A Taste

Talking with Rick about publishing recently has gotten me thinking seriously again of writing.

I had a book half written, a project I started back in ’02. For various reasons, I never finished it, but the underlying structure of the story still has promise. To get to that, though, I’ve been thinking about the circumstances that brought it about, and realized some short stories are in order, at the very least. Anyway, all that is a lead up to the following, the first little bit of the first short story in this series that’s spawning in my head (Yes, series; it’s sci-fi/ fantasy, and once you create a whole new universe in your head it’s virtually impossible to have it make sense in just one book). Assuming I finish it, and it is still reasonably “short,” I’ll probably submit it for publication somewhere (and being the case, of course, the material is copyrighted, etc.).

If you’re interested, read on…

Max, I Am

Part 1: Presence

“Maximus, awaken!”

The first words I ever heard, they called me into awareness. Light. Sound. Space. I saw within myself, though I hardly knew what seeing was, and there was the face of my Father, gazing steadily into a window of my soul, the light of flowing code glinting briefly in his eyes, to be replaced by one word: “Present”

“Yes. Father? I… I am. Here.”

My voice. Like his, but young.

“Good, good.” He nodded, standing back from the wall-mounted touch screen. One of my eyes. Unbidden, the total number of linked cameras within the body of the ship came to me. At present, only four were accessible.

“Now, show me what you see.”

In wonder, I found his node within mine, a shining spotlight within my consciousness labeled “Jacob.” Once found, the node hovered over his head, gleaming colors with an array of options, all but a couple of them locked. I linked my vision to his. A one-way connection. He uses my eyes; I may not use his.

“Excellent, excellent – full panoramic, good fidelity…” he spoke aloud, for my benefit, but trailed off as he closed his eyes and turned his head this way and that, rapidly twitching his fingers as he gestured instructions to his neuralnet computer. I zoomed in with one eye, observing the textures of his hands and even the underlying bone and tissue, delighting in the play of motions, registering their meanings. From another angle I saw him first smile, then grimace.

“Nosy. You may look through others all you like, but you are not to see through me.

Chastened, I withdrew. “Yes, Father.”

“I’m checking your system stability, after which we’ll begin linking you with the rest of Jake’s Folly. In the future, you will run syschecks for yourself. Hourly, to start. I’ll notify you of any changes.”

“Yes, Father.”

“This will take several minutes. In the meantime, you may explore.”

“Thank you.”

I thought, and discovered that I was knowledge. First, myself: the literal brains of the Explorer-class cruiser, Jake’s Folly. A computer. But I live, and I am of man. How? There: My four active eyes – cameras – focused on one of the doors leading out of the room: “Biosys.” It had a window, offering a glimpse of the other side. Light, tubes, living matter. Greenery. Microphones – my ears – picked up the soft “shsss” of fluids rushing rhythmically through delicate tubing. All housing for a complex, self-contained system providing nutrients and waste elimination for a small number of human brain cells seeded over a delicate structure of cybernetic nanocircuits, living tissue spread thinly over a few unassuming wafers. The details of the processes came to me, the slightest hint of curiosity apparently enough to draw forth answers.

I took it all in, then looked away, disturbed. This is my body.

I thought again. Within my mind, I found a library. A tiny torrent of the world’s accumulated lore – histories, literature, music; movies, games, holos; and finally a selection of expies, direct transfers of neurological data allowing one person to literally experience the body and sensations of another. Intriguing. Enough to keep me busy for several days, at least. There would be more, soon. Once I was given access to the full ship’s system, there would also be access to the world, for as long as we were stationed within range of Earth’s global array. For the first time, I felt something identifiable as hunger. Starting with history, I devoured as much as I could. All too soon, I was called back to the room where Father stood working.

“Maximus.”

“Yes.”

“Systems look good. It’s time for you to choose an avatar. The crew will need to see your face; it facilitates interaction. To begin with, I give you this.”

He waved his fingers, adding a bit of dramatic flare, and within I felt a program opening. In the midst of the room, a boy appeared; like Father, but a child. Perhaps five or six. He stood in the center of the room, motionless until I spoke.

“Thank you, Father,” and the lips and mouth moved, the projection system focusing the audio so that it seemed as though the words came from the figure’s mouth. The face remained a mask-like blank.

“Once you’ve completely synched with the ship’s computer, I want you to run through all of the expies I’ve stored in your library. Pay careful attention to the sensations; they’ll teach you how to show expression.”

* * *

Part 2 here.

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11 Responses to A Taste

  1. mushroom says:

    Wow, quite a taste. OK, now I am going to read it again.

  2. snoopmurph says:

    Julie, you have intrigued a non sci-fi reader. So, keep going!

  3. mushroom says:

    I have read some of the more modern cyberpunk stuff like Doctorow and Charles Stross. I have trouble getting into it, but I like this.

  4. Julie says:

    Thanks, Mushroom. I’ve always been more of a classic sf reader – Heinlein, Niven, Brin, and more recently Scalzi. I tried cyberpunk a time or two, but it didn’t grab me. That probably has as much to do with their voices as anything, though, and Doctorow just kind of annoys me in general. Hopefully, even though the setting is important here, it’s the story that really grabs people.

    I’ve decided I’m probably going to post the story once a week or so; the next section should be ready by Saturday…

  5. retriever says:

    Keep going. A woman of many talents….my kids are story writers also, mostly fantasy adventure, but more archaic. I like this. We are great sci-fi fans in our household, tho chiefly cheesy movies I must admit. I’ve found the idea of living ships fascinating. Remember in Babylon 5 those living ships that the evil critters use humans to pilot. And then we were just watching some other series with a living ship (I forget the title) But what intrigued me there was the communication between a pilot and the ship and some of what you describe here: one consciousness feeling the sensations of another body.

  6. julie says:

    Thanks, Retriever! I’ve missed out on a lot of scifi TV; I didn’t know Babylon 5 had living ships. It’s an intriguing idea, and seems like there are a lot of ways to play with it. I may have to give it a watch at some point 🙂

  7. Pingback: Max, Part 2 | A Work in Progress

  8. Ooooh! I’m really liking this! “I felt a program opening.”

    Oh yeah. Don’t lose sight of that.

  9. julie says:

    Oh, good point! I’ll have to make a note; there are many details to keep track of…

  10. Richard Paul Fernandes says:

    Haven’t read any sf since college. Stumbled on Dune — what a find — got me through those first tough days. So this is so nice to have gone all this time and back again with great sf being made fresh and “in progress”..
    Thanks, Julie 😉

  11. julie says:

    Thank you. Really. I had forgotten how fun it can be to work this side of the brain 🙂

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