Flying far behind their constitute convoy, and further then than their designated position the Glysophate-5 matched the caution of its crew. There was too much to be said and all air was silent.
Isset flicked between the only two channels that she needed – the bridge and the Cleaved Bearing. The was static, providing the horrible reassurance that she wasn’t missing anything, and all this silence was exactly as intended. The static sounded exactly right for the gnawing anxiety she had at their course. It needed fixing however she was stuck paralysed unable to speak, spiralling just the same as the static she heard. It was made worse by time that did not wait for her. They had so little time and her first job was always to listen to any ships approaching. She felt always on a knife edge just moments away from being sprung upon and her crew in the helm never seemed to feel the same way.
“Sang we have to slow down” Isset blurted out. She had been rehearsing this for hours and it still felt like she didn’t know what to say next. She didn’t wait for Sang to respond or question her she was far too afraid now that she had started to speak. “I haven’t heard a thing from Bearing and you’ve been silent too. I think we need to stop, can’t you feel it? we’re being watched and this is just a trap.” Then there was silence as Isset was certain her opinion had been disregarded and her captain considered her terrible at her job.
“If we stop then whatever there is will have us separated.” A considered and neutral response. Isset buried her face in her hands. She thought to herself “that wasn’t totally bad, she didn’t say no just... just a reason why not.”
“Right. Well, I was thinking we can wait a day right? that way anyone waiting will have to reschedule, and it won’t be a problem to fly that far out. They won’t be mad at us they’ve probably forgotten us already”
“Estar and I have already been considering it. thank you for your input.” Sang then closed the line, punctuating her response with the static Isset was used to.
The Glysophate-5 was currently flying forty kilometres out from the battleship The Cleaved Bearing and there had been little repercussions. Sang had since concluded that the crew were expendable. Any risk they took was a ten-minute warning to the ships that mattered. It was grim, but it gave her some leeway. She pushed the envelope when she could and flying further out was nothing worse than she had already done. “It’s sad that Isset hasn’t realised how little the control deck cares for us” she thought aloud.
The helm occupied only by Sang and Ester. Sang sat at the centre control deck and plotted their course, she was surrounded by a handful of empty chairs for crew they could not spare, it was a perfectly suitable place to work as the stress of a failing rebellion made any extra head a potential argument. Ester diligently kept silent and only spoke up to make agreeable or disagreeable noises as needed; Their relationship had taken much refinement over their years in service together. “I think we’ll leave it a day then.” Sang announced. Ester grunted a reply too deeply entrenched in her interface pay more than half a mind to her captain’s orders. Sang operated swiftly plotting a new course. She was adamant that this course was ideal now, the more she thought that the docking station they were on course for had any sort of spies on it the more she feared everything falling apart.
The announcement buzzed on Julia’s phone that they were to wait another day before docking. She felt the dread hit her. The ship was barely scaping by, and she hoped that the docks would allow her to get any fixes in. To her crewmates it would be a minor inconvenience, but all those minor inconveniences ended up landing on her. She listed every fix she needed in her head- it was a calming exercise that only made things worse. “There’s the speakers and all the outlets and lights and fuses” she looked up to the broken speakers, the very reason all messages were given out over phones now instead of over intercom. Fuses, screws, and lightbulbs were always in short supply and most that were broken had long since given hope of ever being fixed. Her phone buzzed again, a request to see Isset in the communications room. She dutifully scurried there. The halls were empty, and entirely belonged to Julia as everyone else had their own room to remain in. She knew she wouldn’t even have the luxury of a room or desk to belong to.
Upon entering the communications room Isset immediately began speaking to Julia. “Good took you long enough we’re going to have to fix a lot here, so we have to get to work.” Julia stood still in shock.
“What are you talking about can you give me a minute to finish getting through the door?” She didn’t say the rest oud loud “ this is why no one wants to be around you.”
“No, I’m speaking as your superior now. we need to fix every communication channel in here.”
“That’s what all of them? nothing works can’t we wait until we dock until we get to fixing, we probably don’t have the parts.”
“It’s fine I’ve already got everything we need, seriously I’ve just been putting it off I just need you to watch and spot me, so I don’t shock myself.”
Julia thought that she surely knew how bizarre this request was. Most of these devices had such a high voltage that anything going wrong would kill her and there was nothing she could about that. “Look can we please just wait until we’re landed so we can turn them off? uhh maybe there’s a safer way to do this?”
“We need to get everything working so we can listen to the docks for their spies. How exactly would it help until after we’ve landed in their base before we can detect their channels?”
Julia realised that she would have to first convince her that she there were no spies in a sympathetic civilian outpost before she could convince her that it was too dangerous for one and a half trained electricians to fix this. Isset didn’t wait for a response before she opened up the first panel. “We should start here with the internet, then we can move onto the ships LAN and we should fix some archaic contingency channels too like the telegram and unsecure radio and landline but right the most important is for us to listen, we can fix some of our receivers here I think we might need you to go out fix the antenna’s.” Julia sat down and listened uninterested and looked at Isset hands moving wires.
“She is just so dangerous and hard to be around can she just let me go this is going to take- “she tried to blot out the noise with an internal monologue. “How long do you think this will take exactly?” she spoke up.
“An entire day.” Isset chirped.
“Why do you think we’re going to run into spies? It’s a weird theory to have.”
“There’s not much noise, and we’re about all the traffic Listerwaye would see in a year, right? so we’re super suspicious.”
“That’s not what suspicious means.” Julia hated how someone so asocial was her superior and made her listen to her ranting and demanding.
“What? I think it’s suspect to have dozens of ships landing at once.”
“I mean just because we are suspicious doesn’t mean we have to be suspicious of others. We’re all suspicious ‘cause we’re rebels but you’re suspicious because you think someone’s always plotting to turn us in or collaborate or something.”
“My jobs is to look out for communications and that means intercepting and there so far has been radio silence.”
“Just because there’s silence doesn’t mean it’s all bad news” Julia retorted, she felt like she was getting nowhere, and she might as well continue on avoiding the strange communicator “she was probably an OCNI plant after all” she thought. “Or a plant plant” she added.
Isset was working fast now, too fast for Julia to even make sure she was following procedure. She tapped a wire with the back of her finger and murmured “good” when there was no spark. At that she picked up her soldering iron and finished the repair. Deep in concentration she bit onto her tongue. “Do you remember what I said earlier about radio silence?”
“Mhm” Julia absentmindedly responded.
“Well” and with that a radio sprung to life crackling old Sol style post-post-rock.
Despite how proud Isset looked, and how relieved she was herself at the success of their repair and lack of injuries Julia still felt an overwhelming sourness. She had been tricked into fixing the little freaks personal stereo.
“Is that all? we’re here just to listen to your shitty music? I thought this was important can I just go?”
Isset walked over to her console and turned the crackly music up higher then returned to the broken electronics.
Julia took the hint and didn’t try to talk over the radio. Isset was silently celebrating she finally got it fixed again she had been putting it off for days she needed the noise to keep her thoughts short and to the point. Loud music stopped her mind from wandering too far and left her thoughts going in simple, helpful loops. “What point is living in freedom if there’s no joy. Damn Xenos did it. Even when they’re not here they make me live in a broken shuttle with. I’m winning because I have free wave long wave radio. I’m winning because I have electronics. They can offer me nothing.” She thought, rocking back and forth. Her hand was stopped- she looked down and Julia had stopped her hand from touching a live wire. She paused briefly then continued. Her stress was subsiding now she no longer feared landing. Isset worked now on what she considered the most important device on the ship. Their modem would give her back precious contact with the outside world. “I don’t think I could bear another moment with those four” she thought. She found Julia acceptable because she made sure she didn’t electrocute herself and had found the repair parts she needed, however as far as conversation was concerned, she would rather never speak to any of them outside of work.
“Okay we’re done you can go now.” Isset said, wanting Julia to quickly leave her alone. Julia looked down at the open panels, the still broken appliances, and then graciously accepted the chance to go. She paid no further mind to it. It was late and she had to prepare their food.
The routine forced up Julia was that as she was the least important, least senior, and least worked, the task of preparing meals also fell on her and it was added to her list of responsibilities. Not much worked in the kitchen, she had taken every spare fuse and wire leaving only a stove and a coffee maker. Most food came dried in bags, just add water, and without any green. The duration of preparing rations was enough time for Julia to prepare herself to stomach them. She sent a memo out to the crew to eat, and they came to the table. The dining table was also the breakfast table and the meeting table, there were others but there weren’t enough people left to justify using them.
“Today was delayed, we’ll restock tomorrow.” Sang announced to the table.
“Then we can get some rations that don’t taste like shit?” Ester smiled. She was good at twisting the knife. Julia thought about the astronaut ice cream she had kept hidden away. Taking advantage of being in charge of food meant she could hide things in the unused research and sampling lab.
Sang continued to her silent crew. “No sign of Xenos. It’s all quiet” she nodded toward Isset. “No Accord ships either, they’re all afraid of us. I don’t foresee any fighting. Landing is in ten hours. Julia try to get food made earlier, alright?”
This bothered Aperture, captains were not supposed to eat with the crew. Crews needed time away from orders. They looked around at the other four. Ester, as ever, up Sang’s ass. She didn’t deserve it, one of the least qualified leaders they’d encountered. Isset kept quiet, but her eyes darted back and forth. A stranger person but none of their concern. Julia was there, and that was about all they could say about her- There when you need her. “No fighting” they laughed to themself “they aren’t made for fighting.”
They were up early. The light was all unnatural, so it didn’t mean much. Aperture sat alone in the weapons room with eyes stuck on multiple screens. The first sign of enemy life and they were the response. They were tired and could feel their concentration slipping, but the leadup to landing was tense and didn’t permit any rest. Under an hour left before landing, the chance for some excitement was slipping away. They could hear the chatter on the comms line, they noted it had been fixed.
Esther manually landed the ship; she was an ace pilot and needed a reason to stretch her muscles. Using an interface suit mad her bodily aware of the shapes shape and the gravity exerted on it, it allowed her to act naturally far beyond what the autopilot could do. She also felt every ache in the ship, and it made her resent the mechanic, the rebel leadership, and especially the Xeno’s for causing this. The ship planted itself on the ground and relaxed. The crew could let go of the feeling that at any time they could combust, even if only briefly. The protocol was rehearsed, all hands armed themselves with rifles and disembarked. There weren’t enough rebels left to keep someone on a ship anymore. Sang greeted the dockmaster, even with the guns he still shouted at her for the disruption. A day later than expected wasn’t a big deal, but for someone who’s lot in life was an empty dock the chance to show off his power was everything, Sang had enough experience dealing with the sort diplomatically. She returned to her crew. “Well, there aren’t as many people free to help us, it’s about the best we can hope for. Fewer people is for the best, of course, don’t let your guard down” she ordered, with that they dispersed. The machinery did the heavy loading but there was still work to be done loading the cargo hold. It was hard work and went over the allotted time. the armed rebels were far less tired than the dock workers they’d enlisted.
Julia heaved boxes up onto a loader. She huffed under her breath “Just another job.” The cargo space was running out, so she told Sang.
“Our orders are to keep filling until we have no more room, I’m afraid”
“We’re nearly at capacity.”
“Then load onto the deck, there’s empty rooms there. These aren’t just for us, The Cleaved Bearing is far too big to land so we need to taxi some of the fuel and goods to them”
Whatever the rebels had agreed to take, they took it and then some. “A small place like this has been abandoned by the compact and the accord, when we’re done, they’ll get all of this easily” Julia thought to herself as she took a box of electrical parts the ship was in dire need of.
Esther strapped back in to take off. She felt the weight make her sluggish. It was a too harsh change. She grunted as she took off as if her physical exertion would change the ship. Escaping the weak atmosphere didn’t help, she was still too slow. Now she had to race ahead with their haul to catch up to the cruiser. She regretted now flying so far behind.
Sang sent a message requesting assistance from Julia. “You are to retrieve the box marked 004xe2 from the hull, Ill send you the location. be careful with it. It contains electronic components that are needed in the helm.” Sang ordered to her standing the doorway. Julia waited dumbfounded- she had walked half the length of the ship only to walk back again. She took a moment to regain her composure then left. The hull was behind a heavy door that didn’t seal, it required a computer to open. She moved through the alleys beneath the ship, it was like a maze that only she had the experience to navigate. The box was small which meant she was able to pick it up herself. On her way back she got stopped by Aperture. “Can you help me out? drop that first but we have some stuff to do” she asked, it made Julia’s eyebrow twitch.
“I’ll see you when I’m free” She gave a curt reply and walked back to the helm.
“Good job, took you long enough, lets open it up” Sang said.
The box contained computers, exactly as Julia expected. She resented being patronised so much.
“Can you just show me what we need to fix?”
“Of course, right here. You’ll probably find this interesting the fixes are for some fried circuitry we’ve gone without sonar for a while now. The processors are going to make real time calculations a lot simpler too” Sang said coolly.
Julia immediately got to work, avoiding chatter was a motivator for her.
“Why doesn’t she help?”
“You can do it, it’s what your job is.” Esther replied. That shook Julia.
“What is your problem?”
“I don’t like having to pilot this awful ship it is empty and broken and small, before we all got reassigned to look after you, I had a much better gig.”
“Stop.” Sang cut the argument off at the bud. “They put us all here because they hate women. Don’t look into it deeper than that. They can’t stand to be around us.”
“That makes two of us.” Esther muttered under her breath.
Sang didn’t provoke her any further. The installations finished in silence.
“I have been requested with Aperture.” Julia said. She looked to both of them and left.
She walked fast out of there, Julia found those two to be easily the worst to be around because they were always in a pair.
Aperture looked at the mechanic before them. Short black hair tied up in a ponytail and a yellow jumpsuit that was patched up and sewn tighter in places it didn’t fit. All covered in a patchy layer of grime. That was a mechanic you can trust. “This job is going to be very exciting, first off I need you to collect every gun on board and bring em in here.” Julia wiped her face and ran her fingers through her hair.
“It never ends” she thought. Then she left.
The rifles were located at every hallway, for when shit hits the fan. There weren’t that many to spare only thirteen guns in all. Guns were cheap but all the excess had been relocated to other more important ships. The most important five were in everyone’s designated position. One in the communications room, two in the helm, and one in the main hallway.
Julia retrieved them all and laid them out on the table in the weapons room.
“Now we have to take them apart.” Aperture started quickly. They were excited to handle arms. They quickly dissembled each rifle with rehearsed grandeur. Julia also took them apart but much slower, with only the most basic of training. She had scored four, they had scored nine.
“Now we need to do some modifications.” They started taking canisters out of a box. “We are very fortunate to have got a new load of weapons, this here is liminusturin and it’s unbelievable. This is the thing that will turn the war around, it’s a kind of herbicide and it’s going to wither the xeno’s. Fucking amazing, they’re going to die like the weeds they are. Isn’t it amazing? the enzymes in this, I mean I’m no botanist- who is – but they’re making actual weapons that will work and we get to test them out. I am just raring to see some now. We have to fix each of these plasma rifles into acid throwers, right! and they’ll be magnificent fully functional weed killers like we’re some sort of mogul who could afford a planetary garden? or maybe their groundskeeper.”
Julia noticed their hands shaking in excitement. It was perplexing how someone could get so excited about weapons but have so little of that excitement directed at killing or hurting. They continued to show her how the modifications were applied.
“What’s interesting is that is what our job is, you probably don’t care right you could be on any ship but the Glyphosate-5 is made to develop and test new weapons so I’m finally getting to do something. We just fly around looking for trouble from now on.” They were having trouble with the weapons, the assembly was slow. “You’re good with tools so you should be able to help me out with these. We also have torpedoes and rails filled with gas, ooh it’ll be great.”
With some force the two of them figured out how the modifications were supposed to go. Julia’s final task was to put the guns back where they came from.