Fluidity In Space: Chapter Three

The junior staff members were discussing the situation as I walked in. “But this hallway was completely empty. There’s no way everyone was locked up.” It looks like I got here just in time, as Ms. Rahman’s comment was exactly what I was expecting. I was glad that the situation didn’t get a chance to escalate among the junior staff, so I can set matters straight without resistance.

Mr. Jackson’s reply, however, was what I had feared most. “My brother said he was going to teach that splicer baby a lesson. I’m sure the captain locked everyone up. He’s always sticking up for that freak.” Today was a feminine day for me, but I wasn’t going to correct the pronoun usage. Besides, none of the junior staff had seen me yet today. However, I definitely had to do something before this got out of hand too. Luckily I got here before another brawl broke out. “There will be no talk like that, Junior Lieutenant Jackson. She’s part of this crew, and she deserves your respect. She earned her position just like everyone else here.”

Mr. Jackson’s pale skin seemed to immediately turn two shades of red. It’s clear that he had no idea that I had entered the room. “I’m sorry ma’am. We were just getting nervous since all of the senior staff are gone. It was a slip of the tongue due to anxiety. It won’t happen again.” It was clear that his words went deeper than mere anxiety, but now is not the time to press the matter. I had a situation to try to get under control, and although the lieutenant’s comment was a part of it, I had already made it clear that derogatory remarks would not be permissible.

I found myself thinking about Counselor Corben and wondering what could be done about the situation. It was sad that so much of the crew seemed to be against her, for something that she couldn’t help. I had at first thought that we were kindred spirits in that regard, and maybe we would have been centuries ago. However, the pure vitriol lobbed at her was something that I had only seen in the historical recordings. I had suffered verbal scorn, but a good portion of the crew was ready to bear physical harm against her and had fought their own peers in trying to do so. I just hoped that she had more supporters on this ship than detractors. I realized that I had lost myself in thought, and regained my composure.

I then addressed the entire junior staff on the senior staff wing. “Junior Lieutenant Rahman is correct that the senior staff is currently in the brig. And despite the language he used, Junior Lieutenant Jackson is correct as well. The senior staff members were engaged in a brawl when I arrived, and it did indeed stem from negativity towards Counselor Corben. I haven’t yet assessed the situation fully, but for now, I ask that you all be prepared to serve as senior officers until further notice. Because I’m asking you all to do so with no advance notice, if anyone can’t do so, I’ll make concessions, within reason. But, please understand the circumstances that led to this decision. It was done to protect the safety of this ship, and won’t remain permanent. You will all receive the benefits of the senior staff during this period and will be up for consideration for promotion once this is over, pending your performance. I thank you all during this tough time for your understanding and for your service.”

I was about to head up to the bridge, but I decided that it was best to make it clear to the entire crew that discrimination would not be tolerated. “It goes without saying, but I must make it clear. There will be absolutely no tolerance for discrimination of any kind. You are all here to ensure the safety of the rest of this ship, civilian and crew members alike. I expect that you all remember that in your actions, as well as your words.”

Mr. Jackson and Ms. Rahman both immediately replied “Yes captain”, followed by the rest of the junior staff. Satisfied that the situation here was under control, I gave the command to the lift to bring me up to the bridge. This was the most important part of my attempt to normalize the situation. I knew that the crew members that I had assigned to the bridge could handle running the ship, but the abruptness of the situation has complicated things. I had to make sure that the command deck was secure, and bring the bridge crew up to speed on the situation as well.

The elevator reached the front of the ship, and I stepped onto the command deck. The junior officers here were rigid and seemed nervous, and their senses seemed heightened. The most senior among them, Lieutenant Mario Rodriguez, spoke up as soon as I entered. “Captain on the bridge.” Everyone stood to attention but still looked anxious. I decided to get through with the official briefing first, and then I’d do my best to try to ease tensions a bit.

“At ease. You were all brought up here because there was a brawl on the senior staff wing, and all senior staff has been temporarily detained in the brig until the situation can be properly assessed. It has come to my attention that some of the crew feels strongly about Counselor Corden’s new position. As I said to the other members of the junior crew, discrimination will not be tolerated at all. You are now bridge crew and are the people that are looked up to the most to keep peace on this ship. I expect your decorum to meet those expected standards.”

I looked around, noticed that the crew still seemed troubled, and continued “That said, I know that your promotions were sudden. You will be expected to keep these positions for some time until the situation can be properly assessed and dealt with. Due to the fact that there was no advance notice, I will not be against anyone who has a reasonable objection towards working on their new post. However, know that your assistance at this time will be most appreciated, and you will receive all the benefits of the senior bridge crew during this period. You will also be first in line for promotions, pending your performance.”

I eased a bit, and continued, “I know this is a tough time for everyone.” I then waved my finger to turn off the data recorder. “Off the record, how is everyone doing?” Mr. Rodriguez, still in the rigid stance of an officer stated, “We’re fine, ma’am.” I smiled at him and continued. “Relax, Lieutenant. I know that my post as captain is new, and this situation is hard. But you don’t have to be so tense around me.” He visibly relaxed, and his dark brown eyes seemed to sparkle a bit. “Thanks, ma’am. I don’t speak for everyone, but I know that you’ll handle things well. I just hope that this situation won’t last long.” I gave him a half-smile, with a little involuntary nervousness apparent on my face as well. “I hope the same thing, Mr. Rodriguez”.

I knew that I had to head down to the brig, but, even though I wanted to find out the particulars of the situation, the thought of doing so emotionally drained me. I tried my best not to repeat my display of anxiety and addressed the bridge one final time before I headed to the bottom of the ship. “You all seem to be handling everything well up here. If there are no questions, I have to be heading to the detention cells.” I actually hoped that there would be some questions, to delay the inevitable. However, just as I had thought, the junior bridge crew were quite capable of running things in the stead of their senior brethren.

I waved my finger again to turn the data recorder back on and straightened myself up. “OK crew, I now leave the bridge in your capable hands. If there are any further problems, don’t hesitate to contact me.” At that point, I, somewhat reluctantly, entered the elevator. “Lift, to the detention cells.” I had to face the inevitable, as even though I wanted to see how Counselor Corben was doing, I knew that I had to face the senior staff first. I was now about to find out exactly what happened during that brawl. I was most curious as to why the bridge was left abandoned, as that is a situation that I couldn’t fathom occurring before this week.

Just as the lift was approaching the brig, my aural sensor went off. I held my finger to my temple to initiate the video link. It seems that my trip would be postponed after all, but not in the way I had hoped, as Tiffany Accado was on the line. “Captain. Your presence is needed at Caperstone’s Bakery. It’s an emergency. Another fight has broken out. Emily Caperstone is being attacked.” I responded immediately, “I’m at level one now. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don’t intervene. Keep safe until I arrive.”

“Cancel the lift to the brig.” I called down to security and ordered, “Security personnel to level 4, Main Street. There is a fight in progress at Caperstone’s Bakery. I then ordered the lift to proceed to level 4 as well. Two fights in one night. I really wish that my mother was here, so I could seek her advice. Although, I’m not sure how much help she could give me, as this is beyond even what she had to deal with.

It seems that the problem went beyond the crew. I just hoped that it didn’t seep too far into the population. I silently cursed the people who had instituted the segregation. Although they meant well, it just made the hatred part of the system. If history has taught us anything, systematic prejudice is a lot harder to fight.

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