Rejiggering the Thingamajig, by Eric James Stone

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This is the first appx. 1/4 of a story by Eric James Stone:

The teleport terminal had not buin built withTyrannosaurs sapiens in mind. Resisting the urge to knock hum-sized chairs about with her tail, Bokeerk squatted on the tile floor, folded the claws of her forelimbs together, and concentrated on her breathing. Meditation would calm her nerves. What should have been a two-minute waystop as she switched to a different teleport line had stretched to three hours, and being the only passenger in the terminal creeped her out.

The cheerful voice of the customer service AI roused Bokeerk from her trance.

“It is my pleasure to inform you that the cause of the technical difficulties in the galactic teleport network has been found.”

Bokeerk perked up and rose on her hind legs, remembering just in time to duck her head so it wouldn’t bang the ceiling lamps.  “Please send me to Krawlak,” she said.  It was unlikely that any of her eggs would hatch for another few days yet, but she was anxious to get home.

“It is with the utmost regret that I must tell you that will not be possible at this time,” said the AI, with a tone of such abysmal sorrow that Bokeerk’s eyes could not help but moisten with sympathetic tears.  “I require assistance in repairing the problem.”

Bokeerk lowered herself into a squat again.  “When will help get here?”  She looked at the time display on the digital assistant strapped to her left forelimb.  She had now been stranded for three hours and fifty-two minutes.

“I estimate a spaceship carrying a repair crew could be here within twelve years,” said the AI.  Its voice seemed to have lost the customer service aspect.

“Twelve years?”  Bokeerk’s voice made the ceiling lamps tremble.

“Without the teleport network, repair crews are limited to slower-than-light travel.  However, I believe we can avoid such a long wait if you will assist me.”

“I don’t know anything about repairing teleports,” said Bokeerk.  “I illustrate children’s books.  I’m on my way home from the Galactic Children’s Book Fair.”

“You do not need to repair anything,” said the AI. “You merely need to obtain the… there’s no word for it in English because it is a concept so far beyond the understanding of biological intelligences that there has never been a need for one until now. Let’s call it the thingamajig. Once you have the thingamajig, you need to do something to it that is competely incomprehensible to your puny mind.”

“Hey,” said Bokeerk. She had encountered this kind of prejudice too often. “My brain may be as small as that of an original tyrannosaurus, but it’s the product of genetic tinkering such that my intelligence is at least human standard.”

“No slur was intended. By my standards, any biological intelligence is puny.”

“So I just need to do something incomprehensible to the thingamajig, and the teleport network will be fixed?”

“Yes.”

“Show me where it is,” Bokeerk said.

A holographic projection of a world appeared. it zoomed in toward a green area on one of the continents until it showed a gray dome in the middle of a jungle. “This is the teleport station where you are currently located,” said the AI.

The image zoomed out until the dome was merely a gray dot. A crimson line traced a route toward a lone mountain, where it stopped with a large dot. “you must travel to the top of this extinct volcano, where you will find the thigamajig.”

“How far is that?” asked Bokeerk.

“Forty-four miles.”

“you don’t have a vehicle that would fit me, do you?”

“There are no vehicles of any size.”

Bokeerk rose. “I guess I’d better get started.”

“You’ll need a gun,” said the AI.

She shook her head. “I’m a buddhist pacifist. I refuse to intentionally harm any other creature.”

“You’re a carnivore.”

“I only eat manufactured meat. Speaking of which, I’m rather hungry now.”

“There is no food available at this station. Unfortunately, the life forms you encounter outside will not serve as a significant source of nutrition for you. But you will need a gun to defend yourself.”

“By nature, I’m an apex predator,” said Bokeerk. She bared her teeth. “I carry my own weapons.”

“On this planet, you are prey for predators larger and faster than you. That’s why the human colony on this planet was abandoned one hundred an thirty two years ago, leaving only this station as a teleport network connector. You will  need a gun.”

The idea of a predator that could harm her was unfamiliar to Bokeerk. But what choice did she have? She would starve to death here, so she must fix the teleport. That did not mean she must compromise her principles.

“I’ll use the gun to scare off predators, but I will not use it to harm.”

“That is your choice,” said the AI. “You can get the gun from the weapons locker next to the termnial exit doors.”

Yellow arrows lit up on the floor tiles, pointing toward a pair of massive reinforced metal doors. Bokeerk followed the arrows to a cabinet that unlocked and swung open at her approach.

A rifle, metallic black, gleamed in the cabinet.

“This gun was made for humans,” Bokeerk said. “I could never even get a claw in to pull the trigger.”

I got this from Analog magazine. Go buy it or somethin’ to read the rest.

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One Response to “Rejiggering the Thingamajig, by Eric James Stone”

  1. Zel Kuroi Says:

    Ha, one quarter, eh? Someone knows their copyright law! Thanks for sharing!

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