“Yep. That’s Dave,” I thought.
There was no question in my mind that the Squishy propped up on the inclined slab in front of me, buck naked, was David Ship, high school buddy and long time friend.
Well, not so, “long time”. I’d lost touch with him over ten years ago when I’d gotten my last promotion and had to move 2,000 km away to start the job. In high school we had to pick a career path upon graduation and while I had gone the corporation business stream, Dave had gone for the Arts. We had kept in touch in University and had even worked together on a theatre production job. But while he was running the stage operations in the back of the theatre, I was all about the money in the front of the house. I swallowed hard. It brought back the memory of how I’d let the theatre management convince me to abscond with the receipt money after closing night leaving Dave and his crew with all the bills. I don't think Dave knew about my involvement. That’s show business for you.
But that was Dave for sure, and by all rights he shouldn’t be standing in front of me. Ferret’s threat came back clearly to me now. No truth to the rumour that Credit Indentured Citizens were being used as Squishy in company expansion efforts my arse. Here was mostly living and mostly breathing evidence that it was a lie and my family was in much deeper danger than I had believed possible.
Mostly breathing and mostly living, because Dave was currently a Squishy being revived from transport stasis.
I’d finally received my shipment of water from Red Corporation on Earth, an expensive proposition and one they were not going to repeat for very long. I had left some water in reserve for satellite operations and unit resupply and had ordered the remainder of the water be used to activate units in storage nicknamed “Crunchy” and “Squishy”.
Crunchy and Squishy were the exploration and combat elements of the satellite. Packed on earth, shipped and stored on the satellite and ready to be animated for company purposes, whatever that may entail. Crunchy were just eight foot tall, 150kg pieces of AI-driven mech with a small onboard fusion engine. They were smart, armoured and very deadly. Think sentient Abrams tank. Just add hydrogen derived from our onboard water supply and off they went to commit directed mayhem.
Squishy, however, were supposed to be vat-grown, sentient, and easily directable human engineered clones. They weren’t allowed on Earth because they caused all sorts of ethical debates and frankly scared the customers, so I hadn’t seen one up close. They sure as hell weren’t all the same size or vat-grown to a standard template as shown in the marketing vids. This was not standard. This was Dave Ship. My old friend. Now one of my Squishy.
To prep them for storage, Squishy were 65% dehydrated and pumped with cheap chemicals not unlike the ones in amphibians that allowed them to survive being mostly frozen in a pond in winter. They were practically dead in hibernation until being flushed and refilled with fresh water. Precious water from our satellite. So I could activate and rehydrate only so many Crunchy and Squishy at a time.
Squishy were supposed to be “injury resilient” and able to run their hardened combat spacesuits with built-in firepower equivalent to a squad of men.
But this was Dave. Theatre Arts Dave. Old Friend Dave. Certainly not Combat Captain™ Dave. Or was he?
Well, in an hour of processing time I was going to be able to wake him up and find out.
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