Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Gentleman’s Errand

    “I still can’t believe that is a computer.”
    This was from Ipa Sam, engineer of the The Gentleman Scoundrel, a tramp plying the so-called trade on the frontier.  That, was specifically a suitcase-sized appliance sitting on the mess table of the Scoundrel’s crew lounge.  That such a thing could carry useful electronics through a wormhole and have them work on the other side was only credible to Sam because she herself had seen it.
  “This thing is amazing!”  This was Ruku Mat, Navigator.  Her normally shy and retiring demeanor was for the moment gone. Her purplish skin looked even more vivid in the blue glow from the strange computer’s screen.  “Its easily twice as powerful as our entire mainframe!”
    Also at the table was pilot and fist mate, Zag Esseru.  She smirked at the diminutive Ruku as a ripple went through her head-quills. “Facinating, uh huh.”  Bet you’ve seen faster and smaller, Kura.  Right?” This was at the ship’s steward.  Canto Kura, being from one of the Nexus systems of the Janoi, was the only one who had recognized the computer for what it was.
    “To be fair,” Kura said as he distributed the sacrament of coffee to the three officers, “It’s the smallest I’ve seen that can travel on a ship with NegMat drives.”
   How small can a computer really get though?” asked Ruku Mat.
  “Ah!  Have a look.”  Canto sat at the table and, with a little flourish, produced what was, to all apperences, a ballpoint pen.
   “Is this the one where you do math on a napkin and say it’s an analog computer?” Zag frowned.  “Because if so, I’ve heard it.”
    “No, no: Observe.”  Kura held the thin cylinder in one hand and with the other picked at the side of his pen.  A thin stave came off of the side and, as he pulled, a opalescent membrane of translucent material could be seen, like the sheet of a scroll.  The membrane caught the light strangely, showing a honeycomb of silvery threads embedded within.
    “I forgot I had my QIL in my pocket when I first shipped off Gleise.  It had my whole life on it.  Photos, video, songs and movies, books - everything. And this is a cheap model.  My last nanobiotics booster has more processing power than this entire ship.”
    “Bullshit.” Zag offered.
    “I won’t believe that was a computer.”
    “Canto,” Ruku Mat looked hurt.  “You didn’t have to make something up.”

    Kura knitted his brow and sighed. “That’s what everyone says.”

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