Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 4

HE IS BRASH AND RECKLESS.’ AMANDA COULDN’T SHAKE THAT THOUGHT AS SHE waited outside Tru’s study. ‘He’s going to get us all killed. How could the board promote a man like that to Captain!? And on top of that, he’s actually defending that conniving, lying Silerium! We’re talking about this! I won’t have that lying bitch serve under me.’

Tru and Jackie came around the corner together, forcing Amanda to hold her tongue a little bit longer. True swiped his hand over the biometric pad outside the door and the door disappeared as he walked into it.

The women followed, both stopping just inside the door. The room looked like a study in a house rather than the captain’s chambers. In the center of the room was an enclosed octagonal shaped copper fireplace with Earth sky constellations tooled into the metal. Directly opposite the door was a dark, cherry wood desk. It was an impressive piece of furniture and a centuries old family heirloom. A plush suede chair was behind it, and two matching wingback chairs sat before the desk. A small cherry wood table sat between them with glass inset on the top. The glass was etched with a planet map of the Sol system. Along four walls of the room were floor-to-ceiling cherry wood bookcases filled with books, mementoes, and various models – some crudely made, others perfectly constructed. The case closest to the desk was filled with photographs. Most of the images were of the same three men, two women, and Tru.

On the left side of the desk was a wet bar and food sequencer. Inside the glass doors of the wet bar, replicated bottles glittered in dim light that made the liqueur look more appealing. On the far side of the room, a dark brown suede loveseat and two matching wingback chairs made a comfortable sitting area. The coffee table and side tables in the arrangement were made out of heavy, dark stained pine. The view port was larger than normal and curtains softened the appearance of the hard metal that encased the port windows. Outside the ship, space traffic bustled past, and the vast expanse of space was a sharp reminder to the occupants that they were indeed on a starship.

“Have a seat, ladies,” Tru said.

They turned their attention back to Tru. He was sitting behind the desk, looking at something on a terminal that hadn’t been there when they’d entered.

The two sat down in the wingback chairs.

“Who designed this room?” Amanda asked.

“My father was a ship architect; my mother was an interior decorator. They designed every part of the ship, even the cargo holds.”

“I suppose the cargo hold view ports have curtains too,” she sarcastically bit.

Tru shot her a cool look. “That will be enough, Wrigley.”

Amanda looked down. She was far from having said enough, but she didn’t want to say it in Ensign Rhoades’s presence.

“Ensign, we don’t have anything pool side or on the atrium, but how about a cozy co-ed with a port view?” Tru joked, looking up at Jackie.

She didn’t even crack a smile.

“I was joking, Ensign.”

“Oh.” She forced a flash of a smile.

“Does it bother you to see space traveling by at light speeds?”

“No, sir.”

“All right.” Tru leaned back. “Gracie.”

Over an intercom hidden somewhere in the room décor, the ship’s computer replied, Yes?

“Put Ensign Rhoades on G deck in quarter twenty, and bunk…” Tru looked at her. “Ensign, do you like the top or bottom bunk?”

“It doesn’t matter, sir.”

“It might if you have a drooler above you,” Tru joked again, smiling this time to emphasize it.

A faint but real smile came to her lips. “It really doesn’t matter, sir.”

“All right. Gracie, put her in bunk A.”

Correction made. Next assignment?

“Captain, we don’t have to reassign everyone,” Amanda argued, “and especially not Jackie. She doesn’t care who she bunks with.”

“We’ll address this issue in a few minutes, XO.”

“Captain—”

“Wrigley, you will hold this issue until we are in private.”

Amanda glanced at Jackie. Jackie wore a faint smirk and it made Amanda’s blood boil.

“We have you squared away, Ensign Rhoades. I’ll try not to give you bunkmates that are too rowdy, all right?”

“Thank you, sir.”

“No problem. All the sequencers work, so you can take your meal in the mess hall or your quarters.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dismissed, Ensign.”

Amanda watched her leave, and as soon as the door solidified, she turned a burning glare on Tru. His attention was on the terminal monitor.

“Is there anything else, Captain Barnet?” Amanda growled.

“Why don’t you like Jackie?”

“What?”

“Why don’t you like Jackie, Amanda?”

Don’t use my first name!”

Tru leaned on his desk, holding her gaze. “I won’t use it again, Wrigley, and while it’s good to know my XO does have some emotion under that uniform, the question still remains.”

“I never said I didn’t like her.”

“You did suggest she be transferred before I even met her and your actions say you don’t like her.”

“She is a Silerium and she’s operating one of the ships primary functions: communications. She has no social skills. You should see how she eats! She barely passed her etiquette and protocol classes. She reports everything that anyone does wrong. She can’t keep a secret.”

“What secret of yours didn’t she keep?”

“It wasn’t my secret.”

“It was someone else’s secret?”

“That isn’t any of your business,” Amanda hissed.

“I could call Jackie back and ask her instead, if you’d like.”

Amanda thinned her lips for a moment. “Someone I knew was having a relationship with a captain.”

“What kind of a secret is that?”

“She was head of his security. A lieutenant.”

“That’s against regulations. Jackie should have reported it.”

“She found out because she walked into his quarters while they were having sex!”

“And she did the right thing to report it.”

“She can get past any lock just using her mind. She’s a security risk!”

“She’s not a security risk, she’s psychic. It’s normal for her kind.”

“She’s a Silerium!”

Tru stood, walking over to the sequencer. “Water with ice.” It started to materialize and he turned back to Amanda. “Looks like you and I are going to be in for a long and very distrustful voyage, XO.”

“Why? Because I don’t think you should keep Jackie Rhoades on this ship? Because she is a security risk, even if you don’t want to see it?”

Tru picked up the glass and returned to his desk. He drank a sip, watching her over the rim. Tru sat the glass down and pulled up the rest of the bunk assignments before he spoke again.

“Because you have issues with Sileriums and I am half Silerium,” Tru informed her. “If this open discrimination continues, I will have no choice but to request your dismissal. Possibly before we leave spaceport tomorrow, at the rate you’re going.”

At first, Amanda was shocked by the threat. No one had ever threatened her like that before, they simply promoted her and requested her reassigned, but never dismissed. But then she realized Tru had just openly admitted to being half Silerium, which was unheard of. Laws dictated that anyone who was half Silerium or less was considered human, but that didn’t stop discrimination. Why would he openly admit that to her? Was it a lie? A trick maybe?

Tru sipped some water, and then added, “And I understand those psychic abilities the full blooded Sileriums have, because I have a two myself. I can usually tell when someone is lying to me. It feels lot like indigestion, and it’s never wrong. Sometimes I have premonitions, but I have no control over when they come.” Tru looked up at her. “So tell me a little about yourself, other than your racist.”

Amanda didn’t reply. This was no trick. He really was half Silerium. I just openly discriminated against my captain! I just put my entire career in jeopardy! Oh God, oh God, I have to get out of here!

“May I be excused, sir?”

“No. We have bunk arrangements to fix and you need to understand why you don’t put Axparh with Ga’reicht.”

Amanda forced her whirling mind to calm. She couldn’t let him know about her problem. He would discharged for sure if he found out. Amanda wrapped her hands around the arm of the chair.

“Why can’t I bunk Axparh with Ga’reicht?” Amanda asked.

“Let’s start with what you know about the two races, Wrigley.”

She drew a breath and began telling him what she knew of the two races. She quickly realized why random bunk assignments would never work with a xeno crew.


Jackie didn’t look back as she left Tru’s chambers. She knew Amanda was difficult and that her disorder made her hard to reason with, so she was glad to be out before a fight began. Jackie stopped at a lift and stepped on when it opened for her.

Which deck, Ensign Rhoades? Gracie asked.

“G.”

In seconds she was at the deck and walking toward her quarters.

Captain Barnet seemed kind, but so had many other captains. Then something went wrong, she ended up getting yelled at or thrown in the Brig, and then transferred. That was the story of her life.

Jackie was so wrapped up in her self-pity that she didn’t realize she walked past her quarters. She stopped short, staring at the lush vines that lined the ceiling and walls around her. Small star-shaped flowers bloomed among the vines, sparkling from the condensation that had formed on their delicate petals. Jackie looked both directions. The vine covering followed the curving wall. Jackie followed the hall, finding it dead-ended at an alcove. The floor of the alcove was filled with stasis soil and lush grass grew around a small fountain and bench. The vines grew around the edges of the alcove where they had been trained to climb the walls and across the ceiling.

“Gracie,” Jackie said.

Yes? the computer asked.

“Am I in an off limits area?”

You are not.

“Can… Can I sit here?”

Affirmative.

Jackie walked to the bench and sat down.

“Gracie.”

Yes?

“What is this area called? What is the plant growing on the walls and ceiling?”

The plant is a Waterigal vine. Mrs. Barnet planted it three years after Prosperous was commissioned. The area has no title listed.

“Why was it planted?”

Jackie reached out and put her hand in the fountain. The holographic water interacted with her hand and splashed off of it.

For Tru to have a jungle to play in.

Jackie sat back, confused by the reply. “Who’s Tru?”

Captain Barnet.

Jackie smiled, looking up at the plant growing over her head. “She sounds like a wonderful mother.”

Tru speaks highly of his mother.

Jackie’s brow furrowed. “I didn’t realize you understood non-commands.”

Why wouldn’t I? I am fluent in over two thousand languages.

A half-cocked smile crept onto Jackie’s face. “Fancy that. A computer that listens in on private conversations. I suppose you tell the captain everything, too?”

If it serves in his best interest.

“Figures. You’d better watch what you listen to, Gracie. I know how to program UNIVAC.”

Is that a threat?

Jackie closed her eyes, quietly answering, “No, Gracie. It wasn’t a threat. I’m sorry I said that.”

Apology accepted.

Jackie sat back against the wall, relaxing into a cool, fragrant world.

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