Shipmind Chapter 10

Maintenance Drone 09 arrived at the CNV I Told You Not To Touch That first. Or, at least, what was left of it.

Even as it closed in on the wreck, its optics didn’t show me much more than the King’s Ransom’s powerful telescopes had. The ToldYou looked like some giant had taken a bite out of it, compartments and corridors open to space, glowing feebly in infrared as they cooled off in the darkness of space.

I had 09 send a radio signal to try to connect to the ship’s network. No response, but I hadn’t really expected one.

Making the assumption that, as another querral ship, it would be laid out similarly to the King’s Ransom, I looked at my own deck plan for where to find the most shielded areas. The bridge and medical bay would be… somewhere in the cloud of debris, I guessed, since its estimated position was somewhere in the missing chunk of ship.

The reactor room would be in the core of the ship, of course. I ordered 09 to the nearest access hatch to where I thought that should be.

Getting closer, I could see that the decks were warped. Not like they had been melted, but like they had been sheared and twisted. Like something had tried to tear them out of the hull… oh no.

I asked the interface to run a couple of simulations for me, and it confirmed what I had feared.

“Bad news about the I Told You Not To Touch That,” I reported over the network to the King’s Ransom’s crew. “That gash in its hull was from one of the main drives tearing loose. I’m going to have zero nine search, but… I don’t think we’re going to find any survivors or usable equipment.”

I heard Sam curse. “Not after a failure like that. You’ll be lucky to find a single thing on that ship that wasn’t pulverized by the tidal forces.”

Silence hung over the comms for a moment. When Frill’s voice came, it was soft. “I… thought gravitic drives were supposed to fail safe. How could..?”

I could see Sam shake their head over the camera feed. “Not if the radiation pulse fried the shipmind and the electronic safety systems.”

This was exactly why I wanted our own drives and hull thoroughly checked before I dared turn them on. Gravitics were undeniably the most efficient way to accelerate a ship, and they were normally very safe, but that was only because of very careful design. An uncontrolled failure would… well, it would do this.

I approached a hatch with 09. The telltale showed vacuum on the other side. I tried to open it. Stuck, twisted in its frame. I ordered the drone to cut through it, a standard operation in the maintenance drone’s library.

While it worked, I checked on 08, still on its way to Hurricane without issue, and looked in on what the engineers were doing.

The fate of the I Told You Not To Touch That had definitely dampened the mood. There was little chatter as they worked, just the expected requests and responses. Hand me this, hold that there.

Everyone had lost at least one person close to them yesterday, and it looked like the news was only going to be more of the same. We had to get moving soon, or morale was going to become a serious problem. If it wasn’t already.

Given what I’d learned, I was surprised that Woozy seemed to be the most cheerful of the group. Apparently they just had a very positive personality, despite everything. At least, I hoped that was what it was. The thought that the bouncy little weasel might be building up to a break was not a comforting one.

Despite the gloom hanging over the fabrication compartment, I could see the error messages clearing one by one. They weren’t presenting themselves as words any more, more like a peripheral awareness of what they said. Now that I thought about it, I hadn’t mentally verbalized a command in hours. Perhaps the interface and I were adapting to each other, which was a rather more promising thought. It would help with operating this apparatus.

Every starship worthy of the name had a fabricator like this. You couldn’t possibly know what you might run into out in space, or carry something to deal with everything you could think of, so the ability to manufacture specialized, task-specific drones was a common one. I’d never picked up the design background necessary to produce a bespoke drone on the fly, but I knew Sam, Juno, and probably Woozy would have those skills. There’d hopefully also be a template library somewhere in the fabricator’s control systems, assuming that data hadn’t been destroyed.

That brought me back to Maintenance Drone 09. A general purpose design, intended for basic repairs when the fabricator was busy or otherwise unavailable. Like right now, as it finished cutting through the jammed hatch.

I decided not to relay the pictures I was now seeing of what had happened to the ship’s crew. It wouldn’t be a surprise, but it would be upsetting. I turned 09 around and sent it home. There wasn’t anything for us here.

I suddenly felt very glad I didn’t have a stomach any more.

Tags: shipmind, writing