Wednesday, December 31, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 10

During the evening I loitered in the mess hall again. I practiced telepathic receiving, and now I know why the captain sensed my probe. Unlike sending, which works better on distracted minds, receiving works best on focused minds. The more they focus, the 'louder' they think, which is why the casino visit went so well (at least at first). When people are distracted, you have to pry more to get them to think about something. The reaction I got in those cases was about the same as if I yelled at them.

Well, it is too late to undo my mistake now. I shouldn't regret it though, since it clued me in on the captain's duplicity. I wish I knew more about what he was planning, but I think it is better to just slip away while I can.

After I had finished my practice, Jolly, Pitre and Kent joined me. They were their usual boisterous selves. I tried not to let on what I was feeling, but I think Jolly noticed I was more tense than usual.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 10

After a fitful night's sleep I've come to a decision. I won't risk breaking into the captain's cabin.

We arrive at Zayeel the day after tomorrow. After we dock I am leaving the STAR RAMMER. I don't think I should even tell Jolly my plan. I don't know what Captain Landom had in mind when he thought, 'What will I do with her if she learns my plan?' but I'm not going to stick around to find out. The emotions that flavored the thought, and his violent reaction to my probe has convinced me that I'm better off moving on.

For the rest of this jump I am going to make preparations. Packing my few possessions won't take long. During my shifts I am going to study for the pilot's apprentice test, which I will take at Starship services at the starport. I hope that between that and my Sensor/Comm Op experience (slight though it is), will be sufficient to find another starship position before the captain realizes I'm leaving. We had a three day layover planned for Zayeel, hopefully I'll be long gone before the STAR RAMMER's scheduled departure.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 9

The more I think about this morning, the more I am convinced I have to find out what the captain is up to. I don't dare try to read him again. I'm sure that he will definately have security measures on his cabin door, making the plan to hack into the computer from there risky.

I thought about talking with Jolly about it, but he and the captain are buddies.

I'm not sure what I should do.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 9

After what just happened, everything has changed for me.

Captain Landom works the over night shift and when I came on duty this morning he didn't leave right away. He was seated at his captain's station with his feet propped up, watching some new recordings he picked up at our last stop. He does this to try and pin point likely places to pick up business. He seemed pretty distracted to me, and because of the success with telepathy I had a few days ago on distracted targets, I risked probing him.

I've been extremely curious about the messages he's been receiving from Imperium nobility. This seemed like a perfect chance to do a little snooping. I twisted around slightly in my chair and stared at the captain's back.

Instantly he jumped out of his chair and bolted towards me. I hadn't even picked up anything, but he had sensed my probe. He slapped me full across the face, knocking me to the deck. Before I could get my orientation, he hoisted me up by the collar and flung me across the bridge.

I scrambled up and put a consul between us before he could attack again.

He pointed a finger at me and said, "You never scan me, or any member of this crew again. Not without orders. Do you get me?"

"Yes," I stammered.

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, Sir. I get you, Sir."

"You want to practice, you do it on the civilian passengers. Not the mercs. They'll kill you, and rightly so."

"Yes, Sir."

"Good. Now take your post."

I did. He grabbed his tapes and left the bridge.

That was seconds ago and my face is still stinging. But more than that, the one thought I caught in that brief physical contact is burning in my mind. Just as he slapped me, I clearly 'heard' him think, 'What will I do with her if she learns my plan?'

Monday, December 29, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 8

I didn't get a chance to practice today. Jolly and a couple of other mercs tagging along this jump as gunners were sharing a bottle of Solomani wine and exaggerated tales of their adventures. Jolly called me over and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening carousing with them. Alcohol doesn't sit well with me, so I only imbibed a little. Jolly, Kent and Pitre drank like the ship was going down. They told some wild stories and we all laughed a lot.

When I finally had to leave to get some sleep, Kent walked me back to my cabin. He ruined the sweet gesture with a sleazy pass, but I avoided the sloppy attempt easily.

So now I am going to hit the cot and try not to dream about navigational formulas.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 8

I'm looking over this navigational stuff, and it might as well be written in Droyne. I thought navigation mainly involved knowing how to read star maps. Not so! You have to understand the quantum physics of space-time, the detailed concepts of Jump matrix technology and how to apply that to reach the proper destination.

I'm going to do my best to plow through some of this material today. I can't wait until my shift is over and I can get back to practicing telepathy.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 7

After Uli relieved me of duty this afternoon, I hung out in the mess hall. Armed with my portable processor, I pretended to be busy when in fact I was practicing telepathy. My goal for today's exercise was to get people to perform harmless acts without arousing suspicion. If they glanced around, or especially at me, I counted it as a failure. The same was true if they resisted the command.

I still had to stare directly at the target to get any reaction at all. About one in four attempts succeeded. Generally, if someone was distracted, I could get them to act unconsciously. If they were in conversation or focused on a specific task they either did not respond or sensed enough to glance around curiously.

This exercise demonstrated an important parameter for my current level of telepathic control. We are still early in this jump. I'd like to have a full grasp of the scope of my present capabilities by the time we arrive at Zayeel.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 7

I made an ugly hack into the computer and discovered that even though Captain Landom deleted the curious messages from the Imperium nobility, they may still be in the hard drive if they were not written over. The only terminal on board that can access those files is the one in the Captain's cabin.

I might be able to sneak into his cabin when he is on duty, but he probably has some kind of security device. On the other hand, I might be able to scan him telepathically to find out what I want to know.

I'm not too jazzed on either idea. Captain Landom is a merc, just like almost everyone else on board. They are not know for their tolerance or forgiveness. I know either of those choices would be crossing a line with him, and I don't know what the consequences might be.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 6

With the new shift rotations I now have 16 hours off a day, instead of 12. I usually share a cabin with Uli, but since we are running with less than full capacity, he's temporarily taken one of the nice passenger quarters. It keeps us from waking each other.

I'm not used to having this much free time. It gives me time to think. I have not been able to make much progress on my original goal, to find a psionics institute. I spoke to the captain about it some time ago, and he said he'd look into finding one for me, but I have not heard anything about it since.

I'm starting to wonder if he was serious about that. Captain Landom has found my telepathy useful more than once, and he may prefer to keep me where I am. I will have to make more of an effort to find one myself.

I also believe I should do what I can to expand my control of my telepathy on my own. With my current limitations, require me to touch or make deep eye contact, may be a liability if I really get in a jam. I have been able to pick up snatches when the target was excited or concentrating, like at the casino with Jolly. During those two days I did notice that I improved with practice. I intend to start practicing telepathy daily, just like I do with the Sensor/Comm Op material.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 6

I'm on duty by myself, which involves a lot of equipment to supervise, but as long as we stay 'in the green' with all systems operating normally there should be no problem.

I started the shift out by reviewing the updates to the various systems, then I ran flight and Sensor/Comm Op simulations to make sure I was still sharp with all the skills I've been learning these past few weeks. I reviewed my notes for the first Sensor/Comm Op test, and I feel pretty confident there. I should begin studying the navigational manuals the captain gave me, which I intend to work on during this jump.

But for right now, I am inching to get some unsupervised computer time to see if I can't figure out who among the Imperium nobility contacted Captain Landom and find out why the captain erased those records.

Friday, December 26, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 5

We're underway. We just completed the jump initiation. It has been a long day and I am ready to hit the cot. Since we are down to 3 bridge crew officers the shift rotation had altered. We will each work only 8 hours each, solo. The others are always on call in case of emergency. I go on duty at 7 in the morning. This will change the number of hours I will accumulate, so now I have to go a little more than 4 weeks until the test. So assuming I stick with STAR RAMMER, when we arrive at Onathy I can take the first Sensor/Comm Op test there.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 5

Today I am flying one of the Cutters back and forth from the starport to the STAR RAMMER to load the cargo and passengers. If we complete the transfer on schedule, we might be able to start the jump to Zayeel tonight.

I have about 2 more weeks before I can take my first Sensor/Comm Op certificate test.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 4

Jolly is completely insane!

He scrounged up three IRAMDA-CLASS fighters. These ships are small fighters with only room for the pilot, so it meant I was on my own in the starship. After a brief overview of the controls and weapons, Jolly, a Vegan merc friend of his named Rijnobsodfu, and I flew to a high orbit. At first we faced off with a swarm of chaser practice targets. I had to avoid their low level laser blast and try to disable them with my low level laser all the while avoiding collisions and crossfire with the other two fighters.

Once I had a feel for the ship, Jolly and Rijnobsodfu played the role of enemy fighters and we did dog fighting maneuvers. After a while they started getting more competitive and chased me into a lower orbit. We were dodging around other starships, firing at each other and getting cursed at over the Comm in seven different languages. Only when the planetary authorities threatened to blast us if we didn't cut it out did Jolly call an end to the exercise.

Captain Landom jawed us out when we returned to the STAR RAMMER.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 4

Our navigator has parted ways with us. Uli has been officially named navigator and I am now the official Sensor/Comm Op. I feel up for the promotion and I hope I am capable of performing my role adaquately.

Repairs should be complete in a few days and then we'll be underway. Captain Landom says if Jolly proclaims my piloting skills are satifactory, then he will give me piloting assignments, like transporting passengers and cargo from the starport to the STAR RAMMER.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 3

The practice flights with Jolly started out well. He programmed a school of chasers to pursue the Cutter while I practiced evasive maneuvers and he tried to blast them out of space. With orbital buoys scattered in the area representing other vessels or asteroids, I had to learn how to avoid the stationary object, dodge the incoming fire and how to 'present the targets' to Jolly. He manned the starboard laser, and I had to zig zagging so he could have a clear shot at the pursuers.

After a few hours of that, I had to practice flying from orbit to the surface and back again. The first few times we just did 'touch and go' landings. Finally Jolly had me land in a fairly remote desert location and he disembarked. I saw him meet with a couple Vegans who gave him a package. He quickly returned to the Cutter and told me he just had to pick up some personal items from friends of his. From the way he had kept one hand on the handle of his laser pistol, I don't believe those people were friends.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 3

Assuming I stay with the STAR RAMMER, our next scheduled jump takes us back in the Imperium. We're transporting a huge cargo of weapons and a squad of weapons specialists from Dzadwahtyan to Onathy, four jumps away. Our flight plan takes us to Zayeel, then the asteroid belt in Nyarlathotep, to Banasdan and finally to Onathy. We have a couple days lay over in both Zayeel and Banasdan. The captain will open the ship for low passage and small cargo along the route.

I've been working the Comm all morning setting up the passenger and shipping details. During a lull I accessed the comm logs from Uli's shifts (when I was off duty) and I found something strange. There were entries deleted from the logs. I was only able to determine that the captain had secure communications and retrieve the ID tags on the messages. I ran the IDs through the system and discovered they were for registered nobility starships.

I'm not sure what these secret communications with Imperium nobility could involve. Truthfully it could be about anything, but since my recent brush with nobility, I am leery of this omen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 2

That was wild! My first practice flight on the Modular Cutter went fairly well, but the real ship handled differently than the simulator. You can really feel the ship accelerate and pitch and everything. Jolly started out by manuvering us to a very high orbit where there was no traffic. At first I over steered and the hit the boosters too hard, giving us a very jerky flight. After a while I calmed down and got a feel for the controls.

In an hour I was able to manuver to percise coordinants. Toward the end of the session, Jolly was launching chaser targets that pursued the Cutter as I did my best to dodge them. What fun! Jolly cracked up laughing whenever one of the chasers would bump the Cutter and I'd spout curses at the things.

Jolly is a strange one. Sometimes I feel he has adopted me, and other times I feel he is hiding something from me.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 2 (mid shift)

I poked around in the computer a little and found out something disturbing. In three jumps (where Jolly will make the mysterious delivery) we will be at Banasdan.

Banasdan in the home world of the late Lady Geriondsin, for who I worked during my short time aboard the PARABUS. Baron Dretrich filed charges against me on Catania for illegal use of psionics. He likely filed the same complaint on Banasdan. I'm sure if he and the other members of his noble family found out I was there they'd have me arrested.

I wonder what business Jolly has on Banasdan. I find the whole matter questionable. I'll keep digging in the computer before our scheduled departure. I may decide not to continue with the STAR RAMMER if I don't like what I find.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 2

I'm feel human again today, if a bit stiff. The headache finally subsided over night.

Jolly stopped by my quarters first thing this morning and dropped off some material he wanted me to review during my shift today. To my great surprise and delight, he is going to take me out on a test flight in one of the Modular Cutters. My first chance to fly a non-simulated ship! I hope I don't crash. He said once I have a feel for the Cutters, he's made arrangements to borrow small transport and fighting vessels from the other big starships in port. I guess this type of exchange is not an uncommon occurrence among Merc ships.

This is going to be interesting!

Monday, December 22, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 1

It's good to be home. Well, in my cabin anyway. I feel like an air/raft landed on me. I'm going to hit the cot in a minute. I go back on duty in the morning. I don't imagine there is much that needs doing while the repairs are still underway, so I plan to hit the flight simulator and review my Sensor/Comm Op notebook for the next few days.

I've also decided to snoop in the computer for an idea of what Jolly was referring to earlier today. What is it he is to deliver? Where will we be in three jumps? I don't even know, and I'm bridge crew. Is this delivery something Jolly is doing on his own or part of some other mission the STAR RAMMER is on?
Dzadwahtyan -- Day 4 (afternoon)

I'm presently on the low orbit train back to the starport. I wish my head wasn't throbbing with the engines, because I need to think about what I just witnessed...

I'd been napping early in the flight, and around mid day Jolly went to the meal compartment to eat and promised to bring me back something. Shortly after he left, I decided to just go down as well and eat there, but when I arrived I saw Jolly speaking with someone. The other fellow had the appearance of a merc, wearing what I call 'combat casual', which is the mixture of camouflage and casual apparel off duty mercs tend to prefer. The way they were hunched close together and watching the others dining nearby like they were concerned about being overheard alerted me. So I stayed out of sight and tried to listen.

From what I heard, the other fellow was trying to recruit Jolly for a mission. Jolly refused. The merc kept at Jolly, trying to convince him it was 'an easy ticket', but Jolly said he had some business to take care of and wasn't interested. When the other fellow pressed him for details, Jolly just said he had to make a delivery before he could consider a new mission and was sticking with STAR RAMMER for three more jumps until he finished his job. They made arrangements to meet again in a month.

When it appeared they were preparing to part company, I hurried back to my seat and pretended to be sleeping. Jolly showed up shortly and gave me a sandwich and a drink. We didn't talk and he's been avoiding eye contact with me. I know he does that to keep me from reading him. I'm beginning to wonder if I should make it my business to find out why. Maybe after we are back on the STAR RAMMER and I've completely recovered from the blink I should do a little discreet snooping.
Dzadwahtyan -- Day 4

The headache has subsided to merely massive. I've slept most of the time, trying to wait out the effects of yesterday's antics. Whenever I've awaken, I found Jolly lounging in the living room area of our suite, watching the news on the link.

Today we have to make transport to Dzadwahtyan downport and then catch the Cutter back from shore leave. I'm looking forward to some quiet down time.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Dzadwahtyan -- Day 3

Today started out so well. We hit the high bid counter and Jolly let the winning get to his head a bit. He was forgetting to loose sometimes. That and one of his opponents sensed when I read him. He accused us of cheating and things got ugly fast.

I have never seen so many weapons before and certainly not pointed at me. Jolly sensibly stepped back from the table, leaving his winnings on the counter, and backing us away.

That's when the guy demanded we turn over all the money we still had on us.

For a big, muscular guy, Jolly can move pretty fast. The joint erupted into a fire fight. Jolly had us behind the bar and blasting anything that peeped over the counter. Even for all his stoicism, I could tell he was worried. I was down right terrified. That is probably why I 'blinked'.

I call it blinking. Technically it is called teleportation. I hate and fear doing it because of the side effects. Whoever comes with me in a blink is rendered unconscious, I get a blinding headache that can last for days. It's a one-shot deal. Once I use it (and believe me, I try not to) I can't even attempt to do it again for days. On top of that, I never know where I am going to appear. I used Jolly's pistol to keep us covered in case we were still close to the casino and someone might find us in the alley where we landed this time.

Jolly woke up an hour later and didn't even asked me how we escaped. We're holed up in an expensive hotel while I recuperate, but I don't feel up to enjoying the amenities. Counting in all the fatigue from the telepathy for the last few days, and even typing this short passage is making me dizzy. Jolly says we made it out with 750 credits between us, a far cry less than the mountain we left on the counter.

I don't know what I was thinking. How could I have become so casual and careless with my abilities? I'll NEVER pull a stunt like this again.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Dzadwahtyan -- Day 2

I hadn't expected this adventure in gambling to be educational. At first I was having a tough time reading the other clip players. They kept their gaze on their pieces or on each other and my outfit was hardly catching anyone's eyes. With considerable concentration I started breaking through enough to pick up levels of excitement verse worry. Gradually that lead to deeper readings just enough to pass on to Jolly if he should bet or pass. We started out at the low bid counters while I worked on my technique. By the end of the day he was at the medium bid counter and choosing to loose occasionally just to through off suspicion.

At the end of the day we packed it in with 1200 credits. Tomorrow I will skip the skimpy outfit.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Dzadwahtyan -- Day 1

I manned the Sensor/Comm OP seat during the exit from Jump Space and during starport approach without a hitch. I am very comfortable with the role now. Uli doesn't even watch over my shoulder any more.

The captain asked a favor of me once we settled into orbit near the PDR space station. PDR stands for Prime Dzadwahtyan Repair, which is the best starship repair company in a three Jump radius according to the crew. Captain Landom wanted me to help him negotiate the most advantageous deal with the owner by acting as a human lie detector. How could I say 'no?'

To ensure the owner would voluntarily keep making eye contact with me, the captain gave me a VERY tight body wrap that draped very low across the chest and very high across the thigh.

It worked too well.

The distasteful owner, Cali Cuitim, insisted on escorting me around by the arm. The physical contact was more than enough to read his thoughts. When he could come down in price, or complete the work in less time I would wet my lips as a signal. (Captain Landom's idea) When the negotiations were concluded I attempted to return to the ship, but Cali Cuitim demanded I accompany him for dinner. I looked pleadingly at the captain who thought clearly at me, 'Go. Maybe he'll give us a discount.'

Disgusted, I declined the offer and again tried to leave, but Cali Cuitim refused to let go. I was about to lash out telepathically, when Jolly quietly stepped in and bodily disentangled the creep from my person.

When we were back on the STAR RAMMER, I thanked Jolly. He suggested I could make it up to him by joining him on leave to a casino in the southern hemisphere. If I pull the same trick for him down there he promised to keep all the scuzbags off me and split the take fifty-fifty.

I figured, what the heck, I didn't have any other plans.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 17

We reach Dzadwahtyan tomorrow and I have no idea how I am going to spend my leave. The original plan to make for Hieronymous is out the port hole. Well, at least downgraded to 'if all else fails'. Maybe not even that.

Since the ship will be going through a complete overhaul, the bridge crew will split the time. I get the first four days and nights for shore leave, then I stay aboard the next four, if we still have more time to wait I'll get off every other day.

My flight simulations are going well. I'm even able to complete full simulated missions piloting the Modular Cutters. Maybe Captain Landom will let me take some real test flights on the real Cutters while we are in port.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 16 (afternoon)

Jolly stopped by for the first time since this Jump started and crushed the daydream I was toying with. We were chatting about our plans for when we reached port. The STAR RAMMER will be in port for a week or longer. I'm not terribly good at keeping a straight face and he soon deduced that I wasn't planning on staying with the ship. He coaxed my into telling him what I had discovered and being terribly practical he started asking me questions I had not considered. Like how was I planning to blast through the starships guarding the red zone planet, and even if I made it through, had I considered that I would never be able to leave again?

Hummm.... So close, but so far away. I am seeking training, not a permanent berth.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 16

This is the fifth day of the seven day jump. I'm so anxious to reach Dzadwahtyan. Following the guidelines the Vegans gave me I think the world they spoke of must be Hieronymous. It is a red zone planet, according the Imperium, because the young race of Humaniti are being allowed to develop without outside influence. Of course the records do not contain anything about psionics in regards to their culture, but then again, the Imperium would never admit to that. There are records that it was considered a 'ghost planet' for a long time while the occasional explorers would sometime find it inhabited while others found no sign of life.

When I reach port I am going to check for other starships scheduled to make the crossing across the Vegan District and get at least closer to Hieronymous. I can't believe the purpose of my voyage may soon be fulfilled!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 15 (evening)

I didn't crash a single time during the flight simulations today. After the piloting lessons the captain sat down with me to review my progress with the Sensor/Comm Op position. He seemed fairly pleased. Afterward he began asking me about my psionic abilities. I'm still uncomfortable talking about them, since the whole issue is usually taboo. He wanted to know what exactly I can do and what my range was. I told him about the telepathy, since he already knows about it, but not about anything else. (Yes, there is something else.) I admitted that unless I am touching someone or making deep eye contact I am not very accurate. I didn't mention that the more I am around people the better I am able to read them. By the time I left home I could read my parents even on the other side of town.

I didn't get a chance to check the star maps yet. I stopped by the mess and grabbed dinner to go, and now I'm going to hunker down in my cabin to search for the world the Vegans mentioned.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 15

I had not intended to, but I mentioned to the Vegans that I was searching for a psionics institute before I even stop to think. We were just getting along so well that it popped out. The Vegans were not disturbed by this and even expressed sorrow that many races of Humaniti discriminate against the psionic minority.

Then they told me about a world on the spinward side of the Vegan District where the native population encourage and celebrate psionics. They had a general idea where it was located, although they did not know the planet's name. The world, they said, is a Red Zone, which should narrow down the search. During my shift I am going to check the star charts and see if I can pin point this jewel!

Monday, December 15, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 14

I'm doing better with the flight simulations. I only crashed seven times yesterday. I've completed all the material Uli gave me to study for the first Sensor/Comm Op test, but I still have to drill on the material to make sure the information stays in my brain.

I still have not seen Jolly, but the Vegans and I are having a blast. I find them strangely easy to talk to. I've even stopped feeling weird about their odd appearance. At the elbow, their arms divide into three tentacles which are very expressive when they speak.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 13

This is the second day of the jump. During flight simulations yesterday I managed to crash my virtual ship eighteen times. I don't think Captain Landom will be handing the controls over to me anytime soon.

I got to chatting with the Vegans in the mess yesterday. They are much calmer and more spiritual than the various races of Humaniti I have encountered. They talked at length about the Vegan tradition of finding one's path, and the personal journey of discovery Vegans undertake to accomplish this. I told them that I too was on such a voyage, and they were very pleased to hear it. I'm planning to visit with them again after my shift.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 12

The best part about the otherwise boring week-long jumps is that I get to study. I am completely comfortable with the Sensor/Comm Op equipment. My main task now is to memorize ship configurations and comm protocols for alien ports.

I am also working with the captain on flight simulators so I can pilot STAR RAMMER if needed.

I have not seen Jolly much lately. I think he is avoiding me.

Friday, December 12, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 11

Everyone who is not coming with us to Dzadwahtyan have either already left on other transports or they are waiting in the orbital portion of the starport for their next ticket to disembark. Our journey to Dzadwahtyan is just for repairs, so we are accepting return tickets (which are guaranteed paid passages for mercs returning home after a mission)and passengers for this jump.

Jolly has decided to stay with us as a gunnery officer, although we don't expect trouble. They other gunnery positions are traditionally filled by merc passengers. For this jump we have several Vegan guests. I've seen Vegans before, but I have never had a chance to speak to them.

I get to man the Sensor/Comm Op position solo during departure and Jump initiation.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 10

I was busy on the comm all day today. The mercs finished the clean up of their mission and many of them needed to arrange for tickets home, courtesy of the Ganesh government which hired them. The captain had the hull inspected and certified for jump stresses. Tomorrow we'll be departing for Dzadwahtyan in the Vegan District for repairs and system calibrations. Once we arrive the crew will have lots of leave time for the several days we'll be there.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 10

Captain Landom stopped by a minute ago and we had an interesting conversation. He congratulated me for a job well done yesterday and expressed a hope that I will always step up for the good of the ship, crew and passengers.

I thanked him, and while we were speaking candidly I told him I was searching for a psionics institute for training. That has been my secret goal since the start, but institutes have to operate 'underground' and are hard to find. He said he didn't know of any but would discretely ask around.

Then he handed me a print out. It was from my personnel file on record at Catania. In addition to my stint on the PARABUS and certificate test scores there was a complaint lodged against me by Baron Dretrich for illegal use of psionics.

The captain told me those records are permanent on Catania, and the Imperium would receive a copy of the complaint. In other words, I can never hope to get hired on to a 'good' ship on Catania again and the Imperium, if they ever come across me, will take me in for questioning and possibly for prosecution. He didn't have to say what that would mean.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Day 9 (early evening)

The informant arrived at the Cutter as scheduled and Jolly had him come in the hold for a 'private conversation'. I tried, but I could not read him through the helmet. I told Jolly over our private link and he opened the face shield half way so I could make eye contact, but so the informant could only see the top half of my face.

He was telling Jolly how he didn't know the original site was a decoy. I still could not read him, so I said in as tough a voice as I could muster, "Look me in the eye and say that."

Once he made eye contact I 'caught' him and he could not look away. I 'saw' that he gets his information by eavesdropping at the local pub. I could tell from his memory what he had only subconsciously considered. The people he was listening to knew he was there and were speaking for his benefit, feeding him information. I also picked up the names of those people and where they might be found.

When I let him go, he was sweating. He cried about Jolly cheating him by using 'Zhodani scum' to pick his brain. Jolly told him he deserved it if I had fried his brain for withholding information and told him (although it was not true) that I planted a trap in his brain so that if he told anyone about today he would go into a coma. Duly frightened, the informant left.

Jolly sent out the mercs for the people from my vision and they returned minutes ago. They had no prisoners, but lots of intel about the organization. I am under the impression that because they found the information they needed, the mercs showed no mercy.

We are on our way back to the STAR RAMMER. I'm looking forward to the privacy of my cabin. I need to do some thinking.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 9 (mid afternoon)

So far we have landed at three different sites, but I have not left the Cutter. All the locations were abandoned and no useful evidence to their location has been uncovered. We're in route now to an informant for help.

I have not seen any of the others on this mission except Jolly. He's keeping me in the hold, out of sight. I can hear the light com chatter from the mercs, but I can only speak to Jolly.

The body armor is a new experience for me. At first it was very stuffy and heavy, but Jolly made some adjustments and now it just feels bulky.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 9 (mid morning)

I'm in shock.

When I reported for duty, the captain instead had me accompany him to the observation deck. Jolly was waiting up there, looking grim. He asked me to take a good look at the remains of the IMPALER as they hung in a mechanical cloud orbiting Khalikkam. The small spark of maneuvering engines flashed like fireflies as the scavengers pick at the carcass.

"We want to get the people responsible for this," said the captain.

"And we know you can help," added Jolly.

I didn't know what else to say so I asked, "Sir?"

Jolly stared into my eyes then, hard. I could have sworn he said, "You read minds." So I recoiled, stammering, "You think I can read minds? I assure you that I am no criminal."

Then he did speak out loud, "But I only thought that."

I wanted to run. I would have if there were some quick escape off the starship. I felt trapped.

"Calm down," Captain Landom said. "We are not here to persecute you. I knew before you boarded that you were psionic."

"What are you talking about?"

"Jolly spotted the man who was following you on Catania. There is only one type of prey he hunts."

I glared at Jolly. "You saw him. You never told me. Who is he?"

Jolly no longer met my gaze. "Pope. Jonathan Pope. And I wager you have not seen the last of him."

Captain Landom added, "You are safe from him as long as you are with us."

I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing.

Captain Landom continued, "We want you to go the surface with Jolly's team and aid in the investigation and interrogations. You'll stay in full body armor including helmet and your com unit will be set to two-way communication with Jolly alone. No one else will know who you are or what you are doing. Your participation in the mission does not go beyond this room. Nor does your secret, which only Jolly and I know."

What else could I say but, "Aye, Captain."

Jolly just stopped by my cabin with the body armor. We leave in a few minutes.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 9

I go on duty in a few minutes. While I was out cold due to those 'light sedatives', both Modular Cutter searched through the wreckage of the IMPALER and gathered what useful items they could before allowing the commercial salvage ships access to her. Several bodies were found and dealt with according to the custom of their home worlds.

Later today another mission to the surface will search for intel on who planned the decoy and counter attack. I don't expect the mercs will be terribly gentle in their tactics.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 8

THAT WAS CLOSE! My ears are still ringing. Ugh...I better tell you what happened as it occurred:

I arrived in the bay just as the passengers were unloading from the Modular Cutter. The moment the prisoner was shoved out the door it happened. I'm not sure if it was because our gazes met or maybe because his emotions were running high, but I 'read him' as clearly as if he had shouted.

He had a bomb surgically implanted and he already had activated the count down.

I shouted to Jolly, "He has a bomb in his body! He's going to blow any second!"

That was when the alarm sounded. According to the announcement, the IMPALER had exploded.

Jolly shoved the prisoner into the explosive decompression hatch and ejected him into space. Almost at the same time the prisoner blew up, knocking STAR RAMMER off course and pitching us all to the deck. The hull held, thank the stars, but the sudden lurch caused unsecured payload to crash with a deafening clang.

I reported to the bridge. I told the captain about the Jolly saving everyone by ejecting the prisoner in time. The IMPALER was a complete loss. No survivors.

The captain ordered me to get some rest, since there was nothing to be done and he wants me to be fully alert when it is time to work my shift.

Even over the ringing in my ears I can hear the activity on the lower decks. The medic stopped by with a light sedative and some ear drops that are supposed to heal the minor damage to my eardrums by the time I'm back on duty.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 8 (evening)

This morning Jolly and the other mercs took the two Modular Cutters and together with the two Cutters from the IMPALER, they flew down to the surface. Our Modular Cutters are returning as we speak. The captain says the mission was a success, although the terrorist base was smaller and less well entrenched than initial reports suggested. Both the IMPALER's team and ours each captured only one prisoner. Since I am off duty I am going down to make sure Jolly is all right.

I guess I'm starting to get attached to the big guy.
STAR RAMMER -- Day 8

The orbital approach went off with out a hitch. We linked up with the IMPALER on schedule. Uli clapped me on the back and congratulated me for a good job. I'm really pleased with my progress and the captain had no complaints.

We are rotating shifts now. We all are still going to work 12 hours, but while the captain and navigator stay on the 12-12 shift, Uli and I are moving to opposite 6-6 shifts. The idea being that at least one bridge officer is very alert in case of trouble.

So after we established orbit around Khalikkam I went off shift. It is now 6 in the morning, so I am back on duty.

Monday, December 08, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 7

I'm heading up to the bridge early. We are coming out of jump in less than two hours. This will be my first time manning the Sensor/comm op seat during non-jump flight. I'm very hyped!

STAR RAMMER -- Night 6

This is the last night before we arrive. Uli stayed several hours into my shift and checked me off on all the systems. I am feeling much more confident using them. I even have some basic piloting manuevers mastered. The captain has decided to allow me to sit the sensor/comm op positon, suppervised by Uli, when we leave jump space and during the approach to Khalikkam.

Jolly gave me a final weapons training session before the mission. I am fairly decent with the laser and missles. The sandcaster is a bit more difficult because it is a game of anticiapation and reflexes to block an incoming laser beam with the crystal 'sand'.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 5 (mid shift)

My fears that the conversation from yesterday would turn into a confrontation today were eased. Jolly and the captain have not mentioned anything and indeed have not treated me any differently than before.

Their forgetfulness could be due to the meetings.

The weapons practice was cut short this evening so Jolly and I could sit in on the mission briefing. The STAR RAMMER has been to Khalikkam to deal with the insurrection before. Ganesh, my home world, governs Khalikkam, but some of disgruntled elements of the population have resorted to terrorist tactics to expel the Ganesh forces. Mercenaries are often employed to root out the terrorist bases of operations. The mission this time is to link up with the Broadsword-class starship IMPALER and hit one of those identified bases and bring back prisoners to pass over to the Ganesh authorities for interrogation.

These details will mean little to me. I am staying aboard the STAR RAMMER with the rest of the crew while the mercs do their things.

The captain met with the crew after the initial briefing. Even though the mission isn't a space-based one, we are to remain as vigilant as if it were.

We'll be arriving the day after tomorrow, and the excitement level on board is rising.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 5

I'm supposed to meet Jolly in a little bit for the weapons training. I feel like I'm going before a firing squad.

When I started out a few weeks ago, it was with a specific goal in mind. A goal I have a vague idea how to accomplish. My dilemma, as I suggested after the incident on the PARABUS, is that I am... well... different. The only place I know of that tolerates such differences is the Zhodani Consulate. Unfortunately, that is several sectors away. I have not calculated it up, but I figure it could take a year or more to reach it, and that is assuming I could follow a direct path. I don't have the credits to pay for such a journey. I had hoped that if I could get my license, then I could get working passages going that direction.

Here in the Imperium, and even in the Solomani Confederation, my 'kind' are not tolerated, and use of my particular abilities is illegal.

So I avoid using them and I keep my secrets.

I really don't want to reveal my secrets to a bunch of heavily armed mercs who may decide to space me just for being different. But then again, I don't know how to lie to the same-said heavily armed mercs who may have nasty ways of making someone talk.

And now I am going to sign off and find one of those heavily armed mercs and pray he's forgotten about last night's conversation.
STAR RAMMER -- Night 4 (mid-shift)

I hesitate to write this entry because I'm not sure to make of what just happened.

Jolly surprised me by showing up on the bridge to chat with the captain. The two go way back. They included me in the conversation and told me some stories about adventures they'd had. Jolly has a way of adding humor to a tale and we were all laughing.

After a while the talk turned to how Jolly and I met. Jolly told that one too and I could tell the story had been told and perfected, probably to all the mercs on board. It's a little embarrassing, but very funny the way he tells it.

I should have guess where the conversation was going...

Captain Landom asked me if I knew who the man was that had chased me all over the starport on Catania. I admitted that I didn't. He asked if I knew why that man had picked me out of everyone on the station. I said that I didn't know. Every time I said I didn't know he'd repeat, "You don't know?" like he couldn't believe it.

Then he asked me why I hadn't gone to the authorities, either on the port or on the MAGNUS. Why did I flee the MAGNUS, leaving behind nearly everything I owned?

I didn't have a good answer, since I wasn't going to tell him the truth. I said I just acted on instinct.

He repeated, "You acted on instinct," then without taking his eyes off mine he asked, "That's the story you're sticking to?"

I glanced at Jolly, and finding no help there, I said, "Yes."

The Captain watched me for a long time, probably trying to read my expression, then he said, "Then I'll let it slide... For now."

Jolly made some muttered excuses and left. I turned back to my studying and ever since there has been an awkward silence on the bridge.

I can't wait for the shift to end so I can hide in my cabin and think things through.

Friday, December 05, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 4

Jolly checked me out on a few different varieties of plasma handguns and rifles during combat training this evening. Most of the time we worked on firing techniques and my aim is improving.

Jolly has told me a lot about himself: the places he's seen, the things he's done, his childhood on Kukulcan in the Solomani Confederation during one of the many periods of conflict while the world fought for independence.

I think he has noticed my conspicuous silence about my past.

Anyway, I'm starting to feel confident with the sensor/comm controls. The captain has shown me some of the piloting controls. Tonight I think he is planning to go into more detail on the piloting and navigational boards.

STAR RAMMER -- Night 3

I ran into Jolly in the mess before the shift change. He took me for a tour of the eight turrets on board the STAR RAMMER. Each turret is armed with either a laser, missiles or sandcaster (which launches a cloud of crystals that will interfere with incoming laser fire). He started to show me how they operate, but I told him that as bridge crew I would never have to use them.

Jolly had a good laugh at that one.

Now I am really nervous. Why did I ever take this 'ticket' in the first place?

Anyway, Jolly showed me the weapons and ran me through some simulated combat. The equipment isn't that complicated, but I'm a terrible shot.

Jolly has informed me that I will be reporting to him two hours before my shift from now on for combat training.

What have I gotten myself into?

Thursday, December 04, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 2 (mid-shift)

This is only the second night of the seven night jump to Khalikkam. The captain and Uli have given me a list of things to work on before we arrive.

The first few hours of this shift we went over emergency procedures. What to do in case of fire. Where to go in case of evacuation. What to do in case we are boarded. We'll be running the drills nightly until we arrive.

Uli went over the testing process I'll need to complete to get licensed. There are three tests. The first is an operational test. I have to memorize the silhouette of hundreds of starship classes, and their standard compliment. I must know the communications protocols for the Imperium, Solomani Confederation and Vegan Districts. I also need complete command of all the systems on my panel. For the second test, I must be able to completely build a sensor system and a communication system from scratch. The third test is a series of simulations which includes trouble shooting and combat situations. I need 600 hours flight time before the first test, and another 600 hours between each of the other tests. That's about 5 months to complete the training.

In addition to all that I am to acquire working knowledge of the navigational and piloting systems. I find myself ALMOST too busy to worry about going into a combat zone.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

STAR RAMMER -- Night 2

I feel so much better now that I've slept. I stretched and cleaned up. I'm in the mess right now with a handful of the mercs. I don't know if it is because I'm crew or because I'm new, but they aren't paying much attention to me. That's fine. I'm interested in hearing their conversation.

I really didn't stop to think about the STAR RAMMER being a combat vessel until now. For some reason I just thought of it as a transport that just happened to have a specialty. From what I'm hearing, the STAR RAMMER has been in some wicked space combat.

As soon as I finish my protein/carb bar and grab a canister of caffeine I'm heading up to the bridge early. I'd like some time to talk with Uli about the systems.

STAR RAMMER -- Day 2(early morning)

During the space flight and while the jump was initiated all three officers were on the bridge and I sat in the vacant captain's chair. Since the captain of the STAR RAMMER is also the pilot he sits in that position. From the captain's chair I could monitor all the other stations. Once we were underway, Uli (sensor/comm op) and Hockman (navigator) left.

Captain Landom sits the second watch with me. He talked continuously for hours, detailing the modifications he'd made and the systems we're working with. All's quiet at the moment. Captain Landom is checking a diagnostic readout sent up from the engineers.

I've never been on a starship like the STAR RAMMER before. It is mostly circular in appearance, with engines and two Modular Cutters sticking out the bottom. The starship doesn't land. It sends the Cutters to ferry back and forth. One interesting point about the starship, as least to someone like myself whose never been on a fighting vessel before, is that the bridge is in the center of the third level to protect it from enemy fire. The medical bay circles around the bridge. The second level is where the gunnery officers live and man the turrets. The top level is an observation deck. Below the bridge is the crew quarters and troop bay. The STAR RAMMER can transport 31 passengers. Below the living quarters are the vehicles, armory, supplies and engine room.

While we are in jump space, standing the watch consists of 'watching the greens'. That is making sure the readings are all within limits. For me, it also means study time. I'm trying to retain this information, but the sleep deprivation of the last few days is taking its toll. I can't wait to hit the cot.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

CATANIA -- Night 4

When Jolly had returned earlier this afternoon from his meeting, he startled me with very unexpected news.

His next mission is on Khalikkam in the Vega subsector a board the STAR RAMMER, a Broadsword-class mercenary cruiser. He spoke with the captain (a friend of his I gathered), and they agreed to hire me for the jump as a back-up bridge crew member. I'd learn about piloting and navigation as well as the senor/comm op position for which I have a learning certificate. I'd cover shift rotations, which means helping out the single bridge crew officer during to second rotation. They have 2 12-hour watches, and three bridge officers, so I'd be helping during the shift they normally have one on duty. It sounds like a great learning opportunity.

We'll be boarding in a little while. I definitely feel as if my fortunes are looking up.
CATANIA -- Day 4 (afternoon)

I ran into Jolly by Starship Services. He was surprised to see me since he thought he had safely escorted me off-world. I told him part of the truth. I said I had boarded the MAGNUS, but right before lift off my pursuer had boarded, in escaping him I got off the starship, but he took off with it and my clothes.

Now I know how Jolly got his name. He laughed until he had tears in his eyes. I had to laugh too at how absurd it all sounds.

I was really surprised, but Jolly seems to have taken me under his wing. I guess it has something to do with the 'little lost girl' act I seem to have going right now. He took me to a consignment shop where I was able to buy several changes of clothes and a backpack for just a few credits. We then went to a discount store outside the port to replaced my hygiene items. So I am a few credits poorer, but everything I lost has been replaced.

Jolly's gone to go talk with someone. I'm waiting outside Starship Services for him to return.

I wonder where the fickle winds of fate will blow me next.
CATANIA -- Day 4 (later in the morning)

I napped in the crew lounge until the next starship crew began to assemble there. Now I am heading back toward Starship Services to look for another job. All I have now are the clothes on my back, my credits, and my processor.

Talk about traveling light.
CATANIA -- Day 4 (early morning)

I've been crying. I don't know what to do.

I'm back in the crew lounge by the launch pad. MAGNUS lifted off a while ago. My fortune turns from good to bad and back so often I feel like I'm spinning.

Lin Lou and I were having a pleasant time watching the people below us on East Ramp from the upper walkway. About fifteen minutes before the launch was scheduled, the time when the last stragglers board, I saw HIM, that guy that has been following me since I arrived on Catania.

Lin Lou pointed out the head of MAGNUS' security as he clomped down the ramp with three armed men to meet my pursuer. My initial relief turned to panic. The security officers listen to what he had to say (which I could not hear from so far above), nodded, checked their logs, nodded again and they all hurried up the stairs heading for the crew quarters.

I was certain then that my pursuer was not some random thug searching for a likely victim. He was specifically after me. I can only guess one of Lady Geriondsin's relatives hired him to exact revenge or to ensure that I am turned over to the authorities to answer for the incident aboard the PARABUS.

Just then the flashing lights of the ramp indicated five minutes until they button it up. I slipped away from Lin Lou and ran as fast as I could and made it off the Aft Ramp moments before it closed. No one was around that I could see, and I got inside the building just before lift off.

I watched from the crew lounge as my starship, my pursuer and my clothes blasted off en route to Urizen.

Monday, December 01, 2003

CATANIA -- Night 3

I'm on board the MAGNUS right now. We are still on the pad on Catania. I share my room with an engineer's mate name Lin Lou. She's from the Solomani Confederation. I'm looking forward to get to know someone who didn't grow up in the Imperium. Lin Lou seems really nice.

We are going to go to the East Ramp and watch the new passengers board. I don't have to meet with the Sensor/Comm Watch Commander until tomorrow.

CATANIA -- Day 3 (afternoon)

I'm in the crew lounge by the launch pad where the MAGNUS will be landing.

I followed the plan I outlined before, and Jolly (strange name for a merc) walked with me to my room. My stuff was still there, but I think it had been gone through. I have nothing but clothes and hygiene items, and nothing was missing. I keep my processor with me at all times.

Jolly then walked with me to the crew lounge by the launch pad. The whole time I never saw that guy. Maybe he saw Jolly and decided to move on to his next target.

Anyway, now I am fairly certain I can get aboard the MAGNUS unaccosted. There are a dozen or so other new crew members ready to board as well. The MAGNUS can carry nearly 200 passengers at full capacity, and uses nearly that many in crew. They have a standard 8-hour/ 3-watch rotation. It should be a good place to learn.

MAGNUS will be leaving Catania around 3 in the morning heading for Urizen, a Jump-3 distance away. I will feel better when I have some space between me and Catania... and that guy.
CATANIA -- Day 3

The MAGNUS is due in today. I feel certain if I could get my stuff and get on board I will be safe.

I've hit on an idea I think will work.

Besides starship crew between jumps, the Crew Hostile also houses mercenaries between missions. I've spotted a big guy hanging out in the lounge watching the job postings on his processor. He's been there everyday, usually watching the screen or dozing. I'm going to offer him some credits to escort me to my room and to the launch pad.

I'm heading over there now. I hope I don't run into my pursuer before I get there.