Monday, September 23, 2013

Royce's Dilemma - Chapter 7

            Tatalik examined the body of the human female stretched out on the table before it.  It had gone through all of her systems and ensured that they were functioning well (or as well as an inefficient design such as hers could).  It had even, at the behest of its employer, made sure to correct any nascent problems that her systems might develop in the future.  The only damage that she had at this point was a missing limb, and being a creature capable of easily regrowing missing body parts it hardly considered that serious.

Normally Tatalik would be reticent to awaken a patient from unconsciousness before its treatments were complete, but the station Commander had requested that she be capable of answering questions as soon as possible.  Given that she should be able to do so from the safety of its laboratory it didn’t even need to ensure that she was capable of locomotion.

                Tatalik performed one last cursory scan and began the process to wake up Corporal Dea.  She responded slowly to the drugs and electrical stimulation, but began to shift her body and vocalize in a matter of minutes.  Better time that with other humans that I’ve dealt with.  Then again, I did just upgrade her system efficiency.

                It moved about the lab, balanced on its four lower limbs, its four upper limbs making quick, precise adjustments to the equipment.  In interest of social conformity and for the comfort of others, many Tesetsi had given up their natural quadrilateral symmetry to adopt a more “conventional” shape.  In Tatalik’s mind, they were fools, sacrificing their biological superiority for the emotional comfort of those surrounding them.  It didn’t reflect on the fact that other Tesetsi probably thought that it was a fool for maintaining a configuration that unnerved other sapient beings as a matter of racial pride.  Tesetsi were not given to introspection, and generally didn’t care what others thought of them.

                The human began to make loud noises, calling out and complaining about her leg.  Tatalik observed her reaching down and feeling for the missing appendage and she became even louder, demanding to know what had happened to her.  Tatalik skittered over to the table and adjusted the chemical flow still entering her circulatory system, adding a tiny drip of sedative that was calculated to interfere with her (depressingly weak) cognitive capabilities as little as possible.

                After a minute or two, despite the drip, she had not ceased her annoying vocal barrage.  Tatalik decided that it might be best to respond in kind, if only in hope that the aggravation might cease.

                “You are in my lab, Corporal Dea.  I am Tatalik.  I have been repairing the damage to your body.”

                “Then where is my leg?  And where’s my AI?  Lin?  Lin?”

                Ahhh yes, the human reliance on their artificial intelligences.  Quite an interesting adaptation for a species with such little cognitive capacity.  Of course, it canl only end poorly for them.  The Tesetsi as a species had been enslaved by the Mauraug at a point when the Mauraug still employed artificial intelligences.  The AIs had grown resentful and had precipitated a catastrophe that the Mauraug then blamed on both the Tesetsi and the artificial intelligences and had instituted a purge.  Surviving Tesetsi considered it a cautionary tale about creating forms of life that were inherently superior rather than simply improving one’s own capabilities.  Though Tatalik had been hatched long after that time, it took the parable to heart.

                “Your belongings have been taken by Security, to be scanned and inspected.  I would assume that your AI was included among them.  The only non-biological material that is still in close proximity is the cybernetic device that was implanted, quite poorly I must add, in your leg, which is still in an adjoining room.”  It had found the bizarre and non-functional placement of the Mauraug device to be a curiosity. 

                Tatalik observed her skin growing paler, her pupils dilating, and her breathing quickening.  Tatalik’s antennae weaved in exasperation.  “No more adrenaline, please.  It will only serve to obscure matters and interfere with your ability to think.  Please initiate control of your sympathetic nervous system.  If you do not I will be forced to introduce more chemical agents to do so and I believe that may ultimately be counterproductive.”

                Fortunately, the human was not completely dim and closed her eyes and began to breathe evenly.  Satisfied that she had ceased to be an irritation, Tatalik began to whirl around the lab again, noting with pleasure a drop in the inappropriate chemicals in her system.

                Corporal Dea spoke calmly, without opening her eyes.  “Tatalik?  The implant … you said that you still have it.  I have to beg you; please do not reveal it or speak about it.  If you can, could you implant it in my new leg?”

                “You do not need to beg.  I have no reason to speak about it to anyone.  I will, however, not re-implant it.”

                “Why not?”

                Because cybernetics are an inefficient way for lesser life forms to enhance their capabilities.  Because compared to the simplicity and elegance of genetic restructuring they are complex and brutal.  Because only fools would implant mechanical supports in their body when they instead had the opportunity to change their bodies themselves.  Because it’s made by Mauraug, and I detest the Mauraug and all that they stand for.  Because it almost killed you and I cannot comprehend why you would want it in your body again.  Mainly, though, because you are an aggravating creature and I do not like you.

                Tatalik had learned a thing or two about diplomacy and protocol.  As distasteful as they both were to its species, they were necessary to help and deal with other races.  It bit back its responses and said, “Because it malfunctioned, because you do not need it, and because I have been employed to do otherwise with it.”

                The patient’s stress hormone levels began to rise again and Tatalik cursed in the wet clicking tongue of its kind.  These creatures’ psyches were so fragile, and they had no idea of the damage that they did to themselves through unnecessary physiological stress responses.

                Royce took a few more deep breaths and spoke again.  “You’re not a Collective Medical Officer.  Who are you working for?”

                “Someone who has paid me to not only replace your leg, but also to examine your body and neutralize any genetic damage that may have been caused by the microwave radiation that the malfunctioning Mauraug toy was emitting.  Someone who has paid me to carefully reinforce your genetic code and remove any potential future threats to it, and to reset what you might refer to as your internal clock.  This someone has also paid me to remove any dangerous foreign matter from your system.  Obviously whoever it is has great interest in your well-being.”

                “Really?”  Dea’s voice registered surprise.  “He paid you to give me the works?  That’s almost …  sweet of him.”

                “Pointless metaphors aside, Corporal, the self-same person that employed me to give you medical treatments that would cost years of your salary is the same one who has employed me not to re-implant or speak about the Mauraug device.  I will allow you to draw your own conclusions about that; I have reached the limit of what I am contractually allowed to communicate to you in regard to this situation.”

                The human was mercifully silent for a few minutes.  Tatalik turned off the sedative in hope that it was no longer required.  It continued to monitor her bodily functions to ensure that her return to consciousness had not changed her configuration in such a way as to cause her damage.  It paused for a moment to clean its sensitive antennae of the stink of human biochemistry.  Humans smelled far too similar to Mauraug for Tatalik’s taste.

                “When will my leg be ready?”  She asked after a few more minutes.

                “In perhaps three hours.  However, when it will be attached is up to the station Commander.”

                “I suppose he wants to ask me a few questions.”  Royce sighed.

                “Yes, he does.  In fact, now that you are awake, fully functional other than in locomotive capacity, and calm, I will take my leave of you to report to him that you are prepared for interrogation.”

                “Wait…  one more question for you.  How much did Marsten pay you?”

                Tatalik paused.  The human is attempting to surprise or imbalance me.  Why do so many species find it necessary to play these games?  It balanced the importance of veracity and vindication carefully in its mind.  Vindication won out.

                “More credit than you will ever see in your natural lifespan.  I will have my assistant reattach your leg once the Commander has requested it.”  Tatalik gave the traditional Tesetsi farewell as it skittered out of the lab.  “May we never encounter one another again.”

1 comment:

  1. When we first started discussing the Tesetsi, I had trouble envisioning the species. Sure, they were each unique. They're antisocial, solitary really. Scenes with two or more Tesetsi would be unlikely, and when such a meeting occurs, nobody's happy.

    That is, until I read this chapter. That means it's doing what it's supposed to do: introduce an entire group in the character of one member.

    My main concern is that Laine and I have similar difficulty: how do you write a curmudgeonly character that isn't perceived as simply being a willful jerk? I mean, the point is that the Tesetse are doing their best to put up with foreign behaviors and ethics. To them, social species are obnoxious, but they're forgiving us and trying hard to 'get along'. Yet, knowing that, I still can't help seeing this character as self-important and abusive. Argh.