Shipmind Chapter 17
“The brainwave patterns are quite conclusive,” Pepper said. “You were asleep. The technical term is REM sleep, which is the phase you experience dreams in.”
“I was definitely dreaming,” I agreed. “But Lem tells me that I was carrying on a coherent conversation and operating two drones at the same time you were recording those patterns.”
“As you say. Truthfully, Captain, I don’t know how that’s possible. The best I can think of is that the interface is allowing part of you to remain awake. It’s an effect that’s been documented in marine mammals, among other species, but I’ve never heard of it in a human. Either that, or you’re doing the MMI equivalent of sleepwalking.”
That made as much sense as anything else that had happened to me recently, I supposed. I wished we had the time and resources to do some proper research on the matter.
Still, perhaps it would be best not to forget to disconnect the interface before I sleep next time.
“Regardless, that wasn’t the main thing I wanted to ask you.”
Pepper motioned for me to go on.
“With Captain Autumn now confirmed dead, you are the acting commanding officer of this ship, as we expected. I think you should be on the bridge, in the captain’s chair, when we start moving.”
They looked puzzled for a moment, which is truly an impressive expression to see on the face of a meter-and-a-half tall ferret. “Why? I’m no ship handler, unlike your good self, and anything that does require my personal attention is best attended to from here. The only thing that being on the bridge would accomplish would be… oh! I should be visible for the sake of morale.”
“Exactly. It would be a powerful image…”
“Navigation?” Pepper queried.
“Set,” Crow answered after only a moment’s hesitation.
“Go!” Woozy flashed a grin. They loved this part.
“Nothing but dead wreckage out there,” Sam grumbled. “Which is good, because anything out there that could shoot would have us for breakfast.”
Pepper sighed into their hand. “Sam. Go or no go for main drive?”
“Oh. Tactical, go.”
“All crew and drones secure,” Juno said. “Go.”
“Thank you. All stations report go for main engine restart. Carter, please start the gravitics.”
This was it. I sent a trickle of power to each of the massive gravitic engines on the front of the ship. The complex machinery stirred to life, demanding more and more energy, which the reactor ably provided.
I could see the patchwork bridge crew brace in their chairs as the artificial gravity shifted, then settled as the full gravity field came to life.
“Positive on gravitics one through four,” I recited. “Field geometry is regular and stable. Power curve nominal.”
“Thank you. Ahead slow.”
Gravity twisted as I pushed the field forward. The crew wouldn’t feel anything, not while the deck gravity was masking it after the startup shock, but my newly functional gravitics let me see the curvature of space around me. How the gravity waves rippled and strained as they tried to escape the field but were bounced back.
By rights, I should be ruining the orbits of everything within a hundred million kilometers, but the gravitic field held. The only thing feeling it was my hull.
The King’s Ransom fell forward through space, making its way to the edge of the ragged bubble of dead hyperspace, with its dead ships and dead crews. We were going home.