Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Spinal Cord Signal Intercept Passthrough

Sensory port.
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Eventually, a method will be found to create and implant electrodes that could fit individual nerve-endings. The brave experimental subject's spinal cord is severed at the neck (with life-support equipment attached where it counts beforehand) and a small section of the spinal column is removed. Wires of microscopic diameter are fitted to each nerve-ending, and connected to a mechanism that allows impulses to travel through as before, as well as providing a high-bandwith "bus" whereby these signals may be monitored or modified. Thus, the user would have a port on the back of their neck, to which a computer connection would allow the recording and playback of below-the-neck sensation of any form (as mentioned in literature, but never explained specifically how it could be done, as far as I have seen.)
dsm, May 30 2001

Brainstorm http://us.imdb.com/Title?0085271
Natalie Wood's last movie. Features a less invasive implementation of this idea. [td, May 30 2001, last modified Oct 17 2004]

(?) Fingernails... http://www.youtube....watch?v=8OoZFAucEcE
[not_morrison_rm, May 03 2012]

Other fiction http://www.fictionp....com/u/809488/wread
I appreciate the rubs my fiction endeavors have received here. Linked are 2 more SF works I made for an Innocentive contest. Nothing with Isis and Augi I am sad to say. [bungston, Aug 18 2013]

[link]






       Low tech version of this overroute exists, known as 'kick in the seat of the pants.'
reensure, May 30 2001
  

       Wasn't something similar to this done in eXistenZ? Though if I remember rightly the spinal ports were stuck in near the base. And that was real life, right? I mean, we're not still in the game?
-alx, May 30 2001
  

       [UnaBubba] look at the category -- health: sexual aid. The idea is like the brainwave recorder in Brainstorm (see link.)
td, May 30 2001
  

       I'm thinking that I wouldn't want someone to disconnect my perfectly good spinal column.
bspollard, Dec 11 2002
  

       This belongs in the input device category, and the display category also if it exists. A sexual aid is a rather limited application of the device, and it's not even mentioned in the idea. (It's not a terribly original idea mind you but I'll let that slide.)
Madcat, Nov 01 2003
  

       Those nerves are both sensory and motor, and I can't think of a single person who would want their motor nerves connected to a bus.
Overpanic, Nov 02 2003
  

       Isis came through a vacant lot and approached a group of four brakkas, grooming each other near the entrance. They probably smelled her before they saw her, and immediately fanned out into a semicircle. Three males and a big female. They looked like humanoid weasels, although of course were no more related to weasels than to redwoods; the miracle of convergent evolution. The female sized her up. "Far from the nest, tasty tasty," she murmured. Humans rarely came off colony, and when they did it was as heavily armed groups. The brakkas knew about human weapons. But unless the silver choker was a weapon, there was really nowhere else Isis could be hiding anything. The aliens slid closer. Actually, the choker was a weapon, though not the type the brakkas were expecting.   

       "Mites," said Isis. It was a grave insult. Having decided she was unarmed the two nearest to her launched themselves through the air. The alien predators moved faster than the human mind could process, though as it turns out not faster than the human eye could follow. Isis shimmied sideways and struck with left and right hands across their eyes, spun under the third and punched it in the loin as it curled back to bite her and caught the fourth under its chin with a kick. A second kick put the big female back down. The male she had struck in the eyes came like a cracking whip across its mothers body, its teeth snapping the air where Isis' hand had been. Her hand was now on the males nose, bringing its chin down to her knee with a dull thud.   

       The fight had taken just over two seconds. Isis surveyed the four aliens where they lay on the groud. She scratched her nose. Then her brow furrowed. "Stop that!" she shouted.   

       "I perceived your suffering," said Augi. It spoke through her earpiece rather than use her mouth, a prudent choice under the circumstances.   

       "I was going to scratch it myself, thank you!" She knew that was actually the problem - the time that passed between the perception of a need for action and the action itself. A few seconds for her, but an aching eternity for an augmentation intelligence. Isis scratched her own nose out of principle, and waited to hear if there was going to be something else.   

       Augi stayed quiet. The intelligence part was for real, and it had learned when to shut up.
bungston, Jun 28 2009
  

       The cranial nerves will go unpatched, whereby sight, sound and smell will vanish from the picture. Might make for a dull recording if it wasn't for the small subgroup of people that are into groping in the dark while wearing ear- and noseplugs.
loonquawl, Jun 29 2009
  

       Isis opened her eyes to see the colony stretching across the valley below. The sun was just starting to rise. She was standing at the edge of the heliport field, her pajamas soaked with sweat. "Augi?" She tapped her silver choker. "What gives?"   

       The voice of the augmentation intelligence spoke through her mouth. "You were asleep," she told herself.   

       "I usually don't sleep on the helipad." She looked at her dirty and grass-stained hands, then used them to push her damp hair out of her eyes. "Only special occasions."   

       "You need to sleep. Your body does not. I brought it here to practice."   

       "Practice..." said Isis. She took a few tenative steps. She was warmed up. She felt good.   

       "I have developed a new way of running," she went on, her voice both hers and not hers. "It is 20% faster and 15% more efficient." Augi sounded as close to excited as it got. "It is less traumatic for the knees. Would you like to learn?"   

       Before she could voice her assent, Isis took off in a strange lilting skip. Isis was fast anyway but this new method was faster, crossing the field in no time. She came to a stop and laughed. "Ha! That is good!" She took off again, bouncing along the field, talking to herself as she ran. "Like this? Ok! No let me do it..."
bungston, May 01 2012
  

       More please [bungston].
AusCan531, May 01 2012
  

       Yeah, that's a pretty engaging start.
Alterother, May 01 2012
  

       It may surprise you to learn that my cousin is working on something similar. In stroke victims, only deranged, incorrect impulses reach, say, the arm. Invasive sensors in the arm muscles detect these impulses, which are wrong, but in a consistent way. A processor sorts this out, and uses electrical stimulators in the arm muscles to perform the correct activity. It's getting pretty hard for sci-fi to keep up with real sci these days.
GutPunchLullabies, May 01 2012
  

       Although now that I look at the original submission date, I am more impressed.
GutPunchLullabies, May 01 2012
  

       That is very, very cool, [GutPunch].   

       // It's getting pretty hard for sci-fi to keep up //   

       We're doing our best.
Alterother, May 01 2012
  

       Something like this was mentioned in the Star Trek TNG episode "Ethics". Worf gets paralyzed and wears a thing that bypasses the spine, but it was external instead of implanted.
DIYMatt, May 02 2012
  

       There are several similar things I've run across in fiction (not that I can specifically recall any examples at the moment), but mostly external devices such as [DIY] mentions. This in no way detracts from this being a seriously cool 'bake, possibly prophetic. I've never read anything quite close enough in resemblance to call it baked-in-fiction.   

       [bungston], do you write fiction as a hobby or vocation? If not, you should take a crack at it; your concept development and establishment style shows real talent. I hate to sound like a snob, but I'm as critical of other authors' work as I am of my own, and it's not often a premise like this one grabs my attention.
Alterother, May 02 2012
  

       Thanks for the kind words! HB is loaded with fiction but usually in the service of depicting the idea proposed; hopefully that is case for these fun fragments. A short story would have to go somewhere else - maybe fiction.net.
bungston, May 02 2012
  

       Oh, absolutely. There are many great creative writers here, but I'm quite aware that HB isn't a venue for short prose. I'm just saying that, as a writer at the beginning of my professional career, with both the aspiration and (if I may be immodest) the skills to someday put a novel atop the NYT list, I see real potential in your creativity and developmental ability. I'm simply encouraging you to write, if you don't already, and to share it with the world. Seriously.   

       Drop me an email if you want a serious critique of what you've posted here.
Alterother, May 02 2012
  

       [bungston] Even if you take everything that [Alt...] said at farce value, please continue to write. Wow, that was some good shit. Oh, and speak to Charles Stross, I know he is on here, somewhere...
4whom, May 02 2012
  

       So, the connection would be a spinal tap? Ok, I couldn't resist it..   

       >only deranged, incorrect impulses reach, say, the arm. and then via the fingers to my keyboard.   

       Extraordinarily tempted to put in a link to Aleister Crowley's Fingernails recording..put Charles Stross on danger money...
not_morrison_rm, May 03 2012
  

       I've noticed a few long stories that are written centred on invention ideas such as Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, Franz Kafka's The Penal Colony, and some that are below the cusp of recall right now, hmm will report back ( I was thinking about this the other day, so I'm sure I know atleast half a dozen more). The point I was going to make before my unaugmented mind completely failed was if some users here are aspiring fiction writers maybe they should try writing in the halfbakery style, namely centred around the description of an invention.
rcarty, May 03 2012
  

       /the halfbakery style, namely centred around the description of an invention/   

       I think of this type of writing as High Science Fiction. Stock characters / situations are roughed in and assumed, and the story is really to explore the invention or concept. Many of the best Star Treks did this. The worst star treks just set up standard interpersonal dramas in an exotic situation (eg all of Deep Space 9).
bungston, May 03 2012
  

       >invention ideas such as Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum   

       Erm, what was the invention...I thought the part on the kabbalah was useful for crypto and steganography..and the rest of the story was people prefer interesting fictions to mundane reality...
not_morrison_rm, May 03 2012
  

       Something like the proposed idea will no doubt come to pass, but there is one important point to consider.   

       Nerve fibres are not wires, and you can't just cut them and splice in some sort of relay. If you cut an axon (the wirey yet non-wirey bit), the distal part will lack the necessary gizmachinery to keep it alive. I suspect that the proximal part will also do something strange.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 03 2012
  

       Understood and agreed upon. However,   

       // you can't just cut them and splice in some sort of relay //   

       Yet.   

       // the distal part will lack the necessary gizmachinery to keep it alive //   

       Until we find a way to get around that, too.   

       As somebody who has just undergone a routine surgical procedure to relieve pressure upon and repair damage to the base of my sciatic nerve, something once thought to fall well within the realm of fantasy, I feel somewhat justified to play with the big boys here. In my riposte to your potential rebuttal, I will be quoting Arthur C. Clarke. Prepare your remarks, if any, with this in mind.
Alterother, May 03 2012
  

       > Erm, what was the invention   

       The pendulum is described probably in the first forty pages, it's been a while though.
rcarty, May 03 2012
  

       //I suspect that the proximal part will also do something strange.//   

       See, e.g., the "phantom limb" phenomenon in amputees.
ytk, May 03 2012
  

       //Until we find a way to get around that, too. //   

       Well, maybe, but not any time soon.   

       I have a better solution. Use probes which contact the nerves without penetrating or severing them. Such probes can both detect and induce impulses in the (undamaged) fibre.   

       The problem then is how to block the natural signals (so that you can detect an outgoing or incoming signal; stop it; and then instead inject your own signal). I believe that this could be done by delivering the right sort of voltage pulse via the probe itself at the right instant, to counteract the propagating impulse.   

       So, a single probe (per nerve) could detect impulses, null them out, and create new signals.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 03 2012
  

       ..> Erm, what was the invention   

       The pendulum is described probably in the first forty pages, it's been a while though.   

       Aha, I was trying to think of the other invention in there, cos that one was in the title. So not seeing the trees for the wood etc..
not_morrison_rm, May 03 2012
  

       This sort of cut and splice thing that the author of this idea proposes is very 19th century. MRI machines can already induce electrical current in very specific areas of a human brain. A device which could generate precise electrical fields within individual nerves and detect biologically generated electrical fields (nerve transmission) might noninvasively affect and monitor the nerves running through it.
bungston, May 04 2012
  

       She could go no further, toppling sideways onto the muddy floor under the load of a bulky body twice her size. Isis crawled out from under, then bent over the inert form of the big soldier. She rubbed his bristly face. “Come on Thad! Be here! Be here!” She stripped off his shattered helmet, fumbling at the catch with her blackened hands. Her right hand did not work well at all and some of the fingers pointed odd directions. She was vaguely aware that Augi must be blocking the pain from those hands and in fact, her hip, ribs and most of the rest of her, or she would be busy screaming instead of starting to cry. “Thad Thad Thad…” she muttered. The man did not move. His skin was gray. “Buddy, you know you gotta breathe.” Isis brought her mouth to his and blew into him the largest breath she could make, then began pumping on his chest.   

       After ten minutes she stopped, not by choice but because she could not continue. “Thad you big huge jerk!” Tears ran down her cheeks, splashing on the lifeless body. She whacked his chest with her ruined, painless hand. “I still need you! Why’d you have to lead with your big dumb head?”   

       Suddenly her tears stopped. She sniffed in surprise. “I perceived your suffering,” said Augi through her mouth, its voice altered by the tightness of her grief.   

       She half-smiled at the earnest augmentation intelligence. “Thanks Augi.” She sat quietly for a moment, running her finger along the old sting scar on Thad’s arm. Then she rested her head on his chest. “But I am still suffering.”   

       “You can see clearly,” objected Augi.   

       Isis paused at this. She looked again at Thad and a light came into her eyes. “I can see.” Concentrating on her fingers, she took off her silver choker. As it came away from her neck she gasped at the avalanche of hurt which rolled over her, but she gritted her teeth and placed the choker around the neck of the man. Immediately his chest lifted and fell, and he sat up. He regarded her with clearing eyes. Then he rose to his feet, effortlessly lifted Isis up and began sprinting with her down the tunnel.   

       As she rode along in the man’s muscular arms, Isis felt her exhaustion overtaking her. “This would be romantic if you weren’t dead,” she told him.   

       “He is not dead,” answered the space marine in a deep but familiar voice. The spot of sunlight in the distance steadily grew as they approached the tunnel mouth. “Breathing is helping him.”   

       “Funny how that works.” Isis curled up and shifted positions, her head in the crook of his arm. She looked up at the square-jawed face of her man, now set off by the incongruous silver choker. "Thad is a pretty nice ride, eh Augi?"   

       "For both of us," answered the man, his eyes resolutely on the approaching exit.   

       Isis smiled. "That is _so_ true."
bungston, May 04 2012
  

       Ooh, now that's cool.
normzone, May 04 2012
  

       Very cool. I felt compelled to go throw a couple of buns at some of [Bungston]'s other posts. (they were good ones though)
AusCan531, May 04 2012
  

       Ah, a blast from the past. Okay, I've an unfinished idea I'll(re) post and maybe we can get there from here.
normzone, Dec 30 2012
  

       /Do amputated limbs get a phantom amputee syndrome/   

       I think we are all familiar with the syndrome in which a hand amputated from a murderer and transplanted on on unsuspecting recipient then compels the recipient to do evil deeds in the dead of night.
bungston, Dec 31 2012
  

       Okay, I know it's 11 years to late, but I'm really tempted to mark this "WTCTTISITMWIBNIIWR" since this shows up in infinitely many science fiction movies, including, but not limited to the matrix, which still predates this by a couple of years.
MechE, Dec 31 2012
  

       Isis met no resistance from the other brakkas she encountered. They stopped what they were doing to stare at her, then follow behind. The nest was surprisingly clean, though of course smelled overwhelmingly. She entered what amounted to a throne room. Several dozen brakkas in small groups, relaxing among skins of animals and other baubles strewn about. The boss mother, a large and somewhat portly female, lounged on a brown object reminiscent of a stuffed camel. Several males groomed her assiduously. All stopped as Isis walked in.   

       Isis did what amounted to a curtsey sans dress. “I have a message for you, Boss Mother, from my own Boss mother.”   

       The Boss mother looked at her curiously, then to one of her attendants, then back. “I have seen you before,” she stated.   

       “I think not, Boss Mother,” replied Isis.   

       The large female she had incapacitated at the door limped in behind. She made herself small and submissive; Isis suspected that this was in large part because she had failed to prevent Isis from entering. She gave Isis a wide berth. “Boss mother, she is so fast this one.”   

       Isis weaved her bare toes into the fur of a medium sized animal skin that lay on the floor. The head of the animal remained attached, with faceted pieces of metal where eyes had once been. The boss mother leaned back, eyes never leaving Isis. “Little baldy is fast? ” She shifted on her camel couch. Without warning one of the males beside her bounded towards Isis. As it made the second leap and its mouth opened to bite, Isis flipped the animal head up from the ground, pivoted to the side and using her foot, stuffed it into the open mouth of the male, his momentum wedging it deep in his jaws. It was a move that Isis had invented; not the sort of thing Augi would have come up with itself, and so they had practiced it together. The idea was not so much to harm as to humiliate. As the male passed by she switched legs to knee its haunches up so it tumbled butt-over-head across the floor. It rose making muffled yowls as it tried to pry the stuffed head out of its mouth.   

       The assembled brakkas cracked up, pointing at the discomfited male and pantomiming his actions. The big female she had defeated at the gate looked at her wonderingly. “How? So fast?”   

       “I am half brakka,” Isis told her. “My father’s side.”   

       The female sniffed. “But no smell like brakka.”   

       “Soap,” replied Isis. “You should try it.”   

       The male, freed of his mouthful, returned sheepishly to his place beside the boss mother and the crowd settled down to see what was next. “It is true that you are fast and fast,” said the boss mother from her place on the stuffed camel couch.   

       “Like an eye blinking,” said Isis.   

       The brakka boss paused a moment. A murmur went through the crowd. Spoken language and metaphor were new things for brakkas, having been acquired shortly after human contact. But they had eyes that blinked, and the metaphor was clear. “Yes!” said the boss with satisfaction. “Fast like an eye blinking! But not fast like the flying stone.” She indicated the side of the chamber. A female with a rifle stood there and she levelled it at Isis.   

       Brakkas were also new to projectile weaponry as well as slow to adopt it after contact. Unlike humans, with a few hundred thousand years of throwing stones to draw upon, brakkas historically mixed it up with claw and tooth. Isis looked back at the boss mother. “And when the flying stone makes meat of me and passes through me – what then?” she asked. “What is next on its path?” Isis was, by no accident, directly between the brakka with the rifle and the boss mother.   

       The boss mother considered trajectories. Clearly she was not boss due to fighting skill but superior intellect, a property which had become more valuable to the brakkas in the days post-contact. She made no answer but by unspoken signal, the brakka with the rifle put it down. Others in her entourage figured out the answer to the flying stone question more slowly; one started in alarm and began to blurt it out. A wriggle from the boss silenced him.   

       “You are a good joke, Blinking Eye,” said the boss mother slowly. Brakkas were fascinated by jokes, and their main enthusiasm for spoken language was that it could be used for jokes. They had humor in the way cats have humor and loved jokes that invoked unexpected pain, suffering and humiliation, a category which fortunately had a large overlap with the established human repitoire of jokes. To call Isis a joke was by no means an insult.   

       Isis nodded respectfully. “And I know a good joke to tell, Boss Mother,” said Isis. “Will you listen?” A shimmy went through the crowd in anticipation. Clearly, all present would listen. Isis began.   

       “Once there was a brakka hunter boy who came across a mub. You are my food, little mub!” exclaimed the brakka hunter. By her body language she pantomimed the swaggering hunter. Prior to acquiring spoken words, body language and pantomime had been the main method of communication for brakkas. Humans attempting body language was in itself considered funny, and contributed to the success of a joke. Mubs have prominent incisors, similar to rabbits. For the voice of the mub, Isis pulled her lip up and lisped. “You should leave me be,” Isis said in the voice of the mub, “or you will wish you had.” “Hah!” said the hunter. “What hurt can you do, little meat? Maybe hurt my anus when I pass your bones!”   

       A loud wave of laughter surged from the audience at this, and that would have been the end of the joke. The boss mother, eyes shining, waved them down impatiently – this was not the punch line.   

       “I will show you my mother,” said the mub. A small female mub hops out of the bushes. She perches on the back of the first.   

       “Your mother?” exclaims the hunter. “And how can she do me harm?”   

       “I will show you my mother,” said the female mub. At this an even smaller female mub with gray fur hops out of the bushes. She perches on the back of the mother. The hunter is beside himself. “And how will this grandmother do me harm?” Now Isis had the brakkas in the palm of her hand, every individual riveted to the unfolding story.   

       “I will show you my mother,” creaks the elderly mub. At this a tiny and ancient mub, her fur snow white, slowly hops from the bushes. She climbs up high to the top of the stack of three mubs.   

       “And this white-fur great grandmother – how can she do me harm?!” hoots the brakka.   

       “Like this,” says the great grandmother. “And she jumps off the top of the stack and bites his nose!” Isis pantomimed the shrieking hunter with a mub hanging off his nose. It brought down the house. The crowd erupted with howling, snorting, snarling laughter. Nearly all of them also began pantomiming the hunter, including several in the boss mothers entouage.   

       “Blinking eye, you are like finding a sleeping kab!” This sort of metaphor for unexpected good fortune – finding a large and dangerous prey animal sleeping – was typical for brakkas. Isis recognized it from her previous job. “I want your joke many times!” Even as she said it, Isis could hear the joke being retold at least four places around the room. The boss mother wiped her nose on her fur. “Now tell me the message you have.”   

       “You know, at my nest we have a place where the ships land,” said Isis. “A good safe place. But there are some coming who do not want to land at our place. They do not want to come first to my nest and pay respects to my boss mother.” Respects was actually a use fee, and her ‘boss mother’ was actually a council of several human males, but there was no need to quibble. “They want to land at the old place by the lake.” Isis indicated the general direction of the lake with her head. “These ones are sleepy, used to dead food,” she went on, employing brakka metaphors. “These ones think they will wake up and piss in the sun. They think it will be an easy thing to take their cargo into town.” Isis shrugged. “Maybe it will be an easy thing.”   

       The boss mother was still in a good mood. “But maybe it will be not easy,” proposed the boss mother. “Maybe the sleepy ones need help?” she asked. “The sleepy ones will pay us for help!” she asserted. Isis shifted where she stood. That was not at all what she had intended. “Maybe brakkas can keep them so safe,” the Boss Mother went on, watching Isis closely. She looked up at one of her attendants who waggled in agreement. “It is good that you told us of these sleepy ones who will pay us for help, Blinking Eye.”   

       Isis took a breath. “Boss mother…” she began.   

       Suddenly, the assembled brakkas again bellowed with laughter. To the brakkas, Isis’ discomfort at the direction of the conversation had been as obvious as that of the male with the stuffed pelt in his jaws. “My joke!” hooted the Boss Mother. “I can also tell a joke! No, we will eat the best parts of the sleepy ones who have no respect!” Around her, the laughing brakkas were doing credible pantomimes of Isis herself, shifting uncomfortably, mouths made small in concern.   

       Isis wiped the sweat from her brow. This boss mother was indeed smarter than the brakkas she was used to. She again made a deep curtsey. “Boss Mother, your joke was even better than mine. I hope that we will tell jokes again soon.”   

       The boss mother made some indecipherable motion and the other brakkas in the room resumed their activities; grooming and retelling the jokes they had heard. The conversation was now private. “Come closer,” she said. “I will tell you what I think.” Isis walked closer, confident that Augi was watching through her eyes for any unexpected fast moves.   

       “I think you and the little white mub are much alike, with your fast surprise bite,” said the boss mother. Her eyes glittered. “But I think I know why the mubs chose the oldest and weakest of them to hold the hunter while they fled. I think I know what is next on her path.” The boss mother lifted her nose, smelling the air. “What is next on your path, Blinking Eye?” The boss mother leaned back and closed her eyes, and her males immediately began to groom her again. The audience was over.   

       Outside the nest, Isis made her way through the cool night through the place in the vacant lot where she had left her shoes. “How could the boss mother know the path of the mub from your joke?” she said, the voice of Augi speaking through her mouth. “You invented that joke this morning.”   

       Isis slipped her shoes back on and set off through the dark. “I don’t think it’s a very funny joke anymore,” she said quietly.
bungston, Mar 01 2013
  

       (+)
normzone, Mar 01 2013
  

       Kudos [bungston]. All bow down in awe and appreciation. Thanks, made my day. (more? more?)
AusCan531, Aug 18 2013
  

       Any more episodes [bungston]? Any change of name considered in light of recent political events in the MidEast?
AusCan531, Nov 10 2014
  

       I have not thought about these 2 for a while. Thanks for churning it back up!
bungston, Nov 10 2014
  

       Both hands darted over the surface of the pad, a crayon in each. Isis leaned forward, eyes fixed on the emerging images on the pad’s surface, never looking up at the line of cargo rockets it was supposed to depict. After a peremptory summons, she had been kept waiting for her audience with the council and so was killing time with Augi. For a machine, Augi was unusual. It was curious, and interested, and also very old. She knew there existed others but she had never encountered one, as far as she knew. Augi’s vocabulary was not adequate to convey its original purpose, but it was apparently not closely related to its current function augmenting Isis. Isis got the idea that this original purpose had been fairly boring. Certainly not as exciting as drawing lessons.   

       She leaned back and stretched her hands. It was the eighth rendition in three minutes. Augi had discarded the previous seven at various stages of completion, launching directly into the next. She suspected that it had stopped with this one because Isis’ hands were cramping up. Isis looked up at the rockets, then down at the variously shaded triangles and curving lines that occupied the page. “Does that look like rockets to you?” she asked.   

       “In some ways, this is like rockets,” Augi said through her mouth. “In most ways, this is flat paper that is unlike rockets.”   

       To Isis, the picture was only vaguely like rockets, which made her wonder again how Augi interpreted the signals it detected coming through her own eyes. It used her nerves and sensory organs, but not her brain. Isis picked up a crayon and outlined what she suspected was intended to represent the rocket nearest to them. “Saying the word ‘rocket’ is even less like these rockets. But I know what it means. Tell me about the rocket with the picture.” She outlined another rocket, and shaded in the edge of the pink one.   

       “It is difficult to depict the whole within the limits of the paper,” Augi said as Isis modified the picture.   

       “It may not be possible,” answered Isis. She shaded the sky blue and green, leaving white spaces for two clouds. “Choose one aspect. Ignore the rest.”   

       “Explain ‘ignore’,” asked Augi. Isis paused at this. At that moment a uniformed teenager arrived to tell her that the assembled council was ready to receive her. He picked up the pages that littered the ground around her, tidying up.   

       “Each aspect is a part of the whole. Break it into parts,” said Isis out loud. “Keep the parts you want. Ignore the rest.”   

       The young man looked uncertainly at Isis as she spoke, then at the papers he had collected. “Um, I do kind of like this one.” He held up a page of swirled crescents and smiled shyly.   

       Isis smiled back and followed him past the rocket ships. Loader rigs and workers moved around them. Business was good at the spaceport. And her recent mission to the south lake nest had been a success, which was auspicious for her further employment. Or mostly a success – after one disastrous nighttime encounter with the brakkas, the Valusians had given up on the old landing site by the lake. Unfortunately, it would seem they had given up on the planet entirely, as opposed to moving their business to Isis’ employers as had been expected. Isis rolled this over in her mind. She had been to Valusia a few times. Valusians were human by DNA but their ancestors had left Earth in the human diaspora, millennia ago. They could be hard to predict.   

       Sometimes the council assembled with only three members. Today, however, there was nearly a full house; seven of them – four regulars, the alien lady and two other humans she did not recognize. Isis looked more closely at one of the two men – he held his eyes wide open in a way that made him look surprised. Had she seen him before?   

       They were seated in a semicircle on a high bench that wrapped around the room. Isis walked to the open end and made a curtsey. “Council members,” she said. Then she waited.   

       Gradley was one of the regulars, nominally the leader. The only expression Isis had ever seen him use was one of wry amusement. He looked at her, wryly amused. “Your friends the brakkas in south lake province have been busy,” he said. “They have taken over the four adjacent nest territories. Four nests, four days.” He made a moue.   

       “That is busy,” replied Isis. She thought. It did not seem very brakkalike, either. Usually it was one nest per queen. “How about the mine?”   

       Gradley looked slightly less amused. “How about it?”   

       “It’s right there.” When no reply was forthcoming, Isis spoke again. “Just curious.”   

       “Brakkas don’t care about the mine. The curious thing,” said Gradley, “is that these brakkas credit you for their conquests. “   

       Isis bit her lower lip. On cue, Augi blocked her sympathetic surge: pupils undilated, hairs lowered, sweat ceased to flow. “You know, I’ve only been to that south lake nest one time. You sent me.” She looked over the assembled council, then inclined her head towards Gradley. “Shall I go back?”   

       “Nothing for you now. Except go see this brakkas that came. It brought presents for our mama boss, or whatever. And something for you.” Gradley waved towards the gate. She would meet it there. A brakka would not be allowed inside the colony fence.   

       Isis waited a moment, standing before the council. When nothing was forthcoming she curtseyed again and left. Trotting towards the gate, Isis thought about the man who had sat with the council. “I feel like I have seen him before,” she said out loud. “The new man, two back from Gradley.”   

       “You have seen him,” said Augi.   

       “Where?” asked Isis. She asked even though she knew it was pointless to ask. Augi was terrible with names and even worse with time.   

       “I do not know how to tell you,” said Augi. “I could show you,”   

       Isis raised an eyebrow. “Show me how?” she asked. “Not a drawing, I hope.”   

       “Not a drawing,” said Augi. “I will show you now. Be ready.”   

       And she was on Valusia. Everyone in town came out at night after the heat of the day. She pushed through the crowded street, feeling sweat in the small of her back, strange spices lingering on her tongue. Her clothes did not fit: sheath pants, the fashion in the capitol – stolen in haste, and too tight. Hair fell into her eyes and she pushed it back – it had been longer then. She shouldered her way through the crowd, looking over her shoulder. What was she looking for? Why did she feel so sick? She remembered – that animal they kept had bitten her. Augi was keeping her going but the nausea chemoreceptors were deep and out of Augi’s reach. Perfume from the flower trees lining the road was cut by the bitter smell of burnt food coming from a cart. A group of teenagers brushed by her, making her stumble. She was a passenger in her own body, feeling herself move her own legs, turn her head. A woman shouted ahead of her.   

       And she was back in the colony. Isis looked around, dazed. “I used to have a butt,” she muttered. “Are we working out too much?”   

       “Did you see him?” asked Augi   

       Isis took a deep breath. “That was two years ago!” exclaimed Isis, collecting her composure. “Augi!” She paced around in agitation. “You can do that? Play it back? I didn’t know you kept things! Why did you keep that?”   

       “I keep all of that,” said Augi carefully.   

       Isis shook her head. “I didn’t know you kept everything. Anything! How is there space for everything?” she asked, tapping the silver choker with a fingernail.   

       “There is more space than everything,” answered Augi. “Did you see him?”   

       Isis hesitated, thinking. “No,” answered Isis. “There was so much going on. Kind of overwhelming.”   

       “Ignore the much,” said Augi. “Again?”   

       Isis readied herself. “Again.”   

       The same night, the same crowd, replayed. Exactly the same, as she had experienced it the first time. And the second time. The same vendor, brandishing a stick of burnt meat behind his cart. She saw the teenagers up the road and knew the curly haired one would jostle her in passing. Beside an ornate building with tapering pillars was a group of soldiers. One eyed her and smiled, looking her up and down. Behind him an older man who might be an officer talked to a man in dress uniform. The man in dress uniform had a surprised look in his eyes, but his mouth was grim. Her head turned, looking away before she was ready.   

       And she was standing in the afternoon sun of the spaceport. “Did you see him?” asked Augi.   

       “This time I did,” she answered. “Thank you Augi. That is a good trick to remember.” She mulled over the Valusian. Why would a Valusian be sitting with the council? Some sort of military officer, no less?   

         

       At the gate, several armed guards kept a respectful distance from the large brakka female. It wriggled in delight on seeing her, scampering across the floor. “Blinking Eye; Half Sister!” it exclaimed. “I am glad to bring you thanks and a joke and a present! Your wisdom has been good for us!” The brakka was like no brakka Isis had ever seen. It was outrageously fluffy, its fur washed and bouncy. It reeked of liliacs and lavender.   

       “Have I met you?” asked Isis cautiously?   

       “You fought me then taught me,” exclaimed the female. “Taught of soap, this wonder. We are like water now! No-one can smell us; no-one knows us. With the power of soap, we have eaten the females and taken the males of many a nest.” The big females fluffy fur bounced as it turned a full circle in its enthusiasm, as though it was chasing its tail. The guards watched cautiously, suppressing their smiles at this fluffy brakka.   

       “No-one can smell you,” repeated Isis. She deduced that the brakkas could not smell the floral shampoos they must have been using. This brakka sure was delighted about it.   

       The brakka suddenly moved close, startling the guards. Isis stood her ground, confident in Augi’s ability to move her out of danger if needed. It produced a purselike satchel and out of it took a pair of boots. They were human boots, for a female her size. Isis took them. “These go under and over your soft feet, Blinking Eye,” said the brakka. “Now: you will walk far in these.” The boots were not new. Isis wondered about their prior owner.   

       “And one more thing the Boss Mother sends for you,” it continued. It stopped wiggling around the room and looked steadily at her. “Why did the chicken cross the road?”   

       “I don’t know,” answered Isis. “Why did the chicken cross the road?”   

       “Because it was afraid,” answered the brakka. It paused for a moment to watch Isis’ reaction, then wheeled about and made for the door. “Hunt well, Blinking Eye!” it shouted. Then it was gone.   

       The guards looked at her curiously. “It was afraid?” one asked. “How is that a joke?”   

       “I don’t think that was the joke,” replied Isis. She pulled the boots on, nodded to the guards and walked out.   

         

         

       Back in her quarters, Isis hurriedly filled a backpack. Of the cargo rockets which had been lined up earlier, two remained. If she played her cards right she could be aboard one of them when it left.   

       “Do not forget some crayons,” said Augi through her mouth.
bungston, Feb 21 2015
  

       ^ :)
AusCan531, Feb 21 2015
  

       Isis walked across the stone flags of what passed as a spaceport, accompanied by the sound of tinkling bells. Gom was a backwater with a reputation as a bad place for offworlders. It would not have been her choice of destinations but it was remote and under the circumstances, that was all that mattered. Regardless, Isis was going to have to work up some capital to get a ride anywhere else. Her skillset lent itself to stealth and she was not averse to occasional thievery in a time of need, but it quickly became clear that subtlety was not going to be easy here. Although the populace of Gom were human stock from the human diaspora, the founder effect and isolation had made for considerable divergence. The Gomi were large, hirsute, and androgynous to the point that Isis could not tell the genders apart. Despite this, and despite the fact that the beige wrappers worn by the natives were always damp with sweat, Isis found that the Gomi did not smell bad or sweaty. They smelled like baking bread, a strong yeasty smell that also emanated from virtually every structure of any size.   

       Isis learned these things about the natives because on spotting her they would rush out, wanting to touch her and offer her food. The touching she could have done without although the Gomi were invariably delicate, touching her as one would touch something which might tip over or break. Isis was roughly the same size (but half the weight) of a Gom preteen and after spotting one she quickly purchased a wrap of beige material in hopes of blending in a little better. Or would have purchased; the delighted vendor (whom she could not understand, and whose extended family gathered to watch the transaction) made clear that she (he?) would accept no payment. The vendor also insisted that she have a piece of fresh bread from the oven in back. By then it was her fifth piece of the day at least. It was becoming clear to her why the Gom got so big. The stuff was buttery and delicious.   

       A little less conspicuous, Isis walked quickly down the road towards the town center. She was not going to go hungry but it irked her not to have a role, and she wanted employment. The village was comprised of irregular small one and two story stone buildings. Large quadrupeds meandered about, usually a mother with one or more young. The Gomi did not say much, and although many were about they seemed to communicate with a lot of gestures and touching. Despite this, it was not quiet. Bells were everywhere; tied to pinwheels in hopes of a breeze, attached to the clothing, and even on some of the animals. It seemed peaceful but Isis could not shake a vague discomfort. Something felt wrong. It was hard to put a finger on it.   

       A very large Gom, walking slowly along and singing or humming a tune, spotted her and moved to block her path. He (she?) was half again as tall as Isis, with a piece of bread and some sort of long cigar in one hand, and a stick covered with bells and rings in the other. Clearly the singer was delighted to see her, her eyes widening as though she had seen a rainbow or a rare bird although she (he?) continued the song uninterrupted. Isis was ready for more touching, and wondered if she would be asked to taste the bread. Instead, the Gom handed her the tall bell stick and began to shimmy around her, singing and smoking. After each puff on the cigar she blew the smoke onto Isis. She smiled at the strangeness of it, and at the Gom’s obvious good intentions. The smoke smelled like toasted cheese and she wondered if the cigar was actually a burning sandwich. After a full circuit around her, the Gom reached into her beard, or possibly chest hair, and withdrew a small bell which it very gently clipped to her sleeve. Then she retrieved her stick and moved on, singing and jingling.   

       Isis hurried down the road to escape the populace who had emerged from their stone houses, bread in hand, to watch this interaction. Her bell tinkled. “I got a bell, Augi,” she said, mostly to hear words out loud. Her unease persisted.   

       Near the center of town Isis encountered some sort of caravan assembling. Isis found one of the Gom who could speak a few words she understood. She tried to explain her worth to the party as regards possibly defending from thieves or wild beasts. All the Gomi loading up the caravan stopped what they were doing and paid close attention. They seemed appreciative but she was not at all sure she was making herself clear. Finally she held up her hands, stepped back and did a full backflip, landing on her feet. That clinched it – the delighted Gomi including the furry gray caravan leader gathered around her smiling, touching her shoulders and singing little bits of song. It was clear she was welcome, although Isis remained unclear about the terms of her employment. Among the various items handed to her was a bag of coins and she suspected she was being paid in advance. Or possibly this was payment for doing the flip.   

       That same day the caravan set off into the wilderness. Travel was slow; they rode mounted on very large and placid camel-like quadrupeds with young camels gamboling alongside. It was not clear to Isis how long the trip was expected to be nor could she elicit this information. The trip was monotonous to the point of boring. Insect life was minimal and animal life nearly nonexistent, the exception being occasional large quadrupeds which were apparently the wild counterpart of their own mounts. Sometimes these would come out and amble along with their own animals before drifting back into the underbrush. They occasionally passed abandoned stone structures, some of them larger than any she had seen back in the town. At points the road was also paved with stones. These relics were traversed without comment or interest by the Gomi. Isis wondered if there had at some earlier point been more to this world than was now the case.   

       As far as she could tell she was the only warrior in the party or at least, like her, none of the Gomi were armed, even with knives. At sundown each night there was a fire, quiet singing and a meal of bread, fresh milk from their animals and green vegetables. Each night the same unintelligible songs were sung but by different individuals of the several smokers in the party, verses punctuated by puffs of smoke and an occasional cough. This continued late, or possibly all night long and Isis fell asleep each night to the quiet jingling and singing. It quickly became clear that there were in fact no warriors at all in the party, including herself: Isis had been taken on not to fight but out of a need to alleviate boredom. Each night and sometimes at breaks during the day it was apparent that the party hoped to see another flip. Isis expanded her repertoire, inventing a move where a large Gom named Lona would throw her into the air. She would then, to the amazement of all, do flips and twists on the way down before landing on her feet. Much of these were things Isis could have done without Augi’s help but her juggling benefitted greatly from the AI’s preternatural speed.   

       Various party members tried to emulate her in various ways. Lona kept trying to teach himself (herself?) to juggle. Once a young Gom had tried to do a flip but landed sprawling and nearly in the fire. Isis almost laughed out loud but suppressed this after seeing the earnest concern by the other Gomi that the young man (woman?) had been hurt in the effort. On seeing this Isis was a little ashamed – why had she thought a person getting hurt was funny? She was, however, amused to note that within days, nearly all of the Gomi had switched and rode sidesaddle as she did, although Isis herself rode that way only because of the tremendous girth of her mount.   

       Sidesaddle also made it easier to drop to the ground and run, as she frequently felt the urge to do. Out in the wilderness, Isis’ sense of foreboding did not abate. It became more pronounced. If other offworlders shared this sensation she could understand why Gom was generally shunned. Although the benign-seeming Gomi remained respectfully fascinated by her, she was increasingly tense and aware. As they traversed a region of low shrubs and rocky outcrops which might have been ruins, Augi spoke for the first time in several days.   

       “I perceive your suffering,” it said quietly.   

       “I am not suffering,” she replied.   

       “You prepare yourself,” Augi answered. “You prepare to fight.”   

       It was true. Isis thought a moment. “It is good to be prepared,” she told the AI. Ahead of them, one of the singers in the party had stopped his mount along the side of the path. As each person passed, he sang to them, shaking his bells and blowing smoke from his cheese sandwich. Isis smiled back at him, relaxing a little. “Maybe I need to smoke one of those cheese burritos?” she asked quietly, smiling. No reply was forthcoming from the AI. Augi had learned to identify a rhetorical question and did not take the bait.   

         

       Isis suddenly awoke. She stood in a half crouch, hands clenched in fists. She felt like she was on a branch, about to fall; adrenaline surged through her veins and her breathing came ragged and short. The only sound was the pounding of her own heart in her ears. All of the Gomi slept, either against the low stone wall where they had made camp or slumped in front of the dwindling fire.   

       Augi spoke through her mouth. “I had to wake you but could not. There are animals gathering here.”   

       Isis looked over the row of sleepers. The remains of their fire glimmered. A little ways off she could see their mounts standing in the underbrush. There was nothing else.   

       “Augi,” she said through clenched teeth. “There is nothing here.”   

       “Yes,” countered the AI. “There are many. You perceive them.”   

       “How?” demanded Isis. “Animals? I don’t see them. ” She leapt forward, wheeling her fists around in the air, meeting no resistance. “Do I smell them?”   

       “You perceive them in the same way you perceive all things of this kind,” replied the AI. “These are the animals that travel with us. Every day you perceive them.”   

       “What?” demanded Isis, her temper short from the surging hormones. She scanned back and forth, the hair prickling on her neck from the adrenaline and from the weirdness of the situation. “Invisible animals are stalking us? Could you have mentioned something?”   

       “You perceived them. Almost all things are perceived but not mentioned.”   

       Augi cut off her reply, something which almost never happened. “These animals are causing this sleep, I think,” said Augi. “They mean us harm.”   

       “Ok, Ok.” Isis inhaled through her nose. It had never been so clear. She could smell herself; the sharp scent of adrenaline sweat. “Can you, maybe, make it so I perceive them better? Can you change how I perceive them? Make them not invisible?”   

       Abruptly, the world changed. The ground fell away and Isis was immersed in a tangible world of shifting colors and things that could have been colors. Things that wanted to be colors. A strange sky or maybe the inside of a hole wheeled overhead. Isis heard a shrieking noise and realized it was coming from her.   

       The world snapped back. “That caused you suffering,” observed the AI.   

       “Yes,” said Isis. “We need to practice that later.” She shook her head and exhaled, listening to her pounding heart. “OK. Augi, I’m up now. Can you turn off the juice please? I can’t think.”   

       Suddenly she was back awake, teeth chattering. She stood where she had been, Augi having prevented her from collapsing when she fell asleep. This time, in addition to the adrenaline she was ragingly hungry. And horny. “Augi what the heck!” she demanded furiously. But behind the chemical jangle was something else – something seductive.   

       “Isis, I cannot keep you awake,” said the AI. “Run.”   

       “We can’t leave these guys! The animals will get them!” It felt so good to move. She ran yowling up to Lona’s sleeping form and planted a sound kick on her back. “Lona, you lump! Get up!” No movement came. She leapt from body to body, screaming and kicking them.   

       “Stop.” said Augi. And stopped her. Isis could not distinguish the adrenaline from real panic. “Again,” said Augi.   

       Isis was confused. She had just kicked one of the singers. “Kick him again?”   

       “Yes,” said Augi. “There is a change.” Isis could feel it. She could perceive no invisible monsters but the beckoning murmur which threatened to claim her had receded, just a little. She got a run up and kicked the sleeper again, rolling him over with the force of the blow.   

       “Can you perceive the change?” asked Augi.   

       “Maybe,” said Isis. “But this poor guy. I can’t just beat him up. Why would these animals…” She looked over the sleeper. There was not a handsbreadth of his garment that did not have a little bell tied to it. “Ah.” Quickly, she stripped the yeasty smelling cloak from the sleeper, throwing it over her own shoulders with a shimmer of sound. She snatched up his ring staff and began leaping over and around the line of sleepers, swinging the staff as though she could strike the unseen things around them.   

       “Augi, that song? How does it go?” And in her ears, she could hear it. She even recognized the voice: it was the huge singer from the village who had pinned the bell to her. She sang along, missing words the first time through but getting it right on the second. She sang a duet with Augi’s playback of her experience, singing a counterpoint to the singer’s remembered tune as she leapt about with the staff and cloak. With the adrenaline coursing through her veins, leaping and singing she was transported to another time, long ago, when she had raced alongside her sisters, singing their song. The song she sang became that song. She could feel it working.   

       It took some time but then, as one, the sleepers sat up, turning to stare at Isis bounding about in the borrowed cloak, singing at the top of her lungs. The Gomi were wide eyed and frightened, touching each other for reassurance as they gathered around the fire. Isis stopped her singing and handed the bell cloak and staff back to its shaggy owner, who was rubbing his side in a puzzled manner.   

       Lona stepped up to her. “Isis…” he said, struggling with the words. “Did you.. see? What.. see?”   

       Isis hesitated. Unprompted, Augi lifted her arms slowly and then put her hands together, raising them in a quick flickering movement like a bird in flight or smoke flickering from a fire. Somehow it was threatening at the same time, as though her hands had become part of something larger and unseen. Something that could move fast and bite. Isis had never seen this movement before. Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth in surprise, an expression simultaneously made by each and every one of the Gomi. Immediately all the smokers began singing and jingling bells in unison, their voices then joined by all of the others in the party.   

       Isis whispered below their voices. “Augi – what was that?”   

       “In almost all ways, that was moving hands,” the AI replied. “But in one way that was like the creatures we perceived.”   

       Isis said nothing. She thought about this. It was the first time the AI had used the term “we”.
bungston, Feb 14 2016
  

       Damn, [bungston], this story is getting awesome!
neutrinos_shadow, Feb 16 2016
  
      
[annotate]
  


 

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