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Evolution In Action

One of the crew who continues to sign on is a gunner with a worrying habit of gnomically pontificating, fancying herself to be a wizened sage. It is possible, of course, that surviving for somewhat longer than average is due to some slight edge in wisdom. It’s more likely that the cumulative effect of vaporised aromatic hydrocarbons cooking off overheated weapons has sent her more than a little mad. I have come across her, on late watches when she has thought herself alone, obsessively polishing the guns and leaning over to whisper to them. I really do not want to know what she is saying.

One of her repeated aphorisms is that the loss of a ship is just a tax on stupidity. I appreciate the bloody-mindedness that this ultimately resolves to. Place that on the refiner’s fire and there’s not much left over than a nugget of truth: all consequences flow directly from conscious decisions. Nobody else is responsible for what happens to me or my ships.

Of course, I’m not happy to have had ships shot out from under me, and would prefer not to suffer the cost of the material loss, and the loss of crew who know how I want things done. But I cannot deny that every loss was a direct result of some conscious decision. So each loss gives me a chance to learn something to prevent the loss of the next ship.

I am certainly finding that my options for making a profit are evolving on a week to week basis, as I acquire new skills, and become better attuned to the difference between acceptable risk and bloody stupidity. Of late I have developed a pattern that for the time being is reasonably lucrative while reasonably safe. Not fast growth, but sufficient for the next few months as my longer term plans become clear.

There are various agents scattered about who will broker contracts to… well, let’s not be coy about it, to go out somewhere and kill a lot of ships and their crew for whatever reason they deem appropriate. They tell me they are pirates, or enemy combatants, or religious freaks. Whatever. I take my cruiser out, blow them into scrap. I return, take out the vessel I have fitted with salvage, and recover what I can. Then I pick up the bounty. It’s not consistently lucrative, but can earn nicely depending on what I find in the wrecks. Alternatively I use my exploration vessel to find pirate hideouts, and perform much the same cycle.

A side effect of this is that my crew is attracting individuals with a certain… oddness. The gunner I mentioned is an exemplar. To speak with her, initially, reveals no eccentricity. But spend too much time talking and she will start looking past your shoulder, and shifting from foot to foot, and folding her hands. It is quite amusing to keep talking, and watch her become more and more agitated. Release her attention, and she will scurry off. Follow her and you will find her polishing the guns, crooning and whispering. You may think that this is vaguely sexual – or if you think it’s extremely sexual, the thought of her slowly rubbing the oily cloth along the gleaming shafts, then I suggest you seek therapy. Instead it’s disturbingly maternal. She cares for the guns obsessively, possessively. One day I shall fit cameras in the gun room to watch her behaviour in combat. It will either be alarming or amusing. But it remains that she illustrates the result of the pressures produced by this society we have built. She is warped, distorted out of the norm of human nature, into a creature perfectly evolved to tend the machine that is her chosen love. We are a society of morlocls, less than human, more than human, requiring redefinition of human.

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