Midshipman’s Log Part 93
September 11, 1252 CNS
I’ll skip the usual pleasantries. I’m unhappy, more than a little unhappy, and that’s enough; you’ll find out why very shortly. We were making for the XV2308B transit buoy when—surprise surprise—something showed up on the sensor suite difficult in appearance and producing—what they said—a regular monotonous series of what sounded like key-strokes. At the time I was again taking inventory in the seventh starboard storage module when Lieutenant Whatley sounded on the PA firstly that potential salvage had been located and secondly that he intended to alter course to retrieve this for what he termed an “unbelievable salvage bonus.” Space detritus—salvage bonus. Man must be out of his mind. I have this dark impression that Donnelly put him up to this, which was ultimately his decision, and I can’t imagine Matheson, who most assuredly would have been present, would have put up much in the way of protest. That thing, whatever it is, they placed it in the largely empty starboard storage module number 23. Things haven’t been the same since.
Call it the ecstasy of gold, or call it space madness if you want, but our happy little status quo isn’t what it used to be, is gone, and I can’t truly account for it. Everyone wants their piece of the pie, same regardless of work or station, but this is beyond the pale. When I was making my rounds, I actually caught O’Leary huddled up against the object’s container, whispering something—I couldn’t tell. I kept myself quiet, surreptitiously entered, staying to the shadows; now, I can’t be sure, but I think I heard her mumbling a bed-time tune. When I presented myself, she didn’t seem particularly ashamed, rose slowly from her ankles. I, pretending to be congenial, asked her where she’s been the last week, whether or not it had been hell back in engineering. She didn’t make any pretense of answer, but she just slowly walked to the exit and then down the hall. I haven’t seen her since.
I have to say, the urge to cast this thing out the nearest airlock was overwhelming. I can’t say why, but I had a loathsome impression of the thing, even within its obfuscating containment. Taticius, who’d been a little standoffish since the thing arrived, said it sounded like a xylophone. He didn’t mean that the electromagnetic signals as interpreted through the sensors had the impression of the instrument, but that it produced physical reverberations that seemed like a xylophone. I wanted to see for myself, but whatever was in was silent, even though the container wasn’t sound-proof. A little savagely, I gave the corner of the container a good kick. Heaven and earth the thing must have weighed as much as a truck. Lucky I didn’t split my toe in half. But I didn’t hear anything.
As I was leaving, Matheson passed me in the corridor, walking straight ahead as if nothing had happened, but I didn’t believe him. He wanted to take a look; just didn’t want to be caught doing it. I have no doubt he doubled-back after he imagined me far enough away pursuing my duties.
I began to realize that no-one was actually performing their duties—no-one aside from me. It was only me taking inventory, performing routine maintenance—you get the idea. I went looking for O’Leary to see if I could glean any more out of her bearing after our last encounter, but I couldn’t find her in the engine room. Perturbed, I went up to the bridge to see if I might catch her on the PA, but there was no-one there, and the navigational computer seemed completely out of sorts, repeatedly calling for confirmation from the boatswain as to the validity of the updated navigational course. I did what I could for her, not being a specialist. Machine deserves a bit of love too. I couldn’t find anyone, but I had a dark impression that I knew where they were. I didn’t want to find out, didn’t want to learn. I returned to my bunk and put the covers over my head pretending that the bogey man wouldn’t find me.