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.

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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.”

*why?*

“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.