Shipmind Chapter 19

Woozy had left the bridge shortly after Pepper did, while I was reviewing the records. They hadn’t gone far, though. I could see them on a camera one deck down.

I projected my synthetic voice through the nearest wall speaker.

“Woozy,” I said. “I know I’m not your favourite person in the world right now.” Which wasn’t at all my fault, but I wasn’t going to mention that. “But I’m afraid there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

The ferret tensed, then took a moment to visibly calm themselves. “Can it wait, Carter? I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

“I know. But I’ve found something that could be a huge problem, and I need my best engineer to tell me I’m jumping at shadows.”

“Oh.” Was that disappointment I heard in their voice? “Well, tell me what you’ve got. I’m sure it’s nothing we can’t fix.”

“It’s not something on this ship. Wall screen?”

Woozy nodded, and I put the telescope image of the suspected weapons platform up on the screen next to my speaker. They adjusted the image with a few gestures in the air in front of it, zoomed in on a couple of details. The screen’s processor helpfully supplied what survived of the analyses of those details, after checking with me that it was okay to release that information.

“Weird looking ship,” was all they said.

“That’s what the Imperials had here. I think it’s what they set off the bomb to protect. Ship design isn’t my field, but I know it’s yours. Galaxy, I know you gave up a shipyard gig to come out here.” I wasn’t quite clear on how I knew that. It had just slipped out. “Are we in as much trouble as I think we are?”

Woozy didn’t answer at first. They checked over the image again, added a few new overlays, paid special attention to the hyperdrive cores I had noticed.

“You’re thinking launch platform, aren’t you?”

“I am,” I confirmed.

“Yeah. We’re in trouble. I knew this mission was important, but…”

“Too low on the food chain to know the details.”

“Yeah. But you knew, didn’t you?”

“Probably. I don’t think I have the background knowledge to have worked out what that thing was if I didn’t already have that information rattling around somewhere in here. And it makes sense that they’d have told all the captains.”

“All the shipminds, too,” Woozy said. “Do you know you’re even starting to sound like them? Like Ransom, I mean.”

That surprised me. “Really? I haven’t touched the voice synthesizer settings since I woke up. Don’t remember what my voice sounded like well enough.”

“It’s not that. It’s more… phrases you’re using. Word choice. Little stuff. But then you say something else and it’s completely different again. This was such a mistake…”

Okay, we were having this conversation now after all.

“But now it’s done,” I said, “and we’re both going to have to figure out how to live with it. No, that doesn’t feel quite right. All three of us are going to have to figure out how to live with it.”

I saw Woozy’s eyes widen just a little. It was subtle. Anyone else might have missed it. But I had the benefit of a high-resolution camera, the growing knowledge of how to properly use it, and the hint at the back of my mind, our mind, of what to look for.

“I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through,” I said. “I can imagine what it’s like, but I’ve never felt a loss like yours. Everyone knows what it’s like to lose someone dear to them, but it’s deeper than that for you, isn’t it?”

Woozy’s shoulders slumped. Their head hung forward just a little. I thought they might be about to cry. “I knew it was a one in a million shot. I mean, who wouldn’t want to roll those dice? But I thought it would work or it wouldn’t. That you’d… fix each other, somehow, or that nothing would happen at all. But it half worked! It’s like one moment you’re you and the next you’re someone else and it’s all my fault.”

“How many people get pulled back from the very edge of death for a second chance?” I asked rhetorically. “Not many. The way I’m seeing it, you’ve done that for me twice. Once, when you gave Pepper that MMI you had ferreted away somewhere to save what was left of my brain. Then a second time when you connected that and what was left of the core together.

“I don’t know what I’m becoming, Woozy. But to answer your question from before: yes, I’m still in here, somewhere.”

We were going to have to talk about how they had done all this without asking first, or even telling me what was going on. Unfortunately, we were interrupted.

Tags: shipmind, writing