In this month’s story, we’re taking some time off. Mr. Cognis, one of the Tomorrow News Network’s cybernetic camera people, takes his girlfriend on vacation. Unfortunately, the planet they visit has a dark secret… one which might be worth reporting on the news. Here’s a preview of “Mr. Cognis Goes on Vacation,” which comes out next week.
Update: The complete story and illustration will be posted on Friday, August 31st.
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Mr. Cognis saw the universe in two ways. Through one eye, he saw it as any human would, but through the other he saw as machines do: in high definition.
Homo machinae were a superior species, a perfect blending of biology and technology. Evolution had robbed them of their emotions, but why would cyborgs need emotions anyway?
Light fingers ran along Cognis’s arm, feeling the seams between flesh and hydraulic muscle. He enjoyed the playfulness of the touch. Though cyborgs had no emotions, Cognis sometimes downloaded programs to simulate an emotional experience. He and a fellow cyborg named Ms. Macnera had recently downloaded a new one called “love.”
Cognis looked at Macnera with his human eye. Beauty was not an emotion, not something he could understand with downloaded software. He could appreciate things for their simplicity, their complexity, or their effectiveness, but beauty was beyond his comprehension. Yet something about the shape of Macnera’s lips, the curve of her neck, the slight motion of her chest as she breathed–something about the lines where her organic and mechanical parts met, about the cybernetic circuitry tattooed down her body, about the way light reflected off both metal and bare skin–something about her physical appearance in general fascinated Cognis. He could not be certain, but he estimated with 87% probability that the term beautiful applied to her.
Macnera’s hand slipped over his shoulder and began exploring the contours of his chest. When the two of them had decided to go on vacation, Cognis resisted wearing the traditional vacation attire. Board shorts did not fit well over his augmented hips and legs, but now he was glad Macnera had persuaded him. Wearing his usual full body-molded suit, he would have missed the subtleties of her gentle caress and the fractional increase in body temperature it produced wherever she touched.
They sat on the sands of an artificial island, the golden light of a binary star shining high in the sky. The ocean smelled salty, a warning of potential corrosive effects to metal, yet Cognis found the smell relaxing rather than alarming. Even the sound of waves rushing up the shore caused him no concern.
“Tell me more about Talie Tappler,” Macnera said.
“Why do you want to talk about her?” Cognis asked.
“She’s so strange,” Macnera replied. “I heard she was there the day the universe began and will be there the day it dies. I heard she’s traveled beyond the known universe and that she knows the future of every living creature, including herself. I am too rational to believe in religion, but Ms. Tappler seems almost godlike. You’ve worked with her more than I have. What’s she really like?”
“We are on vacation,” Cognis said. “We are not supposed to talk about work.”
“Of course,” Macnera said, snuggling up to him. “Forget I said anything about it.”
Cognis complied and deleted the conversation from his memory banks.