Into the Silence — Chapter 31

The salvaged parts that Em and Guhle had found were of such an eclectic variety that I don’t know if I could list them all out for you. There were certainly devices and components that were beyond my knowledge as far as their purpose is concerned. There were a few replacement coils, valves, compressor units, and cords of varying size and length that I recognized from my time aboard Bessie — if not in actual design, then at least in similar make and purpose — but the bulk of what I found myself carting back to the ship was so much scrap metal, as far as I could tell.

Em and I didn’t talk about anything of consequence after her initial comments. She did make an effort to show me that she wasn’t mad. Teasing me about my inexperience. Pointedly requesting my help when lifting some heavier items. Stuff like that. I guess mentioning my insecurities made her hyper-aware of how she treated me. I appreciated the gesture, but it was kind of awkward and I felt self-conscious whenever she did it while Guhle was around. As if I was worried about what he’d think.

At any rate, once we had finished loading the gear up, I started ferrying the materials back to the ship, while Guhle and Em stayed behind to continue helping Gator with his calibrations on the engine network.

Mearr and Sys had apparently had better luck on their end. They had even managed to find a medical center filled with supplies, which Cap was now checking out to determine what we did and did not need — or, more likely, what we could and could not carry.

No word at that point on how the Farseers were faring, though I doubted if they’d keep us appraised even if they had run into trouble or found something of interest.

My thoughts turned to the Vigilant Sentinel T’Vosh as I carted the equipment across The Gap, as I had come to calling it. It was more to keep my attention away from the endless void than because I actually had anything to think about him. But as my mind zeroed in on him, I realized that he was, in all likelihood, now alone in one of those corner rooms up on the bridge. If there was any sensitive data on board this ship — or a captain’s record of what had happened here — then he would likely have complete access to it.

What if he had been purposefully obscuring sensitive files while the captain was with him? He probably could’ve done it without even trying. I’d seen the way Gator hooked into computer systems. No doubt the Imperium’s armor was even better. And that wasn’t taking into account the kind of efficient integration they could design into the relationship between their own suits and their battlecruisers.

I felt a sudden urge to warn somebody. Gator? That would make the most sense. He was right there. But what were the chances that I could get him to come out of his network troubleshooting to listen to my paranoid conspiracy theories?

Not good, I reasoned. But I’d never know until I tried.

I opened up a direct comm line to Gator as I reached the other side of The Gap.

At first, I got the wall of silence that accompanied a dead receiver, but then it crackled to life and I heard Gator’s pseudo-mechanical voice on the other end.

“What is it, hatchling? Make it fast. Are you in trouble?”

I realized then that I hadn’t actually expected him to answer. I suddenly found myself at a loss for words.

“Uh, no,” I said stupidly.

“Then what do you need? I’m very busy, so if this is not urgent, save it.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. I heard the line go dead again.

Stupid, I told myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid. That’s what I was. I had blown my chance.

I tried again.

“What?” said Gator. If there had been any patience in his voice before, it was completely gone now. His voice was dry and crisp, cutting through any fluff I might have led with to force me to deliver an immediately relevant report or else to not speak at all.

“T’Vosh,” I said, trying desperately to keep my words short and blunt. “I think he’s hiding something.”

“And?”

“I think he’s going to access hidden data while the captain is down in the medical bay.”

“Why?”

“So he can keep the truth from us-”

“No,” said Gator, cutting me off. “Why do you think this? What evidence do you have?’

“I…”

I didn’t know. I didn’t really have anything. Just hunches. Assumptions. Suspicions. Nothing concrete.

It left me feeling hollow and flimsy.

“I’m sorry, Gator. It was just a hunch.”

“A waste of my time, more like,” said Gator, and I could already hear his attention being directed elsewhere. “Next time you come to me with an accusation — of any kind — bring some evidence.”

The line went dead. I was left with my cart of supplies, pushing it toward the ship, feeling basically useless.

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