Serial Fiction | Bug Out: A NuSpace Misfits Adventure by Ollie Rossman – Episode 1

Cryogenically frozen when they were young, and then thawed out 80 years into their journey, the crew of the NuHolland are supposed to be the best of the best.

Unfortunately for Victoria, the crew’s Cultural Liaison Officer, things aren’t going to plan. Looks like it’s up to her to keep everyone together, if they want to make it to their destination alive.

 

BUG OUT

A NuSpace Misfits Adventure

by Ollie Rossman

Episode 1

 

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When the bell sounded for Advanced Astrophysics, Victoria was not surprised to find she was the only one in class. It was the end of the semester, finals week, after which all eight student crewmates aboard the NuHolland would graduate with Certificates in Aerospace Navigation… Should graduate, that is.

Unfortunately, things onboard the NuHolland rarely went according to plan.

“Hello, Victoria,” said Father, marching into the small amphitheatre. Father, or ‘Dad’ as most of the crew called him, was the ship’s android facilitator. He took up his place at the lectern and lowered the lights. On the ultra-res screen behind him the starfield outside the NuHolland faded, replaced by NuSpace Relocation Services logo – a grey ship riding a zip of black lightning.

Father looked out into the empty room with his odd, symmetrical smile.

“This is Advanced Astrophysics. Are you ready to commence your final examination?”

Victoria straightened in her seat. “Yes, Father.”

“Excellent Victoria.”

Father wore baggy, flower patterned trousers, a shirt and bowtie and tuxedo jacket. “You already hold Certificates in Xenobiology, Leadership and Governance, Systems (Cyber), Systems (Architectural and Engineering), Weapons Management, Food Synthesis, and Cultural Sensitivity. This is the last remaining course on offer through the NRS educational program.”

“I understand,” said Victoria, eagerly.

“Victoria, you have already fulfilled the requirements for your designated position as Cultural Liaison to NuEarth D23. Completion of this course will place you in the top three percentile of all NuSpace Relocation students.”

“I’m ready, Father.”

“Good. I will now read you the examination guidelines.”

Victoria smiled as her thoughts drifted. She knew the exam guidelines off by heart. Just like she knew the layout of the ship, the emergency procedures if they were hit by an asteroid or made contact with alien lifeforms. She even knew her crewmates test scores, though sometimes she wished she didn’t. In fact, right now the only thing she did not know was why father was dressed so… strangely.

“Father?” she said, interrupting his spiel on toilet breaks. “Why are you dressed like that?”

Father froze for a long moment. By the ship logs he was close to a hundred years old. So was Victoria, in a manner of speaking, although, she had spent it mostly in cryogenic freeze. Father had been active the entire journey and lately had begun to show signs of his age.

“I do not understand the question,” he said, finally. “It is a NRS requirement that I be dressed at all times.”

“I know you have to wear clothes,” said Victoria. “I just want to know why you chose these ones.”

“These are the only clothes I have, baby doll,” he said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Victoria sighed. She hated it when he called her ‘baby doll’. It was something Daemon had programmed into Father’s software a few years ago and try as she might, she hadn’t been able to completely remove the code.

“Mother,” Victoria said, summoning the ship’s AI. “Where are Father’s clothes?”

Mother’s voice yawned through the auditorium. “He’s wearing them, dear.”

“His other clothes?”

Mother hummed. “They’re not onboard the ship.”

“Great,” said Victoria. She was growing impatient with both of them. There was a test to complete, and she was eager to get to it. “Well, can you maybe find out, or something?”

Mother hummed a little more, and then began singing a lullaby, her voice slowly fading to nothing. She had been doing that a lot lately, too.

“Mother’s busy. She has a ship to run,” said Father. “Why don’t we get back to the test.”

“Fine,” said Victoria, tapping the holotab on her side desk with more force than was needed. “Fine.”

Father, oblivious to her tone, touched a button on the lectern and the first question materialised on the screen behind him. It related to landing a ship planetside in a high wind, low visibility situation. Victoria smiled, recalling the textbook protocols set out in the NuSpace Pilot Manual she had borrowed from Jet, the ship’s pilot in training. She tapped the holotab rapidly, smiling as she went. Before she could hit enter, however, the screen behind Father flashed, and was replaced with a live feed of the biolabs.

“Curious,” said Father, his eyes turning white as he accessed the ship’s systems. “There seems to be some interference with the exam”

“Daemon,” Victoria hissed beneath her breath. Daemon was the designated Systems Administrator onboard the NuHolland, and the only other student to pass all his exams. Victoria was sure he “passed” his exams by hacking the results database and changing his scores. Not high enough to raise suspicion, but enough that Mother and Father would leave him alone.

Victoria swiped at her holotab. Comms were not permitted in the amphitheatre, but she was able to bypass the security measures and enter the shipwide chat. Daemon was waiting for her.

WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING! she typed.

JUST WATCH 😉 he wrote in reply

Fuming, Victoria brought up the ships systems and tried to decode whatever it was Daemon was doing, but she quickly gave up. Even though she had aced Systems three semesters ago Daemon spent almost all his time online. She logged back into chat.

YOU’RE AN ASSHAT she wrote.

🙂 he replied. JUST WATCH

Victoria turned her focus to the screen. The biolabs were to the ship’s aft. A vast maze of microclimates in which different plants and fungi were maintained by the ship’s Botanist and Chief Horticulturalist, Herb. The feed was from a lab designated “Experimental.” It was where Herb and Jules, the ship’s engineer, synthesised things like ‘onion rings,’ and ‘cheese’ and other low nutrition party foods popular with the rest of the crew. Plates of the stuff were laid out now, in preparation for the event Captain Edwina had begrudgingly agreed to throw in Victoria’s honour (it wasn’t that Ed was against parties, but rather having to play a part in their organisation). Apart from the slow dance of one of Herb’s homemade dreamcatchers, the lab was still. Then the door opened, and in came Spike.

Next week on Bugout

Victoria engages in a little extra-vehicular activity, while Doc lends a helping hand.

Read Episode 2