This week Victoria continues to make her way towards the biolab, having to make a small detour to get there.
A NuSpace Misfits Adventure
by Ollie Rossman
Ship protocol dictated that all student crewmates maintain a ‘neat and tidy’ haircut. Almost no one (apart from Victoria, of course) bothered with that, but Spike took follicle fashion a new level. This week she completely shaved the back and sides of her head, an appropriate look for the ship’s Security Officer, perhaps, if it wasn’t for the heavily waxed mohawk protruding from the centre of her scalp. She entered the lab slowly and, finding it empty, started in on the cupcakes, stuffing them into her mouth. First one. Then two. Then five.
Victoria closed the holotab and rushed out of her seat.
“Where are you going?” said Father, his eyes returning to their dark, artificial grey.
“Nowhere,” yelled Victoria. “I’ll be right back.”
Outside the amphitheater Victoria took her comm from the otherwise empty lockers and marched down the long central corridor of the ship, sliding the comm over her thumb she hailed the ship’s captain.
“Ed, Edwina are you there?”
No answer. She tried a different channel. Nothing. Yellow klaxons blared overhead. Someone, probably Daemon, had activated security lockdown. blast doors crossed with red stripes began to close in front of her. She tumbled through the first, narrowly avoiding losing an arm, only to see the second door hiss shut in front of her.
“Daemon,” she screamed. But Daemon wasn’t using his comms.
Victoria switched channels. “Jules,” she barked.
The face of the ship’s engineer materialised in holographic form. “I thought you supposed to be taking your finals,” she said, clearly distracted by whatever she was doing.
“Spike’s broken into the biolabs,” said Victoria. She moved around the space, looking for an access panel. “Daemon’s up to his old tricks.”
Jules’ eyes blinked behind her thick framed glasses.“Look Victoria I’m kind of busy here. I just found out that Mother’s been running the stardrives at full power the last few weeks. The impulse engines can’t take that kind of sustained pressure.”
Victoria put her head very close to the holographic face. Jules might have been a better student if she wasn’t so easily distracted. Certainly not top three percentile, but good.
“Jules,” she said. “The cupcakes are in the labs.”
Jules froze. Victoria knew the engineer was recalling the last time Spike had one of her high sugar meltdowns.
“This could get ugly,” Jules said.
Victoria nodded. “Glad to see we’re on the same page.”
“Have you got a plan?”
“I’m in the main corridor. Daemon’s closed the blast doors. I’m caught between doors six and seven. Can you override his… overrides?”
Jules’s head shook. “I can’t do anything about the lockdown. Only thing I can do is blow the airlocks.”
“Do not blow the airlocks.”
Victoria thought she saw a smile creep in at the stern edges of Jules’s mouth. “Hear me out. If we can get you a exa-suit you can cruise down to med bay. Doc can let you in and the two of you can be in the biolab in less than ninety seconds.”
Victoria thought about it. Having Doc with her would be handy, although who knew what gene mods he was carrying today. “You missed one important point,” said Victoria. “Captain Ed commandeered all the exa-suits. She has them all locked up in her quarters, along with most of the loo paper and Father’s spare left arm. You’re not getting anywhere near there.”
Jules smiled. “Not all the exa-suits.” She whistled and Victoria heard the sound of a dog barking.
Jules disappeared from the hologram. When she returned she gave a short smile, “I hooked the suit to Dronie. He’s on his way.”
Dronie was the pet name Jules had given to Spike’s PDA, or Personal Drone Attachment. Spike had lost Dronie in a game of vPong. Jules, who spent her days in isolation running diagnostics simulations in the engine bays, had come to love the thing as her own.
Woof Woof Woof
Victoria heard the bark again, this time not through the comms but in the walls of the ship. Dronie was travelling through the ducting.
Woof Woof Woof
It was the same woof they all knew from their early education onboard the NuHolland back when Father and Mother were still in charge, and everyone went to school. Jules had ripped the sample from the “Beasts of Earth” education package, in an effort to make Dronie more ‘pet like’.
Woof Woof Woof
Dronie burst through the ceiling, showering her with ducting materials and thumping to the ground, a large, metal wedge of remote controlled death covered in brown and white synthetic fur.
“You know he looks nothing like a dog,” Victoria said.
She bent over to retrieve the exa-suit case Jules had strapped to Dronie. When she stood up, holographic text was typing it’s way along the wall.
YOU DON’T HAVE THE BALLS 🙂
“Screw you, Daemon.”
“What,” said Jules.
“Nothing.” Victoria took out the suit and stepped into it with the practiced grace of a student who had done a thousand test runs.
“Ready,” she said, adjusting the helmet. “Blow the airlocks.”
“Aye, Aye Captain. Countdown in three, two-”
“Jules?” Victoria interrupted.
“Don’t call me Captain.”
Hydraulics fired as the airlock doors between doors six and seven blew open. Victoria let herself drift out into the void of space, tumbling over so she could see the ship receding before her. Home, or at least the only one she had known. Each of them had been selected for the Advanced Achievement Program before their first birthday. Eighty frozen years, and seventeen awake onboard the NuHolland in the care of Mother and Father, learning how to be the best Cultural Liaison there ever was. Her whole world was less than two hundred metres long. And there was so much more out there. So much more.
Her thumb found the guidance pad on the suit and, jet by jet, Victoria steered her way back over the ship. NuHolland was a LRTEF. Which stood for Long Range Transport and Education Facility. According to the logs, thousands of these ships launched from Earth every year, carrying with them the frozen orphans of NuSpace Relocation Services Advanced Achievement Programs. There mission was to provide specialised guidance and leadership to the colonists living among the stars.
Most of these colonies were established centuries ago, in only sporadic communication with earth. Due to their remote locations, many were technological backwaters. NuHolland was loaded with gear for NuEarth D23. Victoria and her crewmates had the knowhow, and the special training, to use it.
Or at least, this was how it was supposed to be.
The NRS databases were full of success stories. Victoria had pretty much read them all. But something had definitely gone wrong on board the NuHolland. After much hunting around the onboard databases, piecing together manifests and the half scrambled entries of deleted ship logs, Victoria had a theory. No communications had been received from NRS in the seventeen years Victoria had been awake. That wasn’t unusual in itself. But a series of transmissions that did arrive forty years ago were corrupted. Mother’s software was missing certain updates. Father’s as well.
Still, that only went a little way to explaining why her crewmates were all such stunning failures. Life on board the ship was pretty easy. They were required to do nothing beyond learn and run simulations. They were under no direct danger, and had no immediate responsibilities. There were plenty of ways to amuse themselves, VR games, the bio and tech labs, fitness and rec rooms. There was even a lap pool at the bottom of the ship with a SuperGlass bottom. It was like swimming in space.
Victoria snapped back to reality. Right now she actually was swimming through space, passing over the top of the ship. Jet had graffitied Father Sucks across the exterior during his extra-vehicle training and it was still there, much to Victoria’s dismay.
She also saw what had happened to Fathers missing clothes. a canvas sack stuffed into one of the empty lifeboat pods. Captain Edwina had fired off the lifeboats six months ago in a jealous rage when Jules and Doc had suggested she let Victoria post the daily timetables. Ed had sealed the Captain’s Quarters (which were only supposed to be used to simulate leadership experiences) and the rest of the crew had rarely seen her since.
Spying the med bay, Victoria steered over to the airlocks. For a moment, she worried that the easily distracted Jules had forgotten all about her. Then the doors swung open. She dragged herself inside and waited for the lock to pressurise before removing the exa-suit.
Doc was hunched over his desk in the pristine tiled space of the med bay, peering through a magnifying glass and pricking his fingers with a thin prod. “Amazing,” he whispered, clearly too engrossed in whatever he was doing to notice Victoria. “Just fascinating.
“Doc,” said Victoria quietly, because he startled easily. She may have been mad with most of the crew, but if she took it out on Doc, he probably wouldn’t understand.
“Victoria,” said Doc, looking up with the big magnifier strapped to half his face. “What a pleasant surprise.” Doc had a way of speaking that made him seem much older. Not smarter, or more capable, just older.
“I…ah… Did you hear the alarms?” said Victoria. There was something strange about him today, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“There was some buzzing earlier. I ignored it,” Doc placed the small prod onto a slip of black velvet and began to roll it up. “I figure if it was an emergency you’d let me know.” He stopped and then looked up slowly. “Is that why you’re here? Is there some kind of emergency?”
“Spike’s gotten into the cupcakes again.”
“Oh, that is a concern,” said Doc. He put the velvet roll away and pulled a medical injector from a drawer. “Never fear, I have just the thing. Sedative, fast acting, no side effects.” He came around the workbench and gave Victoria a weary, wide smile. Victoria wasn’t convinced. No side effects usually meant ‘unknown side effects’.
He placed one hand on her shoulder. “Everything’s going to be fine.” Victoria felt his fingers. Then she screamed.
Next week on Bugout
Victoria and Doc race to the biolabs before Spike overdoses on cupcakes.