Jul 05, 2020 7:14 AM
A Starfleet vessel stumbles across an unintentional visitor.
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"Fair enough. The Federation has procedures and treaties for join actions with other military forces, of course, but none of them would apply to your situation. In any case, I can declare you an Acting Ensign without outside complaint whenever it seems appropriate to you."

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"Understood. I can think of a few different situations where being a legally separate entity could be beneficial. But considering I also don't legally have any rights to speak of as I don't technically exist from a paperwork standpoint it would probably be better to do that sooner rather than later."

 

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"True. The Federation unfortunately does not have a standardized set of rights or citizenship procedures for lifeforms besides standard biological humanoids. Each case is just so unique that it would be unfeasible to produce a true standard system."

He pauses and gestures at the viewscreen.

"In any case, are you comfortable with us getting underway now?"

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"Of course, don't let me stop you." He says as he leans back onto the railing. "Let us boldly go forth into the darkness, to light the way for those that follow."

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Their next stop is a research outpost with some samples that need transporting. The journey there is uneventful. Trelway sends Drake some replicator configurations to test, and after a few rounds of back-and-forth they have successfully taught the replicators to produce a nutritionally complete and balanced breakfast. That is, a pile of materials in easily "digestible" form for Drake to consume. The rest of the crew are a little nervous, of course, but make an effort to be friendly. Drake gets invited on a ski trip in the Denubian Alps, where he learns that holodecks are a thing, capable of maintaining extremely high-resolution simulated environments made of holograms, forcefields, and replicated matter.

The research outpost is an eight-day trip, and ends up being an agricultural research station testing new variants of genemodded crops. Their new experimental septotriticale grain is considered of critical importance to the Federation, and must be safely transported to a system where it will be seeded on six different planets to test its adaptability. The outpost is itself just a small moon with some climate-controlled domes, but the interior space is large enough for a nice walk. Drake is welcome to join Commander Toasty and her science team in picking up the shipment.

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"So, Toasty. You have any family back home?" Drake asks asks as they make their way through the outpost's halls, his talons clicking on the metal floor with each step.

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Toasty herself makes a quiet squelching noise, though she doesn't leave any visible residue. Her combadge is sitting on a blue crystal on her "head".

"I do, yes! By human standards I am closely related to all living Horta. I have roughly five hundred thousand sisters, but while I consider their daughters my family, I have no children yet of my own."

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"Really?" Drake says in suprise. "Some kind of species wide shared genetic system or something? Sorry, I don't mean to pry but I've never heard of something like that in a spacefaring race."

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"It is not common to have so many sisters as I do, it is because I was of the first hatching of our major generation. Though the eggs were laid by many different Horta in preparation for the renewal, we were raised together by the All Mother, last of her generation. Many of my sisters have since had children of their own, but the next renewal will not come for many millennia. In the meantime, each of us will raise a more moderate number of descendants, one or ten, or perhaps a hundred."

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"Huh, interesting method of procreation. What happened to the rest of your mother's generation to make her the last if you don't mind me asking?"

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"All dead. It is the lifecycle of our species, they were subsumed into the All Mother. Less of a loss than with you humans, though! Their spirits live on in our collective mind, it is an important piece of our development."

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"Humans from this dimension perhaps. Where I come from we've figured out a few workarounds to the whole "death" thing. It's a point of great pride among humans in my dimension actually."

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"Interesting! Here they have taken great pains to avoid that achievement. It is confusing to me, but my perspective is very different. I have lived for a century already, and may well last five hundred times that again. Your culture also seems to place less pride on their squishiness, if your own body is any indication!"

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"Well, perhaps I should explain in more detail. In my dimension, there are three basic "types" of humans. There are the "Standards," base humans that have less than twenty five cybernetic augmentation by body mass not counting the networking and communication mods necessary to live in our society comfortably. This group also includes individuals who reject modern cybernetics for religious or personal reasons, and those who primarily rely on gene-splicing for their augmentations. Next you've got the "Cybers." These are individuals who contain more than twenty five percent cybernetics by body mass. This can range anywhere from a couple replacement or extra limbs, to what we call full conversion, where all that's left of the original human is a brain and spinal nerves encased in a synthetic body. And finally there's my group, "Technos," short for "Technological Organisms." We start our lives as nothing more than data imprints from our parents, and upon reaching mental maturity are able to choose the body type, or morph, our core will inhabit. We can choose a different morph later in life but it's a bit of a process. Now, to be clear, there's no legal difference between the three types. No one is "more human" than another. The difference is more for safety classification and design specification. As you pointed out, Technos are a lot less squishy than Standards.

As for the whole death issue. With the help of the Think Tanks, massive, immobile, city district sized Technos that are essentially huge sapient supercomputers, we discovered how to imprint a person's mind into a data storage system. All the thoughts, memories, hopes, and dreams that make you... you, stored on a backup. If a person dies, we can upload their latest backup into a mind specifically built or grown to match that person's neural pathways. Granted most people don't see it as true immortality, mostly because the isn't continuity in the stream of consciousness, but the knowledge that you will continue to live on, even if it's not you specifically, bring a great deal of comfort to most people."

As the group reaches their destination,  Drake looks over towards Toasty, and with a sense of gravitas concludes. "Since our very beginning, humans have looked for ways to stave off death just a little longer. We are slowly discovering the pieces of the puzzle and we are getting close to the end. One day soon, we will finally solve the secret of true immortality, and our most ancient enemy will finally be destroyed."

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"An interesting solution! Not dissimilar to the lifecycle of my own people, in a sense. It would not be unreasonable to describe the renewal as a process of uploading all members of our species, followed by condensing those imprints into a single soul to link the next generation together. But my understanding is definitely that the humans here do things differently. They have considered cybernetic augmentations and simulation of minds, but they have put little effort into their development. They have extended their lifespans fourfold since the youth of their species, but refuse to enact more than marginal changes. Not that the Horta have altered ourselves very far, but fifty thousand years seems a more reasonable lifespan to me than a mere two hundred."

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"Agreed, especially when there is the vastness of space to explore." Drake nods. "There is however, one drawback to the current system the UHS uses though." He pauses to gather his thoughts. "Back when the mind upload system was first being developed, several procedures to activate a person's backup were devised. Primarily involving deadman switches wired into the nervous system or central processor of the user. The idea was that you die and are immediately born again, with a minimum amount of time in between. There were a few, not many, but a few... incidents in those early years that resulted in a person's backup being brought online prematurely, while the first one was still alive. I don't know how it is with your kind, but for humans, seeing a person who is, legally and by all measurable standards, you is an extreme blow to the psyche, even for Technos. Suddenly you are no longer a unique individual. And for the backup, it's even worse. You go from being yourself to a mere copy, a human to nothing more than a replacement. And so a law was created stating that before a backup could be activated, the original had to be proven dead, or missing for no less than twenty years, fifty for a spacer. That is why I told the Captain that I will not go back even if I am able to. That last mission I was on... we all knew it might be a suicide mission, and so did Command. We all updated our backups right before the mission started, and they would have been activated once Command confirmed we didn't get off the ship before it went up. Right now, the other me is probably preparing for his next mission along with the rest of my team, and I refuse to put myself through the pain of duplication. This universe is my life now, a whole new adventure awaits."

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"Duplication accidents have happened here as well, through a variety of means. They are certainly stressful experiences, but I can't say whether that is normally because of the loss of uniqueness, or more broadly the variety of contextual issues such incidents imply. I don't personally think it would be so difficult to process, but perhaps that is the group mind talking. I could integrate very closely with another me, while on the same ship it would not be so different than having two bodies and two minds, which actually sounds quite convenient!"

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"Humans here have hangups about making sure they look human. Humans back where I come from I guess just have a hangup about maintaining their uniqueness as an individual. Either way, it's not a situation I have to concern myself about any longer. I have terabytes and terabytes of data in my storage drives, but not the knowledge needed to create a backup forge. If I die here, I die here. But I will live on in my home dimension and that's enough for me." Drake falls silent as they load their cargo and begin the trip back, only speaking again just before they return to the Palmer. "The way I see it Toasty, until I die here, whether that be in one year or one hundred thousand years, I will do my best to protect all I can. Their lives and what they do with their lives. That will be my legacy. That's why I became a soldier,  and being pulled into this dimension hasn't changed my reason for fighting."

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"A worthy duty! We are honored to have you. Though even if you prefer not to return, I'm not so sure the Federation will be so content in thousands of years. A new dimension is a wonderful new frontier, after all."

Samples safely collected, they beam back up to the Palmer and set out. This trip should be another four days at maximum warp, about warp 9 for a Nebula-class vessel like the Palmer. During the trip, Drake is invited to a Velocity tournament hosted as a training exercise by Lt. Commander Wells. The game is a sort of sport shooting/dodgeball cross, and the crewman mentions to Drake that for the past couple of months it has been Wells' favored option for nonstandard combat training."

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On the day of the tournament Drake finds himself standing near the holodeck with about a dozen other crewmembers, waiting for the Lt. Commander to begin.

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The game is played in a holodeck, for safety, and involves firing a phaser at a flying disk as it bounces around the room. The objective is to hit your opponent with the disk. Drake's significant advantages in sensory range and speed are likely to be very helpful, though the limited speed of the disk and phaser blast relative to his own weapons diminish this advantage quite a bit.

Wells demonstrates the rules in a slow-paced match against another crewman, then has a few more matchups fight more seriously to give Drake a sense of the strategy, before encouraging him to try it out.

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With the explanation of the rules out of the way and a brief practice match concluded, the tournament began. Wells had decided on a brackets style tournament, with winner from the previous round playing another winner. The first few matches were rather uneventful and, frankly, seemed rather boring to Drake as he watched. It wasn't until Drake's first match that he realized why he felt that way. The other crewmembers were just so... slow. The holographic disc was apparently simply programmed to fly towards the person who had not shot it last and the direction and angle of the phaser shot did nothing to alter the disc's flight. Meaning you couldn't shoot it strategically or multiple times to catch your opponent off guard. And to make matters worse, the disc moved so slowly in comparison to Drake's reaction speed that it felt like the disc was almost standing still.

Eventually the tournament came to it's final match, Wells against Drake. The other crewmen crowding around the monitors, eagerly waiting for what many thought would be the greatest game of Velocity they had ever seen. "No offense intended Lt. Commander," Drake said as he readied his phaser, modified to fit in his large hand, "but when I heard this game was called Velocity, I was expecting something rather different."

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She laughs. "There are some alternative configurations, if you're interested in trying Snap Velocity! It doesn't have such a broad player base, but I find it gives a bit more of a workout. Come on, let's try it out! Computer! Snap mode, arguments, disks three, homing hybrid, reactive angling true, speed four, mirrorfield full, phaser passthrough true, accelerate mode on hit."

As the game loads in, the walls convert into a series of angular mirrored panels, reflecting the players from dozens of angles. Three disks appear, slightly smaller and rounder, and instead of a solid color, each has two bands of color glowing with different strengths. The game actually starts at a slower pace than standard Velocity, but Drake's integrated rangefinding can easily notice that each disk speeds up every time it is hit. The disks continue to home in, but instead home in on the closer competitor, denoted by the relative brightness of the two color bands. The phaser blasts have a stronger effect, too. Each hit throws the disk back several feet, and then causes it to zoom several feet further in the direction opposite the side where it was hit. The beginning of the game is a slow back-and-forth, but Wells doesn't seem any more winded than her lungless opponent.

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"Well this is more like it." Drake thinks to himself. After getting a feel for how the new disks react he speaks up again. "Alright then, let's kick it up a notch." Firing at almost the maximum cycle rate of the phaser, Drake strategically shoots the discs so that they surround Wells, with the final shot causing then to quickly converge on her position at almost the same instant. Wells manages to dodge the discs and the game begins in earnest. Each of the discs now move much faster than they would in a normal game of Velocity, causing the two opponents to weave, dodge, and slide around the discs, the phaser fire, and even each other in order to avoid getting hit. For several minutes, the game is a beautiful dance of fluidity and grace. It is a far closer game than any of Drake's previous, but in the end the reality of biology trumps skill and strategy. Wells simply can't react as quickly as Drake can, and Drake doesn't get tired.

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Lt. Commander Wells is a biological human, and does not have the strength nor speed that an android built to military specifications can bring to bear. That said, she is remarkably effective at keeping up with Drake. She takes full advantage of the reflective surfaces to angle shots with minimal need for motion, and she appears fully capable of tracking the exact motion of each disk as well as Drake himself. She's fast, too. Maybe even suspiciously fast, at least in reaction speed. She does get tired, but seems to recover in seconds, and doesn't truly get overwhelmed until the disks are moving at nearly a hundred meters per second. When she is finally clipped by a disk, the rest of the crew is clearly impressed by the quality of the match, but they don't seem to fully appreciate the difficulty of keeping up with Drake's speed for even a few minutes.

"Good game! We should play again sometime! I think I like my odds." She offers a wink, along with a handshake.

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