Here is everything you need to know about Julienne Finch. She has dark hair, dark skin, a little bit of excess weight, and absolutely no ambition whatsoever. Once upon a time, she was a ten year old girl who watched Captain Antares in the living room every morning and decided, like so many young people do, that she was going to be the Federation’s next fighter ace. Then at fifteen she took a half hour ride in the back seat of a Lynx and used up a week’s supply of sick bags.
At the age of twenty four, she achieved her new life ambition - finding a job where she was paid to check social media and play Candy Universe Story.
Her terminal where she played her games was situated in the Cargo Drone Platform B. Occasionally, she would have to stop playing Candy Universe Story and give the all clear signal to an incoming drone. Rarely, due to damage or malicious intent, a drone would not send an acceptable signal and she would have to divert it somewhere else. In extreme cases it could take as long as five minutes to divert the drone, which was really inconvenient when it happened right in the middle of a comment section argument about whether Jericho immigrants were destroying Federation society.
Then, one day, a drone turned up requesting docking clearance on the command deck. This was very unusual, and very much unwelcome as she had to look up the authorisation and find out whether it was even allowed to do it. But yes, squirreled away in all the rules and regulations, there was precedent and accepted codes. And so she cleared it. Twelve minutes later she heard a muffled thud of the airlock door being opened so her colleague could inspect the visitor. Then her colleague screamed and ran for his life.
She would never know what compelled her to go inspect the drone, rather than obeying her base instinct to scream and run away with him. But she did. There was the drone. It was a relatively small one, only about twenty feet across. The iris hatch on the front was wide open, revealing its cargo. That cargo was a series of large rectangles wrapped in brown paper. There was also a circuit board attached to the front. Julienne had watched enough Captain Antares to know a bomb when she saw one.
“Oh dear,” she said. And then, with her mind befuddled with terror, she added, “go away. Please?”
Astonishingly, the bomb ignored her polite request for it to leave. She even tried gently shooing it with her hand, yet the bomb remained steadfastly defiant.
There wasn’t a ticking clock. That’s the thought that burned into her head as the rest of the world seemed to fade away. Bombs always had a ticking clock. And a red wire. Sometimes there was a blue wire too. The hero always had to choose which wire to cut, and it was always the red one. Except the one time it wasn’t. That wasn’t right; you can’t play with people’s expectations like that! If bomb makers were allowed to ignore the basic rules of bomb creation then the whole affair becomes a farce!
She realised she’d been having this inner monologue for what might have been a hundred years at this point. Still, the bomb seemed content to let her get lost in her own little world. It was at least polite enough not to interrupt people’s inner monologue.
“How long until you explode?” she asked the bomb, strangely calm given her impending doom. The bomb, alas, was still quite rude on this front and ignored the question.
A klaxon began to wail. Someone had obviously gotten the word out about the bomb. From within the bomb something began to hiss. It was an electric sound and there was the distinctive tang of overheating circuitry. Julienne leaned in. By this point all rational thought had abandoned her. Instead, there was a childish part of her, the part that still fancied herself a space adventurer like Captain Antares, that figured, “what the hell? I’m dying anyway, might as well find out how the bomb works first!”
As far as she could tell, and this had to be prefaced with a caveat that Julienne was never good at science, the bomb was using some sort of home made thingamabob to produce a lot of electricity. This was passed into a big tangle of circuits and wires, which were poked into the packages. So, power + computery bits + explosives = kaboom. Nice and simple.
Overall, she wasn’t impressed. It all looked so ugly, so rushed. They could have made it look nice at least. Worst of all, the whole thing looked like a good kick would cause it to fall apart! What kind of design is that for a bomb you intent to launch through space in a cargo drone? The power source was making a lot of noise now. It even rattled in its mount. So, for some reason, she picked it up.
And lo! There it was! A red wire! Well, it was a wire with a bit of red on it. It also had blue and green on it. In fact, it was about eight wires all wrapped around eight other into one thick chord. Still, at least the bomb maker had done his job properly!
Around that time another thought entered her mind; the power source was really hot! She yelped in pain and dropped it. The power unit bounced off a pack of explosive, jerked violently on its cable, banged against the outer case of the cargo drone and then came away entirely. By then it was glowing a dull red and the whole room stank of burning metal. There was a sharp crack of electricity that made Julienne jump, but that was all.
Much later, after a lot of necessary but not particularly exciting things happened, Julienne found herself sat in an office with an Armada officer, who had given her a hot beverage to hold while they talked.
“Your quick thinking saved the platform,” the officer said. “If you hadn’t pulled the power unit our bomb disposal team would never have made it in time. How did you know what to do?”
“My brother has experience with the military,” she said. And it was true; he’d been arrested by military police for larceny.
“Well, suffice to say we’re not allowing drones direct access to sensitive areas anymore. We’re going to require mandatory bomb screening of all incoming drones from now on. Next time someone tries this, it won’t be up to people like you to stop it.”
“Oh. Good. That’s good.” Julienne replied.
The officer smiled and stood up. “On behalf of the Armada, the Federation and New Eden, we thank you for your courage. Now, you’d best get some rest before the press come looking for an interview!”
So Julienne went home, and before long there was indeed a media assault upon her. She tried her best to recount the story, and made an effort to leave out the embarrassing parts, which it turned out was what most of the story consisted of. Afterward, when everyone was done congratulating her and giving her little plaques and shaking hands while photographs were taken, she found herself on an observation deck watching mercenaries come and go. These devil-may-care heroes who risked their lives every day, just like she had, who relied on her to ensure their salvage was stored ready for their return… maybe, just maybe, it was time she took up that life? After all, she’d proven herself courageous in a crisis! It was time to put the past behind her! It was time to be a hero! Soon, children would sit in their living rooms and watch fantastic stories about Julienne Finch, hero of the Federation.
Ten minutes into her basic flight training, with a full sick bag in hand, Julienne decided she liked her old job just fine.