“She’s overdue,” I heard Boyd say as I entered Control.
“Who is overdue?” I asked but I knew the answer. There was only one ship that left the Yard regularly that could have that status.
Boyd spun around in his overstuffed, heavily frayed and duct taped chair to look at me. Renie was standing next to him and turned her head as well. They were an exercise in dichotomy.
Slumped in his chair, Boyd’s long, curly dark hair was askew and flailing about his head and over his face. He wore whatever he could find and his small hands were always bruised and cut from working inside the machines.
Renie, on the other hand, was cut from a perfect mold. Sharp angles and strict controls regulated her cloths and hair and her hard blue eyes rarely softened.
I walked toward them quickly, passing the other workstations. Although constantly surrounded by trillions of metric tons of outdated gear he could use, Boyd’s station looked like something out of ancient history. Wires were strewn about, multiple physical keyboards and old digital screens hung on the wall behind his desk. He even had his own hardwired mini Core to run everything. I was never sure if he was paranoid of neural connectors or just liked the old stuff. To be sure, Comm was always reliable.
“How long?” I asked when I got to them.
“Fourteen hours,” Renie said flatly as Boyd spun back to Comm.
“What about the. . .” I started.
“DATs went down when she went in, as usual. Never picked back up,” Boyd said, snapping a screen over to show the flat line of Aria’s data link back to Control.
“Did you try. . .” I started again.
“Yes,” Boyd answered quickly
“What about. . .”
Boyd spun in his chair again to look at me, flipping his long hair out of his bearded face and raising his eyebrows.
“OK,” I acknowledged as Boyd turned back to his hardware to attempt to contact the overdue ship. He knew what he was doing, he would have tried everything to communicate with them, nothing I could think of would be any better than anything he would have already tried.
“How long since the last HF?” I asked Boyd but he was buried in his gear and switching various sets of headphones from ear to ear.
“If she sent an HF before she went in we would have it by now,” Renie said. She was my Chief Operator. She took care of everything day to day, never seemed to sleep and knew everything that was happening in Control and in the entire Yard.
“The HF we sent would have reached them and if they could send back it would have gotten here about. . .” Renie said before she was interrupted.
Both of us looked back at Boyd’s station as one of his screens flashed over red and an audio monitor began bellowing a wailing mechanical howl from somewhere beneath his station. Something small and furry popped it’s head out with a look of distress and then buried itself back in the cacophony of wiring.
“Now what,” I breathed. While the Yard was filled mostly with used up ships from the past two hundred years, it was also home to various communities. The Yard was self-contained and had even started exporting more than just old starship parts recently. It had a prolific farming barge and a Distillery that was making some spirits that were becoming well sought after. The red flashing screen indicated that whatever alarm was coming in was coming from the Distillery ship, aptly named Spirit.
“Fire,” Boyd said without turning.
Renie and I turned to each other quickly then started toward the exit.
“Have Drew meet us at the dock, Boyd, now,” I said.
He waved his hand at me without turning his back.
We made our way quickly toward the back of Control but I needed to know something. I stopped and turned back.
“Kelly, how much water do we have?” I asked the Controller on duty.
“Four months,” he said immediately but slipped his hand into the neural interface. His workspace was the opposite of Boyd’s, clean and pristine; he only needed a single physical connection to connect to Core.
Renie finally realized I had stopped and waited by the door.
“Yep,” he said as the neural display flashed up on the huge main display in the front of Control. Statistics, graphs, words and numbers all flew through the air in three dimensions.
“Summary, Kelly,” I said quickly.
“Sorry,” he said, his eyes snapping open. The jumbled display quickly codified into a single graph and one line summary.
“One hundred forty days water without rationing based on Aria’s last drop,” Kelly said.
I looked at Renie but she showed no sign of emotion, as usual.
“We could easily double that,” Kelly said. “Given proper rationing.”
“Thank you,” I said and started to leave again to get over to Spirit.
“Let’s go,” Renie said but I had one more thing on my mind.
“Kelly, when is Arc due?” I asked.
“Just under six hours,” he replied.
“Six. . .TEEN, right?” I asked, fearful of the response.
“Six,” Kelly said. “Seems she skipped her last two ports and is coming right in, well ahead of schedule.
Renie was next to me now.
Arc was the first of the fourth generation starships that would be scuttled in the Yard.
“I guess they didn’t want their flagship on display the whole way across the sector,” Renie said close to my ear.
“Where are you putting her?” I asked.
“Down where we planned,” Kelly said as his hand slipped back into the neural interface.
The front of Control flashed to life again in three vivid dimensions showing the entirety of the Boneyard. I loved to look at it like this, the tens of thousands of ships, all hanging in space, some almost fully intact, some gutted down to unrecognizable bones.
But right now was not a time to ponder the morbid beauty and Kelly knew it. The display quickly zoomed into a location well into the Yard but isolated as well, there were only a few other derelicts around and one nearby green indicator flashing slowly.
“What is Geri doing there already?” Renie asked quietly.
“I can’t get anyone on Spirit now Charlie,” Boyd called out from across Control.
Renie grabbed my arm and pulling me toward the exit.
“Can you get me ship to ship to Coder?” I called to Boyd loudly as Renie pulled me out.
“VOX will be shit, too much in between, too many hops,” he replied
“Send it through Morse then,” I said. “I don’t really want to talk to her anyway.”
“You got it Boss,” Boyd said as we finally exited Control and hurried toward Crow.