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Dolph Ubikwe [Spoilers]
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:37 pm    Post subject: Dolph Ubikwe [Spoilers] Reply with quote

Dolph Ubikwe is a terrific character in the Gap Cycle, I believe, and deserves his own thread. There's a lot of quotes I'd like to use concerning him, and I hope to add some of these in the coming weeks. For now, I'd like to start things off by focusing on where we first meet him, as Min boards his ship to go where she can give aid to Morn and her companions in the wake of Billingate's destruction and the resulting Amnion pursuit.

Quote:
But then the captain, Dolph Ubikwe, broke the pause by swinging his g-seat toward Min. In a granite rumble, he said, stolidly, "Director Donner. Welcome aboard."

At once the bridge crew rose to salute. The techs moved out of Min's way as if they believed--or wanted to believe--that they were beneath her notice.

There was no welcome in Captain Ubikwe's voice, however. It seemed to pulse from his chest like the cut of a subsonic drill. Even if Min had been deaf, she might have been able to hear him through the bones of her skull. Ensigns under his command often said that his voice could strip paint at twenty paces.

He was a large man--almost too large to pass the UMCP physicals--with a heavy mass of muscle hidden under his fat. Too much strain and too few showers caused his black skin to gleam in the featureless light. Red rimmed his bloodshot eyes' they appeared to bulge in their sockets. Fists as heavy as cudgels rested on the arms of his seat.

"Thank you, Captain." Min didn't expect welcome. "At ease," she told the bridge crew without shifting her gaze from Dolph Ubikwe. As they resumed their g-seats, she asked him, "How soon can you go into tach?"

His fists tightened slightly. "Depends on whether that's a request or an order. You order it and we're gone. All we need to know is where. But if it's a request"--he lifted his heavy shoulders--"we can probably be ready in three or four months."

In another place, at another time, Min might have smiled. She knew this man well. He had first come to her attention in the Academy ten years ago, when his air of insubordination and his poor grades had threatened to deny him a commission. She had overruled the Academy commander in person to make Dolph Ubikwe an ensign. Despite his resistance to discipline, which had showed in his sloppy classroom work as well as his excess weight, she had sensed a fettered emotional power in him, a charisma similar to Warden's. It might make him an effective leader--if he ever learned how and when to unleash it. Since then, he had vindicated her judgment by rising swiftly to the command of his own vessel. Under other circumstance, she would have had no qualms about using him to carry out Warden Dios' orders.

"If it were a request," she replied to his tight stare, "I wouldn't be here."

His mouth twisted. "Then perhaps the Enforcement Division director would condescend to tell us where we're going. It does make a difference, you know--heading, velocity, all those troublesome little gap details."

Now she did smile--a smile as humorless and bleak as an arctic wind. Instead of reacting to his sarcasm, she said simply, "The Com-Mine belt. Close to forbidden space."
_________________________________________
A muscle at the corner of Captain Ubikwe's mouth twitched like a flinch. "Now why in hell," he asked Min, "would we want to do a thing like that?"

She didn't snap at him. She also didn't drop his gaze. She could have made Punisher obey her blind--she could require unquestioning compliance from any ship in the fleet--but she had no intention of doing so. For one thing, she owed this ship an explanation. And for another, she knew that Dolph Ubikwe would serve her better if she let him be himself.


Captain Ubikwe seems to me to be described well enough to be easy to imagine and feels like a real human being. And I can't help but like him, when all his abrasiveness is founded on concern for his fatigued crew, rather than resentment at being outranked on his own ship. The following quote occurs after Min explains the bare basics of the mission she has in mind for his ship and crew.

Quote:
For a moment Dolph lowered his eyes. When he raised them again, they seemed oddly naked, as if he had set aside some of his defenses. "Permission to speak frankly."

Just for an instant Min wondered whether she should refuse. Then she decided against it. By some standards, disagreements--not to mention hostility--between commanders was bad for discipline. One the other hand, Punisher was his ship: the tone which either inspired or dismayed his people was his to set, no matter what she did. She was willing to trust his instincts.

She nodded once. "Please."

He shifted his posture as if to launch his voice at her from a more stable platform. "Then let me just ask you, Director Donner," he said in a tone of raw outrage, "if you are out of your incorrigible mind. Don't you read reports anymore? Haven't you got a clue what we've just been through? Or maybe you think dodging matter cannon fire and asteroids alone for six months is some kind of holiday. You sent us out to Valdor to do a job which would have been too much for five cruisers. We're lucky to get home limping instead of just plain dead.

"We're shorthanded here. That was in the reports, too. Some of my people are drifting around Massif-5 in caskets. We've got holes and hydraulic leaks and a scan bank with no wiring. But never mind that. After what we've been through, we can stand a few minor inconveniences. We've got worse problems."

His voice was harsh enough to hurt Min's ears, but she knew from experience that he still had plenty of volume in reserve. For the sake of her personal comfort, she hoped that he didn't use it.

"Have you listened to this ship yet, Director Donner? Or have you forgotten what that kind of displacement can do to a warship? In case you've been spending too much time behind your desk and not enough on the firing line, let me remind you. If the bearings go and internal spin freezes before we can shut it down, centrifugal inertia is transferred to the whole ship. The whole ship starts to spin--which is a nightmare for scan and helm, never mind targ. Punisher isn't make for that kind of maneuver. And if we start to spin like that in the belt--or in combat--then you can kiss your hard ass good-bye along with all the rest of us.

"This is all crazy, Director Donner. How many warships have we got now? Fifty? Fifty cruisers, destroyers, gunboats, and full battlewagons? Do you expect me to believe they're all unavailable for this job? That not one of them is in reach?

"If that's true, let Com-Mine Station do it, whatever it turns out to be. Hell on ice, Director, they've got enough in-system firepower to slag three ships like this. Let them police their own goddamn belt for a few more hours.

"We are in no shape for this."


Facing an Amnion warship charged with retributive vengeance for the destruction of Thanatos Minor sounds intimidating enough, but Dolph's summations his ship's technical problems tightens up the tension even further. Though I've just met him, I'm already in full sympathy with him. What a great SRD character!

I'm interested in hearing what other Gap fans have to say about him! Smile


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Amnion are not just upset about the planetoid and the Bill's little slice of Paradise thereon. Tranquil Hegemony is likely also part of their alien vendetta.

If they even think that way...

As for Dolph, I am waiting for the suit-fouling story.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Chaos and Order was wrote:
“In case you weren’t paying attention, the director of the entire UMCP Enforcement Division, which we so proudly serve, has just announced that she’s putting her life in our hands. She isn’t sending us out to the belt to see what we’re made of—she’s going with us. Where I came from, we called that ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ “—abruptly he pounded a fist on his board—“and we respected it.”

Suddenly everyone on the bridge seemed busy with one task or another.

Reading that, that's when I liked Dolph. He doesn't really know what's going on, but he sees the clues that others don't see, and finds a perspective that everyone else missed. Shrewd. Wise.

(For that reason, this moment reminds me very much of when Covenant first comes to Revelstone, and Prothall says, "You are bitter, and bitterness is a sign of concern. I trust that." All at once, we realize that the Lords see more deeply into Covenant than we do.)

On the outside, Dolph is an ugly, ineffective lump. Everything he is to us is all in his inside. We understand Dolph by what he says, and how he chooses, and to whom he is loyal. He is very much the Tor of the Gap series. And like the Tor, he's an ethical touchstone - we trust his wise, shrewd judgement.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He's one of the best characters in all of SRD's work, not just the Gap.
Not just his personality/identity...which is cool in itself...but the other literary/structural parts and pieces he is plugged into/linked with.

I love the bastard. [even if on my first time through I thought "REALLY???Yet ANOTHER 'greatleaderbecausegreatrebelbecausegreatleaderbecausegreatrebel' dude??

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you all for your responses!

Savor Dam wrote:
The Amnion are not just upset about the planetoid and the Bill's little slice of Paradise thereon. Tranquil Hegemony is likely also part of their alien vendetta.

If they even think that way...


Good point!

Quote:
As for Dolph, I am waiting for the suit-fouling story.


It's coming, I assure you! Cool

wayfriend wrote:
On the outside, Dolph is an ugly, ineffective lump. Everything he is to us is all in his inside. We understand Dolph by what he says, and how he chooses, and to whom he is loyal. He is very much the Tor of the Gap series. And like the Tor, he's an ethical touchstone - we trust his wise, shrewd judgement.


"The Tor of the Gap series"...I like this!

Vraith wrote:
He's one of the best characters in all of SRD's work, not just the Gap.


Strongly agree!!!

[Edited for spelling corrections]


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith wrote:
Not just his personality/identity...which is cool in itself...but the other literary/structural parts and pieces he is plugged into/linked with.


Yes. Especially effective, I think, is the way Dolph's character is used to bring out more of Min's personality. Up to this point we know that Min Donner is a tough determined cop who is loyal to her own people & Warden and dedicated to the idea of justice. But Captain Ubikwe's presence in the story gradually allows us to see more sides to Min.

Quote:
Glowering excessively, Captain Ubikwe returned his gaze to Min. She suspected that he was swallowing a grin. His tone was grave, however, as he asked, "Are you telling me ED has a stake in this covert attack? I thought only DA did work like that."

Min didn't want to mention Morn Hyland. She wasn't ready to open that door into her own heart. Instead she said what she thought Warden Dios would have wanted her to say.

"No. I'm telling you the UMCP has a stake in it. Humankind has a stake in it."

The captain sighed. For a moment or two he peered at his hands while he considered the situation. Then he dropped his palms onto his thighs. "In that case--" With a heave, he rose from his g-seat and stepped aside. "As Enforcement Division director and the highest-ranking UMCP officer aboard, the bridge is yours. Take the command station. I'll evict targ--I can work from there until we're ready to go into tach."

Min made a quick gesture of refusal. "She's your ship, Captain. We're better off with you in command. And I need rest." In fact, she hadn't slept for two days; hadn't eaten in twelve hours. "If you'll detail someone to show me my quarters, I'll get out of your way."

A touch of gratitude softened Dolph's face as he sat down again, but he didn't thank her. Automatically he hit keys on his board, checked his readouts. "Bosun will take you." The young man still stood by the aperture. "If you've got more orders for us, better spell them out. We were busy before you came aboard, but we're a hell of a lot busier now."

Min didn't hesitate. "I want to be on the other side of the gap in two hours," she answered promptly, "and in the belt in three. That means you'll have to cut it fine."

___________________________________

"As soon as we hit normal space," she continued, "I want communications on maximum gain across all bandwidths. If it's out there, I want us to hear it.

"Assuming we don't encounter any surprises, take us into the belt over on the far side--say, ten thousand k from the border--and find some rock we can hide behind, anything with enough magnetic resonance to confuse opposing scan. Wake me up when something happens or when we're in position, whichever comes first. I'll go into more detail then."

Captain Ubikwe lifted his head and bared his teeth, dismissing her. "Consider it done."

Softly but distinctly, so that everyone could hear her, she pronounced, "I do. Otherwise I would have taken command."
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Swallowing shame and abandonment, she called, "Bridge. Captain Ubikwe." Unselfconsciously she rubbed the butt of her handgun to reassure herself that it was still in its holster. She's slept fully dressed and armed so that she would be ready for this moment. "What traffic?"

"There's two of them," Dolph Ubikwe answered promptly, "but we haven't got id yet."

His bass rumble made her notice that a few hours of rest had improved her hearing. Her eardrums felt acutely sensitive, but they no longer reported voices as if they were caught in a feedback loop.

"They haven't announced themselves," he went on. He sounded tired himself, despite the intercom's inflectionless speaker. "On the other hand, we haven't asked. And we aren't broadcasting, so why should they?"

Don't get cute with me, Dolph, she wanted to snap at him. Her dreams had made her bitter. I asked a straight question--give me a straight answer. But she controlled the impulse. He didn't need her sarcasm. Punisher was already in enough trouble.

Instead she replied quietly, "Keep it simple, Captain. I'm still half-asleep. Where are we?"

"At the moment"--the intercom couldn't do justice to his subterranean growl--"we're thirty thousand k off forbidden space on the far side of the belt from Com-Mine. We would have been in position an hour and a half ago, but I haven't been able to find a hiding place that suits me." His tone suggested a humorless grin. "We're ust dodging asteroids and trying to look inconspicuous until we locate the right kind of magnetic resonance."

Now Min had to clench her teeth to hold down a whiplash of anger. A lance at her cabin chronometer told her that she'd been asleep for at least four hours--and she'd ordered Captain Ubikwe to have Punisher positioned in three.

God damn it, you sonofabitch, I told you to wake me up!

He'd been procrastinating, putting off what came next as long as he could--

With an effort, she swallowed that irritation as well. If she weren't willing to tolerate his insubordinate approach to authority, she shouldn't have left him in command.

"Don't hail them yet," she ordered. "Just keep listening. I'm on my way."

___________________________________

When she gained the bridge, she saw immediately that Captain Ubikwe himself was the only one who remained of the dozen or so people who'd been here four hours earlier. The techs were gone, along with the rest of the watch which had been on duty when she boarded; new men and women occupied the bridge stations. So presumably Dolph should also have gone off duty.

He needed rest, that was obvious. His bulk seemed to slump on his bones, as if he were melting into his g-seat; fatigue jaundiced his eyes. The sheen on his skin made him look sick.

Now she permitted herself to snap at him. "Captain, haven't you ever heard of duty rotation?" The fact that he'd made exactly the same decision she would have made in his place didn't deter her. "In case you haven't noticed, you're as human as the rest of your crew. Don't you have at least one command officer who can be trusted to follow a few simple orders?"

He gave her a yellow glare; a snarl showed his gums, pink against his black lips. "With respect, Director"--his tone was like a grimly muted trumpet--"I guess you don't bother to read reports. If you did, you might have observed that my second was one of our casualties. And my third lost most of her left arm. She got caught by a vacuum seal the second time we were holed--confined to quarters for medical reasons. Fortunately Command Fourth Hargin Stoval has about as much respect for 'duty rotations' as I do. Between the two of us, we've been trying to avoid pushing duty on officers who are even tireder than we are."

Min stopped as if she'd run into a wall of chagrin. Only determination and training kept her distress off her face. Good, Min. Nice work. You feel like shit, so you take it out on the first innocent bystander you see. And then you get it wrong. Keep this up. Maybe you'll come of it with a fucking commendation.

"My apologies, Captain," she pronounced distinctly. "I did read your report. And I didn't assign fresh personnel. I assumed you would prefer to work with people you already knew."

Dolph relaxed almost immediately; he didn't have the energy to stay angry. Slumping deeper into his g-seat, he growled, "You were right. I don't want new officers--this isn't the time or the place for them." Taking a deep breath, he went on, "As it happens, my fourth has the constitution of an ox. He can stand the extra watches. And I'm"--"usually tougher than this.

"What really made me tired," he continued before she had time to respond, "was seeing those ships. If I could think of a better expletive, I wouldn't have to ask what the fuck they're doing out here."


The good captain won't put more burdens on his already-exhausted people if he can somehow shoulder more weight himself. No wonder he wants to keep the people he's got; the ones whose loyalty he's earned through such gestures.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dolph's cocky, but he's loyal when it really counts.


Quote:
From the communications station she faced Captain Ubikwe.

His eyes were open now. Summoning new sources of energy from somewhere under his fat, he'd hauled himself more upright in his g-seat. As soon as Min looked at him, he said almost cheerfully, "I'm glad you're here, Director. We've already got two surprises on our hands--and with our luck there're more on the way. I don't want to make this decision." He may have been enjoying the sight of her clenched ire. "What do you want to do about them?"

She didn't hesitate: she knew her job. "Keep track of that ship in forbidden space. Let me know if she does anything--shifts course, decelerates, starts transmitting, anything. Other than that, forget her. We'll concentrate on Hashi's bugger."

She used the word "bugger" deliberately. How dare the DA director keep anything as vital as information which came from this part of the belt to himself?

"Hail her, Captain," she instructed grimly. "Announce yourself, tell her to do the same. Then ask her what the hell she'd doing parked on top of one of our listening posts."

Dolph also didn't hesitate. His instinct for insubordination didn't apply in situations like this. That was one of several reasons why she trusted him.


I wonder if we're ever told what the other reasons are?
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This next quote comes after Min and Dolph and crew encounter Darrin Scroyle's ship, and warn Scroyle he's in the path of a hostile action (Trumpet and Soar will arrive shortly).

Quote:
Abruptly the bridge speakers crackled to life. "Punisher, this is contract merchanter Free Lunch. I'm Captain Darrin Scroyle. Ship id follows."

Not Trumpet. Something inside Min slumped at the information: relief or disappointment, she know which.

The data officer didn't wait for orders: he pounced on the code-string as soon as it came in. "Got it, sir," he said quickly. Tapping databases, he reported, "Free Lunch, port of registry Betelgeuse Primary, owner and captain Darrin Scroyle. Listed for general cargo, long-range hauling. Current contract UMC. More when you want it."

He broke off because the speakers were crackling again.

"What hostile action?" the voice out of the belt asked. "No, don't tell me--I don't want to know. Just tell me which direction to run, and I'm gone."

Dolph swiveled to face the data station. "List every contact that ship's had since the day she left the shipyard. Summarize it for me fast."

"Aye, sir," The data officer began typing; and almost immediately names, dates, and consignment-codes scrolled across one of the screens. "It's all general cargo, sir," he reported. "About half independent contracts, the rest UMC. Usually between Betelgeuse, Valdor Industrial, and Terminus, but she's been to Com-Mine a couple of times. Betelgeuse to Com-Mine is the most recent."

"In other words," Dolph snorted, "she's innocent, and this is all a coincidence. Unless"--he glanced at Min--"the director of Data Acquisition in his infinite wisdom has seen fit to supply that ship with fake id."


Dolph's instincts may not be perfect, but they're pretty good, aren't they? Captain Ubikwe has already deduced that Hashi has something to do with Free Lunch's presence at that listening post near the Com-Mine belt. Close reading of the Gap from here on out confirms that Dolph's guesses about what is going on prove to be either close to the truth or "right on the money".
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following passage occurs when Dolph asks Min via intercom to meet him in the galley, where his crew are eating in a nearby room, so that he can tell Min about a message he has received. Min tells him about what she knows of Morn and Angus, and also mentions that the UMCP has had an antimutagen immunity drug that they've been keeping secret from humankind.

Quote:
Dolph snorted to himself. Still studying his mug, he asked, "Are you done? Is there anything else I should know?"

She shook her head brusquely.

"in that case"--he put his palms flat on the table like a man who meant to start shouting--"it's my turn."

Here it comes, Min thought. Because she needed the discipline, she forced herself to begin eating her stew as if nothing he could say would hurt her.

"I suggested," he began harshly, "that I feel like I might be working for the Amnion without knowing it. Turning my back on alien incursions has that effect on me." He appeared to swell with outrage as he spoke, taking on bulk as well as passion from his own words. He didn't raise his voice: nevertheless it seemed to resonate off the walls. "Turning my back on ships that might be engaged in treason has that effect. And hearing that I work for an organization that develops mutagen immunity drugs and then keeps them secret so men like this Captain Succorso can have them to play with produces the same goddamn sensation.

"But I'll tell you what really makes me feel like I enlisted on the wrong side." He shoved a fist into one of his pockets, pulled out a crumpled sheet of hardcopy. "While you were sleeping, we passed a UMC listening post."

For a second Min choked on her stew. But she didn't lift her head; didn't let him see her struggle to swallow.

"Not UMCP," he insisted, "United Mining Companies. What the hell it's doing out here, I can't tell you. You could probably tell me, but I'm not sure I want to hear any more secrets right now.

"The post log was holding a message for us. Not you--us. It's coded for Punisher." Which was his only conceivable excuse for not waking her up right away and giving her the message directly. "But it's not from Command Operations. Hell, it's not even from Center. It's from Warden Dios himself.

"It makes me sick."

"Fine." Min slammed down her spoon so hard the stew slopped over the edges of the bowl. "You be sick." She stuck out her hand. "I'll read he message."

Abruptly she caught a glint of malicious humor from his eyes. "Here." He dropped the hardcopy on the table beside her hand. "After you read it, you can be sick on the floor. The bosun doesn't mind--he's used to messy galleys by now."

Stifling obscenities, Min picked up the sheet and smoothed it out so that she could see what it said.

He was right: the transmission was from Warden Dios. And coded for Punisher. As if he didn't trust her to obey him--

_________________________________

The text of the signal was brief.

It said: Warden Dios to Isaac, Gabriel priority.

Show this message to Nick Succorso.


That was al. the words were embedded in coding that Min didn't recognize and couldn't read--some kind of machine language, apparently, intended to enforce compliance from Isaac's computer. But those twelve words were enough to make her vision go gray around the edges and fill her heart with gall.

Succorso wasn't stupid. He would figure out what the signal meant. He might not know why it was sent to him, but he would know how to use it.

Morn Hyland was aboard Trumpet with the two men who had abused her most. And her only protection was the fact that a programmed UMCP cyborg was in command. Because of who he was, Angus wouldn't let Nick hurt her. Because he was welded, Angus wouldn't hurt her himself.

But after he got this message--

Succorso would take command. In his own way, he was about as trustworthy as Milos Taverner. With a ship like Trumpet, --and with a cyborg backing him up--he might be impossible to stop.

Morn certainly wouldn't be able to stop him.

Warden. Warden. You've betrayed us. Morn. Angus. Me. Humankind. You've betrayed us all.

"The truth is," Dolph said abruptly, "I trust you." He made no effort to keep his voice down: he might have been making an announcement to the whole mess. "I've always trusted you--I can't stop now. And at the moment Warden Dios' 'personal authority' doesn't mean shit to me. He let Hashi Lebwohl hire a mercenary to attack his own people. I don't know what that means--or what this means"--he slapped a gesture at the sheet of hardcopy--"but I can guess who's behind it. Holt Fasner. Or Cleatus Fane doing the Dragon's dirty work.

"So it's up to you. You decide. We'll do whatever you tell us. And fuck the consequences."

Min held his gaze with her eyes burning and her palms afire; she clutched her handgun as if it were the only thing left that made sense to her. In her name he was prepared to defy a direct order from the director of the UMCP--

"You know," she murmured, nearly whispering, "I could court-martial you right here for saying that."

A grin bared his teeth. "I know. But you won't." For the second time he told her, "You aren't that much of a hypocrite."

Oh, really? Full of sudden disgust, she had to clench her teeth and grip her gun hard to prevent herself from flinging her stew across the galley. Then what was she? What did all her years of dedication and loyalty come to now?

Warden was forcing her to commit an act of treason. Treason to humankind. Or treason to her oath of service.

What did he want from her? Did he assume that the faithful Min Donner, so faithful that some people called her his "executioner", would blindly go ahead and carry out his orders? Or did he believe, hope, pray that her commitment to the ideals which the UMCP supposedly served would compel her to disobey him?

How could she decide without knowing what he wanted?

Who was she?

While Dolph waited for her reply, she found an answer. It was there in his face, although he didn't know it--and might have disavowed it if he did. At a word from her, he was willing to commit a crime which would doom him and his whole command. And he was willing for the simple, sufficient reason that he knew her. She was the UMCP Enforcement Division director in the purest sense of the term: as disinclined to treason as to lies; and passionately loyal to her own people.

For that same reason, she had no choice now. She was Enforcement Division, not DA or Administration, Command Operations or PR. Put crudely, she was the fist of the UMCP, not the brain; not even the heart. And a fist that imposed its own decisions on other people was only a bully, nothing more.

If there was treason here, it was Warden's, not hers. She didn't make policy. It would be a crime of another kind--a violation of her essential commitments--if she arrogated to herself the responsibility for choosing humankind's future.

So se knew what to do. She hated it; but she did it.

"You're right," she told Dolph. "It's up to me.

She seemed to feel pieces of her heart breaking off as she announced, "I want you to flare that signal to Trumpet before she reaches Massif-5." Each raw chunk she lost had Morn's name on it, or Warden's. "Which means you're going to have to catch up with her first."

Which in turn would put even more pressure on his ship and his crew. With displacement affecting navigation, Punisher would have to work to gain on the agile, undamaged gap scout.

"The sooner you get started, the better."

Dolph Ubikwe's name may have been on one of the pieces which cracked away.

He didn't appear lost, however. Under his fat, his features hardened; his shoulders hunched up as if he were absorbing blows. But he didn't protest or complain: the glare in his eyes held no grievance. He appeared to be measuring her--or measuring himself against her, wondering if he could match her.

After a moment he let out his breath in a long sigh. "Shit, Min. And all this time I thought being one of the good guys was supposed to be fun."

Puffing out his cheeks lugubriously, he heaved his bulk out of the chair.

The acceptance behind his sarcasm touched her more than she could bear to show. In plain gratitude, however, because he'd given her one less bereavement to carry, she made an effort to respond in kind.

"One more thing, Dolph." She didn't look up at him: she didn't want him to see her face. "The next time something like this happens"--she flapped Warden's message--"don't keep it to yourself. It just upsets you, and when you're upset you're a pain in the ass."

"Aye, sir, Director Donner, sir." He sounded like he was grinning. "Whatever you say."

She longed for the ability to grin herself, but she was too full of grief. She'd made her decision. If humankind suffered for it, she would shoulder the responsibility.

Nevertheless as Captain Ubikwe left the galley to carry out her orders, she couldn't shake the conviction that she'd sent him to do Morn Hyland more harm than any mortal man or woman could sustain.


Earlier on this thread, wayfriend posted that Dolph Ubikwe is "the Tor of the Gap series", and while Dolph and the Tor don't speak alike, this passage make wayfriend's point very well: in the last two Gap books, Captain Ubikwe IS the conscience of the story! Good and Evil
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damn, I remember the first time I read it...how I felt about that message... Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
Damn, I remember the first time I read it...how I felt about that message... Very Happy

--A




Me too, Avatar! Because I'd learned to trust that Angus was under control, I felt a foreboding of disaster knowing that obsessive & vindictive Nick was shortly going to be running things aboard Trumpet. Eeek

You could also say that I agreed with good Captain Ubikwe that this situation was going to make me sick. (And it DID make Sib and Ciro sick, come to think of it, once Nick got ahold of that stun-prod.) Throwup
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing that always struck me though, from an external point of view, was

Spoiler:
the relatively short time period that he was in control. It got taken away from him pretty quickly.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
She saw a hint of the answer when she floated out of one of the main personnel lifts into the passage which led to sickbay, twenty meters off to her right.

The corridor was festooned with g-hammocks: at least twenty-five of them arced at intervals up and down the walls on both sides of the entrance to sickbay. And they were all occupied. Sickbay itself had space for ten, counting surgical tables as well as berths. This was the overflow.

Some kind of accident? Explosive decompression? Matter cannon attack? That wasn't possible. Min would have felt it. Any damage powerful enough to hurt this many people would have sent shock waves of concussion and clamor throughout the ship.

Concentrating too hard to curse, she coasted past the hammocks; slapped the palm-plate which opened the sickbay doors. They slid shut automatically behind her as she entered.

Dolph was waiting for her inside, along with another man identified by his uniform and insignia as Punisher's medtech. They sat with their belts cleated to mobile stools which were slotted into tracks in the deck and by servos so that sickbay's personnel could work under zero g or combat. The two tables were empty, but all eight of the bunks were in use.

The medtech saluted Min. "Director Donner." His id patch said "Foster." He sounded wan; stretched too thin.

"Hope you weren't hurt," Dolph grunted in greeting. "I didn't think this could wait until we hit clear space."

Min returned Foster's salute from the anchor of a handgrip, but her attention was fixed on Dolph. "What's happened?"

He met her gaze for a moment, pursed his black lips. "A couple of things." Then his eyes slid down to the deck as if he was too tired to go on looking at her. "But let's take them one at a time." He gestured toward the medtech. "Foster."

"They aren't hurt, Director," Foster said on command. "I mean the ones outside. I couldn't monitor that many if they were, but they aren't. They're sick. I've"--he faltered briefly--"never seen anything like it."

From Min's perspective, he didn't seem old enough to have seen much of anything.

More than twenty-five of them? she protested to herself. What was this, some kind of epidemic? Resisting a surge of impatience, she asked, "Sick how?"

Foster shrugged like a wince. "Nausea. Vomiting. High blood pressure. Disorientation. Hallucinations." He glanced at Dolph as if he were hoping for confirmation, then added, "Five of them told me separately that the walls are leaning on them. Trying to squash them.

"None of them are in danger. They aren't sick enough to die. But the way they feel, they might prefer dying."

Nearly half the crew--

Min growled through her teeth. "Sounds like they've been overdosing on stim and hype."

Tension clenched Dolph's shoulder; instinctive rejection. But he didn't interject a retort.

"Actually"--Foster gave another uncomfortable shrug--"it sounds like SAD. Space adjustment disorder," he explained unnecessarily. "The symptoms are classic."

Because he feared he might be right, she had to stifle an impulse to shout at him. "SAD?" Punisher was damaged, short-handed worn-out. "A goddamn epidemic of SAD?" The whole vessel had already suffered too much in this system. "On an experienced ship like this?"

Now Dolph spoke. "That," he breathed heavily, "is the problem. You don't believe it. I don't either."

"Director Donner"--he pronounced her name and title with special precision as his weary gaze rose to her face--"I think we have a sick-out on our hands."
Abruptly Foster slotted his stool away to one of the walls and began working at the main sickbay control panel. ostensibly checking the condition of his immediate patients. Apparently he agreed with his captain. Perhaps his sense of medical ethics barred him from saying so.

Sick-out. Stung by alarm and indignation, Min stilled herself; became as poised and motionless as her handgun. Not an epidemic: a protest. Disobedience which stopped short of mutiny. But the UMCP Code of Conduct made no provision for such an action. It was called "malingering": it was a court-martial offense.

"Captain Ubikwe," she asked softly, "what kind of ship are you running?"

Dolph's mouth twisted bitterly. "As far as I can tell, it's the kind I've been told to run." Anger ached in his stained eyes. A moment later, however, he said, "She's my ship, Min. My problem. I'll deal with it. But there's something I need from you first."

Min waited like a weapon aimed at his head. Punisher had been turned aside from a much-needed leave so that she could chase a gap scout all the way to Massif-5--and then put Nick Succorso in command. This was the result.

That wasn't Dolph's responsibility. It was Min's. And Warden Dios'.

"I said a couple of things have happened," Dolph went on, holding her glare. "The other may be worse." He paused to search her face, then announced, "Trumpet has switched off her homing signal."

She didn't move: didn't react. Nevertheless her hands burned as if magnesium flares had been lit in her palms. If Nick Succorso had been there in front of her, she might have started breaking his bones, one at a time.

"We didn't lose it," Dolph asserted flatly. "Class-1 homing signals are just too damn helpful to be lost. They tell you everything you need to reacquire them. And when they're switched off, they tell you that, too.

"Trumpet," he concluded, "is trying to get away from us."

Min looked back at him as if she were impervious to surprise or shock. Past a fire which only felt like pain because she couldn't act on it, she asked, "What is it you need from me?"

"I need an explanation," he broke out in sudden passion. "I need to know who's doing what to whom in this goddamn farrago." But an instant later he stopped himself. "No, forget it. That was uncalled for. If you knew, you would have told me already."

Controlling his emotions with formality, he said, "Director Donner, I need to know what we're going to do now. How can we follow Trumpet if we don't know where she's headed?"


One of Dolph's more frustrated moments, in wanting very badly to know whose game they're playing, and why he should bother risking his people and ship to play it. It seems it comes back to his trust for Min, in knowing that she's not playing him, just setting the example in doing what she was told.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Chaos and Order was wrote:
Slowly, choosing her words with care, she answered, "I said they might go looking for a lab. Let's assume I'm right. How many bootleg research facilities are there in this system?"

Punisher had left her tour of duty around Massif-5 only a few days ago. Dolph Ubikwe had everything he's ever known about the system at his fingertips.

"Six. That we're aware of."

Six? Shit. Min wrapped a hang around the butt of her gun to cool the fire in her palm. Massif-5 was heaven for illegals. "How many of those could Trumpet reach on the general heading of her last signal?"

Dolph gazed at her without blinking. "Two."

"Just two? That helps." She chewed her options for a moment, then asked, "Which of them is equipped to study drugs and mutagens? Which is likely to recognize Vector Shaheed's reputation and let him work there?"

Nothing moved in Dolph's face. He might have given up breathing as well as blinking. "Deaner Beckmann's."

Then he added, warning her, "But it's murder to get to. A gap scout--any small ship--can maneuver in there a hell of a lot better than we can."

As if she were saying, I don't give a damn, Min announced, "That's where we're going." She glanced at Foster's back, cocked an eyebrow toward the corridor full of hammocks. "Unless you have a better idea."

Snorting softly, Dolph lowered his head. "Shit, Min, all my ideas are better than that. But if I were in your place, I might make the same decision. At least I hope I would." Memories of Massif-5 and damage seemed to weigh on his shoulders. Slowly at first, then faster and harder, he scrubbed his hands on his thighs. He might have been trying to generate courage by sheer friction.

Then he slapped his knees and looked up at her again. He'd reached a decision of his own. "In the meantime," he drawled, "it would help if you happened to consider this an appropriate occasion to yell at me."

He surprised her. Angrily she snapped, "Say what?"

"Chew me out," he explained. "Give me a dressing-down." Hard humor pulled at the corners of his mouth. "Blame me for this sudden outbreak of SAD. Say whatever you want, just so long as you mean most of it. And you're loud about it." When she went on staring at him as if he's lost his mind, he grimaced. "I want them to hear you outside.

"You can do that, can't you?" Sarcasm gave his voice a taunting edge. "You've been wanting to tear into me ever since you came aboard. As far as I can tell, the only real secret of command is being able to pick your occasions to get mad. So get mad at me now. Be in command."

He met her glare of consternation with a sardonic smile, as if he'd tricked her somehow.

She wanted to retort, Chew yourself out, you bastard. You're a big boy now--you can supply your own abuse. But the humor behind his provocative smile told her that she'd missed the point. He thought he had something to gain if his sick-out crew heard her-- a phrase popular in the Academy--"stripping the paint off his hull."

Maybe he knew what he was doing.

So she took a deep breath, held it for a moment while she tapped the depths of her old outrage. Then she spent the next three minutes doing her best to burn blisters into Dolph Ubikwe's fat cheeks.

When she finished, Foster was staring at her with his mouth open. Mute laughter shook Dolph's shoulders.

"Now you tell me," she rasped, keeping her voice low. "Why is that funny?"

He shook his head. "Wait. You'll see."

Lugubriously, pretending that even in zero-g his bulk was difficult to move, he unclipped his belt and drifted off his stool. Wearing a look of exaggerated pathos, he palmed open the doors. As he floated out of sickbay, however, his expression resumed its earlier fatigue and concern.

Min followed him far enough to hold the palm-plate so that the doors stayed open.

Out among the g-hammocks, he paused briefly as if he were surveying a battlefield. Then, apparently at random, he selected one and bobbed toward it. Curling his fingers in the mesh, he frowned sadly at its occupant. "How're you doing, Baldridge?" He could have read the man's id patch, but Min was sure that he knew all his people by name. "You must feel like hell."

"Aye, sir," Baldridge answered thinly.

"What's going on? What's happening to you?"

The hammock shifted as if Baldridge were squirming. "Don't know, sir. was working my board like always, just sitting there, and my eyes went spotty. Couldn't see the readouts. Then I started puking. Spots were so damn big. I couldn't help trying to heave them up. My duty officer had to bring me here."

"Sounds miserable," Dolph rumbled sympathetically. "They're going to have to make the sickbays on these tubs bigger. You shouldn't have to hang out here in a damn hammock."

"Aye, sir." The uncertainty in Baldridge's tone was plain.

Again, without any obvious reason for his selection, Dolph approached another invalid. This time a woman answered him. He asked her the same questions in different words: she gave him her version of the answers. He patted her head through the mesh as if he wanted to comfort her, then moved to a third hammock.

Glancing aside, Min saw that Foster had come to watch from the doorway with her. He seemed full of his responsibility for his patients: perhaps he wanted to be sure that Captain Ubikwe didn't mistreat them.

When Dolph had expressed his solicitude a third time, he stopped moving around. Instead he told the man he'd just questioned, "You know, almost the same thing happened to me once."

He spoke as if he were talking to the man personally; but now his deep voice was pitched to carry, so that everyone in the corridor could hear him.

"It wasn't on my first ship, it was the second. I mean, I wasn't still wet behind the ears. At least I didn't think so. But it happened to me anyway. Our medtech--he was a crusty old SOB who'd been through the gap a few times too many--told me I didn't have SAD, I was fucking depressed."

A grin flashed across his face. Then he became serious again.

"Before it happened, I thought I was doing pretty good. Only my second ship, and already I'd worked myself up to targ third. On my way to the upper ranks, where they get to make their own decisions practically every day. The fact is, I thought I was hot shit. Unfortunately that turned out to be true."

His mouth hinted at another smile, but he didn't stop.

"We hit heavy action, four illegals, one really huge hauler and three gunboat escorts, and they were trying to duck us in an asteroid belt. It wasn't my first action, or even my first heavy action, that first tour wasn't what you could politely call a cakewalk, but for some reason it scared me different than I'd ever been scared before. The hauler wasn't agile, but those gunboats could spin rings around us, especially when we were moving slow enough to survive in a belt. They were coming at me from every direction at once, I couldn't keep all those trajectories on my readouts at the same time, not to mention that the old man--our captain wanted us to call him that, God knows why--didn't let me put targ on automatic and just blaze away. No, he wanted to pick his own targets in his own sweet time.

"For a couple of minutes there, I thought I was about to die. My hands were sweating so hard my fingers skidded off the keys. By the time I got around to firing after the old man gave me an order, there was nothing to fire at except rocks and vacuum. He swore continuously whenever he didn't have something else to say, and I know he was swearing at me."

Dolph paused as if he were lost in memory, then sighed. "That's when it happened."

He fell silent; might have been finished.

In spite of herself, Min wanted him to go on. His voice or his story had a mesmerizing quality: it carried her with it. And she wasn't alone. She could see at a glance that every head in the corridor was turned toward him. Foster bit his lip while he waited as if he didn't like the suspense.

Compelled by the unexpected silence, someone offered tentatively, "Hallucinations?"

Dolph shook his head. "Worse than that." Suddenly he dark face broke into a grin like a sunrise. "I fouled my suit.

"I mean the whole suit." Laughter welled up in him from some core of personal amusement. "Talk about hot shit!" He started chortling, then began to laugh as if he were telling the best joke he knew, the best joke of his life. "You would think I hadn't been to the head for a week. By the time I was done, the bridge, I mean the entire bridge, stank like a backed-up waste treatment plant. Our communications third actually puked because she couldn't stand the smell."

His mirth was infectious. Several of his people laughed with him as if they couldn't help themselves. A dozen others chuckled.

While his laughter subsided, he concluded, "Our medtech was right. I was fucking depressed for weeks."

Shaking his head, he pulled himself past the hammocks and coasted away in the direction of his quarters. As he left, his shoulders continued to quake as if he were still laughing.

Together Min and Foster drifted back into sickbay and let the doors close.

The medtech didn't look at her. Frowning like a man who wasn't sure of the propriety of what he's just witnessed, he asked, "Is that story true, Director?"

She nodded. "Yes. His captain told me years ago. I'd forgotten all about it." A moment later she added, "But the way his captain told it, it wasn't funny."

Sounding wiser than his years, Foster murmured, "It wouldn't work if it weren't true." Then he returned to his console and monitors.




An hour later, during another brief patch of clear space, Dolph chimed Min in her cabin to let her know that twenty-one of his SAD-afflicted people had released themselves from sickbay and gone back to their duties.

She still wasn't sure what it was he'd done, but obviously it succeeded.

"You couldn't have faked that," she informed him sternly. "You really think that old story is funny."

She wanted to ask him, How? How do you do that? But the words stuck in her throat.

"Of course," he replied through a yawn. "I wanted to give them some other way to think about how they felt. I don't mean physically. How they felt emotionally. Mentally." Almost echoing Foster, he explained, "It wouldn't work if I had to fake it."

Another yawn came across the intercom. "Forgive me, Min. I'd better take a nap while I have the chance."

Her speaker emitted a small snik as he severed the connection.

For a while as Punisher wrenched and dove through the system in the direction of Deaner Beckmann's lab Min lay sealed in her g-sheath and tried to imagine herself laughing at Warden Dios. Or laughing with him at the way she felt about some of his recent actions.

She couldn't do it.


A pretty good moment. Captain Ubikwe doesn't refuse to make light of himself, at least not when he has the serious goal of re-igniting courage in his crew.


[Edited for typos]


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cord Hurn wrote:
A pretty good moment.

Finally, the suit-fouling story emerges. : )
Cord Hurn wrote:
Captain Ubikwe doesn't refuse to make light of himself, at least not when he has the serious goal of re-igniting courage in his crew.

... but he's not so off-the-charts great that his crew never needs their courage re-ignited.

(I had always wondered about the crew sick-out. Now I accept this scene as an opportunity for illuminating Dolph and don't read more into it. In particular, the crew seems to respect Dolph, but doesn't fear him.)
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
One thing that always struck me though, from an external point of view, was

Spoiler:
the relatively short time period that he was in control. It got taken away from him pretty quickly.


--A




A tribute to Warden's increasingly effective ability to out-play Holt. Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 4:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I tend to think of it more as SRD giving us a break for a change... Laughing

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 07, 2015 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avatar wrote:
Well, I tend to think of it more as SRD giving us a break for a change... Laughing

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Well okay, that, too! Mr. Green
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2015 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL

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