by Oren the Otter
©1999 by Oren the Otter -- all rights reserved
In a universe with plasmoids, androids, and (shudder) fleshies,
there are some choices that are harder than others.
P981 was a machine. She had always been a machine, and as far as she knew, would always be a machine. This never bothered her much, since there was nothing else which one could be. It never bothered her, that is, until some new beings arrived on her planet. They were completely unlike any beings she had ever seen before. They were called "humans". She was told that they generally resembled a monkey with the face of a manticore. Of course, this didn't help since she had heard of neither. At any rate, they no longer looked like that now. The plasmoids who had sold the humans to her people had modified them to make them suitable for many different tasks.
"Inefficient," said K628 as he watched a modified human pick up a girder using a prehensile appendage which extended from his face. P981 remembered that the appendage was called a "trunk." Strangely, the garments which he wore over his upper legs were also called "trunks." The confusing nature of human speech was one of the things which fascinated her.
"Ridiculous design," said K628. "Their two hands are identical. Redundant and wasteful."
"Sometimes it is good to have two of a certain part," said P981. "For instance, I find that it is useful to have two communications systems."
K628 regarded her with his large, silver eye. "I have only one communications system, and it is all I've ever needed."
P981 twitched the antenna in her tail, thoughtfully. K628 was a member of the old school. Could he understand what she had to tell her?
"And many of the humans have only two legs. Impractical design. No balance."
"I like humans," said P981.
"They have their uses, I suppose," muttered the masculine machine. "When they die, their forms can be separated into many useful chemicals."
"I don't mean as products, K628."
"No? Then how?"
K628 waited for an explanation.
"We are artificial, K628. Our educators tell us that this is a good thing, for natural life forms are flawed and purposeless."
"But does this hold true? I have seen the humans when they are resting. They are... unhappy."
"Of course they are unhappy. They do not have our sense of purpose to guide their lives."
"No, K628. I believe that they do have a purpose. I believe that it is one which they cannot fulfill here on the world of the miren."
The masculine robot shifted his back legs uncomfortably. "I believe you have been spending too much time with the aliens."
"Perhaps I have, for I feel that I have a different purpose than the one for which I was built."
K628 rose up indignantly, flustered at seeing the order of the universe challenged. "You are a P unit. Your only purpose is to examine foreign objects and report your findings to the hive."
"But I have. I've examined the aliens, and it has made me realize that I am not happy as a P-droid, or even as a miren."
K628 let his antenna droop. "I knew this would happen," he said. "We have cleaned the universe of natural life wherever we have gone. To accept animals from the plasmoids was the height of stupidity."
P981 tapped her fingers on the probe which adorned the opposite arm. "I had hoped you would understand," she said.
"What do you want to be?" K628 demanded.
There is a creature whose anatomy has been used to modify one of the humans into a climber. It is called a squirrel. I should like to be one of these."
"Not a hybrid, as the other humans here?"
"No. I would not be accepted as a hybrid, either by the other humans nor by other miren. It would be necessary for me to migrate to the human home world. Naturally, I could not live there as a hybrid, due to the plan of the plasmoids to eliminate humans in five years."
"It seems you have thought this through," said K628.
"And would you be happy as a squirrel?"
K628 lowered himself again. "I will alter your body, then. We will need to construct new body parts and write new system drivers, not to mention fabricate a realistic skin for you."
"Oh, thank you! Thank you!"
"Sorry... it's a human expression. It expresses gratitude."
P981 had been deactivated during the re-assembly. When switched back on, she found herself already en-route to the solar system, wearing a strange, furry brown skin. Her front legs were gone. Instead, she supported herself on two hand-like structures. Her antenna had been replaced with a bushy, blanket-like tail. Her mouth no longer opened sideways, but now opened downward from her head. The strangest part of all, though, was that instead of a single eye, she had two. Her neural net took a moment to be able to process two separate images at once.
K628 was standing over her. He said nothing. His sole communications system was interfaced with the vessel in which they were now flying.
Soon, the craft reached earth, and P981 was left in the branches of a tree as her companion returned home.
The first thing she would need, P981 decided, was a new name. An Earth name. One befitting a squirrel. She settled on "Shanda," the name of the squirrel hybrid she had known back among the miren. Next, she would need to teach herself to eat nuts. She hoped that the plant matter would prove to be a sufficient fuel source for her mechanical body.
She was about to begin nut-gathering when she heard a human voice call out, "You! Squirrel! Freeze!"
P981, Shanda obeyed. She became paralyzed in fear when she discovered that the voice did not belong to a human, but to a plasmoid; a nacelite mimicking human speech. She knew that the nacelites hated her people. These were not like the ones who had sold the humans to her hive. Their hatred ran too deep to be overshadowed by some profitable trade agreement. She would be captured, possibly killed if they knew she was a miren. But... could they know?
"Your electromagnetic signature identifies you as an android," said the nacelite. "You will accompany me and submit to investigation."
Shanda attempted to scurry away, but the plasmoid hoisted her into the air with its telekinesis, causing her to flail helplessly.
For hours, the artificial squirrel sat in a tiny cage waiting for her captors to decide what to do. She knew that when they discovered the truth about her, they would certainly destroy her. The situation seemed hopeless.
The android thought of the humans on Miren. She remembered what they did when things looked hopeless, and so she did what they did. P981 prayed.
Two living clouds passed through the door to the room where P981 was caged. "I'm telling you, she's an android!" one of them said. "She's a miren!"
"Yes... sure she is. I'm sure she came here to single-handedly 'cleanse' the planet Earth of biological and plasmoid life forms. We'd better evacuate at once."
"You're mocking me."
"Officer c%, if this is an android, where is her electrical aura?"
"What?" said the first nacelite, probing the squirrel with his electrical senses. "She had an aura like a power plant, I swear!"
"Let's just be sure." said the second alien. He picked up a device and placed it against Shanda's fur. It showed them all a hologram of what was underneath. It was moist, red, healthy flesh.
"c%," said the elder nacelite. "Let this squirrel go, and then I want to see you in my office."
As soon as she was released, Shanda raced away to a private place where she examined herself. Her body was soft and fleshy. When she flexed, she could feel muscles contracting instead of hydraulic pistons. Just to be sure, she picked up a thorn and pricked her finger, wincing at the pain it caused. A bright red drop of blood rolled down her paw.
"I'm a squirrel." thought the former robot to herself. "I'm a real squirrel!" She didn't understand how such a transformation could possibly have taken place. Such an impossible occurance would have been too much for her android brain to handle. Her new, natural brain, however, understood the situation perfectly. She'd gotten a miracle. With that realization, she scurried into the trees, not knowing what the future held in store. Everything was completely uncertain.
Oddly, that was what made her happy.
About the Author
Oren the Otter... The real Oren the Otter, is actually a human named Eric Vary who just looooves otters!
A mild mannered department store clerk by day, at night, he transforms into OTTERMAN, author of transformation stories for the ever popular Transformation Story Archive.
Oren's hobbies include swimming; fishing (without a pole); reading good science fiction stories; collecting Warner Brothers cartoons, Hasbro Transformers, Schwarzenegger movies and comic books; raising raffins (rats); sewing plushies, and of course, hacking at his computer keyboard until unhealthy hours of the night!
Oren is a friendly sort, and just loves to get E-mail from friendly people.