Pug-Monkey Implements a Security Procedure

Cream stared at the grow vat full of pink gelly and licked his nose nervously. Was it strawberry gelly? Cream clenched his pawgers and flexed his tail. It didn’t smell like strawberries. It had a slightly meaty scent and some sort of fibrous matrix was holding it together. Maybe it was a mix of strawberry gelly and some other tasty substance. The little pug-monkey loved strawberry vat gelly. It was even better than banana liver cookies.

Cream was visiting Alanadolphous Hutley to discuss finding new crew members and maybe a new security system for the space ship he lived on. After Alanadolphous had greeted him she had stepped aside to take an urgent comm call.

Cream was not offended. Procurement agents were always busy. But, she had forgotten the crumpets and tea that was supposed to be served with the gelly. How long would he have to wait? He could happily eat the entire vat by himself. Would she be mad at him if he did?

Cream was gently opening the vat’s lid when Alanadolphous joined him.

“Oh dear. I didn’t properly introduce you. Simix doesn’t have a direct connect interface like most wetware.” She took the vat away from Cream and slid it into a silver tube.

A holographic face projected from the top of the tube. “Hello. My name is Simix. I am a member of the latest generation of organic computers. Although my main processing unit is this vat of neural tissue, I am backed up to both a wetware and a hardware system every other second. Disaster recovery would take less than 5 seconds, assuming a replacement neural unit was available. I am fully interactive, adaptive and self aware. I have been optimized for security work in zero g environments. I am also a full citizen of Consensus.”

“It won’t take long to adjust to Simix’s appearance or personality.” Said Alanadolphous, who had noticed Cream’s emotional distress. “And it really is very dependable.”

Cream hesitated. He had never spoken to a Planned Intelligence before, much less one whom he had almost eaten. How much was Simix aware of while it was out of the tube?

“It is customary for a job applicant to interview for a position then demonstrate it’s skills during a trial period of employment. Please allow me to show the presentation I have prepared. It includes my personal reasons for being interested in your ship and crew.” Simix then launched a multimedia, multisensory slide show.

When it was finished Cream was relatively calm again.

“Would you like to come back to the ship and meet Captain Janice? You are our best candidate so far.” Cream said.

Alanadolphous helped pack up Simix prime and its two disaster recovery blanks in a travel crate.

As Cream was leaving she bared her teeth at him and said “I hope that the next time we meet we don’t have so much business to conduct.”

Cream was so busy thinking about Alanadolphous that he almost forgot to stop at a tag dispenser before he reached the ship. He plastered every surface of the travel crate, tubes and vats with audio-visual tags declaring the contents to be non-edible security system components. Bo, the ship’s navigator, loved strawberry vat gelly even more than Cream did and he had absolutely no concept of manners.

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Metamorphosis

The Renouncement Ceremony was formal and William Hu was nervous. All of his descendants were present. Those who could not make the journey from the space stations and colonies where they lived attended with full function two way holos. They sat in rows ordered by age and each one wore somber ceremonial robes emblazed with the Hu family crest. A hundred thousand eyes were upon him, the eldest member of the family, as he walked down the aisle.

He was not worried about flubbing his lines or tripping on the carpet. His anxiety had a much deeper source. His petition had been accepted. William Hu was about to become an ancestor.

He ascended the dais and his wife’s brother asked, “Do you renounce immortality?”

“Yes” he said and was grateful his voice did not crack.

The injection was painless.

Is this how the ancients felt, he wondered, when they faced death? In the early dark years of humanity when death was inevitable and frequently unpredictable, did they feel this strange mixture of awe and dread?

In the Days of Celebration which followed, he was almost too busy to notice the changes in his body. He had always been perfectly healthy, just like everyone else. Now the sides of his throat, his armpits, his groin were slightly tender. His joints were just a little bit stiff. He felt vulnerable.

His children told his life story with a series of plays and musicals. Most of the details were correct. As he watched he realized he had no regrets. Not all of his choices had been wise ones, but he had lived long enough to put everything in perspective. He no longer felt the need to defend his mistakes or gloat over his successes.

During the feasts and parties he spent time with each member of the family. He gave each of them a gift. The same gift. It was a small brown pebble with his name and his face and his date of birth and date of death.

Finally, he had no more pebbles to give. The Rite of Translation was formal and William Hu was relaxed. All of his descendants were present. The medical equipment had been designed to give him privacy in his final moment.

He stepped into the cocoon and his wife’s brother asked “Do you accept the responsibility of becoming an interactive ancestor?”

“Yes” he replied and his wife’s brother shut the door of the cocoon.

At first he could only hear the machine hum, then he could feel it changing him. He was cold and sleepy. Just as he began to sleep he turned into liquid and swirled down a very long funnel. He came to rest in a warm bright place where everything was out of focus.

“Now you must give yourself a shape my son.” The voice of his father gently guided him until they were sitting together in a garden.

It was not until he saw his grandparents that he realized he was now in the family’s digital repository. At that moment he felt himself stretched thin until he snapped into thousands of pieces. Suddenly his entire family was talking to him at once.

“Grandfather, how do you feel?”

“Grandfather, are you at peace?”

“Grandfather, please say something!”

And he answered all of them at the same time.

This story was inspired by a conversation with my good friend at swongnet.com

Pug-Monkey Needs a Saftey Blanket

“We can do the next three runs but after that we are working for Sid on New Saturn. We really want to be part of the expansion.” Jim said.

Janice looked tired. “I can’t do passenger runs without internal security and I can’t do any kind of run without external security.”

“We’ll help you screen replacements.” Said Jacob. Jim nodded in agreement.

Jim, Jacob and Janice were Space Legion drinking buddies from back when the Space Legion still existed. In the last few months Captain Janice had started needing extra security on her ship. All types of beings were coming out of cryogenic hibernation and some of them were not well behaved.

Bo and Cream floated out of the bridge together as the humans continued talking. They were safely docked to Station One orbiting New Saturn but the whole crew was still jittery from the difficult trip from Jy. Passengers had decided to roam around the space ship unattended. Bo had spotted several small, fast, armed scavenger ships at a distance. The cargo wasn’t what Janice had expected. Nothing traumatic had happened, but they were all aware of the potential for disaster.

Bo’s reddish brown fur caught the light as he sniffed the grow pods anchored in the compartment just outside the bridge. He gave a satisfied snort and Cream relaxed his clenched pawgers. If anything was wrong with the babies inside Bo would know. He had paid gentle but obsessive attention to the four pods ever since they came aboard and seemed to have a uncanny knowledge of what was happening inside them.

*not enough eyes to watch the passengers* sent Bo.

Cream licked his nose and grabbed the webbing on one wall with his prehensile tail. “And you can’t navigate and watch out for the scavenger ships at the same time” he said in his barky little voice.

*maybe can’t replace Jim and Jacob with other humans, not all Legionnaires are dependable* sent Bo.

Cream snorted in agreement. Every run is a gamble, he thought. What will make the odds better for us?

Janice, Jim and Jacob joined the canines.

“Have you considered upgrading the ship’s computational and sensory components?” Jacob asked.

Janice nodded toward Cream and said “He’s the expert on that. We can’t do much without a complete overhaul.”

That’s what we need, thought Cream. All seeing, all knowing protection. How would we finance that? Could we barter permanent living space on the ship for it? Barter something else?

Cream sent a discrete message to Alanadolphous Hutley, procurement specialist. Better wait for a reply before talking to Janice. Cream felt excitement bubbling up inside him. If it was possible Alanadolphous would make it happen.

Pug-Monkey Meets the New Crew

Cream had three different types of adhesive in his fur and his pawgers were sore but he wasn’t ready to quit. He held a panel steady while Captain Janice hammered it into the fastening clips then he passed her the sonic screwdriver with his tail. Bo slowly pulled the next panel into position. The tiny suction cups on his pawgers made popping noises as he let go of the panel and gave it to Janice.

They had liberated some small prefab dome buildings from an abandoned research center on Jy and welded the foundations to one wall of the cargo bay. The hatch from the bridge opened into the largest one which had doors connecting to the smaller domes and to the bay. Cream, Janice and Bo got along just fine but they were all looking forward to the luxury of having private sleeping quarters.

They had docked the ship to the zero g ring of Station One but putting all the panels together was still hard work. They were exhausted. Cream couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to assemble the domes on the surface of a planet where the floor would be uneven and insects could be trapped inside when the last panel was in place.

They were almost finished when the comm unit buzzed. Janice sighed and floated over to it. After a brief conversation she opened the airlock and accepted the delivery. She came back to Bo and Cream trailing four small grow pods. She carefully anchored them inside one of the finished domes. Bo followed her and gently started sniffing the pods.

*strange cargo* he sent, looking slightly confused.

“Not cargo.” Janice said. “Babies.”

Cream peaked in at the pods. “What kind of babies?” Each pod massed slightly more than the little pug-monkey.

“Human standard with zero g mods and high socialization indexes. I didn’t feel qualified to volunteer for anything else.” Janice replied.

Bo quit sniffing the pods. *that’s why we needed more water. we’re gonna have more people.* Bo’s long floppy ears floated away from his long face, adding to his look of surprise.

Janice nodded. She looked tired but happy.

Cream patted a pod. “When will they hatch?”

“I haven’t decided yet.” Janice sighed. “Given the right materials the pods should support them all the way up to physical maturity and grow with them. The virtual environment should be able to take care of all their emotional and educational needs.”

“But, that environment was created to help them function in Allied Interests’ corporate culture. Everything is different now that we are living in Consensus.” Cream distrusted anything left over from Allied Interests. After all, the conglomerate had abandoned them.

“I’ll have to ask around. I might be able to find a digital intelligence who can reprogram the pods.” Janice looked thoughtful. “Our first priority is their safety. We can’t have them running loose when we’re loading and unloading.”

*we can play with the babies when we’re docked?* Bo looked ecstatic.

“Um, maybe.” Janice had a mental image of four small children covered in canine saliva and reddish brown fur. What kind of cleaning function came with the grow pods? Did the crew washer have a cycle gentle enough for them? “We have plenty of time to think about that later. Right now we have a job to finish.”

Cream followed her back to the unfinished dome. What would the babies look like? Would they enjoy playing with him? Would they eat all his liver-bannana cookies?