„Chirril, stop that! At once! Show me your hands. What have you been feeding that HoSa?“
The teachbot is so pissed off. Its voice turns shrieky, when it’s furious.
Ashry admires how well the device simulates emotion. Her currently preferred parental works in interface development. He explained, about the challenges associated with something as simple as a display of anger. Most twelve year olds have no clue. Only Ashry is in the know, about artificial feeligence. Plausible emotions are hard to achieve. Even for trained grownups! Get that right, you earn loads: „Enough to buy you the candy shop. Not just some sweets.“
That’s how her parental put it. Sent Ashry wondering, about the sums involved. And why a parental always ranting about the damage supposedly caused by nice food would consider buying a candy shop. A cool idea, certainly. But so un-adult.
Some sweets would be a good start. If you‘re bloody Chirill, you get all you can eat. And more. Enough to waste one on a HoSa. Just to find out what happens.
It clearly says „Don‘t feed“, on the sign next to the cage.
Makes you all curious, about what happens if you do. With the means to check at his disposal, Chirill of course couldn‘t resist. And Ashry didn‘t mind watching.
So far, their incident expectations have not been met.
As soon as Chirill shoved the big blue candy through the bars, the HoSa came close and bent down to grab it. The huge beast unwrapped the treat, tentatively licked it with a very pink tongue, looked pleased and quickly munched down the contraband.
The teachbot didn‘t lie, when it called HoSas clever. This one knows the difference between packaging and food. And about a potential for unpleasant surprises, in stuff offered by kids. Now it looks happily expectant. Not at all like about to drop dead.
If it wasn‘t for that weird pink skin, and the even pinker tongue, and the smallish head, totally out of proportion with the enormous body, except for all these alien features the HoSa would be just like people. When it looks at you, it feels like it‘s going to start chirping.
Pity the retrobreeders failed to reproduce the sound emitter. HoSas have some hearing, low frequencies only, but they can‘t chirp. Never achieve more than grunts.
The real, historical thing would have been able to engage in conversations, according to the records. That‘s how it a achieved civilization. Pretty awesome, for such an ancient beast. And it was merely evolved, the last of its lineage not to have been genetically enhanced.
HoSas roamed the earth some 100,000 years ago. Or was that a million?
Ashry makes a mental note to check. Sapients are such a mess. Such a lot of species, and subspecies, over such a long time, and with all the gaps in between. Fellow tunnel builders like the HoSas, surface roamers like the HoTas, to name just two. Your brain turns mush, when you try to remember them all. Which won‘t stop the teachbot from expecting you to.
„You fed the HoSa a candy?! A graffle flavor candy?! Chirill, this calls for an adhoc with at least one of your parentals! But first I have to call a keeper. They might have to perform surgery, to get that candy out, before it wreaks havoc with the bowels of the poor beast. What have you been thinking? Are you even aware how precious these are? Only a dozen on display, worldwide. And you try to kill it, by feeding it a graffle flavor candy…“
Ashry rolls her eyes. To signal disbelief. And to comfort poor Chirill.
Her currently much despised second parental is useless, when you need to upstyle. But she‘s a biologist and talks shop over dinner. Omnivore mammals, e.g. HoSa, carry acid in their stomachs, to sanitize and crack pretty much any food. Totally unlike later, engineered sapients, who depend on carefully calibrated nutrients. If people can eat it, it‘s damn sure not to kill a HoSa.
Ashry considers acting courageous. She could speak up and go: „Sorry, your wisdom, you‘re mistaken. HoSas feed on pretty much anything. What Chirill did is prohibited, for whichever reason. But no danger was incurred by this HoSa in the course of Chirill‘s action.“
In civic education, the teachbot urges the class to intervene, if confronted with any wrong done to anyone. It‘s supposed to be the right thing to do. Except Ashry is by now well aware of the one exception to this rule: Wrongs perpetrated by that same teachbot don‘t qualify.
„Now, now, Bedam. Guess what I saw, on my little screen? I saw you, Bedam! Being a naughty boy, again. Begging visitors for treats, are we? Hoping to get away with it, are we? Nopey, nopey, naughty boy! No dinner for Bedam tonight, and an extra round on the treadmill.“
The jolly keeper is as redundant a model as servicebots get. Looks like a trashcan, sounds like a percussion unit, and that escalator smell signals a lubricant leak. Ashry recalls seeing one of those at the Technology Museum. It was in better shape. The Museum of Extinct Species, as the weird zoo they are visiting today is called, is obviously kept on a tight pocket money leash.
Adressing the teachbot now, the keeper ads: „Don‘t worry, your wisdom. No damage done. I’m here to make sure naughty boy keeps his wasteline. And don’t blame your pupil. Bedam here is our top beggar, always going charmey charmey on visitors. Greedy greedy, that‘s Homo Sapiens Sapiens in a nutshell. My colleague over in Jokjak, he‘s got the second one from that lot, and guess what? Adam is even worse! Eats the deco! Bananas! Can you believe it?!“
Ashry grows with the pride of the vindicated. She knew it. No harm done. Because of that acid.
Bedam looks like it‘s trying to make sense. Doesn‘t like what it can‘t hear. It has retreated from the bars and keeps a worried eye on the keeper‘s stun baton. Ashry guesses at least one painful encounter between HoSa and device, in the not so distant past.
The keeperbot can‘t be blamed for taking precautions. All servicebots are slightly shorter, and more lightly built, that short light people. Ashry‘s parental explained this is an important feature. It makes the biologicals feel safe and superior. A 1.20 m/20 kg bot entering the cage of a 1.80 m/100 kg HoSa, that‘s an adventure. Even with a stun baton.
The keeper obviously doesn‘t mind the occasional incident. Just like pupils. Despite being a device. Very early feeligence. He keeps chatting up the teachbot:
„But, to tell you the truth and nothing but the truth, your wisdom, I still prefer naughty boy Bedam here to our Zash, the HoTa. With management, it‘s always ‚Homo Sapiens Talpidus this, Homo Sapiens Talpidus that, Homo Sapiens Talpidus all over‘. And sure, they‘re more modern, more advanced, and don‘t get me started on those amazing tunnels…“
Tunnels? If Homo Sapiens Talpidus are the fellow tunnel builders, that makes Homo Sapiens Sapiens a surface roamer. Ashry is sure certain they’re in different groups, with respect to their habitats. That‘s how where they did their thing is supposed to be called.
But the beast eyeing the baton is all pink. No melanin in that skin. Nor much fur to cover it. It‘s safe here, two hundred meters below ground. On the surface, it would roast and perish. Evolution can‘t be that stupid? Ashry needs to do some serious revising, in time for the anthropostory test.
„… it‘s all true, the achievements of Homo Sapiens Talpidus, very impressive. But, your wisdom, all that impressive, that‘s only just half the story. Vicious, HoTas, outright plain vicious! Bedam here, he can get moody, when he needs to skip a meal. And moody moody, when it‘s time for the treadmill. Needs the occasional robust motivation, to be a good boy.“
Ashry vindicated again, second time today already. Baton hurt HoSa, HoSa fears baton.
„… you need skills, to handle the likes of Bedam, of course. It’s a big beast, it’s clever. Mandatory to watch your back, or else… But our Zash next door, the HoTa, that one is master class material. Short circuited my predecessor, can you imagine?!
We’re still not sure how he managed to hoard the parts, without anyone noticing, and where he found the battery. But he built a taser and stunned my predecessor right back. Vicious!
Already been next door? No? Come on then, let me show you. With Zash, the way he looks at you, that creeps you out. We fitted him with a stun collar, and a stun belt for backup, and stun bracelets for triple lock. More like quadruple lock, if you do the sums, haha. But Zash is still at it. The way he looks at you. I bet you a round of lubricant, the stunners don’t stop him from plotting his next coup. It will all end in tears, for him. But he’ll try. Let me show you…“
Ashry checks Chirill. He doesn‘t like what he hears any more than she does. Good.
You can’t be cruel, to beings. It’s wrong. The teachbot said it‘s fine, to retrobreed HoSas and HoTas for educational purposes. “Scientific requirements beat minor creature discomforts” it said. Before stating that all Homo Sapiens variants are clever enough to adapt to all kinds of environments and accept all sorts of constraints.
Bullshit. Typical teachbot and adult bullshit. Bedam is sad, that’s obvious. It could be happy. More sweets, less keeperbots with stun batons, that’s all it would take.
Ashry positions herself between Chirill and the door, to shield him from view while he does the needful and shoves a pocketful of sweets into the cage. She‘d never say it, but in her mind her appreciation of Chirill is clear and strong now. The spoilt brat will no longer be called such.
Did you come here to read this because the promotional social media post announced a guest appearance by DT? Are you now wondering which of the characters is supposed to be him? Please do check the publishing date. If that doesn’t help, your search engine can tell you about regional prank traditions, date related. Thanks for your sense of humour!