Friday, February 16, 2018


Bobby Derie

Liquid water, distilled and tasteless, is available in every bar in the system. That way no matter what variety of carbon-based lifeform you might be, you can purchase your alcohol in quantity and then dilute it as necessary to avoid poisoning yourself. Strictly a bring-your-own-bag game, where you pay by the milliliter.

I was drinking with a Cloraxian - that's not what they call themselves, it's just what humans call them because they give off traces of ammonia as a by-product of perspiration - each out of our own bag. I had some hákarl back in my pod and was trying to get her - Cloraxians have two genders, although the specifics are a little more complicated than with Earth life - to come join me for a night of first contacts.

That was when the Televe got the drop on me.

There are places in Earth's oceans where the pressure is too great for any human to stand it, even with mechanical aid; but we can build drones that swim through the dark depths, relaying data back up to the surface. Now imagine if those drones were biological, and fucked and evolved over a few hundred million years to the careful guidance of those above. That's about what the Televe are: biological robots built up like domesticated pets, the three-dimensional part of fourth-dimensional entities.

This one was holding a gun.

I had done a little bit of business with the Televe. They didn't want much, as far as material goods; imagine if you could train a cow to sow and reap its own grain, but a million times more advanced. The fourth-dimensional intellects, though, were very interested in any technology that impinged on their sphere of influence - advanced physics, experiments in faster-than-light travel, singularities, that kind of thing - and they usually have some good material to trade. Unfortunately, the last batch of data I sent them might have been a little hot. Not that I knew that at the time, I was just trying to move it for somebody else. Unfortunately, "fixer" and "limited liability" as concepts didn't translate very well.

You don't want a Televe to draw on you. Their fourth-dimensional selves occupy or perceive, as near as folks can tell, a couple of seconds on either side of what we think of as "the present." A nice edge, when you can see what just happened or is going to happen. When they have the drop on you - which they usually do, because they can see what you're going to do - it's best not to make any sudden moves. Because, as fast as the reaction times for your species might be, you're trying to move faster than an entity that can already "see" how you're going to move and direct the Televe drone accordingly.

I sucked at my bag. The Televe screeched at me. The Cloraxian made herself scarce.

"Look, I didn't know it was stolen." It knew I would say that. I kinda wondered what their perception must really be like. It's not that time doesn't pass, but it's like they occupy more of it than we do, and less space. All a continuum, right? And information has to pass back and forth. We can see the Televe move in real time, see the start and stop of the movements. Since they start responding before the event occurs; their "reaction time" is effectively a negative value: how soon can they begin to respond? What most people don't ask, then, is if they're being puppeteered in something resembling real-time, or whether it's through some kind of program. The interface is still a bit of a mystery, and no Televe has agreed to be vivisected so scientists can figure it out.

Point being, though: once a Televe begins an action, it can't stop. This one dropped its gun and raised its hand in surrender. I caught a whiff of ammonia, and both I and the Televe looked up at the Cloraxian, who was hanging from the ceiling, brandishing a weapon. The Televe, it turns out, are still limited to the sensory apparatus of their bio-drones...who have a terrible sense of smell.

Good to know. Now I really do owe her some hákarl.


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