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.

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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.

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.

Inventions of the Future: Mobile Homes

George sat down on the curb and almost cried. Rita was gone again. She promised she would stop running away. She promised she would be there for him. Sure, they had been through some rough times but things had been better lately.

She hated the cat. He had given the cat away. She wanted her floors clean. He made it a habit to take his shoes off at the door. He had kept his part of the bargain. She didn’t even leave a note.

In place of his cozy home there was nothing but a big empty hole. Nothing to do but go to the bar.

“Hey George, haven’t seen you in here for a while.”

“I just needed to get out for a while.”

“Uh, huh. Did she at least let you know when she was coming back?”

“Piss off and give me a double.”

He staggered back to his empty lot just in time to see her lowering her chassis on the docking frame. Her white gingerbread trim was almost luminescent against her blue siding. Her front curtains were drawn, as if to shut him out.

There was nothing he could do but walk up to the porch. The door chime played his favorite song.

“You didn’t let anyone else in, did you?”

“No, I just wanted to spend some time with my sister. She just had a garden shed.”

Pug-Monkey Hires an Escort

Cream tugged at his faux schnauzer mustache to make sure it was on straight and almost lost his balance. He felt awkward. His tail was tucked into his trousers and his fur was dyed dark grey. It was the best disguise he could manage. Hopefully it would fool Turmick.

He was grateful his escort was wearing an outfit that provided purchase for his pawgers. Shirley ambled along the private tunnel as if she were showing him off but even she was occasionally jostled in the small space. Cream kept slipping down her torso and catching his rear pawgers in her cleavage until he finally climbed up on her shoulder.

No one was giving them dirty looks and muttering about species mingling. A few beings in the public passageways had. Cream began to relax even though his grip on her was tenuous.

Not much further, he thought. The luxury liner is just around the next corner.

They were almost to the loading dock when they saw the crowd. A man was waving a space suit liner and yelling.

“Blown seals! The crew of Victoria doesn’t care about your lives! They only want to turn an obscene profit!”

A large man in uniform came out of the airlock. “Get out of the way you charlatan! He’s just angry because he doesn’t have the credit for a trip. There’s nothing to worry about gentlemen and ladies. Step right up, never mind the madman. That liner was never even on this fine ship!”

“We should be able to get past him and into the ship” murmured Shirley.

“I have a bad feeling about this” Cream whispered. “He doesn’t look like Turmick but he is about the right size.”

“Time for an alternate entry?”

Cream nodded. Shirley knew what she was doing, but if she had to move fast he would have a hard time holding on. He slowly eased the fly of his trousers open. He let his tail snake out and wrap around the sturdy collar of her outfit.

Much better, he thought.

Shirley strutted down a side tunnel until she found a small private bubble ship. A very pretty, very rich young man was leaving the airlock.

Shirley swiveled her hips and slid halfway into the lock. “I’ll leave the internal cams running” she winked.

The man’s eyes got big as he saw the tip of Cream’s tail running down Shirley’s neck. Then he smiled.

Shirley hot pulsed the ship, turned off the cams and slid out of the dock. She guided the ship around the station until they could approach Victoria from behind.

“I thought there was only one way to board.” Cream was confused.

“Oh, this is only one of Victoria’s secrets” Shirley smiled as the little ship kissed Victoria’s hidden airlock.

Inventions of the Future: Alternate Nourishment

“It not easy” Floyd said with a grin.

“Look asshole, you don’t have to repeat that tired old cliché every time I’m upset about something.” Choe stretched her olive arms over the table.

Floyd tried to look serious as he adjusted his tailored jacket and sipped his latte.

Choe rotated her arms in the direct sunlight.

“I’m sorry your mission didn’t get approved. With your talent another chance is sure to come along.”

“Missions aren’t like transit shuttles. This one was special.”

“Because it had Ike the bastard on it.”

“You can say whatever you want about him but he was willing to give a ‘synthesis girl a break.”

Floyd frowned into his cup.

“Don’t give me that look. It wouldn’t interfere with the zero-g adaptation I’d have to get.”

“I don’t think the technical issues are the problem” Floyd said uncertainly.

“It’s an identity issue.” Choe sounded tired. “My ancestors didn’t cut and run when things got too hot. None of the spacies like to be reminded of that.”

“Sometimes the attitude doesn’t help either.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s a bad word to use. I’ll remember to call them dispersed population from now on.” Choe snorted and propped her feet up on a vacant chair. Her dark legs gleamed in the bright light.

Floyd shook his head. “Then you’ll have to call me that too.” His pale hands clenched around his cup.

Choe was quiet for a moment.

“It’s also a modesty issue.”

“Oh please, that is so outdated. I can’t believe that people are still serious about it.”

“Some religious groups are.”

“All I’m doing here is nourishing myself. It’s healthy not immoral.”

Floyd tugged on the cuffs of his white shirt. “Which is fine down here on the surface. Up there they have regulations about wearing a space suit all the time in certain crafts. You wouldn’t be exempt.”

“It wouldn’t be a problem.”

“You would have to start eating solids.”

“I know that.”

“But could you live with it?”

“My system is a hybrid. I can switch between fuel types indefinitely.”

“But, do you want to? Your people were too stubborn to leave before, why the change of heart?”

“It was a challenge to stay back then. Now that the climate has settled it’s a challenge to leave.”

Inventions of the Future: Meat Jackets

Freedi sighed as he slipped his thin frame into the jacket. Being Minister of Fun was hard work and he was looking forward to the vacation. As the jacket zipped up around him he tried to ignore the disorientation caused by two nervous systems synching up. He wouldn’t be fully integrated for a few moments but he was in good enough shape to navigate to the airlock.

After the lock finished cycling it dropped in directly into a pneumatic transit tube. He was smiling by the time a puff of air gently set him down on a landing pad. He was sure that the smile translated to the outside of the jacket. It didn’t matter. Silly hoomins were rushing around on their own business and completely ignoring him.

They had no idea that Freedi and his cluster mates still inhabited the station. Build us a deep station, they had asked his queen, one close to the Antivish nexus. We will pay you for it and then you will leave.

Because the request had been childish and silly, Freedi had been sent. He built the station. He accepted payment. He did not leave. Why should he? They weren’t advanced enough to detect his presence much less make him leave. Besides, cruising around in a meat jacket pretending to be one of them was fun. And that was his job.