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Sunset moves in her bed, and the Friend quickly shoos us all out. “Go and inform the captain,” it says, which… okay, yes fair, he should be informed, but I still can’t help but feel annoyed. If I was still captain, I – well, if I was still captain, we wouldn’t have two medbays full of newly revived colonists. So it’s moot, I suppose.

Captain Sands is in Lina’s medbay, talking to Sam, our new astronavigator, who apparently woke up while we were arguing about brain damage. He rushes off to meet Sunset, and I retreat before Lina can chase me out again. I suppose I should just stay out of the medbays and let the doctors do tehir jobs; I don’t need to meet every new crewmember when they wake up. That’s not my job any more. I’m not the captain of the Courageous any more.

Which is fine. Good, even. That’s what I wanted. No complaints here.

I’ve finished my work for the day, so I go and see if anyone else needs help. Adin is in Habitation Ring 1, cleaning the rooms. I have to gather myself a bit before walking in – being in Habitation Ring 1 always makes me feel a bit weird. The crumbling painted flowers on the walls are a reminder of lives lived here, all ending in death.

“What are you up to?” I ask, as if it’s not obvious.

“Cleaning,” Adin says vaguely, walking into a room with an armload of sheets. (He’s making the beds? Why?) “Captain Sands wants half the crew in here, now that there’s so many of us.”

Oh. That’s why. Still doesn’t make sense. “Why? Each habitation ring can house a full 21 with room to spare. There’s no reason to split the crew up.”

Adin’s voice is muffled by the wall between us. “That’s what I said. But the captain said, ‘If we’ve got such a big ship, we might as well use it,’ and you know what he’s like.”

“Yeah. I know what he’s like.”

He peeks around the door to hand me a slip of paper. “You’ll love how he’s split us up.”

“He assigned us rooms?” I grouse, glancing at the paper. “What is he, my moth – ?” I stare. “Ah.”


Sands’ room assignments are pretty simple. He’s just dumped all the new people in Habitation Ring 1, the ring that Adin is currently cleaning, and left most of the others in Habitation Ring 2. Him and me, though, need to move up to Habitation Ring 1, with the newcomers. It kind of makes sense, when you think about it – keep the groups relatively even, and put the first and second in command close at hand for all the newcomers who are most likely to have questions and need guidance.

It also means he’s segregating the convicts from the rest of the crew. That’s not particularly surprising, but it’s also not ideal.

“You look worried,” Adin says.

“Ideally, a crew needs to grow and bond and care for each other. Separating us into two groups like this isn’t helpful. I mean, everyone will still interact doing work and soforth, but this could be dangerous. Captain Sands is a very smart man, and I’m sure he’s an excellent captain, but he’s a little… well…”

“Stubborn?” Adin offers. “Controlling? So committed to the idea that he knows better than everyone else that he has to literally collapse vomiting on the floor to concede that he should listen to his doctor? Blatantly disrespectful and condescendingly friendly to other people, confident that his native charisma will carry him through any – ”

“Judgemental,” I say. “I’m worried that this isn’t going to get any better. If I can’t convince him to properly value everyone on the ship, then – ”

“You can’t,” Adin says. “I wouldn’t worry about trying.”

“He doesn’t know you very well. And if he does this, he might not get to know you better, and neither will the new crew, and –”

“It won’t make a difference. For him, I mean. Chances are the new crew you picked are great people, but… Aspen, have you been to prison?”

“What? No.”

“Any criminal record at all?”

“No! I mean, some boating violations, but – ”

“Anything ‘unsavoury’?”

“No, just things like speeding.”

“Yeah, I thought so. Look, none of us are thrilled about what’s happening now, but none of it is as bad as you seem to think, and there’s not much you can do about it anyway. Sands is the kind of person he is, and the rest of us are used to dealing with guys like him. With the kill switches disabled, he’s not particularly dangerous, and despite Tinera’s paranoia, there’s nothing he’s likely to do to us that’s worse or more dangerous than prison. Given the sheer space, resources, and lack of work to do here, he’d have to be actively and very specifically sadistic for it to even be possible to make things bad by our standards. You don’t need to worry about us, Aspen.”

“You having bad past experiences doesn’t excuse his behaviour.”

“To be fair, he hasn’t even done anything yet. He probably won’t. It’s a big ship and it’s fairly safe. Everything should be fine.”

“You’re probably right,” I say, and I try my best to sound like I believe it. I don’t have much faith in ‘everything should be fine’ or ‘someone probably won’t do something bad’. Shia had thought that the threats to her were overblown and that everything would probably be – no. I had thought that. I had thought that the threats were overblown and that Shia would be fine. And I’d been wrong.

I wasn’t going to be wrong again. Not with my crew.

For now, I help Adin ready Habitation Ring 1. We clean rooms and change sheets and pack the previous crew’s scant personal possessions carefully into little boxes to put into storage. I’m not sure what will happen to the random hairclips and photos, but incinerating them seems wrong. Maybe Hylara will have a museum for this trip, and they can go in there. When I walk past Leilea Arc Hess’ room without even looking at it, Adin says nothing, and cleans it himself.

We replaced the doors with the memorials painted on them some time ago, so I can’t even guess as to who most of the rooms belonged to, not that I’d even recognise most of the names or faces. Is it wrong that I never took the time to properly learn about each of our predecessors, to properly mourn and memorialise them? Is that something I should have felt obligated to do? I’m in one of the rooms where the door was never replaced when, emptying a dresser of spare uniforms, I find it.

It’s a complete accident that I find it. At some point in the past, something jolted everything in the room around’ probably me messing with gravity the first time I was in here. If it hadn’t, I never would have noticed the false bottom of the drawer, shifted slightly out of place. Hands trembling, I pry it up.

There’s a thick notebook underneath. Handbound, without a cover; just a stack of about 200 sheets of paper sewn together on the left – no, on the right side. I think? It’s difficult to be sure, since I can’t read the foreign alphabet on the cover. It looks vaguely like Martian, to my completely untrained eye, meaning it’s probably from either Mars or a country in the general vicinity of Korea.

I flip through the pages and realise that, yes, I was right about the orientation; the little book is written ‘backwards’, compared to what I expect. This isn’t surprising; several nations, including most Koreazone nations, make books this way. The notebook is about three quarters full, each page featuring a very short title and something that I infer from the layout to be a date. Decoding the numeric system is easy; it’s base ten, like most pre-Neocambrian numeric systems are, and it quickly becomes obvious that the ‘date’ is just a straight number, starting with and apparently random large number and ticking up, occasionally several pages in a row with the same number, more often skipping a week or two at a time. Obvious conclusion: the pages are dated by mission day.

The titles, too, are repetitive. I can’t read the complex characters, but I see them repeated many times. I count them; twenty unique titles, some repeated far more frequently than others.

I know what this is. Excited, I flip to the last written page and translate the mission day at the top. Day 11821, exactly what I expect to see. I check the date on the first page; day 7306.

I’m not great with numbers, but a few dates have been burned into my brain by this point. Day 7300 was when the first crew were replaced by the second crew. Day 11822 was when Captain Reimann attacked Chronostasis Ring 1, stranding most of the crew at the front of the ship and a few at the back.

So. Here was a journal written by somebody either Martian or Koreazone, from the second crew, who was stranded at the back of the ship following Reimann’s rampage, with the notes listed under twenty unique titles – the number of crew members aside form the writer. The titles are names. The book was hidden, not in a suspiciously serious way like you’d expect from a terrorist’s notes or anything, but in a proprietary way, an attempt to maintain expected secrecy and privacy amongst a trusted crew. The language could easily be Japanese – I don’t know enough to distinguish it from Martian.

These are Senior Psychologist Dr Kinoshita Keiko’s case files. Captain Reimann’s mental decline is detailed in here.

And I can’t read a single word of it.

I pocket the notebook, grateful once again that my coworker’s sensibilities have gotten me into the habit of wearing clothes all the time and that Arborean robes favour large, bulky pockets. The computer can read this, right? It must have writing recognition software that can handle Kinoshita’s handwriting, and it probably contains all major Earth languages, or at the very least the native languages of the two crews for ease of communication. Already, my mind is skipping ahead to something far more exciting than what’s in these pages – knowing what was going on with Reimann would be interesting, of course, but we’ve probably deduced most of that already. What I’m wondering is, did Dr Kinoshita keep doing her psychology job when she was stranded in the back of the ship with the scientists and acting as their captain? Did she keep case notes there, hidden in the same way?

Is there, hidden away in a drawer in one of the rooms in Habitation Ring 2, in one of the rooms that we’ve been sleeping in or around for a year none the wiser, a notebook detailing what actually happened back there after Reimann? That explained why Captain Kinoshita hadn’t revived a new crew, why no attempt at contact between the two crew groups seemed to have been made, why the scientists were performing experiments dangerous enough to kill them when they were, to the best of their knowledge, all that remained to shepherd the colonists safely to Hylara?

Is there a notebook back there that makes everything make sense?

Of course, investigating any of this left one problem: the new crew. We’d agreed not to tell Sands about the ten per cent colonists right away, until we had a feel for him; the last thing we wanted was another Reimann situation. But with this notebook, and the CR5 hull panel, and Zale not being in the ten per cent group… well, this was starting to feel less like ‘not distracting the new captain with irrelevant information’ and more actively seditious. If this was relevant enough to go around investigating, and we decided to actively conceal it from the captain, that’s playing with fire. And fire is incredibly dangerous on a spaceship.

Not that I’m completely against playing with fire, necessarily. We’re already feigning ignorance a little bit on the whole convict thing, but that’s just basic diplomacy. If we’re going to be actively concealing our own activities and research efforts from the captain, we need to be clear and up front with ourselves that that’s what we’re doing. Are we traitors or not? Because if we keep looking into this behind his back, then when he finds out – and he has to, eventually – he’s going to decide that we are.

And when it comes down to it, the truth of the matter is this – functioning as a crew and getting this ship to its destination is important. Satisfying our curiosity about the lives of the dead and permanently comatose isn’t. Maybe after everything settles down and the crew are all properly integrated, we can bring this up with Captain Sands, and investigate it. But not like this. The risk is too high.

This mystery is going to have to wait.

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One thought on “054: RECORD

  1. Ahhhhh but I want to know the answers to the mystery NOW, Aspen, how dare you make the rational conclusion that you should put it on hold!!!


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