Though merely a battleship mechanic by title, Head Engineer Lucius Serban hand-picked Da Xia Feng over a group of seemingly more qualified candidates, all of them PhDs in spacecraft engineering.
“Do you think diplomas make a man? This girl is a proven innovator,” the head engineer argued. The selection committee had tried to block Da Xia’s security clearance but Lucius would not have it. “Look here.”
Battleship engine room photos and blueprints flashed on the giant holodeck in the middle of the stale conference room. “She has perfected their engine designs in the obscure shadows of our shipyards. With spare parts, I might add.”
“Do you think they’ve given her any credit? Ha! Oh, but they’ve been quick to adopt her improvements. Those monkeys aren’t worthy of her presence. I don’t care what promotions they deserve or who their daddies are. I won’t work with anyone else.”
And just like that, the matter was settled. Security clearance granted.
Within the hour, two soldiers arrived at Shipyard A-9, New York, and escorted Da Xia to a long-range hovershuttle. Where they were going the soldiers would not say.
“Do not, under any circumstances, interface with the ship. You will be court-martialed, tried for treason, imprisoned, and executed.” Lucius spoke the order with a frankness that convinced Da Xia every word of the commandment was true. The head engineer did not actually say what interfacing was, and Da Xia knew better than to ask for information that was purposely not being volunteered.
Though her poker face did not show it, Da Xia’s imagination was spinning as the two stood inside the ISA’s (Intergalactic Sentient Arkship’s) navigation room. How did the large, empty, spherical room serve as the bridge? There were no monitors. No windows. No anything, really, except for a walkway —suspended by nothing— that ended in the center of the room, at a platform that held two oval tanks, alien in their design.
“That’s where the aviators go, where they commune with the ship,” Lucius said, wonder in his voice, before leading Da Xia out of the room.