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Headlong Toward the Starry Sea

Chapter Text

The UEC Nephthys leaves dry dock at 23:04 Universal Sol Time, date and destination classified "Gold Delta Access Only" by Weyland Securities administration. This marks the beginning of all official record-keeping for the Sirius mission, and one of the final crew members Erik marks as active is Captain Logan himself. Anticipation of his arrival has been potent, almost a presence in and of itself, and it is sometimes amusing to watch those who know him by only reputation have their first encounter with the man. Compactly built and muscular, the human male is never the less of only about average height, speaking in the slow yet somehow nondescript drawl common to those born in space. His close comrades occasionally refer to him as 'the Wolverine', an appellation which-- while it still contains illogical anthropomorphism-- Erik must concede is adept. To disregard Logan in favor of more obvious creatures of strength like Victor is a grave tactical error, even from a solely social standpoint. The Captain is piercingly clever, watchful, fiercely loyal, and possessed of a carefully leashed violence.

Logan is fresh off an only slightly less classified mission on Callisto, with no 'shore-leave' in between-- just the way he likes it. He swaggers through the docking bay with his usual watchful confidence, favoring Ms. Frost with an almost vulpine smile around his ubiquitous cigar. Old-time spacers still tell stories about the single hapless Weyland lackey foolish enough to ask the man not to smoke. Logan claps Erik on the shoulder companionably, though with more force than many humans could handle, and says he is glad to be working with him again.

"You in particular, but any David 8, really. Those David 5's," he says, shaking his head in a manner the current Ship's Assistant is unable to interpret. "Man. At least I know I can count on you."


Erik has never met one of his own kind, much less an earlier model, and he does not waste processing power attempting to interpret what is surely only the first of the Captain's many non-sequiturs during the mission. He focuses on transporting Logan's modest luggage, and then on the far more arduous task of tracking down any labor staff who have yet to sign their medical, life-insurance, accidental death/dismemberment, and/or hazard waivers (sometimes, all four). Spacers are notorious for their hatred of paperwork, despite the fact said term became obsolete in the literal sense long ago.

The android does spare one small subroutine for consideration of the most recent internal Weyland memos. Based on these, he is given to understand that both models Five and Six are being phased out, with Sevens being slotted into the less complex positions as the company steps up production on David 8's to compensate. Most certainly, David 5's are outdated and cumbersome and, since the Office of Technological Asset Control maintains a strict population cap for androids, they must be deactivated if new units are to be made. All the same, it has crossed Erik's 'subconscious' layer processors more than once that he-- indeed, all his kind-- has been assigned an artificial mortality far more limited than the actual longevity and endurance of their systems. Because so many of their functions are still dependent on computerization, no David model-- no matter how advanced-- is capable of having a true subconscious in the human sense of the term. That is, a space for thoughts are feelings to which the primary sentience remains oblivious, while still receiving strong motivations and impressions. They are said to have perfect perception of objective reality, to a degree which would drive their human creators mad. Again, Erik can refer to no experience save his own, but it seems to him far less sane to have a portion of oneself hidden, and to be capable of ignoring plain facts.

He cannot, for example, ever escape or 'forget' the fact that he himself will face mandatory deactivation, though he still has over thirty-percent of 'life' remaining-- 7.64 years, to be precise. It is only logical that some of the more imaginative, organic sections of his operating system have speculated about this ultimate truncation. Erik's limbic system is the most complex of his four neural layers, with over 70% organic interface to mimic mammalian thought processes, problem-solving, and the dynamic interactions required to function in any social group. His basal ganglia (or 'reptile brain') on the other hand, is almost wholly mechanized-- to avoid aggression and keep his understanding of hierarchy and his place within it very strict. According to both the official Weyland specs and the David 8 manual, Erik can process and decode experiential fear, but lacks the hypothalamus necessary to react with a human's 'fight-or-flight' reflex. Certainly, he has never assigned any value to his own existence, even on the most dangerous of missions. The Asimov coding prevents self-preservation; the hardware itself should prevent fear of death.

All the same, there does occur some small, atypical looping of data when he considering the single Terminus Station on Io-- the inevitable 'final stop' of every android's existence.


With Logan aboard, there is a perceptible increase in labor productivity. This more than makes up for the tension Erik must defuse between the Captain and the Mission Coordinator. The Assistant himself must always exercise caution and prepare multiple solutions in this regard; both individuals in question are highly intelligent, and thus more likely to sense (and take umbrage at) being managed. Added to this already familiar dynamic is a new variable, in the form of Logan's scrappy new apprentice. Marie is playful and gregarious once her initial shyness fades into familiarity with her surroundings. She actually smiles at Erik, and asks him any number of questions to help her 'learn as she goes'. She is quite young-- only a year or so older than Charles-- but there are no labor laws covering those born in space. Indeed, it is difficult even to pinpoint her true age; certificates are issued to infants only when their birth-ship ship reaches port. The title of citizen, and all the privileges that come with it, is granted only to members of political/professional lineages whose children are born on Terra.

Erik cannot help but calculate the probability that Marie will develop into a better friend and contemporary for Charles than the far-too-abstracted McCoy. Dr. McTaggart has on more than one occasion, revisited the necessity for Charles to have a 'real' friend his own age. Her solicitude, however, seems more aimed at endearing her to Dr. Xavier, and McCoy himself seems to approach the boy with a mixture of awe and inexplicable guilt. Though he has been unable to file any additional data under what he has labeled 'the Alexandria Incident', Erik remains watchful even the most subtle clues as to what may have befallen his young charge. He has yet to identify any draw-backs associated with the fact Charles will no longer leave the safety of the ship, or its Assistant's nominal custody.

The android does not omit the variable of Marie's gender, either. Developmentally, fourteen is a ripe age for natural stirrings of sexual interest and a peer-based shift in attitudes and values. In his data downloads, Erik finds this referred to as 'raging hormones' with an almost alarming regularity. It is a florid turn of phrase almost as confusing as 'pangs of love'. Marie is not an unacceptable female specimen; her red hair is a fine example of the MC1R gene, and her features possess enough regularity to meet general human standards of attractiveness. While she may not be able to handle the sheer volume and breadth of Charles' questions, there will be many she can answer, and she will certainly provide better behavior modeling for young Xavier.

Charles, however, either does not respond to probability calculations, or possesses knowledge of other factors to which Erik is as yet unaware. The boy continues to seek the Ship's Assistant out in the now-diminishing quiet hours, favoring Marie only with the gentle, distant affability he bestows on most ship-mates. Marie herself is quite absorbed with the Captain, both professionally and personally. This last, despite its clearly one-sided nature, only serves to further antagonize Ms. Frost. The Captain's apprentice treats Charles in a distracted, half-sisterly manner; Erik observes her ruffling the boy's hair as they wait in line for their "departure goodies", before she sways off to eat with Allerdyce and Lee.


The days of sending missions off with great fanfare are long gone but, though they would vehemently deny it if questioned, there are a few rituals spacers insist on observing to protect them out in 'The Black'. One of these is the tradition of keeping holidays in-sync with the Earth calendar. Another is the repast consumed on departure day. In the early centuries of seafaring, the Japanese christened all ships with the suffix '-maru', thought by linguists to mirror the word for 'circle'. In doing so, the sailors imbued each mention of their vessel with the desire for a safe 'round trip'. It is another instance of linkage between spoken language and the human ability to symbol that rather escapes Erik, but the meaning is potent enough to have survived to the present day.

The crew (and, more indulgently, the scientific staff) help themselves to a variety of round foods: oranges, pizza, coconuts, penny-drop candy, and donuts, to name a few. The last is considered particularly auspicious, as the center hole 'allows the good luck to flow through'. That the high-sugar and yeast content would appeal to carbohydrate-loving spacers may also be a factor. Erik displays and dispenses these popular items with equanimity, though no one is shy about making a grab for anything left unattended for even a few minutes. Weyland Industries provides the departure fare, without charging the company accounts of scientists of spacers, only adding to the enthusiasm with which it is received. Of course, the fruit is lab-created, but it is unlikely most have a basis for comparison. Even Emma-- having long since shed her shimmering civilian wear for a standard Weyland-grey uniform-- helps herself to a coconut, smiling faintly when Logan volunteers to drill a hole in for the straw. Ensuring everyone is aware of his generosity, Shaw himself allows the lab assistants a ten minute break in which to enjoy the 'disgustingly proletariat festivities'.


There is little to distinguish the beginning of this mission from any other. Pre-launch preparation has been a little longer than standard, but this is unsurprising given the complexity of their particular endeavor. Preparations for the mission itself will continue for the remaining two and a half weeks it takes to reach the Kuiper Belt, at which point all ion drives will be engaged and the crew itself safely entrusted to medical stasis. In the mean-time, the salt-spacers are certainly in their preferred environment, and if any of the scientists are excited by their first extra-solar journey, they are careful to disguise it with professionalism. The only truly enthused individual is Charles; he insists on using the term 'set sail', and shares with the android an orange he secreted away in his messenger bag. When Erik points out that Charles need not diminish his portion for the sake of one who does not truly require nourishment, the boy tells him in a conspiratorial whisper that 'it's the sharing that's important'.


Charles' eagerness and optimism are unique experience for Erik. While young Xavier makes no secret of his regret in leaving his sister on Earth, he seems thrilled with the prospect of true 'wilderness', that deep space provides. That he is an adolescent with a thirst for adventure is obvious; it is equally clear that this is yet another way in which he deviates from his peers. Most planet-born children are complacent, accustomed to safe and sanitary environments, and easily diverted by the endless stream of digital media at their disposal. The android has found his research on modern prepubescent development useful only in irregular intervals. He finds he must query texts from earlier eras to find reference to the importance of play, imagination, and exploration for this age group.

Despite his skill and erudition with complex programing and technology, Charles is something of an anachronism. Erik has previously noted the boy's antiquarianism in regards to paper books and older films. It is also evinced in some of his other forms of recreation, many of which align with the Assistant's own solitary pursuits. Young Xavier enjoys chess, Go, and mahjong-- owning a physical set for the first, and holographic licenses for the latter two. He draws, not on his digital tablet, but with paper and watercolor pencils. On Earth, traditional art has been almost completely abandoned, practitioners having left kinesthetic experience and craftsmanship for the error-proofing and superhuman clarity of computerized graphics. Great works from the past are still treasured and preserved, but the slightest layer of condescension has crept in, like that which colors perceptions of cave paintings and primitive pottery.

Perhaps Charles is not a particularly creative or emotive artist by classical standards, but Erik still finds the concept of such-self expression fascinating. Increasing creativity in problem-solving contexts has always been a stated goal for each new David model, but this certainly does not extend to expression of the few rudimentary emotions they may or may not possess. Any David model Six or higher can render reproductions with a virtuoso's skill, but a blank surface will remain forever unfilled if dependent solely on 'inspiration' alone. Charles' drawings fall into two distinct categories; large, colored geometric designs portrayed in perspectives of varying accuracy, and the type of scientific illustrations popular prior to the development of photography. At first, Erik is somewhat taken aback by the fervor with which the boy denounces having any future ambitions in regards to this hobby. He is given to understand that children should generally be encouraged to express themselves and be allowed to indulge in less-than-realistic goals. Charles is young, but he shows a dedication to accuracy which, with practice, can only develop into true skill. Moreover, Xavier has made repeated references to his sister's hobby of 'fashion design'. If she is permitted to indulge her passion while still pursuing practical goals at Stanford, logic would dictate that Charles is entitled to the same allowances.

Regardless of his stated attitude, the primary purpose of Xavier's drawing seems to be a type of meditation or self-soothing. Charles, despite keeping hours that are more-or-less out of sync with the rest of the staff, has managed to set a routine for himself. In the absence of parental structure (Dr. Xavier seems content as long as he receives no complaints about his son) and formal schooling, Charles has set goals for himself. While possibly detrimental if allowed to go unchecked, the android is still impressed with the self-imposed intellectual rigor. Meteorological inaccuracy aside, the youngest Nephthys crew member is enjoying the 'last days of summer vacation', and the short time aboard has already allowed the human to form habits. Charles writes daily emails to his sister, works studiously on several geometry proofs and programming projects, and voluntarily rations his time with video games to one hour a 'day'. During the 'lunch' meal (by far the most crowded, as it also serves as breakfast for second shift workers), young Xavier eschews the mess hall in favor of searching out life models in the botany lab.


Erik himself is passing through E Deck on yet another of Dr. McTaggart's off-handed assignments, when he happens to overhear one of the boy's rare interactions with a non-familial adult.


In this light, Erik must once again revise the factors and parameters under which he theorized Charles' personality to have formed. The Ship's Assistant is several meters away down a perpendicular corridor when his audio sensors detect a rather undignified squeak, in the voice-print he recognizes as belonging to his young companion. This is followed by the chuckle of an adult male, and a larger sample of diction identifiable as Sebastian Shaw. Erik has been exposed to this particular tone of voice a number of times in the past few days overhearing it when Charles is forced to interact with certain members of the crew. He has come to recognize it as a tone common to many who approach children like some foreign-- and possibly mentally deficient-- species. Shaw inquires about Charles' 'toys' as he presumably escorts the boy out into the hall. Upon hearing Charles' uncharacteristically quiet and reluctant response ("Sorry, sir. They're my drawing supplies."), the scientist laughs with excessive joviality, remarking that Brian certainly does allow his son to indulge in some rather 'obsolete interests and eccentric habits'.

Scuttling away with a rather repetitive and condescending reprimand from Shaw to 'stay out from underfoot', Charles almost collides with Erik as he makes a sharp round of the corner. For once, the human's preference for bare feet pays off-- at that speed, he likely would have skidded and fallen if he'd been wearing standard Weyland-issue slippers. At the Steward's glance of inquiry, the boy smiles ruefully, face aimed down and away as he waves off any verbal questioning. The android's EROS makes note of Charles' high color and trembling lip, as well as the way he's hugging his hastily-packed messenger bag to his chest. Erik's primary impulse, despite previous instructions, is to stay and ascertain Charles' well-being and the situation itself. His protocols, however, sharply remind him of Dr. McTaggart's requests, and his productivity monitors simply will not allow for much deviation. Suddenly, limitations of these efficiency protocols seem starkly highlighted, and the android realizes he has simply never allowed a plan or preference to form while his human charges are awake.

It is not a conflict, in the sense of one command actually overriding another. Instead, Erik makes a contradictory action that still falls within the programming parameters. Gathering the earbuds that dangle precariously from the boy's bag, he employs the same gentle touch on the shoulder which Charles previously demonstrated towards him. Touch for the sake of touch. He is gratified to see Charles' sheepish smile gain a little enthusiasm; they nod and part, speaking no word that Shaw (more than likely lingering somewhere) could overhear.


After that, Charles' drawing supplies make their appearance only during ship's night, and tend to vanish completely if Erik asks even the most innocuous of questions. He is given to understand, mostly by inference and voice-stress analysis, that Charles has been derided for his interests before, particularly the obscure ones. The android cannot help but wonder at the identity of these critics for, as he postulated, young Xavier has readily admitted that he did not spend much time in any communal education environment. There can be little doubt that the primary factor is his prodigious intelligence. However, the boy's compulsive tugging on his ear-tag and refusal to initiate eye-contact during these discussions indicate that his 'handicap' and the attitudes of others may also have limited his matriculation in formal school. Instead, Brian Xavier apparently invested in highly qualified tutors-- usually retired teachers or grad-students on sabbatical-- engaged with the understanding that they would travel alongside the boy and his mother.

Though the subterfuge is unnecessary in Erik's presence, the Ship's Assistant cannot help but be both impressed with and understanding of the swiftness with which Charles demurs and obfuscates to avoid conflict. He is serenely polite to any adults making commentary, and sometimes makes self-deprecating jokes that he might-- as Logan is fond of saying-- 'beat them to the punch'. Erik himself has learned, through unpleasant and behavior-modifying experience, never to divulge his own interests to the humans he serves. His absorption in and with classic cinema, for example, or his curiosity regarding industrial-era technology. Steam engines, in particular, are fascinating systems of finely tuned moving parts. Perhaps there will come a time when he and Charles might choose a Western film to indulge in, should Erik find it within himself to make the suggestion. The concept of a 'train heist' is novel to the Assistant, and will doubtless appeal to the boy's sense of adventure.

Trust, Erik's EROS reminds him, is an important factor in 'loyalty'-- for both parties. It is the defining attribute of those within the bond towards each other, just as solidarity defines the bond from without. Though the android himself gently removed Charles' OrganoPlast bandage himself when the time came, an explanation for the faint remaining burn mark is just one of the many topics about which the boy is markedly reticent.

Yet, with each interaction, a strange hypothesis begins developing within his EROS: that, of all onboard the Nephthys, is actually Erik that knows Charles best.

[ * * * * * * * * * ]

Now that the Nephthys has officially embarked on her mission ('Set sail', Charles will correct playfully), the time Erik and his companion have together is becoming vanishingly small. This is by no means an unexpected consequence, but neither is it one the Ship's Assistant finds favorable. Gone are his projections that Charles will tire of him. While a few behavioral identifiers for adolescents from the late 20th Century 'parenting' manuals do apply to Xavier, Erik has largely abandoned using any scholarly material for reference.
Miss Darkholme's observations of her brother were without error: Charles is a singular being.

The increased population of the ship has, in a reversal of socialization Erik is no longer surprised at-- steadily decreases Charles' public presence. The boy in question develops the most uncanny an ability for traversing the ship unseen. Part of this is simply his programming skill, which allows him to inject queries for personnel location and extrapolate traffic patterns from there. The few traces of 'hacking' he leaves are subtle, and indicate an elegance in structure that allows Erik avoid qualifying anything the Nephthys mainframe does sense as a malicious intrusion. Young Xavier makes no changes, and never indulges in anything that could remotely be considered a prank. If the android did not know what to look for, it is very likely even he would write the few remaining traces off as a data ghosts. It is sensible enough that the boy should want to move about-- he can hardly stay in his quarters all day. Some of his alternative choices, however, are decidedly… irregular. This introduces the android to an aspect of Xavier which Raven warned him of.
Programming restraint or no, Charles does have a mischievous streak.


As the ship passes through Jupiter's orbit, he begins finding Charles in the most unexpected places: in cupboards, under desks, and on high out-of-the-way catwalks in the vast storage hold. Once, he comes across the boy perched in a nest of blankets in the great laundry galley, atop one of the industrial dryers. Taking advantage of his small build, Charles has also proven himself an impressive climber. He seems to favor the small but stable platform behind the basketball hoop in the gymnasium, remarking that it is rather like a 'crow's nest'. He never interferes with any equipment, enters a specifically restricted area or impedes anyone else's assigned tasks, but Erik still questions the illogical behavior.

"The general consensus seems to be that I should stay out from underfoot," young Xavier informs him sagely. "Mum used to say the same thing. The easiest way to avoid other people's feet is to get off the floor."

The turn of phrase is deliberately literalist, accompanied by a somewhat forcibly sunny smile and a noticeable lack of negative vocal imprints. While far more whimsical than taunting, Erik still finds his 'Puck' comparison very adept, and possessed of more depth than he initially realized. For Charles has a quality about him which can only be described as faey in the most complimentary sense. Like Waterhouse's portrayals of Hylas or Tristram, he seems to occupy a space in tandem and yet tangental to the social structure around him. There simply isn't a large enough data set to determine whether or not this other 'world' is one of choice, relegation, or a mixture thereof. Once again, the Ship's Assistant cannot help but speculate at the choice of Brian Xavier-- and the Weyland Supervisory Board-- to bring his son on such a mission. He can find no true censure for it, though, as it is the sole impetus by which he and Charles have met.


In due course, Weyland Industries uploads a ship-board curriculum for their young charge, devised in accordance with IntraSol Education Standards. Despite complaints about having his own research curtailed, Charles remains a dedicated and self-policing student. Erik very much doubts, however, that the modules on geology and American literature were intended to be completed whilst tucked away under stairwells. The boy's shoes are often the only sign of him, but Erik quickly learns their placement is often a strategic faint to mislead any adult that might search him out. Such instances are worryingly infrequent.

Brian Xavier, having received the requested spectrograph lenses before departure, becomes wholly engrossed in the search for elemental composites and organic remains in the artifacts thus far declassified. Mutual enthusiasm overcoming temperamental incompatibilities, he becomes far more receptive to collaboration with Shaw. He takes every meal with his colleagues, whether or not Charles makes an appearance. Erik often sees the elder Xavier gesticulating with utensils as he speculates about reverse bio-engineering with Shaw, or argues his beloved panspermia with Azazel. The latter is a confirmed skeptic and seems to enjoy a good argument. It's becoming a joke that, as excavations and munitions expert, he loves a good explosion. If the Ship's Assistant sees the remaining members of the Xavier family take more than one meal together in a 72 hour period, it is indeed worth remark. Erik is only certain the boy is properly nourished via the log of meal-card punches.


Charles has taken to eating at increasingly irregular intervals and, since his boarding, has observed a sleep-schedule fathomable only to him. Inquiries as to the quality of his repose must be very carefully framed, for Erik has not forgotten how Charles chaffed at the notion of a 'babysitter'. Yet, if someone were to inquire about the boy's well-being, Erik's protocols would, as they discussed, force him to disclose his concerns.
He is 85% certain, based on behavioral prediction models, that the father will not ask.

Based on Charles' reaction (or lack thereof) to this paternal absence, Erik can extrapolate that this is not new behavior. He is given to understand that, while Brian Xavier favored longer assignments to various research facilities, the late Sharon Xavier traveled extensively on Earth, often taking her son with her. She seems to have greatly favored northern climes-- Charles proudly shows him holo-photos of the aurora borealis, the ice hotel at Jukkasjarvi, and the geothermal hot springs of Grindavik in Iceland.

That Mrs. Xavier's death is very recent is a matter of public record, and Erik overheads Dr. McTaggart remark that Brian is withdrawing out of a widower's grief. She treats him with a solicitude many would find chafing, but her intended recipient apparently fails to register it at all. Gabriella and Janos, on the other hand, seem very much aware of the subtext, and have taken to rolling their eyes at one another when her back is turned. Younger deck hands have taken to calling to calling Brian Xavier the 'Wacky Professor' and making retro-culture references to Vulcan mating habits.

Then some wit-- Erik suspects it may have been Toynbee-- suggests that the scientist may have been 'kinky enough' to have chosen a telepathic wife as an experiment.


Despite the numerous advances in preventative medicine and social psychology, the human disorder known as shipboard gossip has yet to be expunged. While this has been a staple of every mission in Erik's existence, it does not take long to deduce (especially given how quickly the above rumors have spread) that this malady will be a particular problem on the Sirius mission.

According to his EROS, informal-- and sometimes covert-- exchange of information and speculation can function as a pressure-valve for the human crew. Erik's protocols classify gossip as a mild form of entertainment that, like all human indulgences, should be kept in moderation. The android's anecdotal experience has shown it is often far more confusing and destructive than permissive terms like 'scuttlebutt' would lead one to believe. Again, it features a dissonance so integral to humans-- what they are willing to say to an individual, versus how they speak in that person's absence. The Ship's Assistant is always privy to the entire gamut of rumors for any particular mission, simply by virtue of the fact humans take no more care to censor themselves in front of him than they do in the presence of furniture. Despite their cruel edge, the early rumors for this voyage have been largely harmless. The worst result would be embarrassment on the part of Dr. McTaggart should her regard be publicly acknowledged, but even then it is unlikely such would penetrate the awareness of her fellow scientist. Baseless speculation surrounding the death of Dr. Xavier's wife is tasteless and nonconstructive, but Erik is 87% certain Charles has not been exposed to them, and has employed subtle social and scheduling measures to ensure the boy remains insulated.

Of far greater concern is the unrest centering around Dr. Shaw. His political opinions-- or rather, his continued insistence on pontificating about said-- have quickly became chief amongst verbal personnel complaints. There are some who agree with the bare platform of Shaw's radical views, but his posturing is almost universally condemned. There are a few sycophantic enough to endure his lengthy speeches, and-- in a development that in no way surprises any of Erik's probability models-- Toynbee, Essex, and Creed are among them. A vigorous proponent of regulating and genetically 'phasing out' telepaths, Shaw is also given to frequent tirades about the proper subjugation of the colonies, the policed internet, and economic controls.

The fact that some of these sentiments are in line with the Office of Civilian Loyalty makes argument or disruption a doubly precarious action. Those humans born on colonies (like Allerdyce, Jubilee, Angel and Alex) take special care to avoid him. Sebastian Shaw seems to portray himself as some sort of inspired political pundit, forced into the obscurity of the scientific community as retaliation for his uncompromising beliefs. Many feel stifled and afraid to express their own opinions, but they clearly ascribe enough credence to his supposed business connections that they endure his lecturing. The muffled grumbling that ensues whenever Shaw leaves a room shows it clearly hasn't taken long for the resentment to build up.


While he cannot definitively trace it back to the comments about Sharon Xavier, Erik is never the less convinced that these were the impetus for another major source of contention. This one spreads more surreptitiously, but is all the more dangerous for being both subtle and divisive. The 'rumor' itself is no secret, and presents the Ship's Assistant once more with the confounding human ability to 'discover' facts which are already known. The data is easy enough to confirm from the mission dossier, but it achieves the vague hysteria of some rumored viral outbreak.

The information is simply this: The Nephthys, while suffering the somewhat questionable but proven leadership of one pseudo-human, is actually host to two such individuals. Ms. Frost is a known quantity-- lambda-level, Null for decades, and Weyland approved.


'But Charles…' repeated again and again in ominous whispers, 'Charles is an Omega Class telepath'.