Saturday, April 16, 2022

Extremus: Year 40

All the truths came out after the debacle at Taila March’s broadcast. The passengers knew a little bit about the True Extremists, but there was so much more that Halan, Olindse, and Kaiora chose to keep from the majority. After Nuka Bloch completed their maximum term limit, a new first chair took over, but he didn’t survive the issues that the fake Rita Suárez caused. The December election saw him lose his seat to a man named Jepson Sandor, who quickly pivoted his campaign to a sentiment of governmental transparency. He vowed to combat the opacity that his predecessors supposedly laid between them and the people, as well as the secrecy of the crew. He shot up in popularity overnight, and won by a landslide. Unlike other politicians, he wasn’t talking out his ass either. He began to make real changes to the way the civilian government was run, and then he went after the other side.
For the most part, civilians have no control over the inner workings of running the ship itself, however there are exceptions to this division of power, and it has to do with preventing any one power from overtaking the other. A system of checks and balances would allow a captain to take emergency action if they should find the government becoming unfair or tyrannical. Likewise, the government can do the same, and through a convoluted system of loopholes, First Chair Sandor was able to create an entirely new bridged position. Similar to how the Hock Watcher serves equally both governing bodies, the Ship Superintendent has been given the latitude to make decisions that affect the staffing conditions throughout the whole vessel. He can fire, hire, replace, reassign, or even do away with a position altogether. Again, like the Hock Watcher, the way he was elected-slash-appointed was complicated and drawn out, but once the process began, it could not be stopped. Someone had to get this job, and as much as Kaiora fought it, it was going to happen, so their best bet was to find someone who everyone could trust.
Be not confused about the rank of Ship Superintendent. We are not talking about The Superintendent, who lives in another universe, apparently created all of these individuals as characters, and literally wrote the words you’re reading right now. Hey there. Superintendent Calixte Salmon is just a man who was born on Extremus shortly after it launched, and has always wanted to do something like this. Be not confused about this either. It’s a coincidence that he shares his surname with a subspecies of human who travel through time against their will. Or maybe it’s not so much of a coincidence. There was no one named Salmon when a fairly small group of humans first settled in the universe of Ansutah. Everyone here is descended from them, and the reason there aren’t only a couple hundred names is because over time, people began to choose their own to distance themselves from the original family tree. It made it easier to avoid worrying about committing incest after several generations passed, and it probably wasn’t a problem anymore anyway. It’s possible that someone chose the name on purpose at some point. Such historical records were hard to maintain while the ancestors were trying to hide from the white monsters in caves.
Calixte Salmon has not been given carte blanche to make any changes to the crew that he wants, but neither does he have to get approval for every little thing he does. It is in this gray area where doubt regarding his mandate lives. It’s going to take work for him to convince others that it’s not his job to drain the swamp, or alter the balance of power. He’s not there to change everything, but there is a lot of room for improvement, and finding ways to optimize is exactly what he was appointed to do. The Captain—and the captaincy—are fine, but the rest of the crew needs an overhaul. This is gonna hurt. It’s his first day on the job, and if the looks he’s getting from the crowd as he’s trying to explain his purpose are any indication, he will be met with much resistance. He needs help. It’s unclear whether Captain Leithe is approaching the podium in order to provide him that, or if she’s going to throw him under the bus.
She lowers the microphone, and clears her throat with purpose. “I understand that you’re all upset and concerned. I can’t guarantee that this is going to be easy, but we have been discussing this new dynamic for months. I have not been left out of the loop. If this weren’t the only way to overcome our obstacles, I wouldn’t let it happen. This is the first step towards solving the True Extremist crisis, figuring out whether the faux Rita was part of them, or some other faction, and if it’s the latter, solving that one too. I won’t lie to you. Some people may see their shifts cut short. But what I can promise is that each one of you will enjoy the compensation you always expected at the end of those shifts, whether they ultimately last as long as you expected, or not.” She held up her index finger to add, “with a caveat. He is here to help us, and you are here to help him do that. If any of you resist these changes—to an unreasonable degree at least—you run the risk of not only precipitating the deterioration of our society, but also of losing all of your benefits. I’ll throw you in hock if I have to. If anyone is going to revolt, I will be the one to lead, so as long as I’m okay with the state of things, you automatically know that you’re okay with it too. Pretty easy, knowing that you can relax, and accept reality, isn’t it? So check your attitudes, and follow my orders, as well as the Super’s. Understood?”
The crew lifts their knees and drops their feet back down in a stomp pretty simultaneously, though not perfectly. It’s a formal gesture of respect and attention.
“We’ll work on that, so you don’t embarrass me at our next presentation,” Kaiora says. She steps away from the mic, and nods at her new colleague. “Super.”
“Captain,” he replies. “Thank you.”
She solemnly motions for him to return to the podium.
“Thank you, Captain Leithe,” he repeats for all to hear. “I do understand that you’re all nervous about the upcoming changes, especially since you don’t know what they’re going to be. I want you to know that I haven’t decided anything yet. I’ve not had enough time to conduct a thorough assessment. Still, I may be able to answer some of your questions, so I would like to open up the floor to those. Please raise your hand, and stand once picked by the microdrone, which I control. For all not picked that time, please lower your hands and wait to put them back up until I’m finished providing my answer. Sound fair?”
Dozens of people raise their hands, most of them quite earnestly.
Meanwhile, downstage, Second Lieutenant Lars Callaghan is talking out the side of his mouth to his superior officers. “I know it’s gonna be me.”
“What will be you?” First Lieutenant Corinna Seelen questions.
“I’m gonna get the boot,” he answers.
Kaiora sighs rather loudly. She taps on her watch, and activates a sonic barrier, so they can talk freely without anyone else hearing them. “What are you going on about?”
“It’s the Second Lieutenant curse,” Lars tries to explain. “We always get screwed over.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Corinna presses. “You’re only the second L-T-two this ship has ever seen.”
“Yeah, and look at what happened to the last guy. He’s in hock. I’m next, it’s a pattern.”
“That’s not a pattern,” Kaiora argues. “It’s not even a coincidence yet, because Calixte hasn’t even mentioned you to me. It’s just something that happened, and what happened is not that Ovan Teleres was screwed over. He attacked the crew, so the rank isn’t cursed unless maybe you decide to do something similar. Are you planning something, Callaghan?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then shut the hell up and listen to the Q and A!” She makes a point of showing him her watch as she deactivates the barrier.
They listen quietly for a little bit. Lars nods at the good question about whether Superintendent Salmon is planning on merging crew and passenger responsibilities, or if there would remain a clear distinction. “I just think back to how there was never really supposed to be another lieutenant in the first place, and how Captain Yenant only instituted it in order to try to take Ovan out of power in the first place.”
“You can’t prove that,” Kaiora says legally. “And shh!”
Lars continues to try to take his mind off the future of his rank, but he can’t stand it. After a few minutes, he has to get back to it, “some of the things he says he’s gonna do are things that I’m supposed to be doing.”
Kaiora sighs again, and reactivates the sonic barrier. She also includes a visual time loop, which makes it look to people on the other side like the three of them are still sitting in their respective chairs, and not arguing with each other. She stands up to cover the gap between them, hovering her chest in front of Corinna’s face. “Lars, you are a member of the executive crew. As such, I get last say on what happens to you and your rank. He cannot override any decision of mine when it comes to that.”
“I didn’t know that. Good.”
“No. It’s not good,” she maintains. “Because he doesn’t know you, and probably wouldn’t think to do much with you. But I know you, and I’m pissed at you. You’re annoying, and sometimes you don’t do your job. So I’m thinking about dropping you anyway, just to make this whole process easier. I could probably blame it on him. If you don’t want that to happen, I suggest you keep your mouth shut, keep your head down, and take stock of what value you add to this mission.” She moves her hand through the air to illustrate a vertical spectrum. “Here’s neutral zero, otherwise known as mediocrity. Way up here is going above and beyond people’s expectations of you, especially mine. Down here is dead weight, we gotta throw you out an airlock. At the moment, you’re right here.” She adjusts her hand to slightly above the lowest point on the scale. “I think you know what to do to climb back up, mostly because I’ve told you.”
“Shut up, will do. Right, sir, thank you. Sorry.”
Kaiora sighs one last time, and sits back down. “It’s going to be a little jarring when I take us out of the loop. Time is going to jerk your body to where the audience thinks we were, so they don’t notice we’ve moved.” She raises her arm to look at her watch, but it’s not on the menu that she expected it to be. It looks as though the barrier and loop weren’t put up at all. She slowly lifts her eyes, and looks forward. Calixte has turned, and is leaning against the podium, staring at them. The audience is quiet. “Shit.”
Calixte pushes off, and walks towards them. “I can undo this.”
“Undo what?” Kaiora asks.
“This little interaction,” he clarifies. “I can send all four of our consciousnesses back in time a few moments, so no one else remembers that it happened.”
“That’s an illegal form of temporal manipulation.”
“Not for me.” He shows them his blue retractactable keychain. “They gave me this so I can try out different ways of dismissing a crewmember, in case the first time doesn’t go so great.”
“Then you would just be using it illegally.”
He shrugs. “No one has to know.”
She crosses her arms, and studies his face, hoping to ascertain if he can be trusted, or if this will come back to bite her in the ass. “Fine. Do it.”

No comments :

Post a Comment