“Taos, I hereby declare an emergency in Chandrakant’s cabin. An emergency wrapped up in a security breach wrapped up in a total vacuum. It really sucks. Give me access via override.”

“NO!” Jai shouted. “Taos, override the override! Captain’s direct orders!”

“I am sorry, sir, but I must comply.” The door opened with a slight rush of air as the pressure equalized, revealing Myassa clutching a hull brace that was dented in on one end. Her features, dark but delicate, were contorted in anger. The jet-black combat hijab scarf she always wore only accentuated the effect, like a Halloween wreath.

“Myassa, wait!” Jai cried. “Just a second! You don’t understand!” The Vyaeh were almost within range of the missile strike that would knock debris out of orbit and rain megatons of ice and rock upon them.

“I understand all right, Chandrakant.” Myassa strode up to Jai, batted aside his feeble attempt to stop her, and pulled the power cable that connected his game system to the ship’s central power supply.

“NOOOO!” Jai wailed. He grabbed the screen and watched as the afterimage of his battlecruiser faded to black, all his progress in Fleet Simulator: Great Campaigns lost. “I was about to turn the tide at the Battle of the Inner Belt! I had them!”

Myassa smirked, and tossed the power cord into Jai’s lap. “At first I thought it was cute that you think your little toy starships are as important as the real one you’re supposed to be captaining. But that was about six months ago. Taos?”

“Five months, thirteen days, seventeen hours, forty minutes, fifty-seven seconds, and-”

“Right, that’s enough.” Myassa fixed Jai with the full force of her best grimace. “I sent you a text message a week ago about this.”

“I…I’m a little behind on my messages,” said Jai, his tone mournful over the sudden and irretrievable loss of his imaginary ship.

“Then start checking them,” said Myassa. “It’s not hard. You know what is hard? Making the necessary preparations for landing without your permission!”

“But…well, once there are so many messages…so many unread messages…it just gets intimidating, you know?” said Jai, raising his hands. “It’s just easier not to deal with it.”

“Easier for you, maybe,” Myassa said. “Why didn’t you respond to any of my calls? I thought something might be wrong with the shipboard server until Taos ran every diagnostic in the book twice.”

“I didn’t get any calls,” said Jai. “Maybe you were sending them to the wrong place? Maybe there was a hardware failure?”

“On a ship with four people aboard? When the only way to get a hardware failure is to scoop out your communications implant with a melon baller?” Myassa spat. “You’ve been deliberately ignoring me. Or blocking me. I’m not sure which is worse.”

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