Stories, poems and other musings from the mind of a writer who suffers from World Builder's Disease
—YOU MAY BEGIN, CAPTAIN—
In the peace of the deep-deep, I’ve set Zbord to the fantasy intercast. Classical Terran piano music oozes through his mesh-covered ducts, gliding through the thin atmo to me. The tones, as realistic as if I’d actually owned a piano, fill the command capsule with a soothing ambiance. His. Now, as a functional, Zbord wasn’t exactly modeled after the male form, but I can’t help but use the masculine when referring to him. Fact is, his chassis had been influenced by the late 22nd century Androgyny Period, where the attempt was to culturally conceal all forms of sex, race, and/or creed in order to be seen as politically “unbiased”.
You can’t see it, but I actually used air quotes.
Critics of the period had pointed out that the results of Andry had been profoundly problematic, damaging even. It robbed the people of their individuality. I, for one, quite enjoy the curves of a woman. A functional or otherwise. But like all brainworked-to-death trends, Andry had been a cultural about-face from the previous century—known informally as “The Pimple Years”. That savory handle originated from a particularly inane set of legal precedents, wherein the powers-that-were, due to their impeccable brilliance and uncanny discernment, adjudicated against expressing one’s opinion. It became increasingly politically incorrect (and subsequently illegal as well) to comment on any aspect of an individual. Now I’m not just talking about spouting a racial slur, or in instances of sexual harassment. Sure, those were, and still are unacceptable (at least as far as Terrans are concerned—now insult a Scrangian or Mellorite and you’re likely to find out what a mini black hole tastes like from the inside). No, the highlights of the period boasted that every individual pustule on every snot-nosed person should be celebrated as unique, and went on to even protect the rights of said blemished-ridden persons, including a three-decade period of litigation and legal reform focussed entirely on cases of infringement and defamation. I personally think Andry was a much better era (except for the not showing boobs thing), but I digress.
So you understand, Zbord is from an earlier era—post Andry yet before Saram Fusion was discovered: The Light Age, as it has been come to be known. I found him for sale, used, at a scrapyard on the Psamathe Flotilla. I never did figure how he got out there. His local memory had been wiped, but I’m damned glad I came across him. It was only by sheer luck (some bad but most of it good) that I was forced to land on the outpost in search of a faulty Regan coupler after I’d miscalculated Neptune’s bow shock. Friends—and this is just the advice from an ancient, no-account grass smuggler what hasn’t got the smarts of a callie-bull—if you ever, EVER, intend to pass outside Sol’s Ring, hire a competent astro-nav. Or if you’re a Solo like me, then at the very least, invest in the ‘ware that’ll get you by. I thought my FLtcH2412 was adequate, but that boxxy-bot wasn’t no Zbord. Not even close. And not because he wasn’t a functional. Just saying.
Not only did I find the Reg-Coupler on the flotilla, but I was able to tap into the Psamathe station’s infuser. And quick as a lark, I had The Purloined Helix back up and running in only three TeDs. It seemed longer, watching Neptune whiz past. But I busied myself with repairs and all. I gave no flying figs to gawk at the big blue ice giant.
The true bounty of the stopover, however, was Zbord. Better yet, I’d found him on the cheap. Sure, he’d needed a new Sclem chip, but I reallocated “a spare” from the now permanently-reassigned Fletch, rest his clunky, rusty bits. And best of all was the fact that good old Zbord’s Zb cells were in excellent condition, with superior capacity than most modern functionals. He was slick and white (after a good ion spray), and about as good a conversationalist as a grey-beard Terran smuggler could ask for. In the years since, I’ve added to his knowledge base and outfitted him with much better long-range coms (hence the Terran fantasy intercast I’m enjoying, despite being ten thousand google-clicks into the Chorus Zone).
Ahh, don’t mind me, I’m prone to exaggeration. I really have no idea off the top of my head how far in the Helix is, and this pod is too damn comfortable to get up and look. I guess I could ask Zbord, but again… he’d have to com over the music.
I’m aimed at a station up ahead. Horizon Gamut, they call her. Best synth dogs in the CZ, if you’re into non-meat meat. Out here it’s the best I can do, and I get by just fine. Beats sucking on flav-packs. Flav! Yeah, right. All the nutrition of mud and half as tasty.
Think I’ll nod off a few Zs. Sides, I’m running out of steam. Not sure why yapping into the can tires me out, maybe I’m just gettin’ old. I’ll have white n’shiny over there wake me when we’re seventy thousand clicks from Gamut. For the duration, I’ll close the peeps (technically they’ve been closed for most of this entry, but Christo’s Hells who cares. Not like this is a vidrec.
Till next time, this is Captain Salazar of The Purloined Helix and his trusty functional Zbord.
Zbord, timestamp. Music to seven and cut the voicerec.