It was made out of pieces of everything: old jet cones, cruise liners, truck shells. But it flew. Covered in antennae technology from four different decades, and polished to a sheen, that ship was a marvel of speculative mechanical engineering.

She'd been stationed on other ships, but they all seemed drab by comparison. Their parts were standardized. Their operating systems were supported by major vendors.

Growing up at the airfield meant she learned early that only some ships ever make the jump from machine to animal. You knew the animals when you saw them - they were ships like the jalopy, always mutating and moulting with the seasons. They became unique; their complexities outran the manuals. You never rode aboard such ships. You flew with them.

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Art by Giuseppe Severino. See more like this on Severino's website (spotted on Concept Ships).