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Checkup, Part 2 – Astra Nullius

Checkup, Part 1 - Astra Nullius
Checkup, Part 3 - Astra Nullius


“This is a terrible idea,” said Jianyu.

Nyx pinched the bridge of her nose. It had seemed so simple when Sera had explained it back on Lotan: a new client and a new crew member at once, and not just any crew member, but a navigator to give Jianyu some extra help. She should have known by now that good things didn’t just fall into her lap. “The Coalition has approved Minervan navigators in the past,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is such a big deal.”

“Only on experimental ships, with full consent from the onboard crew, and even then only if the crew was carrying a full set of navigators already. They were never cleared for integration into a normal navigational team.”

They were on the bridge, Nyx in her chair, Jianyu standing in front of her. Even though the captain’s chair sat on a raised dais, she still had to tilt her head back to look up at him. If she stood, they’d be at eye level, but that wasn’t how a Coalition captain gave orders to her crew. Nyx had realized over their years together that Jianyu listened best when she stuck with the old rules, even when they were ridiculous. “I’m sure the rest of the crew will give their consent. We’ll discuss it, if that would make you feel better.”

“It’s not about how I feel,” said Jianyu. “It’s about whether I trust her to do the job safely. The failure rates of Minervan navigators in simulations were–”

“A fraction of a percent,” Nyx finished before he could. “I have access to the same data as you.”

“Unacceptable,” said Jianyu. “Maybe it doesn’t look like much to you, but a navigator has to plot thousands of routes with perfect accuracy. One mistake, one miscalculation, and they’re not just putting themselves at risk. The entire crew depends on them.”

“Took a look at those vats,” said Sera, coming up from behind without announcing herself. “The backup power kept the temperature in a mostly safe range.”

Mostly safe isn’t good enough,” Jianyu said, still addressing Nyx.

Sera didn’t bother to stand at attention in front of the captain’s chair to give her report. She just crossed over to the pilot’s station, pulled a screwdriver from one of her vest pockets, and started dismantling an important-looking panel.

Nyx said, “Sera, how safe would you say this ship is?”

Sera yanked on the panel until it popped off, exposing a tangle of wires. Nyx was too far away to see what she was working on, although she wasn’t sure she’d understand it better if she stood any closer. “What to you mean by that, captain?”

“How likely are we to die today?”

“Today? Not likely.” From somewhere else in her vest, she produced a pair of pliers. “The safest ship’s the one that’s not flying. Unless there’s a mistake with the docking hardware, and then it’ll tear through the hull of the ship and expose us to vacuum. I’d call that… fairly unlikely.”

“And when we’re in flight, how likely are we to die on any given day?”

Sera clipped something from the wire tangle, dropped it in her pocket, and began the process of putting the panel back on. “That varies, I guess. You have to consider the age of our engine parts, and whether any of them are overdue for maintenance, and of course there’s the whole life support system that needs to be kept in balance. Oxygen circulation and carbon dioxide scrubbing, water filtration, air pressure, temperature control, all of those have to be just right.” Her work done, she stood and turned to face the captain, standing not in Jianyu’s proper stance but a slouch with her hands in her pockets. “Plus the electrical grid, that’s an easy one to overload. Then there’s the artificial gravity. That’s a workhorse of a system, but if it goes wrong, we’ll all be chunky soup on the floor within minutes. And of course there’s external hazards if we’re going at sub-light speed. Debris strikes, force field failures, that kind of thing. And of course, ever ship has structural weak points, so those could fail if they’re overtaxed.”

“You’re laying it on a little thick,” Jianyu said.

“And that’s on a day when no one’s shooting at us,” Sera finished. “So like I said, it depends.”

“You’re a good navigator,” Nyx told Jianyu. “You do your job very well. But you have to learn to tolerate some risk.”

“With all due respect, captain, the entire guiding purpose of the Coalition navigational program is that no risk is tolerable.”

While Jianyu spoke, Sera rolling her eyes as far back in her head as they would go. Nyx’s jaw ached with the effort of keeping a straight face. She punched a key on the pad of her chair, calling Weyland’s personal com screen. His voice came over the speakers a few moments later: “Captain?”

“Weyland, I’d like you to send me Jianyu’s neural readouts,” said Nyx. “Include Coalition benchmarks for a navigation team operating at normal efficiency, and also benchmarks for a navigation team working above the threshold for burnout. Oh, and look up the Coalition regulations on when to remove a navigator from rotation.”

Jianyu’s face crumpled. Sera said, “You’ve made your point, captain.”

“And you’ve got other work to do,” Nyx told her. “Get on it.”

She waited until the door had hissed closed behind Sera to say, “I know how to run a risk assessment just as well as you do. Mirelle’s going to be working with us. I hope you can learn to live with that.”

Checkup, Part 1 - Astra Nullius
Checkup, Part 3 - Astra Nullius


  1. Whsper - Reply

    Please feel free to delete this comment:
    “Weyland, I’d like you to said me Jianyu’s neural readouts,” should be send, not said.

  2. Whsper - Reply

    Jianyu “We can only have a Minervan navigator if we have a full navigation crew”, never mind how far below that threshold they currently operate. No, no, far better to keep burning out his brain than add a fraction of a percent of risk…

    I think Nyx handled the situation well.

    • Phsyron - Reply

      Jianyu doesn’t care about the safety of the ship and crew, he’s suffering under addiction and now somebody else turns up and he has to share half his supply with them.

      • Whsper - Reply

        I honestly hadn’t thought of it in terms of addiction. I’m not sure that it is a fair characterization of his actions, but the idea does have merit.

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