The crowded spaceport of Osiris gives way to light blue sky, then to indigo, and the black of space. The camera pans back to the crowded cockpit of the Summer's Gift. The beautiful blond pilot relaxing from a position of alertness as she finalizes the de-orbiting permissions from ground control. A small monitor on the side of her controls shows a 'live' view of the White Sun System with their position relative to the various planets. She toggles some controls causing the Nav-Computer to select Londinium, and programs the vectors. She tweaks the numbers, and keys in the command sequence. In another monitor the blue/white globe of Osiris gets slowly smaller, then as the sequences resolve, she speaks, her voice echos through the cabin and from speakers throughout the ship.
Nika: Ten seconds to Pulse...seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, Pulse!.
The view screen blurs slightly. And the globe in their rear view camera shrinks to a dot. Nika seems to settle in to the pilot's chair for what looks like the long haul. And she finally glances at him and says:
Nika: "You wanted something other than the take-off footage?"
The interviewer slips into the bridge holding a a small camera with a little suction cup.
Interviewer: "Will this interfere with your flying, if I plant this... here?"
Nika: "Not really," she replies. "Although I prefer if it's not constantly filming. This is somewhat my private domain. And most of what I do is just sit here, so..."
Interviewer: "Just for the interview.. er assuming that is okay. I just wanted to get a few of your thoughts.
Help the people get to know you."
The image switches from behind her to a front view. She doesn't look into the camera, instead she is caught in profile as she speaks to the interviewer. Nika shrugs at that, picking up her coffee cup and sipping from it.
Nika: "That's fine," she tells him. "It's not like there's much to really film while we're flying. It's a whole lotta Black."
Interviewer: "So Nika, you hail from Boros in the Georgia System, where your family has a ranch, is that right?"
Nika: "That's right," Nika replies calmly.
Interviewer: "How do you go from ranching on the Border, to flying a transport out in the black?"
Nika: "When I was about ... twelve, I guess, my father took me to an airshow. There was a guy willing to take me up in his ship, and I'm not sure all of me came back down. From then on, I wanted to fly like nobody's business. And my father, being a smart man and real supportive, made sure I could do what I loved -- he loved ranchin' the way I loved flyin'."
Interviewer: What other sorts of ships have you flown?
Nika: "Lots of light transports and mid-bulks.. a couple Fireflies, a Da Xiang, Scarab, Cambridge, Gryphon, Exeter, you name it, I've flown it."
Interviewer: "Is the Kuiper Class easier or harder than the others?"
Nika: There's a silence while she considers. "Neither, really. Flyin's flying. Some ships handle nicer than others in certain ways -- this ship doesn't do so hot in atmo, for example. Not great on the aerodynamics. But all ships handle pretty much the same in space; the only real differences are mass and engines. And cargo ships are inevitably not as nimble as, say, personal yachts."
Interviewer: "Most people think of spaceships as having gleaming metal lines, smooth curves, and holographic displays. What do you think they'd think of this?"
Nika: Nika laughs. "Most people who've ever been around a ship yard know that MOST ships don't look like that. In fact, the only vessels ever built with aerodynamic lines are actually the ones intended to fly in atmo. It's the only place you *need* it, to cut down friction. Ain't no friction in space, man. So to my mind, anyone who expects it knows nothing about the Verse. Or science."
Interviewer: He pans his handcam around, and highlights the truck like interior. "Does the allure of flying still shine as much after all these years?"
Nika: Nika's smile is amused. "There are certain jobs in the 'Verse that you just gotta be born to do. Teachin'... flyin'. Yeah, it's still shiny. The Black is... home."
Interviewer: "How much flying is there, I mean, out in the black? I can see landings and take offs, but apart from that, it really is black.
Nika: "Oh... when you're running between systems, it's definitely not nearly as much hands-on as in-system. Planet to planet generally requires pretty steady presence on the bridge. Between systems, you can sort of set the autopilot and just check once an hour or so," Nika admits. "I always thought it was sort of like bein' a cop on a stakeout, actually. 98 percent boredom, but oh my God those 2 percent days are worth it."
Interviewer: "What do you say to the people who think computer controlled systems are more precise, and safer?"
Nika: There's a smirk. "I say that a computer's all well and good when you're flying a straight line through the Black, but nothing will ever beat human hands on the wheel when it comes to trouble. A human pilot -- a good one anyway -- can anticipate and instinctively respond to crises in ways computers will never be able to match."
Interviewer: "I always thought it was the expense. The big cruisers usually keep a pilot just for back up."
Nika: Nika shrugs. "Can't answer for the big ships, but I can tell you... I've had some /really/ hairy landings in this ship that I wouldn't trust a computer for. We took some damage off a Reaver one time that... well, if I hadn't been as good as I am, either we'd have been pancaked all over Beaumonde or we'd have been obliterated when they chucked a missile at us, because we came in so gorram out of control, they were already painting us. And I've taken this ship into atmo to retrieve some trapped terraformers, and I sure as all hell wouldn't have trusted the computer to compensate for the mess in that atmosphere. Their own computers couldn't even chart it."
Interviewer: "Sounds like routine, is anything but on this ship."
Nika: "Eh.... Like I said... 98 percent boredom, 2 percent pure adrenaline," Nika laughs.
Interviewer: "You mentioned Reavers, some say they are just legend, or a terrorist plot. You've encountered them?"
Nika: Nika slants him a glance. "Yeah. We've encountered them. Damn near killed our Companion when we got boarded."
Interviewer: "You'll have to tell us that story another time. But, I guess traveling around the 'Verse you see things most people never do.
Do you think there is a bigger disconnect between the Core Worlds, and the Border and Rim?"
Nika: "A bigger disconnect in comparison to what?" she asks.
Interviewer: "Bigger than people's beliefs about the Reavers?"
Nika: "You mean do I think the people in the Core don't believe in them while people in the Rim or on the Border do?" she asks him. "I think the people in the Core are... pampered and protected. And that's they way the Core was built when we all came from Earth-That-Was. Building a whole civilization, you have to protect them from whatever might be out there, so you build yourself a fortified city to start with and explore from there. In this case, they built themselves a fortified central sun system, and they explored from there -- but most folks were content to stay in the protected center. So yes... I think there's a disconnect between what's reality in the Core and what's reality out on the Border or the Rim."
Interviewer: "Well, hopefully this show will bridge that gap. Do you think you've got a better view of reality because you go to all the worlds?"
Nika: "I think I've got a wider view of what's out there. But everyone's got their own reality."
A few hours after your pulse out of Londinium, The Camera winds its way back to the cockpit. Several small warning lights blink ominously, the Pilot sits awkwardly in the chair rubbing her wrist after adjusting the Summer's Gift flight plan minutely to keep it its heading. She over compensates slightly and needs to inch it back on course. The ship is flying like a shopping cart with one wheel locked up.
Interviewer: "So how is she handling after those bumps?"
Nika: There's a grimaces as the pilot looks back at her consoles. "Like cow manure," she tells him. "We're gonna need to make some repairs when we next set down."
Interviewer: "So I take it, back there was what you meant by 2% adrenaline/"
Nika: Nika laughs. "Oh.... yeah, pretty much!" she replies, leaning back in her chair to get comfy. She's going to have to babysit the gauges pretty much constantly at this point. "Anything can happen... even in the Core."
Interviewer: "I was going to ask. We were in orbit over the capital of the 'Verse and that happens. Is there anything mundane in this job?"
Nika: "Welllll....." Nika draws out the syllable. "There's lots of days just hanging out playing cards. Many days of checking the instruments once every couple of hours just to be sure the autopilot's doing its job, sure."
Interviewer: "But, nowhere where you can let your guard down?"
Nika: Nika considers her answer for a long moment, and then says slowly, "No.... not really. I mean.... you can let your guard down some. Let autopilot do its job. Let another pilot take over for a while. But... there's always the understanding that if you let your guard down too far, if you take your eyes off the prize.... you could just wind up flying off into uncharted space and never get home again."
Interviewer: "We've since learned that seven ships were forced down in that event, one crashed with no survivors. And yet the Summer's Gift, in the apparent center of it all manages to escape. I guess the old ship has some moves in her, or her pilot anyway?"
Nika: Nika smirks faintly at that. "Some of that was sheer stupid luck," she tells him. "as to how much the ship and how much me?" She shrugs easily. "Who can say?"
Interviewer: "Speaking of luck, what are the odds of this ship being at the center of that storm?"
Nika: There's a long pause before Nika answers this time, and she says quietly, "Honestly? I don't really know. I mean.... accidents assuredly happen. The timing of it? It really could be coincidental, and paranoia is a dangerous thing out here in the Black. But then again... Blue Sun ain't happy with us. So... I'd be hard-pressed just to believe in coincidence, for sure. Would they go so far as to potentially take out a slew of other ships? Seems dicey."
Interviewer: "You seem to have this ability to take the most extreme things quite casually, a coping strategy, or does it all really just wash over you like that?"
Nika: Nika laughs. "Uhm..... well, I guess I figure if *I* go and get all worked up, who's gonna keep Rina in check? But... if you're asking me for an assessment of myself? I guess I tend to work better in a crisis -- the hotter it gets, the cooler I have to be under fire. If I have too much time to worry and fret, I'll do it. Someone told me not too long ago now that I should look at things as 'opportunities' instead of seeing the down side, so maybe I'm taking that more to heart."
Interviewer: "And what opportunity do you see in all of this?"
Nika: That's a pretty serious question, and Nika takes it as such and gives the cameraman her full attention. "The most likely way for this to play is out is that we're all going to die," she tells him quietly. "But if following the leads we have brings something so huge as this conspiracy seems to be into the public eye.... if it means scrutiny gets placed on the people in charge and that maybe things change just a little bit... then that's worth it to me. People on Miranda died because Blue Sun experimented on them, if you believe the Miranda Wave. They deserve some justice. And if Arden's creche brothers were involved, then he deserves to know what happened to them and what makes him different. So... I guess there's all kinds of opportunities here."
Interviewer: Jakes pauses for a second seeming to forget what he is doing. Then resumes.
Interviewer: "So, the more they come after you, the more likely you are getting close to the trust?"
Nika: Nika purses her lips, her eyes sharper on him, and she says, "Seems like a logical conclusion to me."
Interviewer: "You mentioned Arden, are you at all worried what you might learn about him?"
Nika: Raising her eyebrows, she asks, "Why would I be?"
Interviewer: "Well you two seem to like one another... quite bit."
Nika: "We've served together for nearly a year on this boat through some relatively harrowing things," Nika replies, making a point of trying to keep her tone from being defensive in any way. "We like each other well enough to keep company from time to time. But whatever we find out here hasn't got anything to do with Arden as a person. So no... I'm not terribly worried about what we might learn."
Interviewer: "There's been some talk about the lack of privacy on the ship. I know it seems ironic to ask on camera, but how do you find time for a private life on ship with five crew?"
Nika: Nika pffts. "You don't," she replies tartly. "But you learn each other's triggers and you steer clear of them, mostly. You turn a blind eye when necessary, and you don't tease about the things that will start a brawl, for the most part."
Interviewer: "So you don't mind all the recent attention to you and Arden?"
Nika: "I mind," Nika says shortly.
Interviewer: "I don't want a brawl..." He laughs "But what does that tension do for morale when you've got weeks at a time in such enclosed spaces, you can't spend the whole trip hole up in here can you?"
Nika: Nika raises a brow, "Oh can't I?" she asks. "I can spend a pretty long time holed up anywhere -- most people who live in the Black are pretty self-sufficient in terms of not //requiring// other people to entertain them. But things also have a way of working out eventually. What's going on here?" she jerks her head toward the back of the ship. "It's a matter of drawing the line -- everyone's got one and someone stepped over mine. When I'm damn good and ready, I'll work through it."
Interviewer: He pans the camera out the cockpit into the black "I think I would go nuts staring into all that blackness day after day. How do you manage?"
Nika: Nika merely shrugs. "It's just home," she says.
Interviewer: "I'd think with a Companion on board, it would be like having a personal counselor at your beck and call."
Nika: Nika looks at him and smirks. "And sometimes said counselor thinks he knows everything." She shrugs. "Companions are people, like anyone else. Even the ultra-pleasant people get annoying some of the time."
Interviewer: "Is this the first real rift on the ship?"
Nika: Nika rolls her eyes. "It ain't a rift, it's a squabble. And it'll work itself out. But yeah... it's the first real squabble. Prolly about time," she drawls.
Interviewer: "That which does not kill you makes you stronger?"
Nika: "That's a little melodramatic, but sure," Nika replies.
Interviewer: "So what needs to happen for this to be a happy family again?"
Nika: Nika shrugs. "Can't tell you that right now," she says. "Besides which.... frankly, I don't really want it on TV."
Interviewer: "Fair enough. But if, as you said, death was the most likely destination of this trip, is this the way you want to spend it?"
Interviewer: He turns to go.
Nika: Nika shoots him a glance. "You know what they say about opinions, right? They're like anuses. When family squabbles happen, it's best for everyone involved if no one takes sides."
Interviewer: I think that is a good place to stop, for now. Sound good?