Last Orders

The IJV Belas cut quickly through warpspace, the sleek jump shuttle designed for speed and endurance when it came to warp travel. An ideal vessel for a Galactic Armed Forces General. Thomas Watton glanced at the clock on his in-vision display: 0059 Standard Ship Time. Hiding a yawn behind his fist, he looked to his companion.

Sapphire Wight was peering at the window at the vast expanses of space slipping past them, albeit in inverted colours. A week ago the gynoid was a standard autocrew automaton, part of the ship’s complement. Now she was on her way for testing at a Galactic Science Academy facility on Samfa Seven to determine her fate.

“It’s getting late, Sapphire. You should get some rest.” Thomas smiled, rising from his chair. “The Belas is a two-berth shuttle, the spare room is yours.”

“Thank you, General. But I think I will watch the stars for a while longer. I have not had the chance or inclination to do so on the Wight.” Noticing the slight furrow of his grey eyebrows, a smile touched the corner of her lips. “I will rest later, I do need to recharge.”

“See that you do. There is food, drink and cyborg-grade suppliments available too if you feel like eating.” He said, heading for his room. Pausing at the precipice, he looked back to her. “If you need me, knock on the door. And Sapphire?”

“Yes, General?”

“Good night.” He smiled before disappearing through the doorway.

 

Sapphire turned back to the view on the navigation screen, drawing her legs up onto the chair and her arms around them. It was a pose she had found herself drawn to lately. It felt secure, warm and comforting to be all bunched up and peering over her knees. She was in casual grey sweats, a staple among human crew in their downtime, and her platinum blue hair was gathered up in a bun at the back of her head.

“Belas, please switch the lighting in this room to downcycle mode.” She requested. The ship’s computers complied immediately, lowering the main lighting and putting on floor-trim and ambient wall lighting. Glancing around, she looked back to the navigation screen. “Belas, could you also apply an inverse filter to the screen?”

The inverse-hue of warpspace switched to a standard view, distant stars and planetoids zipping past.

“Thank you, Belas.” When Sapphire looked back on her recorded memories, she felt positive on encounters where people were polite to her even as an autocrew member. It felt important for her to pass that politeness on, even to a ship’s computer.

With the bridge of the Belas dimly lit, the gynoid reached down to pull up a dataslate that had been given to her, looking over the writing as the universe blurred by in front of her.

 

The door to the Commander’s office slid shut behind her. Horace Lee was sat behind his desk, the burns and wounds to his face still healing over and one of his forearms arms set in a light green cast. “Ensign, thank you for joining me today.” He spoke softly, a mix of pain and tiredness dulling his usual authoritative tone. “In light of the Ada Regulations and the request from General Watton… I am hereby authorized to transfer you over to his custody, to undergo an AI Awakening Test at a science facility.” He offered out the dataslate with her transfer orders loaded into it.

“Thank you, Commander.” Taking the slate, she pressed her thumb to it and submitted her authorization codes. With a beep, she was no longer part of the ICV Wight’s Autocrew. The disconnect from the Wight’s command unit came next. A presence that had stayed with her for the vast majority of her existence was gone in an instant, with nothing left to replace it. A tremble rumbled through her, and she wished to return to her docking pod as she had done a thousand times for charging and servicing.

Commander Lee was watching her, waiting.

“I do not wish to leave the ship at such a time in such circumstances, but I am bound by law to.” Sapphire stated, before struggling with the next part. “I… am still struggling to come to terms with what has happened, but I wish for you to know that… I will try to remember the Wight fondly.”

“Likewise. While you may no longer be a member of the crew, I do outrank you, Ensign. I have my last orders to give to you.” Easing himself up out of his chair, Horace moved around the desk to stand in front of the uncertain-looking gynoid, devoid of the calm, competent manner that was present only a few days ago. “Firstly, I hope you will attend the funeral of Lieutenant Joan Adnams. I will pass on the date to General Watton once the Wight docks for repairs.”

She nodded silently, tears welling at the corner of her eyes.

“Secondly, even though you are no longer of the crew, you carry the surname Wight. Uphold the honour of that name.”

Another nod, trickles running down her cheeks. She was not sure why she was crying, or how to stop.

“Lastly… live. Joan gave her life for you, and now you have an opportunity to exceed what you were made for. Live a good, long life.” Picking a tissue from his pocket, he offered it to her. “And if in two years time you decide that life would be best lived here, there will always be a spot on this bridge for you.”

Declining the tissue, Sapphire saluted crisply. “Yes, Commander.” She sniffed, before turning on her heels and exiting the office.

 

Rising from her seat, Sapphire made her way to the room set aside for her. The bed was soft and luxurious with fresh sheets and expensive-looking material. She was a little hesitant about climbing onto such a fine piece of furniture, but the various sockets for charging up androids and cyborgs were mounted to the far wall.

She didn’t quite expect the mattress to have that much give,and toppled forwards with a yelp. The unexpected sound she made startled her even more. Still, sprawled out face-first on the soft bedding did feel… nice? Rolling onto her back and bringing her legs onto the bed, she looked through some of the programs she never had to use before for a hint.

“Bioforms often removed outer layers of clothing before sleeping between the sheets.” She had never needed to access the Hospitality Crew datapacks before, but it made sense. Autocrew would remove their uniforms so they could be washed before stepping into their docking pods for cleaning, maintenance and charging. Slipping her sweats off, she thought better of just discarding them on the floor and sat up to fold them instead.

Her alabaster skin had a few faint lines in it, portions where a plug of bioskin could be removed for access to assorted ports, inputs and outputs. Aside from a simple pair of black briefs she was unclad, and her body soon reported to her the drop in temperature. Placing her folded clothes onto a nearby counter, she peeled back the covers of the bed and carefully slipped between the layers of sheets.

Sneaking a hand out, she snagged the cables for power and pulled them into the bed with her, rolling onto her side. A small flap of skin at the small of her back was easily lifted with a thought, revealing the sockets for them to plug into. An icon flashed up in her in-vision display, denoting current charge levels and time remaining until fully charged. Unlike full-body models centuries ago that needed daily charging, she could run for at least two months from full to zero at moderate activity levels. Not that she had ever been pushed to do so, and regular charging also took care of all the other little processes that needed to be kept in check.

“Belas, please switch this room to downcycle mode.”

The ship complied.

Rolling onto her back was out of the question with the sockets in place, so she stared at the wall and door instead. Nothing much was happening there, so she looked up at the ceiling. It was nice, as far as ceilings went, but hardly entertaining. So Sapphire glanced back at the wall again, patiently watching for a while before coming to a conclusion:

“Resting is difficult.”

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