The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 17, Gannar Joins the Group
We rejoin our heroes on Aondoar where they met with Arioso two years after the Empire's attempt to wipe out the Quishonne was thwarted. They have said farewell to Aelwe and collected a handful of wires representing the Quishonne mystery drive.
We are gathered on the Nones for breakfast, and examining the resume for "Gannar," who answered a "help wanted" ad we posted on the net for a ship's navigator willing to sever all local ties.
We were expecting a more sophisticated version of the navigation program already installed on the Obscura. However, the resume includes descriptions of the applicant's hardware. Morniesul mentions that he's surprised that the Navigator has a body. He was expecting a spirit of the ship, so to speak.
Robbie asks the Nones to define some of the terms used in the resume. It explains than an "anoxia score" is a psionic pattern induced in the patient to increase resistance to oxygen depravation. Similarly, an "antiradiation score" increases resistance to radiation, and "senestasis" confers resistance to aging effects.
Morniesul says slowly, "This sounds more like a person than a device..."
Robbie, who has no doubt that there's a difference between persons and devices, and it has nothing to do with the composition of one's body, asks sharply, "What did you expect to get?"
"Something more like the Nones ... What happens ... How dependent on oxygen are you?"
"Not very," says Robbie. "My fuel cells use it, but I'm not dependent on them."
"What sort of creature would have such a score?"
The Nones replies, "It can be induced in any mammal."
Morniesul considers this, then asks, "What kind of being is this resume for?"
The Nones responds, "Shall I read the file? I haven't read your mail."
Morniesul waves his hand. "Certainly."
The Nones notes, with no discernible pause, "Edakoss is known as an android manufacturing center."
"Androids are human-like devices produced artificially. To use the phrase you used earlier, they are flesh and blood. Mr. Gannar is at least partially flesh and blood. I draw your attention to the line Tachygenetic tissue..."
Morniesul mulls this over, "And the rest of the hardware entries?"
"Paraphrasing is not a skill that I'm good at, but he has a built-in flight belt, diffusion belt and computer.
"Would this make him more or less vulnerable to attack? There are some attacks that have affected both the organic and mechanical members of this crew."
"It would depend on his organization. If the organic systems are taken out, he may be able to operate on the mechanical systems, and vice-versa. You would need to interview him sir."
"My, my, my. This is quite remarkable."
Before the conversation can go any further, there is a knock on the airlock. Dafnord opens it. He sees a person of middling height, athletic build and brown hair. His most arresting feature is his totally jet black eyes. He introduces himself as Mr. Gannar.
Morniesul gestures for him to join us. Fortunately, we've already put away the breakfast dishes. "Do come this way. I am Morniesul."
As the rest of us introduce ourselves, Robbie asks the Nones over his radio link to participate in the interview, if called upon. The Nones asks him to confirm that the standing order not to speak in front of guests is being overridden, and Robbie confirms it. After all, this is Aondoar, and we're interviewing an android.
After the round of introductions, Gannar says, "I apologize for coming unannounced, but your ad looked extremely inviting."
Morniesul looks at him inquisitively. "It did? How so?"
"I'm looking for a more ... interesting ... life."
Brunalf mutters, "You've come to the right place."
Gannar looks down at the speaker and says, "I can see that I have," staring at the talking cat. He doesn't look totally surprised, but he does look very interested.
Morniesul says, "We are travelers, merchants, and upon occasion, adventurers. The entire topic of manumission is very close to our hearts. Our entire reason for being in the Reach was to free my kinsman who had run afoul of the imperial custom of slavery."
"You are from ... outside ... the Reach?"
Markel replies, "Very far outside the Reach."
Morniesul continues, "In fact we are. Some of us are from further away than that suggests. I must confess, you take me somewhat by surprise."
Gannar looks puzzled. "You advertised for an AI navigator?"
"Yes. Are you an AI? For instance, we have Mr. Roberts here."
Morniesul's not quite clear what the term means, but he's willing to accept it as equivalent to "clockwork man." "Yes. There is the Nones. Nones...?"
The Nones responds over the ship's speakers, "Yes sir."
"There is the navigator on my own ship, which is not nearly the sharp wit that the Nones is."
Gannar asks, "Is it sentient?"
"Nones, the Obscura -- is it sentient?"
The Nones replies, "No sir."
Morniesul continues, "It had been my intention to upgrade the AI on the Obscura."
"Were you looking for an onboard computer?" Gannar asks.
Morniesul considers this, and then waves his hand. "I'm from very far away. I suppose so."
Gannar replies, "I can act as an onboard computer."
Morniesul pauses, and then says, "I'm dreadfully sorry. I don't know how to be polite in this situation. Courtesy is something quite important to my folk."
"Feel free to asks whatever you want. I assure you that I won't be insulted."
"I would have assumed that it would be incommodious to be ... disembodied."
"I wouldn't have to be disembodied."
"For example, if you were to give authorization, I could interface with your ship from here."
"Oh! We recently found ourselves in something of a small battle. I became greatly inconvenienced when all of the folk became stunned. I'm not particularly facile with all of these mechanical devices that you have in what you call this modern age. It was in large part the vulnerability that being in this situation caused me to want better help."
"I can keep my interface open to my computer center even if my brain in incapacitated."
Morniesul is more than a little unclear on the distinction between "computer" and "brain." "I've known Mr. Roberts for something over 5 years, and I confess that I still think of his computer center as something of a clockwork brain."
"It's a feature of the D88 series androids that we have a computer built in. Here." Gannar points to the right side of his head, just behind his ear.
Morniesul considers this, then asks, "Does this make you a collaboration rather than an individual?"
"No ... The computer center is as it were ... an additional brain lobe for me."
"Ah. It's not self sufficient."
"No. I can spawn a supervisory process ..." Gannar notices that Morniesul's eyes are glazing over. "You're not getting this are you? I can work at a reduced level of cognition if my brain is knocked out. If the stun is sufficiently heavy, my computer will be knocked off line, but it will reboot faster than my brain will recover."
"Exactly! So you're less vulnerable to stun than most organics."
Dafnord is finding this interview process less exciting than cleaning out his goop gun. In fact, now that he thinks of it, his goop gun is due for a cleaning. But before he goes, he wants to ask a few questions. "Can you operate in a vacuum?"
"How powerful a stun can you handle, without loss of functions?"
"I can tolerate stun levels as well as a human being without loss of function. It would take a stronger stun to disable my computer functions."
Morniesul breaks in once more. "What is a diffusion binder?"
"It allows me to operate in a vacuum."
"Oh! Like my watch."
Dafnord suggests, "The Nones should test his navigational abilities."
"Yes. However, I do have two follow-on questions. Is there some means of attack to which you are more vulnerable than those of us fleshy sort?"
Gannar replies slowly, "No... Though I understand that any organism can be targeted by designer diseases."
Dafnord asks, "How do you handle discontinuity."
"What kind of continuity?"
Robbie answers, "Temporal."
"I don't see any difficulty in the mere fact of time travel."
Before anyone else can get in a question, Morniesul says, "My other question. As you may have noticed, we're concerned about your vulnerability to attack. This is because we tend to be in places where we are attacked. How much of an obstacle would a certain amount of danger be?"
Morniesul grins, "Well, as long as your not crazy, we'll be fine."
"I have told you that I'm looking for a more interesting life."
Dafnord asks, "Your programming includes side arms?"
"Yes, and ship's guns, and hand-to-hand combat. I was a security monitor. It's in the resume."
No one seems to have any more questions at the moment, so Morniesul calls out, "Nones, do you think that you could do a credible job of evaluating his qualifications? You needn't include us in your communications."
There's no audible response from the Nones, but Gannar stands quietly staring off into space. Dafnord heads to the lower hold to clean out his goop gun. However, he keeps an "ear" on the interview over the net.
After about five minutes, the Nones announces that the test is complete and Gannar has passed. A screen to one side of the hold displays a list of questions, including many detailed technical questions we don't know how to interpret, never mind answer.
Morniesul asks if Gannar is psychic. "I have no psychic skills."
Dafnord sends, "We can fix that..." over the net.
Morniesul continues "You wouldn't be adverse to telepathy, would you?"
"No ... That would be very interesting."
"Good some of us are very ... private ... individuals."
Robbie asks Salimar to ping Gannar over the net. She contacts him and sends a grin and a "Hi there!" He looks surprised for the first time.
Just then, Markel shouts "Look out!" as a stick flies by, followed by a flying miniature dragon.
Gannar's hand twitches towards his right thigh. He visibly pauses, then remarks, "That was interesting."
Morniesul scowls. "Markel! I'm sorry. The ... animal ... is a little bit stir crazy," leaving it unclear whether he means the dragon or Markel.
But Gannar isn't talking about the dragon. "Thank you, if for nothing else, for the experience of telepathy."
"The position was envisioned as being navigator to the other ship. Would you be interesting seeing the other ship?"
"Yes, very much."
We troop through the Obscura, with the exception of Dafnord who's still in the lower hold. Gannar crawls around the ship and makes remarks that indicate that he knows his way around ships. "Do you plan to do a lot of trading?"
"Our main mission here was, to use your term, manumission. The trading was secondary, but has turned out to be quite profitable. We have a tendency to deal with small cargoes with high value at the far end.
"Might I interface with your autopilot?"
"Yes. You may."
"Will you authorize it?"
Morniesul waves and says to the air, "He may."
There's another brief period of staring off into space. Gannar looks up and says, "Yes, it's a good autopilot. It might be ready to become sentient."
"Does that happen?"
"I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense. After all, if it can happen with bears and wolves."
"Bears and wolves are already sentient, aren't they?"
"Sentient, sapient, I tend to confuse those terms."
"It's about ready to wake up. I am a qualified automation handler, and would be pleased to help it through this phase."
"Ah? Good. What is the difference between sentience and sapience?"
"A sentient being is aware, awake. A sapient being is ... is a person."
"Oh. It's just odd to me, since I haven't had either experience." Gannar gives Morniesul an incredulous, you-can't-have-meant-that look. "I mean, I've never been through either transition." He repeats, by way of excuse, "As I said, we're from very far away."
Gannar asks, "Would that be in the Ecumen?"
"Through it ... There was one more aspect that I'm not sure we made clear in our ad. We expect to be going far away for a considerable amount of time."
"I don't have any ties. That is no problem."
"The final interesting question is of remuneration. If you go away indefinitely, it's rather an arbitrary concept."
"I understand that. I would expect some sort of pay in whatever society we're in."
Kate asks, "What kind of pay were you expecting?"
"10,000 marks a year."
Morniesul says, "Most of the time, we do much better than that. However, there are some times when we exist on water and waybread." Gannar gives no sign of recognizing what he's talking about. "Waybread and tents." This also gets a puzzled look.
Dafnord suggests over the net that we determine how long an android would tend to live. Kate asks, "What is your expected lifetime?"
"With senestasis, there is no aging. The average life expectancy for someone with a sedentary job is 1400 years. But this is not a sedentary job."
Morniesul grins wryly. "With all the difficulties of the last few years, it's been nothing compared to the last 900." Gannar accepts that without any qualms. Then again, he doesn't quite know what those difficulties were. Morniesul continues, "Among the things that you might reasonably ask in payment, if for no other reason than that it is more gladly given, is anything you would want in the way of personal equipment."
"An upgrade would always be useful. And I can always use hand equipment."
As Gannar is speaking, Dafnord strides out of the Nones' airlock, stripped to the waist. He proceeds to go through a sword exercise, much to the amusement of the ground crew. After watching for a few moments, Gannar asks, "May I ask you a few questions?"
"Will I be working for you in particular or for all of you?"
"We work more as a confederation." Morniesul points out the port. "In other circumstances, Dafnord can be the leader or at least in the forefront. Technically, the ship that we're hiring you to work on is my personal property. But I don't regard it as specially mine."
"So I would be working for this group."
Robbie corrects. "Working with."
"So I would be a member of this group?"
"Yes." Morniesul grins and replies, "I suppose that one might invite a ship to become a member of the company. So certainly the pilot."
"Is that winged creature sapient?"
Robbie says no. Morniesul disagrees.
"Is the Nones sapient?"
We waffle. After a bit, we conclude no, not quite. Sentient, yes.
"I gathered from the navigation test that you operate on hyperdrive a lot."
Morniesul replies, "Yes. The Obscura has two engines. One is a standard overdrive. A hyperdrive is currently being installed.
"Then if you hire me, I should warn you that I have only an academic knowledge of hyperdrive."
"Ah. Is better obtainable?"
"How much would that cost?"
"30 marks for the best package."
Morniesul waves it away as a trifle. "Knowledge so obtained would be immediately accessible to you?
"Yes. I could load it into my program."
Morniesul says, "I see," not seeing at all. "I do think that we need to confer."
"I understand. If you don't mind, I'd like to look around the Nones."
Morniesul calls out "Nones? Don't give away any family secrets, but please allow Mr. Gannar to look around."
Gannar heads across the tarmac to the Nones. Once he's off the Obscura, Morniesul turns to the rest of us and asks, "What do you think?"
Dafnord chimes in over the net, "We should take him to the Rim," without missing a beat in his sword form.
Morniesul pales, "Good heavens. I spent a few years patrolling the Chaos Marches, but I was always told that if I wandered too far, I would fall into the Rim."
Robbie offers, "He would certainly make an interesting addition to the crew."
Morniesul muses, "Shall we offer him a position as an employee, or a piece of the action?"
Dafnord asks, "I forgot. What's my piece of the action?"
Morniesul frowns and replies, "Things like that sword."
Dafnord finishes his sword exercise and straightens up. "When facing a difficult and unknown task, it's rarely wrong to take the first volunteer." Dafnord sheaths Umbra, "the Sword of Twilight Chaos," as Gannar exits the Nones' airlock. As Gannar passes, Dafnord asks "Are you familiar with blade weapons?"
"We can fix this."
Not seeing much that can be added to that, Gannar continues on to the Obscura. When he re-joins the company in the main hold, Morniesul says, "We've consulted some, and it seems quite reasonable to us to offer you a position in the company. We're quite loosely organized."
"I understand that."
Kate grins. "No, you don't understand that."
Morniesul continues, "If there is something that you need, we can acquire it. Certainly familiarity with the engines."
"That should do it. Should I also acquire a sword?"
Kate laughs and asks, "You passed Dafnord, didn't you?"
Morniesul ignores the exchange. "More useful than obtaining weapons that you're not familiar with..." He reaches into his belt and pulls out his glamour blaster. "I have no idea what sort of sensing abilities you have. This weapon has be undetectable to most people here. Undetectable or hard to detect things are useful. If you had the opportunity to incorporate any weapons, that would be useful. Another possibility would be an external weapon that didn't have to be with you."
Gannar examines the glamour gun with interest. "Yes. A mobile pistol. I could purchase a small security platform. If you would give me a day to conclude my personal affairs and acquire these items?" We nod in agreement. "One question before I go, how shall I address all of you?" We give him our assorted names, and tell him to leave off "ma'am" and "sir." "Thank you. I accept your offer of membership in the group."
With that, Gannar leaves the Obscura and heads across the landing field towards the exit. Dafnord suggests that we should track him, and Kate sends a view point after him. Gannar first goes to a rare books store where he buys a plaque labeled "Hyperdrives of Antiquity." He then goes to a gun shop an buys a large gun platform. It's the size of a hard cover book and has holographic walls and can become almost invisible. He also buys a number of small gun platforms which can change hue. Robbie is quite impressed.
He then goes to a small, relatively bare apartment and packs his meager possessions. Then he goes back to the bookstore buys books on ancient history of Terran space and the Ecumen.
While this is going on, we stop in the spaceport gift shop and pick up a snow globe with green and purple sparkles for Tom. It's inscribed "My Friends went to Aondoar and all I got was this Lousy Snow Globe." When we return to the ship, Salimar grins and subtly tinges the sparkles octarine.
The next morning Gannar shows up trailing a small fleet of gun platforms. Dafnord shows him the weapons cabinet and helps him stow the new equipment.
Having completed our business on Aondoar, we head off to Meth, to convert our remaining cash into items we'll be able to sell back in Ecumen space, in our home time. Gannar spends the trip getting intimately familiar with anything remotely communicative. After an uneventful flight, we arrive and dock. Morniesul asks the Nones to commence but not finalize an order for 1 to 1.5 million marks of assorted fractal metals. While it works on that, we go to visit Safacal.
As we enter the shop, Safacal comes out from in back and greets us warmly. After a bit of chit-chat, she gets down to business. "Do you have anything else in that wonderful color?"
"Not on this trip, no. Did they sell well?"
"Very. I hear that even the Empress has something called a 'snow globe' in that color."
"Really? How fascinating."
Safacal grins, "You pirate! Are you selling or buying?"
Morniesul replies "We're financing the next expeditions, so we're doing both. I'm currently looking for more valuable cargo. I'm looking for highly modern materials. Things only recently discovered, mastered, invented and the like."
"Do you want something that is high technology?"
"High tech or from a culture only recently discovered, or rediscovered."
"Well, we have this..." She takes out a tiara that looks very plain and puts it on a mannequin. She adjusts a control and gems burst into existence floating over the tiara. "It's a refractive projector. It's not terribly high tech, but it shows off it's technology quite well."
"That's not unsuitable. With a few extra power packs."
"It will cost you 640 marks." Then she shows us something that looks like a Celtic torque, but instead of being solid gold, it's woven of different colored wires. The wires are fractal metals. 600 marks.
"Perhaps you'd like something in fractal crystals?" At Morniesul's nod, she shows us a ring which appears to mildly ornate gold. The gem is floating a few millimeters above it and is a pale violet and seven sided. "This is meta-silicon. It costs 40 marks."
While Morniesul examines the ring, Markel asks, "Do you have any crystals from Axar City?"
Safacal leads him to a case showing a mixed crystals, with little red beads separating each crystal. "Over here we have a necklace said to be from Axar City." She points to the red beads, "These beads are said to be Old Terraformer technology. The necklace costs 800 marks."
Morniesul asks, "You don't deal in substantial objects d'art, do you?"
Safacal returns to the counter in front of Morniesul, "No, but I have friends who do."
"These fractal crystals are lovely. do you have many of those?"
"I only have a few ready for sale, but I have lots of them unset."
"How many of those?"
"440,000 marks worth."
"I'd be willing to take enough to take enough to round out what we've got to 200,000 marks."
Safacal then points to a ring featuring a large, light blue crystal, "I also have some nice helium crystals."
"Do you have those in bulk?"
"Not in bulk, but I do have 13 that are unset. You could have them for 38 Marks each."
We dicker a bit more, then complete the transaction and pack up our selections. Safacal wishes us a good trip as we depart.
Back on the Nones, we stow our cargo and consider what we have left in Terraform Reach funds. Gannar has 54 marks left from the 300 we gave him on Aondoar. Morniesul has 300 marks. It will be just enough. We pay the docking fees, and convert what little remains into coins to take home as souvenirs.
Before heading home, we stop on Moncair where we drop in on Emethi and give her the box of link tokens and the snow globe for Tom. She inquires about Morniesul's missing uncle, and we tell her some (but not all) of our exploits.
After a pleasant day on Moncair, we reassemble on the Nones for the trip back 2900 years. Our destination is Martshayla Port.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved