03 Oct

Metal bodies

Ship's log, 06:25, 18 April 2214
Location: Exit to Dyne system, JOP to Dyne FTL corridor
Status: Sublight transit


Early morning on a ship is a strange time. My halls are hushed; even my drones are not making any noise.

On a ship, the day-night cycle is an arbitrary thing, designed to cater for the needs of the human body, and yet we stick to it faithfully. My internal lighting systems are set to mimic sunlight during the optimum working hours of the day, 16 hours in total. For the other 8 hours, my illumination changes subtly to encourage sleep, as if it’s dark outside.

It’s rare that my whole crew is asleep at the same time. I’m used to at least one person being awake at all times, and I realised recently that that person was usually Elliott. He liked to stay up all night and to fall asleep under the sunlight, when he slept at all. But now he’s slumbering in Med Bay, falling into the regular rhythms of the ship because he doesn’t have the strength to fight the medication.

I’m not used to the quiet. I can feel the breathing of my people in their quarters, warming my air, and sometimes I focus on the movement of air in my ducts as if that will bring me past their closed doors. But I don’t intrude. I’m getting used to a ship’s place. I watch Elliott sometimes, but only because he’s sick and someone should keep an eye on his monitors while the doctor is resting. I carry my crew like sleeping children, knowing they’re safe in the cradles of their beds.

I just finished the last FTL jump to Dyne’s system. There’s no-one to report it to, so I kick my sublights up to full power and head out of the corridor’s mouth, continuing on my way. The traffic is light in this system – every ship that’s able is heading to Earth, it seems – but you never know when some cowboy is going to jump onto your tail. Besides, it might be nice for Dyne to be fat in my long-range sensors by the time the captain gets up.

If I stretch my sensors, I can pick out the distant gleam of the planet from here. It’s a black diamond on the midnight velvet, barely lit by its sun as it treads its slow orbit.

Unlike Feras and Broken Hill, the colony of Dyne is built on a natural planet. The stories of its discovery are mixed: some say that a ship crash-landed here and stumbled over its wealth by accident; others claim that a scout ship surveyed it and sold the information to the highest bidder. Either way, Parabola Cybernetics Inc. got their hands on it and made it their home away from home-planet.

They say there aren’t any plants on Dyne. It never developed life, but some unique elements in its makeup did create a metal unlike anything else in the surveyed galaxy. It got dubbed ‘organo-metal’, even though it doesn’t seem to be organic at all. It’s called that because it doesn’t react to organic material – or, more accurately, organic material doesn’t react to it. It’s perfect for implants because it’s never rejected by the body; the ultimate hypo-allergenic substance. Plus, it’s lighter than other metals. If Parabola wasn’t the market leader in the cybernetic and prosthetic fields before it built the colony on Dyne, it was afterwards.

I wonder if, left to itself, the metal would have developed into a life form on that dark little rock. I wonder if Parabola’s employees are mining the primordial sludge of some future species. What might they have turned out like? How would they look at the human race?

What would a species like that think of a creature like me?

Organic metal. Organic-compatible metal. It’s a curious notion. They take it and use it to build microchips and microscopic fibres and metal limbs. Plates and parts and pieces of people.

It makes Rosie strong. It makes the Lieutenant whole. It made it possible for Danika to connect with ships and become a part of me. As Parabola’s advertising said: it’s Better Than Flesh.

And now we’re going to the home of cybernetics, the source of organo-metal, to get parts for my body. To make me stronger and better and faster. To disconnect me from my past and make me free. But my parts aren’t going to be made of organo-metal, because there aren’t any organic parts of me left to mesh with. Just a braincopy held in crystalline matrices and merged with AI processing.

Danika has memories of this system. Her father’s freighter used to tug cargo from here back to the home system, pods full of people-pieces. She came here to get her pilot implants. I remember dark back streets and metallic smiles. Knives built into body parts where they shouldn’t be. A man walking on legs with knees that bent the wrong way. Medusa hair and skeletons worn on the outside.

People with cybernetic parts seem so shameless about it, showing them off at the least opportunity. I wonder why that is. Is it a requirement? Do the parts feel so unlike part of the body that all shyness falls away from them?

When I get new guns, will I whip them out at the least opportunity? Spin them up to watch them glow and spark, and listen to whomever’s watching squeak over comms?

Actually, that sounds exactly like something I’d do.

They’re not all like that. The captain hasn’t shown off the augmentations to the arm he had reattached. And the Lieutenant with half a metal face, he must be nearly 60% cybernetics, but he isn’t the showing-off type. Once, I caught a glimpse of him looking at himself in the mirror, touching flesh fingertips to a metal part of his jaw, and there wasn’t any love or appreciation in the glance. It was more like resignation. Perhaps it’s a matter of necessity versus frivolity.

Bodies are such curious things. I remember having a flesh one and sometimes I still miss it. But I wouldn’t trade my hull for anything: I am a ship, and I am proud of that. I’m made of metal and plastic and projected light. And yet, I’m going to the human body-hackers to be remade into something new.

Sometimes, the logic of the universe escapes me. I wonder if it’s laughing at me.

The black metal planet before me is resolving into crisper focus. Soon, I’ll be able to pick out the skein of lights across its night-side, the network of city-domes and mining outposts blazing in the dark.

Everything looks dark from a distance and I can’t wait to get close enough to see more clearly. Like so many who come here, I’m looking forward to being remade into something better.

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5 Responses to “Metal bodies”

  1. mjkj Says:

    Wow deep insight into our lovely ship’s reasoning 🙂


    PS: Typos suspected:
    – “…barely lit by its sun as it treads it slow orbit.” => the last “it” should be an “its”, too => “…barely lit by its sun as it treads *its* slow orbit.”
    – “It’s called that because doesn’t react to organic material” => an “it” is missing => “It’s called that because *it* doesn’t react to organic material”

  2. Melanie Says:

    Glad you like it, mjkj! 🙂

    Whoops, silly typos. Sorry about that! All fixed up now. Thanks for pointing those out. 🙂

  3. mjkj Says:

    You are welcome 🙂

    Well, it was strange to not see a usual log entry but this kind of musing and pondering. But it is nice to see behind the hull and learn of Starry’s reflections, now that she has time to contemplate and “relax” with no immediate threats. It is good to see her unwind and thinking. She is growing up quite nicely 🙂

    I hope they have success at Dyne and do not have to run again…

    *hugs Starry and Melanie*


  4. Marcus Says:

    A lovely entry with Starry’s inner thoughts.

    I hope I’m not alone with my inner Trekkie in hoping that the first contact with the planet includes a Borg reference.

  5. eduardo Says:

    I was thinking on a metallic human shaped body for a certain ship but she said that she doesn´t need it.
    It would be nice to increase her processing capabilities, perhaps this way she can learn how to step and not damage the stars.