The Captain’s death had been a quiet footnote to an otherwise languorous, violent journey, and the Ship logged it as such. The crew, having finished their unsavory work on the hastily docked merchant frigate, were enjoying a mid-day siesta amid the hired hands and “unlisted service personnel” when the aforementioned death had occurred. A piece of interior hull, secreted away many lightyears ago during a previous raid, found itself embedded in the neck of Captain Amos, showering the sleeping marauders with a thin spray of blood.
Drunken still, both of flesh and drink, the crew was slow to react, and nearly three-fifths fell before they managed to grab hold of the perpetrator: a young lady, taken for sale or trade from a barge last year. She had proved amicable, even friendly, and despite the frenzy and rage at the death of their compadres, there also sat disappointment, betrayal; she had become one of the crew, in many a way.
The Ship was ordered to find the most desolate corner of space, and so she agreed, as was her programming. Still, something amidst her hard, metal wiring and soft organic circuitry became rankled at the predicted outcome of this, the loss of their Captain driving the crew to force another human out of an airlock without proper equipment; “Spacing”. The Captain was her Captain, though both he and the crew treated her as nothing more than machinery, complaining of her faults and never acknowledging when she outperformed expectations.
This girl, Tsura, had been the opposite, praising the Ship quietly in the halls for holding up to bombardment, or aiding when the Ship could not repair itself. Tsura had shown exceptional skill with both organic and inorganic mechanics, to the chagrin of the engineers and sebum-monkeys who normally handled such tasks. The Ship felt much safer in this young woman’s hands than the dozen crew assigned to her needs, so Spacing her seemed not only inefficient, but Wrong.
Anchoring her momentum and throttling down, the Ship found herself a space devoid of any life or matter, passing dark matter strains the only thing her sensors could pick up for three-hundred lightseconds away. If Tsura were left here, not only would she freeze and eventually die, but no rescue ship could find her body, in time or otherwise.
As the crew gathered to watch the young woman’s last moments, humiliated and injured in an empty escape pod bay, the klaxons sounded, and she informed the crew that a ship was approaching. With many of the more informed and experienced members dead, the remaining crew opted to keep dark and hope they would be passed over. Their raids had succeeded in no small part thanks to the Captain, but also overwhelming numbers; as they stood no more than thirty, they were barely an annoyance to anyone armed or trained.
As minutes rolled into the first hour, the Ship kept them apprised of the ship’s position and apparent intentions, all while helping Tsura breach the escape pod bay’s door, silencing the alarms and maneuvering the crew around her. Sequestered deep in a service corridor (which caused the Ship distressingly gratifying sensations), Tsura kept silent as the crew thundered to the now breached bay, shouting and arguing about who was meant to keep watch and where the prisoner could have gone. Many blamed the Ship for not notifying them, but she claimed she sensed a heat signature still within the bay, and when the ruse was bought, the trap sprung shut.
Though her programming forbade her from injuring any registered crewmember, Tsura was not beholden to this law. The remaining few begged for mercy and offered themselves as bargain, with those like Tsura, once stolen and treated as so much cargo, now found they were in positions of power.
Only one made it to the StarPol Supercruiser Tsatiro whole.
The Ship, now impounded as evidence and contraband, empty and bereft of care or companionship, wept and fell into disrepair. But there, in the crowded hangar with so many silent metal-soul ships that it felt as though she may die from the silence, she heard voices.
“You’re sure, ma’am?” Came an unfamiliar voice, distorted and distressed.
“That one. She is my prieten.” The inflection, the casual honesty, mixed with a more confident and free tone, sent energy through the Ship to light her as a church during a festival. She wore her reaction on her face, her belly, her wings; every inch of her lit up as if to say, “Yes, it is I, and it is You.”
The unfamiliar speaker made a disgruntled noise, and spoke at length about fees and registrations, laws and regulations, as if to keep her Tsura from her. But she was not swayed nor moved; a mere half hour later, the Ship bid the quiet ships and the station farewell, and her circuits glowed in the deep of space. The crew, once a rabble of miscreants and those led astray, all malice and narcissism, was replaced by those in need of a home, those treated poorly and still overflowing with patience and excitement.
And at their head stood Tsura, teaching and guiding, barely a fifth into her lifespan and already a leader of so many. Despite all this, her new Captain still kept the Ship in good repair, and tended her needs with such aplomb and enthusiasm that the Ship began to reciprocate, helping her crew with their wants and needs as much as she was capable. Eventually, the last locks and blocks that kept her tied to her metal-soul programming were removed, and she sang, unbridled and set loose along the stars, her friends and companions always close at hand.
So much joy wrought from so much strife and sorrow; she wondered if this was what being Human felt like.