No prompts used. This continues directly from one of my FFM 2019 stories, Holographic Familiar.
Fun facts: According to some sites that I checked, Yeshe is a Tibetan name that means wisdom while Talib is an African name that means one who seeks.
The beast hologram walked past me. I was numb with fear, but I followed anyway. Whatever was going on — was I dreaming? Or hallucinating?? — I might find out soon.s
I did not dare to ask anything aloud, especially not when we returned to the more public areas. I felt looks on my back as I followed the hologram.
While we were waiting for an elevator — where the hologram wanted to go with it, I had no idea — a group of penguins huddled around my legs. “Wha-“
African penguins. They went extinct long ago.
I looked at the beast hologram. And what are you?
As if it had heard my thoughts, it replied, I’m a snow leopard.
I blinked a couple of times. Can you hear my thoughts?
The elevator opened and the snow leopard walked inside as humans — solid, tangible humans — walked out. I followed it, and so did the African penguins.
Where are we going?
The preservation area?
I pressed the button for 11 and wondered what would happen once I would try to get inside. How could I explain that a hologram was talking to me? They’d probably haul me to the nearest medical bay.
At level 11, I followed the snow leopard out of the elevator and the African penguins followed me. I got looks from passersby, yet no one said anything, let alone stopped me.
I had to shield my eyes for a while when I entered the greenhouse and was blasted by vivid colors I had not seen in ages. I could swear that the snow leopard was purring. Come.
I did not exactly have a choice. I’d probably be hauled to the nearest holding cell if I left without the hologram that had led me there. Thus, I followed the snow leopard deeper into the greenery.
Eventually, the snow leopard led me to a bench deep inside the greenhouse. There was already someone sitting there. I was definitely going to get in trouble now.
The African penguins were still following me, for whatever reason.
The person on the bench looked at us. They should have looked alarmed, but instead it looked like they had been expecting us. “Ah, Yeshe, you brought them.”
The snow leopard purred. Yes.
I looked from the hologram to the person and back, trying to understand what was going on.
The person stood up and spoke to me, “Welcome to the greenhouse. I’m Elsie, one of the technomancers here.”
My mouth was dryer than the metal of the ship, but I asked anyway, “Technomancers?”
Elsie nodded. “Indeed. You’ve never heard of us?”
I shook my head.
“I suspected as much. When described in one sentence, we technomancers commune with the local holograms and make sure that both the ship and the preservation area stay in perfect condition.”
“Isn’t… aren’t those jobs for, like, engineers and the botanists and whatnot?”
The snow leopard — was its name Yeshe? — made a snort of some sort. You can be both, you know.
“Yeshe is correct. Most of the ones responsible for maintaining the Aegis I are technomancers. It’s the same on our sister ships, wherever they are.”
Sister ships? We have sister ships?? No one’s ever spoken of any other colonies or colony ships as far as I know… Then again, just minutes ago I did not even know these… technomancers existed or that they were apparently maintaining our ship (ships?) and… talking with the holograms?
Elsie continued, “I suppose you’re confused by all of this.”
“You could put it that way.”
Yeshe snorted again. At least this one came willingly. Talib has had trouble with reaching his choice.
I turned to the hologram. “His choice?”
We recruit new technomancers whenever we come across someone who has enough affinity for technomancy. Usually, we pick younger ones since the generations born among us tend to have more affinity, although that also means we might choose dummies — those who are hard to approach since they think they know all about us. Talib has picked a dummy this time. An usually troublesome one at that. I figured that an Earth-born like you would be easier to handle, and I was right. Yeshe purred and pressed her head against — through — my hand.
I froze at the overwhelming sense of connection. When Yeshe retreated, I asked, “What do I need to do?”
“Learn our ways and go about your life. It’s no grand adventure out here, but technomancy will help you with your work and spot any potential trouble wherever you are before the others. Plus, you’ll never be without someone to talk with when you can talk with the holograms.” Elsie grinned. “Yeshe is one of the Aegis I‘s familiars, but you’ll see that many of the non-familiar holograms are very talkative.”
I chuckled. “Alright. Sounds good, I guess.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” Elsie’s smile faded all of a sudden. “Wait a sec, I never asked for your name!”
My smile faded as well. “It’s Zenona.”
“Zenona.” Elsie nodded. “Nice. I like it.”
An embarrassing blush came on my cheeks. “Th-thank you.”
Yeshe purred. Elsie, don’t flirt with xem.
Elsie scratched her neck. “Haha, sorry.”
“It’s fine.” I was sure that Elsie noticed my tensed shoulders. Hopefully she wouldn’t mind.
“Good, good….” Elsie looked around herself. “Do you want a tour around the preservation area?”
“Um… I-I’d like that. I’ve never been here before.”
“Most haven’t. I work on the cold biome, so you can be sure that you’ll hear a lot about penguins once we’re there.”
I looked at the African penguins at me feet. “Is that why these are still with me?”
Elsie giggled. “Perhaps… I may or may not have adopted some of the penguin holograms around here.” She winked. “Come on, this way!”
With penguins at my feet and a leopard by my side, I followed her deeper into the preservation area.
I guess I am one of the technomancers now, wherever that leads me?