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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Extremus: Year 20

While the bridge engineers drag the Captain and Lieutenant’s potentially lifeless bodies out of the bridge, Ovan does his best to make it look like he’s still in control. Admiral Thatch knows better. He’s losing it, and he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with. There are things about this ship that few people are aware of. For instance, there’s a reason Thatch asked to be placed on lighting duty in the first place. This is the most powerful interface on the entire vessel. You don’t have to be the lighting technician in order to use it properly, but it makes it easier. After all, he’s already sitting here. He’s just lucky that this mutineer decided to keep him and him alone as hostage. That was his second mistake. While Ovan is preoccupied trying to figure out his next move, confident that his hostage has no cards to play, Thatch makes his move. He switches the interface over to the emergency desktop, and changes everything about the situation. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to come up with a sophisticated strategy. As he’s pressing buttons, the murtherous hostage-taker is already on his way to putting a stop to it. Thatch activates emergency temporal displacement protocol, and sends the entire bridge to the future.
“What was that?” Ovan questions.
“I was trying to blind you with the lights,” Thatch lies. He doesn’t really know why he’s lying. It’s not like Ovan can do anything about it. He’s lost, and it can’t be undone. Getting back to the Extremus would take a level of engineering knowledge that neither of them has, certainly not Ovan. The emergency rations will keep them alive for maybe another year, and then this is where they will both die, in the middle of nowhere outer space.
“That doesn’t make any sense. You would have gone blind too.”
“I have experience moving around with my eyes closed. Had I had enough time to siphon enough power, it still would have just been temporary, and I could have reopened the hatch for the security team.” He’s just toying with him now.
Ovan sighs. “Sorry to disappoint. Fortunately, you have the chance to make it up to me.” He clears his throat, and straightens his vest. “Open a channel shipwide. I would like to address my people.”
Thatch strolls over, and does exactly as he was asked. He doesn’t say anything about how small this ship is at this point.
Ovan clears his throat again. “People of Extremus, this is your Captain speaking...Captain Ovan Teleres. You are, no doubt, confused about this development. Believe me, I would not have taken over had I not felt that it was absolutely necessary. Former Captain, Halan Yenant has failed us. He has been wasting his time watching other people play Quantum Colony when there is real work to be done. I had absolutely no choice but to assume responsibility. The transition will be difficult, I admit this. In order to make it go smoothly, I must enact martial law. For now—only for now—the civilian government is being suspended, and all decisions will be filtered directly through me. This is a trying time for everyone, but we are all Extremusians, and I am confident that, together, we can get through anything. I am your one true leader now, and I will not let you down. Please. Stay safe, and await further instructions.” He shuts his eyes and nods to Thatch, signifying that the channel should be closed.
“Wow. That was beautiful, sir,” Thatch jokes, barely able to contain himself.
Another throat-clearing. “Yes.”
“Too bad I’m the only one who heard it.”
“Goddammit. I knew you would pull some shit. Fine, I’ll do it again, and this time, make sure the comms are up myself. We’ll call that the rehearsal.” He stomps over, and reaches for the interface, tilting his lizard brain when he sees that the comms are open, and always were. The little timer in the corner is still going, indicating that it’s been open for the last ninety seconds. “What the hell?”
Now Thatch releases his maniacal laugh. It starts out small, but gets louder and louder, and more maniacal. It goes on for a little bit too long. “Did you have any sort of plan? Did you think that taking over the bridge would be as easy as killing two people? Even if you had been successful—and you had selected the right hostages, and I wasn’t one of them—it would have been short-lived. Engineering has full control over all systems. It’s compartmentalized for a reason! The bridge is primarily here so that the executive crew can see what’s going on in a more comfortable environment, and so the real engineers can curse and keep their uniforms partially unzipped while they work! This room is mostly for show, you unapologetic moron!”
Ovan is fuming. He wants to tear Thatch to shreds, but that’s not the smartest choice right now. If the solution is in engineering, then he’s going to go to engineering. He stomps over to the cabinet, carelessly shoots off the lock, and retrieves an authority zero teleporter band. With one of these, he can go wherever he wants with no restrictions.
“Whoa, you don’t wanna do that,” Thatch tries to warn him. He didn’t think this might happen; that he’s so stupid, he can’t even solve the puzzle by now.
Ovan straps the thing to his chest. “I can still take over this ship, because I’m a god, and you’re all worthless little ants!”
“Hold on.”
“No, asshole.”
“The ship’s gone!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh my God, think about it! The comms are open, but no one can hear you. Why might that be?”
“I’m sure engineering rerouted the signal to a single lavatory, or something.”
There might be no convincing him, but he has to try. “If you push that button, you’re going to end up in the cold vacuum of space. The ship is gone. I transported the whole bridge to the future. Extremus is now seven hundred and seven light years away. I don’t know if the Captain or Lieutenant survived, but that crew has just had an entire year to figure out their leadership, and neither one of us has been a part of it. Ya done. You were finished the second you stole that sidearm.”
Ovan looks down at the weapon in his hand as if he’s just remembered it’s there. He points it at Thatch’s head. “Prove it.”
“What was that?” Ovan questions.
“Umm, that is the bridge airlock. It’s only to be used for bridge crew evacuation.”
Ovan cocks the gun. “So you are lying.”
“Computer, open airlock,” Thatch says quickly.
The hatch opens, and in walks Omega Parker and Valencia Raddle. The former sighs. “Report.”
Thatch explains what happened, and why he had to send them here. “If you came to this location, hoping to get back on Extremus, I’m afraid you’re a little behind.”
Valencia dismisses the notion. “No, this is near the access point for our mission. We were just trying to figure out how to get through the little meteor gauntlet our enemies set up for us when we picked up your signal. You have answered our prayers.”
“How so?”
“The bridge is exactly what we need. It’s equipped with weaponry, more powerful propulsion, a better teleporter. It’s just an overall better modular vessel. We would have built the time shuttle like this, but it would have taken too many resources, and too much space. We would have had to tell the people about it. I assume the Captain filled you in?”
“No,” Thatch replies, “but I’m not surprised. I’ve always been suspicious of the onslaught of meteorites.”
“I’m the Captain!” Ovan cries. “Stop talking about him like he matters! I make decisions now! If this small part of the ship is capable of getting us back to the ship, then that is what we’ll do! I am the one with the gun, so what I say goes! You hear me!?”
All three of them look at the pathetic approximation of a human being like he’s the one who doesn’t matter. Omega takes out a gun of some kind, and shoots the ungodlike ant with it. Ovan begins to freak out. They can’t hear him, but he starts moving around much faster than normal. He’s banging on an invisible wall, shaking his head, and screaming at the top of his lungs. But he can’t actually do anything.
“What’s that? Thatch questions. “What’s happening to him?”
“He’s in a timeout bubble. It’s a pocket temporal dimension, which makes time move six times faster than realtime. Have you ever walked behind someone who is incredibly slow?” Omega begins to walk towards the other side of the room in exaggerated slow motion to illustrate his point. “It’s profoundly frustrating, though ineffective as a disciplinary device. Denver hated it, but when we realized it wasn’t improving his behavior, we stopped using it.”
“Who’s Denver?”
“Our son,” Valencia answers.
“You’ve been gone awhile,” Thatch states the obvious.
“Yes, and now it’s time to finish this. We really need this bridge. With it, we can cross the threshold, and destroy the meteor chain once and for all,” Valencia explains.
“If our calculations are correct,” Omega says, “there’s a black hole on the other side of a highly advanced merge barrier. If we cross it at the right moment, using the right technology, we should be able to shut the whole thing down.”
“All right, let’s do it.”
“Unfortunately, you’ll have to be here for it,” Valencia tells him. “We need both the time shuttle, and the bridge module, for this to work.”
“I said let’s do it, I’m in. So is this guy.”
Ovan finally got tired, so he lay down in his little prison, and went to sleep.
Omega steps over to the primary terminal, and begins to interface it with the shuttle. “We know that it’s going to take us to 2293, but we don’t know where. It might be uncomfortably close to the Extremus, in which case we won’t have much time to get it done. We’re still not even certain how we’re going to do it.”
“I don’t know either of you very well, but I have faith you’ll figure something out,” Thatch says sincerely. I’ll be here as a little worker bee. So just give me orders, Captain.”
“I’m not the captain,” Omega says. “She is.”
Valencia smirks. “The Admiral is in charge of the bridge. So we’ll need his permission to link our AI with your systems.”
“Granted,” Thatch says. “I’m also relieving myself of duty, and placing you in charge. I never wanted the gig.”
“Accepted,” Valencia agrees.
“I do have one question, though,” Thatch admits. “What are we going to do with him? I feel bad leaving him in there indefinitely.”
“You said he may have killed Halan and Mercer?” Omega reiterates.
“Good point.”

Meanwhile, about seven hundred and seven light years away, the Extremus is still en route, having not missed a single beat. The new bridge has been built, and is ready to be commanded by its rightful executive crew. The incident with Ovan happened a year ago, but the passengers are still reeling. Many would have followed him to the ends of the galaxy, but not after the stunt he pulled. But for a few radicals who were smart enough to keep their dark thoughts to themselves, no one believed that what he did was the right call. They continued to accept the direction of their elected officials, while the crew did the same for their own interim leadership. After the deaths of the Captain and Lieutenant, The Bridgers had no choice but to assume command, but that changes today. It’s time to bring them back to life.
Dr. Holmes steps back, and makes sure everything looks right. Then she glances around the room to make sure the others have no objections. She would ignore them if they did, but she would need to know about them. She places a hand on each button, and presses them simultaneously.
Both bodies spring to life. They stare into empty space, and catch their breaths. Once he’s ready, Halan turns to the good doctor. “Report.”
“You both died. Old Man had a contingency for that, and I decided to enact it.”

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