“So you’re the captain?”
“Yes,” I lied. This is my least favorite of the many lies I tell regularly while traveling with ART. People mark you out and keep an eye on you when they think you’re in charge of something. Tactically, it’s disadvantageous given my personal combat style. Emotionally, it sucks, and I hate it.
This group seemed kind of shifty, but just in a potentially murderous way, so that wasn’t too bad. The alternative was shifty in an Alliance-backed way, which could have led to ART taken apart or its AI reclaimed and me ending up back…wherever I was further back than I can remember, which for the record is not very far.
Considering this I don’t think I’ve done too bad for myself ending up in an arrangement where I convince travelers that a sentient ship isn’t its own captain, but like, what do I know.
“Lot of other people on the ship?” asked one of the people in the tightly bunched group we would maybe be ferrying across the system. She was, like all of them, eyeballing me. Negotiations are the worst. She was paying special attention to the pistol on my hip, which is what it was there for, but still not appreciated. My real weapons were in my boots. And my back holster. And under my sleeves. And one in my jacket pocket.
“It’s a skeleton crew,” I said. ART is the skeleton crew. I mostly skulk around and read old paperbacks that I pick up by the crateful when we stop in towns, camped out in the cramped rooms in the belly of the ship. Sometimes ART bullies me up to the spaces with portholes where you can see the black. It’s weirdly obsessed with the concept of not wasting a starside view for a person without eyes.
“It’s kind of dingy,” she said.
“Extremely,” I said, and didn’t add and bad-mannered.
The overhead lights pulsed pointedly anyway.
“Poorly constructed, too,” I couldn’t help adding.
A spark actually leapt up from the seam where the floor was welded together I was standing on to zap the metal toe of my boot.