David D. Levine. Damage. (Tor.com January 2015)

damageIllustration by Victor Mosquera. Story online on Tor.com here.

Follow the link above to read the story if you haven’t yet. It’s the first story of 2015 that I’m flagging as a contender for the Best SF Short Story Award 2015.

The protagonist in the story is a ship mind, not a totally new conceit, but what is different here is that the ship mind belongs to a new fighter craft, cobbled together from the remnants of two battle-damaged fighters, and it/she has memories of the battles that destroyed those predecessors, the pain, and the loss of the pilots. JB6847½ is the tongue-in-cheek name given to this ship by it’s maintenance engineer, but the ship has not been given a name, or a nose-cone image by Commander Ziegler, the pilot whom the ships loves, an unrequited love.

Commander Ziegler and JB6847½ are fighting for the Free Belt against Earth, and it’s a battle that’s not going very well, to the extent that the pair are set on a special mission, which gives JB6847½, but not Commander Ziegler, food for thought.

The character of the ship mind comes across well, and the moral dilemmas it/she faces, and the denouement is a pleasing one.

21st Feb 2016 update : a Nebula Award nominee, a nomination with which I agree.

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