Shifting Paradigms: Prologue

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Shifting Paradigms

Victoria crossed her ship excitedly, shaking out her hands to try to dispel some of the excess energy.  She’d had a breakthrough recently in her research.  It was fantastic, something truly revolutionary.  She wanted to tell somebody, but she knew how that would end.  It always ended one of two ways.  Either a person’s eyes would glaze over as she waxed poetic about spaceships, mechanical engineering, and advanced physics principles, or they would try to take advantage.

Most people did the later, which was why she had so few friends.  Really, just three.  She walked into her bedroom.  Dirty and clean clothes were piled next to each other, her bed had never been made since the day she first moved in, and it looked like she’d forgotten to clean up after breakfast again.

Also, she’d forgotten to eat lunch.  Her stomach gnawed at her, as if to reinforce that realization.

She turned her back on the dirty dishes, moving to her desk, which was covered to the point that she couldn’t see the desktop.  She walked to it, throwing her sweatshirt on the back of her chair, closing the notebook that had a pen sitting across it, tip clicked out.  Her tablet sat half underneath the notebook, screen still powered on, but almost dead since she’d left for her lab hours ago.  She dropped it on the magnetic charger, frowning at the mess before her.

She didn’t like messes, they tended to make her head feel cluttered, chaotic, cloudy.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t seem to help herself.  No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t seem to keep herself organized.  Angus, the ship’s AI, helped.  Actually, he helped a lot.  He reminded her to eat, to take showers, to make trips planetside to get supplies when they were running low.  Without him, God only knows how she would end up.

“You were going to contact Jessie and Cass,” the AI said, his simulated Scottish accent strong.  It had taken her a while to get used to his accent, but now she even sometimes responded to him with a similar accent.  It probably didn’t help that she rarely spoke to anyone else.

“The comm?” Angus said, prompting her again.

“Right.”  She shook her head, shaking out her hands for good measure before sitting at her desk.  She supposed she could have set up a comm in her lab.  After all, she’d built the ship, designed it, but she couldn’t fathom doing so.  Just the idea sent anxiety spiking through her.  “Okay, call them,” she said before she chickened out.

Wait, why was she calling them again?  She looked down and over, opening her notebook once more.  Maybe she’d left herself a note.  Bold letters jumped out at her.  “This might work.  Should try today.”


A smile crossed her face and the excited energy she’d been feeling returned, washing away the anxiety of making a call.

“Hi, Victoria!” Jess said through the comm.

Victoria jerked her head up to the screen on the wall just beyond her desk.  Technically, the entire wall was a screen, but only a section directly in front of her desk lit up right now with an image of the Trojan’s cockpit.  “Oh, good, the call went through.”

Jessie grinned.  “Did you think it wouldn’t?”

Victoria shrugged, her excitement bubbling up once more.  “I wasn’t really paying attention.”

“What’s got you so excited?  No, wait.”  Jess turned around and yelled.  “Cass!  Kou!  Victoria’s on the line!”

Victoria wanted to get up and pace, finding it hard to sit still.  That happened sometimes.  She’d found over the years that noise cancelling headphones playing instrumental music helped, but she couldn’t do that on a call.

On the screen, Cass stomped into the room behind her younger sister.  Jessie looked behind her and laughed.

Victoria squinted and leaned forward, trying to figure out what had made Jessie laugh, but she’d never been great with social cues, and the stupid comm screen didn’t exactly help.  She kind of hated video calls, but what other options were there?  It was expected.

“Fly’s undone,” Jessie said, still looking toward the door at the back of the cockpit.

Which was when Victoria noticed the dark shape of Kou, Cass’s boyfriend.  He flinched, looking down and reaching for his crotch.

Jessie turned around.  “Okay, we’re all here.  What’s got you so excited, Victoria?”

She thought back to that moment in the lab, the moment everything had come together.  It had been so beautiful, perfect.  It seemed so elegant in retrospect.  Victoria couldn’t wait to get started working again, but her stomach growled again.  She needed a break.  She would work better if she got some sleep and a shower, too.

“I had a breakthrough.”  She shook her head, her hands waving in the air, her excitement getting the better of her.  “It’s big.  Really big.  This could very well change the way we look at space travel.”  She wanted to tell the world, but she couldn’t, not the least of which because neither Jessie nor Cass would understand a word of it.

“Really?”  Jessie leaned forward, Cass and Kou moving closer to the camera.

She nodded.  “Uh huh.  I’ve been working on this so long I can’t believe I’m there.  I still have to do some testing, but I think it’s just a formality.”  God, she couldn’t wait to get started on the testing.  In her head, she started planning out how to test her calculations, her initial experiments.  Parts lists started building in her head, but she had to stop herself.  If she didn’t, she would get lost in her own head again, and she couldn’t do that right now.  She was on a call.

“You’re not really going to leave us hanging there, are you, Vicky?” Cass said behind her sister, her weight pressing down on the back of Jessie’s chair.  “That’s just mean.”

Victoria laughed.  “No, I’ll tell you.”  She shook her head.  “God, this is just…”  Unbelievable.

Overhead, Angus’s voice came interrupted her.  “The communications channel has been compromised.”

Victoria flinched, eyes widening, panic flaring up like a tsunami inside her.  “I have to go.  Sorry.”  She reached forward and cut the connection.

She looked up at the ceiling, jumping to her feet so quickly she nearly knocked her chair over.  “Angus, what the heck was that?”

“As I said, the communications channel was compromised.”

Victoria ground her teeth, wanting to pull at her hair.  She hated when he talked like that.  “Angus!”

“Someone may have been listening in on the call.”

Chills ran up her arms and spine, and she froze in space, her mind going blank as the implications settled in.

Someone was listening in.

There was only one reason she could think of why someone would want to listen in on her comms.

Somehow, someone had figured out what she was working on…

And they wanted it.

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