Grade 4M4, quartermaster. Pay was less than 3M2 engineer’s mate but better than 5M6 able spaceman. Most military ships had long since replaced their quartermasters with algorithms, but they persisted aboard civilian craft as both a badge of honor and a bit of a luxury. An algorithm wasn’t able to grease palms for fresh and local ingredients, wasn’t able to provide the cooks with what they needed, and certainly wasn’t able to jury-rig repairs and replacements.

Lorne, Grade 4M4 Quartermaster aboard the SS Junebug, had assumed that this would continue to be the case. He kept the small passenger ship outfitted with everything it needed, from oxygen to oysters, and had done so for eight years. So when the message arrived informing him that the next contract–and voyage–would be his last, with an algorithm to take his place, he kept the bottle of vintage champagne intended for the passengers for himself.

Along with Klaus, the cook, who was also slated for replacement by an algorithm hooked up to a set of T-22b manipulators, sat in the observation lounge as the Junebug cruised along its usual Saturn route. They had ringside seats, as it were, for their final cruise.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!