"You can still change your mind," Erin said. She stood over the surgical table where Rolland was laid on his back. Medical equipment hung from racks on the ceiling and walls: syringes, drills, laser cauterizer, a bone saw. Beside the surgical table was a computer station with loose wires hanging from the back. Erin watched the hacker, Cutter, poring over the neural coding data as it flashed across the console.
Captain Wojtek leaned against a metal storage cabinet. Wojtek had just finished explaining to Erin why they'd had a surgical facility installed. With three cyborgs on deck, it made things easier to have an in-house neuro-technician. Erin had no reason to trust the cyborgs and their hacker. But if nothing else, at least they were dealing with professionals. "I mean," Erin started, "are you really sure you want to do this?"
Rolland laughed nervously. "No, I'm not sure. This is the craziest thing I've ever done." Electrodes were attached to his head, passively scanning his brainwaves and feeding the data to Cutter's computer. Although his skull hadn't been opened yet, the tools dangled ominously above only a few feet away. The injector-drill swayed gently overhead: an illegal device that would soon be carving a hole through his skull.
"So you're having second thoughts?" Erin asked.
Rolland sighed. "I know it's the right thing to do."
"You're really just going to throw your life away?"
"Everyone dies sometime." Rolland lay still on the table. "Might as well die doing something I'll be remembered for... for a good cause."
"You're not gonna die," Erin said. "Or did you forget? That's a torture chamber waiting over there, not an execution."
"Thanks for reminding me." Rolland forced a laugh.
"So you're really going through with this?"
"And when exactly were you planning on telling the crew?"
"It'll put 'em in an awkward position if they're able to stop me," Rolland said. "Legally speaking, I mean. I figure I'll do 'em a favour and let 'em know after I'm well on my way."
"Not much of a goodbye, then."
"It's better that way," Rolland said. "When command asks what happened here, I'd rather my crew not have to lie. I'm doing this solo."
"And what about the Avalon?" Erin squinted towards Rolland. "What's the plan?"
"Get 'em home safely. I'm leaving that to you."
"Me?" Erin leaned back from the table.
"That's right," Rolland confirmed. "I'll be putting you in charge of the Excalibur."
Erin paused. "You don't think Hamilton's better positioned for the role?" She asked.
"You're both qualified," Rolland said. "But you saved us from that wormhole. You intercepted that Dragoon conspirator. And next you're gonna get the Avalon and its crew home safely."
"I appreciate your vote of confidence," Erin started, "but I've never envisioned myself in command. It's not my style."
"Not your style?" Rolland shifted on the table, electrode wires dangling from his head. "What do you mean? You completed command training, right?"
"Sure I did. But I mean, I'm not comfortable with the kind of split second decisions you need to make in command." Erin shook her head. "I like to take my time, think everything over, plan it out and strategize. I wouldn't be confident giving an order under time pressure. And I don't know how well I'd handle it if I made the wrong call."
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Angels and WormholesScience Fiction
A star-faring religious cult has created an army of robotic zealots designed to follow holy scripture. As the robotic menace spreads across the galaxy, it takes prisoners to be 'excommunicated': hooked into a neural simulation of eternal torment. Ca...