Inventions of the Future: Launch clubs

Can’t talk now, Dale, I’ve gotta flame and smear on the south peninsula.

That’s alright. I’ll come along for the ride. Was it one of yours?

Yep. Number six son.

He’s had some experience too. Hasn’t he?

Yep. Never could get his trajectory right, tho.

Have you told the missus yet?

Naw. She’s visiting her sister. Best not to disturb them.

What about the tanks?

Well, I been thinking about that. Everyone around here just rushes em to the tanks. What’s the hurry? He’ll keep.

Kinda harsh, don’t cha think?

Naw. Teach him a lesson. This is just aggravating, running all over like this. Maybe next time he’ll be more careful.
Hmm. Never thought of it like that.

Give it a few more decades. This launch club foolishness will be over.

Oh, Bill, it’s just some kids havin fun. They put together these crazy surface to void ships so they don’t die of boredom. Any of em could make it off this dirtball on a legit shuttle if they wanted. Gives em somethin to do. Whoa, that looks like the wreck over there.

If he hadn’t let that Moffit girl talk him into a new design he mighta walked away from this smear. Probably fried him to a crisp while he was still in the upper atmosphere.

Gonna send a bot in for him?

Yeah, don’t want to get any of those ashes on me.

Hey, that’s a pretty big black ball. Didn’t know they made em that big.

I had it dipped in extra casing. After the first three smears in a row I figured I better. You know, just in case.

Cause any problems when you regrow him?

Naw, I just put it in his gut instead of his head. Pretty standard.

How long did you say you were gonna keep him out of the tank?

I dunno. Maybe I’ll give his next body buck teeth and a cowlick.

Then he’ll just smear it on purpose.

Yup, probably would.


Celeste: The Activation

He gently guided his needle ship into his private docking station on the immense space yacht. They were two weeks early for the trendiest cruise in the quadrant. Two weeks before he could start his hunt.

The yacht was a replica of the fabled Serena Between the Stars and the cruise would follow her last journey. The exodus of the wealthy elite from Anderson Station to the fateful crash on Tiamat Five had been exhaustively documented. Great care had been taken to make the replica as believable as possible while including modern technology and safety procedures.

Each passenger had been assigned a name and personality corresponding to an original passenger or crew member. After launch, no one would be allowed to leave. Every individual had a role to play in the coming drama.

The docking rings embraced his ship and the transport tube latched on to the outer airlock. She was strapped in next to him. He spoke to her, commands only. She was still on auto pilot but she responded smoothly. As they traveled to their suite they were hidden from other early arrivals. The games would not begin until after launch.

Their suite was decadent. He approved. He left her, unclothed and face up on the bed while he refreshed himself. He was in no hurry. Activation was a task to be savored.

Finally, he came to her. Her synthetic skin was soft under his touch. He could not detect a seam where the skin faded into supple bronze. The bronze was smooth and perfect.

What wonders do you hold, he thought. What memories have you held on to?

He spoke the first words of activation. He watched as she became aware of herself. Slowly, she became aware of him. He continued touching her, stroking her, probing her. Only her inner kernel was active. She was vulnerable, in this state, stripped of her interaction modules. He began giving her commands again, softer now. He found her physical data input slot.

Oh yes, he thought. Wherever you have been in the past is nothing like where you are going in the future.

Then he slid his transfer wand home.

Pug-Monkey and the Feline Menace

Cream floated in the crew washer as it rinsed away the dark dye from his coat. Good to be home, he thought. Good to be with the pack.

It had been a scary trip down into New Jy, but it was worth it. Janice now had the organic security system they needed. Future passengers wouldn’t be able to steal ship components.

Cream tumbled out of the crew washer and smacked into Bo.

*glad you’re back, glad you’re back* Bo sent as he sniffed all over the little pug-monkey. *glad you’re ok, glad you’re ok*

Cream gently pushed away from his big friend. I think I’m finally getting used to the galumphing oaf, he thought. It helps that he finally stopped slobbering all over me.

Cream made his way over to Janice. He was careful to stay clear of the huge pinkish purple mass of tissue forming in the center of the cargo bay. It had become enormous. Janice was feeding it high grade nutrients and the muscle shot through with primitive neural cells was growing fast.

Janice grinned at him. He used to think humans looked scary when they showed their teeth like that. Something else I’ve grown used to, he mused.

“This is the good stuff,” Janice said as she nodded to the tissue. “It’s already responding to low level commands.”

Cream started to snuggle up so she could scratch his ears again, but the com link chimed.

Janice nudged the sensor bot around so it would only pick up her face and a featureless patch of the cargo hold. “Captain Curain of the Interstellar Minnow speaking.”

A feral growl came through the link before the video flickered on. A black and white feline face appeared, fangs bared. “I am Sergeant Yol from Station Authority. I have come to inspect your ship and you will cooperate.”

Janice checked his credentials and they came up legitimate. She opened the airlock to the station.

He was larger than most felines. He had the same prehensile tail and pawger adaptations as Cream. His whiskers twitched as he glanced around the cargo hold. He snorted contemptuously and headed for the bridge.

Janice, Bo and Cream exchanged worried looks. Station Authority was a new organization devoted to enforcing safety regulations. Why was he so angry?

Bo heard a dull clanging at the airlock. It was so faint Janice and Cream didn’t seem to hear it. Was something wrong with the mechanicals? Was that the reason for the inspection? Bo grabbed a tool kit and went to the lock.

The noise was intermittent and sounded like metal hitting metal. Bo tried to open the lock but the controls weren’t working. He checked the sensors. Outer door was closed and the lock held air. Something was inside the lock, maybe it was one of those robo bunnies he liked to chase.

Bo tripped the manual override and put his face very close to the door. He yelped as the door opened and a magnetic wrench whacked him on his sensitive nose. A second large feline sailed past him into the ship.

The crew recognized Moma, Chief of Station Authority. “Where is he?” she snarled.

Yol came out of the bridge, ears back and hissing. He grabbed Cream from behind, sinking his claws in for better purchase. His bared fangs were centimeters away from Cream’s jugular and the threat was clear.

Yol and Moma stared at each other. Finally Moma moved away from the airlock. As Yol started to drag Cream toward the lock he turned his back on the mass of tissue in the center of the cargo bay. Janice gave a short stream of sub vocal commands and tendrils of tissue floated away from the main mass. Suddenly Cream and Yol were covered in pinkish purple cells. Yol was sucked back into the main mass. Cream was released.

Janice hugged Cream, she was shaking with relief.

Moma sailed into the bridge without a word. Bo followed her. She pulled a small dark object out of the console next to the deep space radio.

“He was hijacking your com system.”


“Don’t know yet, but I’ll find out. Sorry about your nose. He messed up the controls on the lock too. I couldn’t do anything but hammer on it.”

*it’s ok, I know you didn’t mean to hurt me* He kept his distance anyway.

Inventions of the Future: Man in a Can

Tom stomped down Service Corridor B of Space Station Zephyr, swearing steadily. The servo on his left rear leg was locked up again. His gait was so uneven he had trouble avoiding toppling into the walls. He could go to the Veteran’s Body Shop, but they would just lube it and send him off again. No replacement parts were available at this time. At least not for those who had sacrificed everything for their empire.

Tom had started life as a tank grown clone on the colony of Kanker Five. He had been happy, wired into the hive, always knowing which task to complete next. He had been created for a purpose and he had the satisfaction of fulfilling it.

He came to the door that separated Service Section B from Service Section C. He checked the sensor readings for the other side. No oxygen, no heat. He gave the code to override the locking mechanisms and swung his damaged leg into hard vacuum.

The Resource Wars had changed everything. We need organic units, said the parent company. No time to grow new ones. Because the hive wished it, he volunteered.

They put chips in his brain so he could pilot solo deep space missions. They replaced his bones with an engineered material so they would never break. They replaced his internal organs with more efficient synthetic models. They optimized his soft tissues for hibernation. Eventually, he became a whole new man.

The door closed behind him and he wobbled down Service Corridor C. Gravity was always stronger here, close to the Allied Interests offices. His destination was close now.

The modifications had not upset him. His original body was weak and vulnerable, optimized for a planet bound life. By the end of the war he was more durable than the ship which carried him. Once he survived an ambush by floating in the void until backup arrived.

Tom moved slowly in the high gravity. He slid into the ancient rec room though a side door which had long ago frozen half open. This was the oldest part of the station. All the technology worth recycling had been stripped out and the hull was being used as a physical buffer between the newer station sections and space debris.

When the war was over he naively assumed he could return to Kanker Five. He missed the buzz of the hive. He missed the instant communication where he was never misunderstood.

We have invested too many precious materials in you, he was told. For the good of the empire we must reclaim them.

He expected them to give him a new vat grown body. They did not. They scanned his neural structure and printed it on a blank robot brain and stuffed him into a tiny, ancient exploration unit.

The hive no longer had a place for him. He could serve no purpose there. He would be useful to the maintenance crew on the station as long as he could remain mobile.

He settled into his docking station with his bad leg sticking out. He felt relief as the connection closed and the charge trickled into his batteries.

Pug-Monkey Comes Home

Cream heard the whirr-click-silence whirr-click-silence of the atomic boomerang as he cycled through the airlock. He hovered at the edge of the empty cargo hold. Gravity was off again. Whirr-click the boomerang popped back into a solid state and continued on it’s trajectory with Bo in hot pursuit. Whirr-click and the boomerang dissolved into vapor.

Whirr and Bo caught it just as it was solidifying. Bo started toward Janice so she could reset the toy and start another game. Bo noticed Cream and changed course, dropping the boomerang in his joy.

Cream tried to avoid impact with the large reddish brown canine and failed.

*OOOO you smell good!* sniff sniff sniff

Cream tried to avoid being slobbered on and failed.

*so happy you’re back* lick snort lick

Just as Cream thought he would be crushed Janice rescued him. “Bo settle down.” She pulled the two apart. She gave Bo a gentle shove and sent the big dog tumbling. She cradled the little pug-monkey in one arm and took him over to the habi-pods.

“I missed you too.” She said quietly as she wiped the saliva off his face.

Bo came up behind her, quivering with excitement but trying to mind his manners.

“I got it.” Cream snuffled. He pulled the tube out of his pack.

“Good boy.” Janice scratched behind his ears. “Very good boy.”

Janice let go of him as she moved to the replicator unit they had salvaged from a failed colonial outpost on the surface of Jy. Bo gently started nuzzling him.

The replicator hummed gently as Janice inserted the tube. After a few moments she let out the breath she had been holding.

“It’s viable and it’s the one we wanted.” She smiled.

Celeste: The Purchase

The buyer sat quietly under his identity cloak. His attention was focused on the forms in front of him.

“This one was created for space station hull work. The chassis is standard but the outer layer was created by lonely crewmembers.” The seller had a smooth, soothing voice. He shifted subtly under his identity cloak.

Too obvious, the buyer thought. Too blatantly lethal. Her silvery curves held an amazing array of industrial tools under seamless silver skin.

“She never saw active duty. The nanotech revolution of 3078 made her obsolete two hours after her manufacture.”

The buyer nodded in appreciation and with a flick of his hand moved to the next offering.

The next was made of dull grey metal. She had the face of a queen, torso and arms of a dancer. Instead of legs she had eight segmented tentacles streaming out from her hips.

Mmm, thought the buyer. There’s quite a few possibilities with that one.

“This one was salvaged from a failed Medusa cult colony. She sat exposed to the surface elements of Archimedes Three for over two centuries. She is registered as a historical item and all future owners must maintain her in her present condition. We have, however, been quite careful with all decontamination routines and she is prepared for immediate social contact.”

She’s too distinct, the buyer thought regretfully as he noticed her hair was thin cables with tiny connectors at the ends. She would attract too much attention. He flicked his hand.

“This is one of the first models in the Companion series.” The seller’s voice was still smooth, but he shifted under his identity cloak.

She was an almost perfect copy of a human. A line ran down her forehead, along the side of her nose and gently back towards her ear. Most of her face had delicate, pale skin, but the smaller portion had a transparent surface covering thousands of tiny circuits. Wavy blonde hair fell past her shoulders.

Probably retired from a deep void pleasure cruiser, thought the buyer. She’s seen a lot of hard use and won’t have the features I need. He flicked his hand.

“This one is from an estate sale. Her original owner was a colonist who had an unfortunate first encounter. His heirs decided to dispose of all sentimental belongings.”

Part of her skin was a rich brown and part was metallic bronze. The buyer was not able to tell where the skin stopped and the metal began. Very elegant, the buyer thought. She was petite with hair a shade darker than her bronze.

Legitimate colonists rarely had fatal first encounters with new species anymore, but a smuggler operating in an uncharted area might. Or, unfortunate first encounter may be a euphemism for some other type of death not spoken of in polite company.

Had she been used as a mule? Did she have secret cavities waiting to be explored? Her security and sensory functions must have been enhanced. She was new enough her neural system would accept organic modules. She might have interesting trace memories.

She was just what he was looking for.

“I want this one.” The buyer’s voice was low and rough.

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