The ATV wagon crawled along the open ground, the large balloon tires made the ride soft and the headlights lit up the ground ahead to almost daylight levels in front of the first wagon in the line of five identical wagons as they crawled along.
The headlamps reveled the occasional tiny snowflake reveling the cold in a landscape that otherwise gave no hint of anything but grass and the occasional group of bushes.
The man in the drivers seat intently looked at the terrain as it passed, a look of pain on his face.
“HAL” was the first word he spoke, a command followed, a voice did answer in the otherwise empty vehicle he was sitting in. “Record travel log” (Recording…) was the immediate answer.
“Day 197” (131 days in our current reality, Dave) Jim, only slightly annoyed, answered. “Don’t start with me HAL, humor isn’t going to help!” (Not humor Dave, just a fact, I think we need to start thinking of where we are in its own terms, at least along with terms from home)
“Ok Hal, I know you don’t like your name, you certainly take every opportunity to remind me of how outdated my cultural references are and my name is not Dave! Choose your own name if you dislike it that badly!”
The computer giggled (Just trying to cheer you up a bit Jim, this hunt for Elvis has me… I’m not sure if depressed is possible but I miss him as well)
“I know you miss him Hal, and I really feel we will find him, the site where we found his translocator only had traces of blood and the Raptors are too small to have dragged him away that cleanly”
(I certainly hope so Jim, our camping trip has really allowed me to see and do things an AI couldn’t expect, surprising me is difficult… you know because I’m so smart… but loosing Elvis is difficult to accept)
“A smart ass… but it is what I ordered so carry on, if we can’t find Elvis, you’ll be my only company, perhaps forever. Now can we get back to recording?”
(Please continue Captain!)
“’Travel Log, day 131 here, day 197 back on Earth. The search for Elvis continues, I’ve had the caravan going in ever wider circles since we found the dogs computer interface and a small knot of bloody hair. Raptor tracks all over the area suggest Elvis was in a fight with the small feathered ground hawks at the very least but we are hoping he is still alive and can be helped.”
(Jim!) An annoyed look passed over Jim’s face for a moment. (I detect movement ahead! A warm body, moving this way, its Elvis!) then he saw it in the head lights! Elvis was running toward the vehicle and something was following him!
“Hal, what is that?” (It looks like a person! It’s chasing Elvis!) “Sight the laser turret on the figure, if it’s chasing Elvis give it some discouragement!”
The figure came into view, it was a person! Limping badly as Jim watched in disbelief the figure stumbled and fell, Elvis turned back! He turned back and seemed to be urging the figure to continue to approach the Wagon. ”Hal cancel last command” Jim Opened the front of the ATV and jumped out to help.
Elvis was in bad shape; he was favoring his front left leg and didn’t want to leave the person he was barking at. Jim, his breath condensing in the cold grabbed Elvis by his harness and put him in the wagon. The person Just laid still on the ground as Elvis continued to bark his head off, making those odd sounds a hound makes when he is too excited to just yap like a small dog would. Jim decided that Elvis wanted him to help so he picked up the woman… woman! Yes, it was a woman Elvis had led to his ATV. She was light for her height, maybe 100 lbs. at most. Jim carried her to the crawler and laid her on the side bench just behind the driver’s seat and closed the front hatch.
It was mayhem, Elvis was barking, Hal was yelling, and the woman was groaning, obviously in need of attention. Finally, Hal got his attention. (Jim, about a dozen raptors are gathering in the headlights, evidently that was what Elvis the woman was trying to run from.)
“Light ‘em up Hal, show them why they should avoid us!”
Almost instantly the raptors began to scatter as the laser turret gave each a case of smoking feathers.
“Hal, vape the heads of a couple smaller ones, may as well get some fresh meat for Elvis!”
Immediately two of the raptors suffered blown minds as their heads were vaporized off their bodies by the laser.
“Hal, send out a couple spider bots to retrieve the raptors and pluck their feathers. Retrieve them and store them up top until I get this mess sorted out”
Jim turned his attention to Elvis, a deep cut on his left front leg, exactly where his translocator should have been!
“Hal, can you get a direct link to his com or has all the hardware been removed?”
(I started working on it as soon as he was in range, give me a few more minutes, I might be able to install a new one easier.)
Jim turned to look at Elvis who had that sad Basset hound look as though he was a bit miffed at being ignored. “’Buddy, do you want us to put you in the autodoc first or try to hook you back up to the network first?”
Elvis understood human speech quite well, he just couldn’t speak it with out his computer interface. Elvis limped up to Jim and whined and used his paw to stroke Jim’s mouth.
“Hook him up Hal, be gentle!”
A small spider bot came out of the wall slot and crawled up onto Elvis, it inserted a small object directly into Elvis’s injured shoulder, the dog yelped loudly but held still for the procedure.
The spider bot withdrew and suddenly the yowls and chortles that Elvis generated became words Jim could understand. Elvis was an immortal dog just like Jim was an immoral human. Immortality had been achieved in 2025 when Jim had turned 75. Jim was one of the first wave of volunteers and lucky enough for it to have worked. The first trails hadn’t ended as well for many of the first volunteers making Jim one of the oldest humans in existence. Two others who would have been older, but they met untimely ends in accidents. At fist some people who got the treatment became a little reckless, but immortality didn’t make you immune to accidental death, just old age was covered…
Elvis began to speak; his words were concern for his new companion. “Help her! She saved me from the raptors, but her leg was injured, maybe broken, she really did help me get away from the raptors, she has a stick she uses as a weapon, mean in a fight, help her please!”
Hal, prepare the nano vat for Elvis, he looks like he could use a few hours of healing. Hal made the cover of Elvis’s personal healing tank slide back and Elvis immediately immersed himself into the thick liquid. This was not his first time being healed and showed no reluctance. Elvis knew wounds would be healed and age reset in two hours or so, he looked forward to it.
Jim looked over at the woman, she was covered by a heavy cloak, that looked and felt like very soft wool or some other natural material. The cloak had a hood that covered and hid her face and as he lifted the cloak away from her, she was nude under the cloak and seemed to be extensively tattooed, her whole body was indigo blue, her hair was white, not white like a grey headed person but stark titanium white, suddenly embarrassed Jim noticed her pubic hair was white as well. Suddenly something else stirred between her legs under her blue cloak, she had a tail! A real Tail! Thicker than my wrist and slightly longer than her legs, it was a lighter color of blue with a tuft of white hair on its end.
HAL! Are you playing some sort of VR joke on me? If so, I might have you rebooted! (No Jim, this, as weird as it seems this is real Jim) With that Jim began to look at his new companion a little closer, the skin on the palms of her hands was of a lighter blue, her inner thighs were light blue, her public skin was light blue under the hair and her tail was light blue as well. She had fangs and her face resembled what you would expect if humans had evolved from cat like creatures. Jim had to admit she was not a Homo sapiens, maybe not even from Earth. Damn he had bugged out to get away from aliens, now he had one unconscious on his bench…
She appeared to be old, very old, if he had to guess he would say late 80s or early 90s. Her age was written in the wrinkles and scars on her face, she reminded him of a picture of an old Navajo woman from the turn of the 20th century he had once seen in a magazine.
Hal, can you help her? (I’ll have to unleash several spider bots to sample her DNA and scan her internally before I can say) Do it, see if you can fix her leg, surely you can do that. (I might be able to fix her leg, but it will be painful, and I have no idea what or how she will respond to human drugs) Do it Hal, she will not survive if we don’t help her!
Jim sat back and watched as the spider bots worked on the woman’s leg. Jim, with his rather odd sense of humor, thought it appeared he had a 6’ tall smurf in his charge.