The headquarters of the station management hadn’t been what Nyx had expected. There were a few groups of desks scattered around a mostly empty room, sized for a variety of species. In one corner, a 3d printer had been stopped halfway through extruding an office chair for Eridani proportions. On the bare metal floor, there was a complex pattern of taped rectangles around the desks. Maybe they were using it to show where walls were supposed to go, or maybe they were just delineating departments.
Nyx hadn’t spent much time in the offices of private companies. You figured out who someone was in the Coalition by what they wore, not where they sat. You could spot a crew member’s department from the color of their shirt, or the paint on their thorax if she was a Centaurian. A quick glance at either their shoulder or translator box, also depending on species, could tell you their rank. She wasn’t used to the politics of desk placement and office arrangement.
For that matter, she wasn’t sure if the manager she was following had any actual authority here. There were about ten other people in the office, huddled in a tense knot, but they barely glanced at her as she passed by. The group seemed evenly split between uniformed security officers and smartly dressed people who she assumed were part of management. She followed the Eridani to an enclosed office space in the far back. No one moved to stop them, but no one seemed particularly eager to ask for direction either.
Xrrt paused at the door, still deep in conversation with the two other Centaurians. The one with the missing arm didn’t seem to be letting her injury slow her down much.
“I’m Nyx Dysart, by the way,” she said, when they were more or less alone. “My ship’s the Benevolence.”
“Deua Paac,” said the Eridani. “I’d say I’m pleased to meet you, but we’d both know that’s a lie.”
Nyx looked on as she typed a series of words into a console. None of them worked. “Damn,” said Deua. “I thought I knew his pass phrase.”
Nyx looked at the monitor, which was displaying the same Security Lockdown message as every other screen on the station. Deua bit her green knuckles, thought for a moment, and tried another string of characters. The message didn’t change. Nyx put her hand behind the monitor, feeling the edges carefully, and stopped when her fingertips hit a sheet of paper. She pulled it out and read the message on it carefully. “Try haylanSUxx1234,” she said. “Uppercase on the S and U.”
The screen finally flashed out of its lockdown message. Deua punched the air. “How’d you know?”
Nyx showed her the paper. She shrugged. “Haylan’s his boss’s name. And yeah, I guess he does suck, because if he’d budgeted for a real security system instead of this joke we wouldn’t be in this mess. Okay, I’m pulling up the lockdown settings now.”
“It’s that easy?” Nyx asked.
“Yeah. Awful system.” Deua had already pulled up a settings menu. “Heads are going to roll at corporate when they see this mess.”
“I think your corporate office is going to have bigger things to worry about,” Nyx told her. “Like who’s going to claim ownership of this planet when there’s a war on.”
Deua looked away and said very softly, “Yeah, I guess so.”
Nyx realized that she looked awfully young for an adult Eridani. It was hard to guess her exact age; Eridani skin didn’t wrinkle at the same rate as human skin, and it was hard to break out of the human habit of thinking of everyone taller than you as older. “Would it make you feel better to send a broadcast to the station? Something to calm people down?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say.” Deua crossed her arms, webbed fingers clenching as she dug them into the fabric of her suit. The thin membrane over her eyes was flickering again. “Hey, if you’re really part of the Coalition, you can do it. There’s a microphone built into the console”
Nyx wasn’t sure she knew what to say either, but she sat down at the desk and did her best. She talked for a while, watching Deua as she did, waiting for her to compose herself so they could start making plans to head for the Benevolence. Some of the other officer workers stepped into the office, and Deua explained the plan to them while Nyx kept speaking.
“Captain Dysart, can you hear me?” Sera’s voice was a welcome interruption, even though she sounded tense.
Nyx paused, then said to the assembled group, “It’s my pilot,” even as they tried to dictate how to respond. Eventually Nyx figured out how to switch over to a private channel, where Sera told her about Jianyu.
“I’ve got to get back to my crew,” Nyx told Deua, even as some other more senior-looking manager tried to talk over her. He was also Eridani, with dark green skin and a suit that looked more expensive and more conservatively shapeless than Deua’s. “Unlock the ships.”
“We can’t do it,” the manager said. “Everyone would try to leave at once, or try to attack the station. It would be chaos.”
“You haven’t been out there,” Deua snapped. “It’s already chaos.”
Xrrt and the Centaurians were talking too. Nyx wasn’t quite sure whether they were arguing or emphatically agreeing, but they were doing it very loudly. She couldn’t hear Xrrt’s translator over the sound of everyone trying to weigh in on the situation at once.
No one seemed to be close to a consensus. Nyx motioned Deua over. “Can I override the lockdown now?”
“Yeah.” Deua showed her the setting, holding her finger over the button without quite touching it. “Just press that whenever you’re ready.”
Nyx leaned into the microphone and said, loudly and deliberately enough to cut through the clamor, “Okay, I’m going to override the lockdown and allow all ships to depart from the docks. But I need to bring a few people with me.”
The fussy manager tried to object, but Deua stepped forward to head him off as Nyx pressed the button.