The Oracle, part 13 (fiction)

The Oracle

13

Steff looked at Lewis through the glass. He was seated in their “interview” room. He was a man with pale skin and greying hair, probably in his late forties. Edwards was seated across from him trying to get information. So far Lewis had given his name and nothing else, and even the name could have been fake since it had no corresponding file in the database. None of the others would talk as well. Edwards stood up and opened the door. Steff went to meet him.

“It’s no good. He won’t volunteer any information.” Edwards told her.

“Okay, it’s time for me to have a go.” Steff replied. She walked into the room and sat down across from Lewis. He stared at her with disgust.

“My god, you even look like a monster.” He said.

“Tell us about your friends.” Urged Steff ignoring his words.

“I know what you did, everyone knows what you did. How do your crew stomach seeing you every day?” he asked her.

“I’m asking the questions.” Steff reminded him.

“If I had thought about it, we should have taken you. I’m sure the Alliance of Free Colonies would pay a lot for you.”

“And are you allied with the Separatists?” Steff asked him.

“We’re pirates. They might do business with us, but they would never let pirates work for them. They’re way too high and mighty for that.”

“So that’s a no then?” Lewis shrugged, as if he didn’t care. “Where are your friends? They turned and ran away after their first volley of missiles, once we began firing back that is. Asteroids don’t just sit stationary in space. My guess that might be a hideout with a drive system keeping it in place. Obviously there’ll be other hideouts as well, which is where they’ve probably fled to. New Earth Space Command are sending some ships to check it out. The more you tell us, the better it will be for you, and all your compatriots.” Steff told him.

“Synthetics.” He stated.

“I’m sorry?”

“You have synthetics aboard. Have you no shame?”

“Yes, New Earth Spacefleet uses synthetics. They are great as soldiers and security guards, as well as many other important roles on a spaceship.”

“You sent synthetics aboard my ship!” He stated angrily.

“So what? If you hadn’t pretended to be in need of assistance, none of this would have happened. So tell me about your fellow pirates.” Steff ordered. Lewis folded his arms and looked away.

“I’m not telling you anything.” He told her.

“Before we go into the next wormhole, you’ll be dropped off on one of the warships. There you’ll await Admiral Byron’s interrogators. Once they have you, you’ll wish you had spoken to us.”

“As if anything I say here will stop the interrogators torturing me.” Lewis said.

“It will matter. If you’re helpful here, they’ll take it into account.” Steff told him. Lewis laughed. He looked at her.

“That’s an interesting scar down the side of your head. I wonder how you got that. Makes you even look more like a Frankenstein’s Monster.”

“I’m not the subject of this conversation, you are.” Steff reminded him. He continued sizing her up.

“If you remove the scar and add some actual colour to your skin you might be worth a fuck, but only one.” He stated. Steff stood up. He deserved no more of her time.

“When Byron’s interrogators are through with you, you’ll remember this conversation and wish you had been more cooperative.” She turned and walked out the door ignoring his response.

“The others aren’t willing to talk either.” Edwards commented once Steff emerged from the room. Steff just shrugged.

“I guess we leave them to Byron then.” She replied. Walking away from the interview room she wondered whether anything could make them talk. People like that had some honour code that seemed unbreakable. She wondered if there was anything that could make her as intractable as that. If the Separatists managed to grab her one day, what would she be willing to tell them if it meant they might commute her execution? She guessed she wouldn’t know until it happened.

She stopped at the medical bay to have some further work done on her scar. Usually one of the medics took care of it, but today Doctor Philips insisted on seeing her. While Steff was seated, Philips ran a pulsating medical device over the length of her scar.

“This should help the scarred skin to eventually merge and re-knit with itself. In a short time the scar should disappear.” Philips told her. Steff felt the side of her head begin to vibrate along with the device.

“I just want my hair to grow back. It will make me look less freakish when it covers that area again.” Steff replied.

“It doesn’t really look that bad. You probably notice it more and, because of this, feel more self-conscious about it.” Philips said.

“I guess. I keep thinking everyone looks at me strangely, though they were probably doing that before.”

“How have you been feeling? Any headaches, dizziness, or nausea?” Philips asked.

“No. I did have a lot of headaches to begin with, but it’s been fine since then.”

“Good.” Philips replied. She checked Steff’s eyes with a light. “How’s your eyesight?”

“Pretty much the same as always. I’ve never liked bright light and the older I get the more I prefer being in the darkness. I’m not sure if that’s related to my condition or not.” Steff answered.

“Hard to say really. The sensitivity to light is well-documented, but preferring the darkness is not something I’ve read about or heard.”

“Can’t say I have either.” Steff said.

“You seem to be fine. Come back in two days for further treatment on that scar.” Philips told her.

“Okay.” Steff replied. She stood up feeling a little dizzy, but quickly left the medical bay. Since the incident on Beta Hub Station, Doctor Philips was being a lot nicer to her. This puzzled Steff. Was she feeling more empathy for Steff now since she had become a patient? Was she beginning to like her more? Or maybe she was just humouring her and it was all an act she was going to drop in the near future? She had no idea.

When Steff got back to her quarters she found there was a datafile on the floor just outside her door. She picked it up and looked it over. There were no markings on it. She walked into her quarters turning the file over in her hands.

“SARA I found this datafile on the floor outside my door. Did you see who left it there?”

“I’m sorry Captain I have no record of anyone leaving it there.” SARA replied.

“But how can that be? There are cameras and motion sensors just outside my door. They should have picked up anyone who was there.”

“I do not know what has happened. I agree that it is strange, but I have no explanation for it. According to my sensors no one was out there except you leaving and then coming back.” SARA told her.

“There are no gaps in your time? Your program never momentarily ceased at all?”

“Not according to my system log.” Steff frowned at SARA’s reply. She looked over the datafile. It was definitely not something she had dropped. She left it on the table. Obviously it was something that someone wanted her to see. She decided to look at it later, since it might be something that required her full attention, and she couldn’t commit to that right now.

“You wanted me to keep track of Lieutenant Edward’s movements.” SARA announced.

“Yes I did. What can you report?”

“So far in the last week he has been everywhere he was expected to be. He has not visited any restricted areas or talked with anyone unexpected. However, when he is alone in his quarters he has been spending a lot of time looking through databases.” SARA informed her.

“Which databases?” Steff asked.

“He has gone through the entirety of the New Earth Space Command database looking at fleet compositions and placement. He has also been looking at all the worlds and colonies currently under New Earth’s control, including New Earth itself, as well as Old Earth.”

“Old Earth? It’s a dead world.” Steff replied confused. “When he’s looking at the worlds, what is he exactly looking for?”

“Population, resources, settlements, and location.”

“Location?” Steff asked alarmed.

“Yes he seems to be trying to map out the entirety of the Imperium.”

“Why would he need to do this?”

“I have no idea Captain. Maybe he’s trying to educate himself.” SARA suggested.

“Or maybe it’s more nefarious.” Steff wondered. She gazed out the window and thought about it. She felt there was something going on she didn’t understand, and it was beginning to scare her. It was like there was something obvious staring her in the face and she was failing to comprehend it, or even see it.

“Should I continue to monitor his database searches?”

“Definitely SARA. Let me know what else he looks at.” Who should she talk to about this? Steff wondered. It probably wouldn’t be enough to alert New Earth Space Command, but she definitely felt she needed another opinion…

“Captain, Lieutenant Yi is contacting you.” SARA announced.

“Okay.”

“Captain, we are nearing the wormhole fleet.” Yi told her.

“Thanks Lieutenant.” It was time to get rid of the pirates. She stood there continuing to gaze out the window. There were a lot of thoughts on her mind.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Sorry it’s a couple of hours later than usual.

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

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