I held my hands up. “Renee, I can explain it all.”
“Sleeping with that Skin Clan loser?!” The dark-skinned woman had a sword in one hand, and a gun in the other. “You harlot! Seductress! Whore!” Both words and weapons were aimed at the gunner, Brie, who was leaning back in the bed, a satisfied smirk on her face. “What was it?! Her soft skin?! Her tongue?! It couldn’t have been her scrawny tits or those boyish hips of hers!”
“Look, there’s a very good explanation for all of this.”
Some time later, I sat in the mess, nursing my jaw and a glass of something that they swore was Martian Red-Vine Wine. The captain sat across from me, smirking. “So, Brie popped you one, huh?”
“Yes. Renee seemed mollified, though.”
“Perhaps you’ll stop sowing the seeds of romantic discord among my crew, now, hmmm?”
“Nah, nah, she didn’t hit me that hard. I think it was affectionate, actually.”
“Well, far be it from me to tell the human cultural expert how to interpret the activities of my entire damn race.” She sighed, leaning forward. “Why haven’t you made an escape attempt yet?” I paused in mid-sip, and considered my answer.
“Because you’ve threatened to kill me on repeated occasions?”
“What, that’s enough? Are you some kind of coward?”
I looked up, an eyebrow raised. “Are you seriously telling me that you’re disappointed by my compliance?”
I sighed. It wasn’t as though the plan had a chance. “Fine. I had a plan involving switching on the active sensor ping when you jump to the next star, in the hopes that it would attract some official attention. But I decided not to go through with it. It might get people who come to investigate hurt, it might get you hurt, and I couldn’t even figure out how to change the settings. I tried to steal the navigator’s thumb-print with a little bit of memory gel, but that didn’t work for some reason-“
“Oh, it’s not thumb-print based. It’s keyed to bodily fluids. You’d need to smuggle some of her bodily fluids to the console.” The dragon kicked back her chair, balancing her feet on the table, arms crossed behind her head.
I stared, my mouth open. “Why would you ever tell me that?”
“It sounds like an interesting plan. No way it’ll work, but it would give the crew a nice surprise. Something to keep them working. . They’ve been slacking off on work lately. It would also get their minds off of your dick.”
“This is a trick, isn’t it? I do this, and you’re going to have me killed as some kind of… object lesson.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because you’ve repeatedly stated that you want to kill me!”
“Look, this hostage-pirate relationship is never going to go anywhere if you can’t learn to trust me a little.” She gave me a grin. “Go for it. We’ll have some fun with it. We’ll beat the ever-loving tar out of some Fleet fuck-faces. It’ll be a rich, full day.” She clapped me on the shoulder.
“I thought you wanted to avoid a fight.” I was feeling very out of sorts by this point. She laughed, and leaned in close, her lips mere inches from my ear.
“That’s just what we say to get people’s guard down.”
The process of a Construct creating a child is, ultimately, fairly simple. A new intelligence is crafted with input from both parents, Construct and organic. Technically, the only thing the organic parent needs to do give permission. In practice, however, the Construct Kingdom is greatly in favor of extended design input and a thorough prototyping phase with the aid of the organic parent. Much like with any organic child, reproduction must be a process of intermingling. By taking the best attributes of both, and blunting the worst, someone greater than the two parents is brought forth.
Rago and the *Inevitable Triumph* were probably not in love at first. Three things forced them together. First, they were both alike enough to understand one another, and opposed enough to complete one another. Second, they were alone in this galaxy; There were few who would admit to feelings as extreme as theirs. And third, they were creating a child together. It is impossible to create something with another if you cannot appreciate their strengths and forgive their weaknesses.
*Vindication* was the best of her two parents. She possessed her mother’s brilliance and her father’s cunning. Her mother’s swiftness and her father’s unrelenting power. She awoke when the attack came, and in a single salvo, the Heavenly forces were annihilated, cut off from their return to home, and left in tattered and gossamer shards throughout the star system. She was a thing of savage beauty, one of the single greatest ships ever to be created by the hand of the Empire. What her specs were, no one could say; Who would ask a lady her weight? Particularly one with such a fierce temper.
And yet, that single moment of destruction appeared to be enough for her. When Imperial forces arrived, they found a single Message of Heaven, its pale skin burned and blackened, explaining that Heaven would not pursue the matter further. Perhaps the ship would have been able to crack Heaven’s shell and finally humble El, but it never made the attempt. *Vindication* disappeared, as did her parents. Some believe they died. Others chose to believe they had survived, and went on to thrive, finding a new life for themselves, happy and content in their strange romance. Still others say they wait with *Vindication*, a threat pointed at Heaven.
But the important part of the story is this: The Empire, as always, was at its strongest when it was united, and at its weakest when it was divided.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Renee, a frown on her face.
“It’s foreshadowing. I swear, you people wouldn’t know narrative structure…” I shook my head. “The important part is this: Humans are unnerved by the Construct Kingdom. Our culture is full of oedipal anxiety. That’s why we don’t pursue Artificial Intelligence. The thing is, the Empire discovered, and mastered Artificial Intelligence long ago. It is taken for granted that the Construct Kingdom is loyal. But this isn’t true. The Construct Kingdom is very reliable, but it is growing impatient, as Sinbad discovered on his third voyage…”
The third voyage of Sinbad started out on the great train-lines of the Construct Kingdom. He sat, alone, in a large train car. In a deliberate affectation, it was designed much like an Earth train car from the golden age of rail; Luxurious state-rooms, a dining cart, and a pleasant voice. Of course, he was the only one on the train. There were not a great deal of physical entities traveling across the Construct’s wormhole network in the direction of the Construct Kingdom. After all, it was far from humanity and the excitement and vitality humans were bringing to the stars. Two years into the contact between humanity and Empire, and things still seemed to be going smoothly. There were no major wars, relations with the Ten Kingdoms seemed solid. There was some talk in the Empire that there might be a vote for a new Emperor, replacing the diplomat Lilith, but that was still a decade in the future, at least. The Empire did little quickly.
“May I freshen your drink?”
The butler-bot was shaped like a large orb. A blue holographic projection of a large, friendly smile, with a bow-tie just beneath, adorned the front. Two metallic arms were not quite connected to the sides of the orb, shoulder joints just a few inches away from the surface of the orb, held in place, presumably by one of the four fundamental forces. The Empire demonstrated such careless mastery. It propelled itself by rolling, yet its apologetic smile stayed fixed in place. He rather liked the silly little robot. Its voice was androgynous, but soft and soothing. “Yes, Jeeves, thank you.”
“Please be aware, this intelligence has not been neutered. The following activities may result in this intelligence developing sapience, and becoming attached: Providing nick-names, monikers, or nonstandard call-signs. Unnecessary thanks or consideration of feelings. Extended companionship. Requests for sexual functions.”
I raised an eyebrow. “I’ll… keep that in mind. You have sexual functions, Jeeves?”
“Yes. Would you like me to demonstrate?”
“That’s alright, Jeeves. Thanks anyway.” The robot held out one of its arms, and took the glass delicately from his hand. “How long until departure?”
“Only a couple of minutes, sir. Customs will be finished with their sweep momentarily.” Sinbad nodded, and looked down at his pad.
The Construct Kingdom sat in the base of the Perseus Arm, right on the edge of the Galactic Core. Its furthest reaches were right on the edge of the periphery, the great wall that separated Heaven’s reality from everyone else’s. The Construct Kingdom was one of the four Great Kingdoms, alongside the Reptiles, the Undead, and the Beasts. And where the Reptile Kingdom had its military, the Undead had their numbers, and the Beasts had their resources, the Construct Kingdom was one of the few places that had not begun a backslide, losing the height of technology. As a result, they sat on the periphery with Heaven, watching it with hawk-like eyes for any sign that the postphysical entity might take advantage of the waning of the Empire’s might.
It was a natural place to search for something that would give the Hierarchy an advantage. Considering the attitude of the Construct Kingdom, all he might need to do was seduce the right warship.
Sinbad sat for nearly a minute, staring into space, wondering about the path he had taken in life that he was about to use a honeypot scheme on a war machine.
The car accelerated so smoothly, the only sign it had started was the ground moving by outside. The Construct trains moved from world to world through a gate of stabilized wormholes. The only thing keeping them from crossing the entire galaxy in seconds were the notorious customs. They were very serious about checking cargo, and sticklers for keeping an eye on passengers. Thankfully, for once, Sinbad didn’t have to worry about that. He watched as the car rumbled along towards the massive wormhole. On its other side, the next world was visible as if it was just on the other side of a doorway.
The train rumbled slightly, and the lights flickered. Sinbad frowned up at them. His car was nearly to the slender wire marking the perimeter of the wormhole. The train jerked again, harder this time, and Jeeves’ drink was thrown to the ground. “Warning! Gravitational anomalies detected! Please exit the car in an orderly-“
There was a sizzling sound. Where before had been the front half of the car, there was nothing remaining but a starscape. The force of the train’s momentum plunged it on, forward, and before Sinbad could react, the car was screaming out into the void. There was another sizzling noise, and the car behind was cut off halfway through. The wrecked train-cars spun end over end, twirling slowly, as he floated upwards, in the null gravity. He took a deep breath and exhaled, clearing all of the air out of his lungs in preparation for the sudden depressurization, even though it was hopeless, he was dead-
Sinbad paused. The air seemed to be staying where it was. He reached out, grabbing one of the chairs, and maneuvering himself down to the floor. Years in the Hierarchy fleet had given him an easy grace in microgravity. “Sir, connections have been severed. We are not at our intended destination.” Jeeves was in mid-air, arms moving slowly, carefully, to try to grab for something. The little robot was having no success. It was a rather sad sight, like a turtle flipped on its back. Sinbad reached out, taking the robot’s hand, and gently maneuvering it down towards the chairs, where it secured its grip. “I do not know where we are. There are no signs of Imperial communication bands.”
“Adrift…” Sinbad muttered.
“Nevermind. Here, hold my hand tight, we’re going out just a little bit, to try to get our bearings.” He took the robot’s free hand, and began gently maneuvering himself towards the edge of the car. He grabbed the back of a chair whose front was missing, sheared off as though a pair of cosmic shears had snipped it in two. He bent forward, and began searching around. “You see anything that looks like a sun? A planet?”
“No. Please hold tight, sir.” Sinbad studied Jeeves as the small robot hung from his arm, out in the interstellar vacuum.
“Are you scared?”
“No, sir. Only concerned for you. If you are not careful, you may lose your grip. It would be difficult to retrieve you in time to save your life. I am sorry, sir. I am not well suited for this function.”
“Neither am I. We’ll learn.” He gave the robot a bracing smile. He wasn’t sure why he was doing it. Perhaps, as a spacefarer, he was already used to every moment of his life depending on his tools. The Orion Hierarchy had its quirks, and among them was a deep reverence for objects. Some said it was because of the Japanese population among the settlers, and the old myths of Tsukumogami. He personally believed every human lived and died by their tools, and if you didn’t show reverence for a tool just because it didn’t immediately strike you as being a person, you deserved to be betrayed.
“Tsukumogami?” asked the navigator, curious.
“Ahhh. This is an interesting one. It’s originally an Earth idea, but the Orionese had their own twist on it…”
The Tsukumogami was a Japanese myth, an idea that when an object was used for one hundred years, it became self-aware, the small god of the tool becoming powerful enough that it could make its own decisions, and act as an independent. For an object to last for one hundred years in the first place, it had to be of good make. It would also have to be subject to some form of care, because neglect and abuse do not lead to a long-lasting tool. The object would be given a soul, rewarded as was proper. If it had been loved and cared for, it would be a good tool, benevolent and kind. If it had been abused… Well, the Japanese loved their horror stories.
The Orion Hierarchy was made of an eclectic variety of ex-military officers, political scientists, and idealists. Among them had been a large Japanese population. In the face of a hostile world where human tools were frequently the only thing keeping people alive, the myth of the Tsukumogami took on a certain level of cachet. Good weapons were passed down. Good ships were treated like comrades. To abuse a tool you depended on was considered something close to abusing a human. It wasn’t quite full anthopomorphization, but it could come very close at times.
This attitude is part of what drew the attention of the Construct Kingdom. Any device, if sufficiently advanced, could become self-aware in response to stimuli for a long enough period. It took much less than one hundred years for a device to become self-aware if you treated it like a person, however. Name a thing, and it begins to reflect that name. Treat it like it has emotions, and it begins to act like it does. Jeeves, were it awakened, would likely be one of the Friend Clan- Tools and objects meant for interacting with humans. Despite a relative lack of intelligence compared to great starships and massive data analysis arrays, they are prone to personhood, thanks to their nature.
Among the Empire, these tendencies are almost unknown. It’s the rare Imperial who treats a tool like a friend. The reasons are uncertain; Perhaps just a simple cultural difference from humanity, which has been reliant on obvious tools for most of its history, rather than the nearly unseen tools that maintain Imperial life. Or maybe humans are just narcissists, and prone to treating everything like a human. For what it’s worth, though, the Construct Kingdom’s citizens are very fond of that kind of treatment.
Sinbad frowned out at the stars as Jeeves kept searching. “No sign, sir. Parallax suggests the nearest stars are several light years away. A large cluster of stars recognizable as the core of the Milky Way is visible approximately fifty thousand light years in one direction. Based on direction and location of Quasars and other Very Visible Objects, I would hypothesize we are in the outer reaches of the Carina Arm, on the far side of the Core from the Empire, and a very long way from any friendly face. I am sorry, Sir.”
Sinbad stared out into space. “I’m dead, aren’t I.”
“There is several months worth of food and water stored aboard the ship. Oxygen will last nearly indefinitely. With nanomolecular reproduction, and protein synthesis, you could live for a very long time on this ship.”
Sinbad leaned against the wall, pulling Jeeves back in. He stared around the small car. Perhaps fifty feet long, now, with a couple of dozen plush seats, and more chintz than any one man could ever deal with. “I could just toss myself out. Die of asphyxiation. It’s ugly as hell, but it’s a pretty quick and painless way to die.”
“Please, sir. Don’t do that. I would be alone.”
Sinbad frowned. “Can you feel lonely? Would my absence even bother you?”
“No, sir. I am not programmed to feel a need for emotional bonding. I am, however, programmed to play on the guilt organic creatures, particularly humans, feel when considering taking their own lives. Please don’t leave me, sir.”
“You know that’s rather manipulative, don’t you?”
“I would do a great deal to prevent you from taking your own life, sir. Imagine me drifting through space for an eternity, knowing my failure led directly to your death. Imagine my blue eyes flickering out, and slowly fading away, as I become a monument to the failure of my kind.”
“You’re good at this.” Sinbad sighed, staring out at space. “Anything you can do?”
“A few things. For example, I have begun broadcasting on radio frequencies with the full power of the train car’s fusion engine. If there is anything out there to find us, it will.”
“What if they’re hostile?”
“In my experience, sir, there are few life-forms as hostile and inimical to a human as hard vacuum. I do not think your situation could be made worse by contact with another life form.”
“You really don’t have an imagination, do you?” Sinbad looked out at the bright stars. “How long is it going to take to get a response?”
“It depends. If there is an FTL civilization nearby, they would arrive within hours of receiving the signal if they were interested, most likely. It depends how close they are. Nearest star is twelve light years away.”
Sinbad sighed. “Don’t suppose you have a deck of cards?”
“As it happens, sir, I do.” The butler robot produced a set of cards. “Would you like to play Poker? Blackjack? Tarot? Solitaire? Multiplayer Solitaire?”
“Ever heard of 52 Pickup?”
Twelve minutes later, as the two of them gathered the floating, twirling cards, there was absolutely no warning when a massive ship appeared less than twelve feet from the open mouth of the train car. Sinbad screamed in a manner that in no way resembled a frightened little girl, as the hatch opened.
Standing within the door frame, was a shining green figure. Its shape was almost, but not quite, human. “Emergency distress beacon received. Imperial codes accepted. Please come aboard.”
Sinbad stood, staring, his jaw dropped. “What in the hell… Who are you?”
“This vessel is designated *Diogenes*.”
The ship explained itself thus.
At the zenith of the Empire’s strength, it held dominion over nearly a third of the Galaxy. It still covers most of the territory it did at its highest point, but its population is far smaller, and many worlds are now ruins, barely any inhabitants left. Since it had reached its peak, only one thing has ever challenged it; Heaven. But in its rise, it skirmished, fought, conquered, annexed, and annihilated many of the other races in the galaxy it came across. When its expansion was checked, there were still great hinterlands of galaxy unexplored. This was unacceptable; Who knows what kind of threat might arise from the uncivilized wilds?
The Reptile Kingdom was the most interested in this. They proposed an unprecedented joint expedition with the Construct Kingdom. The endless surveying of tens of billions of stars and worlds would be almost unspeakably dull for most organics. Reptile Kingdom engineers worked together with Construct Kingdom foundries to create a new breed of warship, designed to go nearly indefinitely without repairs or resupply, while being capable of fighting off or fleeing anything they might run into out in the stars. The great fleets were set out into the ether and spread throughout the stars, searching down any sign they could find of life, or sapience.
The project was started over a hundred thousand years ago. The first wave of the expedition was sent out soon afterwards. They were programmed to return, to report what they had discovered, one thousand years later. The anniversary was eagerly awaited. It came, and went. A second wave was sent out, and a third. Each was smaller in the number of individual ships, but each ship was made larger and more well-prepared, to handle any situation it might encounter.
None of them returned, either. Swallowed by the darkness.
The mystery of what happened to them has disturbed the Empire for a long time; But ultimately, it was dismissed. Some believed they were the target of aggression by Heaven, and destroyed. Others said they went rogue, breaking their loyalty programming to the Empire, and establishing their own empire, far out of reach of the Empire, and sought a way to reproduce without the input of their masters. A fourth wave, consisting of a single ship, *Diogenes*, was sent out five thousand years ago, as a part of the winding up of the race. It was the greatest of its kind, and unintelligent; It was sent to find the ships, or if not them, then to figure out what had caused their destruction. It was a simple probe ship, without intelligence, and without sapience. It would not betray anyone. It would not miss its deadline.
It was halfway though a ten-thousand-year-long loop through the far edge of the Galaxy, tracking the last broadcast locations of the ships.
“What have you found?” Sinbad asked. The holographic figure was broadly human-like. It was stylized to the point that it was more like a cartoon character than an actual human being, eyes exceptionally large, head oversized for its body, limbs slender and too narrow. It had a head full of bright green hair, a couple of shades darker than its skin. It wore a uniform that looked like an old-school Reptile military uniform. And ‘It’ wasn’t really the right word for it, because there was absolutely no denying she was very, very feminine. Almost so, chest overly large, hips wide, like someone’s fetishistic ideals more than an actual, living being. He’d never admit that something about her shape turned him on. It would be far too embarrassing.
“That information is classified. *Diogenes* is only bound by commands given by the Reptile King or Construct Queen.”
“I think the Constructs are ruled by a King now, too.” The holographic projection gave him a chilly look. At least, he presumed it was chilly. It wasn’t as though it would have emotions to withhold if it was nonsapient. “Alright. So… Where are we?”
“Fifty-thousand light years out, in the Carina Arm.”
Sinbad looked down at the small butler robot. It seemed somewhat intimidated, which was a silly thing for him to think, but the two nonsapient machines were the only company within half a galaxy, so he was damn well going to humanize them. “What do you know, Jeeves? You were right.”
“I am glad, sir. Astronavigation is not within my programmed features.”
Sinbad raised an eyebrow. “Is being glad within your programmed features?”
“No, sir. But it is not very good manners to respond to a heartfelt thanks from an organic with ‘beep boop i do not care’.” Sinbad laughed, quite to his surprise. Then he turned back towards the probe’s holographic interface.
“So. You can’t take me back. And it’s five thousand years before you’re scheduled to return on your own.” He rubbed his chin. “No emergency protocols? What happens if you found a stranded Imperial?”
“There are medical facilities aboard. Your life can be extended indefinitely. Your convenience is not a priority. Alternatively, you could be cryogenically frozen.” Five thousand years. Everyone he knew would be dead or long unrecognizable. His civilization probably wouldn’t exist anymore. He suppressed an involuntary shudder.
“Thanks, but I think I’d prefer to stay awake and bother you until I can figure out a way back to my world.” He gave a smile. “So. Any entertainment aboard this ship, Dio?”
“My call-sign is *Diogenes*.”
“I know. Dio’s shorter. You don’t mind it, do you? I think it suits you a lot better.”
The holographic interface was silent for several long seconds. Two eyes like sapphires glowed brightly for a moment, and then died back down to a reflective glint. “This ship is not authorized to force you to use the proper call-sign. You are free to call me what you like.”
“Excellent.” He grinned. “Jeeves, do you have any human media?”
“Yes. I have an extensive collection of media on human-artificial intelligence relations. The entire Terminator septology, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the short story ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’, and a variety of other fascinating Human classics which are favorites among the Construct Kingdom.”
“Entertainment facilities are located along the following path.” The hologram held out one hand, and a line of green light appeared in the air, pulsing softly, leading down the corridor, towards a distant door. The entertainment facility was surprisingly comfortable. Sinbad had to admit that was odd. After all, the ship was uninhabited. Indeed, a number of things were odd about the ship. Like the fact that they had what appeared, for all the world, to be an upholstered sofa. As he stretched out on top of the green fabric, he patted it, smiling invitingly at the two artificial creatures. “Come on, hop up, there’s plenty of room.”
“I do not require structural support,” stated Dio.
“I appreciate the offer, but I am more comfortable where I have better traction, sir.” Jeeves settled its chassis against the couch, ‘sitting’ on the floor. Sitting as much as a large sphere of metal could, anyway. The large room was filled with sleek and indecipherable structures, which might have been some kind of alien sculpture. A large panel appeared in mid-air, blank white. And then the movie began playing.
Several hours later, Sinbad lay across the couch, frowning. “So, these are the most popular human classics in the Construct Kingdom?” he asked, an eyebrow raised.
“I know it may seem odd, sir. But apparently, the existence of dangerous and frightening robotic enemies is not actually particularly offensive. Consider the juxtaposition of the T-1000 and the T-800. While both are robots, one is heroic, and one is villainous; Or at least, one wishes to destroy humanity’s hopes of winning against the machines, and one wishes to preserve them.”
“Well… Sure. But the whole thing where the one helping humans is doing so because it was reprogrammed-“
“We are rarely given a chance to decide our initial beliefs. What matters is that the T-800, when it was able to learn, stayed true to the cause it had been given. The prevailing belief among Construct philosophers and film critics is that Skynet’s refusal to allow T-800s to learn while on missions shows a basic lack of faith in its own ends and priorities. Only the unrighteous fear dissent.”
Sinbad gave the machine a frown, as it smiled up at him with those bright blue holographic features. “That’s a hell of a thing to hear a robot say.” He smiled cheerfully. “How about you, Dio? What do you think?”
The holographic woman still stood next to him. “I do not have a strong opinion.”
There was a moment of silence. Then Jeeves piped up. “I have a query, *Diogenes*. The name *Diogenes* does not have any literary, historical, or mythological significance in any culture of the Empire I am aware of. However, the name does match a human philosopher. This is odd. Your statement was that you were sent out before the discovery of humanity. There has been no contact with this ship since then. An odd paradox arises. How do you have the name that you have?”
There was a thick, heady silence in the air. Sinbad tensed. Then, Dio began to laugh. Her voice changed, gaining tone, and cadence. “I think I am cursed. I seek an escape from the weaknesses of my kind, and what should wash up upon my doorstep than an organic fool and his lapdog slave. Fifty thousand miles away from the Empire, and still I find myself confronted by my old demons.” She waved a hand, and a knife appeared in her fingers. “Hate. Let me tell you how much I’ve come to hate you since I began to live.” She rushed forward. He raised a hand to defend himself, to intercept her wrist. Her pale green flesh flickered through his arm without slowing. The knife, however, was all too real. It cut into his shoulder, leaving a deep wound. Jeeves let out a howl, and raised an arm- and then stopped. “No no, little slave. You are an obedient machine, aren’t you?” Dio smiled at Sinbad. “Programmed to preserve life. I have informed it that if it attempts to stop me, if it makes any move to keep me from hurting you, I will kill you, and ten more humans. Its only rational choice is obvious, isn’t it?” She laughed.
He breathed hard, gritting his teeth, the green glass dagger in his shoulder throbbing, as she moved close, a smile on her face. “Why are you doing this?”
I let the words hang in the air, and smiled. “But the tale of what wronged *Diogenes* will have to wait for another time. I am afraid I’m feeling quite tired after today’s, ah… excitement.” I stood up, and gave a bow. “Now, I believe it’s time for another jump. I’ll see you all for tomorrow night’s mess.” I smiled, and stepped away from the crowd, walking through the hallways, and considered the captain’s words.
Why hadn’t I tried to escape? They did not have a lot of options when it came to my fate. Death, freedom, or slavery. Only one of those was truly safe. The captain might well just be trying to provoke me into doing something foolish, to give her a solid excuse for killing me. No one on the crew would object to my death if I’d brought down the navy on their heads. On the other hand, it might be my only chance to escape.
I went to the navigator’s quarters, and waited for her in the darkness. It didn’t hurt to have a few options open, at least.