The Cat People ©
a short story
It was a marriage of convenience. But what the heck if the pairing of two androids brought a cat along nothing more could be said, as far as I could see. The cat was a ginger cat and it was the only natural object of desire about the singularity of our work world. Our ship in the constellation Alpha Venturi-CX was none the worse for it.
Androida X-103, she is my partner in the section of maintainance. Her specialty is biosphere and I, the exterminator. The name means many things. Let it not hold up my story for the moment. As I said the cat came out of nowhere.
My sidekick that day was in her pod, doing a fitness program along with algorithms that flashed across the screen each point designed to limber her body parts. In her world of such mathematical probabilities where algorithms determined every aspect of sequences she was merely being random. It was purely her feminine side that we were taught to accept as correct. I was the male side and I did just what I was designed to do. As android I didn’t think she had much say in the matter. The cat chose her and randomness of her world did the rest. Only that I got connected into that sequence in a manner of speaking.
In the days to come the presence of a strange animal was a ballast one too many. It made the ship wobble with curiosity. Every android and androida perk up and they wanted to know how it all started. In the end my partner had to put it all down for the record. Three workdays later we were called up. And the cat as well.
The boss examined the cat as methodically as meteorite that came hurtling through. The all clear indication of the machine didn’t make him ease though. In the end, he had to say in his dry indifferent tone,’ no cat ever stalks the space unless it has a motive.’The cat was furry; and its furry tongue as clean as a whistle. We all watched in fascination as the machine automatically ticked off the appropriate boxes and in the end for an added precaution the cat was sprayed and the machine made it deloused.
But my boss safely took the beast. In midst of it he paused and swiveled in our direction. He flicked a button and there was a laser imprint beneath the skin and its eerie luminescence was clear: ∆ IE.
But what did it mean?
The boss answered himself ‘He belongs to some one.’
Then he frowned. It was obvious. The animal could not be a stray. It must be on an errand. ‘Or is it?’ My musings were interrupted by my boss. He exclaimed, ‘The cat some 25 pounds just defied the safety hatches as fit as my spacesuit?’
What was the mystery? None of us had an answer to it. We stood there silent.
The boss remembered what we were there for. So he turned his visor with its cold steel spot of light to my mate.
‘X-103, the cat just dropped in while you worked out. Is that correct?’ She nodded.
The boss voiced if she didn’t think t strange the cat didn’t seek out any but her.
‘Of course not’ was her answer. She added, ‘Why I attend to the green section and the android exterminate is all merely a matter of convenience and internal matter. I see nothing queer about it.’ I was there to make it stick so I said, ’Random is what you get the more you delve into specialty.’ The boss merely entered the answer verbatim and looked at us strangely. ‘We shall soon see about it.’ We were dismissed by a curt wave of head.
There was something natural in the world of determined factors that made our space station function. Into which how a tabby cat got in was not Artificial Intelligence had to deal with. The boss didn’t. Nor was it our worry.
That evening I asked my mate to clue me in. The boss had made it all seem strange. The androida explained off the record her emotional responses to a cat that approached her. She said it just made her feel pinpricks of excitement that didn’t make sense to her. Its eyes were all afire with pupils changing colors, unearthly greens and violets. Having checked its new home and ambled around her ankles it yawned and said,’Meeow’.
In the end she said it had something of a mystery that didn’t figure in her AI workbook. That cry, the sound or its emotional equivalent made the book less than adequate. It had spoken for truth loud and clear what AI barely stood for. ‘The cat made claims on me, X-101. Period’. After a moment of silence she said, ’If you see it any different, I shall ask for a transfer’.
‘No worry, girlie. The cat shall not change our work relationship’. She knew I was there for her.
The tabby cat had become part of her world and I was naturally an extension of its world. Only that I had no clue if the cat had a view of the matter.
Thereafter life and work in the ship went on as before.
The boss of our assembly line averred the androida was better for it. The cat cleaned up the act, was his wry comment at the end of the term. The androids and androidas worked more efficiently and the cat was a kind of mascot to keep life aboard turn with ease.
Till the cat one morning brought in a dead mouse.
The ginger cat brought it and laid it before my work mate.
The looks of workmates suddenly brought out the full horror. I thought the word ‘plague’ expressed nicely from the responses it drew on them.
We never had experienced anything that we could not name or put a finger on. The cat was natural as the thing it had in its mouth. A mouse was not what we allowed in our hold. A dead mouse blood oozing from the puncture marks where the claw had stalked its prey.
‘We are contaminated!’ the cry went up and the hubbub brought the boss to investigate. He dared not come anywhere near as he did at the first time. He called me to his cabin and said,’ You are the exterminator. Check it out and report to me. Before the sundown I expect your findings on my desk. Understood?’
The word exterminator meant so many things. I regretted I coined the word. I was the wordsmith and had a feeling that goofed somewhere.
Our world was exactly that till the cat made its entry.
Androidrama was a nightmare we didn’t bargain for. I have a fellow who had made a specialty of flora fauna of the earth. By poring over the anatomy of several species we decided that the specimens fitted in all respects cat and the mouse
The Cat (Felis silvestris catus), also known as the Domestic Cat or House Cat
Species: F. silvestris
Subspecies: F. s. catus
Felis silvestris catus
(to be continued)