Intergalactic Trading Ship: Bountiful
Captain: Lu Kimberling
Hired Protection—Cyborgs: Justine Santana and Max Wheeler
Justine’s private internal record:
Ship’s Lounge, Captain Kimberling steps in.
“Hey, you two, one last stop at Ingilium, and you can look for other work. I’m going to take a breather on Helm. The Bhuaci are harmless, so I won’t be needing your services for awhile.”
Oh joy! Wheeler is going to give his opinion. Like the captain cares…
“Are you certain that’s wise, sir? The Bhuaci may be harmless, but they are frequently attacked. The Telathot incursion nearly decimated—”
Brilliant. Get the highest paying ship’s captain irritated while light years from the next hope of employment.
“Don’t lecture me, Wheeler. I’ve stopped there often enough and found myself a secure place. Cresta’s and Ingots could invade till the sun explodes, and they wouldn’t nudge me a millimeter.”
Know the meaning of the word vaporized? If Wheeler were human, he’d be bright red right now.
“As you say, sir.”
“Sure, compliance always makes up for being a total idiot—”
“Listen, I’m going to sleep. The crew just changed shifts and we’re in dead space, so it should be nice an’ boring for a while.”
“As you say, sir.”
“By the time I need you again, Wheeler, learn a few new expressions, would you?”
“Ah, shut up.”
Poor Captain Kimberling. He hasn’t got one itsy, bitsy clue…
One hour later…
Wheeler may be huge, but he’s as bulky as an Ingot and lumbers like a Cresta. His brown, steady eyes peer straight through the lounge bay window displaying our bright, red spectrum universe as it swirls amid black space. I’d like to paint that view. Someday.
What does Wheeler think about in that tectonic brain of his? Here goes nothing… I’ll be subtle. Promise.
“You do that on purpose, don’t you?”
“Egg him on…”
“Egg. Him. On. What is that supposed to mean? No, don’t tell me. Another one of your human colloquialisms? You need to decide what you are, Cyborg.”
“I have an identity. I know my role and I—”
“Play the fool.”
“Who’s the fool? You’re the one pretending to be human. ‘Look at me, I have a moral code…’ You were lucky to come out in one piece on Terra Seventeen.”
“I am human. At least…genetically.”
His grip is stronger than I anticipated. Good to know…
“Shall I rip your arm off and show you the technology that holds you together?”
Twist, turn and elbow to the mid-section. Leg sweep under the knees. Pinch Wheeler by the soft spot at the base of his neck…
“Let me remind you that when they put me together, they included the DNA of a brilliant human mind. Not a Cresta—”
“I’m not Cresta!”
Pity on the fool. Oops, didn’t mean to shove that hard.
“That almost sounded human…”
“DNA means nothing!”
There he goes again. He really ought to turn beat red just to clarify himself.
“So, you’re human too? Genetically speaking?”
“I’m a cyborg. Humanity never claimed me. I never claimed them.”
“But your cyborg family welcomed you with open arms, right?”
“Go to Bothmal!”
“Please—watch your language.”
“Like anything could offend you.”
“I have sensibilities.”
“Just no sense. Being human—genetically speaking—won’t protect you. Only a cyborg—”
“You won’t live forever.”
“Near enough. Better than anyone else.”
“Uanyi and Ingots live for millenniums. Luxonians too. Are they happy?”
“Hades! Who’s looking for happiness? I want to survive for as long as possible.”
“Some day…you’ll die.”
“Not if I can keep getting parts. Besides, who really cares?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it? You’ve never given anyone a reason to care—”
Uh, oh… blinking, blaring sirens! As usual, humans typically overstate the obvious. Here comes the captain, charging ahead like a Cresta at a science convention.
“Hey, you two, looks like we’ve got unexpected visitors. Power up!”
Sigh. Wheeler’s got blood lust in his eyes again.
“As much as you, Cyborg.”
“Don’t look so grim. We’ll come out of this alive. Probably… It’s a living.”
“Or a really long death sentence.”