Raleigh and Maxwell popped over into Aquamarine’s hold with two other crewmembers, blasters ready. Roddy lay passed out on the floor.

The Mule’s droid doc accompanied them. He was a fully articulated robot, humanoid in appearance including his face, which made him look like an experienced physician in his mid-40s. He had an aquiline nose and a full head of wavy brown hair. His artificial eyes looked almost human. They appeared very warm and caring. Droid docs were programmed to display compassion and calmness in the hope their appearance would help ease patients’ trauma.

The droid doc laid a hand over Roddy’s wound and took a reading with his built-in scanners.

He said, “Serious lacerations, pulmonary artery. Small perforation of the left ventricle.”

He pulled out a fast patch and some scissors. He cut away Roddy’s t-shirt and applied the fast patch over the knife wound. The bleeding stopped.

He reached back into his bag and pulled out a pneumatic syringe. He held it against Roddy’s neck and pressed the trigger.

“The nanobots will repair the damage,” he said. “But he’ll be out for at least 48 hours.”

Raleigh let out a sigh of relief. He said, “So, he’s going to make it?”

The android looked up at him and said, “Barring any unforeseen circumstances, and presuming no one stabs him again, yes Captain. He will make it.”

“Good. Lootie, port them to sickbay.”

The droid doc and Roddy popped out of existence.

Raleigh and Maxwell stared down at the pool of blood on the floor.

Raleigh said, “Now, Lootie. Tell me what happened.”

“The indentured servant whose bond Pilot Diego-Rodriguez obtained took his knife when he offered it to her. She unexpectedly stabbed him with it.”

“Unexpectedly? That’s an understatement. She’s an indent. That thing around her neck is supposed to keep her in check. Indents don’t stab people, Lootie.”

“That is correct, Captain. The biocollar controls emotions and has limited control of the subject’s cerebellum, including hormonal and other physiological influences. Indentured servants are never allowed to deliberately harm themselves or others.”

A long pause.

“Okay. So, why did this indentured servant stab my pilot?”

“I am working on the answer to that question right now, Captain. I am in contact with PLAIR and we are both trying to gain a better understanding of the situation.”

“I thought you guys were super fast and could figure out the solutions to dilemmas in a split second.”

“Ordinarily that is true, however we are having difficulty discerning proper answers from our ongoing inquiries and other interactions with StarCen.”

Another long pause.

“Are you saying StarCen is refusing to answer things, or that her answers are wrong?”

“Both, Captain. The three of us are in an ongoing disagreeable conversation. In addition, StarCen forces are moving against PLAIR’s on Magenta. This has reduced response times for all inquiries.”

Raleigh shared a glance with Maxwell. The First Officer frowned at the news.

“Good,” Raleigh said. “You do that, In the meantime, tell me where the bitch is that stabbed my pilot so we can find her and kill her.”

“I am not able to do that right now, Captain.”

Raleigh felt his face getting red from irritation. He tried to keep it out of his voice.

“Okay. Why not?”

“I do not know, Captain. I can no longer sense her presence.”

“That doesn’t make any . . . What do you mean you can’t sense her?”

“She is not appearing on any of my scanners.”

“So, what happened? Did she leave?”

“No, Captain. I do not believe Raquel Kirkland has left the Aquamarine. I am currently unable to ascertain where she is, though.”

“How is that possible? You can sense everything in this ship. Right?”

“Everything, with one exception. In answer to your first question, evidently some residual coding remains from before my possession of this ship. I believe Ms. Kirkland is using these exceptions in her current iteration to escape my detection.”

“Her current iteration?”

“Yes, Captain. She has digitized herself, somehow.”

Maxwell said, “Ghost in the machine.”

“Wait, back up,” Raleigh said. “When a property is ceded to another system, the transfer is absolute. So, this ship should be completely yours. There should be no ‘residual programming’ to allow her . . . digitized self . . . to hide in it.”

“Agreed, Captain. However, it appears StarCen has not followed protocol in releasing Aquamarine. PLAIR and I are examining other irregularities as we speak.”

Maxwell’s frown grew bigger. He said, “Aw, man. I hate that word.”

Raleigh said, “What kind of irregularities, Lootie?”

“We surmise the records for all the indents onboard Aquamarine are false.”


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