Jason Chen took another sip from the straw of his cannabis beer packet at the Sputnik Bar as he sat waiting for Monica and Nicky to wake up in the Space Frontier Hotel. He looked out the double-layered transparent walls of the observation lounge to the looming mass of the Earth and a beautiful orbital sunrise. The view was both spectacular and mesmerizing. A display above the bar showed the orbital position of the ISS and Space Frontier. They were now transversing the African continent.
He had used the Velcro straps attached to the bar stool across his pajama covered thighs, since this part of the hotel was weightless. The pajamas were recyclable and courtesy of the establishment. He hadn’t bothered to dress formally, since it was 6:30 am station time and surprisingly the bar and most of the hotel facilities were empty of any guests. He ordered from the robot bartender, who didn’t even check his GPS ID, something he was use to on Earth. International laws didn’t apply up here, and certainly not those of the United States. He was free, and no longer Raduk Industries property, he decided to celebrate his freedom alone.
The night before they had taken a plane from San Francisco Airport to the Mohave Dessert Space Port where they all boarded a small rocket shuttle piggybacked on top a space plane. As they reached an altitude of 50,000 ft., the rocket shuttle launched, separated from the space plane as its engines fired. In Earth orbit the rocket shuttle had maneuver to dock with the central hub of the extended International Space Station. A huge rotating Space Hotel attached to the docking hub that extended into other commercial structures, some of them, space casinos, wedding chapels, weightless amusement parks and spacecraft construction and maintenance facilities.
Tomorrow they would take a two and a half day trip on a Space Ferry to the Moon, docking with orbiting Space Station Armstrong. From Armstrong, they would descend in a Lander to a spaceport on the outskirts of Lunar City, one of the largest cities on the Moon.
He was up early, having had some trouble sleeping. Junkman had booked separate rooms for each of them, but he didn’t want to disturb Monica and Nicky, since he knew they shared a single room together last night. Their hotel rooms had gravity because that part of the barrel shaped hotel rotated.
Thinking of Junkman, he noticed the cube on the chain around his neck floating upward. He put the drink packet in the clip holder on the bar and grasped the cube with his right hand. It seemed impossible that Junkman was contained inside the confines of this processor cube, held within his fist. It was slightly warm and in gravity a little heavy for jewelry. Junkman refused to transmit himself, even encrypted, across the monitored communication circuits between the Earth and Moon. Basically, he was smuggling himself illegally across space borders and customs, disguised as a common looking VRcube.
Junkman had made the mental connections to Monica and Nicky as planned by a combined procedure of a simple injection of specialized nanobots and an external scan localizing targeted neurons in their brains. Monica and Nicky, could now communicate telepathically over the local wireless Internet. Technology had made mind reading finally possible. He changed his mind about being alone.
He dropped his thought privacy filter and issued a communication request to Junkman. Junkman materialized as a visual overlay on the bar stool next to him. He was wearing Frontier pajamas also.
“Are you buying?” Junkman asked jokingly.
“I would, if you could drink it.” Jason replied sarcastically.
“VR overlays have their limits. I could convince the robot bartender to simulate giving me a drink. I could even make you see the drink and me drinking it. But anyone without nano-implants or even the cheaper VR glasses, would simple see the robot reaching out to an empty bar stool.” Junkman sighed.
“I understand you don’t have a physical body, but you must be able to simulate the effects of alcohol and drugs, even virtual sex?” teased Jason.
“Sure, but it somehow doesn’t feel real if you know it is a simulation. Who would be my partner, another AI? How boring,” replied a melancholy Junkman, “I need a real body. I want to feel real chemical excitement, real emotions, to be biologically alive! Even, if it means risking actual death.”
“You’re just feeling low because you had to squeeze yourself down into this limited processor storage cube for transport,” reasoned Jason.
Good Morning, a thought came into Jason’s mind from Monica, then another from Nicky. He replied Good Morning and sent along his vision of the bar and Junkman on the stool in his simulated hotel pajamas.
What are you doing at a bar this early in the Morning? , A thought question coming from Monica.
I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to disturb you two love birds. . . Jason replied, sending an actual picture of lovebirds in a cage he quickly retrieved from the Internet.
Oh, well how about breakfast? Nicky thought.
Sure, he replied with a vision of pancakes, syrup, and sausage links. He even sent a memory smell.
Mm mm. . . Smells good, Monica thought, accessing the local station directory for dining establishments. How about Spacies Gravity Café in 40 minutes? I think I’ll have a Space Burger and fries, was her reply, he heard a cow moo.
Jason then spied a brief sexual glimpse of a smiling Nicky naked in the shower with a considerable Martian hard on. Surprised that Monica let that slip through, he wondered were Martians kept their testicles. Martian body re-engineering turned out to be much more extensive than he originally thought. Jason responded a bit stunned.
See you there, he thought. Followed by a stern don’t be too late.
Then he felt a laugh from both of them and their privacy filters went up, but not to each other. Monica and Nicky were sharing private thoughts, he couldn’t read them. Jealous, but that’s the way it should be, he thought. Then he returned his attention to the depressing Junkman.
He was surprised at how the AI was sulking. He didn’t normally attribute moody emotions to AI’s, but obviously Junkman had emotions as complex as any human. He would have been effected himself if it weren’t for the fact the bar was still empty, he was safe and free, the Earth was so beautiful, Monica and Nicky were having fun, and he already had a good early morning buzz. For now everything seemed right, although he somehow sensed things would be changing soon.
. . .
Raduk again felt the stirrings of consciousness as his simulated mind was brought online in the Lunar City AfterLife corporation mainframe. He had a very different feeling than last time. It wasn’t like waking from a good night’s sleep. It felt more like a waking dream. That feeling one gets after going to sleep, and just before a dream begins. A foggy, this can’t be real feeling, but I’ll go along with it anyway just to see what’s going to happen.
The first thing he noticed was no breathing and a different kind of sensitivity from his skin, and a complete silence without ambient noise. There was something that was really different about this simulation. He wasn’t quite sure yet what. His field of vision was also different; it was like he could see more than 180 degrees and the color hues of objects didn’t appear correct. They appeared beached out, just off somehow.
He felt like he was standing, there was some light pressure on the bottom of his feet that he seemed to be balancing on. He looked downward at his body and received a shock. This was not his body. This was not the body of a human, or even one of a human simulation. This was the body of a robot.
It was a mechanical biped complete with two arms, a hand and grasping fingers on his right arm, covered with sensor-skin, a strange attachment at the end of the other arm. Plastic cover plates on the torso, legs and arms. How did he get into this thing? Did they implant a personal Siman processor inside this robot torso? Or was this a robot puppet, wirelessly control; probably more likely. It didn't matter, he preferred the simulation. The only thing better would be a warm and living flesh body.
Delta Ray appeared sitting in a chair facing away from a large rectangular wall display panel, which looked like a simulated window. She vocalized a command, which he knew made no actual sound waves “External surface display on.” A panoramic view of what must be Lunar City, a large space colony on the moon appeared.
“What have you done to me? I asked for a living clone body, not this unfeeling mechanical contraption I seem to be in now.” He said more than annoyed.
“Well you can’t always get what you want,” She said with an undisguised smirk.“Use this robot body wisely, and you might be able to get that clone body you so desperately want.”
“What do you mean?” Raduk asked, now that his interest was piqued.
“Your clone has left Earth and is heading here to the Moon. You will need to place the mind uplink device against the back of the clone’s neck. Notice the interface attached to the end of your left appendage,” Delta informed him.
. . .
Jason, trust me, they will follow a simple program transmitted from your brain. Junkman thought about the nanobots.
Junkman displayed for everyone to see, except the observers of the Space Ferry’s surveillance cameras, which he now feed a video signal showing a very different sequence of events, minus his image.
What if they get out of control and eat through the hull, sucking all our air out into the vacuum of space. You wouldn’t have to worry about that, all of us would be dead nearly instantly, even if we are inside a simulation. A worried Jason thought.
The nanobots can’t do anything without your conscious mental control. You would actually have to order them to eat through the hull. And I trust you won’t be doing that. Besides you need the practice, you will have to control the real nanoswarm outside our simulation, reassured Junkman.
Well. . . OK. What do you want me to do? Jason was still not sure.
Go get a small aluminum wrench out of tool storage. Junkman thought.
Now I would like you to concentrate on what I’m saying. Hold the wrench with one hand while touching it at the other end with the special nano-syringe, containing the initial nanobots. Press the syringe lightly to release the nanobots onto the surface of the tool. Now let go of the tool and close off the syringe, putting it aside, instructed Junkman.
OK, done, but nothing is happening, thought Jason.
Give it time, try concentrating on the tool, advised Junkman.
Just then, Monica and Nicky came over to observe the experiment. The wrench was slowly rotating weightless in the air between everyone. Then it happened. The dull aluminum wrench began to glisten and reflect light much differently than it had a moment before. Its whole surface began to deform, as if it was now composed of minute microscopic grains of sand somehow stuck together wetly in the shape of a wrench.
Jason, now change its shape, Junkman thought. I’ll try. . . thought Jason concentrating hard.
The wrench melted and clump together slowly into a small round aluminum sphere, then its surface became very dull and then reflective. Finally it grew spikes.
Fantastic! Monica thought in awe.
Unbelievable, exclaimed Nicky mentally.
Well, you seem to have good control, but can you return into its original form? Junkman wondered. Let’s see. . . Jason wondered, concentrating again.
The wrench reformed itself into the original shape and took on a dull aluminum luster.
How many nanobots can you make and control? Nicky inquired.
I don’t think there is any limit, except maybe the amount of material available for their replication. Jason answered matter of fact.
Could you kill someone with them? Monica asked bluntly. I suppose so, said Jason.
Nicky and Monica were silent after that.
Good. Let’s give Nicky and Monica a try. Junkman thought, with a smile.
The two and a half day trip on the Orion 5 Space Ferry to Space Station Armstrong in Moon orbit was uneventful, even boring if it weren’t for being weightless and the access to VR. Now as they approached the station, they would have to pass through space customs before heading down to Lunar City in a Lander.
For the past two days they all had played VR learning games together and practiced their new telepathic skills, finding out more about each other and themselves than was socially comfortable. They had become a tight knit team able to communicate effectively with a few thought-words or a single thought-image.
After interfacing his mind with Monica and Nicky, he began to realize his special genetic abilities. Like his vision, he noticed all the images he received from them where lacking certain “colors”, as if they where color blind to some frequencies of light. When he asked Junkman about this, passing him some sample images, Junkman said it was because he saw things in a wider spectrum of infrared and ultraviolet than normal human vision.
He was more than just a plain clone, Junkman explained; he was a Genemod also, radically enhanced. The cones of his eyes and visual cortex where wired differently. Jason then wondered what sorts of Earth creatures had given their genes, so he could see outside the range of normal human vision.
Junkman took a sample of his DNA and ran it through one of the onboard gene profilers, analyzing the results. That was when he learned about his other gene gifts, his exceptional mathematical, social skills, space survival, and extended longevity. Junkman explained that not all his genes had expressed themselves yet, becoming active over time.
Docking on Space Station Armstrong was routine, there were many travelers coming from Earth, the Moon’s surface, Mars and the Asteroids, some of them staying for weeks or months with business on the Moon. Many of the parked space modules could be seen docked to ports on the axle of the rotating ring station.
The station made an elliptical polar orbit bringing it in close perigee to the far side of the Moon and the South and North Pole cities. The orbit swung outwards again in apogee towards Earth for docking with spacecraft coming and going to Earth, saving a little on fuel consumption during half of the moons orbit.
After adjusting to the gravity of the spinning space station, the most challenging thing was getting through customs. Everything was carefully inspected, except the common place VRcube around Jason’s neck. Luckily, it caused no undue suspicion as Junkman had planned. To be safe, Junkman had left a backup of himself on Earth. After they all made it through customs, they meet in the visitor reception area.
Jason mentally asked Junkman, copying Monica and Nicky. “What’s next? Where from here?”
“We wait. The doctor said his daughter would meet us,” replied Junkman.
Just then, Jason noticed an attractive young woman standing nearby holding up a full size display pad that read Dr. Zenon in large font. “Here she is now.” Said Jason out loud signaling they should all converse vocally from this point on, except Junkman who would comment mentally.
The young woman had long wavy red hair, and green eyes, was very attractive. She was about Jason’s height and dressed in a flip-helmet spacesuit, with a small unusual looking rainbow-colored monkey creature perched on her right shoulder, wearing a smaller spacesuit version of its own. “Are you all here for the Moon field trip?” she asked a little nervously.
“Yes we are,” He replied with a smile. “My name is Jason and these are my friends Monica and Nicky.”
“Hi, My name is Marva Zenon,” she shook all their hands, but lingered longer on Jason’s, looking him directly in the eye a fraction of a second longer than was necessary.
Nicky thought privately to Jason. She is really hot dude!
Then Marva’s manner quickly changed and she became all business. “My father, Dr. Zenon, asked me to meet you all here and escort you to your accommodations. I toke the liberty of scheduling a meeting tomorrow morning, 11:30 am Luna time, at the offices of SpaceGene.
We shouldn’t linger here long. Are we all ready to move?” she asked.
Jason looked at Monica and Nicky, they responded by nodding. “Good,” she turned and began walking away toward the stations surface Lander facilities. The strange brightly colored monkey on her shoulder looked back, screeching monkey talk at them. She reached back with her hand and petted the animal’s furry head, hushing it up.
What is that thing on her shoulder? Monica asked mentally, with incredulity.
Junkman answered, Dr. Zenon runs SpaceGene, a tech-genetic design production facility which creates space pets, transanimals (mixtures of different species and virtual reality technology) for sale. They can’t be sold on Earth because of import restrictions on genetically engineered life forms. The doctor makes a very good living off his creations.
Wow! I want one, thought Monica. I thought I was your pet? Nicky smirked mentally.
You’re my Martian Stud, she replied and smiled.
Jason and Junkman both refused to comment mentally.
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