Jump! – Short Fiction

(This story has been rolling around in my head for the last week and a half or so. It was inspired by our last round of posts about Plotters vs Pantsers.)

Victor checked his calculations for what had to be the tenth time. This hour. He would check them again at least another dozen times before they reached their destination and made the translation to the next star.

Constant check and recheck of the numbers was necessary to adjust for random gravitational disturbances. At least, that’s what he told himself and anyone who asked.

If he were honest, Victor would admit that he liked knowing that every movement was planned out and locked in. And with a mega-million ton freighter loaded with cargo, not to mention the life of one Victor Cardonez, at stake, it didn’t hurt to be thorough.

“Calculations confirmed, Doctor,” the ship’s AI announced. If AIs had been programmed to express emotion, the Betsy’s voice would have been dripping with exasperation and impatience.

“Pass the calculations to the main navigational computer and send backups to both secondary navcoms. Also, push the calculations to both escort vessels and integrate our planned movements into their plots.”

“Doctor, Captain Har’i has installed a series of software blocks to prevent remote access to her navcom.”

Victor sighed. The fighter pilot still thought she could keep him, or the Betsy’s AI out of her systems.

“Run sweeper program Hydra. That should clear the blocks. Then push the calculations and lock them in with a Cerberus encryption algorithm,” Victor instructed.

“As you say, Doctor.”

Victor adjusted the massive hologram that represented the star system A-113; he focused in on the huge freighter and its two tiny corvette escorts.

One of those ships was under the control of the Betsy’s AI; it was deployed more as a deterrent than an actual defense. The other ship that swam erratically alongside the whale of a freighter was the real defense.

Captain Eily Har’i was one of the best escort pilots on this side of the Golden Gate Passage; she had come highly recommended for her ingenuity, tactical genius and overall ability as a pilot.

Her lack of professionalism, terrible habits and incessant need to ignore his planning at every turn had been left out of the letters of reference that she had provided before accepting his offer.

It couldn’t be helped, he supposed. Unlike humans, the cat-like Orah lived on instinct and emotion; they had no use for careful plans or detailed calculations.

Victor just hoped that they would be able to reach their destination, deliver their cargo and part ways with the pilot without further personal incidents.

***

Emiy rolled the burnt remains of a fat terran cigar between her teeth and pawed her reader. The device obediantly flicked to the next page and she carried on with the story. She liked these long, dull escort jobs for just this reason: she could catch  up on the hundreds of new novels that had been published between stops.

“Captain, the Betsy is attempting to push new calculations to the navcom,” Emiy’s computer reported. They were little more than an hour away from the jump point; the doctor was right on schedule.

“How is the firewall holding up?” Emiy asked, bored.

She had spent nearly the entire time they had been in the A-113 system, more than a terran week, programming the blocks into her corvette’s systems to prevent the doctor from forcing his calculations onto her system.

“Initial attempts have been rejected, but I have a feeling that the good doctor won’t be deterred.”

“Of course not,” Emiy agreed.

The good doctor wasn’t a terrible person, but he had no sense. His constant insistence on plans, schedules and, above all, meticulously plotted jump point translations had worn on her nerves quickly.

She rolled the cigar to the other side of her mouth, bite down with sharp feline teeth and sighed.

Her people couldn’t have been more different from the terrans if someone had designed them. The soft skinned, short lived humans were fixated, some said obsessed, on plans and strategies. The doctor was the most extreme case of their species.

The Orah were spontaneous, unpredictable and valued the ability to think on the fly. Nowhere were these characteristics of their race more evident than when it came to jump point translations between stars.

Orah pilots could feel the gravitational ebb and flow that made up the jump points that connected the star systems. She could pilot any ship right where it needed to be. If only the doctor would let her show him.

“New calculations and plot locks are uploading to the navigational computer.”

“Damn it,” Emiy said. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she tried to fight the doctor’s software creations. It was going to be a long hour.

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