Second Chances

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Offline Kedamono

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Second Chances
« on: July 17, 2018, 07:05:02 PM »
Jill Preisner floated into Rec Forward. She was finally ready for this… this meeting with some old friends. She had steeled herself for this meeting ever since she got word from her mother, Jessica, and the package. It had caught up with her at Neu Bayern, and it was quite the surprise. Enough of one that she spent the night crying her eyes out in Andy’s arms. Andy Keeler, her first mate, and her lover, did his best to take her mind off of it, but all through the voyage to Fomalhaut, she kept looking at the package, wanting it to be fake. But Mildred, the ship’s AI, let her know that it was what her mom had said it was.

She positioned herself in the middle of the room and brought up the sim. It was Preisnerville on Frenner II. She found herself in the town’s central square. There in the middle of it was her great to the great grandmother, Anny Preisner. She leaned forward and flew over to her. She reached out and felt the sim of bark under her fingers.

“Hi Mormor1 Anny,” she said to the large Sakura tree, whose roots mingled with the composted remains of the elder Preisner. “It’s been a while since I last visited, but I’ll be home soon. You’ve probably heard the news already. I know it’s sad, but it’s not unexpected. Now I have to go see them. Wish me well Mormor.”

She leaned away from the large tree and flew through the town. While she could have ‘ported to her family’s home, she decided to travel the streets of her hometown and see what changes had happen since she last visited. She saw at least three new restaurants, one of which replaced an old favorite. “Well, Piotr always did say he wanted to do something else. I’ll miss his perogies.”

She made the turn and headed out to the coast. There on a prominent hill was the Preisner homestead. A collection of a dozen or so buildings, with a wall of trees in the rear. All their branches reached out in the same direction, to the sun, Ross 128. On the porch of the big house, sat her two old friends.

“Jill!” barked Terry, sitting up and wagging his tail. “Maxine, it’s Jill!”

The cat next to the dog gave him some side eye, then sighed, and stood up. “About time you got here,” purred Maxine. “You could have ported here you know.”

Jill smiled, with some tears running down her face. She tried to speak, but her voice broke and she started crying all over again, the tears coating her eyes. “So-sorry. I thought I was over it.”

Maxine tried to rub up against her but fell through her leg. Standing up, brushing herself off she said “Yeah, we kind of figured that. This is obviously a sim, and from the way doofus greeted me when we booted up, told me everything I needed to know. So, I guess I died first, right?”

Terry laid his head on the porch, with a mournful look to his face, and said, “Yes, about a week before I went.”

That got an eyebrow raise on the cat’s face. “Oh really. That’s got my curiosity up… and I’m safe, can’t die a second time.”

That actually got a laugh from Terry and Jill. Jill wiped her eyes. “I found out only a little while ago. It’s been three months since you… passed on.”

“Died,” said Maxine, “pass on means we’re in cyber heaven, something I don’t believe in. So, how are we here?”

“That’s something Mildred should tell you,” she looked up and said, “You can come in now.”

The door to the house opened up and a middle-aged woman stepped out. Her hair was brown and very curly, she had dazzling blue eyes, and she was modestly dressed in a floral pantsuit. “Hello again you two.”

The two near-pets turned and smiled at her. “Mildred! It’s been… what, 15 years since we last saw you?” asked Maxine.

“Yes,” replied Mildred, “that’s when Jessica had hired me on as the ship’s AI. I remember you two coming up for a visit and we had lovely time. But we can reminisce later. Right now, you want to know what’s going on. So, let me ask you what do you last remember?”

The two pets mulled for a second, then Maxine spoke up, “The last thing I remember was going out to, well, play. The very last thing I remember was sleeping my AI process. After that, nothing. There should be, but there isn’t. That’s when I died I guess. But how?” She looked at Terry.

He reached out and hugged her tight, then looked down at her, “Bottle Bee. You ate one… or it stung you in the mouth, or both. Doesn’t matter, you got a load of neurotoxins in your system. When I found you, you were convulsing… I held you in my arms as Jessica and Angie took us both to the vet’s.” He paused, his eyes moist, “You died in my arms. Angie had to pry me loose.” He hugged her tight again, licking her head. “Oh God, I lost you… I hurt so much, so much... I talked to Angie, and Jessica, even Mormor Marcy... I had myself put down.” He leaned his head on to hers. “Why? Why did you do that?”

Maxine’s eyes also moistened, then she pushed away and said “You, soppy old fool. You stupid, stupid dog… you…” she put her head into his chest and cried. Terry held her close. Jill and Mildred gave them time.

After a bit, Maxine looked up and said, “I,” she coughed, then sniffed, “Excuse me. I wanted to be a cat again. I wanted to be… young again. I guess the guard program didn’t do its job. A bottle bee huh?”

“Doctor Goodman pulled bits of it from your throat,” said Terry. “Why did you turn off your box? Were you crazy?”

Maxine sat down and looked at her paw hand. “Maybe. Or maybe I was feeling old. I am… was 87, pretty old for a Near-Pet Cat. And I was, well, feeling old. So, I would turn off the box and be a cat… a kitten, once more. Well, not turned off, just in sleep mode. I’d thought that the safeties would have stopped me from trying to eat a bottle bee.”

She looked from Terry, to Jill, and then to Mildred, “Still, that doesn’t explain why or how we are here. We’re on the City of Blaufjellby aren’t we? So, what did Angie do, mail you our brains?”

Mildred sat down next to them, “In a way, yes. Right now, your organic brains are being emulated on the ship’s social engine. It’s the only hardware on the ship, besides my own hardware, that can do it. But, not your ‘brains’ per se. Angie cloned your AI units to a newer model, and that’s what’s plugged into the social engine.” She gestured, and a slim, black box appeared in midair. “The latest in Near-Pet hardware, it’s 50% smaller than your original units. I understand that your owner, Angie, still has the originals.”

“Mainly because we know where all the bodies are buried,” said Terry. Maxine and Jill nodded.

Mildred’s face barely twitched with concern, and then said, “Of course, you mean that in a figurative sense, correct?”

“We’ll go with that, yeah,” said Jill. “So, that brings up the issue that Mildred informed me of. We can easily clone you new bodies, or, you can become full AIs.”

“Cloning wouldn’t be ideal,” said Mildred, regaining her composure, “as the brains would not be the same. Your personalities would change.”

“Whachu talking about Mildred,” said Terry. “I thought our personalities where in our black boxes?”

“Common misconception. Near-Pet personalities are entirely organic in nature, and come from your brains, not the black boxes. I can show you what it would be like without your brains. Interested?”

The two pets looked at each other, then nodded, “I’m up for it,” said Maxine. “Turn them off.”

Mildred nodded, and then made a gesture.

The effect was immediate. They both sat up straight and lost all expression on their faces.

“This is odd,” said Terry flatly, “I lack stimulus.”

“I too lack stimulus,” said Maxine. “I am… not who I was. Please restore us.”

Mildred gestured, and the two pets relaxed and leaned into each other. “Okay,” said Terry, “never do that again. That was creepy.”

“I didn’t feel feline,” said Maxine. “Yes, you’ve proven your point. But we’re dead, so why the reboot?”

“No, you’re not dead,” said Mildred. “The ‘you’ that’s dead is on Frenner II. Thanks to the brain mapping needed for your black boxes, we can emulate your brains with amazing fidelity. You’re AI minds are in new boxes. You are for intents and purposes, new AIs. You get a second chance at life. If you want it.”

They sat and digested this information. Then looking at each other, they touched foreheads and kissed. “Yeah, I think I’ll take that chance,” said Terry. “How about you love?”

Maxine stood on her hindlegs and held Terry’s face her paws, “Yes, I think I can spend some more time with you, you dumb doggy.”

He reached out with his paws and held her face, “I love you, sassy kitty.” Then they kissed passionately. Mildred and Jill looked away embarrassed.

“Once, as a teenager,” said Jill, “I caught them… going at it. I was red in the face for a week. For critters with no reproductive genitalia, they found ways around that.” Her face blushed.

“Oh hush,” said Maxine, rubbing her face. “I have a feeling that personal times like this won’t be as easy to do if we’re full fledge AIs. Right?” She directed that at Mildred, who blushed.

“Not exactly,” she said, slightly flustered, “AIs can find many ways to be close to each other.”

That got a look from Jill, who blushed even redder after thinking about that statement. Then she coughed, and said “Yes, as you might understand, we can’t run this sim for you on a constant basis. It’s taking everything the social engine’s got to emulate your two brains…”

“It wouldn’t be a problem if you were to update the social engine’s hardware to something current,” sniped Mildred. “The current model wouldn’t even lag doing a hundred brains.”

Jill rubbed her forefinger and thumb together, “Cost Mildred, cost. They don’t come cheap.”

Mildred leaned forward and said “Yes, they are. I have one in my own hardware. If I can afford one, you can too.”

“She’s like Angie,” replied Maxine, “a natural penny pincher. Did you know she wore her mother’s clothes instead of buying new ones? Miser.”

“Frugal,” replied Jill.



“How much are you worth? You own a third of this ship, you run the commercial arm of House Preisner Trading Company. I think at the very least, you’re a billionaire,” replied Maxine.

Jill waved off the snark and found herself turning around from the motion in free fall. “Oh fudge…, give me a sec.” she killed her spin, and looked at the three AIs. “Alright, when we go shopping for new bodies for you two, I’ll see if I can get a deal on a newer…”

“Currently released model,” interjected Mildred.

“…A newer model social engine,” finished Jill. “But until then, I’ll be only able to run you two when the rest of the crew aren’t recreating. I got this hour to myself, and I’ve burned up about 20 minutes of it. But we’ll get you something nice. Do you want realistic or…”

“Ooo, definitely robotic,” replied Maxine. “I’ve seen the furbots… let’s say, that with 400 years of technology, they still have that uncanny valley thing going on. But with AR, we can be skinned in something fairly realistic, yes?”

Mildred nodded, “Sim skins are as realistic as you can get. So, it shouldn’t be a problem. But I guess we can work that out later.”

“Yes, later,” said Jill. Then she brightened up. “Hey, you two, do you want to go hunt some dawn stalkers?”

“Hell yeah,” said Maxine. “We have gear?”

“We have gear,” said Jill who brought up a menu. Terry and Maxine brought up similar menus and began picking equipment.

Mildred looked concerned as body armor appeared on the three of them, then the weapons showed up. “Is that all necessary?”

Jill cocked her assault shotgun with one hand, “Yup.”

Maxine sported a set of vibroclaws from her fists, and Terry shouldered an assault rifle. Loading it, he said “Groovy. Let’s go a hunting.” Taking the lead, he headed out howling. Mildred sat on the porch watching the three friends head out into the twilight and smiled…

1. "Mormor" is the Norwegian version of "Nanna". It's the diminutive of grandmother.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 06:37:09 PM by Kedamono »