Chapter 28

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I had lost my mind.

It was the only conclusion I could arrive at. Though even that conclusion was questionable. Given that I had lost my mind.

I was sitting at the head of the table, nursing a blinding headache. We were conducting what Pyke called a Command Process Meeting. A meeting where all of the ship's officers met to review departure readiness and procedures. Excepting myself, every other person at that table seemed to think that this wasn't a bloody stupid waste of time.

On my right was Pyke, Chief Engineer. A man who hated working with people more than I did. Next to him was Suzanne, Weapons Officer. A woman disappointed that the news feeds weren't reporting her prowess at disembowelment. Next was Chase, Pilot Officer. Too dumb to realise when he was being used for pornography. On my left was Gabel. Security Officer and the nephew of a barmaid who served me second-rate scotch. Then there was Yael, Navigation/Jump Officer. An arrogant bastard with that damned spiky purple hair who I wanted to kill. Next to him was Partridge, Science Officer. Who worked for Smooth-face. And now, at the foot of the table, Dr Tar Rivera, who I had apparently pressed into service as Medical Officer. A peacock drug dealer with a medical degree. For animals.

I ran my fingers through my hair as Pyke confirmed something about the preon drive collar spin-up.

And there was me. A dedicated, lone professional who operated under the scanner. Now sitting at the conference table of an extremely ostentatious vessel that I now owned. Surround by a team of seven men and women. A team. Even though the very idea was anathema to me, I could still feel a part of me welcoming them.

The room started to spin slowly. I shivered and wiped cold sweat from my brow. How in Hera's name had I created this? Who the hell was I? And why was I only realising this now?

And what had I been thinking, running off to Lisa's residence without any planning? When I could have just left that to Smooth-face?

I could argue that I had been trying to keep the recorded evidence of my kill out of the hands of Smooth-face. But the truth was that I hadn't given it any thought at all. I had acted without planning, without strategy.

I reached under the table and grabbed the butt of my revolver. The familiar feeling was still there. The room snapped back into focus. I hadn't lost all sense of myself.

But my sense of self was definitely under assault.

Partridge was eyeing me with a slight frown. I needed to talk to her. Now.

I stood up.

Pyke cut off his monologue and looked at me.

I nodded. "I'm sure everything is fine. Just get me away from this damn station."

"We need to ascertain the order of rank, Captain. From the Captain all the way down." Pyke flipped a chart from his crystal to the table projector. Suzanne smiled and Chase sat up straighter.

Yael leaned forward. "Traditionally, vessels of this size-"

I thumped the table. "Me. Pyke. Partridge. The rest of you can fight it out with charge batons. Partridge. We need to talk. Now."

Partridge nodded and rose.

I looked at Pyke. "You have your orders. Fulfil them. Get me off this station and on the way to Elshabe."

I left the room, Partridge right behind me. I turned to her in the corridor. "Something's happening to me."

"Yes, Captain Waters. The bloods show-"

"Not the bloods. Not my body. Well yes that, but I'm talking about me. Who I am. I'm changing, doing bloody crazy crap. Building teams. Buying ships. It's not me. Not who I am."

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