Fragments – Talk to the Ship


Every so often I’ll put up fragments of old stuff that didn’t make it into posted stories. The fragment in this post dates from 2009. A lot of these exist from when I was working on Sydney Satterwhite’s backstory from her time on the Pennsylvania, way before I formally posted anything. It doesn’t give me the squicky vibe you get when re-reading old work, but it scares me what I had once considered publishing.

Told from Sydney’s viewpoint.

I will neither confirm nor deny that the following ever took place. If I said “sure, I talked to the Pennsylvania and she talked to me”, y’all will think I have totally lost my mind. Which a third of the Adirondack crew thinks anyway.

“I hope I make a good impression.”

“I hope I make a good impression.” Well, you’re not making too good of one right now.

“Who said that?”

Who do you think?

(Sydney reaches out to touch a bulkhead)

No touchie!

“Are you talking to me?”

You see anybody else there? Of course, I’m talking to you.


Now you’re getting it.

“I don’t think we’ve been introduced.”

Oh, I know who you are.

“I’m not going to ask how. What do I call you? Penn? Penny?”

Ah-ah. You got to earn the right to call me by my nickname.

“How do I do that?”

Do what the Captain told you to do. “Trust”, “respect”? Do right by me, and I’ll do right by you.

“You’re bargaining with me?”

No bargain. That’s just the way it is.

“You this way with Captain Sutek?”


“And why not?”

Because he’s The Captain, rookie. I know my place.


Yes, really.

“So, you’re going to be purposely difficult with me?”

I’m difficult with all my helmsmen. I demand excellence, as the Captain does.

“He wouldn’t put me at your helm if he didn’t think I measured up to his–or your–standards.”

He’s testing you, kid.

“Testing me?”

To see how you react. In the beginning most will try to manhandle me in a misguided attempt to assert control. I don’t respond well to that. In fact, I go out of my way to embarrass them for their stupidity.


Oh, I have a lot of ways. My favorite is when they’re on thrusters and try to correct for starboard drift, I fool around with attitude and “dip” or “raise” the nose exactly 17 degrees. They overcorrect, so my tail starts sliding to port. There’s no earthly reason for that to happen. Sometimes, when somebody is really being a pain in the aft quarters, I won’t answer my helm at all. That usually signals the moment they get replaced with someone competent.

“So, I can get by if I don’t be a pain in the aft quarters?”

You got it.

“You’ll be good if I cooperate?”

Look, every ship handles differently. An Excelsior doesn’t handle like a Galaxy or an Akira. Even two ships of the same class will behave differently. You have to learn them, learn their ways, learn what makes them sing. But you know that already. Don’t you?

“Of course, I do.”

Then we shouldn’t have any problems, right?


I’ll still mess with you sometimes.

“I figure as much.”

Got to keep up my reputation, you know.

“Yeah, sure.”

Having a ship “talk” I usually leave to poetry or a first-person viewpoint.