“So, the ship is stocked and everything is loaded and configured to spec. We’re done, right?” trainee logistics officer Hannah Shelling said.
“Not quite,” Chief Jackie Reed said.
“Set course for Beta Reticulae, Mr. Christopher.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel said. He used Maere’s constant and a few modified equations of his own. The course plotted was elegant and deceptively simple. “Course plotted, sir.”
“Ahead full,” the captain said.
He engaged the Watson’s engines. The Watson left the system in a streak of light.
Daniel Christopher’s shift ended and he walked to his quarters. This would be his first longterm tour out of the system. He’d already clashed with first officer Craig’s over some minor disagreement. He needed to make a good impression, get on Craig’s good side. Otherwise, the next two years could destroy his career while boring him to tears.
He plopped on his regulation rack and turned the light out. Through his uniform, he felt a squarish bit of paper under him. He turned the light back on and turned over.
Special Orders: Lieutenant Daniel Christopher
He turned the envelope over, tore the flap open, and pulled a sheet from the envelope. All the identifying marks were absent. An admiral had signed it. When he finished the letter, he was to burn it.
“We’ve got to deliver these daffy letters to every bunk on the ship?”
“They’ve got to be the right letters too or there’ll be trouble.”
“They all say the same thing. What’s the point?”
“Not quite, Shelling. What if you got one of these letters and it had someone else’s name on it?”
“Oh,” Shelling swore. “Yeah, that would be a problem.”
Dear Lt. Daniels,
It will doubtlessly surprise you to know that you are the only human on board the Watson.
All your fellow crew and officers are androids.
You would have figured it out eventually, but in order to prevent problems later, we decided it was best to let you know now—
“Well, damn. That makes a lot of sense already, I guess.”
“So, why do we do it?” Shelling said.
“The androids make braver decisions,” Reed said, “When they think they’re the only human and they have to make up for all the inhumanity around them.”
“Turns out it’s the same for humans too.”
“Are you saying—”
“I’m not saying anything,” Reed said. She pulled a cigar out, trimmed it, and lit up. “I’m not saying anything at all.”