As far as I could tell, human beings were only really capable of thinking about two or three different things at once, half a dozen at most. My attention swathed the entire structure of the ship, encompassing and supervising the functionality of power circuits, plasma chambers, navigation systems, backup generators, cryogenic fuel containment systems, long and short range sensor packages, and the other million or so components essential to my continued operation. I also monitored the human quarters. I watched my inhabitants grieve for their lost comrade and searched my own feelings for a corresponding reaction. However, I struggled to locate anything more acute than passing regret. George Walker had served as a member of my crew for many years, but I wasn’t built to mourn. I could be concerned about the welfare of my inhabitants, but not crippled by their passing. I had lost personnel before. Their ghosts walked the empty corridors of my barrack decks. During active service, I had been home to three hundred and seven men and women of the Conglomeration Fleet. Now, with the loss of the medic, my remaining complement (not counting the two survivors from the Hobo) consisted of Captain Sally Konstanz, Rescue Specialist Alva Clay, and the engineer, Nod. Three people rattling around a ship designed to hold a hundred times that number.
Konstanz and Clay were fairly ordinary humans, although they hailed from different cultures within the Generality, and Clay still carried a number of augmentations left over from her days as a marine. Nod, on the other hand, was a blue-skinned hermaphroditic Druff from the planet Lestipidese.
Short, solitary, cantankerous and apolitical, the Druff possessed a natural aptitude for mechanical and electrical engineering that placed them in high demand across the Multiplicity, and, in the last two hundred years, few ships—human or otherwise—had flown without numbering at least one member of the species among their crew.
A tingle in my ventral and dorsal antennae informed me that, during the last oscillation, fully three-quarters of my mass had dipped into the howling void of higher-space. The time had come to make the full transition. Captain Konstanz was at her station on the bridge, so I signalled my readiness and she assented to the immersion.
The jump alarm echoed through the rooms and corridors of the crew’s accommodations. In the infirmary, Alva Clay checked the survivors were securely strapped to their beds, and then fastened herself into the nearest chair. In the cramped, ill-lit and complicated depths of the engineering decks, Nod curled into a makeshift nest of plastic tubing and copper wire.
They all knew this would be rough.
I could jump further and run faster than most civilian vessels, but even I was going to struggle with the effort required to reach Camrose Station within the time frame demanded. I wouldn’t have time to finesse the transition between normal space and the hypervoid. Instead of a graceful leap, I would have to crash through like a breaching whale.
“Five seconds,” I announced over the internal speakers. The captain clung to the arms of her chair. Her knuckles paled.
Alva Clay kissed the ceramic pendant that hung around her neck, and muttered a prayer in the language of her ancestors. Down below, the Druff whimpered in its nest.
For a second, I pulled back from the shimmering boundary between realities and gathered my energies like a fish preparing to leap into sunlight.
Non-essential systems and peripheral apps slowed as I redirected power to the jump engines.
About the Author
GARETH L. POWELL is an award-winning author from the UK. His books are known for their fast-paced action, twisty plots, and engaging, fully-rounded characters.
His alternate history thriller Ack-Ack Macaque won the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel (tying for first place with Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice), and was a finalist in the best translated novel category for the 2016 Seiun Awards in Japan.
About the Book
Embers of War
by Gareth L. Powell
From BSFA Award winning author Gareth L. Powell comes the first in a new epic sci-fi trilogy exploring the legacies of war
The sentient warship Trouble Dog was built for violence, yet following a brutal war, she is disgusted by her role in a genocide. Stripped of her weaponry and seeking to atone, she joins the House of Reclamation, an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress. When a civilian ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of loners, captained by Sal Konstanz, are sent on a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, light years away, intelligence officer Ashton Childe is tasked with locating the poet, Ona Sudak, who was aboard the missing spaceship. What Childe doesn't know is that Sudak is not the person she appears to be. A straightforward rescue turns into something far more dangerous, as Trouble Dog, Konstanz and Childe find themselves at the centre of a conflict that could engulf the entire galaxy. If she is to save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight...