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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