Saturday, July 22, 2023

Extremus: Year 49

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Tinaya Leithe is a tertiary school student, on the Captain’s track, which means that she is specializing in ship administration. As she is part of an elite group of preselected potential future captains, she has gained access to a number of sections and systems that the average Extremus passenger does not. As a brilliant technical specialist, she has granted herself access to even more, allowing her to see the truth regarding certain vessel secrets which only the highest of executive crewmembers know. It’s been a long time since she’s exercised such abilities, though, at the request of her aunt and former Captain, Kaiora Leithe. That is about to change. Even after all this time being indoctrinated into crew mentality, she and her classmates have not yet met the new captain. They are today, and she needs information on him.
The closest thing Tinaya has to a best friend, Lataran Keen is with her. “We shouldn’t be doing this.”
“We are not doing anything,” Tinaya contends. “You’re just watching.”
“That’s called an accessory,” Lataran argues.
“I’m not going to get caught. I know what I’m doing.”
“It’s sure taking you long enough.”
“That’s part of it. If I just pushed my way into the personnel files, they would be able to trace me. If I don’t want them to even know that I accessed these, I have to go the long way around.”
“What do you even want to know about the new captain?”
“I don’t know what we’re gonna find. I’m looking for skeletons, ticks, weird sexual proclivities.”
“That last one is not going to be in his file.”
“It’ll be in his medical file.”
“Naya, are you hoping to get him dismissed from his position?”
“No, not unless there’s something to be found.”
“Which there won’t be. There is nothing you can read in there that no one else knows about. Someone put it in there in the first place, and yet he was still selected as Captain. If you’re looking for dirt, you’re wasting your time.”
Tinaya exhales sharply, and stops what she’s doing for a second. “My aunt selected Trudie Haynes to succeed her as the leader of this ship. The council went against her. I wanna know why.”
“There’s a flaw in your plan.”
“How do you figure?” Tinaya questions.
“If you think that Tamm got the job for...untoward reasons, then you’ll be hacking into the wrong file. If it’s anything at all, it will probably have something to do with what he knows about someone else.”
She stops again. “You’re right.” She waits for a moment, then gets back to work, but shifts gears. “I need to retrieve everyone’s files. That will take me a little longer.”
“The meet-and-greet starts in thirty minutes. You have to be there, or you won’t become captain when the next shift comes up.”
“This stupid event is not a requirement.”
“No, but if you feel the council operates with bias, then they would probably not be above holding your absence from this one stupid thing against you.”
Tinaya stops yet again. “You’re right. You’re too logical for your own good.” She closes out all of the windows, and erases all evidence that she so much as attempted to break into any highly restricted files. “That’s why you’re number seven.”
Lataran shrugs. “Better than eight. Better than eleven.”
“Not as good as number one.”
“You’re not number one.”
Now Tinaya shrugs. “Li and I have been leapfrogging each other since we graduated from pre-cap. I’ll find a way to get ahead of him on the leaderboard.”
Lataran takes a deep breath. “This is good. You should probably shower and change anyway. I definitely need to.”
Tinaya pulls her collar away from her neck, and smells it. “I think it’s fine.”
Lataran stares at her.
But you’re the logic queen.”
“That’s right; the only position higher than Captain around here.”
Tinaya does as she was told when Lataran leaves to do the same for herself. One of the benefits of being seriously considered for the job of Captain is having one’s own cabin, which would usually not be assigned until a regular student begins their licensure at age nineteen. Not only that, but these are some of the nicest cabins on the ship, akin to what some of them will have once it’s time to join the executive crew. There are a total of eleven of them in their class. One or two may wash out in the next two years before college begins, but the likelier outcome is failing out of the college program early on, or not exactly failing out, but being removed from the council’s internal and secret list of serious candidates. It’s impossible to know for sure who is on that list, but it’s pretty easy to know if you’re off of it, based on some dark mark on your record.
It’s also possible to be on the short list without ever going through the program. Captain Soto Tamm, for instance, didn’t know anything about how to captain the ship, and he still made it because the captain’s track is guarantee of nothing. Still, it’s weird, and suspicious that they chose someone with no relevant education, and also against the previous captain’s wishes. That’s why Tinaya wants to find out what’s up with him. Why would they do this? What is so damn special about him? Maybe nothing. The few who have sat in that seat since the Extremus launched 48 years ago have been plagued by scandal and intrigue in a way that no one thought plausible. This journey was supposed to be a smooth and uncontroversial one, but it has turned into a mess. Maybe that’s why.
Lataran returns when it’s time to go to the little dumb party. She tilts her head. “That dress looks familiar.”
Tinaya smooths it out from her stomach, down her thighs as she’s looking at herself again in the mirror. “It was my grandmother’s.”
She frowns kindly. “That’s sweet.”
The two of them head down the corridors. Even with all of their exceptional privileges, they’re still not afforded teleportation rights. They may never, as the rules are pretty strict these days, and have been for a while. Theirs is not the only class scheduled to meet the new captain. Every student on the captain’s track from age fourteen to twenty has been invited, however almost none of them is here yet. In fact, a quick headcount shows maybe one from each of the other classes, yet everyone from Tinaya and Lataran’s year. What the hell is happening? “Hey, where is everyone?” she asks a boy whose name she can’t remember. He’s two years ahead of her. “They’re protesting.”
“Protesting what?”
“The captain,” he says as if it’s obvious.
“I didn’t know that we were doing that.”
“We are not. Besides the second years, everyone here is either at the top of their respective leaderboards, or they’re close, and don’t want to risk losing the chance to rise. Everyone else said screw it.”
“Why were we not informed?” Lataran asks him.
The boy looks at her, then eyes Tinaya. “Because of her. As you know, each class is ranked separately, but that’s only officially. Unofficially, she’s number one, and she always will be, unless she dies, or something. The lesser number ones are here, because we’re the only ones with any semblance of a chance of being picked for fourth shift.”
“It’ll be the fifth shift,” Tinaya reasons.
“Not everyone counts Olindse Belo.”
“I do. Maybe that’s why I’m number one on this unofficial list.”
“You’re number one, because you’re a legacy, and because there are rumors of people on board who know about the future.”
“You shouldn’t believe rumors. Everyone on this track should want it, and should be proving that every day, in every way,” Tinaya argues.
“Hey, man, you’re preaching to the choir. I’m here, ain’t I?”
“So really, they’re protesting her, and our whole class?” Lataran presses.
“Oh, no. It’s definitely about Soto Tamm. We didn’t so much as decide not to tell you all, as we didn’t think you would be interested. We’re not of the right ages.”
Tinaya frowns and regards the pathetic crowd. Captain Tamm has not arrived yet—probably hoping to make a grand entrance—so the few kids are milling about, nibbling on snacks, and sipping on drinks. “You’re not wrong. I have to be here. Honestly, one of us should be the next captain. If we’re protesting because they selected out of pool, all the protestors are doing is increasing the chances that the council will feel compelled to do the same thing again next time.”
“Exactly,” the boy agrees. “So it’s decided. No one here today gives up.”
There he is. It’s Captain Soto Tamm. He walks in with that political smile, immediately starting to shake people’s hands as he passes by them. Unlike someone who is greatly admired, the kids aren’t reaching out for him, though. He’s initiating all of the greetings. Tinaya doesn’t like him mostly because he wasn’t Aunt Kaiora’s pick, but that’s mostly a personal reason. Thinking on it now, she really can’t be against the choice to appoint an out-of-the-box candidate on principle. None of the prior candidates was perfect on paper, and they all got to where they ended up for the unusual decisions they had made. As a dumb kid, she has obviously not been involved in current ship management, but from the outside, he seems like a decent guy, and a fine captain. At least, he hasn’t given them any real reason to distrust him. Perhaps he will as time goes on. This is just his first year.
He continues to greet the kids, and talk with each one of them personally, expertly ignoring how few of them actually chose to show up. He conspicuously ignores Tinaya completely, though. That tells everyone everything they need to know about his thoughts and intentions. She will be the next captain, and he’s going to make sure of it.

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