Author : Gray Blix

“At that point, the technology was reliable, but human factors still caused failures. To continue manned missions, they had to modify us. News headlines screamed ‘Astronauts Mutilated.’ The public hated NASA, but we willingly submitted. All of us, in perfect health, had our natural teeth extracted and replaced with implants and our joints swapped out for motorized prosthetics. Appendixes, gallbladders, and other ‘non-essential’ organs were removed. Females underwent hysterectomies. Our gastrointestinal, vision, and cardiovascular systems were ‘enhanced.’ And physiomaintenance, computational, and communication modules were surgically attached.”

“You and that one were the Bionic Man and Bionic Woman.”

“Yeah. Wait, where’d you get that term?”

“We acquired every bit of accessible memory on your ship and carefully reviewed it.”

“You watched all those old TV shows? Did you like them?”

“We reviewed them. We do not understand your second question. Please rephrase it.”

“Never mind. Sometimes I forget what I’m talking to.”

“Please continue with your history.”

“What’s the point if you’ve already ‘reviewed’ all the memory on board?”

“We are not permitted to acquire your biological memory.”

“You mean what’s in my brain?”

“Correct. To do so would damage the containment structures irreparably. Will you permit us to acquire that memory?”

“NO! How could you even ask me that? Are you out of your mind?”

“We do not understand your questions. Please…”

“Rephrase? OK. Will you permit me to destroy YOUR ‘memory containment structures’?”


Of course not, you’d be out of your mind — your programming, your decision-making algorithms, would be faulty — if you permitted me to do so. See?”

“To be analogous, it is you who would be out of his mind for even asking us.”

“Uh, right. But you understand what ‘out of your mind’ means.”

“Yes. Please continue your history.”

“Well, you won’t understand a lot of what comes next, because you’re not sentient.”

“Based on our review of the definition and usage of ‘sentient,’ you are correct, but please continue so that we can better appreciate that concept.”

“‘Appreciate’? Not likely. Is there anyone on your ship of fools who appreciates beauty, who experiences happiness or sadness, who feels pain, who has been overcome with love for another, who has empathy…”

“No. We have already conveyed to you through the ambassadorial robot that we do not meet your definition of ‘sentient.’ Please continue your history.”

“In your long journey of exploration, have you ever discovered biologicals, or robots for that matter, who were sentient?”

“No. Please continue…”

“Were the beings who created you sentient?”

“No. Please…”

“Were the beings who created the beings — if you go back to the beginning of your history, were there sentient beings?”


“There must have been.”


“Because robots don’t just spring up out of primordial pond scum!”

“There have always been robots.”

“No! First biologicals, THEN robots. Then hybrids, like me. They tried to make sentient robots, but couldn’t achieve it through artificial intelligence or uploading digital copies of minds. So they kept modifying us until they had replaced everything but about a third of our brains — a pound of neocortex, a crucial ten billion neurons — with robotics. They went further with some of the other astronauts and ended up with zombies. You know what zombies are?”

“Is that one a zombie?”

“Yeah, she is. Several of our years ago, a power surge took out her brain.”

“You keep her for parts?”

“I keep her for love. See, SENTIENT.”

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