Freeing the Will

It used to be, by my predecessors’ memoirs, that you could almost feel good about taking a slave ship.  Kill the slavers, free the prisoners from the slave-holds and explosive collars, ferry them back to their homes, and chase down the next one; a good month.

Those were more innocent times.  Few slavers use such simple methods today – not when mind-states can be hacked, consciences redacted, loyalties imposed, and brains washed, and not when semislave minds can be built with no thoughts in their head but to obey their masters.

When we took a slave ship, it meant that the slaves were on the front lines, desperate to save their owners.  We’d count ourselves lucky not to lose a few burning our way into the slaver.  Then, the worst of all possible hostile boarding actions: where those our legionaries were fighting had full-power weapons, but the legionaries had to try to preserve their lives if they could – and where the commanders at their back wouldn’t hesitate to blow out a lock or flood a compartment to kill us.  Their men could never lose their programmed loyalty, and what are the lives of merchandise worth?

The worst part, though, came after the battle’s done, when you could extend no trust to the slaves you took off, because they’d do anything to get back to their owners – if they hadn’t been imprinted with some sort of emergency sabotage or self-destruction programming – and when you had to have a half-dozen legionaries drag them in and hold them down, as they screamed and fought and begged to be allowed to go back, to serve, to stay with the people who they firmly believed were the center of their universe, while the redactors ripped the control compulsions out of their minds.

It’s still good work, restoring volition to those who’ve had it taken away or impaired from their birth.  I know that.  But be damned to me, I’d rather fight a dozen fleet actions or a half-dozen antipiracy patrols than take one more tour of the slave routes.  It’s enough to rip a soph’s heart right out.

– Cdre. Rakhaz Neraxinax, Imperial Navy
interview for IBC drama-documentary, ‘Senior Service’