeding the furnace'?"
"The mere threat of firing is usually enough to make an enemy pull off their attack. If this works, combat can be prolonged until the combat batteries are regenerated conventionally. If not, then there is a choice between choosing the casualty or letting the enemy choose for you. And they will probably not choose only one."
Judging by the signs from the cultural database, though he's quiet, he's mad now. "Here are your orders, captain Peeru: train on the use of your ship without sacrificing your crew. Practice against the other captains and the computer. Captain Wu will handle this. You are dismissed. No. Wait. Put up nets so that if anyone is dropped despite my orders, they will not fall into the furnace anyway."
"Yes, captain. The ship is yours to cripple as you see fit."
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:34 pm
Chapter 3: Learning
Back on board, Peeru finally had time to consider her situation calmly. My hurried and loose commands in the first few moments made a mixed impression. First, they knew I know nothing about the ship; but, they know I trust them to do their jobs, and I'm not quick to mete out punishment. That's probably a nice change, but it could lead to chaos in a hurry. Or will it?
What change does their knowing the furnace is not to be used going to make? Well, ships have a much stricter accountability system than the trade-world, since the potential for revolt in such a small space is that much greater; but in the end most of that accountability falls on the captain. Firing crew is a great loss, and that loss must be explained. Captains definitely have their methods for avoiding the invocation of the revolt suppression system.
It can't just be the combat exemption to a firing inquiry; but I never looked into what they were. The logs might reveal something.
As for my situation here: among those in the engine room, I think Meeki and Wugyup are too simple-minded to look far enough ahead to revolt, and Nabek is too distracted by the upcoming dimorphism to be thinking mutiny. As for the rest, who knows.
Well, I may as well look over the logs to see what can be found out about the rest of the crew, before I issue the command to have the net constructed. I don't want a revolt on my hands. Oh, look - the ship is named '1038'. How precious.
The logs contained no hints of revolt -- of course. What captain would include such devastating information in his reports?
Peeru was interrupted by a message from the communications officer. "The precursor vessel is requesting that we un-dock. Permission?"
"Proceed. Return to our tractor berth."
Peeru returned to the logs, wondering what useful information could be gleaned from them. I might be able to detect the brown-nosers from overly glowing recommendations, I suppose. But that's more of a long-term issue, not a short-term one of figuring out if it's safe to drop the automatic death threat. Well, if it doesn't work, what's the worst that could happen? I don't think they'll kill me for saving their lives.
Once they were safely separated, Peeru made the announcement and order. Reaction was muted. Probably they don't know whether it came from me, in which case I'm dangerously soft-hearted; or from above, in which case they have no reason to give me any credit.
Credit. That's how I can figure out what the attitudes of the crew are. How have they been paid?
As it turned out, the figures were very familiar; but from the other side, now she wished she hadn't been scrimping on this aspect of the budget quite so much. If they find out what my job was, I'll be killed in my sleep.
Suddenly, a feeling of dizziness overcame her, and she nearly gagged on nothing in particular. It wasn't just her -- all the chains she could see had been set to rocking. What was that? What's with the sky? Oh. We entered hyperspace. Well, once you're into it, it's not so bad. The worst is over.
A moment later, it got worse, as things went from red to green.
Once things settled down, before she herself was settled down, the communications officer -- he was Trifop, she recalled from the logs -- alerted her that an intership communication was arriving from one of the other vessels.
An unfamiliar human appeared on her screen. "Captain, welcome to the New Alliance of Free Stars! I'm captain Wu. Captain Zelnick just told me to spar with you so you could accustom yourself to a different fighting style and so we can figure out how to fit you into our battle group. When would you like to get started?"
First I had better figure out how to fly in the first place!
"How about..." she rapidly converted "... in fourteen hours? There are some modifications to my ship that were ordered, and I have had a very long day."
"The sooner the better. We don't have numbers on our side, so we'll need every crewman to be elite. But don't worry too much, you should have seen our Spathi take care of that Kohr-Ah ship we ran across. They tore it to pieces. Wouldn't have been as pretty if there had been more than one, though, or if we hadn't had three eluders. And that's where you might come in. Keep them from sitting there behind a minefield, or better yet, knock them out of it completely."
"I see." Maybe I do.
"Well, I'll see you at 0600 then."
Peeru did not sleep until she had learned enough of the controls not to embarrass herself the next morning. This gave her only a few hours of rest; and yet, as she did, she knew that with the construction of the safety net, her personal safety net was being eroded. But, fitfully, rest she did.
The next morning's practice started off catastrophically. In ten simulated battles over three hours, she only once landed a hit on Wu's cruiser.
Now I'm beginning to see why Zelnick asked whether the weapon is tracking. It may be possible to hit with this thing, but it requires a lot of practice.
Boom. A signal that the last simulated nuke had hit her tenth ship, and it was over.
"Captain Peeru, are you..."
"Captain Wu, I'd like to see you try this. Your ship has a tiny target profile. My ship is designed to keep the enemy at range, but that's where you like to be. It's not a good combination."
"I think I will. You don't properly lead the target, and your orbital strategy is horrible."
A few seconds later, they had their controls swapped. Wu complained, "I don't like flying like this. I don't know what any of your specialized indicators mean."
And I didn't know what my indicators really meant anyway! Now things are even.
"I'm in the same situation, and we both have the basics. Go!"
Two minutes later, Wu's Mauler was radioactive slag, with only one hit scored on Peeru's Cruiser.
A better rate than I had against him, but not so good that it's not clear that I had a point.
Captain Wu had a somewhat more respectful tone when he came back on the line. "All right, I suppose it's a good thing we're on the same side. Hmm. Well, let's see how you'd do against a Dreadnought."
That wasn't exactly the kind of change I was thinking of!
This fight went surprisingly better. She was able to avoid the fighters well enough, and the dreadnought was large enough she could hit it from time to time. Eventually, though, her fuel supply ran low when she needed to avoid a pack of fighters, they swarmed her, and that was that.
Wu said, "That was interesting. Your ship gets worn down very easily. But before it does, it's quite capable."
"There is a system to replenish energy..."
"... which we aren't allowed to use. So, we're just going to have to buy you time. Also, did you notice that the main problem was the fighters?"
"Dreadnoughts don't direct fighters towards cruisers: we destroy them too easily. Perhaps we should do a two on one battle? You and me against a dreadnought, twice. Either of us would probably lose, let's see if we can win together. You keep them from catching up, I keep them from launching fighters, and contribute a bit of extra firepower. We'll need to stick together, so don't get trigger-happy."
It went largely as he described. Toward the end, though, the remaining dreadnought shifted focus from Wu to Peeru and managed to destroy her ship.
As he was finishing up, Wu commented, "Lining up these shots is dangerous, it was damaged enough you didn't need to do that. You probably wanted to even up our score, right? Well, don't. Especially in a combined-arms situation, it isn't the number hits you score that's important, it's whether you accomplish your role. You knocked each of them back enough times that I could do my damage in time. If that was all you had done, keep them at range, you would have been tripling my effectiveness. Not that that would make you twice as valuable as me. I mean..."
"You mean we leveraged the synergy of our core competencies into an enhanced combat portfolio?"
"You could say that. But don't."
When her practice session was finished, Peeru turned to her rest cube and left the hatch open to stare out the main port. The unfamiliar green chaotic sky taunted her. The red sky of hyperspace would have been unfamiliar enough, but this was far worse. No one knew where they would come out. Or if Zelnick did, he hadn't mentioned it in the logs that had been scanned from the ship's computers. But on top of that, she was in a position with no room for advancement or profit. And lots of chances to get blown up in nuclear or antimatter explosions.
Just as she was drifting off, Muugko called her. "Second watch finished, captain."
"It is your turn."
"I've gotten two hours of sleep in the past two days. Can you stay on watch for a bit?"
"The second watch is finished, captain."
"Plus one-third overtime pay." Chances are low I'd get authorization, but this point, I could take it out of my salary. It's not as if I'll ever get to spend it.
"Sleep well, captain."
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:35 pm
Chapter 4: Settling in
Peeru woke and almost started her usual morning routine. It was hard to tell that she was in a completely different spacetime system than she had been in the last time she had genuinely slept. But now that she was well-rested and recovered, she realized that Muugko's being on the bridge was time-and-a-third of a lieutenant's salary falling out of her pocket. And with her new position as a captain, that was a distressingly large fraction of her own salary.
She put her arms into the fitting slots, and the cube folded open. She set her chains for the bridge station.
It would be convenient if he has fallen asleep, I could refuse payment.
But as she approached, he alertly turned and rapidly reported: "We are being towed along a straight-line course. This has been maintained for three hours..."
"Our hours or theirs?"
"I changed a timekeeper to their time system yesterday. Did that affect the ship's chronometer, or just my console?"
"Hours are hours, right? They seemed the usual length."
Typical man, not understanding the idea of unit conversions. "Go on."
"You received several non-urgent calls; I answered them."
"I'll get back to them once we're done here. Anything in particular I should know before then?"
"Yes. I have grave concerns about the net."
"In what respect?"
"It is against company policy."
"Our reassignment is permanent. Do you comprehend this?"
"Yes. We are employees of the Crimson Corporation, on contract to this outfit."
"They can disassemble this ship if they please, and you say they can't have us put up a safety net?"
He remained silent, but bit his lip a little.
"Think about it. Get some rest."
As he swung off, she checked the messages. One was from Wu, so she read it first. "We are having a comprehensive simulated battle at 1400. You are on gray team. See you then."
Then, from PorKoo: "Hello, Gray team! We're sure going to get vicious this afternoon, we have a great new teammate, Peeru. Everyone say hello! We're going to lick them hard! PS: frungy expo game this evening, 19:00 in the dome of the Vindicator's forward crew compartment."
Okay, that's just weird.
From Jay: "I have been looking forward to meeting you for weeks, even months. As the alignment of the stars indicates - not that we can see stars from here, or that alignment means much of anything here. Anyway - I can already see that your participation will be of great importance. So feel good, isn't it great to save the galaxy? Also, love is in your future."
These guys are worse than the Utwig.
From Snelopy: "Watch out with that gun, some of our team get insanely close to the enemy, and they are not well armored."
That's supposed to be hello?
From Tifiwilo: "Hello, young one."
Umm... get what you ordered, I guess.
She practiced a bit more in simulations against the Ur-quan. As she got hit once, she was set to thinking, and cancelled the simulation. Has this ship ever been hit by enemy fire? My skills here are no more important than their skills through the ship.
She pored through the ship's copy of the Mauler handbook to check on procedures for damage control; she didn't even need to check the logs to determine that these had not been followed, even vaguely. In particular the cleanliness requirement. No need to have flying debris also be a problem in the event of a hull breach. She began to draft a set of directives, then checked herself. I don't need to take credit for this. It would in fact be better if I did not take the blame for making them do more work. How to arrange this?
One minute later, she had sent a message to the officers declaring that at the beginning of the watch after her next, she would inspect the ship, with special attention to the procedures in the damage control section of the handbook.
Okay, I wonder now what their other jobs are in the event of combat... Oh, this is not good at all. Half of these contradict the damage control directives. Crew are to be at posts well within the hull, crew are to be at posts along the hull. Keep tools out and prepared, keep tools secured with quick releases.
She quickly checked to see whether the message had been received -- yes, but only by the chief engineer. She quickly cancelled the message and called the chief engineer directly.
Kaandor was not on duty when I did my special modification, but she has not objected to the net. Logs showed her to be... competent.
Kaandor replied after a minute, confused. "Captain!"
"What do you think of the damage control procedures?" When the engineer hesitated, Peeru clarified, "I did not write them, and your comment will not get back to anyone who cares about the career of the author."
She relaxed. "Aside from a little bit of free sense, they're idealized to the point of uselessness. If you know exactly where you're going to be hit a minute or so in advance, they aren't so bad. If you don't, you're throwing your crew away."
"Has this ship ever taken damage?"
"Yes, but it has not been struck by enemy fire in forty years."
"So, what do you recommend?"
"The combat procedures, definitely. They were written by actual combat engineers, not the nano-credit-pinching accountants who wrote the damage control procedures."
"Wouldn't the accountants be worried about crew loss?"
That stymied them for a while. Wait! These procedures are over a hundred years old! That puts them before the crash. And it didn't occur to anyone to update them since then? Oh, wait. They're by someone who is now a vice-president. Would people be so craven as to not to want to contradict him, even under different circumstances? Or is it that replacing out-of-date documentation is not a promotion-worthy task? Probably just that.
"Never mind. Definitely follow the combat guidelines."
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:36 pm
Chapter 5: Green
Gray team gathered on one side of a simulated planetary system, alongside the Vindicator. As some members of gray team chattered about various subjects, Green team gathered at the other end.
"That's a lot of dreadnoughts." said Peeru.
Zelnick spoke up. "The six of us against them. Now. I'm the most obvious target. All of you have capacity to do tremendous damage if they ignore you..."
PorKoo put in, "And don't forget it!"
Zelnick continued, "So I'm going to try to get them to ignore you. Without getting myself blown up. And Peeru is going to help me."
Peeru gulped, but remained silent. It was fairly clear why the mauler would be suited to such duty, though.
Zelnick continued. "Snelopy, you stay on our side. Others: split up and head around to the rear. PorKoo, you command the harassers in the rear. Break!"
The harassers -- two skiffs, a stinger, and a fury -- zoomed off in their various directions.
Zelnick then spoke on a private channel with Peeru and Snelopy: "The Vindicator can go head to head against a dreadnought, but I can get mobbed. So, PorKoo will keep them from all facing us. Your job is to split up any formations that come at us. Just push back the second-nearest one, so I can take them one at a time. Wait for easy shots."
The harassers were already approaching their positions. The dreadnoughts stayed in close formation, an X. Two opposite ends of the X coordinated fire on one of the skiffs, while the center dreadnought, set back from their plane, covered them. The other two ends covered everything else.
Peeru said, "I see they don't trust their fighters to keep the others away."
"The cannons seem to be working. Very few fighters launched. No hits, but it's a matter of time. How about we edge closer and try to break it up? I can't go too near that formation, but you have retro-thrust and can get a bit closer. Try whacking one of them."
The three of them advanced.
Peeru selected one of the ends of the X and waited to come in range. The targeting system sure helps now that I know how to use it. Okay, steady... fire!
As her shots flew, she noticed orange flares growing ominously large. A moment later, a burst of two fusion blasts zoomed by the nose of her ship. An alarm went off as one from a different dreadnought struck. I didn't notice two others had turned to me! Too focused on aiming!
She zoomed past the Vindicator's stern before she thought to thrust. As it was, she was rattled enough to nearly miss Zelnick saying it was a good shot.
She checked that the dreadnoughts were no longer targeting her: they were not. But then she was surrounded by fighters. A whirl of fire flashed by. She fired madly to escape, but not before being tagged a few more times. The ship's batteries were uselessly low, and she was far from the battle and moving away. She thrusted inward again, but not hard, and surveyed the tactical situation a little more calmly.
There were four dreadnoughts, now three, as the Vindicator swept through the enemy formation. One of the skiffs had been destroyed, and all ships had taken light damage from fighters. And the dreadnoughts were chasing the Vindicator. They hit it multiple times, damaging it, but the harassers destroyed them before they could finish the job.
Without even waiting for the fighters to be mopped up, the simulation ended. Most captains became visible in their own panes, organized by team.
Where are the Arilou? This is not everyone. Only one of the three Spathi.
Zelnick said, "Wu."
Wu nodded. "I think green won this engagement. The Vindicator was mission-killed."
Zelnick acknowledged and said "Rupatup."
The Spathi captain replied, "If you hadn't charged suicidally, we probably would have wiped out the light craft in a few minutes. They have to get too close... If you had had cruisers, we could not have used a static formation."
Zelnick nodded. "I had wanted to avoid that matchup, but it does make a difference. Abrams, switch with Tinkafo next time. Abrams?"
"What Rupatup said. Also, this formation was highly specialized. We were worried the Arilou might pop in among us, rip a hole in our sides, and warp out. Similarly, a well-timed gravity whip could have stressed our marksmanship."
PorKoo said, "The team fire made it dangerous to be around, and that middle ship kept me from rushing the rear. Until you blew it up. Then I blew up two of them in four seconds!"
"Why didn't you do what Abrams mentioned?"
"With all that defensive teleporting, they couldn't punch hard. And there was a fighter screen, a little. It was a good idea to focus fire on the Skiffs. If they had focused on me, I would have led them around. With the skiffs, they were aiming all over the place."
Wu said, "Or we would have destroyed you promptly. Your ship is not that maneuverable."
"Or that. Jay might have done better there."
"Well, we certainly weren't going to chase him if given the choice."
Zelnick asked, "How disruptive was the mauler? Fwiffo?"
Another Spathi captain appeared.
"Very." It disappeared again.
Jay said, "Having been stung, Fwiffo shed fighters as the meza flower sheds seeds when the greedy poot-worm stings it." The poetic tone subsided, and she continued, "I destroyed most of them, but not before they surrounded poor Peeru; and I nicked her too. My inner peace has not yet returned from recoiling at my error. I am in torment. I..."
Peeru cut in, "It was a simulation."
Zelnick asked Peeru, "Is your recoil always so severe and out of control?"
The silence grew protracted.
Zelnick put forth a graphic and went on as if nothing had happened. "You could have fired twice, but you were out of range. If you hit once, this would have ended very differently. If you had begun thrust when Jay engaged the fighters, could you have been in range?"
I don't think he'd ask that if he didn't know the answer. "Yes."
"We'll take care of the fighters. Next time, be in range. Okay, let's take a ten minute break and then we'll do part 2."
What does he think now? Should I just tell him I'm no captain? I might be able to get a position managing resources. But their way of management seems to absurd, hardly managing at all.
Suddenly, Zelnick reappeared. "I am very sorry for putting you on the spot there. It was wrong. Others made errors, worse even, and I didn't go after them. Plus, it looks like you couldn't have it back for made that shot anyway."
Oh, that was a serious question?
"I've got something to tell you. You may not be surprised: I'm not really a captain."
"You are now."
"I'm an administrative assistant."
"So? I'm a computer guy. Wu's an aquaculturist. Abrams is an advertiser. They were lieutenants, but didn't see combat. Jay is a fortune teller. PorKoo is an explorer. The Arilou are the only captains here who fought in an actual war, and they normally hunt *Nnngn* and let them go. That's why we have these sessions. You aren't ready. I know.
"Enough. You need some time to get used to your ship's capabilities. Be aware that these are approximate. We don't have too much practical data. Actually, scratch that. I'm making you an observer for this battle. You can still fly around as a ghost, get used to the ship's capabilities. But mainly watch the battle."
Peeru examined her console, and shivered: her simulated ship was that of the civilization destroyers, the Kohr-Ah.
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:38 pm
Chapter 6: Gray
This battle was completely different in character. The five marauders viciously attacked in a broad V formation, almost ignoring the skiffs and the eluders. The front three focused fire on the Vindicator and the cruiser, and the rear two lay down counterfire. Occasional plasma puffs blocked most of the rest of incoming fire.
The cruiser ended up flying directly away in a dead rout heading for the planet, while the Vindicator danced about at the limits of its range, mostly avoiding the blades and sneaking in a return shot here and there. One of the skiffs was abruptly destroyed by the plasma rings as it tried to break up the formation from the rear.
Was this what PorKoo referred to when speaking of licking them hard? This is not good. But the Vindicator is extremely agile. Despite its enormous size, it's not easy to hit, especially with such sluggish weaponry. On the other hand, those rear marauders are able to lay down an intense defensive screen for that forward one. The eluders are wasting their time going after the front of the formation, but from the rear they'd have problems with weapon range as the marauders accelerated away. A tricky problem.
After a time, the formation changed as the front marauder, having picked up some damage, swapped places to its left. While that swap was being executed, the Vindicator came to closer range along the V's distorted left side and delivered a few shots. While plasma rings protected the marauders, they did not return much fire; and then the Vindicator was behind their formation, and it had already swung around behind the marauder on that left side. It let forth an intense stream of fire from its nose, pummeling the thrusters of the marauder in its sights. And just as quickly as it had attacked, it turned and faded away.
The V abandoned the crippled ship to the eluders, and continued its earlier tactic.
I'm not sure I understand this display. The ship is no longer accelerating significantly, but its systems panel doesn't indicate that degree of damage.
While they had been reduced by one, the effectiveness of their advance was only somewhat diminished: they sacrificed some of the defensive fire, but maintained the offense, dropping mines ahead of the Vindicator, always forcing it to maneuver, turn, avoid. Seems they're attempting to keep it away from the damaged ship. It's holding up fairly well, with those defensive mines.
But a hole appeared as one of the herding mines was laid improperly, and the Vindicator swooped through, and charged, blasters blazing. The crippled marauder had positioned its mines so as to be protected from the cruiser, which left it open on this side, so it limped forward among its mines; another shot landed.
Then as the Vindicator turned to avoid running into the mines, the marauder accelerated hard and released two plasma rings, which the Vindicator flew right through. And exploded.
Oh. It was faking. That explains it. That's not good.
A moment later, a few nukes made it through the depleted minefield and destroyed the marauder; but this barely caught Peeru's attention.
The simulation ended.
Zelnick started, saying, "Congratulations. Another mistake that won't be made in a real battle. Have tactics like that been seen in actual battles, PorKoo?"
"Yes. But those rings grew too fast and wide. It's not how they really act. If it hadn't been for that, you would have made it away free."
"We shouldn't count too much on what we think they can't do."
PorKoo continued, "But also, the rings weren't as good at defense. They let at least five hits through they shouldn't have. Some of them were important hits. You were wearing us down a lot faster than you should have."
Five examples popped up, one of a Vindicator blast, and four nuke hits, including two of the hits which had destroyed the bait marauder.
"All right. Any comments from our bait captain?"
Tinkafo spoke: "None about being the bait, as you put it. If we can lure them to release rings... inappropriately, that may be a powerful strategy. But it is risky. A skiff-stinger pair seems like a good team to... exploit this."
PorKoo puffed contentedly.
"Any other comments?"
Wu said, "The Yehat's shields would be invaluable here."
"Remember what happened last time we simulated a meeting going sour with them?"
"We have more ships now."
"And none that could do any better, unless it's the Mauler. Maybe its shots are fast enough to fake them out."
Wu continued, "Also, the Vindicator's weapons just lack the punch they need. If they could block a mine, you wouldn't have had to dodge as much, and may have gotten some more hits in."
Zelnick looked around. No one else had anything to add, so he said, "Dismissed."
Some of the captains disappeared.
Peeru sent a message to Zelnick, "What good is a question like that, wishing about weapons power?"
He replied, "We purchased the technology for the blasters from the Melnorme. Greenish may have more devastating weaponry for sale. Actually, we've assumed he does, though it is probably expensive."
"Nothing bought from the Melnorme is fairly priced."
"I get that feeling more from your people, actually."
"You think an egg sac more valuable than a ship?"
"I don't know how valuable it was. But, since it wasn't valuable to me, regardless of objective fairness, it was good at the time."
He continued, publicly, "Peeru, train against Yehat, see how that goes. Tinkafo, be her trainer. By the way, I'm sorry, Wu, but I'm inserting the... 1038... into the rotation in your place. I know your crew will miss the frungy games."
Wu merely shrugged.
Peeru asked, "Excuse me... what's the rotation being discussed here?"
Zelnick said, "The Vindicator is very spacious and well-equipped with luxuries, compared to the other ships. So two ships dock every evening, and the crews get a sort of mini-leave on board here. We have warm clothing for your crew, and little mobile chain frameworks like your lieutenant described, so you and your crew will feel right at home. We've even lowered the gravity a touch for the evening."
I wonder how much requirement there is for someone to stay on watch here while docked... hmm... looks like there is a company procedure saying there should be someone, but their list of duties is essentially busy-work. One watchholder.
"Is something wrong, captain?"
Yes; this is really messing around with the performance incentive structure. Well, we'll have to adapt. If I refuse, word will get around, and that net will kill me.
"What time should we be there?"
"As soon as we get you docked."
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:39 pm
Chapter 7: Tour
As Zelnick had promised, the specifications had been filled precisely, and the crew was able to disembark neatly onto rolling hangers without activating the revolt suppression system. Each crew-member was joined by a human, who assisted with putting on the heavy clothing. Wugyup was playing with the controls, rolling back and forth, swinging higher and higher. He seems to have mastered the controls and adapted to the shorter chain length quickly! Is he really simple-minded, or just cheaply amused? And Nabek... how improper! Letting that man touch her horns! Not even a real woman yet and already acting loose. Well, maybe it's just 'cultural exchange'. And wanting to be all grown-up, but not knowing what that is.
Peeru finally completed the transfer. On the other end of the loading bay, a load of mostly humans but also some Zoq, Fot, and Pik, were unloading from the stinger, which fit, barely, entirely into the chamber.
Then she noticed Zelnick approaching, holding the clothing the others were wearing now. Is he really doing this for me? Everything is upside-down. Bosses don't do this... unless...
"Welcome back, captain. Is it more comfortable with the chains?"
"Yes, much. How does that go on?"
The garment fit over her legs easily enough, and up around her arms with some more difficulty.
Finished, Zelnick said, "Tight as a button. Would you be more interested to watch the game, or tour the ship?"
"The ship, I suppose."
"All right. Spine first, or engines?"
Zelnick led to a different way than the crew was being guided, to the corner, into a smaller room which closed off.
They began moving, and Peeru realized that the walls were transparent. They came out of the narrow shaft into a long room, full of engines, humming, bristling with charge.
Zelnick gestured wide. "Sometimes I come here and and just look at the engines. Reminds me of home."
Peeru nodded, then jolted. "What?"
"I spent most of my childhood inside a dead precursor factory. Those coils, the plate stacks... simply the patterns on the floor."
"You mean the 'warning, radiation' signs everywhere?"
He looked at her much more intently. "You know precursor?"
"What little we've deciphered, yes. What dose are we getting here?"
He pulled a green slip of plastic out of his sleeve, and returned it. "Can't be much. So, you really do have some artifacts, after all!"
"The Rosy sphere has been described to you..."
"Fifty credits says it's worthless."
"What do you mean?"
"A bet. If I'm wrong, I pay you fifty credits. If I'm right, you pay me."
"That sounds like an improper insurance policy, which is illegal for a good reason. Contracts should benefit all parties."
His face suddenly went sour. "Except the slaves you trade, and those fed to the furnace?"
"It is by contract that we are alive in the first place! I would call that a benefit."
Zelnick laughed. "I suppose so. Is your air really that scarce, though?" He tapped a control and the lift zoomed off again.
Shortly, they came out in a wide-open room with an enormous bubble window opening right out onto the green of quasispace.
"What interesting sculptures!" So much more intricate than the wall-work even of a regional headquarters.
Zelnick seemed confused.
Not sculpture, then. "I'm sorry, they must be your trees."
"Well, bushes, anyway. Close."
"Oh. Is that a lake?"
"It's a swimming pool. Have you really never seen a lake?"
"How would I have?"
Zelnick was left with no response.
A beep emanated from a piece on Zelnick's arm. "Zelnick here."
"Fenson. One of the Druuge hurt himself pretty badly. We're taking him to medical two."
"Coming. Do you have the necessary information?"
"I'm not sure."
As he set the lift again, Peeru put in, "I can give treatment authorization, as his immediate superior, whoever it is." I hope this is also included in their crew package. Of course it is.
"I meant the medical information."
I suppose they wouldn't have that, would they?
Zelnick continued, to Fenson, "What happened?"
"Something went wrong with the chains and he just fell to the ground. Broke his foot."
The room opened again. She followed Zelnick across a hallway, into a small - by precursor standards - room. Wugyup was lying on a shelf. With no chains. Maybe he wasn't so quick after all.
A doctor was conversing over a comm screen with Feres, trying to get her to help; Peeru went to the comm screen and told Feres to cooperate.
Another human approached Peeru and said, "Captains."
Zelnick acknowledged, "Fenson." Oh, this is the same one I saw last time I was aboard? I... didn't recall.
Fenson asked Peeru, "After the chains dropped him, the other crew avoided him like the plague. Any idea why, captain?"
"Being dropped is usually death. We avoid that."
"Ah. So our mechanical error may cause social problems?"
"I think I can prevent it, if it's clearly just an error. Still, such a thing is an extreme breach of, well, how things work. But so is your walking. Get him back in and everything will be okay again."
Wugyup spoke calmly, in the trade language. "They won't take me."
"How do you think I got out? I said I'd like to join their labor union."
Peeru gasped. The audacity of it! The perfidy! The... genius!
She felt the alien gazes and the abominable man in front of her, and the dreadful likelihood that this was... a union ship. She maneuvered out into the hallway, away from the eyes, and began moving. The deck was not long, and she turned and faced a dead end. She just stopped and closed her eyes and imagined a place where the sky was black and the derivative of reward in respect to productivity was strictly positive and people didn't throw themselves into battles against immensely powerful aliens with thousands of years of experience at genocide. But that's not where I am, is it?
Someone approached. She opened her eyes. Zelnick. "The crew doesn't actually have a union. Or, if they do, they haven't told me about it."
"Please tell me that good performance is materially rewarded."
"And we're not all going to die."
"We'll win this, like a... Say, do you want to see how the rest of your crew is doing? They're at the frungy game."
She followed, and finished gathering herself. This dome was full of people, and some sort of action was proceeding in the center, which was zipping by too fast for her to be able to focus on it.
PorKoo was situated on a platform to the side, announcing excitedly. Peeru saw her crew's mobile chain platforms next to it, the legs extended high to give them a better view. One of the crew noticed her and alerted Muugko. He lowered himself and approached.
Zelnick said, "I guess that's it for the tour, for now. If you need anything, ask Raman, over there. I need to check in on other things." He returned the way they had come, as Muugko arrived.
"The amount of equipment required for this sport provides a significant..."
"About Wugyup. About the way the economics work here. What does the crew think?"
Muugko grew quiet. "After he fell we haven't asked any questions along those lines."
"What about before?"
"How about you review the recordings? The views expressed therein would not be representative of the Crimson Corporation or my own."
"Yes, I picked up on that. Can you summarize?"
"Captain, a man was dropped. Talking about that conversation... is unwise."
"Are you a shareholder?"
Defensively, "I have options. 'Get' options, of course."
Hmm. At the list price typically handed out on those options, he'd be far enough out of the money that the revolt suppression system would not consider him an owner.
"I'll listen. And if you have anything to suggest about new markets for sporting equipment, fill out an Opportunity Identification and Assessment form, paying special attention to field 12, part 7." That being the distance to the customer base. The Zoq-Fot-Pik would not make good trading partners unless for extremely high profit per mass.
"Submit to your marketing, technical, production, and immediate supervisors, each in triplicate, each copy made on a certified Verified Single Pass Entry Device."
"Those four recipients are all you. Do you want twelve copies?"
Foomp put me here, I'm sure not going to hand him a golden trade opportunity, if one exists. And I'm not going to justify his throwing me away, if there isn't one. "If you want this to be entered in the logs as your development, yes. If you just want a recommendation from your superior, no. If you realize that we're on permanent reassignment so that even if the trade world thinks you're CEO material you're still going to be a lieutenant..."
"Are you asking me to do less work?"
"The compensation packages offered by the Crimson Corporation are varied. The key to your success is understanding what will maximize them and lead to advancement." I figure the revolt suppression system can't object to citing the first page of the employee manual. Oh wait. I'm captain. Anyway... "At present time and for the foreseeable future, maximizing your compensation is principally determined by combat readiness, and in the event of combat, combat performance. Do you understand?"
"If this is a permanent reassignment, what room for advancement is there anyway?"
"Do you not see how there is room for advancement here? Say, do you... Is there someone back at the trade world you would want to meet again? Someone you had a reduced accommodations contract or something of the sort with?"
"Not a RAC, but a MEPTA." Ugh. Well, if he's the Mutual Exclusivity on Physicality Term Agreement type, I guess this works even better.
"In this outfit, I can see that you may be in a position, eventually, to buy a worker's contract. I'm talking Release To Subcontractor type."
Muugko's eyes darted as he attempted to comprehend the magnitude of what she had said. Good. At least he's back to being a productive employee.
"If you survive, and get the right connections. Now, go back and enjoy the game. Get to know these people better."
Peeru followed him back to the announcer's stand and raised herself up next to PorKoo.
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:39 pm
Chapter 8: Frungy
"Ah, welcome, Peeru!"
Peeru turned to find herself face-to-face with something... green. With a feminine voice coming from its synthesizer.
"Have we met?"
"I'm KooPor, and this is KooPor." Two small tentacles gestured to her left: a brown being with a large eye sat motionless but for a sudden blink.
"It must be very confusing to have the same name."
"Not at all. Individually, I'm Koos, he's Porm, and ei's '."
Porm's game announcements had been, up to this point, a minor distraction. But now he called out something loud and unintelligible for several seconds.
When that had passed, Koos replied as if nothing had happened. "More or less, yes."
"There's a name in there. We don't pronounce it. My full name now is my name-root, his name-root, and eir name-root, KooPor. The others rotate to put their name first. Make sense now?"
"So, you're sort of the captain's, wife... and something?" I hope I used that term right.
"No, not at all! We're married to KeeMow, more or less."
"We are different species, after all."
"I'd been wondering."
"And I wouldn't say I'm not the captain."
"Oh! I didn't see you in the simulations."
"There's a time limit on preparing. When we were both there, we argued until the sim started."
Porm leaned over and said, "Did not! We got the main plan down!"
"And we didn't get the contingency plan down."
"We would have if you hadn't... who-aah! And a score!" He was gone, sprung back to his spot.
Peeru noticed members of the Vindicator's crew attempting some sort of celebratory verbal-gesture combination which came across as a roar. A hanging variant was executed by some of her own crew. The roar died down after a few seconds.
"So, Peeru, are you married?"
"No. I used to have a Preliminary Investigation into Residential Reassessment, but his domestic negotiations were too aggressive. Now he says it ended because I wasn't feminine enough, the chromium-deficient egg-starver."
"Preliminary... why were you together? Were you near-grown?"
"We met in school, taking Burvixese and calculus. He was male, and it was clear I'd be female. I was impressed with his persistence in trying to understand limits, since that didn't come easily to him. I thought it was a good sign for the future. Hence the PIRR. Then the crash hit and housing got cheap, so there was no point in my yielding to his undiminished demands. Our differences grew, and neither of us exercised the testing clause any further. So, how did you meet, ah, who was it?"
Koos wriggled. "It was ', actually. Keepi and Mowowa were helping ' up the ramp to the enfractory, when ' slipped. ' stopped eir slide. Keepi almost blew spores, she was so upset with herself. Then Mowowa offered us a dinner in thanks. And that was such a good day that we had to return the favor next freeday. And that was such a good day, that they had to in return, and so on. We don't have anything formal like you, or even like the humans, but if we did, we would immediately." Yes, it seems like a continuing reciprocal relationship which is understood in practice if never codified. Man kinds of things.
"Oh! That reminds me." Koos wriggled a little, and made a small gesture with one of its apparently useless tentacles. A hovering plate floated over. There is clearly some expectation here. I don't understand.
Koos clarified, "Prepared under my direction. Would you like some?"
"That's what I asked, yes."
"But I didn't even say 'for'!"
"Would you like some of the contents of this plate?"
"In exchange for what?"
"Is this on the ship's ration..."
"No. Take it. My compliments."
A loss leader, perhaps? I will be immune to such weak persuasive tactics, surely, but the consumer-level crew I have may be swayed. Peeru looked across to those of her crew arrayed to her side, but could not immediately determine the origin of their foods. Well, if it's a loss leader setup here, at least I'll be able to give them a talk before they are drawn in irrevocably. On the other hand, should I? Protecting oneself from advertising is a high-level skill, reserved for owners and off-world representatives. On the other hand, these crew are off-world representatives. Yes, I should ask about it.
"I'll take that as a 'no'." Koos seems disappointed!
"Oh, yes, I'll have some, I was just..." She trailed off, trying to think up an excuse.
"Ah, yes. In some regions we symbolically look for wheels before biting off a clinger, I understand if you do the same."
I have no idea what that was about, but it seems to have satisfied her.
Peeru took one of the pieces at random.
Koos added, "I even reversed the chirality in the sugars for you. It's safe."
I hadn't even thought of that! I should have.
Peeru ate it. It was weakly sweet, though it had an interesting texture. Including a small stone in the center. At least, I think it's a stone.
After some time of attempting to break it up, Peeru gave up and spit it into her palm. It was, indeed, a stone.
"That goes in the empty dish, there."
She seems expectant. I see there was something she wanted, after all! Perhaps this was a beta test?
"Oh, thank you so much. So, Jay and I were talking about the aura surrounding your homeworld."
Porm suddenly shouted out a jubilant announcement.
Porm shouted out some more, concluding, "And so the royals have done it again! Seventeen and three fifty-sixths to fifteen and an underwhittle! Why don't we all give a hoot to both sides' defensive intercalators, who made this game so exciting? Very tight control!"
The crowd replied appropriately, and began to disperse.
Peeru looked down to a human. After a moment, she remembered Zelnick had indicated this one. She lowered herself. "Yes?"
"Message from the captain. You will not have a replacement for Wugyup before we resolve the situation with the current portal, due to re-training time considerations."
Already trying to short my allocations? Or is it for the reasons stated?
"Also, due to said portal, you are to gather your crew and return to your vessel, and rest up, to be ready for passage and possible combat at 0626."
"What time is it now?"
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:41 pm
Chapter 9: Future
Peeru tried to sleep, but visions of Ur-Quan fusion blasts striking the ship taunted her, and she couldn't quite dismiss the urge to get in more practice. The only on-duty person was the navigator, Feres; all others were resting as they could near their posts, ready to handle any emergency conditions that might arise.
The sleep bubble's console indicated a call incoming. Peeru checked the sender - Jay. Well, I might as well take it. I'm not getting any sleep.
The over-sized beak bobbed excitedly. "Captain, I just had a most portentious dream. And whom do you guess it concerned? Oh, you're right, it was you! And what sort of dream was it? I did not see the things I saw about your world, the smoke-tubes like poot-worms with intestinal distress. I saw love. Yes, love, that same I saw earlier, in bright contrast against its absence in your past. Where we pass through this portal, that is where you are going to meet your love. Or realize you had it already. Or discovered it again, as you find your favorite missing grooming stick tangled in your tail? Or..."
"Jay, why don't you go back to sleep and get that straightened out."
"Yes, of course, I should return to the dream realm and plumb its depths with my most meditative somnolence."
"Of course you should."
After that, oddly, Peeru had no trouble getting to sleep.
Everyone was rested.
The reddish portal grew from a microscopic dot to a substantial fraction of the sky.
Red alerts sounded.
Battle contingencies were made.
And they were through. The ships spun about, passing through the eddy, dropping into hyperspace.
Twenty seconds later, a portal back to quasispace formed, and the ships spun up into it again.
"So, I'm going to find love in the middle of Ur-Quan space, am I?"
"Odd though it may seem, yes."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Her connection was cut off. At first, there was no connection. Then, Zelnick appeared. "Captain. Please meet me immediately. As you did the first time." The connection cut off; Peeru did not try to reopen it.
In my resting cube? What? Why? This cannot have the significance to him that it would have to us.
But Peeru made the arrangements. An eerie sensation that Jay had been referring to this crept over her, and though she dismissed it, she found herself calling the pkunk captain.
"Jay, can you clarify something?"
"The web of fate is foggy..."
"Has that event you foretold already happened?"
Jay froze, sensing her distress. After a pause long enough to have accommodated his usual conversational indirections, he squawked tentatively, "No?"
Peeru closed the connection, and headed to her cube. As the ships docked, she got into it, the chains releasing her limbs once she was inside. Momentarily, she was conveyed to the cargo bay of the Vindicator.
The Captain again greeted her, alone, catching the cube and slowing it with his mass, unlocking it in midair.
He seems tense. Why?
He offered her the same coat she had been in the previous evening, and slowly had the gravity turned on, just a little.
Why does he not speak or meet my eyes? He did before.
Peeru maintained the silence as she put on the coat, and followed the Captain up the corridor, pushing with her feet and hands as needed against the floor and walls. Zelnick caught her final oversized step and drew her to the seat she had been in before. He seated himself facing her, and stared at one of his computer screens that she could not see, for a minute.
Ah, making me wait, emphasizing his importance?
He tersely said, "What do you think of this uniform design?"
A design appeared on a screen facing her. It appeared similar to the one she wore, though bearing the same patterns as he and the other human officers wore: white cuffs, with gold accents. She looked up to see him staring intently at her.
"I do not have a strong opinion on it."
"Try it out. It's on my dresser." He gestured to one side, to what would have been a precursor closet, or perhaps even a locker.
Peeru hesitantly pushed off, feeling his gaze follow her. This is more than a little strange.
The room was small, and decorated only by a padded shelf with its own local gravity, on which were placed a few knicknacks - some of them clearly of Pkunk origin, and shiny rocks. And an egg. The rest was a rectangular palette with cloth on it, and a machine from which was hanging the uniform Zelnick had just indicated.
She sealed the room, and examined the uniform. It was the same consistency of material as her own, a touch darker red. They had also included the utility features of her own uniform: the interior recirculator, the sleeve comm unit, the same system of straps.
This is bizarre. The entire situation. Very sketchy.
Once she had made up her mind to do it, she changed in a few seconds.
Interesting. They copied Wugyup's: the belly parts are more suited to a male. But anyway, he hasn't burst in... I guess he wasn't up to anything after all.
She opened the door, and Zelnick was right outside.
What's that he's holding toward me? It looks a bit like a weapon. Okay, it's not too late for him to be up to something.
She backed up. He entered, grabbed her old uniform, and threw it far out into the bridge.
Oh, I knew it! I just had this bad feeling, and here we go. Well, he'll feel my horns in a moment. The moment I get up the courage. Any moment now.
He sealed the door behind him, and checked a little more with what he was holding before putting it down on the shelf. "Okay, captain. You're bug free now."
Oh. That's not a weapon, that's a sensor! "What?"
"Your uniform had monitoring devices all through it. I could not speak with you freely."
"But who would be receiving these signals except me, the captain?"
"You tell me. One second after we arrived in Hyperspace, your ship turned towards the Tradeworld and sent out a hyperwave blast. It was extremely powerful, and extremely narrow-beam. Somehow it even used some of the Vindicator's tractor field as an antenna. Does that seem like a problem to you?"
"Well, yes. You ordered a communications blackout except by laser."
"Yes. It may have permanently ruined our ability to use that portal without having a welcoming committee.
"I was led to wonder why your ship would be reporting to the tradeworld in the first place. So I looked over the purchase contract, and your contract to me, and your general contract. And I asked a few questions of the guides."
Peeru's previous fears that he was up to some sensual purpose now seemed pale compared to the enormous wrenching fear which took her.
"Peeru. You are still an employee of the Crimson Corporation. Is this correct?"
"I am your immediate superior. Is this correct?"
"As such, I have personnel management authority. Is this correct?"
The fear exploded. She was unable to respond.
"Well, it is. You're fired. Now, would you like a job?"
She re-listened to that last part several times in her mind before she managed to say, "What?"
"I would like to hire you to be captain on this Mauler starship I happen to have, which lacks a captain."
"But..." Way to start contract negotiations, saying I'm unqualified. "... I don't see that you have appropriate compensation packages, especially considering the hazard involved."
"One hundred kilos of silver per day, baseline. Here's the figure in your units."
That's about twice times my present salary. I mean, my old salary. I mean, my old old salary. Under Foomp. "Non-consumed metals? They're not valuable. Make it a ton of Uranium, reactor grade or higher."
"A ton? You must be joking."
"I've seen the logs of your mining practices. If I'm on board, really on board, I'll optimize them so you'll be profiting kilotons. A ton per day is a steal."
He shrugged. "Okay. One ton of uranium per day, baseline. Agreed?"
Peeru thought. "If we win, I want a moon. One that isn't a joke."
"Thinking big? All right. If we win and you have performed with excellence, you pick, against my veto, an eighth of a moon in the Crateris or Crucis constellations."
"Where?... that's where we just were! It's in the middle of Ur-Quan space!"
"If we've won, it won't be."
"I wasn't complaining, it's just..." Jay's prediction suddenly seems much more likely. What am I thinking?
"Who determines excellence?"
"If anyone has to ask, you don't get it. You asked for a moon, you set the bar high. Do you agree?"
Peeru cleared her head. I can do this. Two shares of Crimson Corporation stock versus an eighth of an auric world. Hmm. And if I don't, what then? Let's not even go there.
"Now, really welcome to the Alliance of Free Stars, captain!"
"Your first job is to clean your ship up so when we come out of quasispace it doesn't blast a signal halfway across the galaxy."
"This takes priority over combat training. We cannot leave quasispace until this has been resolved."
"Then, you are to firm up our information defenses. You, and for that matter, the Melnorme, were able to scan our computers. I do not want to rely on the Ur-Quan not being able to do this."
"I will do what I can, but it is not my field." Kind of. I know how to get through, but not how to stop others' doing the same.
"Lastly, I read here that even after you're fired, this section 15 NDA thing still applies. Are you going to follow that?"
"Of course. It is a contract."
"So you won't share that information, such as locations of trading partners, even though this information could save all non-Ur-Quan sentient life in the galaxy? Well, if you ever have any suggestions on which direction we might head for some... completely unrelated reason, just let me know."
"I understand." I will have to think about this.
"Remember not to mention that you are no longer with the crimson corporation where its bugs can hear." He opened the door. "On other subjects, we have a volunteer to complete your crew complement, and we can send a few supernumerary engineers, if you need the help."
Re: Peeru Fanfic
Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 6:42 pm
Chapter 10: (nominations for a chapter name would be welcome. I can't come up with a unified thread here)
Peeru gave Kaandor free reign to devise and implement the most reliable solution to disable the high-power broadcast system, and instructed her to report every hour.
For her own part, Peeru stayed in the Vindicator with Zelnick. They were joined by a team of Alliance software engineers: Simpson, a wrinkly, almost skeletally thin (even thinner than Zelnick) brown human man; Hayt, a short, fat, pale human man with long tied black hair; and Tippy, a Pkunk - the first she had seen, so she couldn't compare sizes or tell he was also a man until the humans used that pronoun with no objection - colored orange and yellow, with a smattering of black feathers.
It was quite an effort for her to patch the holes without violating the NDA. As it worked out, she'd point out an element of their system, mention a principle, and they'd guess what she meant.
This worked all right whenever it was something like sanitizing a string argument to a parser. Zelnick, familiar with the workings of the system, would figure out what the vulnerable spot was, and Hayt or Simpson, more formally trained, would make notes towards a patch.
But then things got a little more obscure. It took a few minutes for her hints to point them towards spoofed internal communications with pulsed lasers.
As time went on and the harder-to-describe holes came up, it was Tippy who figured her vague gestures and hints out. Part of this was simply because Hayt had given up trying to understand what she was saying and was poking around looking for vulnerabilities himself.
And then they moved on to the two methods developed after Peeru had advanced to her elevated position. Of these, she had only read their executive summaries, and had never used them herself, only supervised their application.
When Tippy figured out what she was getting at anyway, she stopped the proceedings. "Tippy, are you psychic?"
"Then how did you know that? I didn't know that!"
Hayt looked up from his console. "I don't know how you get anything out of her at all. This is stupid."
"Giving us the info we need, but pulling our teeth out doing it?"
"Not violating contract is serious."
Zelnick gestured for Hayt to stop, and he did. "Tippy, enlighten us."
"Who have I coded for all my life? Mystics and seers and seekers of higher planes."
Simpson chuckled. "So if you can even figure out their use-cases, this should be child's play?"
"Quite. We've only been at this for four hours. Around now is when I'd be expecting my client to say what the software is actually supposed to do in this life as opposed to the one after next."
Peeru suddenly remembered to check her progress reports.
A moment later, she said, "I am pleased to announce that the 1038 won't be making any more high-powered transmissions. They put a full-manual switch on its power supply. Hrm."
"... but...", Zelnick said.
"We don't have hyperspace engines while it's off. Well, we're being towed everywhere anyway, it shouldn't be a problem."
When they next emerged from quasispace, the red alert sirens turned yellow, then disappeared.
Zelnick called: "So, mining advisor? Which way do you recommend?"
"Give me a minute..." Our prospectors found a lot of radioactive material in Beta Leporis, and they rate that highly. But of course he doesn't really want mining advice, he wants to know about the Supox and Utwig, who are right here. Plus, that uses information not available under my NDA. Taking that out of consideration, the choice is clear.
"The Hyades cluster is dense. Start with Delta Hyades."
"Really, skip the nearer Librae?"
"When was the last time you found anything worthwhile around a white dwarf? You can't just take the nearest thing."
"Well, there's another thing. My main purpose for the moment is to find out where these portals go. After we hit yours, it was quite clear that there is no pattern. So, do you think that this area is at least as good as average, or should we just take another exploratory jump?"
"Wait a moment. Why didn't the Arilou tell you where they go?"
"They said something cryptic like finding out would be better than knowing."
"Sounds like they know, and they want you to explore."
"Have you found any portals that led to nothing?"
"Well, the last one - before yours, I mean - was kind of the middle of nowhere. All we got out of it was the biggest meanest monster I've ever seen. I don't know if that's of cosmic significance, but Greenish will probably pay quite a bit for a look at it. So, should we stick around?"
"All right. And anyway, there's still the possibility they dump us somewhere random each time. So I ought to at least get something done on the way. All right, course set, we're off! Now, have you arranged for training with Tinkafo?"
"It'll be in just a few minutes."
"All right. Good luck. Don't forget to include your crew in some exercises, once you're up to speed." She acknowledged; he closed the connection.
Of course. I had been excluding them so as to hide my inexperience, but I'm not horrible now. I could use the help. Having a distinct gunner would actually have helped significantly in that mass battle. I wonder whether the others had assistants?
Peeru issued a notice to Muugko and the gunner, notifying them of the next mock battle that evening.
No need to include them in this little exercise: from the way they were talking this up before, this enemy is very tough: bad place to start. She practiced her targeting for a while, and at the agreed time, opened the connection.
Tinkafo sat before her, in virtual open vacuum, floating.
"Hello, young one."
"Join me before we start. Discard your ship."
She hung in front of him.
"Discard the reality of your body. You are still hanging."
"This would be a lot more effective if my interface were immersive."
He didn't acknowledge her complaint. Eventually, as she relaxed, her tunnel vision to the screens become more profound, and the interface became effectively immersive.
"You fear death, battle."
"Neither is your greatest fear."
"Powerlessness." Peeru recalled how her motivation supervisor had identified that fear, instructed her to harness it. She focused on that excercise.
"What?" In confusion, she became situationally aware again.
"Fostering a fear, any fear, holds you back."
Peeru considered this, providing against it the arguments of her motivation supervisor.
Tinkafo bowed his head a little. "Think on this, later."
He receded into the distance. Peeru restored her presence to being that of her ship.
In one sense, the practice went poorly. Tinkafo was flying the Yehat Terminator, and he blocked very well.
However, she managed the battle well on the larger scale, not wasting ammunition, and at least making a passable attempt at luring the Terminator into shielding inappropriately.
It didn't work until she used her ship as bait, and he drained his battery in autocannons in her direction. Hits landed on each side, with a net balance in his favor. But it was clear how that could have gone differently.
In this case, avoiding a fear of getting hit makes sense. But I can't quite understand how giving up my fear of powerlessness would help in any way.
After a time of neither ship taking damage, Tinkafo suspended the simulation and again floated in front of her.
"I notice you have not been complaining of a particular absence."
"Planets, and the boundaries."
"I don't see how planets would be important, as gravity is insignificant compared to our ships' accelerations; and what do you mean by boundaries?"
She could not follow Tinkafo's yellow eyes, but he was clearly staring, considering how to proceed. "Space appears flat only in what you call Truespace. And yet, even in Truespace, when one starts using the cruising drives, one bends space to an extreme degree. A ship as small as the Skiff or Stinger can appear the size of a continent."
"I'm aware of that. It makes a solar system appear only a few thousand kilometers across, which is why we don't need to convert half of our mass into kinetic energy each time we accelerate to a cruise."
"Correct. There are other effects..." Tinkafo went on for several minutes, explaining field entanglement hypertoroids, planet and asteroid image deformations, and some fairly unintuitive pseudo-gravitational effects.
Now is when I regret skipping the chapters on pair combat and combat near planets, as being unlikely to come up any time soon.
With pair combat conditions in effect, Tinkafo proceeded to utterly demolish Peeru repeatedly.
The new crewmember transferred from the Starrunner; Peeru stood by with Kaandor to greet their new addition - a human male, she knew from what information had been sent her, with a specialty in alien technology.
The hatch opened at the other end of the umbilical. He was big, with the largest head, chest, and arms she had seen; but as he rotated, she saw he had no legs. As he came closer, she saw he was already somehow in a chain system like those they had used on the precursor vessel, though with the knee chains attached to the bottom of his torso.
The chains stopped at the end of the passage; he saluted. "Specialist Martin Ndeki, Junior, reporting for duty."
A moment passed.
"What are you reporting, for duty?"
"I mean, I am here and under your command."
"I see. How are you controlling those chains, if you haven't got fingers in your knees?"
"I normally wear a leg prosthesis. We reprogrammed it to control the chains."
"Does that work?"
"It's hard to blind type with my feet, but I can get around all right."
A discreetly sent message came over from Kaandor: "I don't need another man to replace Wugyup! He was nearly a dead weight."
Peeru said, out loud, "I feel I should warn you that among the Druuge, men often have difficulty with engineering and mathematics. So, you may find some who are dubious of your abilities."
Kaandor pointedly asked, "What does a specialization in alien technology even mean? A specialization in human technology would be much narrower."
"Learning how other people solve the same problems has its own value."
"And any ordinary engineer can do that."
"Also, the specialization is in interface, allowing members of one species to use equipment intended for another."
"Excellent! Having you here will allow us the benefit of having you here."
Peeru cut in. "And I expect that benefit to be substantial."
Kaandor barged on ahead. "And with those enormous monitors, how are you going to get any work done?"
Martin just folded them to the side.
"And if a message comes in? You won't even be able to see it."
"I may not have your telescopic eyes, but that does mean my peripheral vision never goes away."
Peeru realized this back and forth had to stop. She sent a message to Kaandor: "Measure, then decide. Leave snap decisions to the guys. If we ever need another human, we'll be glad we had him first. Now get down there and figure out how we can get hyperspace back."
They went, but Kaandor gave a concerned look back up to Peeru as they descended.