Cyborgs: Coming to a Planet Near You

Cyborgs play an important role in the Tomorrow News Network series.  Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re intimidating… in the most recent edition of TNN, they get a little sexy.  But how close are cyborgs to becoming a reality?  Well… closer than you might think.

Mr. Cognis is works for the Tomorrow News Network as a cameraman. A literal cameraman.

Researchers at Harvard say they’ve developed a new cybernetic tissue that combines organic and electronic materials.  According to reports, the combination is so good it’s difficult to tell where the technology ends and the biology begins.  The advantage is that this cybernetic tissue can help monitor medical tests.  The disadvantage is, of course, the potential downfall of humanity.  For more information, click here.

If you aren’t comfortable having cybernetic tissue implanted in your heart or lungs–even for medical purposes–how about a cybernetic tattoo?  Lots of people are already comfortable getting tattoos, so having a tattoo that serves a practical purpose makes sense.  Nokia recently patented a magnetic material which tattoo artists can embed in your skin.  When you get a call, your skin vibrates.  Cool, huh?  Or creepy.  Depends on how you look at it.  For more on that, click here.

We tend to think of cyborgs as something from science fiction, but people today already have mechanical parts added to their bodies: prosthetic limbs, pace makers, artificial hearts…  We got used to that.  In time, we’ll probably get used to cybernetic tissue and cyborg tattoos.  We’ll even think it’s normal.  And then it will be too late!

To read more about the cyborgs of Tomorrow News Network, check out the short stories “The Opera of Machines” and “Mr. Cognis Goes on Vacation.”  You can also check out Mr. Cognis’s profile in the Meet the News Team section.  A profile for his cyborg co-worker/girlfriend, Ms. Macnera, is coming soon.

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Preview of August’s Story

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.

* * *

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.

If You Love Robots…

If you love robots (and if you’re one of my regular readers, you probably do) then I have some news you can get excited about.  Last week, Curiosity, the largest robot ever sent to another planet, successfully landed on Mars.  Its mission is to search for any evidence that Mars currently or ever did support life.  Of course, you probably already knew that, but did you know you can follow Curiosity on Twitter?  Not sure if it will follow you back, though.  (Click here.)

But the Mars rover is a long way away.  You’ll probably never get to see it in person.  You definitely will never get to ride it.  The good news is there’s a really cool project going on in Massachusetts.  They’re building a giant, spider-like robot named Stompy, and if you donate money to the project they’ll let you ride it when its finished.  If you donate a lot of money, they’ll even let you drive it.  (Click here.)

Of course Tomorrow News Network fans already know about “The Opera of Machines.”  For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s got robots.  Even more exciting, it’s got cyborgs.  Click here to start reading it, and if you have any other cool robot news to share please leave a comment.

Preview of “The Opera of Machines”

According to the rules, Tomorrow News Network employees are not allowed to change history.  But time traveling journalist Talie Tappler doesn’t always play by the rules.  She is prepared to risk her whole career so that a great musician can finish an unfinished opera.  Her cyborg cameraman, Mr. Cognis, is the only one who can stop her.

Here is a preview from “The Opera of Machines.”  The full story will be posted on April 16th.

 * * *

Once inside, Cognis made his way to the newsroom, the pulsing heart of the Tomorrow News Network.  Full of sleek, aluminum desks and computers, lit by pure tungsten light and the glow of approximately 900 holographic viewlink screens, the newsroom utilized the most advanced technology in the known universe.  Yet surrounding this high-tech facade were other machines, far older, tucked in shadows, built into walls, hidden in the darkest corners–cogs and gears, wheels and pendulums–keeping track of time in ways only ancient technology could.  Quietly, the giant clockwork turned, following the backward and forward journeys of time travelers, compensating for them so that as history shifted the newsroom remained unchanged.

Writers and producers bustled about, checking sources and typing scripts while technicians edited video.  A reporter and cameraman vanished in a burst of light, rushing off to cover a story in the past.  They returned an instant later, their work complete.

Cognis turned when heard the distinctive clicking of high heels.  Talie Tappler arrived a moment later, her skirt swishing around her long legs.  “Mr. Cognis,” she said, “we are in a hurry.”

“Mr. Cognis!” Macnera cried.  She ran across the newsroom, the joints in her legs buzzing and whirring, her pace out of alignment with her normal, steady gate.

“Cognis,” she said, staring at her feet.  “My dear, sweet Cognis.  I love you.”

A quick glance confirmed all the switches on her arm were in the off position.  Something was wrong, but before Cognis could say so Macnera flung her arms around him and pressed her lips to his.  The kiss proceeded so randomly, so unpredictably that it alarmed Cognis’s electronic mind.

Macnera pushed herself away.  “I’m sorry,” she said, moisture gathering under her biological eye.  “I must have overdone it.”

The whole newsroom had stopped.  Hundreds of journalists–members of species from all over the universe–watched Macnera run off toward the maintenance department.  Talie leaned against a desk, her arms folded across her chest.  Her golden hair partly obscured her expression, but Cognis recognized it anyway.  It was the one that meant she knew something he didn’t.

“What?” he inquired.

“You’re blushing,” she said.

Cognis checked.  “My heart rate and blood pressure are within normal parameters.”

Talie smirked.  “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the maintenance department too?”

“I am functioning normally.”

“Maybe you should show her how well you’re functioning,” Talie said, heading toward the spiral stairs leading to the News Director’s office.  Following her, Cognis observed Talie checking her pocket watch.

“I apologize,” he said.  “I’ve made you late.”

“I’m never late,” Talie said, twisting the dial on her watch.  The world around them swirled in impossible colors then settled ten minutes earlier.  Talie glided through time without the slightest disorientation.  She had natural talent.  Cognis, on the other hand, felt out of sync whenever he time traveled.  His cybernetic brain depended too much on the constant durations of hours, minutes, and seconds.