The Nebula's Tide

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Small Spaces

The walls of the ship shook with frightening fragility. Jostled and pounded, the Monoceros tore its way through the mouth of the merciless space channel. The quantum forces, like teeth, ripping and grinding the unwanted vessel along its trespassed path.

Dr. Leahy kept her eyes squeezed shut, clenching her jaw as she tried to keep from biting off her own tongue with every jolt. Her muscles ached as she clung to the rough material that pressed up against her, the Captain keeping her utterly immobilized and pinned against the wall behind her. How long this jackhammer ride actually lasted was unclear, but with every shattering quake it felt like another hour was added to the endless rampage of their travel.

In all actuality, the jump was only a total of forty-nine seconds, an impossible feat by the Federation’s understanding. And yet, days away from the deep space boarder in a blustering corner of the quadrant, the pores of space opened, releasing the pirate ship and her crew swiftly into the pull of their nearest beacon star.

In order for the Quantum Jump to work, the drive required a massive amount of gravity. With its cells, it had the power to warp the ship’s surroundings, finding the necessary spectral channels for travel and granting the Monoceros access to these ‘impossible’ shortcuts. But the force needed to pull something as large as the Monoceros from one end of the quadrant to the other required astronomical help of a gargantuan nature. Stars were too small, these jumps required finding white dwarfs, and red giants, celestial bodies of extreme density and mass whose gravity would be strong enough to latch on to from one end of the open channel and pull the Monoceros through to the other side. For this trip, the ship’s computer soloed out a white dwarf, which was located roughly only a system away from the Tractatio center. They arrived in its nebula wake, not far from the storms of the outflow.

Kala opened her eyes as the shaking stopped. Still clinging to the Captain, the two of them held their braced positions for a moment before Treta stepped away, leaving the doctor to lean against the wall for support as he opened the safety room door.

Her legs wobbled and would not hold her weight, liquefied by the tremors of their departure. But Treta didn’t seem to notice. He slowly walked out into his cabin, surveying the damage. The objects on his desk were strewn across the floor and both chairs had been knocked over but, other than that, everything else remained in place. The prep crews had done well this time.

Touching the piece in his ear, Treta signaled up to the command deck, checking in to confirm their destination. All was clear. Their arrival was successful and, so far, with few reported damages.

Kala stood motionless in the doorway of the safety room, breathing slowly, watching as the Captain picked up the toppled chairs and returned them to their places around his desk. She still held the knife in her hand, her fist wrapped around its hilt so tightly that her blue skin turned a pale crystal color. Kala, however, was no longer aware of her grip on the weapon and merely stood there, waiting for strength to return to her body.

“… ah good, any injuries then?” Treta was speaking again to his first mate through the intercoms.

“Negative Captain,” Dioli said, “all crew members were properly secured upon departure. There’s only the usual exterior hull damage, but we can get wielding teams on that as soon as we’re out of range of the storm.”

Treta looked to Kala, catching her eye. “Looks like you’re off the hook, Doctor.” He said, his voice low enough so as not to be picked up by the intercom. He gave her a quick wink and turned his attention back to his officer, “How long untill we hit the outflow?”

“Roughly fifteen minutes.”

“Understood. I’ll be escorting miss Leahy to her rooms before taking deck. Rally the crew and prepare the helm. I’ll be with you shortly ”

“Aye Captain.”

Treta tapped his desk monitor, ending the communication. A pleasant tone rung in his voice, Kala noticed, something that sounded almost like excitement but stabalized in his usual low rumbling composure.

He turned to the doctor in the doorway, sharing her gaze until his eyes lowered to his knife in her hand. The Captain adjusted his spectacles, smirked, and looked back at her.

“What a fierce little pirate you make, my dear.” She held her angry stare, making him chuckle. “What’s the matter? Does the title not suit you?... Well, no matter,” he said, and went to her, taking the hand with the knife. “Not much to be done about that now, is there?” it took Kala a moment to realize what he was doing, until she looked down and saw in surprise her own fist, carefully pealed open by the Captain’s claws as he took the large knife away.

Have I been holding that the whole time? she thought, watching as the Asmurian returned the blade to its sheath around his waist, and wishing she could have hidden it somehow and secured the weapon for later. But what good would that have been? Treta was right. Until the job was done, there wasn’t much she could do but play her part. The idea made Kala furious, her brows furrowing beneath her turban.

Treta noticed her angered expression and decided that now was not the time to test the good doctor’s self-control. He took a step back, folding his hands respectfully. “I’ll show you to your quarters. You’ll need some rest before we reach the center. Follow me.”

Silently, she walked behind him, but instead of going out to the deck through the main double door, he led her through an exit in the back. A small flight of stairs led them to a second cabin directly below the Captain’s office.

This room, Kala noticed, was more lived-in, more personal. It was adorned with handcrafted wooden shelves, end tables, chests and a second massive desk, all meticulously covered with a great variety of exotic trinkets, equipment and thickly bound texts. A couple of plush sitting chairs sat around a sturdy wood table, crowned with square glass decanters, each as large as Kala’s head and filled with different shades of amber liquid.

As they walked past them, Kala boldly reached for one, attempting to lift it from the table. She needed to know how the objects in this room hadn’t suffered the same fate as the ones on Treta’s desk upstairs. When the decanter resisted, accompanied by a magnetic hum, she looked to her captor for answers. Captain Treta stood by the door, coolly observing the doctor’s experiment.

“I’ll explain later,” he said, his paw-like hand resting on the handle of the cabin’s large french doors.

Kala released the bottle, eyeing it skeptically. As she made cautious steps toward him, she looked around the room again, studying every detail.

It was a unique set up: the office and cabin stacked on top of one another as a sort-of on board apartment; the hidden staircase that spiraled between the two connecting the levels like a twisted spine.

Both cabins, she noted, were backed by floor-to-ceiling windows leading to exterior balconies. Oil paintings decorated the walls, though in the dim lighting she couldn’t make out what they portrayed. And cloaked in the shadows of the room, Kala observed the largest bed she had ever seen -as if it wasn’t already obvious that this was where the Asmurian slept, his private Cabin.

Treta’s den reminded Kala of a cigar lounge, with its dark wood furnishings and strict sense of refinement. It was the kind of place where a dark man like him could sit and plot, she thought, surrounded by his heavy, dark walls, brooding away in the low, dark green, atmosphere.

Meeting the Captain’s eye, she looked at him warily. Treta had said he was taking her to her rooms. She held her breath, praying this was not what he had meant.

The doctor’s concerns were soon pushed aside however when Treta turned and opened the cabin door, revealing the ship’s interior just beyond. Kala let out a breath and followed him as the pirate lead her away from his personal suite.

Down one long hallway then the next, the pair passed lesser quality staterooms until they reached a section of the crew’s ward. Most of the rooms here were mass bunk halls where all manner of alien would clamor in and sleep in whatever way their bodies may allow. For the Doctor however she was led to one of the singles at the end of the hall. Unlike his cabin, this area of the ship was more modern in design. Captain Treta touched a glass pad beside the door, motioning for her to enter when it slid inside the wall.

“For the duration of this mission you will not only act as an aid to the operation but will stand on as a member of my crew. You’ll work in the med bay, as assistant medical officer to our ship’s doctor, his room is across the hall from yours. In light of your situation, I’ve given you your own cabin. The doors, however, do not lock, and you will be called upon regularly so don’t look to this space for security.

“You will respond for duty whenever I send for you. The only personal time you are allowed is at night for sleeping, and during meals, of which you are granted three a day if you so choose. The mess hall is one deck down. Otherwise, I want you working full-time, just like every other member of this crew. Is that understood?”

Kala made a small turn about her cabin. It had a bunk built into the wall by the door. One flat counter protruded from the back wall, beneath it a simple chair, with a small porthole above. Notches to the left implied drawers would emerge when activated, and an interior glass pad mounted near where the Captain stood held the lighting and com controls. It was very small, and very empty. Kala kept her back to the Treta, eyeing his reflection in the window.

“Healing your men wasn’t part of our agreement,” she said harshly, chewing on the words like a bitter root.

“No one stays for free, Kala. You’ll work your way like everyone else.” she turned and glared at him.

“On top of everything you've demanded of me, now I'm expected to treat murderous beasts? I don't owe you that! I’m here against my will!

“No!” Treta barked suddenly, making her jump. “You’re here against the Federation’s will! Don’t disillusion yourself, precious, you made the choice to be here, to help the people you care about and to help this crew.” Kala recoiled as she watched his monstrous eyes dilate with emotion. Treta’s tone was sharp with anger, but more fearsome than all was the way his body braced with restraint. As he continued, Treta held his composure, keeping something far darker boiling just beneath the surface.

“Don’t start disappointing me now with this Federation superior bullshit. Before anything else, you’re a physician, Dr. Leahy. And I expect you to honor that code, even when treating my people."

The Captain’s long ears went back as his fur started to bristle. Of her time spent with the Great Asmurian Terror, Kala hadn’t seen the animal in him until now and it legitimately frightened her. But beneath her alarm, something else was rising.

Kala had always been one to meet fear with... an attempt to understand it. It was her way of dealing with uncertainty. So though she stepped back from the pirate, his bull-like build nearly taking up half the room, Kala also took a mental step back from herself.

His argument was circular and flawed. Treta had forced her to make said choice, after all, therefore removing any essence of freewill from the decision. But, part of this outburst stood out to Kala, his reaction to the insult of her statement particularly made her think. On that front, any way, the Captain might have had a point.

Straitening his daunting posture, he said, “Now cool off, and stay here until you are called. Someone will collect you later for briefing." With a glance to the window he added, "We're passing through a cloud storm to break the white dwarf’s pull. The turbulence will be severe, so I suggest you strap in here... There's no escaping this, Kala. Working with me, is in your best interest.”

And with that, Captain Treta turned. His massive shoulders rolled as he passed through the doorway, leaving her with the swish of his heavy blue tail and the thud-clack of his clawed paws carrying him away down the hallway.

Kala waited until she could no longer hear him before she went to the glass pad and turned off the cabin lights. The door slid shut as she sat on the chair beneath the window.

“Federation superior bullshit,” She mused quietly to herself.

Superior…’ the word sounded so sharp and cutting. But Kala held it, rolling the phrase over her tongue with a dissecting query. Sitting in the dark, and holding her arms tightly around her, Kala's fingers trailed over the popped stitches on her shoulder, feeling the outline of the missing Federation logo.

Outside her porthole the churning towers of nebula storms were nearing, welcoming the ship to battle with their dazzling tanzanite and amethyst clouds. Still in the propulsion of the jump, the Monoceros sped toward the sparkling walls of the hurricane, Kala watching it approach, as she slowly turned the Pirate Lord’s words over and over in her mind.

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