2008.03.30 "Life was valuable then."

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"Life was valuable then."

I can't help but feel confused, because my mostly-Human comrade appears to be looking at a menu display. "What, at happy hour you mean?"

"No, Massetin, back in the Galactic Wars." He gestures to the mural integrated with the menu display, showing Humans and Anurians exchanging energy blasts with Xoids and Sandaraks. It blended in with the ambiance of the place, seeing as how this whole medical facility is a refurbished old Confederation cruiser.

"Ah. I'm still confused. Are you talking about the price of slaves?"

The human scowls at me. "You're a cynical bastard, you know that right?"

"Indeed. I'll have a kilo of raw flesh, preferably muscle, and a half-litre of Anurian ale, please."

In rapid succession, the Human looks confused, then stiffens as he notices the Halamite server waiting to take his order, and asks for a Twinkie and a Volcanic™. A vague worry crosses my mind. "Human, are you sure that a Twinkie mixed with a Volcanic™ aren't going to make some sort of unfortunate chemical reaction? You did just stumble out of surgery."

And he's got that smug, self-satisfied all-too-Human expression of having been all sly and manipulative. How do Humans not notice that that sort of childish shit gets on most plain-speaking beings nerves?

"See, that's sort of my point..." he starts. Man, how I want to slam my fist down on the table with a loud BANG just to ruin his cadence. "I find myself all worried about how to maintain these mechanical legs I'm wearing now. I'm no mechanic -"

"You're no medic either." Zark, I just sound petulant. The Slamming Fist would have been cooler.

"Yeah, but at least I only had to carry around one kind of patch. Now I'll have to carry around mechanical patches as well as medical ones, plus a tool kit in addition to my med kit."

I suppose he's got a point. "Is this your way of whining about the fact that we didn't have enough credits to get you proper cloned limbs?"

The Human laughs. He's got a pretty good sense of humour for somebody who should be dead. "No, it just got me thinking. It used to be that mechanicals had a clear advantage for combatants, because they were easier to make and easier to fix, and they were a lot tougher."

I hold up a talon, signaling that I had a point. "It, -er, could also have had something to do with the fact that pretty much all mechanical beings are owned, and thus less able to put self-preservation before orders."

The Human squints and points at me. "See what I mean? Cynical. But stick with me here."

I shrug and gesture for him to continue. Mostly because the only alternative is to leap across the table and wring his neck, which is just about the only way I could possibly prevent him from continuing talking at this point.

"Since the maturation of nanoscopic robots and programmable internal constructs, biologicals are every bit as robust and modular as mechanicals. Well, almost. But the thing is, it doesn't just apply to actual combatants, right?"

"Back then-", the Human gestures at the old Galactic Wars mural, "when the Confederation was fighting for space against intergalactic meanies, most biological species wanted to create and protect utopian havens for the majority of people to live their lives. Birth - life - death. The whole schmear, complete with tacky dramas and shit that are precious elements of individual lives."

I find myself wondering if my Human comrade remembers that my species was created specifically as disposable combatants, and have no instinctive urge for any kind of utopia. Then I find myself wondering if my Human comrade is really all that subjected to instinctive drives not of his parents specific choosing.

"But now, now biologicals are functionally immortal. The only thing anybody dies of anymore is accidents and violence. Utopian planets no longer cycle with birth and death; they're more like quiet theme parks. Sooner or later, everybody on a utopian planet gets bored and wants to face actual risks. To live a bit. Nobody is looking for reasons to live any more, they're looking for reasons worth dying for."

I think I get it. "So, it makes life seem cheap, out here in the anarchist spaces where all the action is."

The Human nods. "And that's why I'm retiring, and holing up on a nice utopian planet long enough to get really and truly bored with living." His eyes twinkle. "Because, let me tell you partner, I'm well and truly bored with facing death just for fistfulls of credits."

Without missing a beat, I curl the corners of my lips in a mimicry of a grin to show appreciation. In truth, I'm not sure what flavour of worried to be. The last time one of my partners went their separate way, they ended up providing information to help the mafia bounty hunters track me.

Killing the Human, to prevent that from happening again, plays through my mind in a variety of scenarios.

"Don't worry, buddy. I'm not leaving until after you and I find that scout and prevent him troubling either of us again."

He's right; I am a cynical bastard. And it's possible that he knows me well enough to predict my concerns. Hard to tell. Humans are tricky that way.