2014.11.16 "Freedom has degrees."

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"Freedom has degrees."

The Orbodun and I share a meaningful glance, then turn in unison to stare at the impertinent Human.

A feral smile ruins the previously expressionless manner of the Human technician. "Sorry. Engineering joke."

"I don't get it." My large, furry partner is more willing to be honest than I, it seems. I just stay silent and glower-y. It would be a lie to say that the permanent glower of my face is just an unchangeable aspect of how my features are set - because I really do feel some degree of anger all the time. So the perma-glower is pretty accurate; it's part of being a Massetin.

An edge of worry creeps into the technician's tone. "I heard you wondering about why these things were staying with you when they were free... and thought it was a good time to crack a spontaneous nerd joke." Maybe the worry is an affectation; the techie is behind a large ship-scale shield after all.

"Ah." The Orbodun shrugs. "At least it wasn't used by my pointy partner as a segue to make some snide comment about my time spent as a slaver."

The snicker that hisses out of me is unbecoming a scary monster, such as myself. It is also possible that having these little mini-Missionary things still with us has me a little on edge.

The Human seems unaffected, and continues to not actually look at us while she works at her task. "I do have a question, though. Whose idea was this: yours or theirs?"

I'm not sure about the answer that, exactly. The mini-Mizzes had wanted to implant themselves in our brains - to best help us sense other, larger Missionaries. Negotiating them to be parts of our gear had seemed like a win-win compromise at the time, to symbiotically provide mutual protection. But I cannot help but feel that we were simply maneuvered into being protector-steeds.

"Oh, it was totally their idea. We're just stupid enough to go along with it."

"Still better than the brain-implant suggestion." I think that sounded defensive, after the Orobodun's amused tone. I'm definitely on edge.

The Human nods with confirmation bias. "My guess is that while these things are free from the tyranny of the larger body, that freedom comes with a proportional fear."

"Yes, that much seems clear." The Orbodun rubs one massive paw across his snout to attend to some imagined itch. "The Missionaries can sense each other, but the affect of that sense is inversely proportional to size. The little ones can sense the big ones more clearly than the other way around. But, just as clearly, the big ones tend to be more powerful. They hunt each other, and they hunt for experience."

"So, they merely transitioned from one degree of freedom to another. The degree of freedom of any being is mostly relative to what they spend their time struggling with."

The Human thinks she's so zarking poignant. Imagining the various ways I might decapitate her is somewhat soothing.

"Allllrightythen, I think that I'm finished with these. Please check to see that they are to your satisfaction." A section of the massive shield irises open to allow the modified gear to be deposited in our waiting area.

The Orbodun rolls onto his feet and hefts the terrifying assault laser rifle. I hang back a bit, regarding my much-less-impressive modified weapons. While I'm trying to guess how the modifications were done, and cataloguing all the subtle difference I see, the Orbodun mock-aims his artillery piece. "The balance seems mostly unaffected. Should be fine."

Hundreds of tiny popping sensations tremble through my back as I start to stand up, as I dislodge all the spines that had impaled the overstuffed cushions of the couch. Picking up the ancient blaster and the battered force blade, they immediately feel vastly altered. I tense my grips, and decide that I can probably get used to it. I nod to the Orbodun, and he nods back.

He holds up his weapon, and I hold up both of mine. Three small pointed shadows dart from unexpected hidden corners and smack into our gear with a comical SNIKT. The grip on my NST and the hilt on my blade both seem to writhe unpleasantly for a moment, then settle into a state of uncanny balance. So much for that worry. And I finally get a taste of the shared Missionary-sense that these mini-Mizzies were adamant about not using comms for - insisting on direct, secure contact. Hmmmm... yep. There's some Missionaries about, but not too close - other than the faint tingles given off by the mini-Mizzies here.

The Orbodun has a heavy-lidded look, then casts a sharp, beady eye at me. "It might be time to go hunting."

Maybe. Or perhaps we shouldn't show our hand so early...

"That seemed successful, so I assume you'll be leaving. Just one question before you go..."

The Orbodun raises an eyebrow; a subtle but effective expression of curiosity. I try on a different scowl; I don't know why I bother.

"Having the thing in the purpose-built Thing-hunting weapons I made makes the most sense, does it not? Why not have one thing in the super-severance force-sword I made for you? Is it because of some sentimental connection with that old, crude force blade?"

I shrug. "I just don't want my big sword running away on its own if things go bad."

Neither my pistol-Mizzie nor my blade-Mizzie pantomime running away in that moment, and I feel a pang of disappointment. It would have been funny.