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Jul 18, 2019 12:39 AM
Brainship Dusk and Brawn Jean
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Wanted: Brawn for newly commissioned brainship. No brainship experience or Sunex training necessary. Ideal candidate will be familiar with FTL navigation, grav sled piloting, I-346 AI systems, anthro- and xeno-diplomacy, anthro- and xeno- first aid, basic ship and servo repair, and Lystyx operating system, but will train the right person. Must have a skillset suited to some line of brainship work and an interest in cooperative puzzle games, emergent systems, poetry, animal behavior, or a similar topic. Familiarity with shellperson etiquette a plus. Must be available to start on 6/10/2218. If interested, please send a resume to Denika, XD-1213, contact number 64-4891-5287, by 5/30.

Denika rereads the ad one more time, dithering over details: should she add another interest? Cut the bit about AI knowledge? (Bunny is, after all, hers; she doesn't expect that her brawn will ever interact with it, much less need more than a layman's knowledge of how to, even if it is part of standard brawn training.) Emphasize her flexibility about the type of work they'll be doing? (No; she wants someone with the attention to detail and nuance to pick up on that, buried as it is.) Leave out her name - uncommon for a shellperson to use in public - or the designation that isn't technically hers yet, or both? Tinker with it in some other way? Scrap the whole thing and put up with a Sunex brawn, at least for a while?

She concludes, eventually, that it's fine as is, or at least unlikely to be improved by nervous editing, and sends it off with just a few minutes to spare before she has to head to her afternoon classes: with two months to go until graduation, she could slack off - she's run the numbers; she'll graduate either way - but the last thing she wants is the psychs called down on her head again, and anyway, singularity jump math is fun, even if she won't be using it anytime soon. And she's put up with the ubiquitous Sunex brand loyalty propaganda this long; another two months isn't so bad, and then - if all goes well; if her ad turns up someone suitable; if she can keep up with her repayment schedule - she will be free, only obligated to ever interact with them when she needs repairs. It's a comforting thought, and she plays a triumphant little tune over her speakers as she rolls off to class.

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Here's a resume.

It's very prompt, and relatively brief, and just a trifle odd.

For instance, there's a headshot attached -- a young man, maybe in his early twenties, dark, close-cropped hair, attractive, staring down the camera with something that might be either challenge or invitation.

He doesn't cite any Sunex training, either, nor experience -- it's not entirely clear he's ever set foot aboard a brainship -- but there's an array of test scores and certificates and awards covering everything that could possibly be quantifiably measured about a person. Debate awards; mile times, running and swimming; standardized test scores in "general science" and "galactic cultures" and "business" and, for some reason, "French literature"; first aid certifications; the list goes on. All of them are outstanding.

He has a solid work history -- somewhat surprisingly so, given his age -- most of it listed as volunteer work. Spent time doing some sort of Doctors Without Borders thing, did restoration work on old ships, miscellaneous short stretches of fetch-and-carry work aboard various ships (implied to have been in lieu of paying for transportation) ... acting in a couple of plays, of all things, Shakespeare "in a galactic setting," brief runs but good reviews.

There's a second skills-and-scores section, towards the bottom, marked Provisional -- details available on request. There he's laid out what looks to be most or all of a graduate degree in computer science (one class relevant to the I-346 AI system, and one on emergent systems, specially marked), a work history (somewhat shorter) in the same area, and a list of puzzle games.

The resume closes with a brief but charmingly worded expression of his interest in the position, and expression of thanks for her time reading it. There are letters of recommendation attached; none of the writers seem to be connected with brainships in any way, but two of them are nonhuman, all of them are prominent in their varied fields, and they uniformly describe the candidate as unfailingly polite, a pleasure to work with, reliable, calm under stress, trustworthy, motivated, and extraordinarily gifted.

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The reply is immediate enough to be obviously automated, thanking him for his resume and giving Denika's availability for an online interview - evenings, mostly, plus a short afternoon slot four days a week - and inviting him to make an appointment to talk to her during one of those times.

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He would love to meet with her in the next available evening slot.

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He can expect a call from her tonight at 1830, then.

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And at 1830 on the nose, there is a call.

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He picks up promptly. Look at that smile! Gosh that's a warm smile he has.

"Hello!"

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She's got one, too, though hers is computer-generated of course.

"Hello! Ifan, right? It's so nice to meet you. I've been looking over your resume and I have to say, I'm impressed."

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"The pleasure is all mine! And I'm terribly glad to hear that -- may I call you Denika?"

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"You may."

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"Well, Denika, it's lovely to meet you; I cannot say I was expecting to see a classified ad for brawn which listed poetry as a qualification, but it was a very exciting sort of surprise."

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"I'm glad to hear it! I definitely wouldn't want a brawn with whom I had nothing in common, and poetry is lovely - do you have a favorite author?"

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"Ooh. Skipping right to the hard questions, hmm?"

He appears to give it serious consideration.  "...I don't know that I can pick one --  Genet, perhaps, if you put a gun to my head, but I have a weakness for de Saint-Exupéry and Jean Cassou as well." (His mild French accent deepens and solidifies on the names; it's definitely not a coincidence that all three poets are French.)

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"French, hm? I've only got English and Mandarin, for human languages, and it always seemed a bit disrespectful to read poetry in translation."

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"Oh, I know, it breaks my heart that I can't possibly learn enough languages not to miss out on whole swathes of it -- I've got English and French, natively, and just a smattering of Hebrew, and can ask where the bathroom is in a dozen or so others, not that that's any good for poetry. If you must hear it in translation, I think by far the best is to have a speaker of the language read you the original and then a translation; that way you can put sound and sense together."

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"That sounds like a lovely way to pass the time. I don't have a favorite poet, myself, but I'm partial to poems that are particularly evocative, of place or emotion or both."

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"Oh, yes -- you'd like Cassou, you think, he wrote the most beautiful sonnets -- he was in solitary confinement, you see, they wouldn't let him have books or paper, but by night he'd compose in his head, memorizing the lines as he went. And so they're all short, but they really capture -- the darkness he was in, or the light he remembered."

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"Oh," she nods. "Something to look forward to, then." She beams at him for a moment, and then looks down, as if reading off a hardcopy list. "So, what were you planning on doing with yourself, before this came along?"

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"Oh, this, always. Though likely with less poetry. If it never did come along, I suppose I might have fallen back on acting."

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"Huh." This is perplexing. "Is there any particular reason you didn't apply to the brawn program, then? With numbers like these they absolutely would have taken you."

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"Yes, well. A number of reasons. For one, I'm not entirely impressed with the way they do things; I wasn't at all sure I wanted to go be shaped by that system."

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The screen flickers as the AI handling her body language fails to keep up with her startlement. "Well," she says, after a moment. "Yes. And you should consider yourself lucky to have had the option, honestly. What drew you to brainships, then? Most people consider us just another arm of Sunex, and I can't say they're wrong, in most cases."

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"You know, it's hard to remember what originally drew me? My father says when I was three years old I found out there was music for shellpeople that unaugmented humans couldn't hear, and I had a six-hour screaming tantrum." (Charming smile.)

"As for what draws me now -- well, like you said, I have options brainships don't. And brainships can do things I can't. Even now that I'm not three anymore. I feel like there's potential in combining those. Potential for being more than ... well, another arm of Sunex."

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She nods, slowly, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "I agree."

 

"Do you have an idea of what you'd like us to be doing with ourselves? I'm not in line for a singularity ship - I might be able to get one, even now, but I don't think they're worth the cost, for most purposes - but I'm otherwise pretty flexible; something without much risk of falling behind on my payments, of course, but otherwise it's more important to me to have a permanent brawn than to be doing any particular thing."

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"Mm -- I've tried not to fall in love with any particular idea. Shellpeople so rarely choose brawns who aren't Sunex-trained; I was expecting to take what I could get. Mostly ... something that matters."

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"That's reasonable," she nods. "In that case it sounds like we'd want to just get started; take some of the regular cargo and passenger jobs and keep our eyes open for opportunities. I'll put some thought into it, though; I'm not graduating for another two months, it's entirely possible that one of us will think of something interesting before then."

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