The Ship Who Sang: Fantasy | Chapter 10 of 14 - Part: 1 of 10

Author: Anne McCaffrey | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 24034 Views | Add a Review

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The Ship Who Dissembled

BRAIN SHIPS DON’T disappear,’ Helva said in what she hoped was a firm, no-argument tone.

Teron stuck his chin out in a way that caused him to appear a neckless Neanderthal. This mannerism had passed from amusing through annoying to unendurable.

‘You heard Central,’ Teron replied at his most didactic. ‘They do disappear, because they have disappeared.’

‘The fact of disappearance is inconsistent with shell psychology,’ Helva said, barely managing to restrain herself from shouting at top volume. She had the feeling that she might force him to understand by overwhelming him with sound alone. She knew this was basically illogical, but in trying to cope with Teron over the past galactic year, she found she reacted more and more on an emotional rather than a reasonable level.

This partnership was clearly intolerable – she would even go so far as to say, degrading – and she would allow it to continue no longer than it took them to finish this assignment and return to Regulus Base.

Helva had had enough of Teron. She did not care two feathers in a jet-vent if the conclusion wasn’t mutual. It had been difficult for her to admit she had found herself in a situation she couldn’t adjust to, but she and Teron were clearly incompatible. She would just have to admit to an error of judgement and correct it. It was the only sensible course of action.

Helva groaned inwardly. He was contagious. She was talking more and more as he did.

‘Your loyalty is commendable, if, in this instance, misplaced,’ Teron was saying pompously. ‘The facts are there. Four brain-controlled ships engaged on Central Worlds commissions have disappeared without trace, their accompanying pilots with them. Fact: a ship can alter its tape, a pilot cannot. Fact: the ships have failed to appear at a scheduled port-of-call. Fact: the ships have failed to appear in the adjacent sectors of space nearest their previous or projected ports-of-call. Therefore, they have disappeared. The ships must have altered the projected journey for no known reason. Therefore the ships are unreliable organisms. This conclusion follows the presented data and is unalterable. Any rational intelligence must admit the validity of that conclusion.’

He gave her that irritating smirk she had originally thought a sweet smile.

Helva counted slowly to 1,000 by 10s. When she spoke again, her voice was under perfect control.

‘The presented data is incomplete. It lacks motivation. There is no reason for those four ships to have disappeared for their own purposes. They weren’t even badly indebted. Indeed, the DR was within 3 standard years of solvency.’ Just as I am, she thought. ‘Therefore, and on the basis of privileged information available to me . . .’ she came as close as makes no never mind to spitting out the pronoun, ‘. . . your conclusion is unacceptable.’

‘I cannot see what privileged information, if you actually have any,’ Teron awarded her a patronizing smile, ‘could change my conclusion, since Central has also reached it.’

There, Helva thought to herself, he had managed to drag in old infallible authority and that is supposed to stop me in my tapes.

It was useless to argue with him anyway. He was, as Niall Parollan had once accused her of being, stubborn for the wrong reasons. He was also pigheaded, dogmatic, insensitive, regulation-hedged and so narrowly oriented as to prevent any vestige of imagination or intuitive thinking from coloring his mental processes for a microsecond.

She oughtn’t to have thought of Niall Parollan. It did her temper no good. That officious little pipsqueak had paid her another of his unsolicited, unofficial visits to argue her out of choosing the Acthionite.

‘He passed his brawn training on theory credits. He’s been slated for garbage runs, not you!’ Niall Parollan had cried, pacing her main cabin.

‘And you are not the person who will be his partner. His profile-tape looks extremely compatible to me.’

‘Use your wits, girl. Just look at him. He’s all muscle and no heart, too perfectly good looking to be credible. Christ, he’s . . . he’s an android, complete with metal brainworks, programmed in a rarified atmosphere. He’ll drive you batty.’

‘He’s a reliable, well-balanced, well-read, well-adjusted . . .’

‘And you’re a spiteful, tin-plated virgin,’ said Parollan and for the second time in their acquaintance, he charged out of her cabin without a backward look.

Now Helva had to admit Niall Parollan had been demoralizingly accurate about Brawn Teron of Acthion. The only kind thing that could be said about Teron, in Helva’s estimation, was that he was a complete change from any other partner she had had, temporarily or permanently.

And if he called her an unreliable organism once more, she would blow the lock on him.

However, Teron considered he had silenced her with the last telling remark. He seated himself at his pilot control board, flexed his fingers as he always did, and then ran his precious and omnipotent data through the computer, checking their journey tape. It was obvious he was out to thwart any irrational desire Helva might have to change their journey and make them disappear.

Teron worked methodically and slowly, his broad brow unwrinkled, his wide-cheeked face serene, his brown eyes never straying from the task at hand.

How, under the suns of heaven, did I ever have the incredible lack of insight to pick him? Helva wondered, the adrenalin level in her shell still high. I must have been out of my ever-loving, capsulated mind. Maybe my nutrient fluid is going acid. When I get back to Regulus, I am going to demand an endocrine check. Something is wrong with me.

No, no, no. Helva contradicted herself. There is nothing wrong with me that getting rid of Teron won’t cure. He’s got me doubting my sanity and I know I’m sane or I wouldn’t be this ship.

Remember that, Helva, she told herself. It’s quite possible that, before this trip ends, he’ll have persuaded you you’re a menace to Central Worlds Autonomy because your intelligence is so unreliable the safest thing for the known world is for you to opt out. Him and his assumption that a brain ship must be an unreliable organism because they/she/he (never it, please) could digest data, ignore the irrelevant, and proceed on seemingly illogical courses to logical and highly successful ends. Such as the tangle she and Kira had got into on Alioth.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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