Red Storm Over Ganymede
Based on the number of relentless scowls and disapproving sighs, I was under the distinct impression that Nona Regina was furious that I hadn’t come away from the Starflight experience wearing an engagement chain. But of course, she didn’t know that I had an engagement of a sort. In the week since the flight, Isul and I had visited Winnie again and uploaded the last batch of Isul’s memories. After much cajoling and prodding on both Winnie and my part, Isul had consented to allow her to try and upload his memories to a third body.
I had been in orbit ever since, counting my good fortune that Isul would likely be with me once I ascended the throne. The matter of a political marriage was not settled, and certainly loomed over us still, but happiness and nervousness were too tightly coiled inside me to worry about that particular problem.
Because today was the day we visited Biodyne.
The Bio-droid manufacturer’s central office was located in Catamitus City. The company had weathered many competitors in their field over the years, but it was well known among wealthy citizens that if you wanted the most lifelike Bio-droid with superior programming, Biodyne was unparalleled.
I had been nervous all morning, but nothing compared to the shakes that coursed through me as we ascended the stairs into Biodyne’s central lobby. Isul held the door open for me, and we entered into a sea of Bio-droids staffing the various desks. Not two of the staff were exactly alike – the showroom was where anyone could come to see the best and newest of what the company could offer.
A lovely model who had the legs of a faun greeted us. “Welcome to Biodyne. My designation is Leeta. Do you have an appointment?”
“Fifteen-hundred appointment, Prince Tristan,” Isul said.
If she was fazed by my name, she didn’t show it. Leeta confirmed my appointment with her internal software, then showed us into a back section of the establishment. Leeta ushered us into a laboratory, all smooth counters and chrome. It was sterile, so unlike the vibrant chaos of Winnie’s workshop.
We sat down on a plush bench, the only ornamental part of the room, and Leeta sent a signal that we were here. Shortly after, the door at the back of the lab opened, and we were greeted by Hans Shirogane, one of the Vice Presidents of the company, and Winnie’s cousin if I remembered correctly.
“Prince Tristan,” he said, executing a formal bow. “We are honored that you seek our services once again.” I was sure he was, considering Nona Regina’s stance on Biodyne’s famed product.
I inclined my head without rising from the bench. “I have been very pleased with Isul, and look forward to another fine Bio-droid from you, Mr. Shirogane.”
He stood up straight and pressed a wrist-mounted control panel. Holo-projectors embedded in the wall sprang out, and soon the center of the lab was filled with representations of various models Biodyne had in stock. This was all part of the selection process.
“Gender?” he asked.
“Male,” I replied. Shirogane led me through many rounds of holo-assisted questioning, choosing Isul 3.0’s hair and skin color, distinguishing feature (antlers again), height, build, etc. Winnie had given me projections of what Isul, if he aged naturally, would look like in six years, so I was well-armed with my selections.
Finally, we came to the optional add-ons. Security features were a must with my position, as were the sensor equipment. I smiled as I selected the bio-mimetic skin features (I would finally make Isul blush), and then added the optional sex package.
That one caused me to blush, but Shirogane made no mention of it. Biodyne had a reputation for being extremely discreet, considering the high level of clientele they served, and access to their records and Bio-droid data had tighter encryption than the Imperial Security Net.
Finally, the selection process was complete, and Isul and I looked at a holographic representation of a body that truly resembled Isul, only a few years older. I knew it wasn’t normal to order Bio-droids like this. Different styles went in and out of fashion – some years feathers were all the rage, other years it was furs. Most citizens would never have kept the same style. And though it would likely draw some strange looks and unwanted attention, I didn’t want to enter this next phase without Isul being, well, Isul. Perhaps we’d have to deal with a new look for him someday, but neither of us were ready for that just yet.
“Are these your final selections?” Shirogane asked, looking over the selected parameters.
I nodded. “Yes.” At that word, a frosted box rose from the floor, and the building process began. I could see the faint outline of a tritanium skeleton through the glass, and tried to make out more as the bio-synthetic muscle fibers, cybernetic components, and all the other inner-workings of Isul’s new body began to take shape.
Shirogane and Leeta then turned to Isul. “Is this unit ready for reclamation?” Shirogane asked.
I seethed at his cold treatment of Isul, but forced myself to remember that Isul - to them - was nothing more than an interchangeable widget. “Yes, but please give us a few moments alone,” I ordered, for once glad of the command my royal position engendered.
“Once the building process is complete, simply follow the prompts to register your new Bio-droid. And thank you for choosing Biodyne, Prince Tristan,” Leeta said, before she filed out, Shirogane behind her.
I sat Isul down on the reclamation table, my throat suddenly dry. “Everything will be fine, you’ll see.” I stroked his arm, unwilling to lose a physical connection.
“I thought I could be brave, Tristan. I was going to be strong for you, to accept death. Now that I’m facing it though…” he began.
I shook my head vehemently. “You’re not facing death, Isul. You’re beginning a new life.” I hoped my words were stronger than the unease I felt.
He laid back on the table. “But just in case, know that I love you, and always have.”
I simply nodded, too overcome with emotion to trust my voice. I held Isul’s hand as he positioned his head between two electrodes at the head of the table. The automated process began, and I stifled a sob as Isul closed his eyes, the ghost of a smile on his face, and his hands went limp.
The computer kept a running audio dialogue. “Deactivation and memory core wipe complete.”
My Isul was gone, like a star burnt out before its time.
The computer continued as if I wasn’t standing on the edge of an emotional cliff. “Reclamation process to begin.” The table slid into a compartment in the wall where I knew Isul’s body would be broken down into its component parts and recycled.
Tears blurred my vision, and I wiped my eyes on my sleeve. Digging around in my pocket, I pulled out the fingernail-sized device Winnie had given me, went to the build chamber, and inserted the device into the slot that Winnie had instructed.
Within moments, the room’s holo-projects had constructed a ghostly simulacrum of Winnie. “About time you got my chip inserted, Princeling.” The image grew fuzzy and ill-defined. “Give me a minute to override their security. There. This room is giving them a false feed, and I’m connected to all the systems.” Holo Winnie strolled around the build chamber, “Hmm, yes, very nice indeed. Aww, and you went for the sex package.” She grinned at me. “I’m sure you’ll enjoy that one.”
“Not the time for jokes, Winnie,” I grumbled. “Is the data stream from the memory map ready?”
The holographic avatar shrugged. “I’m ready with everything on this end, just not sure if it’ll work. Remember, this is all experimental technology, and we’ve never tried uploading Isul’s memories during the boot process.”
I remembered the last time, when I’d taken Isul 2.0 to Winnie’s lab, and we’d done the procedure after he’d already awoken. She’d had a hard time integrating the memories into his memory core then, and so decided to upload them straight away.
We turned back to the build chamber, Isul’s skin was in place, and the nanites were building his hair and horns.
Holo Winnie interfaced with the control board. “I’m going to start the data stream now. It’s a lot of information to transmit.” Lights blinked on the console, and I sat down on the bench to watch the procedure continue. My palms were sweaty again, and I absentmindedly rubbed them on my pants.
Long minutes passed. Fear twisted my gut. “What’s happening, Winnie?”
“You can’t rush art. And make no mistake, Isul’s memory core is an absolute masterpiece. We’re talking terraquads of data here. I mess this up, and Isul won’t be Isul.”
I sighed and went back to waiting, watching the chrono tick. I must have dozed, because the next thing I knew, Winnie was standing over me. “I think he’s ready.”
All weariness pushed aside, I jumped up from the bench and stepped forward to the build chamber. The frosting over the glass had vanished, leaving a transparent surface. Isul’s new body was absolutely beautiful, and I blushed as my eyes took in every lovely detail. But the best part was that I could still see him in it, in the shape of the eyes, the fall of the hair, the curve of the mouth. This was no stranger before me.
I turned to Winnie. “Did everything go okay integrating the memory data?” I asked, my throat dry.
“Technologically all the data came across okay. Whether it gets integrated properly, however? Only one way to find out. You ready, Princeling?” she asked.
I nodded, and placed my hand on the clear glass. Touch-activated controls appeared underneath my palm. I followed the script that hovered above my hand. “I, Tristan Deschard, Prince of the Jovian Empire, enter into contract with the Bio-droid 8685, given name Isul.”
At first nothing happened. But then a saw quick movements in Isul’s fingers as the nerve fibers began transmitting pulses of information. “Isul, can you hear me?” I asked. The build chamber registered every system as being in perfect working order.
His eyes fluttered open, and I drew in a breath. In place of warm amber eyes, Isul’s were a deep burgundy red. “What happened to his eyes?” I asked Winnie, annoyed. “I’m sure I put in the correct color selection.”
“Eyes are an easy fix. Be glad it wasn’t his dick,” Winnie chortled. “Isul, honey, say something. Please state your primary programming.”