Floozman in Space
by Bertrand Cayzac
In a space station in Earth orbit, Janatone Waldenpond, a refugee from Europa, is trying to return to Earth. She meets a long-lost cousin, Fred Looseman. Meanwhile, Jenny Appleseed, the president of the Cosmitix Corporation, holds a conference to plan interstellar expeditions.
Chapter 7: Sancho
Fred or, rather, Fred’s avatar, goes to the sensory web of Honest John Orbital Hospital. He has to pass through several police firewall checkpoints. YES, he is entitled to detached existence. YES, his yearly fee has been duly paid by Ms. Waldenpond. NO, he does not know where she is at the moment, everything is in order.
His friend Sancho Marx has had to take a day off and spend all his monthly carbon credit on the round trip fare. He was short 2.2 kilos, which he had to borrow.
They meet in front of Janatone’s cell. The alveolus door greets them and reminds them of its missions as a door. Anyone who could not see the markers of enhanced reality, a single person would be standing at the entrance: a stocky, coarse-looking man in a faded technician’s suit and the scruffy curls of his grey hair. He is swinging his broad arched shoulders, waiting for the introduction to end.
“We have been waiting for you,” the door finally says.
“Come in.” The AU’s voice is inside the room. “And please don’t mind if I’m still in the closet.”
In stylized form, Fred enters the room, while Sancho follows as best he can in the real world. Fred asks for Ms. Waldenpond.
“She is not here. She won’t come back.”
“Ah... Where are you?”
“Here, in the real closet. I am the hairdryer, officially, for the Web.”
Sancho opens the door and discovers a pseudo-handwritten note pasted on a sort of thick backpack covered with electronic controls.
I must return. I entrust the baby to you. Thanks for watching over him as long as needed. I’m leaving all the money I still have in Fred’s account. The AU knows what to do. Farewell kisses.
P.S. You can ask Dr. Alvin Weenie for help (real).
“Do you have the filter?” the bag asks.
“I asked my colleague Sancho to bring it, as agreed. Is it for you? But where is the child?” Fred asks, unable to worry.
“Could you please plug in the filter, Mr. Sancho? Thanks. I am the baby. I am a Cosmitics GestaConfort Artificial Uterus version 9.3 Beta, and I am in charge of the embryonic development of a blastocyst which is to become a beautiful embryo within a few days. You are my new referent.”
The door pipes up. “I am an ancillary electronic alveolar S-Quick door. My mission is to ensure that entrances and exits are secure, polite and unimpeded. Shall I close?”
“Err. I don’t know...” Fred answers.
“You’ll have to help us again, Mr. Looseman,” the AU says. “I got out of suspended mode because of microcuts. The child is developing, and I don’t have any more baby jars.”
“Baby jars?!?” Sancho asks.
“What are baby jars, anyway?” the door inquires.
“Cosmitics GestaComfort baby jars, if possible. Otherwise, milk and mini-digest standard protein tubes. Or Mother Goose sugared high-vitamin fat. It works, but you can’t call customer support if there’s a problem.”
“Milk... and fruit-vegetable tubes, then,” Fred says.
“Yes, that’s it.”
But Sancho does not feel like running errands. “Just a minute, I don’t have time. I have to go back to work in two hours... I’m okay with doing you a favor, but I don’t want to lose my job.” His tone is that of one who thinks that all that stuff is good for rich people who can afford a sex life and children.
The AU breaks the ensuing silence: “Mr. Fred?”
“I would like to know if you have a strategy. With regard to us, I mean...”
“Err. Janatone... maybe...”
“The strategy formulated by Janatone on Europa had a code name: ‘Let’s get the hell outta Dodge’. But I understand you need to execute a few additional predictive models in order to update it. You’ll surely tell us about it when you return.”
“I’ll make sure my services are aligned to your strategy, Mr. Fred,” the door adds.
“As for me, I’m good to help, but there’s nothing I can do before trash day,” says Sancho.
“And I’m just a...” the avatar starts to say. But a change occurs in the part of his neural network that is in charge of pondering the situation: everybody in the room is an artifact. “I’m just an underperformer! I can order baby jars!”
Fred makes an inventory of his resources. His creator bequeathed to him his profile and his recordings. He has a standard monad personality with unrestricted auto-learning capacity and access to mutualized intellectual energy. His bank balance is positive and he has four friends...
“I’ll see what I can do...”
But who goes there? It is Captain Diana, she of the white shoulders. She has decided to pay an impromptu visit to Janatone. She comes dashing into the corridor, as if carried by the shimmering cloud of her nano-escorts. Her black hair is loosened over the collar of her official red and gold sari. Her buskins made of genuine Earth leather closely fit her long legs.
Even the excesses of her form express the beauty of the principles governing her body: her round hips, her high cheekbones and strong jaw lines. She laughs with all her teeth. She has a word for everybody and a light, compassionate touch for objects. Her silver indicators propagate themselves swiftly into the immediate web and eclipse all other objects. Medical staff and ambulatory patients crowd around her in great confusion. And here she is.
“Welcome, Captain Diana!” says the door.
“Hello, machines.Hello, Mr. Technician. Do you know where Janatone Waldenpond is?” Diana asks as she comes into the empty cabin. “I am bringing the Europa-Earth filter we have manufactured in our workshops.”
“Hi there!” trumpets the filter.
“Mmbgh...” echoes Sancho’s filter, who hasn’t manifested itself yet.
From its shelve, the AU gives her the answer. “She’s gone...”
“Ah. The indicators are telling she is here, however.”
“I wouldn’t know about that.”
“She spoke of Earth,” the door breaks in.
“Earth... I, too, was born on Earth,” says Diana with a dreamy tone.
“You are lucky, Madam.”
Captain Diana looks at the door. It’s good to feel like a door when someone looks at you the way she does.
At last the AU introduces himself and transmits his data. Captain Diana talks at length with him, after thanking Fred and Sancho for their dedication. She promises to follow up on his case and to come back quickly. She will find baby jars. She will arrange for him to come onboard the Lighthouse, where the baby can be born and receive an education.
And arrangements will be made, although they may not be quite human. Nano-agents have scanned the embryo. and the Lighthouse genomic analyzer has just sent her the results: there are nine percent additional genes.
“Ah, you know,” the AU says, “I can’t explain it, but I know these genes affect only the central nervous system, nothing monstrous.”
“And who are the parents?” Diana asks a crucial question in a casual tone.
“Mss. Waldenpond and Appleseed are the genitors, up to fifty percent of the human sequences each.”
“And the other genes?”
“Engineering. Technology from the Presidential research labs. The information is classified, and that’s all I know, Captain.”
“I’ll talk to the hospital management.”
She leaves, followed by all the staff. On her way, she summons Colonel’s Cnut_iii on the government’s encrypted web. He is a young Earthling from the intelligence department, a person of irreproachable appearance, composed, concise, intense. He is smiling. He speaks too fast, but Diana does not even want to notice. All around her, alerts have taken clear hues and the diagrams are more distinct.
The colonel listens to her report. He calls General Meseglises on high priority. The general listens to the colonel’s report. They convene an emergency meeting. Captain Diana will be kept informed of the recent conclusions of the CTF, the Cosmological Task Force.
* * *
“I don’t like it,” repeats Sancho, shaking his head obstinately. “I don’t like it!” Talking incoherently to nobody, he keeps asking why the device gave the captain so much information. He keeps muttering, “You’re asking for trouble!”
At that moment, doctors show up at the entrance. The door starts closing; then it stops and opens wide.
“It’s in here,” the first doctor says as he enters. “Ah, someone has found the missing contraption at last.”
They come closer, they bend down over the device with gestures of annoyance. “Okay, let’s examine it in the lab,” says the second physician. Then, calling to Sancho: “You there, take that thing to the twentieth level, if you please.”
“Dr. Benway’s office.”
They go out.
The AU. starts begging at once: “I mustn’t go to the lab, Mr. Looseman! I mustn’t go to the lab! I mustn’t be manipulated by non-Europan tools. DO something!”
Sancho has elected not to think. “I told you so. We’re in trouble. As for me, I’m out of here! I have a corrective action plan to worry about. I don’t want anybody checking my sub-indicators.”
“No, wait,” says Fred’s avatar. “The AU is right. We’d better hide it until further notice. Sancho, you have to get it out of here.”
“Get me out of here!” cries the AU.
“Are you nuts?” says Sancho. “No way.”
Fred tells him they must help Janatone. Fred Looseman, in his human form, has made a promise. To fail to keep his word would entail a permanent degradation of his auto-notation.
“Like I give a damn! I only have bad grades.”
“You were right, Mr. Sancho,” the AU adds. “I’ve just executed a predictive model taking into account the latest developments of the conflict. The conclusion is obvious: we have to avoid contact with the military. There is a strong correlation between the captain’s visit and the lab; the figures are clear about that.”
“Janatone has entrusted us with the child.”
Sancho hesitates. “All right. I’ll take it and stash it in the storeroom. But that’s all. After that, you can get your own ass out of the fire.”
“At the worksite?” Fred’s decision engine grinds away. “Err... Okay.”
“Be careful,” says the door. “The local police have just gotten the news about Captain Diana’s visit. Alerts are being broadcast in the external infrastructures. Get a move on.”
“Always late...” grumbles Sancho. He shoulders the AU and gets out of the hospital sector unchallenged. A short while later, he hides it in the storeroom with the surreptitious help of some hardware.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2015 by Bertrand Cayzac