Windowbreak

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Editing

A while after the captain had finished debriefing me I pulled them back on and politely took my leave. I fished her supply list out of my back pocket and scanned it as I walked back toward the cargo bay. Frowning, I pulled a pencil nub from my sweatshirt pocket and began adding the items my overeager captain had forgotten. I was focused enough on the list that I didn’t even notice Morey until he started talking.

“Fulton!” He howled, clapping me on the shoulder. I jumped and the edge of the “e” I was writing in “water” jumped up and across the end of “accelerated plasma shotgun.” I glared at my bunkmate.

“What’ve you got there, Fulton?” he continued, smiling.

“Supply list from Palmcrantz. We have a new mission after Mixipan so we need to offload as much cargo as we can at the outpost. That’s on you.” Morey met this with one of his trademark chimp-esque grins.

“Ah, not a problem, Fulton. They love me on Mixipan. They love me almost everywhere.”

“That a fact? Because we’ve bunked together for a while and I haven’t seen a whole lot of loving just yet. Not a single memory of a work-glove hung on the door that I can recall.” I raised an eyebrow at Morey but he just grinned again and shook his head.

“Well of course not.” He shrugged. “They may love me but I could never betray the captain like that.” I looked down at my list again and tried not to think about breathless orders issued in the heat of the moment. Morey craned his neck and looked at the list. “Lots of hardware on there. What’s this new mission?”

“Come on,” I said, folding the list and pocketing it. “Help me find the bay crew and I’ll tell you all at once.”

Prejudice

“Alright, sir, if that’s all I’ll head down and talk all this over with Staci and Juliette and prep the cargo for unloading at Mixipan. If I see Morey I’ll tell him we need to sell any non-essential materials in the hold. No point in carting it around on a treasure hunt.” I glanced down at the captain’s list of all the supplies she wanted for the expedition. “…We’ll probably need the extra money to afford all these guns. Did you want to add anything to this? Extra fuel? Medical supplies? Food?”

“If it’ll help you sleep better, Fulton.”

“Great.”

I looked up and realized Palmcrantz was staring directly at my left hand. I nervously shifted my grip on the list and my carpal linkages clicked audibly in the awkward silence.

Here’s the thing. I’m used to stares. I don’t mind. I’m not ashamed of being a cyborg. I’m proud of my heritage. I wasn’t made in some nightmare secret lab. I was raised in a loving home! My dad taught me to play catch, my maternal outputter told me bedtime stories… I had a pretty normal childhood. But while cyborgs get some of the pros of both human and robot life, they also get the cons. And one of those cons is how some people, both biological and mechanical, look at them.

I’m a person. I’m not just some stereotype. But I know sometimes when the captain sees my arm she doesn’t think of me as anything but an object. A machine. A tool.

“There’s one more thing, Fulton.”

I looked away, resigning myself to it.

“Yes, sir?”

She reached over and engaged the locks on her door. Then she engaged the soundproofing.

“Come here.” She undid her coverall and let it pool around her ankles. I looked at her for a long moment. I couldn’t help but think of how much my bunkmate love this woman. Finally I folded the list and put it in my pocket.

“Okay but just once this time. I do have to get the cargo ready.”

…There are worse tools a man can be.

Staffing

“Right,” I glanced at the corrupted map again, “so we’re going to kidnap the greatest spirit medium in the entire galaxy and make him help us contact a long-dead pirate captain to help us read his treasure map? That’s the plan?”

Palmcrantz froze and fixed me with a glare icy enough to make me break out into a cold sweat. “Yes. Why?”

“Oh, no, I just… seeing as it’s such a fine plan I didn’t really know why you called me in here. Because it seems pretty worked out. So… you obviously have it all sorted. And… yes. Great. Love it. All I want to know is how I can help.”

The captain narrowed her eyes and then tossed me a list.

“Here’s the stuff I want you to pick up when we land at the outpost. We’re also going to need to organize the crew. I know some of them don’t like pirate work I’ll have no hard feelings if they decide to leave the ship.”

“At the outpost.”

“…fine. If they decide to leave the ship at the outpost. The crew from the cargo hold will be our muscle, right?”

“I think they’d quite enjoy it, sir.”

“Good. And do you think Morey will leave before we face trouble? We don’t need a salesman on this job.”

She looked at me oddly, almost nervously. I thought about my bunkmate and his adoring, borderline-insane dedication to Captain Palmcrantz.

“No, sir. Morey would walk into the very jaws of death for you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I know so, sir.”

“Do you think we could arrange that?”

May 3

Clarification

Captain Palmcrantz paused and looked at me. “When I say we’re going to get Forthright to help us I hope you realize that means we’re kidnapping him.”

“Yeah, no, I figured.”

May 2

Corruption

I leaned in to look at the map on Palmcrantz’s terminal. The file was obviously corrupted- coordinates were missing and parts of the route were crushed under display jibberish. I reached up and traced my fingers across the screen.

“What is this, Captain?”

Palmcrantz smiled at me. “Captain Joe “Blackhole” Roswell lived and died hundreds of years ago. He claimed to be able to trace his bloodlines all the way back to Dirt. A boy from a rich family who chose the life of a pirate.  He didn’t do it for the money, he did it for the glory. Classy son of a bitch.”

“And you have his map? How?”

“It cost me a lot of money. And one or two favors I wasn’t thrilled about. And then a lot more money.”

I glanced at her and then back to the map. It glitched and shifted as I stared at it, which was tough to watch. Call me a sissy if you have to but my parents brought me up well and data corruption was never something we had to deal with when I was a kid. I surreptitiously began a low-level self-diagnostic and clicked my metal fingertips on Palmcrantz’s desk.

“So we follow this to… what? Really treasure?”

“I’m not sure what it leads to, actually. Something valuable I’m sure. But I gave it to navigation and they say it’s too corrupted to use. So we don’t follow it anywhere as it is. Our only hope is to rebuild the file with the help of the original author. Roswell himself.”

“The dead pirate captain?” I stared at Palmcrantz. She smiled and nodded at me.

“And that’s why we’re going to the fair after Mixipan.”

“Because… the dead pirate Roswell is… there?”

“In a way. We’re going to enlist the help of Pintus Forthright, the galaxy’s greatest medium!”

May 1

Piracy Potential

“The fair? Due respect, Captain, but we’re supposed to pick up a pallet of food templates and the projected profits are-” The captain closed her eyes and pressed her hand across my mouth.

“Fulton. I like to think I’m a good captain. But I’m not a very good pirate captain.”

I tilted my head to one side to speak around her hand. “Well, we’re not a pirate ship, sir. Not strictly on the up and up, sure. Some light smuggling here, some mercenary work there… not all-out piracy.” The captain lowered her hand and moved to her terminal. I tried to fill the silence that followed as she began typing commands. “In my opinion, sir, you certainly have the potential to be a fine pirate captain. Morey and I were just discussing your threats on his life. Very, um, you know… piratey, that sort of thing.”

Palmcrantz hit the enter key with a flourish and turned to me. “So you think I’d be a good pirate captain if we were doing pirate things?”

“I think so, sir.” I shrugged at her. “Probably.”

“Good.” She turned to console so I could see the screen. It was displaying an old-format navigational chart. “Because we’re going after hidden treasure.”

Mixipan

The Mixipan Outposts are named for Carlos A. Mixipan, a brave missionary who died on the cold planet they orbit.

Mixipan was a true and earnest believer. He knew without a doubt that his god would save not only mankind but also any and all “heathen” non-human races provided they weren’t too weird. Mixipan decided to take his young wife (and also his slightly older wife) on a controversial trip to the small planet of Fracasso. Fellow members of his church tried to dissuade him. They told him the trip was a waste and that he would never find a single convert on Fracasso. But Mixipan, true believer that he was, loaded his small shuttle with enough supplies and wives for a three month trip and off they went.

Six months later, after an exhaustive search, the shuttle was found in a snowbank with a snapped fuel line. A week later the stranded and thoroughly frozen crew was found in the mouth of a cave. A rather cursory examination of the environment showed what Mixipan had learned firsthand: Fracasso was far too cold to support any form of life.

New Orders

I was checking my reflection and trying to decide if I should shave. I’d just decided I could leave it for another day when an electric voice trilled through my bunk.

“110101 Fulton! Report to Captain Palmcrantz!”

I moaned and let my forehead thunk against the mirror. There are only a few things the captain ever wanted me for and none of them were great. I grabbed a sweatshirt to cover the mechanics of my left arm. The captain always stares and makes me damn uncomfortable. I was out of my bunk and in her quarters in a little over a minute. The captain, a small wiry woman, fixed me with a cool glare.

“Fulton! Good. What’s our cargo schedule at the Mixipan Outposts?”

“Two crates off, four on, if memory serves.”

Palmcrantz shook her head. “Cancel the four on. We’re taking on a new mission. No deliveries til it’s done.”

“I’ll send the standard ‘Sorry but screw you’ form letter?”

“Good. Do it. This mission is our biggest yet. ”

“What is it?”

“We’re going to the fair.”

Apr 4

Lockup

Morey grinned at me and swung down from his bunk. He scampered out into the hall, no doubt looking for someone else to annoy. I was sure he’d find someone soon enough.

Windowbreak is a pretty decent craft. The biggest I’ve ever crewed on, though that’s not saying much. It started out as small-class cargo transport but I guess the guy Captain Palmcrantz bought it from was using it to do prisoner transports. That’s the most pleasant excuse for the half-dozen super reinforced cells built into the wall of the cargo bay. But then again I’ve never heard of a prison hiring a private freelancer to do inmate transfers.

I try not to think about the cells much.

Apr 4

Fancyhand

I went back to repairing my hand. A circuit had blown in the base of my pinky and the whole assembly was frozen in the extended position. I had to wait two weeks for a replacement while the rest of the crew called me “Fancyhand” every time I was holding a drink. I looked up at Morey and saw he was still grinning at the ceiling like an idiot.

“So why the captain, anyway? She’s an alright commander but she’s a lousy person. Why not pick one of the infinitely less hostile women on board?”

“Ah, Fulton!” He wiggled and then draped himself over the edge of his bunk so he was looking at me upside-down. “You don’t pick who you love! When I see Captain Palmcrantz it’s like breathing pure, undiluted oxygen! Everything else becomes insubstantial. She is the only solid thing in the universe.” He paused and looked serious. “Sometimes it feels like she remains a fixed point in reality and the ship, the crew, all of space just moves around her.”

“You should warn the navigation team.”

“I mean it. You joke about it but if she’d ordered me to jump out that airlock and she meant it, I’d do it. I know she’d have a reason and I trust her. I trust her, I believe in her, I love her.”

He held eye contact with me until I got embarrassed and looked away. I pushed my hair up off of my forehead. “Jeez, Morey, I had no idea you-”

“Also? That ass? Whoo-ee!”