Stars Without Number
Kejal's Diary Part One
Excerpts from the diary of Kejal Chattopadhay
She doesn’t look like much, that’s true, but she’ll fly. She’s not much to live in either – just an engine with a shed strapped to it – but it’s a very nice engine, so that’s something. I’ve had a chance to check out the spike drive, a mark-2 pretech reconstruction, built on the Verdandi homeworld if the runes are any indication, and we’re spaceborne already, so that’s nice. Spike drive not yet operational, just because of the safety jams though. Will write down the specs once I’ve had time to disable them, which should be a few days yet. We’re leaving Shamballa and all of her sisters, putting some void between us and their damn gravity. Always messing with things, gravity.
Oh yeah! New captain, too. Joshua Blake. Pilot on the old ship. Not sure whether to keep with Josh or with “Captain”. Latter feels odd. A new crewman too, Robert Cross, fresh off the Shamballa dirt. Guess he wanted to get out. Can understand it, not enough sky on Shamballa. He got the space-sickness in his bunk, so I gave him some bags. First time is always fun. Can’t say what sort of bloke he is, yet, the fun kind or the dangerous or both. He’s good at cards, so probably the fun kind, and he didn’t get upset when I won, so probably not dangerous. Bodes well. Nobody else on board, just the three of us.
The Captain Josh is in the seat, playing with the sensors. They’ll probably break before too long, so let’s enjoy. Won’t enjoy the ensuing spacewalk, half the infrastructure is outside. Josh tells me there’s lots of nickel in Shamballa’s asteroid belt.
36 hours to spike jump. Will be interesting to see how the bubble holds up. We got starmaps loaded in the nav computer, mostly unexplored areas. Nice woman, the previous owner, apparently knows Captain Naomi somehow. Her name’s Astrid… something.
Captain Blake Captain Josh has set his sights on Erzulie. Supposed to have cybertech or something like it, according to the Verdandi researchers. Be interesting to see if they’re right. Wouldn’t touch cybertech with a .42 hydrospanner, but could trade it for many .42 hydrospanners. Or food. Whichever becomes a pressing issue first.
(Note to self: Get a .42 hydrospanner.)
The remainder of the notes are mostly technical details about the ship’s engines, and a tally of wins and losses against Robert. There’s also a list of classic films to show him.
Arrived at Erzulie, near a main sequence star. Spike drive works like a charm. We put her in orbit to refuel and took the pod down to the planet. Seems fully qualified, very smooth landing. Cosy. Sat elbow to elbow with the Captain, never had that high honor before. Elbows too greasy, usually.
Erzulie has atmo and mag field, so no need for a vac suit. Wore my vac suit anyway. Can’t hurt. Air is safe to breathe, but the water’s got arsenic in it. Not safe for human consumption. Took my helmet off, bit clunky, can avoid the water without it. Scanners gave us a pretty good view of the planet from above, but it looks different dirtside. Big plants, but no trees or flowers. Feels like an overgrown garden. Biggest things look like artichokes. Probably don’t taste like it, though, and probably full of heavy metals, so won’t try them. Scanners detected some kind of energy signal on this particular clump of dirt, besides that the planet’s quiet as the grave. Guessed everyone was dead from the Scream, but apparently not. Must’ve just fried the tech.
We came down on a hill, looked around for a bit, took a hike down it. Drop pod’s secure, easy to reach, highly visible. Robert insisted on taking point, even
told Josh to put away kindly advised the Captain to leave his shotgun behind. Guess it wasn’t very clean or something.
(Note to self: Disassemble shotgun later.)
Robert seems capable enough, has his hand on his gun, doesn’t draw it. I brought Vamana, in case he’s needed. Robert didn’t object, could tell he’s a quality lazgun probably. Flatterer. Vamana appreciates it. The planet has interesting fauna: Giant chickens. Feathery yellow llamas. Also people. People who set sharp rock traps, I guess to catch the giant chickens. Robert spotted one early, before we had a chance to step in it – it was the first sign of
civilization a society people.
They seem to be llama herders. They live in huts. They also speak English, but very badly. Two women, two kids. Dressed in plants and feathers, not exactly the height of fashion. Kids weren’t dressed at all. Was going to say they were completely backwater, but one woman wears… something. A portable, seems pretty sophisticated. Don’t recognize the brand, or the make. She’s got it around her neck on some kind of collar, calls it “Harakka”. Calls herself Kara. Don’t think their planet has a Bhagavati history, I don’t recognize any of the names. Maybe they changed.
Joshua Captain Joshua attempted to make contact, by also speaking English very badly. He’s pretty good at it. Seemed to go well until he started mentioning planets. The woman tried consulting her portable, but it didn’t like that; all the attempts at accessing planetary data were shut down. Unauthorized. It eventually contacted an admin. Doesn’t bode well. The women said we should go see the village elder; they seemed nervous. The Captain didn’t object, so here we are. Nothing worse than spears in the hands of the locals, but a lot of spears. Buff, half-naked blokes hefting them. Can’t tell what they’re thinking.
Sticking behind Robert for the moment.
Hare krishna, hare krishna, hare hare, hare Rama.