2951-02-22 – Tales from the Inbox: The Progeny of a Nuisance
Nojus here again. You guessed it – we’re still in temporary quarters on Martikainen, and most of our vidcast equipment is still in its crates. This time, at least, we have a date certain for transfer, which happens to match the date of this feed item’s scheduled ingest. By the time you’re reading this, we’re probably already stretching out in our assigned quarters aboard the vessel which Duncan and I both hope will be our home for the remainder of the war.
Naval Intelligence has cleared us to report generally on the rumors that Fifth Fleet outriders smashed up a group of Incarnation ships somewhere in the vicinity of Maribel. We have no clear idea where this battle took place or what strength it was fought in on either side, but it certainly didn't hapen here in the Maribel system itself. Hopefully when the details come out we won’t learn that it’s another Trond-Arud.
As the little Nuisance argued with Donovan in hushed tones at the other end of the umbilical about the logistics of searching a ship’s trash compaction press for remains, a thought occurred to Svetlana Cremonesi. Obviously, she hadn’t thrown anything alive into the compactor aboard her Tycho Spike, not even a Nuisance, so such a search could only serve to make her departure even later, but all it would really take to prove the creature was lying about kidnapping would be to produce the fellow Nuisance it had named.
“Donovan.” Svetlana made sure to use enough volume to cut the hushed discussion short. “You issue comms to the Nuisances, don’t you?”
“Er, sometimes. When a Yixhari-”
Svetlana dismissed his explanation with a wave. “Ask your data system if you’ve issued one to this Wsir-Virh.”
Donovan muttered a few instructions into his wristcuff, then cupped one ear to his comms earpiece to listen to the reply. “We don’t seem to even have a Yixhari by that name registered.”
“So then.” Svetlana stepped toward the Nuisance. “Who is Wsir-Virh?”
This time, it stood its ground. “Is on ship.”
“Not where. Who.”
Before it could answer again, one of the constables returned from within Tycho Spike. “We’ve swept the crew deck, Captain, and found nothing. Do we have permission to search the cargo bay?”
Svetlana shrugged and jabbed a finger at the control on her cuff which would unlock the access-way leading down to her ship’s pressurized cargo bay. “There’s sensitive stuff in some of those crates. Break a cargo seal, and you’re the bastard paying for it.”
The constable nodded stiffly, already seeming ill at ease with the search. “We’ll be careful.” With that, he tromped off to gather his two associates and proceed down into the cargo section.
When Svetlana turned back toward the Nuisance to follow up on the unanswered question, the little creature wasn’t where it had been. Donovan was facing the station side of the umbilical, hand to his mouth as he dictated follow-up queries about this mystery Wsir-Virh.
Svetlana spun around, and realized there was only one place the Nuisance could have gone. “Damnation, Donovan, you weren’t watching it!”
“Eh?” The Survey officer turned around, confused.
“It’s on my ship. I warned it. I warned you.” Svetanla jabbed a finger at Donovan. “It was just waiting for me to turn my back, and-” She stopped, then smiled and opened her ship’s intercom. “Constables, the Nuisance has boarded my ship. If you find it before I do, apprehend it. I wish to pursue slander, trespassing, piracy, and endangerment charges.”
Donovan cut his comms channel, a frown on his face. “Captain, what are you-”
“What I said I would the first damned time.” Svetlana undid the safety clasp on her holstered pistol and drew it. “Repel boarders.”
With Donovan’s stream of incoherent protesters following her every step, Svetlana strode aboard Tycho Spike and sealed the umbilical with a command override. At each pressure bulkhead, she stopped and sealed hatchways usually permitted to stand open, and at each compartment, she left Donovan and his babbling at the door while she carefully swept the space for any sign of the Nuisance. Once she was satisfied with each space, she sealed it off, and quietly set the atmospheric system to evacuate each cleared compartment and corridor section just to be certain.
Lieutenant Donovan, whose imprecations likely kept him from realizing that Svetlana was depressurizing her ship room by room behind herself, continued to follow, as if something he said might undo what his halfwit charge had already set into motion. She knew not to expect him to try anything desperate - such a desk officer was he that he didn’t even have a sidearm, and he didn’t look the type to know what to do with one even if he had.
When Svetlana reached the accessway down to the cargo bay, she found one of the constables standing at the threshold, seeming confused as to what he was supposed to be doing.
“Are the other two of you down there?” She gestured with her gun down toward the cargo deck.
“Yes, Captain.” The constable nodded, glancing nervously at Donovan’s increasingly shrill protests. Unfortunately for Survey, the station constabulary knew only too well that the Law of the Spacelanes did not tolerate hostile boarding of any ship.
“Go get them and bring them up here.” Svetlana gestured forward. “When I get back, I’m venting the bay.” She gestured with her free hand. “Donovan, stay here.”
“On my own ship, where I just gave you a direct order.” Svetlana turned to fix him with only the briefest glare.
Donovan finally fell silent and made no attempt to follow Svetlana as she went through the next bulkhead and sealed it behind herself. She cleared the next two compartments, including her own cabin, then set them both to evacuate, feeling only the briefest pang of guilt for what this would do to the Herculean jade-claw plant on her desk. The plant wouldn’t die outright in a few hours of decompression – they were popular aboard starships for a reason – but it would probably lose most of its cluster of plump, hooked leaves to bursting as the vital fluid within its thick outer skin broke through and boiled off.
As she sealed another length of passageway, Svetlana activated the intercom once more. “Nuisance, if you come out now and go with the constables, you get to live.” She came around the corner into the ship’s cramped med-bay with her gun leading, but nothing vaguely rodent-like presented itself within that stainless-steel, antiseptic space.
One by one, Svetlana sealed and evacuated the lounge, the cargo grapple control blister, the mess, and every other compartment as she moved forward toward command. Tycho Spike’s crew deck was long and narrow, sitting on top of its much bulkier engine and cargo spaces like a stubby dorsal fin, so she knew that nothing had gotten past her. There was, short of her command override unlocking the maintenance crawlspaces, only one way aft from where she was – if the Nuisance wasn't trying to hide down in the hold, it was just ahead in the command compartment.
Taking a deep breath, Svetlana keyed open the door to command, gun aimed roughly where a Nuisance’s body would be if it charged out at her.
The Nuisance was there, all right, its ear-crowned head peeking over the back of the pilot’s chair. “No trash compactor!”
Svetlana scowled, imagining grubby Nuisance paws all over her ship’s controls. They were locked against tampering, but she’d probably spend half the outbound leg sanitizing them. “Into the corridor. Now.”
The Nuisance’s dark eyes stared at Svetlana for a long moment, then its head disappeared. Just as she was about to issue the order again, it slid down off the chair and scuttled back into view, a bundle of dirty cloth held in its arms.
Svetlana waved her gun at the parcel. “Drop the souvenir. I don’t care where you found it.”
“No drop Wsir-Virh!” The Nuisance held the parcel tighter.
Svetlana narrowed her eyes. “It’s something you nicked from my ship. Unwrap it.”
The Nuisance hesitated, then slowly began to unwind the cloth bound around the object. After a few loops had come off, it began to squirm violently, and the Nuisance held up its prize. “Not steal.”
At first, Svetlana didn’t know what she was looking at; it seemed to be a furry grub about the size of a small cat. When the folds of skin on the top end of the grub-like shape twitched and flicked upwards into a familiar crown-like arrangement of four ears and revealed two dark, curious eyes beneath, she understood. Tiny, plump arms detached themselves from the trunk a moment later to reach in Svetlana’s direction. “Wsir-Virh is a child. So how did it get on my ship?”