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CUVALLA – 6TH PLANET EXTANT TO STAR HHH-4/98.34.02
35,000KM STATIONARY ORBIT
EVERY ORIFICE, please, Mac.”
“I assume you viewed the tutorial?”
Teegan McNamara looked down her nose at the tray held in front of her. She noted the surgically white patches which were sized to suit the aforementioned orifices … orificii? Whatever!
More interesting was the hand that held the offending tray.
Neelak was Scientific Manager for the Travel Agency on Earth. he coordinated the three space stations which orbited her planet. These in turn provided the staging points for the increasingly lucrative business of adventure holidays on a fringe world far from the civilized heart of the galaxy and the interstellar conglomerate called the Settled Quarter.
So what was he doing out here, four light years from Earth, orbiting a medieval world which was barely paying its way. She was yet to get a straight answer out of the ‘man.’ He was male, anyway. His hand looked sort of human but noticeably elongated. All of him looked that way actually.
She checked herself; this was only a distraction. She was dodging a bullet and it had to stop.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ve watched the video, had the bloody things crawl up my arm in test mode. Maybe it’s a human thing; fear of drowning or something.”
“Only one way to find out.”
“That’s what Darren said.”
“And he’s been in the tank for over an hour.”
“Yeah, yeah. OK, let’s do this.”
Delicately, she applied the patches to her naked body. Only her bracelets remained. She doubted the brass-like rings around her wrists could be removed. They were linked to the communication implant at the base of her skull and provided a defensive shield which could withstand a small nuclear blast. She didn’t want to think about losing them.
The patches looked like cloth, but as she placed them she felt a slight sense of suction. The nanites that made up the little strips attached themselves to her and began to mold to the more delicate parts of her body. The anesthetic effect kicked in shortly after and all sensation stopped. The strip across her eyes cleared and she could see again. Glancing at Neelak, he extended a hand towards the lifting platform next to a huge glass tank.
Via her implant she heard him say, “If you please.”
Taking a deep breath through the mouthpiece now blocking her throat, she padded over to the device. It slowly lifted her up four meters to the edge of the tank.
Now or never.
Stepping out onto the quivering emerald mass, it solidified under both feet, turning a pale turquoise half a meter around. She walked to the center of the tank and the color followed her.
“Miss McNamara, may I offer a suggestion?”
“What! Who the fuck are you?”
“My apologies, I am the master control unit for the SKIN system sub-mind. Before we begin, I am concerned about your stress levels and the harm you may do to us if you express your uncertainty.”
“How can I harm you, Emcee? And call me Mac.”
“As you wish, Mac. We are aware of your abilities and enhancements. They are similar to Lord NLii, but he has them under very tight control. If you were to unleash yourself while immersed in us, it could be … difficult. I would not normally communicate directly, but you are an unusual circumstance”
“Darren is like me? Slorssh said that before, when I was upgraded.”
“Yes. You both are quite rare individuals, able to sense and manipulate energies across the spectrum. Very rare actually. And quite dangerous if invoked while we are at work.”
“You have viewed the tutorial?”
“I skimmed it ….”
“I see. Well, there are five thousand four hundred and seventy five trillion nanites in this tank. Each has the computing power of a human laptop within its sub-molecular matrix. That amount of intelligent capacity requires many layers of control. The ‘we’ I refer to are the nine hundred and three system-subminds which direct the nanite cluster. And myself, of course.”
“Oh. How would you suggest I deal with my stress levels?”
“There are a number of options. Sedation, of course, but my current readings indicate you could easily overcome this restriction. Optimally, I would rather put you at ease. If my presence would be sufficient distraction I am willing to accompany you throughout.”
“So, you’ll figuratively hold my hand for the next five hours or so.”
“Yes, if that will relax you while we work.”
“Work, yeah. I know the theory, but the idea of being encased in creepy-crawlies that mimic the appearance of another species seems too simple. Talk me through how this works in detail. Like, I know the history and all but …”
Mac sank slowly into the tank as she carried on this sub-vocal conversation. She noticed her immersion but chose to ignore it and focused on what Emcee was saying in reply.
Master Control, the newly named Emcee, noticed its current client noticing and was well pleased. They had learned much from the several dozen immersions of Lord NLii, Darren as Mac knew him. But he was saurian, and Mac was the first mammal of similar capability that the SKIN system had studied. Yes, much to learn. And, so far, the conversation was quite pleasant, which was just a bonus really.