Tcho is just starting to scrape some thoughts together when a startling splash of water hits him in the face. It is followed by the light tap of fingers. Tcho feels the water drip sideways across his cheek and realizes he is lying on his side on the floor. He opens his golden eyes and finds that he has flowers and knickknacks for company there, the former contents of an overturned bookcase. Tcho shifts away from the hand lightly slapping him, moving his arm to block it.
“There now, lad, are you all right?” The person crouched in front of Tcho in this shambles of an office is an older male human in a brilliant white uniform. He is wearing it in a relaxed state, front buttons undone, tie loosely draped around his neck. The water on Tcho’s face likely comes from the remains of a vase beside the man, not the whiskey glass he is currently holding. Clearly pouring himself that drink took precedence over rousing Tcho.
Am I all right? Good question. Tcho pushes himself up to a seated position and finds that what he is leaning on now is a doorframe. His head throbs with the movement, and it takes a moment for the deck to level out. What was just happening? “Are you all right?” he asks, hoping this will elicit some useful information on recent events.
“I think so. It’s been quite a day, though. It started poorly and, you know, it actually got worse! Didn’t think that could happen. But you, you took a nasty hit there. Are you going to be okay? How many fingers am I holding up?”
Tcho’s vision is a little off, but not so much that he cannot count small appendages being waved in his face. “Could I get some water?” he asks, hoping the human will not just fling more at him. That should give him some space to collect himself.
“Capital idea,” the man acknowledges, heading over to a wet bar.
Headache. Right, that makes sense. Tcho remembers connecting with the doorframe, hard. He uses it now to slowly slide himself up to standing. His equilibrium takes a moment to agree with the new perspective. By then, the man in uniform has returned with a seltzer and lime. Tcho takes a sip and looks around the room again. I didn’t come here on my own. “Where’s… where’s my friend?” he asks, still trying to play this cool.
“Oh, she’s chasing after my ensign right now,” the human replies with an inconvenienced sigh.
Memories start assembling themselves into something that makes sense, and Tcho swiftly turns to look out of the office. He wobbles, unbalanced, and unthinkingly flings out his right arm toward the opposite jamb to catch himself. A flash of pain jolts through the limb and his chest. Oh, yeah, blaster. That happened, too.
“Whoa, there!” Captain Rowan—as that is who this is, Tcho now remembers—calls. He reaches out a hand to steady Tcho. “You took a nasty hit from that ensign. She gave you a good wallop.” Rowan backs up and takes a sip of his own drink. “I already called for security, but no one was answering. We might have to venture out.”
Tcho was here helping Kerr-Lonn-Ny alert the captain to the danger of the mutiny. He would have thought that threat should seem pretty clear to the man now, given the state of his office. “Ah…. We came here because we didn’t think you were in control of the ship anymore,” Tcho points out.
Rowan’s punctilious reply is automatic until the Pantoran’s words sink in. “I am most definitely in charge of this ship—Wait, what do you mean you didn’t think I was in control of the ship?”
“There was… um…” Tcho tries to scrape together a response that does not implicate him for sneaking around below decks. “My friend heard that ensign talking with one of her co-conspirators about trying to take over. And then we heard other crew members later—earlier this evening. That was after there was an announcement about… about a Maelstrom? Yes, there was an announcement about that, and then we heard some… hyperdrive thing. You didn’t order a change of course for the ship, did you?”
This is all news to Rowan. “No, I did not! And I heard no such announcement…” His voice trails off as an unsettling idea occurs to him. Rowan strides across his office back to his vintage comm unit. He picks it up again, this time just listening rather than calling into it. There is no background noise at all. “Ugh! It’s broken.”
“Probably deliberately so, sir,” Tcho suggests carefully. While the captain looks over the comm unit, Tcho digs around in his satchel for a stim shot.
“Yes, I think that is likely. All right, we’re going to have to find another comm. Unless… Are you a mechanic, at least second grade, by any chance?”
“No, sir, I am not,” Tcho replies, pulling aside the collar of his shirt so that he can administer the stim precisely. The medicine floods the burnt tissue, taking the edge off the blaster wound.
“You said there were other mutineers? Can you give me their description? I don’t know everyone on the crew, of course.”
No, no you don’t, Tcho thinks, given that he started this cruise as a fake employee himself. “I didn’t see any personally, sir, but I know there was an FX droid.” At Rowan’s blank look, Tcho clarifies, “A medical droid.”
“Right, but crew members,” Rowan says, clarifying his meaning. The Pantoran shakes his head helplessly, and Rowan continues, thinking aloud, “Although, if they have taken over some of our droids, that is also troublesome… All right, well, we don’t know who we can trust then, but we’re going to have to get to another comm unit in order to call for help.” More positively, he adds, “There are a few people that I think I can trust.”
“I hope Adalat wasn’t on that list,” Tcho mutters.
“Honestly, Adalat wasn’t on any list other than a performance improvement plan,” Rowan confides.
It is good that the captain is feeling comfortable enough to share such things with Tcho, since JT wants his help reforming the moff. Cashing in on positive rapport will have to wait, though. This is not the time to start handing out invitations to JT’s gala. JT… JT… There was something else urgent. Right! The hyperdrive. “Sir, there are hyperdrive-related issues. We’re…” This is not Tcho’s area of expertise, and trying to piece together what he overheard into something actionable makes him feel very much out of his depth. “The mutineers had done something with the route. They had changed it. They were taking the ship towards this Maelstrom thing…”
“This Maelstrom sounds like bad news,” Rowan acknowledges, taking another sip of whiskey. He does not seem to know anything specific about it, though. “We’ll have to call down to engineering as well, then. Although if the mutineers control the hyperdrive…”
“Sir, where can routes be set from? The operational deck only? Or the main bridge, too?” Tcho is not sure whether the bridge up here that the tours go through is actually fully functional, but it would certainly be preferable to head there. He is pretty sure the operational deck is already in enemy hands.
“Well, yes, you can control the hyperdrive either from the grand bridge or that other one down below deck, the more rough-and-tumble operational bridge.”
Rowan’s preference is clear from his descriptions, and his favorite bridge is not far from his quarters. Tours do not come through at this late hour, but galactic regulations require the bridge be occupied at all times; right now only a skeleton crew will be in place. Rowan has the necessary codes for gaining entry, so although some stealth is in order, they do not need to proceed as though it were a burglary. Still, Tcho wants to be cautious. “Is there anywhere that we can go that we can look into the… the public bridge, without entering it ourselves?” he asks, stumbling over his words as he balances the competing pressures of needing to not seem like a criminal himself, being actually useful in this situation, and nursing a concussion. “Are there one-way windows for the tours? We need you to confirm that the people staffing the bridge are the ones who are supposed to be there, preferably before they see us.”
“No, no, it’s just regular transparisteel,” Rowan says. “The crew need to be able to wave at the visitors.”
The effort of navigating this conversation is beginning to wear on Tcho, and his next set of questions is phrased without his usual finesse. “Does this bridge actually control everything? The people on it, are they competent? Do they actually know how to do the jobs of the stations they sit at? Or is this where you place untalented crew so that they can just look pretty?”
Rowan started his career as ship’s steward and has worked his way up through the customer service ranks to the exalted position he now occupies. Interaction between the ship’s crew and its visitors is an extremely important part of the cruise experience. The whole point of a cruise is to show the passengers a good time. “Let me assure you, the crew of the grand bridge are fully certified, the highest-ranking officers with the most experience in their respective areas. I’ve seen all their qualifications; their resumés definitely fit the bill,” he says confidently. “Now, of course, they haven’t had to be under this kind of stress before. Normally the most stress is, you know, a crying child.”
“On the bridge?”
“Well, we do tours, of course. Trust me, you do not want a crying child on your bridge. Ruins the whole cruise for that family. And for the bridge crew. But don’t worry; they’ve handled that with excellent aplomb.”
It sounds like, on paper at least, the crew staffing the nearby bridge know how to operate the ship. “And do you know who is supposed to be on-shift right now?” Tcho asks. “Will you recognize if the wrong people are there?”
“Ah, yes. The officer of the watch should be Third Mate Soh’Soh, I believe. Yes, she should be on now. Let’s head over there. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“It’s probably safer for you not to be alone,” Tcho points out. The captain needs support, regardless of the condition it is in.
“Well, yes, I agree. The thing is, I don’t know who I can trust among my crew right now. I think I trust Third Mate Soh’Soh. She did a good job with that crying baby, after all…” Rowan boldly strides forth from his quarters into the museum-like atrium. It is as much of a wreck as the office. He shakes his head in dismay, but priorities do not allow him to do anything about the mess right now. “Going to have to replace those…. Take a note: recast the bust,” he announces, passing the shattered remains of a sculpture.