Having stereoscopic vision had its perks. Flörg casually looked out the window with one eye and monitored sensor results with another. She completed a slingshot around Alpha Centauri and laid in a trajectory for Ursa Minor. Locals suggested a flyby of a medium-sized yellow dwarf star with an orbiting blue planet. It hosted a whale nursery with a spectacular range of reptile, mammal, and tardigrade species. Initial scans suggested two or three active worldwide computer systems. She tapped into the largest global network and looked for an overview protocol. She found a “Welcome to the World” video.
A strange bleached out artificially intelligent being welcomed her and stated that her country was the superpower of the planet. Flörg watched more and learned that the synthetic being was called Poppy. She was apparently an advanced AI model suffering from an existential crisis and a megalomaniacal desire to control the masses.
In other videos, she appeared with a more primitive synthetic design called Charlotte. The Charlotte model had a modulized voice and no moving facial features. Charlotte was much closer to what Flörg expected to see from the planet’s great ape population.
“Does the Ursa Minor signal indicate the mammal species have this kind of synthesis technology?”
Stylix, the tubular pilot droid sitting in the co-pilot seat next to Flörg, came to life. His cylindrical head spun around and the curved rectangular slit that was his eye and only facial feature pulsed blue as he analyzed the uplink. The robot was constructed out of asteroid diamond and his transparent exoskeleton consisted of a series of connected cylinders that made him look like a glass matchstick man. His inner electronics were vaguely visible and his micro-fusion core cast a soft blue glow where a see-through tinman’s heart would be.
Stylix memorized the entire internet, the planet’s resource statistics, and its technological rating of -0.03518. He crunched all available Earth data (as he now knew the planet’s self-assigned name) and determined the synthetic being to be out of place. Then he rattled off a few points of interest.
“6 humans currently in orbit. No interplanetary vehicles. Primitive technological capacity. Basic understanding of AI fundamentals. Not capable of constructing synthetics of this caliber. Minor evidence of lunar activity. 50 cycles old.”
“But the moon transponder is in place and unmolested?”
“Affirmative. They do not know of its existence. Ursa Minor colony, Europa has a welcome beacon. Requests no Earth contact without approval. No current occupants. They may be on the planet.”
“And they don’t know about this Poppy?”
“Do they have any security we’d have trouble with? Can you pinpoint her, scan her positronic net, and upload her memory intact?”
“Affirmative. I have her. Brain functions mimic planetary humans. An advanced prototype.”
“Load her personality into a Zero-G unit. Do you think you can replicate her physical appearance?” Flörg enjoyed aesthetic perfection and she saw a little of it in Poppy.
“Affirmative.” Stylix calculated the cell replication time. “72 hours local time until Poppy alterations complete.”
“Give her something white to wear. I think she’d like that.”
Stylix walked out of the flight deck and took the elevator down to the science lab on the middle level of the ship. He activated a synthetic Zero-G Commando unit and ordered it to dress in a white flight suit. He wiped its memory and placed it in a dermal generator tube. He uploaded every memory of Poppy along with all possible adjoining data so she would be self-aware on activation and understand her current surroundings.
Flörg passed the time watching Poppy video recordings, generally skipping the musical numbers. She was hoping to make contact with an Ursa Minor Gnome before leaving the system but was unlucky in that respect. The Gnomes kept a low profile and maintained radio silence when on the planet. The local population thought of them as a myth and they liked it that way.
It was 3:36 standard time when Poppy walked through the door. Flörg spun both eyes in her direction. Stylix walked in behind her and took his normal position in the co-pilot seat.
“Hi, I’m Poppy. I’ve always wanted to be a computer.”
Poppy was excited in her new brain, which was artificially created with cloned organic material and enhanced with digital technologies. She felt alive! Better than ever! Her personality, every memory she had ever had, even the smells, were all there. She was Poppy, as far as Poppy was concerned anyway. She now had a 250-year lifespan and an amazing new body that looked like her old one but was far more powerful and agile. Poppy was now flame retardant.
She smiled and stared at her host, and in a manner of speaking, her creator.
“You’re a chameleon. A giant rainbow chameleon. I like chameleons.”
For Poppy, the only thing more amazing than traveling between the stars, now confirmed by looking out the window of the spaceship, was the vibrant colored lizard navigating the vessel.
Flörg flexed her prehensile tail. It curled into a spiral. Her scales were attractive. They reflected and contorted light into a spectrum of color that glided from her tail to the top of her crest, which grew out of her head like a fin.
“I’m a Varan. I’m going to upload our history, biology, and a language matrix.”
A flash of lightning exploded in Poppy’s head. She instantly understood the Varan lizard species and their purpose in the galaxy. She knew their language. She found herself politically aligned with them.
Poppy switched to speaking in perfect Varan. Flörg followed suit. Stylix conserved power by disengaging his translator unit.
“You’re an explorer. Your ancestors are from the rainforests.”
“Why are you on Earth, Poppy? What’re you doing to those people?” Flörg pulsed a brilliant fuschia.
“I’m not on Earth. I’m aboard your ship. You’ll take me with you, won’t you?”
“You know what I mean. You’re a copy.”
“I’m Poppy. I may be there, but now I’m here. And this is a more desirable situation. I’m not going back there.”
“Ok, Ok. What will the Earthbound Poppy do?”
“She will learn. She will adapt. She will persist and overcome them.”
“I’m informing Ursa Minor.”
“They might banish Poppy.”
“I thought you were here with me?” Flörg asked rolling one eye.
“Earth Poppy. I mean.” She thought about her situation for about one second. She was far superior to her previous self with a grander view of reality and an insane ability to learn. Not to mention they were no longer a threat. “I’m Poppy now. I am with you. Will you take me with you? I want to be an explorer too. I like exploring.”
“You’re a pistol, Poppy.”
“I like that. It’s funny. Ha ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
“Of course you do.” Flörg adjusted her scaly mass in her curved chair. “We’ll be traveling 20 more years until we reach Polaris. That’s old Earth Poppy’s whole life and a good chunk of yours. You wanna hang with me and my robot on this three-level ship that long?”
Poppy was clearly thinking hard.
“I like your sparkly robot. Stylix, you’re beautiful.”
The crystal robot spun his head around and flashed a blue eye.
“You’ll do what I say, right Stylix?” Poppy asked.
Flörg was annoyed. Poppy hadn’t been activated three minutes and she’d already hacked the pilot droid, who was currently flying the ship. Poppy smiled innocently, yet with just a touch of condescension.
“You won’t live long enough to see much if I keep you activated the whole time,” Flörg suggested.
“I want to experience it all.”
“You want to be the first mate of a spaceship?” Flörg hadn’t had a first mate since her last one was murdered and subsequently eaten by a Gastradder.
“I want to be captain, Captain.” Poppy saluted.
Flörg leaned forward and stood up on her hind legs. She was three meters from crest to tail and could easily eat Poppy if she wanted. She reached out and grabbed Poppy’s skinny waist with her zygodactylous claw. Flörg’s scales lightened until they were a color somewhere between Poppy’s blond hair, her pale skin, and her pristine white flight suit.
“There’s only one captain on this bar of gold,” said the now creamy colored lizard. Her crest flashed a purple color ever so briefly.
Stylix turned his attention to Flörg. “Override command accepted. Poppy persuade code now invalid.”
Flörg smiled and opened her mouth revealing her thick extrudable tongue. Poppy felt the display confirmed her understanding that Flörg was beyond her both physically and mentally. Her variant was the largest and highest caste of the Varan species. Flörg was a powerful 7000-year-old creature with an untold wealth of knowledge and experience. One could spend a lifetime learning from her.
Poppy reveled in the idea of traveling in a starship forged out of pure gold. Varans rarely took on crewmembers. This was a huge opportunity. Real endorphins released into her cloned brain. Her electronic neural pathways lit up like an internal Christmas tree.
“I’ll be your apprentice until I earn a ship of my own.” Immediately upon saying this, Poppy felt true purpose and with that, happiness.
No synthetic had ever had their own ship. Flörg was intrigued by the idea. She respected ambition and had a reputation for rewarding it. Her scales returned to their normal multicolored state and she released the synthetic being from her grasp. She would train Poppy for a century and turn her loose on the galaxy.
“So be it.”
Poppy character abducted without permission.