Shipmind Chapter 9
The six of us all sat together in the main room of the medical bay. Pepper was effecting some sort of alert slump at their own desk. Frill and Len were perched together on the examination table, Sam and Juno had both found chairs, and Woozy was fidgeting about, never staying in any one place for more than a minute. And, of course, there was me, immobile in the corner.
“I’ll go first,” Pepper announced. “The bad news is that we’re not going to be getting much more help in the short term. Most of the crew are in no condition to walk, much less help with repairs. The good news is that Crow is responding well to anti-radiation treatment and should be back on their feet tomorrow, and I’m hopeful about Morgan coming around some time in the next few days.”
I checked those names against the network. Crow was a querral, the King’s Ransom’s relief communications officer, and the only survivor of the bridge crew. Morgan was one of Sam’s engineers from the Fearless lifepod. Both well trained, I was pleased to learn, though I’d have taken any warm body at that point.
“We’re going to need them,” said Sam, echoing my thoughts. “Especially Morgan. They’re my propulsion specialist.”
Juno muttered, “Not to mention an arrogant jerk.”
“Juno, now is not the time,” I interjected. “As Sam rightly pointed out, we need all the help we can get.”
Sam nodded. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep them in line. And they really are very good at what they do.”
Woozy spoke up next. “Carter, Juno and I have been going around and sealing hatches. We’ve got a positive seal around the main hull breach, and we’ve got more than enough stored air to repressurize the rest of the ship. We shouldn’t need full voidsuits to leave the medical bay any more.”
“Woozy was the only one physically out there, but Juno and I backed them up with the maintenance drones,” I confirmed.
“And I think the drones should be our next priority,” Woozy continued. “We only have two working, but we’ve identified three more as salvageable, and things will get a lot easier if we can get the fabricator up. So that’s next on my list.”
Pepper nodded assent, then turned to Len. “How are we looking on food?”
“Well, thanks to the radiation pulse, most of the food stores were ruined. We’ve salvaged some emergency rations from the lifepods.” That drew a few less-than-pleased looks from around the room. “Yeah, they stink, but I’ll find a way to make them work. Hydroponics survived, but the plants inside didn’t, so I’m starting from scratch with seeds from shielded storage. We’ll start getting the first green leafies in two weeks.”
“I thought you guys were carnivores?” I asked.
Len shrugged. “Common misconception. The Corack did a few upgrades on our digestive systems as part of the uplift process. We can eat pretty much anything you can. Uh, I mean, could.”
Corack. I didn’t know too much about the insect people. I knew they were full Commonwealth members and that they had some odd social structures, but not much beyond that. Interesting that they’d been responsible for turning ordinary ferrets into the first querral. I assumed that had been a purely human project.
“Okay, so the point is no one’s going to starve,” Pepper concluded.
“That leaves two other priorities once we have more drones,” I said. “First, we need to check the other wrecks for survivors. I’ve identified two possibilities using the external sensors, the Hurricane and the I Told You Not To Touch That, and may find move once I can rotate the ship.”
Frill perked up. “I know the ToldYou’s network specialist,” the said, slurring ToldYou into one word. No one passed comment on it, so I assumed that was the accepted shorthand for that ship’s name. “Good techie. Terrible at cards.” Then they drooped again. “And they’re probably dead, aren’t they?”
“I’m not going to lie to you, both ships are in worse shape than we are. Neither has main power back, and I have no proof that anyone is alive over there at all, but we owe it to them to try.”
Everyone readily agreed with that. We were the Navy, the protectors of the Commonwealth. We didn’t abandon our people.
“I’m like ninety nine percent sure that Sam and I can get the drone fab up,” Woozy said. “We should send the two drones we already have over to those ships now before anyone over there runs out of air.”
Juno shook their head. “That puts me and the skipper out of action for repairs. We can’t spare those drones.”
“Sure we can! Carter still has network access, and you’ve got two perfectly good hands.”
I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of losing those drones, even temporarily. I had liked being embodied again. But my comfort was a very, very low priority right now. “Woozy’s right,” I said. “We might already have waited too long, and the network is telling me it’ll take almost an hour to reach the Hurricane. Less for the I Told You Not To Touch That. If Sam agrees about fixing the fabricator…”
“…then I’ll get 08 and 09 out the airlock as soon as we can load them up with charged batteries.”
That wouldn’t take me and Juno long. We’d just done the same thing barely nine hours ago.
“You said two priorities, Captain,” Pepper said. “What was the other?”
“Getting the engines working so we can get out of here.” More nods of agreement. “And we need extra drone support for that. We need to inspect the hull and brace any weak points so that we don’t come apart as soon as we light up the main drive. The network reports the main engines as operable once the reactor finishes ramping up, but I’d still want to inspect those too. And I’m getting nothing from the hyperdrive.”
“You won’t,” Sam said. “The damned Imperials set off a hyperbomb, remember? We’ll need to get clear of the deadzone that left before the hyperdrive will even power up.”
Pepper leaned back in their chair. “Sounds like everyone has something to do, then. Len, hydroponics. Sam, Woozy, Juno, drone fabricator. The Captain will get the drones moving, and I’ll continue tending to the wounded.”
“Pepper,” I asked, “is anyone in immediate danger?”
“No, thank every star. Everyone is at least stable for now.”
“Then you should get some rest. You’re the only one who hasn’t had a sleep break yet. I can wake you if any of the biomonitors report someone’s condition changing.”
They looked ready to argue, but we could all see the exhaustion in their eyes and hear it in their voice. In the end, they relented. “Yes. I should take my own advice. Wake me if I’m needed, Captain. Until then, the ship is yours.”