Here Be Monsters

A catamaran, silent, upon an ocean of gold. Serene, infinitely calm as it leaves a shining atoll harbour, set sail for distant, untamed shores. The sun creates a brazen sheen on the ancient hull, as it sets into the endless sea.

No. It is all lies. Not a sea; a sky. A torrential, warlike ether far below. The sun is withered and frail. The atoll is of steel and polymers and glass. The catamaran...

"...Mooring clamps disengaged. Umbilical retracting. You are cleared for departure at Standard Localspace Velocity. Good fortune to you, Trans-Utopian..."

"Primary engines firing-" Rumbling, from deep within. "A little hot, but well within parameters... Approaching Standard LsV... Mark. Reactor one at seventy-two per cent efficiency; reactor two, eighty-one per cent. That's the best we've had in some time." A genuine compliment, met with a genuine, if preoccupied smile.

"Thank you, Luc. I wish Percy were awake to hear that; she'd appreciate it."

"I doubt that. She doesn't seem to be able to appreciate anything lately. She's been very irritable of late." No response. "Something's bothering her, Danté." The concern valid, yet coldly ignored.

"Caravaggio, set course for Neried Max, shortest possible trajectory."

"Yes, Captain. ...Now leaving Localspace: Iapetus Docking Terminal." A faint squawking as patrolled space falls behind: Iapetan picket ships making their presence known; a show of strength disguised as random farewells and well-wishing.

"Something's obviously bothering you too, Danté. You could have broken the prisoner's neck back there!" His jaw tightens. "We would have lost some fine credit just to appease your-"

"Acceleration to full burn, within parameters." But the soft rumbling does not change.

Deep within, matricies burn with life. Algorithms dance like windblown litter. Virtual synapses fire, and conclusions are drawn. "Captain, as I'm sure you well know, there are no intermediary stations or bases between Saturn and Neptune at this time. There are doubtless dust clouds, solar flare remnant fields, and other untold phenomena abound. I suggest a more prudent acceleration, that we might better avoid said phenomena - and any potentially hostile presense within - as needed."

"Maintain full burn. Cargo manifest, please." Pulse quickens.

"Captain, I might remind you of my accuracy in predicting-"

"Cargo manifest, please." And tendons pull taut.

"Danté, you know damn well what we've got on board. You're just ignoring-"

Snap.

"Quiet! We're on the bridge of what I like to consider a professionally run ship, of which I am in command. And so far, I haven't seen or heard a God-damned thing that reminds me of that! On the bridge, we are not people, we do not have personal problems, and we do not question orders! I am well aware that space is a nasty place; I don't need to hear about dust, radiation, and... pirates." He had almost said Raiders, and his eyes began to burn. "I am also aware that my nie- a member of this crew is experiencing some troubles in... his or her personal life, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss that. On the bridge of this ship, I am the captain, and I want jobs done and orders carried out, do I make myself clear?"

"Your niece needs you."

"Dismissed."

"Damn it, Danté-"

"Get the hell off my bridge!"

Footsteps ringing on metal grating. A door opening... closing. Silence, yet the heavy drone is deafening.

"Foodstuffs - three tonnes; compressed gasses - three tonnes; light arms ammunition - one tonne; one light package; one prisoner. All inbound to Neried Maximum Correctional Facility."

"Display prisoner surveillance."

The catamaran is now upon a sea of darkness, and he gazes like an ancient god upon the caged man.

"Monster!"