Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
There was some sort of occupational requirement for Techevers to be a bit different. A generous way to describe them would be ‘loopy’; however, Boro suspected that “absolutely unhinged” was a more appropriate label. And though some of the kinks have been worked out of this experiment that was now in its second decade, as self-induced attrition among them was at an all-time low, Boro still believed they were largely a hindrance, rather than the promised ultimate link between human and machine.
Boro took a deep breath and cocked his head to the side. “Okay Maggie, you’re going to have to walk me through this one.”
“Very well. Engineer Ishikawa made it very clear that if I go rooting around her systems again without her permission, that she will personally, and I quote ‘Rip all those little dangly things from my fingers and shove them all the way – ’”
“Thank you, Maggie, that’s enough.”
“Are you sure? It went on for quite some time and I’ve got it all pretty much committed to memory.”
“No, that’s alright.”
“Too bad. Aimi has a fantastic command of language and an absolute arsenal of synonyms for various body parts.”
Boro had no answer but threw back a pleading look at Surch, who shrugged and said, “That sounds like your bread and butter, Commander.”
When he entered the engine room, nothing told Boro that anything was out of the ordinary. Aimi moved in fits and spurts, punching at buttons in a way that put about five times more wear and tear on them than necessary, but this was standard operating procedure for the Head Engineer. The engines themselves hummed away peacefully, stretched along either side of the room. As Boro walked between them towards the back of the room where the reactor was located, Aimi continued to ignore him as the two other engineers on duty cast furtive glances between him and their boss. At the heart of the reactor stood a translucent chamber where, suspended at its centre, was a black glassy ball about the width of Boro’s thumbnail that not only provided the ship with power but also the necessary touch of inexplicable magic needed for it to skim the surface of subspace at speeds that were magnitudes above the speed of light. When he leaned in to take a closer look at the quivering shadow that enveloped it, Aimi appeared behind him and asked, “Surely, we shouldn’t have to expect an inspection every time there’s a minor hiccup down here?”
“Inspection?” Boro feigned surprise with two innocently raised eyebrows. “I’d think of it as more of a house call.”
“Whatever you prefer to call, I think it hardly warrants any attention.”
“And what is ‘it’, exactly?”
“Just the drop being temperamental, nothing new, especially with this one.” Aimi threw up her chin in the direction of the black sphere behind Boro.
“How do you mean?”
“I don’t know where it’s been repurposed from, but it’s seen some things over its lifetime. Not sure who in their right mind thought that it was a good idea to make it power a skimmer and keep the ship ghosted for several months at a time. It acts up here and there, so I’m forced to make decisions as to what bears the brunt of its moods. And considering that the ghost is what’s keeping the ship alive, a figured a little drop of speed would be nothing to write home about.”
Boro’s lip curled into the start of a smile, wondering how it was that the time Aimi and Surch were evidently spending together had slipped past his attention.
“Maybe we could have skipped this whole conversation if you allowed Maggie to do her job,” Boro suggested.
“Ah, so that’s why you’re here.” Aimi, as if having completely lost all interest, continued her rounds of instruments and displays.
“I hear there may have been an exchange of words.”
“In all fairness to Maggie, it was a very one-sided exchange.”
“I figured,” Boro said with a smirk that must somehow have been audible since Aimi wheeled on him.
“Commander, maybe it’s easy for you, squirreled away on your bridge, to forget what’s going on elsewhere on the ship, but from where I’m standing, it’s hardly pretty.” Her glasses slipped down a slightly long pale nose, the lights of the engine room accentuating the hard set of her jaw. “Some genius, in the Navy, mind you, these are your friends here, gave us a drop that’s more fit to power a very large toaster instead of an ORC starship. Some other genius, or maybe it’s the same genius, decided to give a Thorian free reign of the ship. My second’s a Nabak, gitang it, how do you think that affects him when that smug bumpy-headed asshole pokes his head in? And on top of that, no matter what I’m doing, no matter what I’m in the middle of, I’ve got that Techever rooting around in my systems, telling me how to do my job.”
Boro barely opened his mouth to speak when Aimi put up her hand, her fingers spread. “I know they’re the Navy’s favourite toy right now, but I’ve never worked with a Techever before. No one even bothered to tell me there was one on board this ship until one day Maggie calls down and tries to tell me how to run my engines. Commander, I’ve been an engineer on a comet chaser that was basically just cobbled together spare parts and I feel like that was run better than the Forseti.”
“I think you’re exaggerating.”
“Well if you’re finding nothing unusual, then I’m really concerned about the state of our Navy.” She turned away before she finished her sentence, and Boro followed her silently as she walked to a panel at the opposite end of the engine room and started typing in commands.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.