All The Moons

They told him he could not come home until he’d mapped all the moons, it was an insane task. Did they think that just because he was mainly machine now, that he did not get bored?

He supposed it made a change from sitting on the Prometheus Station but it would take him hundreds of years to complete the mapping, just the travel times alone. He hadn’t dared ask if they wanted a ground mission on each, mainly because he knew they did, there was remote sensing data from satellites and landers from a lot of the nearer moons anyway.

They wanted the next level up, they wanted nice sieved through data, his mind hiccuped again as he tried to think like the human he had been not that long ago.

He clicked the hinge on his face and checked, the damn glass ring had come a drift again, it was so jarring when that happened. He was going to get that fixed before he went and he was going to see if they would give him a team. Others like him would probably be a good idea, it wasn’t always easy to remember how soft the humans (those still in completely organic birth bodies) could be.

The little glittering disc of glass clicked back into place and he winced at the memory of the child he’d rescued, the rescue bit had been fine, almost ripping the arm off and definitely dislocating the shoulder was not. They’d all still been so grateful to him. Less so when they’d found out he was nearly all machine. It was weird he was still sure he was him.

The space station had been the right decision, he’d been happier here, people were used to robots and hi tech. He’d been here for 60 years now, two thirds of the time he had been nearly all machine. It had taken him a while to realise he was no longer welcome in his home. He wished he’d come sooner. He wished Ashly had been more honest with him.

She’d said she was frightened off him, sent heavies with guns and walked out, the kids mercifully had all grown and gone by then. His two daughters still sent him messages, one of them had just had a baby. Sometimes it was hard to remember what skin and skin felt like, he’d held his kids in his arms, before the cancer had come, before it had eaten him a tiny little piece at a time.

He felt a longing but went back to looking at the instructions with incredibility, did they really mean all the moons?

Sighing he began to calculate the trip with sling shots and landings. His son was on Luna 4, maybe he could say hi, he’d never responded to the letters or videos or anything but maybe it could be nice?

With a thought he sent it all to Jonathan who would either agree or not, the man after all was Prometheus Industries. A voice boomed within him and he adjusted the sound with a wince on the ceramic face that could not feel.

‘The Moon is mapped Frank.’

‘But you said all the moons!’ he wined.

‘Yes but not Luna, not Earth’s Moon, not Luna four.’ Frank sagged and sat down, he hadn’t realised how much he wanted to go and see his son, to see any of his kids really.

‘Can I visit before I go?’ he asked quietly.

‘Not a good idea Frank, your son is part of the Flesh Cult, he wont like what he sees, I did explain this too you, it is why only your daughters communicate – on the other hand if you wish to attend Hanukkah on their Sea Sted that is fine and I will arrange transport but after wards I would like you to map the moons. I am approving a team only slightly different to the one you requested.’

‘Will my daughters want me there?’ he asked.

‘I think so,… but I will check.’ and there was silence. Fleshers? A flesh cult? How the world changed, well it was worlds now really. Had been for a while but when he were little all they had was their sea steds and what ever they could grow on them. He remembered fondly shooting lasers at the pirate planes and watching the elegant spiral into the polluted and dead waves. The waves weren’t dead anymore and most of the pirates were gone, Jonathan had had something to do with that.

Suddenly he was back announcing that Frank was going home! He was glade he didn’t have glands or a pumping heart left, other wise he would have been giddy. Then he felt the panic even without the glands.

‘But I am a metal and ceramic man!’ he wailed. ‘They have kids they wont want to come over to the monster!’

‘I think you’ll be fine Frank, this is what stopped you last time and it was a silly reason then and even more so now.’

‘Why?’ he asked bewildered.

Jonathan sighed, ‘You’ll see.’

And so Frank packed, he didn’t really need anything but there was presents for the great grand kids, Jonathan had reminded him of the three great great grand kids all under five. Frank had started loosing track of time. He didn’t know how Jonathan did it, he was over twice Franks age and still mostly flesh too.

And he was finally on his way after a quick trip to get the disc in his head sorted.

Jonathan sat opposite Aten the Architect, with his serene eyes and large forehead, he was beginning to crinkle – after thousands of years he was finally getting old, the webbing between the mans fingers was looking thin.

Jonathan on the other hand still looked maybe middle aged and rugged if he’d died out the odd silver hairs he’d have looked even younger. ‘the last of Franks biological brain is dying isn’t it?’ he asked, dreading the answer.

‘Yes, the cancer was not contained, but we kept it under control for decades but the battle is ending.’

‘I thought the disc was supposed to record and copy and slowly take over, so there was continuety, so Frank would still be? That’s what happened with The Punk’s ex, the police man.’

‘Yesss,’ Aten acknowledged with his characteristic hiss, ‘but Frank is always opening his head and fiddling with things. Plus the decay of his brain and the age of his components means that I need to switch areas over manually. It is rather tedious.’

‘This is someones life we are talking about Aten.’ Jonathan snapped. The blue grey creature inclined his head gently and flexed his thin nostrils. The tips of his pointed teeth could just about be seen beneath almost non-existent lips.

‘I am well aware of that and the implications of Franks transfer not working are far greater than you realise, young man!’

Jonathan withered inside slightly, ‘I am sorry, it has just been a hard week with reports of areas I am trying to rebuild down on the Earth and these new cults are starting to make my skin crawl including the synth stuff you put on the burnt arm.’

‘That was vat grown, not synth, it is actual skin that had just grafted to you and as such it is behaving in exactly the right way.’ Jonathan found himself mechanically nodding, Aten had a way of affecting you that made you feel like an idiot, a young vulnerable idiot.

‘So what’s the plan? I assume you have one.’ Aten smiled, Jonathan was surprised to see a gap in the needle like teeth – he’d lost a tooth.

‘Frank’s granddaughter or one of them is one of my best stem culture students, she will remove the organic tissue from Frank and attempt a new therapy on it. Frank’s memories and body will go off to map the moons. Inner solar system first. It should take him three years even with his team. That gives her time to reconstruct his brain, bolstering up the remnant that is left, but then we will need Frank back, to put his brain back in. The optronic disc will bleed his memories back in and then we can ask him if he wants a new body. She found a hair brush and identified the hair as his and so she had the ability to grow him a body but he may not want it.’

Wincing Jonathan said, ‘I think he needs it, we still aren’t brilliant at interfacing with the tech.’

‘We are leaps and bounds beyond where we were not to long ago. But yes I agree that it would be best if he lived another organic life, his tech is old and outdated for a start which is not going to be helping.’

‘All that aside, why are we suddenly so interested in the moons?’

Aten smiled his pointy mischievous smile, Jonathan never liked it when the man smiled like that. ‘According to the records Punku and Itsu recovered we should be able to recover optronic components that may still work, plus more information about space and colonisation. I doubt there will be survivors but why they didn’t survive will be useful for our own efforts.’

‘How many colonies and where?’ he asked looking to the observation panel, he nearly always forgot that it was not an actual window, he’d patented the idea back when he was actually 45 years old, it had made him moderately more wealth than he’d already had at that point.

‘In truth we do not know, the space programs of the Empires were separate affairs and often being kept secret from one and other as well as the general population. The only way to be sure is going to be going to find them ourselves, to actively seek them out.’

Jonathan narrowed his eyes with a creeping suspicion,’And the borgs are the best for this? Not the robot modules?’

‘We’ve had machines scouring the surfaces for a long time, Mars and Luna showed us how easy it is to miss the signs – signs humans looking for colinization ops wouldn’t have missed. Even having the robots as Waldos was not that efficient Jonathan, now where is the food?’

Jonathan tried not to smile at the grumpy turn of voice or the ancient pre-tech term stollen from the science fiction of the late 20th century.

‘It should be here soon,’ and the door opened revealing a train of robots all looking a little mismatched and in need of repair. Jonathan needed to build a new Prometheus, it was on the to do list – a list that just kept growing. Of course it was the asteroid mining for the mark 2 that had sparked the whole mission. There are more things out here than few defunct colonies.

He really wanted Punk and Jess or Itsu as the old man insisted on calling the guy. Aten was amazing but somehow he never felt completely at ease with the skinny blubbery man with the large head but small jaw. He’d grown up in a time when such a creature would have been thought an alien. It was kind of ironic how they’d have called him a Martian.

He’d been kind of sad that he hadn’t gotten to go on the asteroid hop mission but he understood that he had responsibilities, how he’d ended up in charge was always a mystery to him. It had all started out as a joke, a silly in geek thing. And then suddenly he was rich and then he was trying to save the world from itself and now he was trying to help rebuild it.

And within all that he’d ended up sucked into an ancient battle of not good and evil but people being people and he was starting to get tired. He missed his daughter but she’d been the best choice to try and get Luna functioning again. She’d created miracles with the orbiter platform.

Jonathan made his excuses and left, he would go and do some programming, jack himself in and make the landscapes of maths dance and buckle and reform. His fingers still twitched when ever he thought of programming, still looked for the clacking of keys. Perhaps he was just tired, there had been decades of manic adventures and survival and pressure.

Aten frowned after Jonathan closed the door, something was very wrong, it wasn’t just Frank acting oddly, but a lot of those with a post Project FireStrom disc. He had a fear, the timings were right, the amount of time before they became affected…. his frown grew. Then he was distracted by the food arrayed before him. Shrimps and mussels and sea weed fried and salty and mineral rich, he salivated but didn’t immediately rip into the feast.

Instead he called up the files he’d been reading when Jonathan came in to tell him about Frank’s proposed route. The Flesher cult was bad news but they were not big enough yet to concern him overly. It was a bit mute anyway as all those on the bases and platforms had the discs implanted at birth. He supposed it was their right to say no to upload, he clicked his teeth together at such stupidness, had they not just spent the whole of human existence dealing with the actions of such stupidity. Of ignorance over reason?

He wanted to wail to the moon but that was an old instinct left from an island home that had not existed for several ages of man.

There was a tremble in his hand as he reached for the virulent pink paste made of mashed fish eggs. He was aging, the last battle had not been a victory, it had destroyed him, but both the remainder of the Aquatic Apes and these humans – were they not his too?

He smiled sadly, they’d been Tiamat’s too, that she should have sort their destruction onto her own was heart breaking. And his family, her, their children, all were gone and it was him and those created from his DNA, and hers, she never could see that they were all her’s as well.

The files clicked up, and he glazed out as he read them via uplink to his brain. It was entitled ‘glass eating endoliths’ it didn’t look good, he wondered how the batch had been contaminated. Of course the dam organisms were microscopic, colonial and took centuries to grow.

The main question was how was he going to solve the problem, not that he yet knew for sure that this was the problem but he would as soon as Frank had been to see his granddaughter.

Posted: Sunday, June 26th, 2016 @ 8:01 pm
Categories: Short Stories, The Punks World.
Subscribe to the comments feed if you like. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply