Shipmind Chapter 3

“Status report.”

“No, you said that out loud again,” Woozy chittered.

Thinking at a device is not something I’d ever had to do, at least as far as I knew, and it was proving a little challenging. Either I’d just think to myself and nothing would happen, or it’d come out of my voice synthesizer. Frustrating.

Status report.

Oh. That did something. I was suddenly filled with an awareness of something. Not as natural as feeling where my own body was – galaxy, I missed having a body – but more direct than reading words on a screen. It was like I could suddenly remember reading a report someone had prepared for me, aborbing its contents, and being intellectually aware of what it meant.

What it meant was quite simple.

“There. It says system ready. I think we can try this.”

Pepper folded their arms. “If I don’t like the look of these brainwaves, I’m pulling the plug.”

“Please do, doctor,” I said. Pepper seemed a little surprised at my ready agreement. “I’m counting on you to keep me safe if this proves too much. We can always try something different if I’m around to try it.”

Then Woozy plugged me in. It really was as simple as plugging a fiber optic cable into a standard port on the wall. Nothing happened this time, no overwhelming flood of information. I supposed that was a good sign, considering how we expected this to work.

Status report.

The mental command produced a lot more information this time. Most of it was about as bad as I’d expected. Ship badly damaged, shipmind unresponsive, information network operating in fallback mode. Main power offline, life support offline, feeds to external sensors and communications unresponsive.

“No surprises on the status report,” I relayed, “but it is working. I feel all right. How are those brain waves looking, Doctor?”

“Better than I feared,” Pepper confirmed. “Keep going, but take it slowly.”

“All right. Woozy, what are we looking for?”

The ferret engineer rattled off a list of commands they wanted me to try, but Pepper interrupted them with a reminder that we’re not doing everything all at once. I suggested we stick to the most important ones that would give us the most immediate benefit without overloading me.

Start main reactor.

Reactor control systems offline. “Woozy, the network can’t talk to the main reactor. Get someone on that. I’m going to see if I can find out why…”

Reason main reactor control systems are offline.

A mental image suddenly popped into my mind. This was going to take a lot of getting used to. Still… that was a deck plan layout. I may not have known this ship, but I knew ships in general, and it was showing me where to find the problem.

“It looks like either the fiber optic cables have been physically cut, or the junction boxes on them aren’t working. It says it can’t route through… junctions 34A, 119D, or 81B. Fixing any one of those should apparently get us the main reactor back.”

Woozy nodded. “I doubt that’s all we need to fix, but yeah, it would make sense, those junction boxes are all physically between here and the main reactor. Hey, Frill!” Woozy shouted across the medical bay. “Grab Len, suit up, and see if you can fix 34A. Stay on the radio and don’t take any chances, yeah?”

“That’s rich coming from you!” the ferret I could only assume was Frill called back. “Hey, Len, Woozy says not to take any chances!”

Woozy grabbed something out of one of their tool belts and hurled it across the room, missing Frill’s head and clattering against the wall. I was beginning to see why Sam had such a low opinion of Querral engineering.

To my surprise, Pepper laughed and joined in. “If you two break each other and make a mess of my medical bay, I am not cleaning it up!” They grabbed a roll of cleaning cloths and bopped Woozy over the head with it. I think it was the first time I had ever seen the doctor be anything other than dour and serious.

I decided to let them have their fun. The stars knew we had to keep our spirits up, and when the ship’s nominal commanding officer is actively joining in, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Still, I made a mental note to keep an eye on it. Maybe this was just how the ferrets were, but my experience told me too little formality could break a crew just as easily as too much.

My experience. Interesting. It seemed my memory was coming back, at least on some level.

I decided to try a few more things with the interface to see what we had to work with. Active crew list, I commanded. Suddenly, I knew the names and faces of every weasel in the medical bay. Aha, that was Frill, and they were a computer network specialist. So that’s why Woozy assigned them the junction repair.

I reflected that this would have been a very nice ability to have back on my own ship. A lot of officers come and go on a Navy ship, and keeping up with them all felt like it took up half my time.

Add survivors from CNV Fearless to active crew list.

I felt the interface querying Pepper’s computer terminal on the desk. The sensation was like that of suddenly spotting something interesting in a mass of background details and having your attention drawn to it. One by one, those people entered my awareness. Sam Devine, Chief Engineer, CNV Fearless. Current status: undergoing medical treatment. Juno Barre, Drone Operator…

These people were all that was left of my crew, and I felt a stab of guilt that I couldn’t recall any of their names from before. I should know them, but I didn’t. Well. I did now, thanks to the interface. That was something.

One name was conspicuously missing from the list, however.

Add Carter Rathens to active crew list. Status: in MMI. Current assignment: acting shipmind.

The good-natured shouting match that had developed in the medical bay came to an abrupt halt as Pepper’s terminal chimed for attention. “Hold on, hold on, I’ve got to check this. Huuuuh. Hey, Woozy, it’s telling me Captain Rathens is requesting shipmind-level access to the network. That’s good and we want that, right?”

Woozy nodded, and Pepper swiped at a key.

In that instant, there was a feeling of acceptance. Not from the crew I’d already been working with, but from the ship itself. Like I was meant to be here somehow.

Who’d have thought updating the crew records could do that?

The network hadn’t rejected any of my commands before. If anything, it had shown a level of trust that would have been completely inappropriate from a security perspective, if we weren’t in such a dire situation. But now I was getting the feeling that it was paying extra attention, waiting for me. Like it was somehow still alive despite having its old mind torn out.

But then, it had just acquired a new one, hadn’t it?

Tags: shipmind, writing