Meat Machines

CS Drachensvard
holding position 120,000 miles from uncharted drift
Corfeth (Vanlir Edge) System

The sound of retching broke the silence on the bridge. Midshipman Lochran-ith-Lanth, currently manning the tactical/payload position. He’d already clamped his hand over his mouth by the time I glanced over at him, though, and got his reflexes shut down in only a second more. Good man, well trained.

Not that anyone could be blamed for throwing up, seeing this for the first time. Clavíë at Data Ops had penetrated the station’s network without breathing hard, and the images coming back from the internal sensors were enough to turn anyone’s stomach.

Slavery persists in backwater parts of the Periphery, and even the Expansion Regions, much to our embarrassment. But then, we’re the Imperial Navy, not Éjavóné Herself. We can’t vaporize everyone who deserves it all at once.

And everyone knows the reasons: sophont servants, flesh toys, test subjects, cannon fodder, pet victims, and so forth. This, though – this was a very distinct perversion, characteristic of where high technology met low.

After all, it takes a relatively high – and expensive – technology to weave the topological braids of a hard-state neural net processor, or to program an effective software emulation of all of its subtleties. It takes an advanced biotechnology to grow and educate a cortexture that can perform advanced cognitive tasks. But while it takes a firm grasp of sophotechnology to learn how to repurpose an existing neural network…

…it turns out that any transistor-stringing moron can actually do it.

Take a sophont. Preferably an intelligent one, and young and strong enough to survive the process for a long time. “Simplify” them – by which they mean remove any inconvenient limbs, or hair, or anything else not needed in their new role. Dose them up with catacinin, or some other mind-killer drug, and neural plasticizers, then saw off the top of their brain-case, insert the interface electrodes, and seal the hole with sterile plastic. Hook up the life-support system, and box them up. ‘No user serviceable parts inside.’ A week or so of imprinting, and you have a neural-net processor – worth ten-thousand gPt, maybe twenty-five kgAu in one of these backwaters. It’ll last maybe ten years before the flesh gives out, and it’s an order of magnitude cheaper than less ethically defective hardware, unfortunately.

“Communications from the station, Skipper. They – ah, they protest our unprovoked attack, and wish to offer surrender.”

“One response, Máris: ‘Dármódan xalakhassár hál!’ Mr. Lanth, load the primary with AMSM warhead.”


“You heard me, Mr. Lanth.” At his shocked look, I continued. “There’s nothing that can be done for the ‘cargo’, son. Everyone over there to rescue’s had their brain pithed with a dull knife. The best we can do for them is make sure the ones who did this don’t do it to anyone else. Now: load primary with AMSM.”

“Aye, sir. I mean – aye-aye, sir.”

I tapped the view-mode switch, and watched as the exterior of the slaver station replaced the pitiful sight on the for’ard viewer.

“Primary loaded and standing by, sir,” he reported.


4 thoughts on “Meat Machines

  1. Bad call. Kinda understandable, but bad call. Dead people can’t be interrogated, plasma clouds don’t provide good intelligence and executions can always be arranged later…

      • Which will have certainly provided lots of intelligence. Unfortunately it won’t have revealed stuff that was kept off-line, hardcopy-only, air-gapped or simply inside brains of relevant sapients. I’d expect captain to get an extended ass-chewing and a lecture on talcoríëf later from admiral or review board, but that’s just my opinion.

    • (Also, dead people can totally be interrogated, for, ooh, a good eight, nine hours at room temperature, more if you keep the relevant bits on ice.

      …okay, fine, vaporized people can’t, but just for future reference.)

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