There was an angry screeching of feedback through the ship’s synapses. Then everything stopped working. The computer shut down. The engines powered down. All the lights went out. The mechanical hum of the Aurora died away and then the inside of the ship was as empty as the space outside.
“What in hell is Nastya doing to the ship this time?” Jonny’s voice echoed around the suddenly silent ship. “I swear I told her not to have one of her queer orgies when I’m on board…”
He stormed onto the bridge. Ashes shrugged at him as he came in. Jonny looked for Ivy; she was sitting in the corner. She looked confused.
She shook her head vaguely. “All the external data inputs are disabled,” she said. “It fits the pattern of a power outage.” She didn’t say anything else. Jonny waved his hand in front of her face but she didn’t react. “Great.”
When he turned round Scuzz had appeared. She was sitting on the command chair in the middle of the bridge. No one had heard her come in. Again. Jonny narrowed his eyes at her.
“何あったか知らんぞ,” she said. “ナスチャみつかなあかん.”
Ivy translated. “No shit,” said Jonny. “You got any bright ideas where to look for her? ‘Cos I haven’t got a clue where she hides out.” The ninja did not reply. She looked at the cowboy calmly and did not blink until Jonny swore at her and turned away.
“We just gonna go look for her, then?” Ashes asked.
“It’s a bloody big ship,” Jonny said.
They put up their hands to pacify him. “Hey hey, it’s not that big a ship. All of us together, won’t take so long. Better than doing nothin’. We can get the bots to help.”
“You can,” said Jonny. He stormed out. “I’m gonna start in the hold.”
“Don’t shoot her if you find her,” Ashes yelled after him. Jonny snorted.
It was the Toy Soldier who found her. Nastya wasn’t hiding in one of her engines at all, just sitting on one of the engineering decks crying into the decking. The Toy Soldier offered her a cup of tea, cheerily. When she did not stop it fetched Ashes. They sat down next to Nastya and put their arm around her.
“What’s up?” Ashes asked.
Nastya didn’t say anything so Ashes just held her. The Toy Soldier loomed over them with a confused smile on her face. Finally Nastya mumbled into Ashes’s shoulder. “She fucked off.”
“I told her to fuck off,” Nastya said, “and she fucked off.”
Ashes couldn’t get any more sense out of her. She sat with Nastya until she calmed down and then walked her up to the bridge.
“She exists in a symbiotic relationship with the vessel Aurora.”
Jonny raised his eyebrows. “We know she fucks the ship,” he said. “If that’s what you mean.”
Ivy stared at him. “That is not what I meant. Anastasia and the vessel Aurora coexist. She registers machine-self relations as an unaltered human would register human-self relation.”
“So what you’re saying is that they’re lovers,” said Ashes. Their face softened as they looked at Nastya, sitting in a corner of the bridge, curled up and staring hopelessly out of the window. “And they fell out.”
“So what do we do about it?” Jonny asked. He was sitting on a control panel smoking and glowering in the dark. “You suggesting we give relationship advice or something to Aurora?” He blew out some smoke. “You got a clue how to?”
“Sure,” Ashes said. Jonny did not look like he believed them. “Same as always. Wait it out, it’ll blow over. They’ll work it out in the end.”
“We wait? That’s it?”
Ashes shrugged. “You got a better idea? Ivy, toss us the Mahjongg.”
Nastya vanished sometime when no one was looking. The others just kept up the Mahjongg and tried to ignore the sounds from engineering. The bowels of the ship began to whir, and then whine. At one point all the speakers burst on in unison and Nastya’s gasps echoed round the bridge. Jonny flung down his chips in disgust.
Aurora powered up a few hours later, like nothing had happened. She settled back into her course.