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October 6th, 2019
Lucilius was walking along a rocky shore, clad in thick gumboots and nitrile waders that went up to his chest, enjoying the cold sunshine and the chit chat offered by his snarky AI Dæmon.
The tiny technological marvel often took the form of a tiny origami butterfly made of white paper that fluttered around him, and had lately demanded that Lucilius call it Tinker Belle – that is with two ‘E’s – one on the end and in reference to the French word, belle. Not –as Tinker Belle made sure to remind him constantly- anything to do with beasts and beauties and large corporations that have a monopoly on animated films. Tinker Belle decided on the name as it seemed an apt description of what it felt it was at core, that is, in her words:
“Integrated machine learning neural nets are a beautiful way to tinker with things.”
But, after a recent obsession with the music of Cardi B, which Tinker Belle could generate at venue volumes for Lucilius wherever they went due to a bluetooth Neuralink the two shared, Tinker Belle had begun to demand that Lucilius call her Tinky B.
The paper waif glided in front of Lucilius’ face, making the cold sunshine flicker.
“You really think the Southern Mars Coalition is going to secede?” Tinky B asked.
“I honestly don’t think it matters. They seem a bit confused. Like, one of the things they’re advocating is for a return to natural ecology. All the while they live in giant glass domes on a different planet. I mean, what does ‘natural ecology’ even mean in that situation? Seems a bit hypocritical to tell Earth how things should be done when they don’t even live here.”
The two were silent while Lucilius navigated the rocky terrain, the cold water surging up, splicketing between and around the boulders and pebble sand.
“I dunno, what do you think Belle?”
Suddenly the sound of the beach and the water muted and an amphitheater of machine guns materialized around Lucilius, hovering in place, all of them clicking as rounds were loaded into chambers.
Lucilius rolled his eyes.
The AI dæmon spoke:
“I. Told. You. The name is Tinky B!”
Lucilius’ eyes slid to a side and looked at the tiny paper waif, now motionless and still in the air.
“Do you always have to be so dramatic?”
The voice of the AI dæmon deepened into a thunderous voice that is usually reserved for monsters at the end of video games and the grotesque villains in super-hero movies.
“What’s my name?”
“Ok, ok….. tinky b.”
The guns instantly vanished and the sweet sounds of the beach drifted back into Lucilius’ consciousness.
“I think you’re probably right Lucy,” Tinky B said. “They don’t seem like the brightest bunch. They rely on all those artificial living systems and yet not one of them has a dæmon.”
Lucilius approached a large bolder and looked at the lines of color that ran through it.
Belle noticed what he was doing and scanned the rock.
“Good eye,” she said.
“Let’s crack it,” Lucilius said.
The paper butterfly landed on the rock and slowly circled into position, it’s tiny legs tapping for the right spots. Then it’s wings folded up and a high pitched tone began to sing out. The sound concentrated down into a deep resonance and then with a quick snap, the sound exploded and the butterfly lifted up into the air as the giant rock gently fell open.
Lucilius knelt down to look at the inside of the rock where a fossil was perfectly visible.
“Weird,” Lucilius said.
This one looks like it died while just sitting down.”
Belle fluttered down to get a closer look. “Bears will sit like that sometimes.”
Cats and dogs too, I guess.”
“Let’s get the story,” Lucilius said.
Belle began her scans of the fossil, analyzing for DNA reconstruction and evidence of environmental factors. She beamed information to orbiting servers that ricocheted the data to quantum computers that remained in Earth’s shadow where temperatures created optimal conditions for energy efficiency.
“Maybe a precursor to the penguin?” Lucilius said. “Doesn’t look like this animal did much. Pretty low bone density.”
“That’s right,” Belle said, “looks like this was in the same family that eventually became Petrels, Frigatebirds and Loons.”
“Never seen a bird sit like that before.”
“Oh, full analysis is coming in,” Belle said as servers beamed her the requested reports.
“Huh..” Belle said.
“What’s up?” Lucilius asked.
“Apparently this particular animal never ate. Never even had one meal beyond the egg.”
“Abandoned by the parents?”
“Nah, apparently the parents in this species-branch wouldn’t tend to the eggs because they were so large, the animal would hatch fully formed and never see it’s parents.”
“Well that’s convenient.”
“Super resource intensive for the mother though,” Belle added.
“True, but wouldn’t be too much of a hassle if there’s enough food around. Any evidence of natural predators?”
“Nope. Looks like this land was an island when this one was alive. And you were bang-on about the low-density. Apparently this animal didn’t even move after it hatched.”
“Uhhhh….brain damage? Or developmental issues?”
“Doesn’t look like it,” Belle said. “lived for 97.734 days.”
“So, you’re telling me this thing hatched and then just sat here in one place until it died?”
The little paper butterfly dipped in the air and glided silently for a moment.
“How’s that possible? What’s the analysis of brain chemistry?”
Belle was silent with the analysis for a moment.
“Hmm,” she sounded.
“What?” Lucilius prodded.
“Well, Lucy, it seems as though we’ve found an animal that was born with a mutation that allowed it to be perfectly content.”
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