Shorts: Lieutenant Tightass

Lieutenant Tightass is a tightly written story (pun intended) within an existing universe that pairs an annoying Lieutenant with a badass Captain and her crew as they try to rescue a lost ship in the clutches of foldspace. It’s similar to an episode of Star Trek if the crew didn’t follow protocols, spent more time getting drunk, and had to face the perils of losing themselves every time they complete a mission.

LIEUTENANT TIGHTASS

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Asimov’s Science Fiction
July/August 2018

STORY

The Aramas, a foldspace search-and-rescue vessel, is on its way to complete a mission rescuing the Voimakas from a failed foldspace jump. We follow a Lieutenant Cooper, known as Lieutenant Tightass by the captain and crew, as he goes through his first jump into foldspace. He’s clearly new to this kind of dangerous mission and his ignorance of anything beyond the rules is definitely infuriating. He’s super judgy and condescending to the other members of the crew, clearly thinking himself better than them. He stumbles upon an answer to finding the ship and after much deliberation, they come upon her. The ship has been stranded in this strange time-void for years, most of the crew gone in hopes of finding a life somewhere else within this alternate time. It’s a terrifying realization that this technology can ruin the lives of everyone aboard a ship if it goes astray, yet they continue to use it because when it does work, it cuts travel times by weeks or years. This story is, at the heart, a look at the dynamics of a starship and the inner workings of a captain’s mind as she tries to keep the crew going and juggle the risks of their day-to-day duties. The Lieutenant annoys the crap out me but he’s a noob and needs to learn the ropes. It’s a very interesting look into the author’s universe and I plan to look more into the other stories told within it.


CHARACTERS

At the center of Lieutenant Tightass is Lieutenant Cooper, an annoying, rule-following captain-to-be who looks down on everyone around him because they don’t follow the manuals. I really hated him, to be honest, and even though there was a bit of redemption at the end, I fully sided with the crew of the ship who looked on him with deference due to his stubborn attitude for following rules no matter what.

The Captain and crew were hardened to the horrors of the sights they’ve seen during their many years of rescue missions. I imagine them to be similar to an old pirate crew, all of them fully aware of their place and their expectations, constantly getting drunk in their free time. The Captain doesn’t take crap from anyone and I admired her ability to lead, especially after we learn her backstory and why she is the way she is. This is a character I’d love to know more about.


SETTING

Lieutenant Tightass is set in deep-space on the starship Arama, a newish ship filled with a ragtag crew. The concept of foldspace is very interesting – I’m assuming this is something shared by any number of warp drive traveling stories, but I enjoyed reading about the technical aspects. I never thought about how it could go wrong, and this story had those errors at its center. Many stories taking place in space skate over the issues one could face when using such an advanced traveling technology, and this provided an eye-opening look at how it can ruin the lives of everyone using it.


CONCEPTS

Space Travel, Starships, Deep Space, Search and Rescue

Interested in more short fiction reviews? Read them here.

Photo by Adrian Pelletier on Unsplash