Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Tech

Endless Horizons - Flatline: Tech

Tso didn’t exactly luxuriate. But he did relax.  Hernando had given him a state room a little further away from the rest, telling others that it was because he didn't want anyone bothered by all the computers, fans and blinking lights.

That was partially true. One wall of the room was racks of cobbled together electronics. Wires dangled from the removed ceiling panels where he’d installed cooling vents that pushed warm air out into the bulkheads.  Sets of tables adorned the rest of the room, it was like some kind of mad scientist’s lab. Equipment was strewn everywhere, wires and welds, tools lay out everywhere and in rolling racks. It seemed like the bed was a complete afterthought.


For an entire day, outside of wandering to the infirmary to check on Six and Lenny, Tso was working on his latest project.  It was a sort of heavy synth-weave piece of armor. At first glance, it seemed similar to his current piece, a fashionable loadout armor that doubled as a flak jacket.

On closer inspection though were the embedded cord-weaves that lay under the armor. A wrap of filament mesh that could carry digital signal. The encoding he used was from a dead computer language, spliced together with an encoded military system.  He had labored over it for the last few days, and it was almost ready.

“Guin, testdrive time.”

“Loading.  Sync complete.”

Tso shrugged into the armor.  Buckling in the plates and tightening the straps.  It had cost a pretty penny, custom fabricated and shaped just for him. The gloves were a delicate part of the operation, as were the boots. But after a few minutes everything fit and attached properly.

“Guin.  Sync.”

The entire armor thrummed slightly, a handful of status lights along the arm lit themselves, his compy synced and winding threads of energy danced up and down the armor.

The compy warbled and then Guin’s voice filled not only the room from the rack, but also from hidden emplacement speakers that rested right alongside his neck.

“Control completed. Ready to begin the test.”

Tso crossed his arms. They felt just a touch heavy, resistive.

“Alright, begin.  What did you pick?”

“Something you’ll be amused by.  Art.” Spoke Guin.  He could almost imagine her half-smile, even though he couldn’t see the holo-projection from the rack.

It was the strangest feeling, but his right arm extended and picked up a carbon-stick from the table.  His left one settled a piece of filament-parchment and with an almost unearthly feeling, began moving.  They were not the neat, ordered and angular lines that Tso was used to with his own movements. Instead Guin’s interface drove his fingers through the gloves, applying pressure here and there, redirecting what his natural instincts would have been.

Tso hadn’t painted since he was a student, it was an alien experience for someone used to math and measurement. Her strokes were broader, but remarkably skilled as she moved across the page.  The experience alien, Tso closed his eyes, and allowed her to continue manipulating his body.  Time stretched out in a strange way, and though still tense in his mind, Tso allowed his shoulders and fingers to relax.  Four times Guin exchanged one carbon stick for another, near the end she began drawing with his left hand as well, another new sensation.

Finally she finished.  Tso opened his eyes and flexed, had he slept? He didn’t know.

“How was it?”  The arm compy was already tabulating results and information onto the holo-projected charts from the Rack.  Latency numbers and math danced.

“Non-intrusive correctives are down to 0.2 ms, still beyond acceptable tolerances.  Micro-electric telemetry is now within tolerance. Responsiveness still requires some attention. Sensor 2241 failed about three minutes into the test…” Guin continued, intoning out the results.

Tso’s mind drifted. The results of the test were still inconclusive, though he was already beginning to see what would require work over the coming week or two.

“Some of these issues will be solved with a mind-jack however.”

That was another point he conceded, but there hadn’t been time nor resources to undergo that procedure. Control through both compy, rack and microsensors was still too far behind.

But then he looked at the drawing Guin had done.

It was a sketch, filled in with clean lines and flowing coloured carbon. It was a woman, sitting cross-legged, facing away.  Hugging herself.  Drifting splashes of colour adorned her back that looked strangely like the stars out past the Ruby Fields.

“Guin?” he asked.  “What’s this?”

The AI was silent.

“You drew this?  What does it mean?”

A shuffle step followed by small tap interrupted him.  Jacobs, by the sound of the cane.

Tso shrugged out of the armor, removed the gloves and tossed them on the far side of the room to another work bench.

“Kid?”

“Yeah?”

Tso opened the door to admit the old officer.  He had the smell of rye about him, not unusual.

“Came to see if you wanted to play some cards. Keep Lenny some company in the med bay.”

“Sure, yeah.”

“What’s this?”  Jacobs was at the table now, looking at Guin’s painting.

“Nothing.”

“You drew this?” Jacobs’ eye looked at it critically.  “’S nice.”

“Whatever,” breezed Tso. “Let’s go play. Teach me a new game.”

They stepped out into the corridor, Tso locking his stateroom door behind him with a flick of his wrist compy.  A small flask of rum and a pack of fresh Yuehan’s in his pocket, him and the old grizzled vet made their way back to the Med Bay.  But Tso’s mind was on the image of the woman.

"After"/ by Carmel Jenkin/   Mixed media on paper, 81cm x 57cm