Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Damage, by David D. Levine

Tor.com, January 2015

http://www.tor.com/2015/01/21/damage-david-levine/

This story makes an interesting contrast to Big Boys Don't Cry, by Tom Kratman.

A fighter spaceship built out of parts of two dead ships has memories from both, including memories of both deaths. Its current pilot, Commander Ziegler, is highly skilled, if a bit cold, and the fighter loves Ziegler, because that's how its programming works. Ziegler, though, unlike the pilots of the previous incarnations of the fighter, has not given it a name or nose art, and the fighter feels that this is because it is inferior and not worthy.

A maintenance officer, Specialist Toman, however, affectionately calls it Scraps, and works hard to keep Scraps in excellent shape.

Scraps, its pilot, and their side are based in the asteroid belt, with their last surviving base being Vanguard Station. They're fighting Earth Force, and we don't have a lot of information about what the basis of the conflict is.

We do learn, though, that Earth Force is still abiding by the Geneva Conventions, and the Vanguarders aren't.

Then Scraps and Ziegler get a new, secret assignment--an assignment they won't know the details of until they reach a point well away from the station and open their secret orders. What they do know is that it requires the substantial expansion of Scraps' weapons bay.

When they learn that their assignment is to commit a terrible atrocity for, really, no reason except revenge (because it won't change the inevitable outcome), Ziegler and Scraps each have to make a decision. Each of their decisions are thoroughly grounded in the excellent character development Levine has done throughout the story. What Scraps actually does is clever and devious.

Highly recommended.