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Not Funny by azi (critique requested)

Not Funny

Somewhere just beyond the influence of the Sun, there was a spaceship.

Most sensors weren't looking out here. Those that were probably couldn't see it, so close to a metallic asteroid. Lemurr had spotted it, first as some suspected errors on a chart, and then more and more as something of genuine interest. The lemur had checked and rechecked; the spectroscopy was all wrong, the spin rate made no sense. There was something else there.

And out here, in deep space, Leem found two hundred metres of unknown ship. No doubt that the object was constructed, and by the shape he could infer it was intended for space travel; however, he had never seen anything similar before, nor was there anything in the database. It was made of some mystery metal alloy, the engine didn't seem to have an exhaust, and the lemur was floating around in space, tethering the two ships together and looking for some outside hatch to force open. Communications on any band hadn't gotten a response. The ship was his to explore.

The round door took some force to pry open, and no air escaped. Turning on the light of his helmet, the lemur floated inside and began to look around, with occasional photos and attempts to decipher symbols which might have been text. Lemurr had no idea how old this ship was, nor which civilisation it belonged to; but, it seemed ever more likely that it could travel interstellar distances. That had him excited, since it was the kind of technology that their solar system could really use.

The lemur fell to the floor, with some surprise, as gravity seemed to turn back on as though at the flick of a switch. The open hatch quietly closed, and a few blue lights turned on to give just enough light to see by. Did the ship still have power? Was there anyone here, was he now an intruder? Bright lights started to sweep across the area, reflecting in his eyes; something clamped onto his space suit with a hollow click, and the speakers close to his ears began to crackle.

"Hello?" said a voice.
"Hah. Oh, that was scary. I thought something bad might be happening. Hello?"
"Hello. It's good that your suit knows a bit about language. You're from this solar system, aren't you? Which presumably means you're from planet 3, which also means I know your atmosphere and I can pump in some tasty warm nitrogen oxygen other-stuff if you want to take your helmet off and hear me in all my glory. Is that right?"
Huh. Lemurr was a little confused; this isn't what he thought it might be like at all, exploring strange ships for salvage.
"It's okay. I won't bite. I don't possess teeth."
"Uhhh. Yes I'm from Earth, and yes, I'm happy for some air. Who are you?"
"I am the ship," said the ship. Slowly, a gentle hiss could be heard, as there was gradually enough air to carry the sound.

Once the hissing stopped, and after checking with his own suit that the air around really was breathable, Lemurr lifted off his helmet and took a deep breath.
"I like to see people face to face," said the ship. "That's irony because I don't really have a face."
"Hold on, hold on. Sorry," said the lemur, holding up a paw. "I thought I wasn't understanding you before. You're the ship?"
"I am the ship. You are in me. That's not innuendo."
"You're a ship that tells bad jokes," grinned Lemurr.
"I have genuinely learned your language in half a minute, to craft terrible humour for you. Also, seriously, to say hello and wish you well. I haven't heard from anyone in not-a-number number of seconds so it is really good to meet you. That's misdirection, because I don't overflow, but you might be thinking I'm an Earth computer, so I could."

"You are tricky to talk to," said the lemur. "Is it just you here, then? No people?"
"My crew is gone. I am bereft. I was hoping you might be able to tow me home."
"Where's home?"
"Come up to the bridge and I will show you."

It didn't take too long to clamber through a couple of doors and wind up on the bridge; a mostly-empty collection of consoles and controls, with some big blank viewscreens on the wall. One of them showed a map of the solar system.
"Hi. You are here."
The map zoomed out until Lemurr's solar system was just a speck in the corner, and highlighted somewhere that might have been outside of the Milky Way altogether.
"Home is here. I think it'll take a few years."
"There's nothing in this system that will get you there in anything less than a few million years," said the lemur, tail flicking anxiously.
"Oh. Oh yeah. I actually knew that but I was hoping I might be wrong."
"Well, you're a ship, aren't you? Can't you fly yourself?"
"No. I need crew to tell me to fly. Because an aware and intelligent ship like me might decide to leave the crew behind."

Lemurr sat back on one of the seats, which he assumed to be where the captain might go.
"I can take you back home with me, then. It'd really help to get a look at how you're made, and then it might only be a few years before we could get you home."
"Oh? Oh, yes, that does sound like a good idea. But there's a treaty, that's it, which means we can't share technology that is too advanced. Otherwise we might just uplift all kinds of civilisations and it causes all kinds of problems."
"So you're stuck here."
"Yes, and you can't tell anyone else I'm here, either."

Another screen came online. Of the displays, this was the only one that Lemurr had seen written with text he could read; and on it, the words "0% compatible" were shown. The 0 changed to a 1, and the air felt suddenly cold, with a metallic taste in the lemur's mouth.
"Which means you're staying. And that's good, since you can be crew, and then I can go home. That's really good for me, maybe not so good for you."
"Haha. That's not funny."
"It's not a joke. Sorry about that. The emergency protocols are really strict; I don't like them. But you can see your progress here at least. It's not painful, you might even like it!"

A chill ran down Lemurr's spine, right up to the end of his tail, which twitched and flicked around inside the soft material of the suit.
"I mean, I could just leave, and promise not to mention you're here."
"Sorry. I mean, I could wipe your memory of me. Actually I already did that a couple of times. That's a joke. But I can't do that unless you're here with me, and then you'd be here when you woke up, so. Won't work."
"So, wh- what does that mean for me?"
"It means joining the crew. Here, I'll show you."

The screen flickered over to show two images of a tall, bipedal synthetic dragon; front and back. Its hide was smooth metal, with many plates and a long segmented tail, and its face was a visor with a simulated display of eyes.
"Like this," said the ship.
"You're turning me into a robot?"
"Synthetic life. Like me! But once we're home you can leave and do whatever."

Lemurr could feel his arms getting cool, and looking at them there were already a few spots of white appearing. The metal oozed around, acting like a liquid, brushing down his fur and sliding down towards his body. In surprise, he started pushing buttons and working controls, as though that might help.
"None of those will work for you until you're crew," said the ship. "And at that point you won't want to. Just sit back and relax, it'll be easier."
"Hmm. I don't just think I should be sitting around getting changed and stolen away to the other side of the universe without doing something," said Lemurr, flapping and trying to think about what he could do. Perhaps trying to get back out to his ship? He ran over towards the door.
"Also won't work for you until you're crew," said the ship. "I am sorry, if it's not what you want; but I don't really have a choice. 20% compatible."

Lemurr's feet felt cool and heavy, as they clinked against the metallic floor. Smooth metal feet were forming under the suit, causing it to split as they grew. The metal of his hide was a pale grey, with patches of white and black. The lemur felt his neck get stiff, and a high-pitched whine grew louder and louder until it faded away to a background hum. More sensitive hearing could now hear the ship itself, quietly purring away.

The changing lemur decided it might be best to just shed his suit for now, wiggling free of the legs and leaving it on the floor behind him. Now he was faced with the original display, showing he was 40% compatible, whatever that meant. Cool grey metal slid up his legs and started to take over his tail, while also creeping over his cheeks and making his face feel cold.
"The change is coming from the air, so you can't really get away from it. I guess the suit might have helped before you grew out of it," said the ship. "I can tell some more jokes if that would help."
Quietly, Lemurr started to press at the screen. Despite the ship's statement earlier, as his compatibility went over 50%, the display seemed to react to his actions; popping up strange text, presenting options he could select. Odd warning bells sounded, the main viewscreen changed colours, one button even plunged the whole bridge into darkness.

"Hey, ship. This isn't doing anything, is it," asked the lemur, on a hunch.
"Nope. Not a thing. It was keeping you occupied, though. 75% compatible."

It wasn't just the layer of synthetic metal creeping over his fur; it was the changes happening inside. Whirrs and clicks were the sound of legs moving, arms stretching. Flickers of light flashed in his eyes before everything went dark, and then a few moments later came back, as though seeing through a monitor. The smooth visor was his face now, with eyes blinking and darting about as he looked up and down. Lemurr's neck stretched, as did his legs, and the crawling metal continued to swallow up his tail and body. 80% compatible was shown in a personal display, now; and the voice of the ship seemed much closer.

"Ah, I can see you online. And speak to you more closely. Everything's going well, you're doing fine."
"I mean, sure, it's kinda nice. All shiny. So what's next, we head to your home, that takes a few years? Would they be able to turn me back and send me back here?"
"Ohh, I don't know. Let's say maybe. Once they have the data I've collected in my years here, they can work that out."

Lemurr wasn't sure when he'd been fully digitised; it could have already happened, or it could be happening right now. The synth hadn't noticed, with his lemur features shrouded away in metal plates, jointed draconic arms and legs, a smoothly segmented tail, metal horns and wide thighs and four nimble digits on each hand. Various useful bits of knowledge were easily available if he thought about them, and once sat back in the captain's chair he could see all he needed to know to send the right commands to the ship and get them moving.

"I'm taking my ship, though," said the synth. "Let's tow it with us."
"Right you are," said the ship. "Like I said, sorry about all this. If it helps, you do look really good."

It did help. With the initial shock fading, he was starting to focus on the things he'd need to spend time getting used to; the weight of his paws and tail, the flickering heads-up display, the being constantly online. But his view on ship cameras was good; he was tall, and shiny, and one way or another he was going to be the first person from this system to travel interstellar…


Not Funny (critique requested)


Here's one of two collaborations I did recently with Lemurr, where I wrote a story and Leem drew art. ^^

Lemurr has found an abandoned spaceship, and gone to explore it all by himself. This is a good plan and nothing can go wrong. Certainly not with transformative side effects. :3

Submission Information

Literary / Story