Vaughn was killing me. He kept saying, “Where’s my starship?”
Sometimes, I answered him, trying to get him to understand, “This is your starship. The Beagle is the only starship here.” I tried every tone that could be used, and exhausted every level of patience in me. He was enervating me. I pinged the medical systems for an update about his problem. Then I noticed the silence.
Vaughn wasn’t there.
“Vaughn?” Walking around, I scanned for him. “Uncle Vaughn? Where are you?” Then, venting anger, I added more softly, “Answer me, you crazy shit.”
Pangs of guilt swept me. He couldn’t help who he’d become. I owed him a lot, like, being on the Beagle. “Vaughn.” I scanned again. “Where the heck are you?”
I felt sick.
It was impossible. He had to be on the Beagle, but he wasn’t showing up. I walked my memories for a logical explanation, ran diagnostics on everything, and hunted again for Vaughn.
It was impossible.
After repeating my actions about seven times, I sucked air and called security.
A veep showed up after almost five seconds. I didn’t know him. Hito, his name ping said. “About time,” I said. “I was ready to call you again.”
“Sorry.” Hito didn’t look or sound it. “What’s the problem?”
“My uncle is missing.”
“Missing from where?”
“The Beagle, where else?”
“Your uncle is missing from the Beagle.”
“That’s what I said,” I replied, as my system said, “You’re being scanned.” Yes, of course the cop was scanning me. Looking to see if something’s adulterating my senses.
The cop veep sighed. “Who is your Uncle/”
“Vaughn Parks.” That should get their attention. The cop might not know me, but I think everyone on the ship knew Vaughn Parks.
The hitch in Hito’s voice pleased me. “Yes. Vaughn Parks.”
“He’s your uncle?”
“Ah.” The veep shifted his stance. “Missing can mean a lot of things, different things to different people. What do you mean when you say, your uncle is missing?”
“I mean that I can’t find him.”
Bored skepticism crept into Hito’s expression. “Have you scanned the ship?”
“Of course, I scanned the ship. That’s the first thing I did. I scanned it several times.”
“Your system’s probably having issues.” Hito almost chortled. I swear, if he had, I was ready to attack him, if he did. “Let me check,” he said.
I waited. I hoped he was right, that my system was fucking up, but I was doubtful. I’d done diagnostics. But I was hopeful. Diagnostics could be flawed, too. I believed, like Hito, that Uncle Vaughn had to be on the ship. Nothing else made sense.
It was taking longer than I expected. “What’s happening?” I asked. “Did you find him?” I admit, I was a little mocking.
The veep cleared his throat. “Not yet. Excuse me.” He went into private mode.
I fumed. While I fumed, I checked for Vaughn on my systems again.
Then alarms went off. As I jumped from the interruption, the ship’s security systems informed me that a lockdown was in progress. Movement was restricted. Sections were being closed. Everyone was to shelter in place.
It had to have something to do with my missing uncle.
“Excuse me, I have to attend this alarm,” the veep said.
I was dubious. “They’re recalling you?” He was answering, “I’m afraid so,” as I was protesting, “But why? You’re a virtual presence. Why the fuck do they need to recall you?”
I guess he didn’t like my tone or question. If his eyes were energy guns, I’d been vaporized. “Yes, sir. We’ve gone to LERTCON Alpha, so we need to consolidate and conserve energy. Someone will get back to you when they can.”
He was gone but I still shouted, “But what about my uncle? What kind of security alert is it? Maybe it has something to do with my missing uncle.”
But he was gone, and there wasn’t any answer.