Shipmind Chapter 2

“Well,” I said, “that apparently didn’t work. How long was I out?”

“You were unconscious for about three minutes,” scolded Pepper. “I warned you that you were pushing too much, too fast.”

“Yes, Doctor, you did in fact tell me so.”

I hadn’t honestly expected any better, but I had still felt that it was worth a try. If my Mind Machine Interface could be plugged straight into the ship’s main network, at least as much of it as still existed, it would have sped things up enormously.

But even Woozy had known it was a long shot when they suggested it. As it was, and as Pepper had warned us, my damaged brain couldn’t handle all that raw data at once, and I’d blacked out.

“So now we go to plan B. I assume you have a plan B?”

Sam grinned. “We’re engineers. Of course we have a plan B.”

“So of course you thought it’d be fun to make me guess it.”

The grin grew wider and more mischievous. “Well, see, you’re not technically my commanding officer right now. We’re both guests on Captain Doctor Pepper’s ship.”

“Don’t call me that,” Captain Doctor Pepper snapped.

“And, technically, neither of us has been medically cleared for duty. So I get to have my fun with you and you’re not allowed to chew me out.”

“I don’t suppose either of these technical facts will get either of you to rest?”

I thought about that for a moment. “Well, Doctor, I doubt I’ll be needed for the first part of plan B anyway, since plan A to get me a usable body didn’t work, so I’m just floating here in my tank either way. Now, I may not remember a whole lot about Sam’s personality, but them I suspect you’ll have more trouble with.”

Sam held up their hands. “Not guilty.”

And with that, they swung their legs back up onto the bed and leaned back to talk about plan B. As it turned out, Sam and Woozy hadn’t really expected plugging me right in to work either. Something about Kuto brains being different. I still couldn’t remember anything about who or what the Kuto were, so I took their word for it, but their best guess was that this hardware wasn’t designed for human brains and isn’t giving me a computer interface I can understand.

So while Sam was trying that, Woozy got their voidsuit on and went out into the damaged ship beyond the medical area. I wasn’t sure exactly what they went out looking for. Maybe I was missing the memories of what the terms Sam used meant, or maybe I never had the engineering background to understand them in the first place.

Every now and again, one of the human survivors would come over. None of their faces or voices seemed familiar, but the sound of my synthesized voice seemed to reassure them. I may not know their names or have much control over my intonation, but I could at least project some confidence with my word choice. What we will be doing when we get the ship fixed. It’s a simple technique, but it has a very real effect on morale, and morale is everything in a situation like this.

In truth, I wished I felt more confident myself. The gaping holes in my memory were making it hard to be sure of much. I still only had Pepper’s word that my name was Carter, though everyone seemed happy enough to call me skipper regardless of my name. That was a good sign. It spoke of a sense of familiarity, of a crew that I had worked well with. While protocol has its place, too much formality could stifle a ship.

And so, while I may not remember what my own face looked like, I was at least starting to get a feel for what sort of person I was, and I was finding I liked what I was learning. I had to trust my past self had known what they were doing when they accepted this Sam character as their chief engineer.

I forced my attention back to the present and what my chief engineer was telling me.

“So tell me if I have this right, Sam. Woozy is out looking for one of several pieces of hardware we can plug into the ship, and we’ll then plug my brain into that, and it’ll be like using a computer console?”

“A bit more direct than that, but yeah, pretty much. You should just be able to think commands at the ship and it’ll think information back at you.”

“Sounds workable. Next question. If we’re getting this translator anyway, why don’t we just plug you into the ship? You clearly have a better idea of what needs to be done than I do.”

“That’s true, skipper, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Shit, when does it ever? I don’t have the right, uh, interfaces in my brain to plug into this stuff. None of us do. I mean, it does exist, but we don’t have it here on King’s Ransom. That Kuto MMI is the closest thing we’ve got, we’ve only got one of it, and it’s keeping you alive. Hey, doc, where did you guys get this thing? Don’t the Kuto kind of keep these under lock and key?”

Pepper just flashed them a predatory smile. “Never ask a querral where they found something.” Apparently that was the last word on that subject.

We filled the time before Woozy returned talking about exactly how bad our situation was. It seemed the Commonwealth Navy, who we all apparently worked for, had never really considered that a ship could be this badly damaged without being completely destroyed. The medical bay was running on chemical batteries for electrical power, and some sort of portable scrubber to keep the air breathable. Neither would last more than another day.

Beyond that, no one was sure how much of the ship’s food supplies would be salvageable, though what we did have would go a long way with only seventeen mouths to feed. At least the medical bay’s pharmacy could purify as much water as we needed, so as long as the batteries lasted, dehydration wouldn’t be an issue.

I was about to ask how that worked when the emergency airlock hissed, somewhere out of my field of view. Woozy was back.

Tags: shipmind, writing