Random Exercises – “Number Two”

So here’s the plan. I decided I wanted to do some daily writing exercises to random prompts. For as long as I feel like it, I’ll try to write at least 500 words every day, inspired by a random prompt from the TVTropes Story Generator. https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/storygen.php

That generator produces seven categories: Setting, Plot, Narrative Device, Hero, Villain, Character As Device, and Characterization Device. I don’t want to try to do all of those in 500 words, so the day of the week will determine the category for the day.

So let’s begin…

Saturday, 07Jan23

Category: Character As Device

Prompt: Number Twohttps://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NumberTwo


“Captain, the crew are worried. They—”

Captain Ankur pored over her charts as though her study could change them. She did not turn around at Rigella’s statement, but the clink of porcelain interrupted it all the same. Her teacup had vibrated just a little against the saucer; subtle but audible in the tiny metal cabin.  “If you have questions about my orders, Stellis, spit them out. Don’t put them in the mouths of the crew.”

Rigella adjusted her collar, where the stiff fabric was clinging to the perspiration on her neck. “Permission to speak freely, Captain?”

The Captain turned to face her and leaned against the navigation table, folding her arms. “If this conversation must occur, Stellis, let’s have it quickly.” The bags under her eyes were darker, and her breath stank of unbrushed teeth.

“The crew are worried, Captain, but I share their concerns. The orders regarding that container are irregular and go against several of our usual cargo-handling protocols. That, on top of the triple-shifts and our classified destination…” Rigella trailed off. Though she had, in fact, begun to connect the dots, the only logical conclusion stuck in her throat.

“I suppose engineering has the usual complaints about the engines as well.”

“They do, Captain, but that’s not why I’m here.”

Delsie Ankur’s jaw was set, her eyes bloodshot and bored. “Say it, then.”

“Are we headed for the Eltic homeworld, Captain?”

Captain Ankur held her stare for a moment, then blinked. She turned away, seeking out her teacup to cover the broken eye contact. She cradled it in both hands, sipping before she replied. “That’s classified, of course, but you think we are. That’s why you’re here?”

“I’m here because I fear that secrecy is being used to hide an illegal mission from the crew.”

“And if that were the case, Lieutenant…” The Captain paused, taking the occasion to finish what remained of her tea in one big swallow. “If that were the case, don’t you think that would be for the best?”


“If we were, in fact, carrying out an… illegal mission,” she coated the word with contempt, “would it be preferable to order the crew to carry out that illegal mission, with the full knowledge of the implications? Do you think that would produce the best outcome?”

“The crew is required to refuse an illegal order, Captain.”

“And suppose that mission, while illegal, was necessary. What then?”

“And you, Captain, are required to refuse an illegal mission.”

Captain Ankur attempted to place her teacup onto the saucer once more, but the tremor was worse now, and she sent the teacup and saucer together tumbling to the floor, where they shattered.

“Damn,” whispered the Captain, but she left the pieces where they lay, gripping the edge of the map table with white-knuckled hands.

Rigella resisted the urge to soothe the Captain’s distress or clean up the mess. Neither were her fault or responsibility.

Instead, she fought her weary muscles and sweat-slicked uniform to stand at attention.

In the silence of the tiny metal cabin, the ship’s engines whined through the floor, and the Captain’s breath was strained and uneven.

“Are we having that conversation then, Rigella?”

“Is that conversation necessary, Captain?”

“If it’s not us, it will be someone else.”

“That is out of my jurisdiction, Captain. I only have authority on this ship, and it is subordinate to yours…”

The captain was looking at the broken teacup. “Except under certain conditions,” she finished.

“Yes, Captain. Have those conditions been met?”

Captain Ankur stood up, adjusted her cap, and met Rigella’s gaze. “Not today.”

“Orders, Captain?”

“Yes, Lieutenant. Tell the crew to eject that container into space, and then get me command on the line.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Does this assuage your concerns, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Good,” she said. “Dismissed.”

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