Shipmind Chapter 15

“Fucking useless piece of…”

Sam spun and gave the junction box, filled as it was with delicate optical fibers and sensitive electronics, a whack with their hammer. Abruptly, the overhead lights came on, and one by one the row of terminals chirped into life.

“Yeah, that’ll show you. Hey, Juno! Drone ops is up.”

If I had a head, I’d have shaken it and sighed. Sam was very much a member of the “percussive maintenance” school of engineering. By all rights, it shouldn’t work. A starship was a precision piece of machinery, a million different components that all had to be just right for it to function. In my mind, that required a delicate touch, not a hammer.

And yet, the operations room in Primary Drone Control was now working again. No more sharing Pepper’s terminal in the medical bay to drive the maintenance drones. I had no doubt the doctor would be glad to have their office back.

Two days ago, when the King’s Ransom had been fully crewed and operational, there would have been anywhere up to twelve drone operators in here. But they had all died at their posts, either when the radiation pulse hit or shortly aftwards.

Clearing their bodies out had been grim work.

Still, we were in a better place than we had been at any point since that time. The reactor was ramping up smoothly, life support was stable, and now we had ten functional maintenance drones, a place to direct them from, and three people who could perform that direction, including myself. There’d be four once Juno gave Crow the same crash course they’d given me and Frill.

We had everything we needed to repair the ship.

“All right,” I said, drawing attention to my wall speaker. “Now we carry on with the plan. Sam, head up front and help Woozy finish inspecting the gravitic array. Frill, drone support for Sam and Woozy; take drones zero through three. Ask Juno if you need help. Juno, overwatch; I need you ready to jump in if something needs your magic touch. I’m sending drones four and five to help Len in hydroponics, six to medical to help Pepper clean up, seven and nine to start fixing the bridge, and holding eight in reserve while its plating cools off.”

A trio of acknowledgements went around the drone bay, and Sam marched off with a purpose. Juno and Frill took two terminals next to each other.

This felt right. I was back in command again, and my ship was getting fixed. Once we were sure the main engines were safe, and we had the bridge’s dedicated navigational computers back, plus maybe a few exterior sensors, we could leave this graveyard.

The next few hours passed in a blur. Woozy still wasn’t talking to me except when they had to, but they did seem to have struck up an easy friendship with Sam. At some point, Juno declared they were happy with Frill’s drone handling and went back to the medical bay to start training Crow. Component after component in the gravitic engines was marked as either in good order, or quickly swapped out by one of the drones. Pepper took another badly-needed nap, something I decided I would order everyone to do before I fired up the engines for real.

The bridge slowly came back to life. Its former occupants never would, and were quietly transferred to the unused sleeping quarters that were being gradually converted into a giant morgue. Captain Autumn, who had died in their command chair, face painfully familiar to me. I didn’t know if it was me or Ransom remembering them, but I knew they had been a good person. Like their ship and crew, they had deserved better.

Navigation. Communications. Operations. Tactical stations. One by one, they lit up as I followed the repair manuals, waiting for the crew to come and put them to use.

The main reactor continue to warm up. With the mighty gravitic arrays dormant, all that power was going to waste, simply being dumped out of my radiators as heat, but it would all be needed soon enough.

The fabricator spat out component after component as the engineers or my drones called for them. At some point I had taken the time to have it produce a couple of standard courier drones, strong and agile, to get the parts where they needed to go faster without the maintenance drones having to come back to the bay. The fabricator started to complain about running out of certain raw materials, so I had 08 wake up and start tearing out fixtures from some of the unused compartments for recycling.

It was all strangely meditative. Problem, solution. Problem, solution.

When things were starting to wind down, the last few things getting cleared away, Pepper woke up again. They stalked over to their now-available desk terminal, pulled up the readings from everyone’s shipsuits, spluttered something incomprehensibly medical, and demanded that everyone pack up and get some rest before someone got themselves killed.

I wasn’t about to argue.

Tags: shipmind, writing