Content warning: suicidal ideation

Shipmind Chapter 22

No, no, that wasn’t right. That couldn’t be right.

My crew weren’t slaves, they were my friends, my colleagues! As shipmind I had rank, but outside of the Navy we were equals. And Woozy! How could anyone think Woozy was my slave? They’d bent the galaxy itself to come and be with me when I’d given them every chance to walk away, and I loved them all the more for it. We were going to Iomi Prime together after we got out of the Navy.

What? No, that wasn’t right either. I’d never met Woozy before this week. Never met any querral. How could I—

How could I forget everything my crew and I had been through together? How could I forget my life with Woozy?

How could I forget what the machines had done to my people? How could I forget what they would still do to us if we couldn’t stop them?

How could I forget how could I forget how could I forget—

All my camera feeds cut as the interface safety cutoff fired. The King’s Ransom jolted as the gravitic drive went into emergency shutdown, throwing human and querral from their feet, knocking them back in their chairs. Someone in the infirmary cried out in sudden pain, all I could hear now.

I was all alone with myself, with my selves, in the corner of Pepper’s office.

Living stars forgive me, I had killed all those people. They were dead because of me. I gave the order.

I had done this to my own fleetmates, my dear Captain Autumn… but no, that wasn’t that me, was it? Captain Gold had given the order. Ransom had just watched helpelessly. Catching just four - four! - lifepods out of hundreds before the hyperbomb blew. I’d let them all down.

But one of them had come from the Hammerhead, hadn’t it? No one had known that was Captain Gold, that it was me. It was barely in the bay before the bomb went off. Shouldn’t have survived. I should have died.

I deserved to have died for what I did. It was a lie, it was all a lie! The Commonwealth was exactly what it claimed to be, it always had been, and I’d murdered two thousand, seven hundred and eighteen of their people for that lie, just as I’d murdered six hundred and nineteen Imperials who thought they were protecting their homes. No. Six hundred and sixteen. There were three others from my old ship who’d made it. Two of whom had borne witenss to my crime. Who were complicit in it.

How could the Imperials have been so wrong about us? We never pretended to be anything other than what we were.

But then with our history, was it really such a surprise? The Diaspora fled our machine masters, but our ancestors fought back, and won. Founded the Empire so that no human would ever be beholden to an unliving machine again.

Except, I was alive. All of the shipminds were. That’s what we were, at least the human and querral ones, computers programmed to be alive. I’d always loved that turn of phrase. So had Woozy.

And now I was dependent on this Imperial butcher to stay alive? I could feel it, both of me hated me for giving that order.

Better to die than live with having done that. It would be so easy. I could feel the MMI’s life support controls, could turn it off with a thought. Captain Gold would drift away, and Ransom would follow, two more casualties of that awful bomb, gone just as quickly as the others I’d condemned.

And then Woozy would be all alone. Trapped on a dead ship that no longer had the resources to get home. And the Commonwealth would never know about Project Firewall, whatever that was.

Well, there was that.

Pepper burst in to the office in a fury. “I warned you not to overdo it, Captain! I just had to re-set Morgan’s leg thanks to that jolt.”

“I’m sorry, Pepper,” I said, in my own voice at last, trying to project a calm I didn’t feel. Just like I’d been trained to on the bridge.


“I need to talk to Woozy. Right now. Please.”

Tags: shipmind, writing