Kira's Journey

An original Unreal Fanfiction
Inspired by Mike "Hellscrag" Wilberforce's "The Krans' Fall" Trilogy

Chapter One:

0715hrs, Ship Time. Kira awoke with a start, thinking that she had overslept. She rolled over in her bunk and reached for her PersonalCommunicator on the sidetable. A quick check revealed that she had in fact, under slept and would not received her automated wakeup call for another 15 minutes. Kira muttered something colourful, and buried her head under the covers. She knew it was futile; there was no chance of getting back to sleep at this point. In a rare moment of self-organisation, assisted by her foggy not-asleep-not-awake state, she eventually decided to use the time to do a bit of a mental checklist of her career up to this point.

"That should take care of 5 minutes, anyway," She thought.
"Ok, here goes...
Name: Kira Anna Argmanov.
Date and place of Birth: 29th July, 2309, Vladivostok, East Asian Confederation.
Rank: Sub Lieutenant.
Assignment: 2nd Science Officer on the spacecraft ISV-KRAN."

Kira paused for a moment. "…this pretty well sums up my life to this point - dry facts and not much else."

She sat up, and shook herself out of her reverie. "If you've finished feeling sorry for yourself, you do have a job to go to," she mumbled. At that, she swung herself out of her bunk, and proceeded to change into her uniform. Kira grabbed her PersoCom, and proceeded out towards the main hallway. The science lab was only down the corridor from her quarters, so it was a short walk to her post.

"Hi Kira", said a crewman, as they passed.

"Oh, hi, Pelli", replied Kira, "You just finishing or starting?"

"Finishing" said Pelli, in a way-too-cheerful voice.

"Fancy a swap?" said Kira, not-too-hopefully.

"Nope" came the reply, "The comforts of the observation lounge await."

"Can't beat that." said Kira, with a smile. "I'll catch you later."

The crew of the Kran was the most easy-going group of people that that Kira had ever worked with, and seemed to make that extra effort to get on with each other. The Internal Security Detail was the most under-used portion of the ship's crew, and Kira didn't even know where the brig was located.

"Which is probably why I'm here," thought Kira. "She might be nearly 20 years old, but given a choice between a good crew and a good ship, I'll take a good crew, any day."

Kira walked through the door at the end of the corridor, and into the Science/Engineering section. This small area was what gave this ship its full name, the Inuit Science Vessel Kran. "It should still be supply vessel, by rights," thought Kira, which was true. The greater majority of the ship was still taken up in cargo space. By installing a science lab a few years ago, and reclassifying the ship as a science vessel, Inuit received some unspecified tax concession from the New Earth Government. Kira thought it was a bit morally ambiguous, but legally, it was completely above board.

She put those thoughts aside, as she walked into the science lab, and perused the handover logs. While the logs had all the information Kira required, it would have been nice to have done the handover in person. This looked like a typical day; metallurgical analysis for stress on various engine parts, a few gas cloud samples to study, all fairly routine stuff.

One entry looked interesting: 'Accelerated corrosion on external panels associated with the ramscoop'. Kira mentally moved that one up the priority list, and looked to see who was in charge of engineering for this shift. "Oh good, Joe Karpov. He knows what he's doing." Kira punched in his SelectCall ID into her PersoCom, and got a reply within seconds.

"Karpov." The voice was official sounding, but not unfriendly.

"Kira Argmanov in the science lab. I've just come on duty, what can you tell me about the corrosion in the ramscoop?"

All pretence of officialdom was immediately dropped. "Oh hi, Kira. We've sent out an initial inspection team, and it seems to be some sort of simple life form."

"Really? Have we got a specimen?" Kira smiled to herself. This day mightn't be too boring after all.

"Just hold your scientific horses for a while." Kira could detect the amusement in Joes' voice. "From what we can make out, these things have an extremely acidic nature - that's what's caused the corrosion - and we are working on a way of cleaning them out, as well as capturing a couple to keep you eggheads occupied."

"Ha!" said Kira, responding to Joes' thrust with a parry of her own. "What would you engineers do if us eggheads didn't keep you occupied?"

"Our life would be peaceful, but probably boring beyond belief," conceded Joe. "I'd say we'll probably have a specimen for you by about 1100 or so."

"Sounds good" said Kira, "I'll see you then", as Joe disconnected.

The morning seemed to drag on forever. The metallurgical and gas cloud analysis were completed, and Kira sent the results to the appropriate parties. She also did a spectral analysis on some nearby stars, but apart from a smallish Terran class planet on a nearby system, she found nothing of interest.

"This is a dead part of the galaxy; for sure," mused Kira "There can't be another Terran ship for light years."

The reason for the Krans' isolation was that it - and another prison ship following it in a few months time - was bound for a newly opened prison on a remote moon. The Kran was carrying armaments and general supplies for the United Military Services' garrison at the prison itself. The route the Kran was currently following would eventually become the supply line to and from the prison, but at the moment, it was still largely unexplored. Initially, the crew had been rather excited with the prospect of being explorers, but this had eventually faded, when the fact had sunk in that there really was nothing out here. This was a part of space which Kira - and most of the crew, she suspected - had never been through before.

Kira looked at her scanners again. Their current heading was going to take them close enough to that Terran class planet. Maybe - with a bit of persuasion - Captain Leatham may let them take a shuttle, and do a bit of surveying. You never knew what you could find out here...

Kiras' thoughts were interrupted by the 'incoming call' tone coming from her PersoCom. She acknowledged it.

"Kira, Joe here. I'm just coming up the turbolift with those critters of yours. I need you to prep you Specimen Holding Fields for when I get there."

"Done. Have any trouble getting them?"

"None, thank God. But it's just as well that we took things cautiously. The pH levels of these things are off the scale. One slip-up and they'll be holding a memorial service in your honour. I'll see you in a minute."

Kira checked that the containment fields were stable, and waited for Joe. He walked in a few minutes later. "Here you go, one new exotic alien species for you to study." he said, with a flourish. "The things we do to keep you gainfully employed."

Kira rolled her eyes, as Joe transferred the life forms from his mobile containment field to the lab ones. She took the opportunity to have a close look at the ships latest addition. With their extremely simple appearance, "Amoeba" was probably the best word to describe them. They were a silver colour that reflected the green glow of the lab's containment field. "Like living blobs of Mercury." she thought. What also surprised Kira was that they reacted to her presence, and moved to whatever side of the holding field that she happened to be on.

"Someone's definitely at home in those things" remarked Joe.

"Possibly" said Kira, not wishing to rule out anything at this point. "It may just be instinct, telling it to move towards potential prey." She did an acidity test of the amoeba's surface. "You were right about the acidity, our instruments can't register it. We'll have to recalibrate them. I do suspect that there is more than meets the eye with this thing. It would probably be an idea to have someone with a bit of experience in genetics to study it."

"Sounds like you've got it in hand," said Joe. "I'll catch you later."

"Okay Joe, and thanks for getting them." said Kira. "No problems. But don't thank me until you see the bill."

Kira laughed as Joe walked out, and started setting up the various tests that she would do on the amoeba. It seemed like only a few minutes later that Kiras' stomach announced that it was hungry. She checked the time: 1255. She had been doing tests on the amoebas for nearly 3 hours, time for a break.

Kira made her way down to the lower decks of the Kran, her final destination being the Medical Section. Not that she was in need of their professional services; rather, she was paying a social call on her two best friends on ship - Taty & Luthy.

Taty was Tatiana Zimna, who's listed official position was Chief Medical Officer. However, over the years her unofficial roles had expanded to include chaplain/counsellor/agony aunt/mother figure, and general shoulder to cry on. It would wrong to say that Taty had taken Kira under her wing - Kira was far too independent for that - but the two shared a special bond, nonetheless.

Luthy was Luthienne D'silva, Nursing Director. With her blond hair, shining blue eyes, and personality that just refused to quit, she was undeniably the ships' sweetheart. No one - not even Captain Leatham - called her by her full name; she was "Luthy" to everyone. Although not as close to Kira as Taty, they were good friends nonetheless.

Kira arrived at the Medical Unit, and walked in. Luthy was attending to a minor injury - it looked like a graze - on a crewman, whilst Taty sat at her desk, operating a console. As Kira walked through the doors, both of the girls looked up. Taty gave a warm smile, and then glanced at Luthy, rolling her eyes heavenward for Kiras' benefit. Kira gave a smile of her own. It was an open secret, that for some "unknown" reason, minor injuries amongst young male crewmembers seemed to increase whenever Luthy was on duty. Taty then had to take the role of "bad guy" and purge the sick bay of the malingerers and other assorted hangers-on who would crowd the place otherwise.

Luthys' reaction to Kira's entrance was a bit more pronounced, her face lighting up. "Kira! How's it going'?"

Kira shrugged. "Same old routine. "I've taken a break for the next hour, so I thought I'd see how you two were battling on"

"Oh, tough as always." Luthy replied, finishing up her treatment of the crewman's injuries. "I'm off in a few minutes; do you want to go to the ObLounge with me for a drink?"

"That'd be great." said Kira. "And with a bit of luck, I won't have to pay for it." Kira tried hard to think of a single occasion that Luthys' drinks at the ObLounge had not been paid for by some male crewmember. She failed. Luthy seemed to constantly be on the receiving end of propositions -both honourable and dishonourable - from love struck crewmembers. Each of these was fended off with such tact and diplomacy, that the suitor-to-be often didn't even realise he was being rebuffed.

"See you there." said Luthy, and went off to attend to other patients. The crewman she had been attending to still sat there, seemingly confused as to his next move.

"Is there anything else, Mister…?" enquired Taty, putting on her best 'Doctor' voice.

"…Onalopov, Petty Officer Nicolas Onalopov… err, no, I'm fine now, thank you. I'd better get back to my post… thank you." As he left, Nicolas had the air of a man who had just blown his one chance at something. Taty thought she heard him mutter "...idiot!..." to himself, just before the doors closed behind him.

Meanwhile, Kira had missed this entire exchange, and was obviously in a place far away.

"The screensaver has kicked in…" thought Taty.

"Science Officer Argmanov, report to reality immediately" she said, with the barest hint of a smile.

"What… oh, sorry, I was miles away…" Kira paused for a moment. "Taty, do people think I'm stand-offish, or a bit of a snob?"

The question seemed like a bolt from the blue, but Taty's surprise was only momentary.

"So... that's where she's been" she thought. Taty put on her "counsellors" hat, and paused to marshal her thoughts. She nodded her head in the direction that Luthy had gone. "There are more important things in life than how many free drinks you get, you know."

Kiras' eyes widened slightly. "Am I that obvious?"

"Only to the trained eye" replied Taty, looking smug.

Kira made a moue in reply, but still managed a smile.

Taty paused again. "Let me take a stab in the dark here - you wouldn't be worried that life is going to pass you by, and you're going to get to 50, and discover that you're a spinster that's passed her use-by date, now would you?."

The flush that started at Kira's neck told Taty that she had hit the nail on the head. "Good, If she's mad, she won't be feeling sorry for herself," she thought.

When Kira spoke, she held her voice in check, but was clearly annoyed. "Well, it's not as if this bit of space is crawling with eligible men, is it?"

Taty played her ace. "Didn't you notice that Petty Officer Onalopov had eyes for only one female crew member while you were in here, and it certainly wasn't Luthy or I?"

You could almost see Kira's argument going down in flames, as she said, "Oh. Errrm, no, I didn't."

Taty rolled her eyes. "They don't make science officers like they used to." she said. "You'd probably better to the ObLounge before Luthy gets all the free drinks. I've got work to do here, and it's not getting done while I'm talking."

Kira gave an embarrassed smile. "Ok, Taty, and… thanks." She then remembered her original reason for visiting the medical centre. "Oh..." she said.

Taty looked up. "What's the matter?"

"You did Xenobiology at Moscow Uni, didn't you?" queried Kira.

"I certainly did." Taty replied, "It was an optional course, but I'm glad I did it. It was quite interesting."

"Oh good. Engineering retrieved some simple life forms from the ramscoop this morning, and I was wondering if I could get you to have a look at them. It was … err … the reason I came down here. "

"Sure." said Taty. "So, you'd like me to check them out from a genetic point of view?"

Kira nodded. "They are so acidic that we have to keep them in a containment field, yet they seem so simple in appearance. They may or may not have some form of sensory capabilities, too. They moved towards me, when I got close to them."

"Hmm. You've got me intrigued. I'll have a bit of time this afternoon; I'll come up and have a look at them. I don't need much of an excuse to get away from inventories." Taty couldn't help but notice that the Kira talking about her job was totally different to the Kira talking about her social life.

When Kira left the MedLab, her outward appearance was calm and composed, but Taty's observations had her mind racing. "Nicky likes me? How long for? Is it serious, or is he just after a fling? How come I didn't notice before, I thought women were supposed to notice these things… KIRA!! You are a science officer, not a teenage schoolgirl!" Kira eventually made her way to the observation lounge, and went in. There were only about a dozen people, some sitting at the bar area, the others at the various seating positions. Kira couldn't help but notice a couple sitting by an Ob Window, her head resting on his shoulder. "…Pull yourself together, girl…" She looked around for a distraction, and saw Luthy sitting alone – surprisingly – at one of the tables. She spotted Kira, and waved her over.

"Hey girl! Sorry, but you'll have to pay for your own drinks today. All the adoring fans must be off duty."

Kira smiled, and felt her inner turmoil start to ease a bit. Luthy was a good friend, and she was glad that she was on the same ship as her. Kira sat down, and an attendant came to take her order. She glanced at the menu for a moment, and frowned. "I'm not sure what I want; I'll just have a coke to start with."

"Which is why a 400 year old franchise is still going strong," said Luthy, as the attendant went to fill the order. "As a medical professional, I should tell you that there are far healthier beverages you could be drinking."

Kira looked at Luthy, blinked, and said, "Duly noted. You want one?"

"No thanks, this is my second."

They both looked at each other for a moment, and then burst into a fit of girlish laughter that briefly drew the attention of the others in the lounge. Kira pulled herself together when the attendant came with her drink.

"Yep," Kira thought "Taty and Luthy are good friends to have…"

Luthy gave Kira a nudge. "Look, here comes Nicky Onalopov. He's fond of you, y'know."

"…Most of the time…" Kira sputtered into her drink, and the internal turmoil started anew. "Obviously, I must have missed the press conference," she said, with as much sarcasm as she could muster. "Is there anyone on this ship besides me who doesn't know this?"

Luthy ignored her. "Hey, he's coming this way, I'll invite him over."

"Don't you dare!" hissed Kira, but to no avail.

"Hi, Nicky," said Luthy, as he came closer. "Come join us!"

"Hi Luthy….errrr, Hi Kira" he said, as he sat down.

Some part of Kira's science training managed to overcome her own nervousness, as she observed Nicky's own apprehension.

"He's just as nervous as I am." she thought. The thought gave her some comfort, but she still didn't trust herself to be able to speak. Luthy seemed to notice this, and opened the conversation.

"So, Nicky," she asked "much of interest happening in security today?"

Nick shook his head. "This morning, we had to assist engineering with an alien life form that was going up to the science lab, but that's all."

Kiras' ears pricked up, and she found her voice. "The one's that were corroding the ramscoop? I've been working on them all morning. That's why I came down to the med lab, so I could see if Taty would look at them from a genetic viewpoint."

Nick & Luthy turned their attention to Kira. "Really?" said Luthy. "You discovered a new lifeform? Wow! Are they going to name it after you?"

Kira blushed. "Errr… it was Joe Karpov who found it, all I've done so far is some preliminary tests. And we haven't determined if it's sentient or not, in which case, it can name itself."

"In any case, you've got things to keep yourself occupied." said Nick. "The rest of us just sit around and play poker all shift. This is one of the emptiest stretches of space I've ever been in."

"Don't you believe it." replied Kira, "This morning is the most excitement I've had for weeks. However, in a couple of days we're going to go very close to a Terran class planet. I was thinking of suggesting to the captain that we might do some survey missions."

Kira suddenly had an idea. She smiled mischievously.

"… And of course, the initial mission would require, in addition to a science officer…" Kira looked at Luthy.

"… trained Medical personnel…" Luthy finished Kira's sentence with a wink.

"…and a member of ships security.." added Nick.

"It sounds like a good idea to relieve the monotony" said Luthy.

"I hope the captain thinks that, too." Kira said, hopefully. "I'll give him the initial proposal this afternoon." Kira glanced at her PersoCom. "…and if I don't get back to the lab, there won't be much of the afternoon left! Sorry to bail out on you guys, but I've got to get back."

Luthy took a sip of her drink. "What shift are you on tomorrow?"

"The same as today," Kira replied, "0800 to 1700."

"Ok, then," said Luthy "meet up here at 1300, and tell me how you went with the captain."

"Deal." said Kira, and got up to leave.

"I'll have to get going, too", said Nick "Not that there's much to go to."

"What, you're leaving me here, along?" said Luthy, in mock dismay.

Kira grinned. "Not quite alone," she said, nodding to one side.

Luthy turned as a young male crewmember walked up to her.

"Hi Luthy" he said, with exaggerated confidence. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Bye." said Nick and Kira, in unison, as they walked out.

"errr…. It was nice having a break with you guys," said Nick. "I'll have to arrange my break for the same time tomorrow, too."

"That'll be great," said Kira, not too sure of what else to say.

Nick paused at a side corridor. "This is my turnoff here. I'll see you at 1300, then."

"It's a date!" said Kira, and then turned deep red as she realised what she had said.

Nick didn't seem to notice. "Bye, then." he said, as he walked off.

Kira suddenly realised that from the time they had starting talking about the mornings' events, she had not felt the slightest bit of nervousness about talking to Nick. "Yeah, but Luthy was there, and we were talking about work…" she rationalized. "But still…" The thought was a confidence boost. As Kira walked down the corridor towards the science lab, she decided that maybe this part of space wasn't so boring after all.

End of Chapter One