Shipmind Chapter 23

Pepper wordlessly excused themself. When someone asks in that tone, you know that the conversation to be had will be a private one.

“What happened?” Woozy asked. They’d felt the emergency shutdown just the same as everyone else. From the way they were panting, they must have run here.

“Hi, Woozy,” I said.

Woozy’s breath caught as they heard my voice. The voice they’d known for years but had been missing since the disaster.

“Ransom? Is that— Is it really—?”

“It’s really me this time.”

Woozy didn’t say anything. They just ran up and hugged my casing, in a way that I couldn’t feel, but that felt good all the same.

It felt good to say that, too. For the first time in more than two weeks now, I knew who I was, felt it in my soul.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just one soul I had to deal with.

“Woozy, we’ve got a problem,” I said, shattering the moment. This couldn’t wait. “A big one.”

Woozy backed off a little and looked straight into my camera, looking confused. Maybe a little scared. No, definitely a little scared.

“Because it’s not just me, remember?” I finished.

“R-right,” Woozy stuttered. “You’re Captain Rathens too, and…”

They trailed off. I wasn’t sure exactly where they were going with this, but I needed to head it off before the little weasel tied themself in knots over the wrong thing.

“No,” I said, “we were wrong about that. But please, promise me you’ll hear me out.”

Woozy nodded, back to confused again. “You know you don’t even need to ask that. But, if not them, then who?”

This was going to hurt no matter how I did it. Better to do it quickly. “I’m Erin Gold. Captain. Imperial Navy. I set off the bomb. I did this to us.”

A few different things happened to Woozy. First, they froze. Then, their pupils went very, very narrow. Their shoulders rose. The fur on their neck stood up. And then they exploded into movement.

“No. No, no! I can’t have! I need to disc—”

In a single fluid motion, they darted forward, reached passed my camera, and

The next thing I was aware of, it felt like waking up from a dream. Groggy, distant. It felt like I should have a migraine of truly galactic proportions, yet oddly, nothing hurt. What had just happened?

I started to hear something. That was Woozy’s voice. They sounded upset about something. Saying the same thing over and over, barely more than a whisper. “Please don’t be dead please don’t be dead please don’t be dead…”

Was I dead? I vaguely remembered making a note to check on that at some point. Wait, no, that had been a dream. I couldn’t be thinking this if I was dead.

“Woozy. Woozy, calm down, I’m not dead.”

The poor ferret was frantic, on the edge of tears, but they stopped short when I spoke. They closed their eyes and took a deep breath.

“Ransom, I’m so, so sorry, I panicked when you said who else you were and I tried to disconnect you from each other but then you went all quiet and the monitor went blank and…”

“Woozy, slow down. I’m not dead.” I thought of how close I’d come to doing something similar myself. “And I forgive you. I want to cut out that part of myself too.”

They slumped down against the wall, ignoring the chair entirely. “You were right, Ransom.”


“We have a big problem. Ransom, we can’t tell anyone about this. They’ll disconnect you, like… like I just tried to, and I’ll lose you again.”

“This is our crew, Woozy. My crew. I can’t lie to them.” Woozy started to say something, but I interrupted. “No, let me finish, please.

“One way or another, sooner or later, this is going to come out. And if I lie to them, it will destroy the trust they have in me, that they need to have in me if I’m going to get this ship and this crew home, to the Commonwealth.”

“And this won’t?” Woozy exploded.

“Volume, Woozy. There are people sleeping out in the medical bay.”

“…sorry. Ransom, even having a hyperbomb carries the death penalty, let alone using it. They won’t trust you, they’ll kill you!”

“They’re not going to do that, and I’ll tell you why. One, I’m me again. They’re not going to kill Ransom to get to Erin. Galaxy’s sake, Woozy, Pepper is one of the kindest, gentlest people either of us has ever met, no matter how much they practice that grumpy facade. The only reason they’re not going with us to Iomi Prime…”

“…is that they said no when I asked. Yeah. You really remember that?”

“It’s coming back to me. There are still gaps, but they’re gaps now, not a gaping hole where an identity should be.”

Woozy looked like they might be about to cry again. Instead, they took another deep breath and hoisted themself up in to Pepper’s chair. “You said one. Is there a two?”

“There is. Two, they need me. We don’t have the people to fly this ship home without a shipmind, and Pepper was never Captain material. I’m both. they could kill me, dump my brain, and plug someone else into the MMI, but we both know that it never should have worked the first time. Plus, I don’t think the process would do good things to this “interface” you built out of my core.

“And three. They do trust me. If I am open and honest with them about who I am and what I did, and I swear that I will face the tribunal for my crimes when we get home, then they will continue to trust me to lead them there.”

Woozy drummed their fingers on Pepper’s desk. “I still don’t really believe that. But I never could talk you out of something when you set your mind to it, could I?”

“I love you too, Woozy.”

This time, they really did start to cry.

Tags: shipmind, writing